Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Some assholes in L.A. want to tear down a giant tower of pallets that some crazy old fuck built, and got the city to label a historical monument back in 1978.

Come on, look at the pictures - it's not just some stack of pallets like you'd see up against the wall of some warehouse or supermarket. It's impressive as hell. I'd like to go out there and climb to the top of it.

Even the neighbors are on the dead guy's side. Leave the thing where it is.

Got Branford Marsalis's The Dark Keys and Sonny Rollins's Way Out West from the library today.

I used to own the Marsalis disc, but I found it tough to get into. Now, almost a decade later, I'm giving it another chance. So far, it sounds pretty good.

I've never heard the Rollins at all. I already know if I copy it, I'm going to change the sequencing, and put all the alternate tracks (some of which are twice as long as their originally-released counterparts) at the end. I hate it when a CD has multiple versions of a song, one after the other.

Got three books, too: John Leland's Hip: The History, James Merriner's Grafters And Goo Goos: Corruption And Reform In Chicago, 1833-2003 and Virginia Nicholson's Among The Bohemians: Experiments In Living 1900-1939. The Merriner ought to go well with the various volumes of the Library Of Larceny I've got piled up to read.

And while we're on the subject of reading, I guess I'll be one more goon taking that 50 Books In 2005 challenge. Book #1: Nation Of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture, by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter. It's a nice mix of Thomas Frank and Thorstein Veblen, tearing apart the traditional lefty critique of mass culture as some oppressive force laid down from above on the cowed, conformist consumer. They smack Naomi (No Logo) Wolf and Kalle (Adbusters) Lasn particularly hard, which is nice. Check it out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Friday, January 21, 2005


Things seem to really be circling the drain at The Place I Used To Work. I just heard from a friend and former co-worker that he was offered the "pay cut or severance package" choice, and opted for the former. He managed to get them to let him "work from home" two days a week, instead of the one he had been taking - this is in fact time he spends with his autistic son and said son's therapist, not time spent working, but even someone like me who doesn't even like kids understands that.

I'm doing some freelance stuff for the company, in addition to my rock-rag dribblings. So I kinda hope they don't go completely under at the end of '05, but the way they're running things, and the way the publishing business is as a whole, I can't imagine them lasting that much longer.

Things used to be pretty good. But in the last 12 months, the vice-president got really sick and hasn't been in the office since March, and in his absence the accounting department has taken over and run literally every move the company makes through the cost/benefit squeezer. And caution doesn't generate sales, it only contains losses. I think the losses are starting to become uncontainable, and that's too bad. I really liked most of my co-workers. (I hope they like the way they're portrayed in my novel, once it gets published*.)

In slightly better news, I just bought two tickets to see Interpol at Radio City Music Hall on 3/1. Opening band hasn't been announced, but I kinda hope it's somebody like the Rapture or the Killers, so I can pull a two-birds-with-one-stone deal.

*I refuse to entertain negative thoughts about this project. It's going to sell, and I'm going to make a bucket of money from it. This is just how it will be.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I gave my agent the manuscript of my novel today. So, we'll see how that goes.

I'm about 1/3 of the way through the outline of the next one. All the concepts are in place, it's just a matter of figuring out how to combine characters and plot with the ideas I want to address.

Bought another underrated CD today: Sonny Rollins's East Broadway Run Down. A lot of people seem to think the 20-minute title track is a meandering wank. A lot of people don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. Come on. You got Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones. Of course it's fucking brilliant. And the two ballads that fill out the rest of the disc - "Blessing In Disguise" and "We Kiss In A Shadow" - are breathtaking, too.

Rollins may never have gone all the way out, but his free-est albums (this disc, Our Man In Jazz and the two live discs recorded with Don Cherry, Henry Grimes and Billy Higgins) are not only among the most fascinating items in his catalog, but the most rewarding, too.

Speaking of Henry Grimes, he's got a new live album out, recorded in Finland with David Murray on sax and Hamid Drake on drums.

It's nice to have Henry back playing bass, but sentimentality aside, Live At The Kerava Jazz Festival isn't exactly essential. It meanders a lot, and it's mostly up to Drake to wake the other two guys (and probably the audience) up with a quick drum-roll or tempo change, to keep them from just wandering into the woolly haze of unstructured tranceitude.

I've got to review the disc for The Wire; I hope they don't mind if I'm honest (that is, negative) about it.

With a little luck, I'll be doing a lot more freelancing in the near future, for all my usual outlets: Revolver, The Wire, Alternative Press, The Cleveland Scene, Jazziz, The East Bay Express and maybe The Village Voice, too. I'll start posting more links to articles I've written, as they go up online. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


For our Sunday morning delectation, Claire Berlinski (who?) offers this charming nugget:

Das Jackboot: German Heavy Metal Conquers Europe

about Rammstein.

Some highlights:

>"Their pyromaniacal stage shows and songs about mass graves, white flesh, screaming mothers and the eroticism of power have made the band members infamous, as much for their neo-fascist aesthetic as for their assiduous denials that their music has anything to do with what it very much seems to be about."

>"The cold seemed to dampen the crowd's energy; the fans only once burst into into the traditional skinhead chant - 'Oi! Oi! Oi!'"

Are all Rammstein fans skinheads? Coulda fooled me; they toured the US with Korn and Ice Cube.

>"In the early 1990's, when Rammstein burst onto the scene, resurgent German nationalism had given rise to an efflorescence of politically strident "Fascho-rock" bands."

(Note that none of those bands are named in the piece.)

Hey, would you like some guilt-by-association along with your fear-mongering? No problem, Claire Berlinski has you covered...

>”Although the band sang only in German, it set sales records in the rest of Europe, and even managed to intrigue Americans (among them, unfortunately, the boys who opened fire at Columbine High). The men are enormously popular in Russia, too; according to authorities there, the organizers of the Beslan massacre were Rammstein fans as well.”

But are they dangerous fascists? Or just boring old Eurotrash America-haters?

>”With the release last September of the album ‘Reise Reise,’ Rammstein for the first time took an explicit political stance. The song was ‘Amerika,’ an exercise in garden-variety European anti-Americanism.”

It would have been helpful had Ms. Berlinski deigned to enlighten her readers by translating the German lyrics of “Amerika.” But she doesn’t. And reading the CD booklet only gives us the English-language choruses:

We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika ist wunderbar
We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika, Amerika

We’re all living in Amerika
Coca-Cola, Wonderbra
We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika, Amerika

There are also these terrible, unacceptable sentiments, of course:

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
I don’t sing my mother tongue
No, this is not a love song

Does combining the phrase “this is not a love song” with the Germanic spelling of “America” equal anti-Americanism? I guess so, if you’re writing for the New York Times.

The article really reaches its peak when Ms. Berlinski attends a distressingly Nuremberg-like Rammstein concert:

>”A huge curtain dropped, revealing a row of massive Potemkin amplifiers that flashed with the band's insignia, something like a swastika.”

Actually, it’s much more like a Malevich “Black Cross,”

which brings me to another point: how did Ms. Berlinski get through her entire article without even a passing mention of Laibach, who not only took the Malevich cross as their symbol way back in 1980,

(note armbands)

but pulled most of Rammstein’s best tricks a decade before the East Germans first turned up on the charts?

Oh, well. Back to the unfolding horror of live rock music:

>”The band then introduced one of its most notorious songs, ‘Links,’ with the sound of metrically precise, marching jackboots. Links means left, and the band claims this song is an expression of its left-wing sensibilities. The jackboots were followed by a furious chorus: ‘Links-Zwo-Drei-Vier! Links-Zwo-Drei-Vier!’ (‘Left-Two-Three-Four! Left-Two-Three-Four!’) The German language lent itself to the powerful, rhythmic song. The keyboardist stomped about in a German military helmet. Mr. Lindemann performed an exaggerated goose step. The crowd shouted ‘Hi!’ in unison, which sounded just different enough from ‘Heil’ that the resemblance could be denied.”

Oh, that German language, that so lends itself to rhythmic chanting of brutal slogans. (But wait – I thought it was the blacks who had natural rhythm. Oh, well.)

>”The musicians, wearing flame-throwing gas masks, sprayed fire over the stage. They burst explosives in the air and shot balls of flames over the audience, generating heat so intense that fans began to pass out. Medics strapped the fallen Germans to gurneys and carted them away; as for the survivors, it would not have been hard to direct their furious energy toward a target. When, later, the band sang ‘Amerika,’ it seemed quite clear what the target of preference would be. I emerged from the concert profoundly relieved that the members of Rammstein declare themselves to be against war: If this is their pacifism, the mind boggles at what their aggression might look like.”

This reminds me of an old anti-Black Flag piece excreted in the pages of BAM or some other leftover-hippie rag back in the early Eighties. But this isn’t some patchouli-reeking alt-weekly – this is the New York Times, pinching off what amounts to a blood libel against Rammstein, and those brutal white Europeans (and American school-shooting perpetrators) who buy their records.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Greg Tate is a brilliant writer when he wants to be. Unfortunately, he slacks off too much and too often relies on dialect comedy to paper over the holes in his arguments. This piece, though, is the shit. Go read it.

I've been listening to David S. Ware's new triple-CD live record, Live In The World, a lot lately. It comes out in February on Thirsty Ear and if you don't buy one, you're a damn fool who's got no excuse calling yourself a jazz fan. Ware is a total saxophonist - he's got Archie Shepp's gruff bellow, Sonny Rollins's mastery of melody and harmony, Pharoah Sanders's scream, and Joe Henderson's sharp edge. And he combines all these things with his own sense of how to construct seriously extended solos without ever sounding self-indulgent or out of ideas. Plus, his band - Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Guillermo Brown on drums - kicks more ass than any jazz group around right now.

(Interesting side note: if you're already into Ware, check out "El Barrio" from Joe Henderson's Inner Urge album and see if it doesn't sound like a hidden/unacknowledged inspiration to you. It does to me.)

Live In The World features three complete performances from the Ware quartet, each featuring a different drummer - Susie Ibarra on Disc 1, Hamid Drake on Disc 2, Guillermo Brown on Disc 3. Each has revelatory moments, though Disc 2 is my current favorite because it's a one-off (Drake was subbing for Brown) and because the repertoire goes way back to his earliest albums.

The new High On Fire album, Blessed Black Wings, is also amazingly great. Here's hoping the rest of 2005 provides as many glories as I'm gathering in the first week of January.

I'm almost done with my next book. I'm finalizing the first draft of the manuscript this week and next, and will be sending it out into the world by month's end. So this site may be light on fresh content for the immediate future, but I've got a good reason. Hee-yah.