Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back Up & Way Out

Well, I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Japan is The Land Of Convenience for anything but the shit that matters. It comforts me to know that, at any hour of day or night, I can purchase Hello Kitty flip-flops, a half-gallon of grain alcohol, and/or a six-pack of ladies undergarnments. But when it comes to something like obtaining antibiotics, transferring currency, or securing internet access... count on more red tape than the binding on that mongoloid bastard of an American healthcare bill.

But, for want of proper content, here's a few minor Christmas miracles:
  • Finally, the ISP acknowledged that our apartment building is not an "error" on Google Maps, but a proper building, and so finally got us online.
  • The next full-length (yeah, didn't know that was in the works, did ya?) is done - barring, of course, revisions, reconsiderations, and mastering next month. Details to follow.
  • And now, I'm fucking off to an east African country with a fuel shortage & political unrest. Happy holidays!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bandwidth Bandit Sub-Rosa Broadcast

I just moved from one side of the ward to the other, and consequently am again without internet access. (This seems an excessively recurrent condition for someone who lives in a developed nation...) Luckily, we've an indiscreet neighbour who doesn't password-protect their wireless signal, so tenuous & temperamental as it is, we've some means of being online in the meantime. The signal disappears between noon and sometime late in the evening (presumably when unseen neighbour departs to & returns from toil) so I'm having to occupy myself with matters of substance instead of blog-trolling all day.

But my god being off the intergrid relieves the mind of so much clutter. Yesterday, someone tossed me a sentence that included the nouns "American Music Awards", "gay dude", and "shitstorm" and I had no fucking idea he was talking about, yet felt effervescently unburdened for not knowing.

There are a several blog-pieces I'm cooking up behind the curtain for your pre-holiday hivernal entertainment, but they'll obviously be lighter on the links and probably considerably less au current than usual. For now, I offer you a piece of brain-tickling entertainment of a quality I can only hope to one day match: Cory McAbee's 2001 masterwork, The American Astronaut.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's Mandarin for "Your Band Sucks"?

Via the Daily Swarm, I see that NPR and CNN fashioned boderline-unethically-similar stories about the distending Chinese rock 'n' roll scene. Both articles focus almost exclusively on two bands - Carsick Cars and P.K. 14 - and the polestar of the Beijing live scene, D-22. Though two acts on a brief tour of the American east coast and a sole hotspot hardly recommend a monolithic music scene, that two giants of the narcissistic American mainstream media have decided it's attention-worthy suggests one of two things:
  1. It's a quirky, below-the-fold human interest piece that dovetails delightfully with coverage of Obama's pan-Asian jaunt.
  2. Rock music has reached critical mass in a nation with a full fifth of the world's population, so it's time we pricked up our ears.
"And why wouldn't it be?" the NPR piece smirks. "China has what seems like the fastest-growing everything else."

Anyone who's heard Carsick Cars' eponymous debut knows immediately why Sonic Youth asked them to open SY's inaugural Chinese tour: Carsick Cars sound like Goo or Dirty, SY at their most rockist & crowd-pleasing, minus any irony or subversion, plus a more pleading, earnest melodicism. Basically, like Death Cab covering "Teenage Riot". Or Bloodthirsty Butchers.

Meanwhile, I looked up P.K. 14 on YouTube - hey, if they can get out of Beijing to tour Chapel Hill & Brooklyn, I knew they wouldn't have been blocked by the Great Firewall of China. Judging by their music videos, while a snug double-bill with Carsick Cars, P.K. 14 are further from their tourmates' post-hardcore squall and closer to the lo-fi amateurism of mid-'90s indie-pop... Sebadoh, Hayden, et cetera ad nauseum.

Which is all well & good, but Mandarin lyrics don't provide the shock of the new as much as the tickle of novelty. An accent isn't enough to build a career on - just ask the Proclaimers, or Men At Work, or Gogol Bordello. Then again, if ever there was a time when western audiences were more willing to gulp back the festering leftovers of yesterday's sounds, I ain't lived through it. There may be hope for a "Mandorock" crossover yet.

There's something deeply disquieting about the very existence of Chinese rock. China - a country that has embraced the most pernicious facets of capitalism without loosening its authoritarian bridle - has incorporated an artform that's ostensibly about rebellion, freedom, and bucking convention into its sociocultural ethos. Not only does this testify to how toothless & co-opted rock music has become, but Chinese rock 'n' roll serves as a "soft power" Trojan horse for the CPC: shucks, they can't be that oppressive and despotic - look, they've got kids in leather jackets with CBGB's patches!

The commodification of rebellion is, obviously, the oldest trick in the book. But back when Columbia Records was courting hippies with corny "They can't bust our music!" sloganeering, regimes in the Eastern Bloc fought tooth & nail to keep the corruptive influence of rock's speaker-blowing hedonia off their doorstep. That the last such regime standing* is showboating its punk rock bands is a noxious con indeed.

My hope is that casual music fans, who could give a fuck about political pandering via sham cultural sycophancy, will be turned off by the second-rate mimicry & six-string minstrelsy of these bands. One of the musicians profiled in the CNN article, "a young Chinese rocker sporting lace-up leather pants and teased out long hair," calls himself Ricky Sixx, fer chrissakes! When will China stop selling the west shoddy, slapdash counterfeits of our own crap back to us?

Photo by Arion

(*) - I'm talking about Cold War-era state-corporatist regimes, now. There are undoubtedly worse rulers to live under these days than Hu Jintao.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hydrochloric Shaved Weirds

This taxonomy of face fuzz has gotten out of hand - as any good beard does, I suppose. But it's balancing the equation from the wrong side: what do we learn of any recognizable subset by, first, isolating them, second, cherry-picking a shared stylistic flourish, and, third, coming to the conclusion that they're a recognizable subset? This is like scanning promo shots of the '89 Sub Pop roster and feigning surprise that the musicians share a fondness for flannel and ripped denim.

If anything, we should seize upon a certain type of facial topiary, find who sports it across various genres, and then ruminate about what the common thread may be. For instance...


Name: Warren Ellis of the Bad Seeds and the Dirty Three
Genre: Dark Americana; roots rock

Name: Pharaoh Sanders
Genre: Avant-garde jazz

Name: Joe Preston of Thrones and Harvey Milk
Genre: Stoner rock; doom; drone


Name: Mos Def
Genre: Conscious/backpacker hip-hop

Name: Thijs van Leer of Focus
Genre: Prog ne plus ultra

Name: Rjyan Kidwell, a.k.a. CEX
Genre: IDM; glitch-hop; noise


Name: Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre
Genre: Psychedelic rock

Name: Sly Stone
Genre: Funk; soul

Name: Glenn Danzig
Genre: Heavy metal; horror punk


Name: Holger Czukay of Can
Genre: Krautrock; electronic; techno

Name: Nick Cave
Genre: Dark Americana; post punk; gothic folk

Name: Glenn Hughes of The Village People
Genre: Disco

Not that facial hair should be interpreted as anything other than a snapshot of an artist, since it changes & evolves over time. I myself have sported all of the above (except the dreadful Abe Lincoln) at some point over the past year alone; Nick Cave was clean-shaven his whole career until Grinderman debuted three years ago; and Robert Fripp, who currently looks like your asshole Tory-supporting grandfather, once rocked the most righteous afro-and-sideburns combo this side of Sly Stone.

This quicksilver quality is, of course, also applicable to hairdos, as illustrated by both David Bowie's career and the Black Flag Haircut Continuum.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sojourns in Meatspace

I always wince with a bit of guilt when I look back at this blog and see a scant couple of posts over as many weeks, like some expensive piece of exercise equipment gathering a visible layer of dust in the corner. That is more or less how I treat this site: as a means of streamlining my communicative M.O., of flexing my linguistic muscles, and of occasionally stretching my trains of thought. And just like everyone else's various exercise routines, it's neglected far too often in favour of more "pressing" and "immediate" concerns.

Such excuses are more often than not authentic (though they're excuses nonetheless). Outside of cyberspace, the end of the calendar year is such a Gordian knot of loose ends to be tied before singing "Auld Lang Syne", you'd think I had a legitimate job. Even the friends with whom I spend my cherished downtime ceaselessly needle me about how much I have on my plate:
Are you finished moving? When will the record be done? Have those friends come through town yet? Don't you have practice that day? How much more editing? Do you have an outline yet?
The good news is that it's by & large under control and I predict more-than-satisfactory results, so I'll be able to survey the past year with some satisfaction (in spite of my initial prognosis).

But I'm not entirely sure I can say the same of this blog. Sure, I've contributed a couple of interesting ideas, and I'd like to think I haven't let genuinely shit writing escape into the public sphere, but this site has been relegated to backburner status since I returned to Tokyo. I still enjoy sparring with anonymous antagonists half a world away, and I'll exploit as many outlets for my various projects as possible, but spewing invective online has been at most the third-most-important thing I've done any given day this year.

My banner year in blogging was 2008, when I lived in Hamburg and during which I was the least engaged with my real-world surroundings that I've ever been. This was as much my fault as anything, though that famous Nordische hospitality didn't fucking help. The point is, though, that the number of words I'd type per month exceeded the number of words I'd speak by a factor of perhaps dozens; I'd interact with as many online personas in a single day as flesh-&-blood humans in a week. I was communicating as often, efficiently, and prolifically as ever - the only difference was that I'd moved from meatspace to the electronic aether.

Sorry, did I say "the only difference"? Not quite: I was a goddamn wreck. The further I retreated into my online simulacrum, the more corroded my general mental state became. No matter how extensive the e-mails I'd write or receive, it was no substitute for the sizzle & synchronicity of a good conversation. What I needed was some sustained, resonant harmony among fellow human beings. But my contrary attitude towards my environment made it that much more difficult to engage in the kind of casual conviviality I needed. The horrid Catch-22 of any deleterious, addictive behaviour: the greater the need to be healthy, the harder it is to be so on even a minimal level.

The irony is that, now that I'm back amongst the living, everyone seems to be sinking deeper into the quicksand of cyberspace that I had at my most estranged from reality. Had Twitter been described to me a year ago, I'd have said it was destined to be the Pet Rock or Tamagotchi of Web 2.0, the most self-indulgent of attention-sapping trifles - not the fastest growing social tool on the net, and certainly not Time Magazine's "Person of the Year". Similarly, perhaps the greatest indignation I suffered in Germany was that almost none of my friends bothered to maintain even the most cursory contact. But barely a year later, I take for granted that the most meaningful relay of information I can expect from anyone outside of Tokyo is a Facebook status update. Of course, that I accept the new norm doesn't mean I must do so without bitterness.

I was mulling this over with a friend the other day; he just recently reconnected with the internet after eight-years of online abstinence. Having been without even the slimmest online existence while everyone else expanded their personal brand via MySpace, flickr, Twitter, Blogger, and Facebook, my friend has had to adjust to current cyber-conditions at whiplash pace. Understandably, he's fascinated with how ornate* a "life" somehow external to "reality" can be, and invoked the prophetic words of William S. Burroughs:
Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.
Obviously, Burroughs was thinking more specifically of inner space (of which he considered himself a "cosmonaut"). I doubt ol' Willy B. had enough interest in the objectives of the Apollo missions to have meant outer space, nor do I think he cared enough about computer engineering to have specifcally predicted a communicative network of autonomously-manned machines. But in terms of man's future lying in some ethereal non-space, some subjectively-construed fog free of any realist metrics, Burroughs was absolutely right.

Regrettably, continuing the trend since the first neanderthal spurred sparks from between stones, our technology exceeds our understanding of its potential & power. As thrilled as we are that we can globally broadcast our most menial brainfarts, or watch every imaginable congress of naked people, we don't fully appreciate the danger the internet presents by allowing the from-scratch construction of our own bubble realities. Specifically, we don't appreciate that our online "lives" are pseudorealities predicated upon & filtered by our personal biases, and yet we profess shock, shock! when the bulk of online communication is profane headbutting between bullheaded fusspots who'll never see the other side. We bring our real-world certainty, our empirical surety into the scramble-suited paramnesia of the online "world", in denial that our realist epistemology is inapplicable in such a shape-shifting hallucinoscape.

Reality has always been a hard sell & an even harder purchase, far before the fluidity of the online "world" entered the picture. Most disconcerting is that the internet is the first "netherworld", the first extradimensional space (supplemental to the traditional four dimensions) of which we have direct experience & evidence. For all the talk of tooth fairies & deities, of heaven & hell, of grandparents staring benevolently down from some cloudy resort, no one has even been able proffer a single scrap of evidence thereof. But I know, without doubt or hesitation, that friends with whom I only communicate online exist, since I experience their presence in what can reasonably called a "real" way. Yet, in contemplating these "virtual" friends from my place in the world of bone & blood, I regard them as I regard other friends or family who no longer exist in meatspace: with sadness, with some sense of loss & lack, as "departed" and no longer corporeal. They are phantasmic in a way not dissimilar to the deceased, because their intrusions upon my quotidian existence are equivalently vague, intimated, and memorial. They are not "real" enough.

Or, in the unacademic candor of Mr. Patton Oswalt, "You can replace the Internet with five really smart friends."

(*) - He hesitates, as I do, to use the word "rich".

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Circle of Life

Were you to indulge an interest in poorly-written English-language far eastern news publications and check the Japan Times right now, you'd see the following above-the-fold stories stacked neatly on top of one another:
  • Police arrest Ichihashi in Osaka: Tatsuya Ichihashi, the only suspect in the 2007 murder of a British woman, was arrested Tuesday after managing to elude police for 2 1/2 years.
  • More body parts of college student are discovered: The torso and part of a thigh bone of a beheaded female college student from Shimane Prefecture have been found on a mountain in Hiroshima Prefecture near the site where her head was found last week, police said Monday.
And the great cosmic Rube Goldberg machine spins & whistles along its merry way! I'll not indulge in the prejudicial speculation about whether or not Ichihashi will be (a) beaten to death with a spiked, LSD-drenched bat because he murdered a foreigner, or (b) slapped across his backside and sent home because he murdered a foreigner. Instead, I'll just remind myself how lucky I am to live in a city that doesn't see an average of 270 of its citizens killed every year, and where my wife can walk home alone at night without a can of mace & six months of aikido lessons under her belt.

Of course, this presents a timely opportunity to examine the strange nature of crime in Japan - which is to say that, to the infinitesimal extent that it exists, it is spectacular and grotesque. The average national crime rate (33.7 per 1000 people according to the UN) is a full 50% above the Japanese overall crime rate (19.177 per 1000 people), but that's nothing compared to the stupefying fact that the average national murder rate is twenty times that of Japan (a near-nonextant 0.00499933 per 1000 people).* Yet, when a murder does occur, it's a horror that could've sprung from the imagination of Wes Craven on bad methamphetamines: children chopping each other up, young nightlife workers defiled & dismembered by men, men dismembered by despondent spouses, knife-wielding lunatics lashing out at anyone within arm's reach, or deformed, cannibalistic shut-ins butchering little girls. Absolutely unspeakable.

But a timely opportunity to examine the strange nature of crime in Japan though it may be, I'm damn tired and haven't the stomach to ruminate at length about the above atrocities right before bed time. Besides, attempting to either legislate around or prepare for psychopathologically-driven assaults is like trying to do the same for lightning or earthquakes.

*Discussion of the fact that Japan, on the other hand, has more than double the average national suicide rate will likewise have to wait.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Scare Tactics

Hallowe'en has never been a big deal in Japan. This is largely because of the absence of the entire cultural context (however flimsy & fabricated) for the holiday, but also because there's already more than enough opportunity to apply ghoulish makeup and extravagant costumery. This year, however, appears to be different: paper skeletons & plastic jack-o-laterns are ubiquitous, and every nightclub (as opposed to only the ones that cater to foreigners) is hosting some kind of haunted happening. Granted, I've been absent the past two years, but my friends here confirm that this sudden enthusiasm in All Hallow's Eve has arrived without warning. I'm convinced this is an economic stimulus effort that's helping to resurrect the Japanese economy: hype an accessory-emphatic holiday, pushing everyone to purchase the necessary accoutrement.

I doubt that Hallowe'en will become a staple of the fall season, though. Other countries have had fleeting love affairs with the holiday, only to discard it once the novelty wore off and the candy hangovers kicked in. In the early part of this decade, that bastion of high culture France "went batty" over Hallowe'en, reclaiming their stake in the ancient European celebration while enjoying its New World lunacy. A few years later, of course, the French lived up to their reputation and quickly ditched Hallowe'en like the autumnal fad it was. Now, Hallowe'en is little more than an excuse for an extra ladies' night on a nightclub's event calendar.

Which isn't to say nothing scary happens on Hallowe'en in France. Last year, I witnessed in Paris some of the most ghetto bullshit I've seen since leaving Baltimore. Traveler's Tip: when some drunk steps to you in the 11th arrondissement, let it slide and believe him when he says he makes bank. I don't care about their military history, the French will fuck you up if they have to.

Click on the mix title to download.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

1. Black Sabbath - "Black Sabbath"
2. The Birthday Party - "Release the Bats"
3. Chain & the Gang - "Cemetary Map"
4. Public Image Ltd. - "Graveyard"
5. Wendy Carlos - "The Shining (Main Titles)"
6. The Caretaker - "Haunted Ballroom"
7. The Jesus & Mary Chain - "Nineteen666"
8. Scientist - "The Voodoo Curse"
9. Pete Rugolo - "Finger of Fear"
10. Suicide - "Ghost Rider"
11. Big Lazy - "Just Plain Scared"
12. Johnny Pearson - "Graveyard"
13. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - "Fire"
14. David Bowie - "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)"
15. Teeth Mountain - "Ghost Science"
16. The Bourbons - "A Dark Corner"
17. The Fall - "Mansion"
18. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Red Right Hand"
19. Lucifer - "Exorcism"
20. Lord Dent & His Invaders - "Wolf Call"
21. Sonic Youth - "Hallowe'en"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

And All Hardcore Fiends Will Die By Me

Not entirely timely, given the past number of days were eaten up by a brief escape from the metro region, but...

I've already had my say about this "grey vampire" nonsense, so all that remains is to dedicate the mixes below to the architects of this ignis fatuus "new orthodoxy."

Still, mind you... I wonder, reading such smug & protective excuses & egotism, if those paralyzed by prolepsis aren't simply exhausting themselves defending bad ideas.

Click on the titles to download.

Righteous Maelstrom (The Autumn Edition)

1. Brian Eno - "No One Receiving"
2. The Flaming Lips - "Convinced of the Hex"
3. Pissed Jeans - "Half Idiot"
4. Wu-Tang Clan - "Shame On a Nigga"
5. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup - "I'm Gonna Dig Myself a Hole"
6. Big Flame - "Every Conversation"
7. The Jesus Lizard - "Mouthbreather"
8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - "If 6 Was 9"
9. The Jesus & Mary Chain - "Suck"
10. The Billy Nayer Show - "Only I Can Save the World"
11. Grouper - "Disengaged"
12. Flipper - "Living For the Depression"
13. Busta Rhymes - "Woo Ha!! Got You All In Check"
14. XTC - "Outside World"
15. The Mothers of Invention - "Who Are the Brain Police?"
16. NoMeansNo - "I Am Wrong"

Righteous Maelstrom (The Fall Edition)

1. The Fall - "The Man Whose Head Expanded"
2. The Fall - "Fantastic Life"
3. The Fall - "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed."
4. The Fall - "What You Need"
5. The Fall - "Slates, Slags, Etc." Live
6. The Fall - "Recipe For Fascism"
7. The Fall - "Who Makes the Nazis?"
8. The Fall - "Gut of the Quantifier"
9. The Fall - "New Puritan" Peel Session

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Re-up: Nothing Says Patriotism Like Screaming Like an Idiot

Recently, word from back west came that CBC Radio 2 was hosting a li'l something called the Great Canadian Song Quest, a listener-commissioned swing for the bleachers of immortalising some classically Canuck minutiae in song...

...kinda like what I did four months ago.

Now, I myself am not eligible for the GCSQ: the specific sights/smells/experiences to be enshrined in sound are first voted upon by the public, and then a handful of established Canadian musicians will write the tunes about the elected subjects. The roster of redoubtable artists include everyone from Hawksley Workman & Martha Wainwright to Sloan & Joel Plaskett, so no wonder my phone never rang.

Certainly, the Song Quest is full of noble intent: it's a bit embarrassing that the closest Canada comes to a self-celebratory anthem is the domestic-only hit "At the 100th Meridian" or, uh, "YYZ". Perhaps our famed modesty (at least compared to our noisy neighbours to the south) prohibits us from getting overly patriotic. But hell, if you want to run with the big dogs, your bark has to be as loud as theirs. If you want to compete with "I Love L.A." or "La Marseillaise", then you can't be shy about ceremonialising cultural ephemera or even bloodthirsty jingoism. If you want cops singing your song at wakes for their brothers-in-arms, you've got to aim bigger than bagels and go for heart-rending abstraction like the Pogues did with "Body of an American".

Which is why I spent two-and-a-half minutes hollering like a drunk at the Calgary Stampede about such True Northern staples as Mounties, Trudeau, and (of course) Tim Horton's. Damn the torpedoes! Show some love for the donuts!

For those of y'all interested who haven't already, you can download "A Hesitant Pride" as part of the Breeds With Anything EP for free over at SVC Records.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sniping (3)

K-Punk's "new orthodoxy" translated into layspeak:
I don't give a fuck how wrong I may be, and I don't give a fuck how vague or amoebic my ambitions may be - I will be Napoleon for a day if only at my own desk!
K-Punk's slide towards self-righteous incoherence has already been noted by myself and others, but what's shocking at this point is that, in seeking "to impose a new orthodoxy in the way that the right did," K-Punk is actually pulling pages from Karl Rove's playbook. Banishing all discourse except sycophantic acquiescence; equating "nuancing" a position with abandoning it; accusing critics of giving comfort to the enemy (or at least of conforming to the enemy's prescriptive narrative); maligning the libidos of those unwilling to charge headlong & blindly into battle... at this rate, it'll won't be long before K-Punk blows Ads Without Products' cover and Dominic Fox accidentally shoots Owen Hatherly in the face.

What's beyond surprising, utterly perplexing in fact, is that anyone would want "to impose a new orthodoxy in the way that the right did." The ultimate result of neoliberal capitalism's utter domination of the past decade has been bloody fucking disaster - not just for the "little people", leftists, and Iraqis, but for the Masters of the Universe as well. The right's politics weren't so much politics as moronic bumper-stickers plastered on a vehicle fueled by psychopathic greed & an insatiable lust for power, which doesn't offer much of a long-term strategy once every house of congress, parliament, and boardroom has been occupied. Given how badly this chapter of our civlization is ending, why should we put our trust in the bulldozer militancy & smoggy philosophizing of a handful of Joy Division fans?

Much as K-Punk may wonder on the "libidindal impulses" of we who'd ask a theorist to bother defending their own ideas before lending them our full faith, I wonder about said impulses of a leftist who'd rather headbutt everyone into submission or sulk in the corner than articulate a position. The more he prattles on about the "punkish demystification" the militant dysphoria enables, the more he sounds like some prat at a rave in denial that the pill he popped was just Tylenol, and the more I wonder if he's just trying to punk us.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sniping (2)

The esteemed Ms. Hopper asks a question whose time, between the Buju Banton furor and the VA "horrorcore" killings, is ripe:
Should music be moral?
I've already dashed off an initial response, which will be scrubbed & expanded before being reproduced here, but in the meantime it looks as though the question's already been complicated by Jane Dark, who countered Jessica with "the eternal brain burner":
Who gets to decide what morality is?
...which is fair & relevant, though its relativism ain't in line with the "My militant structual Marxism is bigger than your militant structural Marxism" shit she was talking over at Ads Without Products. It's all well & good to pray to Saint Jude while calling someone a sellout, but who gets to decide what's dysphoric accelerationism versus Pyrrhic pseudo-revolutionary role-playing?

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be Twittered

Were you to believe it from a specific cluster of blogs, the single most momentous event of the past two weeks has been the student occupation of various buildings around the University of California Santa Cruz. Too bad no one else thinks so. Granted, the students couldn't have counted on above-the-fold competition from dual disasters in southeast Asia, the polarizing arrest of Roman Polanski, more crotch-grabbing by Ahmadinejad, or the aneurysm-inducing echoplex of phony outrage over Kanyegate.

However, they certainly didn't make it easier on themselves by launching their incursion concurrent to China's "60th birthday" bash and the G20 clusterfuck in Pittsburgh. Doubtlessly, this coincidence was intended to highlight the shortcomings of the post-globalised economic model, but being 2600 miles away from the action in a town often derided as a patchouli-soaked corral for space cadets & pinkos is not the best strategy for scoring headlines, let alone sympathy.

Lest someone think I'm not on the students' side, let me be clear: education is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the keystone to any society that can even pretend to be free. Distended tuition costs, the erosion of available scholarships, and funding diverted like water from Noah Cross' Los Angeles pose as great (if not a greater) threat than any nebulous group of extremists broadcasting ill-defined grievances from caves.

That being said, a well-funded & equitably accessible secondary education doesn't do shit for a country without a functioning primary education system. Speaking of too many students chasing too few dollars, the only state with a high school graduation rate above 80% that is also among the 20 most populous states is New Jersey, and 26 of the 50 largest school districts see fewer than 60% of their students complete high school. The most dreadful failures are the cities:
  • Chicago (52.2%)
  • Los Angeles (44.2%)
  • New York City (38.9%)
  • Baltimore (38.5%)
  • Detroit (21.7%)
Sorry, bioethics undergrads and comparative lit doctoral candidates, but as long as almost a third of Americans can't parse the 5th-Grade prose of USA Today to read for themselves how fucked the public schools are, you'll have to wait your turn.

Another, more manageable problem facing the UCSC protesters is how they're presenting themselves & their agenda. They're flush with the same spurious romanticism as every placard-waving pseud & bumper-sticker doctrinaire from the past forty years, but because I'm sympathetic to their ends I'd like to offer them a little advice. I first thought it best to address them in their own language - that is, in a needlessly declarative, excessively florid manifesto that's as impalpable & impractical as a Japanese anti-smoking ad. But in the interest of avoiding doublespeak, I've decided to employ the more direct method of a concise list.
  • "Occupation" isn't a term that rings progressive - quite the opposite. It smacks of subjugation & imperialism; just ask any Palestinian or Iraqi. May I suggest "engagement" or "reclamation"?
  • If grad students are going to take anything over, they'd perhaps want to infiltrate an environment that isn't, according to this UCSC spokesman, paid for, operated by, and "used by graduate students for everything from studying to a lounge area." That's like a second-amendment rights rally "occupying" a NASCAR track. City hall, the state legislature, or even the university administrative offices might make for more effectively sensitive targets.
  • For god's sake, don't blast weak-ass reggae over the PA. You'll turn yourself into a South Park stereotype.
  • Speaking of concrete directions, how about making some explicit directives? Its laughable petulance aside, "WE WANT EVERYTHING" is as meaningless a demand as "WE WANT NOTHING" in that it points to nothing as a goal. If what "we" want isn't yet clear, we should at least be able to express what we don't want and issue demands in the negative. Even to demand the impossible is more effective than demanding "everything": again, the impossible at least offers some imaginable (albeit amoebic) ends towards which to work.
  • If you want to be taken seriously, don't cull your slogans from cloying cocaine-nosebleed disco or self-involved emo "anthems"; do not ironically appropriate Bonnie Tyler lyrics; don't make presumptive statements about "the working class" or "proletarian" anyone unless you're damn certain you can count them amongst your ranks; and for crying out loud, don't declare that "we are power hungry." That makes you sound like a bunch of authoritarian thugs.
But beyond that, I wish the UCSC protesters nothing but the best of luck. I'm only asking their bravery match the level of their rhetoric; you can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding. The reason I don't bandy about "smash the system" hyperbole (anymore) is because I know I'm incapable of following through on the threat. The level of violence - on every level and in every sense of the word - requisite to enact a revolution, any revolution is far beyond the bounds of my own conviction. This doesn't mean there isn't nobility, righteousness, or good within the revolutionary's heart; it does, however, require a certitude found only in True Belief, in fascists, in fundamentalists, and in sub-criminal psychopaths. As I believe the ends don't justify the means, I'll gladly play along until my "counterrevolutionary" skepticism lands me in the gulag, which will serve me as an incredibly shitty, lifelong Told You So.

Below are some tunes dedicated to those fighting to get their learn on; click on the mix title to download.

The Revolutionary Gesture

1. The Birthday Party - "Mutiny In Heaven"
2. Metallica - "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
3. Harvey Milk - "War"
4. Nation Of Ulysses - "Target: U.S.A."
5. GZA - "I Gotcha Back"
6. The Clash - "The Guns of Brixton"
7. Erykah Badu - "Soldier"
8. Hoyt Ming and His Pep Steppers - "Indian War Whoop"
9. Spacemen 3 - "Revolution"
10. Michael Yonkers - "Kill the Enemy"
11. Lungfish - "Black Helicopters"
12. Pelt - "Hippy War Machine"
13. The Stranglers - "No More Heroes"

Updated (Oct. 4): Ads Without Products makes an invaluable expansion upon my last point, regarding the "adolescent insanity" of "toussled-haired hipsters, laptopped and bespectacled," fancying themselves urban guerrillas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

And they call it "news"...

Nadir Of Western Civilization To Be Reached This Friday At 3:32 P.M.
Of course, we as a species have always been fascinated with our own fates, interpreting even vaguely adverse events or signs as portents of some inescapable apocalypse. But the idea that we were hurtling at high speed towards total collapse in the immediate future used to be peddled only by fringe cranks, religious screwballs, and schizophrenics. Now, this has somehow become the consensus - though for anyone looking for ill omens, if reality does even 30% of the work, confirmation bias will do the rest.

Speaking of which, I'm currently cooking up something about how Japan's attempt to "civilize" something inherently barbaric & unnatural will someday contribute to its dissolution as a society. In the meantime, I ask y'all what you'd care to hear more: tunes about the end of days, or junk food?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Attn. Yankee Comrades

If you want to know why this is happening, then watch this - Right America: Feeling Wronged, Alexandra Pelosi's documentary about Republican supporters during the run-up to the 2008 election.

I went through a strange cycle of emotions watching the film. Beginning with gritted teeth in preparation for the inevitable litany of lies & lunacy, I soon felt an odd pity for the people in front of Pelosi's camera. Their earnest, deep-seated, and sincere love for their country, for their culture, for their future was... touching, I'll admit it! These people honestly want only the best for their homeland, and it's hard to begrudge anyone their dreams.

And then, forty-three minutes later, after having heard innumerable innuendos, inaccuracies, and willfully ignorant claims that Barack Obama is a Muslim, a non-citizen, a socialist (as though any of these are inherently bad), a fascist, a one-man sleeper cell, the Anti-Christ, an Illuminati puppet, a pimp, a mobster, a racist, an NLP-employing mass-hypnotist, and quite possibly one of David Icke's lizard people... the small step towards empathy for the right wing that I'd taken was swiftly erased with a retreat to my previous position: that America is being drawn-and-quartered by a gang of megaphone-mouthed, purposefully uneducated Christian fundamentalists, yahoos, self-styled guerrillas, selfish simpletons masquerading as civil libertarians, and sore losers, none of whom can see past their microscopically myopic cultural conservatism or straight-up, old-school racism.

I'm tempted to reiterate my post-election bipartisan stance, but instead I'll keep it civil and say simply that I'm so goddamn glad I never have to live in that country again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Week in White People Saying Stupid Shit - now with bonus Kanye backlash!

Bill Maher on Obama's big healthcare speech, during the Friday night broadcast of his show Real Time:
It was a great speech. Y'know, when Black Elvis gets jiggy with his teleprompter... (4 second pause for a laugh that doesn't come) there's nobody better!
Elsewhere, Matt Welch of Reason Magazine found Obama's vow to push back against slanderers a "nearly Snoop Doggesque display." When Joan Walsh of called him out for his "totally gratuitous racial imagery," Welch fell back on the ol' I Have Plenty of Black Friends excuse by professing his undying admiration for Mr. Dogg: "I'm from Long Beach..."

It's a pity Maher's too in love with the sonorous hum of his own voice, and Welch is a little proud of his "keeping it fresh" to heed the pointed observation that Maher's own buddy, Chris Rock, made about Colin Powell thirteen years ago - a point that, unfortunately, is too easily tailored to fit Obama.
What do you mean, "he speaks so well"? What, did he have a stroke the other day? He's a fuckin' educated man! ...What voice were you looking to come out of his mouth? What the fuck did you expect him to sound like? I'ma drop me a bomb tuh-day! I be pray-zo-den'! Get the fuck outta here...
Updated Sept. 15th: Sweet merciful crap, this is what I get for posting about white people saying stupid shit before the MTV Awards aired on Sunday night: a tsunami of Twittered racism in the wake of Kanye West's ill-advised, alcohol-enabled (but kinda hilarious) hijacking of the spotlight from jailbait android Taylor Swift. Harry Allen has done the unenviable task of rounding up a depressing array of posts from around the web that go so far as to advocate lynching.

Kanye's bumrush recalls another stage invasion during a highly-publicised awards ceremony: Ol' Dirty Bastard's considerably less topical commandeering of the 1998 Grammys. Perhaps everyone was more relaxed during those halcyon days of the Clinton era, or maybe racists were just more zipper-lipped & self-policing at the time, or quite likely Michael "SOY BOMB" Portnoy managed to steal ODB's thunder, but I recall much bemusement and no outrage (manufactured or otherwise) when Russell Jones swiped the mic to proclaim that, "Wu-Tang is for the children."

Also, that was at the Grammys, an event so devoid of tension or thunderbolts that even accidental spontaneity is met with that quietly insolent eye-roll perfected by the ruling classes and the French. The MTV Awards, on the other hand, are fueled by the screams of dumbfounded teenagers and so have to up the Faustian ante annually, concocting evermore ridiculous & grotesque spectacles to elicit shock & awe instead of yawns. But in its quest to appear freewheeling & hedonic, MTV's "events" are reduced to a dully predictable procession of micro-stage-managed cockteases - so much so that, prior to the genuine purge of badwill, many speculated that the Kayne/Swift collision was staged. Staged or not, the hysterical pitch of the proceedings doubtlessly encourages less measured & more vehement audience reactions, as per below:

There laid bare is the loathsome side of the democratization of communication. Social media as a solipsistic emetic does as much to encourage the laxative expression of people's most splenetic & debased thoughts as to enable reconnecting with old classmates. It's no mere coincidence that now the western world is awash in a rising tide of race-related violence and screeching harpies decrying the collapse of civilization as they knew it. This seedy undercurrent has always existed, as testified by the initial hoots of laughter audible at the onset of Michael Richards' infamous onstage shitfit. But it took the election of a non-white to the highest office in America to trigger the socially atavistic's Howard Beale moment. As Driftglass elaborates in this astute essay:
Because during the Bush years, people... never saw their love of their Dear Leader and their fealty to his Administration as something "political". They saw it as normal. As the Universe being at its proper, wingnut default setting: White, male, fundamentalist Christian, Conservative, flight-suit clad and killing scary brown people.

And once the Dear Leader's reign ended... the natural order of mindless obedience in exchange for a smug and blissful ignorance collapsed.

And worst of all, "their country" suddenly had a Scary Black Man living in their Dear Leader's pretty White House, probably having dirty, Muslim sex in the Dear Leader's sacred, Christian bed and putting his filthy, Kenyan hands all over "their county's" pure, white Constitution.
And thanks to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Yahoo chat groups, these reactionaries & racists can clasp hands across time & space and mobilise.

But as Newton's Third Law teaches, there can and must be a push back against this sickness. While the web can easily operate as a Stasi-esque Panopticon ordered upon intimidation & paranoia, it also offers nowhere for racists, thugs, fascists, and obstructionists to hide. There is no excuse to offer for allowing this aggression to stand uncontested. It is all of our responsibilities to live up to Obama's oath: We Will Call You Out On It.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Forget But Don't Forgive

Today marks the eighth anniversary of what was billed as the game-changing cataclysm of this generation, drawing a hard line between the antediluvian giddiness of the '90s and the steady deterioration of the Bush era, panic now seeping up past our knees as the clamor of some mad-dog future grows closer.

At the time, everyone tried with apparent earnestness to react appropriately, searching for some elusive happy medium between the agreed-upon "inappropriate" extremes of Toby Keith and Cassetteboy. And of course, everyone failed.

Eight years later, "9/11" has been reduced to the most overworked political shorthand (though its translation depends very much on which cipher it's read through), the man purportedly responsible & his semi-nonexistent network remain at large, several other nations have been struck by spectacular & tragic attacks, the most heated online argument remains whether or not there was US involvement in taking down the towers, and half the American population seems to feel their own president is a greater threat to their nation than any foreign entity.

The only certainty, the only thing that hasn't vanished in plumes of dust & a whirlwind of dissonance is the anger. Anger at some amoebic phantom enemy, who strikes without explanation or a list of demands; anger that America learned the wrong lessons and become a greater bully that it had been in years (though not even a decade); anger at the maudlin, melodramatic tones in which the event is discussed; anger at the taboo of discussing the event with anything other than reverent, cotton-soft solemnity; anger at anyone who even appeared to exploit the event for box-office receipts or a political boost; anger at anyone who'd undermine the newfound unanimity of a nation in grief; anger at those who'd invoke God to justify either the event or that which followed; anger at those whose denial of God led to the event and that which followed.

Now, so many of those threads of rage have become interwoven that it's near impossible to remember which one we started with. We certainly can't see where it's going, and we see no way of divesting ourselves of it - nor would we want to. We've been angry this long, we want to be see only red until someone cures us (a miracle!) of our crimson blindess... just to make sure it's all been worth the wailing & gnashing of teeth.

Personally, I'm just exhausted of it. It's a beautiful day outside, so I'm going for a stroll. Meanwhile, here is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music, from Nino Rota's score to Fellini's Il Casanova.

Addendum: Anyone up for a rousing game of Jenga?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Trigger Warning

Shakesville is upset about the T-shirt below, on sale through the Onion merch site.

The T-shirt's misadventure, according to SKE, is that "If you have to explain your point, you have failed to make it." Does this make me some kind of intuitive genius that I don't need the shirt explained to find it funny - and still manage to find it funny?

SKE cracks derisive about the T-shirt ad, down to the tagline "*Prostitute Not Included", with what must be one of the most meta phrases ever committed to a webpage:
Must be "ironic".
Yes. Yes it is ironic. That's what bloody satire is: irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity. If every parody or mordant laceration of irrationality required some accompanying literal explanation, then it wouldn't be satire. If human communication were limited to straightforward conveyances of information to be received & digested at face value, what a joyless, antipoetic back-and-forth of dull, dry platitudes life would be, robbed of any antidote to lessen the sting of disappointment, tragedy, rage, or inequity.

What is it about laughter that immediately unsettles people? Why is the very hallmark of humanity so often blighted by the preceding tag "inappropriate"? And if jokes about Catholic priests being sexually predatory scum are understood by everyone except the most verklempt malcontents to be not at the expense of their victims, then why not this T-shirt?

I understand that Shakesville is a "safe space" with a clear policy about appropriate targets for disapprobation. The defining criterion for sanction from mockery is to be among those who are victims of both circumstance and real-world discrimination - homosexuals, minorities, and ergo most certainly victims of sex-trafficking. But then shouldn't stupid people & citizens of the American south also be exempt from ridicule? Surely no one chooses to be stupid (a universal & relative affliction anyway), and there are doubtlessly hundreds of denizens of the Deep South who'd really rather not be there but haven't the means to escape to most sympathetic environs. (Need I raise the spectre of Katrina's victims again?)

There is a loophole at Shakesville that allows "jokes about 'off-limits' subjects... by drawing on irony," which I'd have thought would give the Onion a pass. Oh, wait - the fine print:
Invoking “off-limits” subjects is only problematic when it’s unclear at whom we’re laughing—and if we’re laughing at a woman just because she’s a woman, it’s not funny. (Offensive and uninspired to boot.)
Well, alright then. At least it's clear that irony is allowable only at the base level of, say, anti-abortionists blowing up clinics. Uninspired to boot, indeed. To resurrect one of my favourite Christopher Hitchens quotes:
When a precious and irreplaceable word like 'irony' has become a lazy synonym for 'anomie,' there is scant room for originality.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Vampires Suck

No, this has nothing to do with the ongoing effort to tar-and-feather anyone with a contrary opinion as a metaphysical leech. This has to do with something my wife brought back from vacation.

People often worry about the various diseases we might contract or carry while en route aeronautically - everything from the common cold to swine flu. Scarcely a thought is given to the more pernicious afflictions of the mind we pick up along the way. I, for one, came back from an American wedding a few months ago convinced that super-sized portions were a step towards the palace of wisdom along the path of excess. Then I recalled that Jim Morrison was a half-wit lush, that I didn't want to die of a coronary by age 30, and that a half-dozen gyoza with a side of veggies is a perfectly delectable meal.

Meanwhile, my wife returned from her recent Occidental excursion enthralled by all things pallid and bloodsucking. It started simply enough when a friend passed her one of the Twilight books as a "beach read"; this very quickly crescendoed into an obsession with the popular HBO show True Blood, which is currently staining her corneas nightly as her video nightcap of choice.

Lest my wife appear a trend-swallowing idiot - she's not. As she admits, Twilight is the tripe you read when you go on vacation to a town whose lone "bookstore" is a Sheetz truckstop, and True Blood has attained the ubiquity (also enjoyed by The Sopranos or The Wire) that strong-arms you into watching at least an episode if only to be a part of your friends' conversation.

Now, Twilight is a teen Harlequin novel written by a sex-negative Mormon who hadn't even cracked Dracula when she first sat down to type her way into the wallets & hearts of hormonally-charged naifs across the heartland, so fuck that. That shit ain't even worth dignifying by discussion.

True Blood, meanwhile, is a bloody disappointment.

Yet it started so well: TV auteur Alan Ball hauls everyone's favourite libertine ghouls out of their coffins to reenact the civil rights struggle in all its heated mayhem, within the sweaty, haunted salmagundi of Louisiana. And that title sequence by Digital Kitchen is bitchin' (even if it has all the overt button-pushing & film stock/colour filter fuckery of a mid-'90s music video). The initial four minutes of the series set the scene most compellingly: as talking heads prattle about the "vampire rights" amendment on TV in the background, two all-American idiots almost provoke a convenience store massacre by a good ol' boy (complete with camo & trucker cap) who just happens to be a vampire.

I was to embarrassed to admit that maybe I was going to enjoy this: a show where people just happen sometimes to be vampires! After all, if the show intended to capture the myriad shades of the civil rights struggle, it would have to portray vampires as no less socially omnifarious & ambivalent as real people: rednecks, slackers, business people, parents, and whatnot. Hey, I want to see what kind of a dentist a vampire would make, and besides, it's hardly a leap of imagination to posit lawyers, lobbyists, and certain members of the state department as predatory bloodsuckers.

But no sooner than the star spook, Bill, appears does the show devolve into a dull retread of the cardboard-cutout characteristics worn threadbare by a century of literary & filmic flagellation: leather-bound & pasty lotharios who stare icily from beneath furrowed brows and speak with the affected elegance of a first-year drama student wallowing through a lifeless recitation of Hamlet's soliloquy. There's also apparently a law that requires vampires to listen to no music other than glossy remixes of "Tainted Love" and Nitzer Ebb. What, no Joy Division?

If True Blood's conceptual audacity was to craft a titillating analogy for the civil rights struggle, its vanilla vampires present a problem deeper than driving away seen-it-all audience members: hoary stereotypes, paper-thin & laughably caricatured, grappling for social acceptance & legal equity. In other words, if the show were stripped of its horror story facade and made a literal retelling of the civil rights movement, it would be portraying African-Americans as jitterbugging, watermelon-eating, "yessuh massa," shuck 'n' jiving buffoons. As the top-billed ghoul, Bill is afforded the screentime to develop a more nuanced social context: his efforts to conduct himself as any other rational citizen are met with suspicion by most, enmity by the ignorant, opprobium by the authorities, and even accusations of treachery by his own people (similar to being called an "Oreo"). But Bill is alone in a crowd of cadaverous lechers in black leather trenchcoats & dog collars with an enthusiasm for industrial-tinged rocktronica. How uninspired. How embarrassing.

As a parting thought, does it strike anyone else that there's a larger metaphor nestled in this? Hmm... a new arrival that once bore the promise of shifting paradigms and elevating the discourse to a higher plane of sophistication reveals itself to be little more than the moth-eaten status quo. What does that remind you of?

Just sayin'...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Talent Borrows, Genius Steals

And I've taken enough cues & clues from this man that he's due at least a tip o' my hat.

To the most quotable man this side of Liam Gallagher, happy birthday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tell the Historians I'm Right Here Holdin' My Nuts

(I was about to post this two weeks ago when my internet connection went dead, hence the handful of borderline-obsolete references & links.)

While explaining to a friend some of the ridiculous online arguments I get dragged into (okay, often by myself), I remarked that for people speciously concerned with the future, the opposition spends a hell of a lot of time talking only of the past. Now, my friend doesn't waste his time reading overlong & defamatory pseudo-psychoanalytical tracts that basically amount to grandiloquent iterations of "Y'all just hatin'!" But he knew what I was talking about.

"I read these news articles," he said, "about some recently-unearthed ancient Abyssinian wooden tablet that had been written upon in wax. Obviously, the wax has long since disintegrated, but they can use computers and subcutaneous radar to reconstruct it, or whatever, and this will reveal some fantastic ancient truth... Now, perhaps I'm living too firmly in the present, but who cares? In a real and immediate sense, insofar as dealing with the situation we're in right now, who fucking cares?"

Putting a finer point on it, we were wondering exactly what good will be served by the posthumously-conceived cultural theory book about Michael Jackson (that I maintain is as macabre and exploitive as anything Jermaine or Joe is peddling). Is this really needed? Will it actually offer any fresh insights, intimations, angles, or gags that were somehow missed in the past 25 years of MJ's increasingly ulcerated ubiquity? Even if it does flint a new spark, how does that help us?

America's cutting-edge crackpots are putting on their brownshirts, people are losing their jobs all over the damn place, Taiwan was almost washed onto the seabed, Iran's still all kinds of fucked up, and not even Bill Ward & Tony Iommi can keep it together for old times' sake. The fuck do I care about Michael Jackson as reified symbol of Reaganite predatory accumulation?

But oh me, oh my - I've just disqualified myself from the conversation, at least according to Mark "K-Punk" Fisher's rules of (dis)engagement. I've exhibited "the dull malice of snatching people's toys away from them," perhaps even "a poisonous envy of others who are possessed by this kind of depersonalising passion." Maybe I'm what Mark calls a "grey vampire" ("Like moths... drawn by the light of energetic commitment, but unable to themselves commit"), though I'm more probably a "troll". As some gonzoid shit-talker outside the south English inner sanctum of serious cultural theory, surely I "think that is a duty to deflate enthusiasm and puncture projects", what with my incessant entreaties for "more bitterness, less enthusiasm" from behind my "devil's advocate" parapet. Yet fear not, for Mark has a foolproof prescription to counteract my rhetorical toxicity:
Once you've established they are a troll, sever all contact with them and - this is imperative - don't read anything they write... The final victory over them is achieved by simply persisting in the pursuit of a project, refusing to allow yourself to be ensnared in the self-doubts and impotent autocritique... Occasionally GVs can be caught out. Beneath the moth-grey sadness of the GVs, there is always a raging red core of useless anger and resentment - the worst kind of anger and resentment, because it is directed against those who have projects.
To prune this academic survival guide to its essence: ignore anyone who is less than sycophantically supportive, because they're just jealous loafers whose accomplishments are nil. Gosh, I know there's a conventional nickname for this energy-sapping backseat driver that Mark's daintily avoided employing... what is it, what is it, what is it?

Oh yeah, that's right - Haters!

A short while ago, Ads Without Products noted that "grey vampires" and Mark's taxonomic retailoring of "troll" seem to be code for "those who disagree with Mark":
The fact of the matter is that there are no conversational slots to fit into other than fawning agreement apparently. Respectful criticism is in fact disrespectful passive-aggressiveness, but disrespectful criticism won’t even be countenanced... The analysis of social structures and their deformative effect upon discourse isn’t meant to be employed as a sort of defensive wall, an affirmative action programme for the bad ideas of the (self-positioned) abject. Anyone who disagrees with Mark disagrees because they are the over-confident agents of power and class. Sorry, though. Whatever the social dynamics at play, it could be that your ideas are simply wrong.

...doesn’t this seem like the sort of thing you would say when you’re not so much resolute in your ideas, single-mindedly committed to your project, but rather scared shitless that someone’s found a hole or holes, someone is asking questions that you simply don’t have the guts or brains or honesty to answer?
Two months later, Mark still refuses to respond directly to any of AWP's criticisms - which at least demonstrates a practical harmony among Mark's ideas & actions. Unfortunately, limiting discussion of the academic bestiary to what amounts to a monologue doesn't bolster Mark's own hypothesis. Bloody-minded fealty to an idea that someone else has discredited isn't gambling to "uncover new worlds", it's just ol'-fashioned idiocy. This puerile plugging of ears reminds of one of my favourite Space Ghost quotes, as he calmly describes to Bob Costas the sensation of having his skull heated to "a scorching 450 degrees":
You see, my brain's sending a message to my arms right now to put my head out. But I'm choosing to ignore that.
To be sure, this speculatively-inflated vilifcation of phantom Haters is one of the dumbest memes to have gathered steam around certain blogipelagos - and not just because it's the dialectic equivalent of going foetal. If Mark wasn't Quixotically trying to reappropriate the term "troll", then he appears to have radically misunderstood the word. First, he fails to distinguish between just some prick talkin' shit on a bulletin board, and a troll. Real trolls, trolls-by-vocation, capital-T troublemakers who can crack into Kevin Mitnick's iPhone - like those profiled in the NYT "Malwebolence" article from last August - are the frontiersmen stationed at the ever-expanding outermost fringes of the internet. They are the self-styled outlaws of an online Wild West of which most of us genteel folk are scarcely aware. Contrary to Mark's understanding, trolls neither "[spend] a great deal of time on the web saying how debased, how unsophisticated, the web is," nor do they "lose all their power once you cease to pay them attention." Trolls are the very engine of internet innovation, thanks to their fluid approaches to morality & identity, their circumvention of authority, and yes their ability to expand online hostilities into the physical realm. (For a detailed illustration of how trolls can bring the intermedial ruckus, google Adam L. Goldstein.) Trolls' ability to infiltrate & incinerate an online environment is the very kind of revolutionary, scorched-earth, "Year Zero" program of which Mark is (or until very recently was) very fond.

Orotund excuses for ignoring any & all criticism are very seductive, and so aboard the bandwagon an embarrassing number of people jumped, often making their own additions to the menagerie of academic boogeymen. Larval Subjects proposed a defensive counterpart to the grey vampire's passive-aggressive parasitism: the Minotaur.
For the Minotaur it is never possible for there to be a genuine philosophical difference or a genuine difference in positions among philosophers. Rather, the Minotaur converts every philosophical opposition into a misinterpretation. The text(s) guarded by the Minotaur thus become a Labyrinth from which there is no escape.
Of course, when Mikhail Emelianov pointed out that the Minotaur was a prisoner, not a guardian, of the Labyrinthe, he was immediately accused of being... a troll. How quickly that conversation cocooned itself.

This mythological mix-up, along with Mark K-Punk's erroneous understanding of what monsters actually inhabit the internet, is symptomatic of the pandemic problem with online punditry: far too often, people just don't know what the fuck they're talking about.

Seems quite obvious, I know. But I'm not even talking about the scatological free-for-alls of, say, YouTube comment threads; I'm speaking strictly of widely-read, respected writers with obvious enthusiasm for their subjects and a large font of knowledge & experience from which to draw. Even they seem to suffer from twin inabilities to admit (1) there's knowledge beyond their specific proficiency, and (2) that sometimes, sometimes, they're wrong. I've made each of these missteps, mostly the former, though I try to outline the gaps in my expertise up front. I know next to nothing about the broader sweep of popular electronic music; in such a discussion, I'd have to defer to Simon Reynolds, Zone Styx, et al. Similarly, I'm largely ignorant about architecture (beyond the perfunctory opinion that brutalism is butt-ugly) and so submit to the superior acquaintance of E&V's Murphey or Owen Hatherley.

However, when Hatherley starts waxing forlorn about the Wu-Tang Clan, my bullshit detector registers in the red. That Hatherley "decided to investigate what the GZA is up to now" - as opposed to having given Pro Tools several spins when it dropped - betrays what's little more than a touristic interest in hip-hop. The anonymous plaintiff who asks "where's [Wu-Tang's] grit, the murk?" has clearly missed the first ten years of Cage's career, Ghostface's fantastic Fishscale, the widely-hailed Madvillain, Madlib's grubby production on Mos Def's The Ecstatic, and damn near the whole Def Jux catalogue. More disturbingly, the litany of references to The Wire and preoccupation with "unglamorous, non-gangsta poverty" seem to insist that potent hip-hop (and perhaps African-American culture in general) is born only of dire, undesirable circumstances. At its most benign, this is the juvenile drama-club/Hot Topic contention that suffering is essential to art; at worst, it's a patronizing claim that authenticity within hip-hop can only be earned by dodging bullets at Cabrini Green. Evidently, middle-class black musicians such as Erykah Badu, Outkast, and the Roots need not apply.

Aside from literally ghettoizing an art form that is meant to be emancipatory, this condescension demands that hip-hop remain immature. It demands that Jay-Z, rather than celebrating his ascension from the Marcy Projects to the Forbes Top 20, continue slinging rhymes about "bare cupboards, late cheques, unemployment." It demands that Ghostface, age 39, remain the raging 23-year-old he was on Enter the 36 Chambers. Dennis Coles himself, however, refuses to deny the passage of time and its effect of both himself and his art:
There aren’t enough men in the world. You got all these cats running around, trying to be little 19-year-old niggas and shit. But you’s a man, B. It’s time to grow up.
But this isn't a pissing contest about who has a more genuine affection for hip-hop. This is about the manner in which "cultural theorists" (at least those who deserve the scare quotes) construct and support their arguments. Most arrive at the table with a well-manicured set of aesthetics and/or a predetermined cultural hypothesis and cherry-pick music, film, etc. that supports the conclusion to which they've already come. They do this by focusing on relics, ephemera that has already settled into a well-worn niche in the cultural canon - precisely why an old co-worker of mine lambasted hip-hop "fans" who only listened to hip-hop that was at least already a decade old. There's not much bravery in basing a theory entirely on hindsight, nor is parading the urn of a long-interred artistic phenomenon, a.k.a. hauntology, anything other than another form of necrophilic post-modernism. So until someone produces an essay on how, for example, Lil Jon or the Three Six Mafia are demonstrative of the post-millenial rapacity of George W. Bush's America, I won't believe that they approach their analysis in any other way.

Not to mention - I defy anyone to come up with a succinct-yet-sweeping diagnosis of Michael Jackson's terminal simulacrum in America's memory to top Katt Williams'.