Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

101 Best Albums Made By Women Not on NPR's List of 150 Best Albums Made By Women

I re-discovered a list I had started making back around the time in July when NPR Released its list of 150 Best Albums by Women. I had got to about 60 or so and planned to expand it to 150, but, you know, time, resources, mental faculties, et al. In the interest of completion, I expanded the list to 101.

 The logic of the inital list was a little difficult to follow, but I attempted to do so.  Albums with just female members didn't really apply, unless they were also songwriters for the bulk of the album.  Albums with frontwomen who didn't write their own songs, however, did seem to apply as the spotlight was more on musicality rather than songwriting itself.  Overall though, the criteria seemed a bit loose, so I kept it so. The list leans a little more recent since these tend to be the type of things left off of canon-building exercises (and also I just tend to think there's been great stuff produced in the last 10-20 years that hasn't seeped into canon for structural reasons to do with the critical praxis rather than aesthetic reasons). I'm sure I missed a bunch, but I never see these things as definitive. 

101. Shop Assistants- Shop Assistants
100. Curve- Cuckoo
99. Ada- Blondie
98. Jody Watley- Jody Watley
97. Rachel Stevens- Come and Get It
96. Goldfrapp- Supernature
95. Shystie- Diamond in the Dirt
94. L7- Hungry for Stink
93. Nicki Minaj- Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
92. Lily Allen- Alright, Still
91. Chelsea Wolfe- Abyss
90. Bis- New Transistor Heroes
89. Anne Clark- Joined Up Writing
88. Bat for Lashes- Fur & Gold
87. Nite Jewel- Good Evening
86. Nicolette- Let No One Live Rent Free In Your Head
85. Cristina- Sleep it Off
84. Lady Sovereign- Public Warning
83. Francoise Hardy- Francoise Hardy (1962)
82. Annie-Anniemal
81. Tilt- 'Til it Kills
80. Pameila Kurstin- Thinking Out Loud
79. Chicks on Speed- The Re-Release of the Un-Releases
78. Ramona Lisa- Arcadia
77. Julia Holter-Ekstasis
76. AC Marias- One of Our Girls is Missing
75. Cat Power- Moon Pix
74. Frightwig- Cat Farm Faboo
73. Heavenly- the Decline and Fall of Heavely
72. Letta Mbulu- Letta Mbulu Sings
71. Sheila Chandra- The Struggle
70. Xosar- Holographic Matrix
69. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks- Teenage Jesus and the Jerks
68. Syreeta- Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta
67. Michele- Magic Love
66. Electrelane-The Power Out
65. Miss Kitten and the Hacker- First Album
64. Peaches- the Teaches of Peaches
63. Pale Saints- The Comforts of Madness
62. Seven Fields of Aphelion- Periphery
61. Minnie Riperton- Adventures in Paradise
60. Everything But the Girl- Walking Wounded
59. Teddy and the Frat Girls- I Wanna Be a Man
58. Carter Tutti- Cabal
57. Rachel Zeffira- The Deserters
56. Windy and Carl- Drawing of Sound
55. Julianna Barwick- Will
54. Book of Love- Book of Love
53. Rosebud- Discoballs
52. Lady June- Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy
51. Cibo Matto- Viva! La Woman!
50. Au Revoir Simone- The Bird of Music
49. Grimes- Art Angels
48. Huggy Bear- Weaponry Listens to Love
47. Virginia Astley- From Gardens We Feel Secure
46. Sky Ferreira- Night Time, My Time
45. ABBA- Waterloo
44. Vashti Bunyan- Just Another Diamond Day
43. Kelis- Tasty
42. Julie London- Around Midnight
41. Dead Can Dance- Spleen and Ideal
40. Karen Dalton- In My Own Time
39. Kaitlyn Auerlia Smith- EARS
38. Nancy Sinatra- Boots
37. Garbage- Garbage
36. Pocahaunted- Chains
35. Sibylle Baier- Colour Green
34. Chrisma- Chinese Restaurant
33. Bobbi Humphrey- Satin Doll
32. Ellen Allien- Berlinette
31. Fatima Al Qadiri- Desert Strike
30. Blossom Dearie- Blossom Dearie
29. White Noise- An Electric Storm
28. Annie Anxiety- Soul Possession
27. Camille Yarborough- The Iron Pot Cooker
26. Mazzy Star- Among My Swan
25. Richard and Linda Thompson- I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
24. Aghast- Hexerei Im Zwielicht Der Finsternis
23. Dionne Warwick- Anyone Who Had a Heart
22. Yma Sumac- Mambo!
21. High Places- High Places
20. Danielle Dax- Jesus Egg That Wept
19. Ladytron- The Witching Hour
18. Gazelle Twin- Unflesh
17. Rihanna- Anti-
16. Ludus- The Seduction
15. Holly Herndon- Platform
14. Sweet Trip- Velocity:Design:Comfort
13. FKA Twigs- LP1
12. Laurie Spiegel- The Expanding Universe
11. Jlin- Dark Energy
10. Jenny Hval- Blood Bitch
9. The Knife- Silent Shout
8. Bow Wow Wow- See Jungle!See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy
7. Stereolab- Emperor Tomato Ketchup
6. The United States of America- The United States of America
5. Lisa Germano- Geek the Girl
4. Dawn Richard- Blackheart
3. St Vincent- St Vincent
2. Grouper- Dragging a Dead Dear Up a Hill
1. Broadcast- the Noise Made By People


Something I shared on Facebook a few weeks ago, reshared below. 

I think I'd have to add an addendum that since I wrote this, there's been a string of accusations that have come out.  In the spirit of this is a troubling "Shitty Men in Media" document, which seems to have originated as a doc to warn women of predators lurking in media.  While the spirit of this doc is attuned to what I've written below, things like this may just be too open to trolls.  Indeed we're now seeing it being weaponized by worthless alt-right fucks who don't give half a shit about women, or by political opponents eager to believe, or defended by political allies wanting more evidence than they're willing to grant for those they could care less about.  I worry about this whole thing becoming such a mess that it takes the spotlight off of finding paths forward in establishing accountability and attacking rape culture at its core.  In a way, this is nobody's fault.  The socio-cultural hellscape of the comments section moment is not one best suited for having these discussions. And given the personal, uncapturable, intimate nature of most of these violations, they remain a space for the cast of doubt.  What I think I mean to say below is that we can never expect to have a full interrogation of these topics without a reversal of power dynamics.  What I maybe failed to mention is that this not only means making men's intentions carry as much suspicion as women's criticisms of them historically have, but also lifting up women or other people marginalized by rape culture and finding ways for their voices and perspectives to be heard loudly. 

A little late on the draw with this, but I did want to just say that I see all your #metoo posts and I feel them and appreciate everyone using their voice on this topic, while respecting those who may not want to say anything as well.  I can't say I am surprised by anything.  I’d always assumed that these experiences were fairly universal, but it's also heartbreaking to see the trickle-down effect of patriarchy and rape culture at the individual level, affecting specific people you know in singular, uniquely devastating ways.
 I think this kind of campaign is good though, because when something exists solely as a phenomena it can be opaque and forbidding to even attempt to tackle.  When sexual harassment and sexual assault become part of the atmosphere, they get absorbed into ideology, process, and become structures in their own right.  They can hide in the margins of unobserved male privilege, obscured by the gaslight of humor, unintentionally defended either through depreciation of impact (“it wasn’t that bad”) or the pernicious passivity of consensual silence (“it’s not my problem”).  Conversely, when this behavior is laid bare and when the pain and suffering is standing in the limelight, it becomes incumbent upon us to start shining lights in the corners where illegitimate power and its enablers like to hide and present them as the black mirror image of existing mainstream culture we know them to be.
 One of the most important aspects of this is acknowledging one’s own complicity in it.  Given the way our social relations have been mediated and intercepted by the various channels our words get funneled through, these gestures can seem performative, but they’re important nonetheless.  I’ve definitely at times looked the other way or said things that may have made someone else uncomfortable.  I’ve told women to lighten up and made excuses for men who were demonstrably wrong.  Even as I evolve and try to stay cognizant of my actions, I may still wind up talking over women or undervaluing their contributions or participating in other microagressions that holistically, if not individually, denigrate the autonomy and contributions of women.  I try not to, but I know it happens.
 Here’s the thing about why it happens- living as a white dude is super easy.  Even when it’s hard, it’s not as hard as it would be for someone not identifying cisgender male.  Even if I’ve never had a problem identifying as a feminist, never intentionally inflicted harm, and tried incessantly to purge any misogynistic preconceptions from my mind, I know that I’ve still been guilty of making things worse because some of these dynamics become conscripted.  And whereas it’s incumbent upon women culturally to watch their step when they’re walking alone at night, to be careful what they’re saying in a board meeting, to be mindfully of acquaintances they know, to brush off humor in order to fit into a patriarchal order, and to monitor their appearance at every turn, none of that applies to guys.  I can be blunt and kind of a dick sometimes.  Women can’t.  Well, they can, but the consequences for them would be much steeper than it would be for me.  White men rarely face or worry about consequences at all.  And chances are something that flat out ruined your day, that still bites from years ago, probably meant nothing to him, if he even remembers it at all.  It’s fucking easy to be a white guy. And we need to make it a lot hard.
 One of the ideas that always comes up when the tables finally flip on these open secrets like Trump and Cosby and Weinstein is that nothing will change until we trust and believe women.  Indeed, there’s really nothing to gain when these coming forward.  In fact, as sick as it is, more often than not, it’s likely better for them on a personal level to stay silent, to not face reliving trauma and have hordes of frothing bros hurl vile insults and threats their way.  The status quo has a way of reinforcing itself at all costs.
 But beyond believing women, maybe it’s also time to start trusting men less.  That’s not to say that it’s a zero sum game or that there aren’t some men who are fundamentally decent, but unless a man is actively working towards solutions to the problem of rape culture do they really deserve the benefit of a doubt?  I realize that I say this to my own detriment, that these words could easily come back to haunt me. But perhaps white men need to be less comfortable and more careful until this problem is fixed.  Maybe they need to feel as vulnerable as women do every day, like their words and intentions are being second-guessed.  Unless men starting fighting for equity, maybe they could stand some equality.   

That's Good for Trump

Friday, October 27, 2017

Good Behavior Hurricane Relief compilation

I haven't worked on music in ages, but I do have a track on this very worthy fundraiser from the well-behaved boys over at Good Behavior, alongside some other great tracks.  Purchase a hard copy + digital copy for a limited time for the same price as a straight digital copy.

Turf War

It's been a little quiet at this blog lately.  I feel like this is annual routine where I announce this.  But this time I've actually been doing something other than being busy at a thankless job.  Probably the most prominent taste of this is here in The Atlantic , where Alex Putterman interview my family and a close personal friend about our involvement in forming NHASTI, an organization opposed to the use of crumb rubber infill in sports fields and playgrounds.  Crumb rubber is ground-up tires, an eco-hazard containing at least 13 known carcinogens currently being studied by the EPA, CDC, and CSPC because it has potentially being poisoning children for the past 20 or so years.   It has become a hot-button issue at the local level, and has elicited some nasty glares and threats towards us, as well as some jeers directed at my daughter for ...having gone through two major skull surgeries from a condition that could be partly influenced by the same substance?  I dunno, these sports fuckers are nuts.

We've been trying to raise a lot of attention on this since the town is completely inattentive and weirdly at the mercy of this band of local Dylan, Texas-style sports crusaders.  Never thought I'd be back at it with the jocks, but here we are.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Deficits Racket

Citations Needed is one the sharpest podcasts around and this episode on thinking about deficits/how wealth is produced/ countering conventional economic arguments/what spending money gets debated and what is raises questions of how we will pay for it is ace and worth everyone's listen

Monday, October 23, 2017

RIP Daisy Berkowitz

Marilyn Manson were a huge part of my early adolescence and Daisy's riff-ology was a huge part of that


Monday, October 2, 2017

It is PKD's World, We Just Live In It

“None of this has a reasonable explanation,” said Fulton Armstrong, a former CIA official who served in Havana long before America re-opened an embassy there. “It’s just mystery after mystery after mystery.”
Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon, and on the Cubans. Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the state department and US intelligence agencies involved in the investigation.
Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, several officials said, the latest signs of more serious damage than the US government initially realized. The United States first acknowledged the attacks in August – nine months after symptoms were first reported.'

Saturday, September 9, 2017

In a wig, after a ridiculous makeover, and still managing to deliver right to the gut

Friday, September 1, 2017

Purging archives

Free shit pitches to listicle servers if you want 'em

musicians named after real people:
Hype Williams
Sissy Spacek
Emil Beauliel
milton bradley
harriet tubman
franz ferdinand
the beau brummels
jethro tull
the mr t experience
kathleen turner overdrive
duran duran duran
run dmt
dandy warhols
com truise
joy orbson
wevie stonder
ill. Gates
Gnarls barkley
Donna Summer

musicians who've done porn
traci lords
carter fanny tutti
lydia lunch
paris hilton

Musicians who were music critics
stephen merritt (SPIN)
ekoplekz (gutterbreakz blog)
alexis georgopolous of ARP/Alps/Tussle (XLR8R, others)
kim gordon (artforum)
cex (baltimore sun)
dominique leone (pitchfork)
neal tennant- pet shop boys (smash hits)
paul d.miller
david toop
chris weingarten of Parts and Labor (Rolling Stone, others)
drew daniel (matmos)
john darnielle
sasha frere jones of ui  (New Yorker)
daniel martin-mccormack of Ital and Mi Ami (Dusted)
kevin martin (aka k. martin) (the wire)
kode9/steve goodman  (hyperdub zine, the wire)
jeffrey pierce of gun club (slash magazine)
lydia lunch (forced exposure)
graeme revelle of spk  (re/search)
stephen morrissey (NME)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

RIP Peter Principle

Feel like I didn't even time to mourn the death of George A. Romero

Goodbye, friend.  His films will stick around though

In the Present Moment

A mix built on a sensibility of unease, with an arch based around song titles that tap into the emotional currents of the present moment
1. Chris Isaak- Unhappiness
2. Glaxo Babies- This is Your Life
3. Gnod- Breaking the Hex
4. Croatian Armor- Reality Summit
5. Nazar- Tyrrany
6. Nicolette- No Government
7. Arca- Anger
8. Thomas Brinkmann- Uselessness
9. Trans A.M.- Speechless
10. Liturgy- Mysterium
11. The Caretaker- Emptiness
12. Low- Violence
13. The Heptones- Our Day Will Come
14. Suicide- Dream Baby Dream

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Postmortum on Twin Peaks Eps1-4

This article by John Tatlock does a good job at articulating the differences in the new Twin Peaks iteration without going into spoilers. I won't go into too many details, but here are some semi-spoilerish thoughts on what exactly is happening with Twin Peaks and why this is what we are getting in 2017 (and don't expect that to change any time soon).

The first thing to note about Twin Peaks The Return is that the show is pretty tedious. It tests and plays with the limits of patience, particularly a fan's patience, waiting for the old series to emerge.  This series has zero melodrama and deep feeling, articulated with the abundant and some might say ironic use of Angelo Badalementi’s score work on the original show.  Here, in 2017, David Lynch does not do fan service. That said, hardcore fans of the show will notice the recurrence of minor details, or the completion of motions set in place during the initial run or in the film Fire Walk With Me. There are the odd cues and callbacks to things like the Arm, the blue rose, or a flickering light, but there is no legend to guide you through it.  Whereas 90s Dale Cooper served as the series guide by bringing his crew up to speed as mysterious events unfold, here there is no narrator, no guide, no clues connecting the dots, which are in complete disarray like splatter art.  At one point, Deputy Hawk appears to be going through an existential crisis about whether a seemingly trivial bit of evidence might be relevant or not.  If Twin Peaks gave birth to the postmodern show, as many said at the time, Twin peaks the return is full postmodernism, signs and signifiers completely detached from all meaning, no center in sight.

It becomes pretty clear by the time Brett Gelman and Michael Cera arrive on screen in episode 4 that Lynch is making this show in full awareness of the Adult Swim roster, much of which thrived on a surreal horror-comedy that was clearly in debt to Lynch himself. In fact, there's an acknowledgment of many items that have trickled through the TV/film matrix both over the last 25 years and prior.  It’s unclear if distracting allusions to the Addams Family and The Wild One are inserted to be canny, clever, or intentionally awkward, but they play as the latter.  Just as the tonal shift of the Twin Peaks film was announced with its opening shot of a TV screen being smashed (and then with an FBI agent making vague threats to "Deputy Cable"), the new series, available as a TV Show, streaming show, or, at a later date, as an 18 hour movie, seems to just be trapped somewhere in a virtual consciousness, figuring itself out.  One of the major plot points in episode one concerns a giant unexplained glass cage based out of TV capital NYC which has no known origin or originator- it's a literal manifestation of a mystery box, the genre Twin Peaks helped to create (though the mystery in the box was never intended to be solved- for further physical manifestations of this, see Westworld's McGuffin map).

The series takes place in a world in which language and communication have become so corrupted that the mere concept of rational thought and dialogue seems like an impossibility. The show's initial concern is returning Cooper from the Black Lodge, but something from that world seems to be infecting everything outside of it. Gone is the witty banter and maudlin lovelorn confessions of the initial series.  Instead, there are impossibly long pauses, stunted phrases, and often stupid, just plainly and hopefull-intentionally idiotic back and forths.  One can pull from this tenuous narrative gauze a potential thought project about aging. The geriatric experience is made manifest in the slow processing of language, the way characters have to repeat themselves, and the deep frustration that comes from realizing that even utilizing filters like repetition and drawn-out-speech does not clear the deep confusion of existence.   The whole thing seems like a product of dementia or senility (in fact, Cooper is probably suffering from it), a borderline sensibility that Lynch no doubt realizes will be leveled against him by his harshest critics.  Indeed, reuniting much of the old cast, many of whom were already in late adulthood when the show first aired over 25 years ago, finds a number of them missing- Miguel Ferrer, Jack Nance, Frank Silva, David Bowie, Warren Frost, Don Davis, and Catherine Coulson have all passed away in recent years.  If the initial run was about youth and the uncomfortable proximity between rebellion against adulthood and total corruption into its darker tenets (as personified in Laura Palmer, but elsewhere as well), the renewed series has thus far focused on the cold, empty, and lonely terror of old age.

Fittingly for a Lynch piece, the old cast of characters reappear but like dream caricatures of themselves. Albert doesn't talk much and yet seems crankier than usual. Andy is now almost too dumb.  Dr. Jacoby is now clearly insane, collecting and decorating golden shovels either in anticipation of digging something up or burying something deep. Lynch himself appears (in episode 4), revising his role as Gordon, to talk to a version of Cooper.  They both tell each other that's it's been great to see each other after such a long time, but it's obvious in their strained chat that neither of them is being honest. Lynch, as Gordon and - mind you- the director and author of the whole new series run- later becomes the only voice of levity when he confesses that perhaps for the first time, he has no idea what the hell is happening. Should we take this as a confession?  So much of this show reads as auto-critique, attempts to negotiate itself in the most Lynchian way, as a piece of intellectual property.  What people want, it assumes, is something old and dying, malfunctioning and regressive.  What it has to offer as an alternative, however, remains to be seen.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pinned Tweaks

Thursday, May 18, 2017

R.I.P. Chris Cornell

Soundgarden, more than any other mainstream act from their time and place, were the full embodiment of the “Grunge” aesthetic.  Whereas their mainstream contemporaries veered closer to the melodic end of punk (Nirvana’s bastardizing of the Pixies/Husker Du aesthetics) or classic rock (Pearl Jam).  Much of this was due to Kim Thayil’s insane Sabbath-style riffage, mounted approximately at the apex of sludge metal, Jane’s-style hard rock with a tinge of psychedelia, and SST post-hardcore, but one can’t discredit Cornell whose soaring vocals could gravitate from low rumble demon to high squealed possession with the rapidity of a jet engine and the grace of a bird of prey.  Cornell’s voice was gravelly and lived-in, sure, but it also had the animalistic timbre of something lurking deep in those Washington evergreens.

Cornell, particularly pre-chopped with the long curly locks, was also the prime image of grunge.  He looked better when dirtied, unlike Kurt with his fluffy blonde hair, disheveled Eddie, gas-station ponytail creep Layne, or better-when-glammed-up Scott. Cornell oozed sex as if the worksmanlike personification of that patented Seattle flannel, which he never really wore.  He looked like a dark drifter.   Whereas the smug irony of Cobain and the impassioned liberalism of Vedder would become archetypes, Cornell remained a mystery. 

Soundgarden recorded for both Sub Pop and SST early in their career and they were one of the first groups to jump ship to a major label.  But while contemporaries from those scenes made this transition by broadening their sound (like Husker Du) or by competing directly against the market forces trying to lure them (like Sonic Youth), Soundgarden seemed at home in both worlds.  They put out two incredible big rock albums in Badmotofinger and Superunknown (both with unbelievably bad album art mind you) that never seemed to weather the same accusations of “sell out” that other bands at the time faced.  Maybe it was because they’d been the first to sell out, or maybe it was because those albums still hold up today even when many of their peers’ records don’t.   When you consider the glut of contemporary music from the early 90s – post-rock, jungle, IDM, rave, dreampop, house- that didn’t crossover but had a far greater impact on the current sonic landscape, it’s an even bigger feat. 

Soundgarden were massive enough to have Guns n’ Roses cover their dumbest song, but remained fairly indistinct as personalities, supporting and commenting on causes quietly or aesthetically rather than appearing on magazine covers with “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” t-shirts or scribbling “Pro-choice” on their arms during unplugged performances.  Soundgarden’s “angst”, if they had any, was less an anxiety of choice between collusion and independence than it was an anxiety over the impossibility of negotiating the two.  Indeed much of their best work (“Black Hole Sun”, “4th of July”, “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Mailman”, “Nothing to Say”,  “Blow Up the Outside World”) was emboldened by a scorched earth nihilism, far closer to metal’s Lovecraftian take on power as a quasi-mystical evil force than punk’s mindset that it was something which could be urgently seized and redistributed.   Cornell’s hopelessness is everywhere across these early records, so news of his suicide should not be such a shock, though it’s no less tragic.

In a sense, it was good timing that the band dissolved in 1996 following the release of their decent but lacking final album (until their 2012 reunion).  It’s unlikely they would have rode out OK Computer and the electronica explosion of the following year well.  Cornell was really only primed for the grunge era and that era alone.  The slip into party music- raves, ska and pop punk, boy and girl bands- must have mystified the surviving grunge stars, who didn’t feel the ground shift in any tectonic positive way.  If anything, the society that they wanted to drop out of strengthened and tightened.  It was mainstream music fans that left them behind, which seemed to only prove Cobain and his cynicism right. 

Cornell’s attempt at a compromise for compromised times, Audioslave, wound up being a total bore, a middling shadow of both Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, his backing band’s old act. The only time Cornell did branch out in new sonic directions he spectacularly failed, on 2008’s Timbaland-assisted Scream solo record, which received brutal jeers from critics, fans, and fellow musicians alike.  His iffy solo work followed, but largely as a retread, a tourism in past glories. The spectacular decade-long run from 1986 to 1996 though remains a pivotal time capsule showing how seamless energy could flow from a provincial urban scene into the mainstream. I bought Superunknown from a record store in Seattle in ’94 on a trip with my family when I was 12.  It was maybe the 6th or 7th CD I ever bought and it’s perhaps the only one from that time I still spin.  It doesn’t sound like now.  It still sounds like then.  But you can tell why then wanted it now.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Stray Thoughts from the Sunshine State

Vacation was good, but Florida is a bit like a series of resort colonies for the diasporic wealthy plotted within swamps full of gators and low income families.  Facilitated just beyond the fantasy theme park islands are living reminders of why people choose fantasy over hard truth, Trumpian daymare spectacle the closest corollary to the Disney dream factory when you can’t afford a ticket. There was some heavy metaphorical resonance in the fact that our vacation was merrily held between a series of brush fires consuming the state, the result of a long climate-change-induced drought that had left the land barren and dead.   On our way to and fro Legoland were large stretches of land full of dead grass and emaciated cows, waiting for rain as the cars lined the highway sputtering out carbon emissions for the ultraviolet light to get stuck on.   The cow’s loss was our benefit, a lovely day out without a cloud in sight.  It was as if the delightful weather was being controlled by the entertainment complexes, themselves suffering from a post-Trump decline in international tourism.  The whole world is postproduction now, unable to distinguish between CGI and principal photography.  Conspiracies everywhere, a wide spout flooding the drought of hope. 

Hoping to find a shortcut back from our hotel room from the pool, my kids and I attempted a shortcut back to one of the 7 identikit tower buildings comprised of hotel rooms spread throughout the resort.  This was planned living for the temporarily temporally displaced, an architectural maintenance program for those on leave from their anxiety.  The shortcut lead through this massive conference center, whose layout seemed designed to impress the attendants of white collar seminars, retreats, and conventions by enunciating the height of the lobby’s roof a good 30 feet above anyone’s head.  With no one gathered at this time of day, it seemed like a giant amphitheater of empty space, an riposte to restraint, which my kids took as an invitation to fill the lobbies with as much noise and motion as possible.   Gathering there that day was a “Cayman Business Convention”.   Soon, we’d depart to Disney’s private island getaway, Castaway Cay, and the money from that convention would go to its island too, escaping and being shielded from largely the same things.   A staff member soon came along to let us know that there was no way through.  We had reached a border of some sort and so the tax shelter’s ambassador ushered us off so that capital could celebrate itself beyond the periphery of eyes never meant to wander beyond mythopoeic realms or artificial paradises.

On a cruise ship, your equilibrium can get fucked up on the first day.  You recognize the movement of the ship, the minor swaying and rocking, but the enormity of the boat helps normalize it.  You feel a bit like a dog in a car, attempting to reconcile the traction while retaining an elegant poise, only to fall on your ass from time to time. They call it sea legs, but it’s more of a sea mindset.  Your body signals to your mind that things are not the way they should be and your mind confronts these by resetting the levels.  Hypernormalization.  It never seems exactly right, but you learn to take it as background.  If it’s a big enough boat, the consciousness of the ship becomes a part of you. Its culture instructs your physiology.

Likewise throughout the cruise, Disney’s signature customer service is meant to transport you, to erase the seams of their labor, and to make this elaborate experiential endeavor seem effortless.  The ruse is so precise that it becomes almost impossible to spot the cracks, the quivering lip behind the smile, the hidden shadow of who the sea leaves behind.  As a passenger, you know that no human being is actually this happy to serve another human being, but there is almost a military-like discipline in those patented contractually-bound veneers.  

Out the deck windows at odd intervals you notice staff running drills, lining up behind lifeboats, wearing gas masks, gathered in groups of four to replace a light bulb.  Odd behavior you have no logical explanation for, but you accept in your state of serene, complacent arrest.  That’s for the suits in Washington to worry about.  Were the vessel to actually go down, it’s plausible that they’d finish the deserts and in-cruise 3D movie showings before you ever realized you needed to debark.  Nearer, my God to, Thee are we in this state of semi-hallucinatory departure.

Disconnected from my phone and major news media, it was unclear if the forest fires and North Korean provocations would engulf the land before we returned.  It was a strange, pleasantly unsettling comfort to hide within.  We were sailing off into an ocean of ignorance.  As we departed shore to set sail from the Bahamas, I told my son to say goodbye to Florida, goodbye to America.  “Goodbye Legoland!” he yelled to the shores.  A land governed by creations and virtualities, all the bricks fully visible, which we choose to believe in nonetheless.

The identity politics of Legoland are strange.  Legoland’s signature branded hue is yellow, but it’s hard not to see yellow as a stand-in for whiteness.  Yellow is the default skin-tone of the brick set, with nary a brown skinned figure or character to be found around the park.  We attended a sort of lame show that the kids enjoyed full of jetskiers and some dull stageplay about pirates.  The plot involved the host, who made no gesture to hide his flamboyant queerness, being madly in love with the admiral’s daughter.  The admiral’s daughter seemed to assume all the responsibilities of the explicitly male Admiral himself, but who was nevertheless defined not by a title of her own but rather by her relationship to her father, and the gay man in “love” with her.  The Admiral failed to make an appearance.  Every brick in its own place.

The gaudy Florida roadside was itself a much more interesting show, flaunting sights such as the occasional abandoned RV, vivid strip mall church sculptures that towered above their flat origins like regional Wicker Man offerings, a massive lot of brand new cars several hundred feet from any inroad in an otherwise vacant grass field, gators chilling and waiting to cross the highway, a Domino’s delivery car with a pro-life fetus outline bumper sticker, some kind of discarded military airplane shaded under overhanging flora warning of low flying aircraft ahead, and, at one point, a hawk flying across the road carrying a squirrel in its mouth.  Predators and prey everywhere.  It was proto-hunter-gatherer terrain, dressed for the pre-apocalypse, readymade for the unaired final season of the Walking Dead.  There are an abundance of pharmacies and walk-in clinics, likely serving out drug cocktails to both locals without health insurance and out-of-network travelers encountering climate and crowd-bred toxins alike.  The other strip mall stores have names that cater to efficiency and illiteracy, and read in block capital letters like Soviet relics; “MARKET”, “TOYS”,  “BURGERS” and, of course “DRUGS”.

When you’ve had writing coarse through your system, you’re inclined to be awed by the incomprehensible depth of the ocean and how small a cog you are on such a massive boat.   Positioned on the veranda, several drinks in, I found myself pondering in Melville poise that those who stare down at the waves closest to the boat are inclined to think about their mortality, while those who gaze at the horizon are looking beyond it to what’s left to explore in the life left living.  Both left me a bit dizzy and I nearly vomited.   One of the days we had a couples massage and they played soothing new age music while uncomfortably rubbing hot stones on my back, interrupted halfway through by the loud reverberating crashes of a basketball court they stuck on the floor above the spa.  “It me”, I thought.  Self-awareness thundering through any half-cocked attempt to escape that irritable self.  Maybe it was just dream logic taking over. The present moment is such a prima facie anxiety-riddled absurdity that it often feels like the unconscious is seeping in, an orange-hued id of denial and macro-projection directing the psychic energy of the species towards self-destruction.   A collective struggling to find sea legs, looking for a restful state of composure where one can be relaxed and disengaged enough to pass off the doom and nausea off as background noise. 

We could use a vacation, I thought, while the crew did drills for deploying the lifeboats below me. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dark Times Digest

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The West Pinion

"Far from the Kafkaesque banality which so often characterizes the real life equivalent, the mundane business of technocratic governance is made to look exciting, intellectually stimulating, and, above all, honorable. The bureaucratic drudgery of both White House management and governance, from speechwriting, to press conference logistics, to policy creation, are front and center across all seven seasons. A typical episode script is chock full of dweebish phraseology — “farm subsidies”, “recess appointments”, “census bureau”, “congressional consultation” — usually uttered by swift-tongued, Ivy League-educated staffers darting purposefully through labyrinthine corridors during the infamous “walk-and-talk” sequences. By recreating the look and feel of political processes to the tee, while garnishing them with a romantic veneer, the show gifts the Beltway’s most spiritually-devoted adherents with a vision of how many would probably like to see themselves... 

Debuting during the twilight of the Clinton presidency and spanning much of Bush II’s, it predictably vacillated somewhat in response to events while remaining grounded in a general liberal ethos. Having writing credits for all but one episode in The West Wing’s first four seasons, Sorkin left in 2003, with Executive Producer John Wells characterizing the subsequent direction as more balanced and bipartisan. The Bartlet administration’s actual politics—just like those of the real Democratic Party and its base—therefore run the gamut from the stuff of Elizabeth Warren-esque populism to the neoliberal bilge you might expect to come from a Beltway think tank having its white papers greased by dollars from Goldman Sachs.

But promoting or endorsing any specific policy orientation is not the show’s true raison d’être. At the conclusion of its seven seasons it remains unclear if the Bartlet administration has succeeded at all in fundamentally altering the contours of American life. In fact, after two terms in the White House, Bartlet’s gang of hyper-educated, hyper-competent politicos do not seem to have any transformational policy achievements whatsoever. Even in their most unconstrained and idealized political fantasies, liberals manage to accomplish nothing."

- Luke Savage, marvellously on the legacy of the West Wing in Current Affairs

Anecdotally, in my Senior year of high school, I attended the Columbia Journalism conference, as I had done my Junior Year. This year, though, there was a special session being held where an episode of the West Wing would be screened and there would be a Q&A with the stars of the show. The show had only been on a season or two at this point, but its influence and impact were already well-established.

The entire trip took place during school hours, which allotted travel time to NYC and back to Poughkeepsie, NY. In addition, because of the high demand for the session, there was a long line to get in to the West Wing session. This meant that we had a choice between actually attending the conference- choosing three or four educational sections to help us hone our skills, or going to see the cast of a popular TV show about politics and nothing else. In hindsight, studying journalism over the West Wing may have been more appropriate for defending ourselves in the coming years, but maybe a more critical lens on things like The West Wing would have also been appropriate.

A question came up during the Q&A about how the show's star, Martin Sheen, was able to reconcile the show's incrementalist and respectability politics with his own. Sheen had been involved in direct street action and civil disobedience since the 60s. What wasn't clear was that at the time, Sheen and his show were being used to drive that exact divide, as neoliberals in the democratic party shoehorned the left into an inexorable trap, disengaged of enough energy to survive on its own and without the spine or willpower of actual representation within Congress outside of a small, marginalized group of progressives to make an impact on the popular imagination. Within a few years, Sheen would sign a petition opposing the invasion of Iraq, but those making tough decisions in the Jed Bartlett mold largely supported it and became actively complicit in what may be the biggest war crime of the 21st century. The left fought for attention by holding massive demonstrations and actives, but found itself accepting whatever allies it could muster after being completely deprived of political capital in Washington.

Savage hits the nail on the head when he defines the West Wing strategy used to shut down leftists like Sheen; by appealing to their levelheaded refinery rather than their passions. Everything was debate club, and if you sounded like the most educated compromiser, it didn't matter if what was being compromised was Iraqi children's' lives or government-backed subprime mortgages. The left could be seen as agitators, and no different than the hard right neocons, if one would only accept that the only legitimate option was a fetishized high road of elite maneuvering and deep listening to the concerns of their opposition (who themselves realized that these geeks would do whatever they wanted if they just pushed them in the locker enough).

"It’s a smugness born of the view that politics is less a terrain of clashing values and interests than a perpetual pitting of the clever against the ignorant and obtuse. The clever wield facts and reason, while the foolish cling to effortlessly-exposed fictions and the braying prejudices of provincial rubes. In emphasizing intelligence over ideology, what follows is a fetishization of “elevated discourse” regardless of its actual outcomes or conclusions. The greatest political victories involve semantically dismantling an opponent’s argument or exposing its hypocrisy, usually by way of some grand rhetorical gesture. Categories like left and right become less significant, provided that the competing interlocutors are deemed respectably smart and practice the designated etiquette. The Discourse becomes a category of its own, to be protected and nourished by Serious People conversing respectfully while shutting down the stupid with heavy-handed moral sanctimony." Savage goes on to say

Since DNC Clintonism stood for nothing other than "seriousness", it was easy to call the left, who actually stood for specific policies and ideologies, out on hypocrisy when it inevitably caved on one or two things (see the most recent fervor over Bernie Sanders supporting a democratic candidate who is only slightly more pro-life than Tim Kaine). For the reasonabilist, hypocrisy is the worst sin because it makes your arguments vulnerable to being OBLITERATED or DECIMATED by late night hosts, or worse, people like Trump. Trump found a huge loophole during his campaign that showed that what people most despised was not hypocrisy itself, but hypocrisy directed an other. It didn't matter that Trump was a hypocrite himself or that through most of his life he agreed with many of the same tenets as Clinton, he was able to lob arguments from the left at Clinton and have them stick because he was playing a game about power while the other side was playing politics, clearing the way for Clinton to resign with dignity while Trump could launch an ignoble reign.

If the left is vulnerable to hypocrisy by standing for something in the first place, pragmatism the most logical course, since pragmatism is by definition compromise. But if the pragmatists think idealism is just fantasy, for the weak and unserious, they're painfully unaware that for the people who need idealism to survive, West Wing-ism means next to nothing when it produces nothing of value to their own lives.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RIP Mika Vainio

RIP Bruce Langhorne

A folkie and session musician whose lone synth experiments on Peter Fonda's bizarre and somewhat beautiful Idaho Transfer score sound like proto-Boards of Canada pieces.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Supra-céleste- Moonbrowser

Moscow invasion

Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 Vibin'

Kailin- Fracture
Syd- Fin
Kingdom- Tears in the Club
Drake- More Life
Migos- Culture
Suda- Hives
Ida Dillan- Angelic Slang EP
Pye Corner Audio- The Spiral/The Darkest Wave
Sega Bodega- Ess B
Gorillaz feat Vince Staples- "Ascension"
Pharmakon- Contact
Missy Elliot feat Lamb- "I'm Better"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Palmbomen II- Memories of Cindy Pt. 1

Much of this is standardfare Adult Swim-on-vaporwave style comedy, but it's amusing throughout and the music is well done.  The central conceit though falls along Hauntology-lines in that it's a reimagining of a world where new age and shoegaze were culturally central, rather than fringe phenomena, and assimilated into all aspects of culture, not least of which being corporate capitalism. As a huge fan of Slowdive's Pygmalion though, I almost bust a gut when the "Crazy Falafel" commercial came on.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Forest Swords- The Highest Flood

No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall Propser

"Although three years in the making, it’s increasingly hard to hear this or any album without 2017 ears. In the wake of Trump’s despicable first few weeks, I found myself listening more and more to a playlist I’d constructed of intensely melancholy music, realizing that I’d done so because I hadn’t yet given myself permission to be sad. The main takeaway I get from listening to Tears in the Club on repeat is the overwhelming feeling of “you can’t go home again”. “Something’s gotta give right now,” Syd says. SZA takes this a step further saying, “I’ll be into you even when you ain’t around me / I’ll be missing you even when you been around me.” For every transcendent feeling of closeness in the clubs this year, there’ll be plenty others where one couldn’t feel any more distant from who’s standing right next to you. The urgency of being here now vs. the creeping sense of slowly becoming an island haunts this moment, with our interconnected sociality simultaneously culling common causes and confirming our isolationist biases.

Walking back into the club after having all that’s on Kingdom’s mind is like getting jolted by the nightmare trap of “Tears in the Club”. It’s all darkness and anxiety now. Its visceral grip is as pulsatingly real as it is synthetic. The escape that the naïve EDM pop that the turn of the decade offered now seems like the infamous K.C. Green strip “On Fire”, the flames burning around us as the nihilistic fatalism of #YOLO truly sinks in. The only way through is forward, and we’ll need plenty of forward-thinking pop to help with that. We’ll need lots of songs that can help reform the bonds of community that a club can offer, and which pop can alleviate. Solidarity in suffering, a shared loneliness. We can’t deny ourselves the right to be sad any more than we can deny ourselves the right to dance. Kingdom’s album confronts this from a place that, if not deeply personal, at least feels so. "

Forgot to link off to the review I wrote of Kingdom's excellent new LP Tears in the Club, which I'm shocked isn't getting more play right now.  To me, it's a huge evolution, though looking around it doesn't seem like many other critics are able to get past the structure, or were able to identify much of its concept.  Like other long players from the Fade/Slugs set, it's sort of obtuse and requires a deep listen.  I remember Classical Curves, which blew me away on first listen, getting relatively middling reviews when released. In fact, I was only one of five critics who even voted for it in Pazz and Jop at the end of the year, though it's widely heralded as earth-shifting in the experimental dance circuit.

I was also delighted to read this Fader profile and see that much of what I had (admittedly) read into the album was intended.

Tangentially, also worth checking out Syd's Fin, which was on Bandcamp until recently, but it seems to have been taken down.