Saturday, September 24, 2011


Someone remind me again what the hell we needed punk rock for?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I made what I think was my sixth appearance on the WNYC radio show Soundcheck today, participating in their every-Tuesday "Soundcheck Smackdown," where two critics debate the merits of something or other. I've previously been on to discuss the merits of Metallica when Death Magnetic came out, take the anti-Bruce Springsteen position when his last studio album was released, take the anti-White Stripes position upon their breakup, and defend Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven." I was also there once in a non-Smackdown context, when my book Marooned came out.

Today I was there to defend Pearl Jam in a deathmatch with Nirvana (defended by the awesome writer Jeanne Fury), since Ten and Nevermind are both turning 20 this year. I have never liked Nirvana, not ever; when they first got big, I was deep into Napalm Death, Slayer and the Rollins Band, and Nirvana just seemed like whiny bitches compared to any one of those three acts. I was never a big Pearl Jam booster, but they at least had good songs (and guitar solos), and when I dug deep into their catalog in preparation for this debate, I discovered a whole bunch of really solid material. I also came to the conclusion that "Black" is their "Free Bird," and that's a good thing.

Anyway, here's a link to the audio. Somewhere around the 15-minute mark, Vernon Reid(!) calls in to castigate us for not discussing Soundgarden instead. I can't say he's wrong, even if ultimately my favorite Seattle band will always be Tad.

Monday, September 19, 2011


This is seriously the worst cover (of anything, by anyone) I've ever heard. Witness the atrocity.

Monday, September 05, 2011



"Modern technique has made it possible to diminish enormously the amount of labor required to secure the necessaries of life for everyone. This was made obvious during the war. At that time all the men in the armed forces, and all the men and women engaged in the production of munitions, all the men and women engaged in spying, war propaganda, or Government offices connected with the war, were withdrawn from productive occupations. In spite of this, the general level of well-being among unskilled wage-earners on the side of the Allies was higher than before or since. The significance of this fact was concealed by finance: borrowing made it appear as if the future was nourishing the present. But that, of course, would have been impossible; a man cannot eat a loaf of bread that does not yet exist. The war showed conclusively that, by the scientific organization of production, it is possible to keep modern populations in fair comfort on a small part of the working capacity of the modern world. If, at the end of the war, the scientific organization, which had been created in order to liberate men for fighting and munition work, had been preserved, and the hours of the week had been cut down to four, all would have been well. Instead of that the old chaos was restored, those whose work was demanded were made to work long hours, and the rest were left to starve as unemployed. Why? Because work is a duty, and a man should not receive wages in proportion to what he has produced, but in proportion to his virtue as exemplified by his industry.

"This is the morality of the Slave State, applied in circumstances totally unlike those in which it arose. No wonder the result has been disastrous. Let us take an illustration. Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?

"The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day's work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief. When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: 'What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.' People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion."

Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness