Saturday, December 24, 2011


The latest issue of Burning Ambulance is out. It features a cover story on New York improvising funk/rock/jazz/hip-hop/other music ensemble Burnt Sugar; interviews with saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and Swans founder Michael Gira; a profile of improvising guitarist/composer and former Burnt Sugar member Morgan Craft; a black metal roundtable featuring members of Averse Sefira, Infernal Stronghold, Krallice, Krieg, Lightning Swords of Death, Panopticon, Xibalba, and Yaotl Mictlan; an essay on Cecil Taylor; an essay on the nature of time in music; and a look back at Monte Hellman's movie Two-Lane Blacktop, 40 years later.

As always, the print edition is $10 for a handsome perfect-bound paperback; the ebook version (compatible with Nook and just about every other e-reader on the market) is $5; and the Kindle version is a mere $3.

Why not pick one up today?

Friday, December 23, 2011


I submitted year-end album lists to three places: The Wire, my day job, and the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll. Each had different requirements and different emphases, so each list is slightly different, but they have titles in common. Here they are, with discussion to follow.

I sent The Wire a Top Ten albums list, and a Top Ten reissues list, as follows:

1. Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967 (Sony, 3CD/1DVD)
2. Defeatist, Tyranny of Decay (Nerve Altar, LP)
3. JD Allen Trio, Victory! (Sunnyside, CD)
4. Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade, CD)
5. Wormrot, Dirge (Earache, CD)
6. Stacy Dillard, Good and Bad Memories (Criss Cross, CD)
7. Corrupted, Garten der Unbewusstheit (Nostalgia Blackrain, CD)
8. Vader, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (Nuclear Blast, CD)
9. Krisiun, The Great Execution (Century Media, CD)
10. Orthodox, Ba’al (Alone, CD)

1. Bill Dixon, Intents & Purposes (International Phonograph, CD)
2. Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. (International Phonograph, CD)
3. Alice Coltrane, Universal Consciousness/Lord of Lords (Impulse!/Verve, CD)
4. David Murray Octets, The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note (CAM London, 5CD Box)
5. Pink Floyd, Ummagumma, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals (Capitol, CD)
6. Stan Getz, Quintets: The Clef & Norgran Studio Albums (Verve, CD)
7. Wes Montgomery, Movin’: The Complete Verve Recordings (Hip-O Select, 5CD Box)
8. Sonora Ponceña, El Gigante Sureño (Fania, 2CD)
9. Howlin’ Wolf, The Howlin’ Wolf Album (Get On Down, CD)
10. Various Artists, Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72 (Soundway, CD)

Those lists were submitted in early November; if I had it to do over again, I'd dump the Sonora Ponceña compilation and replace it with an Ismael Rivera comp, Maelo, on the same label. But everything else would remain the same.

Here's the list I published on Roadrunner Records' roundup of lists from staff and artists:

1. JD Allen Trio, Victory! (Sunnyside)
2. Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
3. 2NE1, 2nd Mini Album (YG Entertainment)
4. Defeatist, Tyranny of Decay (Nerve Altar)
5. Vader, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (Nuclear Blast)
6. Girl in a Coma, Exits & All the Rest (Blackheart)
7. capsule, World of Fantasy (Contempode/Yamaha)
8. Corrupted, Garten der Unbewusstheit (Nostalgia Blackrain)
9. Wormrot, Dirge (Earache)
10. Boris, Attention Please (Sargent House)

That one was published in early December. Lots of overlap, but acts I'd discovered in the interim - 2NE1 and capsule - were fit in, and I had to make room for San Antonio-based trio Girl in a Coma, who I didn't think Wire readers would care about, and Boris, who on Attention Please let their female guitarist, Wata, sing and went in a generally J-pop direction.

Finally, here are the top 10 albums and - for the first time ever - top 10 singles lists I submitted to the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll:

1. Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
2. Motörhead, The Wörld is Yours (Motörhead Music)
3. Perfume, JPN (Tokuma Japan)
4. capsule, World of Fantasy (Contemode/Yamaha)
5. Emmure, Speaker of the Dead (Victory)
6. Mastodon, The Hunter (Reprise)
7. Girl in a Coma, Exits & All the Rest (Blackheart)
8. Wormrot, Dirge (Earache)
9. Vader, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (Nuclear Blast)
10. Morbid Angel, Illud Divinum Insanus (Season of Mist)

1. 2NE1, “I Am the Best” (YG Entertainment)
2. Wonder Girls, “Be My Baby” (JYP Entertainment)
3. Brad Paisley, “A Man Don’t Have to Die” (Arista Nashville)
4. Ronnie Dunn, “Cost of Livin’” (Arista Nashville)
5. The Answer, “Rock ’n’ Roll Outlaw” (Albert)
6. Pitbull, “Bon, Bon” (Mr. 305 Inc./Sony Latino)
7. DJ Shadow feat. Afrikan Boy, “I'm Excited” (Verve)
8. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, “Livin’ in the Jungle” (Lost Highway)
9. Wisin & Yandel, “Zun Zun Rompiendo Caderas” (Machete Music/Universal)
10. Britney Spears, “Till the World Ends” (Jive)

A lot of recurring album titles there, again. If you add up all the albums on my three lists (not including reissues), there's 19 - had I chosen a twentieth, it would have been Trivium's In Waves, but obviously there's a conflict of interest there. For similar reasons, I omitted Machine Head's Unto the Locust and Opeth's Heritage, which otherwise would have gotten honorable-mention status somewhere along the line.

If any pick is gonna stick out from my three lists, it's almost certainly gonna be the Morbid Angel album. (Not enough of my peers even know of Emmure's existence to give me crap for listing their album - but trust me, it's based on pure, raw listener pleasure. Speaker of the Dead is a gloriously boneheaded exercise in knuckle-dragging, chest-thumping hawd-kowah. If you liked Judge's Bringin' It Down, well, this is the 21st Century version. And if you didn't like Bringin' It Down, I don't even know why we're friends.) Here's the thing: I've never been a big Morbid Angel fan. Their early albums don't appeal to me nearly as much as contemporaneous work by Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Napalm Death, etc., etc. But this new one...the death metal songs were pleasingly assaultive, and the industrial/gabber/Danny-Elfman songs were just weird and catchy enough to be fun. It's a fun album, and if you don't like it, that's probably because you weren't expecting to, and can't quite bring yourself to, crack a smile while listening to Morbid Angel.

That sort of attitude is a perfect encapsulation of my biggest problem with metal this year. Over and over, I found myself running up against a small crew of bloggers and (self-described, despite tons of evidence to the contrary) fans who I choose to call the Border Guards. Permanently two-faced from having to simultaneously keep potential fans outside and musicians inside the fences they built in their heads, when the Border Guards weren’t competing to see who could pile more opprobrium on the one guy who had a (slightly) new thought about uses to which black metal’s sonic tropes, long since hardened into laughable cliché, could be put, they were shrugging off the crimes of a racist murderer and the charges against an accused rapist, because then, it was the music and not the rhetoric around it (or the person making it) that mattered. Never willing to discuss a new album unless they were absolutely sure you hadn’t heard it, you fucking poser, the Border Guards did more this year to ensure metal’s continued irrelevance to the larger cultural discussion than anyone outside the genre ever could.

I like uncool metal—the kind you can headbang to, and sometimes even pump your fist and sing along to. I like guitar solos, and choruses. Arty, dissonant noise/sludge/funeral doom records in their black-on-black sleeves don't interest me. (Corrupted being the lone exception, because that record was just beautiful.) I want metal—hell, I want music, period—that's gonna make me say (even if it's just in my head), "Dude, that was awesome!" I want more awesomeness in 2012.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Seems I didn't post this last year. Well, here it is.

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for the American dream, to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.

For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind their own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the memories - all right, let's see your arms!

You always were a headache and you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Today, someone I follow on Twitter posted, "My music writing bibliography is over 12 pages long." I thought about whether I could even catalog my own writing about music, and soon realized it would be utterly impossible.

I started writing about music for money in 1996. I've written literally hundreds of album reviews, maybe (hell, almost certainly) thousands at this point, for dozens of outlets, both print and online. Several of the websites I've written for (,, are gone now. The metal blog I ran for MSN in 2009 and 2010 (Adrien Begrand runs it now, and does a great job) switched hosts after its first eight or nine months of existence, and in the transition, a lot of posts were lost, permanently deleted. I had a blog before this one which is long gone.

Some of the magazines I've written for don't exist anymore, either. Does anybody remember Oneworld, Russell Simmons' attempt to create his own Vibe? How about the US version of Metal Hammer that only lasted six months? I wrote for both, as well as tiny zines - Carpe Noctem, Subliminal Tattoos - now long dead. And I've got tearsheets of some of that stuff, but not all of it. I don't have copies of anything I wrote for Magnet or Cowbell. And even in the cases of magazines that I currently write for - Alternative Press, The Wire, Jazziz - my archives are far from complete. Not only do I not have tearsheets or moldering stacks of back issues, I can't even access the original manuscripts, as a lot of them were written with WordPerfect and saved to floppy discs which I threw away years ago. Vast swaths of my output - years' worth of work, hundreds of thousands if not millions of words - are totally inaccessible to me.

And yet...I don't care, not really. I'm much more concerned with the next thing I'm going to write than whatever I've already turned in (and been paid for). Even if I could somehow access all the words I've ever typed, I wouldn't re-read them. Sometimes I'll get a press release that includes a quote from a review, un-bylined, and I'll think, "That sounds like something I wrote." But if I can't go back and check, does it even matter?

I put together a collection of longish profiles in 2009. I'm proud of all those pieces, and if you'd buy a copy of the book, I'd be happy. I was even giving some thought to gathering the profiles I've written since, but I don't have anywhere close to a book's worth yet, and I'm writing fewer of them now.

Eric Dolphy famously said, "When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone, in the air. You can never capture it again." That's how I feel about much of what I've written over the last 15 years. I wrote it, and now it's gone. Time to write some more.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


This time, I was paired up with Maura Johnston of the Village Voice and the subject was Lulu. Wanna hear it? Here you go:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


How come nobody told me about this awesome video until today?

Sunday, October 09, 2011


The steady trickle of information about Lulu, the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica, is kind of wondrous to behold. Stanley Crouch once quoted Nietzsche on Wagner in describing Miles Davis's electric period as "the greatest example of self-violation in the history of art." I think we have a new trophy contender.

I confess a bias. I have never liked Lou Reed's music very much. I have tried, many times, to like it, but it has never sunk in with me. I bought The Velvet Underground & Nico on vinyl when I was in high school, and listened to it over and over. There were one or two songs I sort of liked - "I'm Waiting for the Man" had a piano part that stuck in my head, and "Run Run Run" was sort of catchy. But the bulk of it was, to my ear, extremely poorly played attempts at rock, and little more. The band seemed to be stumbling all over itself just trying to get through the songs, and nobody involved could sing worth a shit. Reed just seemed to be reciting the lyrics, as though they wanted to get rough versions down on tape which they would then provide to the real singer, once he or she turned up.

I have listened to several other Reed and/or Velvet Underground albums over the years: Loaded, White Light/White Heat, Rock 'n' Roll Animal, Lou Reed Live, The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, New York, The Raven, Metal Machine Music, and Songs for Drella - oh, and the old RCA Walk On the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed compilation - have all lived in my house at one time or another. Out of all those records, exactly four songs have actually, really worked for me:

"Waves of Fear," from The Blue Mask;
"Nowhere At All," from Walk On the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed;
"Sweet Jane," from Rock 'n' Roll Animal;
"Strawman," from New York.

So no, I am not a fan. And in fact I bear Reed a kind of animus at this point, because as a music critic, I pay attention to artists other critics tell me I should care about, and Lou Reed is fucking worshipped by critics. He invented punk; he's some kind of genius of the electric guitar; his lyrics cut through the flesh and bone to the beating heart of contemporary human existence...blah blah blah. If it wasn't for all the rapturous reviews over the years, I would have given up trying to like Lou Reed years before I did.

With this in mind, I have thoughts about Lulu. Based on the one song I've heard, "The View," I think it's going to be a staggeringly bad album. Reed sounds cranky, tired, and old; Metallica sound like a band recruited to accompany him, like one of the local outfits hired to back Chuck Berry in whatever town he's playing that night. I don't know James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo or Lars Ulrich. I don't know if they're lifelong Lou Reed fans, or if they're just there because he asked them to be there and they were too intimidated to say no, just like for years I was too intimidated by the reputations of the critics praising Lou Reed to say no, this album (whichever one I was being told to love at the time) is boring, lazy bullshit. But what they're playing behind Reed on "The View" has none of the power of their own most recent studio album, Death Magnetic.

Metallica are a great band. By making this kind of ham-fisted doom-thrash as Lou Reed mutters and shouts (and the song is mixed in such a way that it sounds like he's reciting the lyrics over a tape of the band he's playing on a boombox), they are throwing away their reputation as songwriters, as riff craftsmen...for what? For the chance to have their names next to Lou Reed's on an album cover? They don't need him. The worst-selling Metallica studio album has likely outsold every Lou Reed and/or Velvet Underground album put together. All Reed brings to the equation is near-unanimous critical approbation and the prestige that comes with that. But Metallica have critical respect on their own, hard-won through decades of solid work (minus a bad stretch in the '90s and early '00s) and brutal, breathtaking live shows. I genuinely don't know why they took this project on. And I suspect I'll never have the opportunity to ask. But at least I know better than to listen to the thing when it's shat onto store shelves a little over three weeks from now. I've been burned by Lou Reed enough times already.

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011


This guy used to be half of Brooks & Dunn, an ultra-cheesy pop-country duo I never had much time for. This is a single from his first solo album, and it's pretty powerful stuff.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I don't know if Friday Evening Orangutan will become a regular feature or not; I just know that this particular orangutan knows how to keep cool, right down to never sharing your cool-keeping device with anyone else, no matter how much they beg. Get your own washcloth, Junior.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This video, for the song "Bling Bling Panda," by Lágbájá, is pretty awesome. It's a hip-hop/Afrobeat track criticizing Nigerian youth for copying their American counterparts with their gold teeth and flat-brim baseball caps and designer jeans and Ed Hardy-lookin' shirts, when what they oughta be doing is hanging out by the fire in brightly colored robes and beating the drum. Why, in the old days...

I don't know if they have lawns in Nigeria, but this dude would surely be telling these kids to get off his if he had one.

Check it out.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


...but I find this video disturbing, especially with the sound off.

The Village from Pedro Sousa | visuals on Vimeo.


I wrote this piece for MSN Music back in March, as part of my trip to SXSW, but they never ran it. (They paid me anyway, which was nice of them.) Since Ximena Sariñana's album comes out on Tuesday, I'm putting it here. Enjoy!

The Latin rock scene has produced some of the most vital, exciting music of the last 20 years. But where the first wave of Mexican and South American bands, like Café Tacuba, Maldita Vecindad, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Caifanes insisted on singing in Spanish and thereby establishing the “rock en Español” genre, a new generation of equally impressive Latin acts is writing and performing in English. In some cases, this causes some controversy in their home countries and with older listeners, but in others, it’s seen as a positive sign that cultural barriers are being broken down through the universal language of music. Three such performers appeared at South by Southwest.

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Album: Tre3s (Arts & Crafts)
Check out: “Roni
Mexican indie pop band Chikita Violenta’s songs have strong melodies that are occasionally washed over by waves of sweetened guitar noise. It’s no surprise they worked with Broken Social Scene’s producer, Dave Newfeld, or that they’ve toured the US with Ra Ra Riot and Built To Spill; all of those bands’ anthemic guitar rock can be heard as influences on their sound. The group’s third album, Tre3s, sits comfortably alongside alternative/indie rock from any country.

Indeed, if the average listener heard a Chikita Violenta song without knowing the band’s country of origin, their Mexican-ness would come as a surprise. And this is partly the point. Says guitarist Esteban Suarez, “There’s French bands that sing in English, Swedish bands that sing in English, there’s bands that make up their own language [safe to assume this is a reference to Sigur Rós, not Magma - ed.], and I think we’ve earned our place after 10 years of being a band in Mexico, establishing our scene and sound.”

Vocalist Luis Arce says of their decision to write and perform in English, “Music-wise, it’s a language we feel more comfortable with, even though we’re proudly Mexican and our native tongue is Spanish. But for our music, ever since we started composing and doing our own stuff, it just came naturally. If we ever come across a song and it comes out in Spanish, we’ll do it in Spanish, you know?”

They’ve encountered some resistance from Mexican radio, according to keyboardist Armando Ortigosa. “It’s hard to break their preconceptions about how Mexican bands have to sing in Spanish, because they take it as a sign of disrespect to Mexico.” Fortunately, the fans don’t seem as concerned, and the band feels that their music is succeeding on its own terms—which is all they really want. “With Tre3s, I think we’ve managed to put together all the elements we’ve been looking for for a really long time and say, this is what Chikita Violenta sounds like. For all of us in the band, it’s the first time we’ve listened to a complete album and said that’s what we want to hear. Where we’re going from here, who knows?”

Hometown: Guadalajara, Mexico
Album: Ximena Sariñana (Warner Bros.)
Check out: “Different
Ximena Sariñana started out as a child actress, appearing in several movies and telenovelas. She released her debut CD, Mediocre, in 2008, and sang a Spanish-language duet with Jason Mraz on his song “Lucky” (Colbie Caillat sang the English-language version). She’s also been a frequent collaborator with her offstage boyfriend, guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta; she can be heard on several of his solo CDs, and has toured with his group.

Sariñana’s second solo CD, a self-titled effort, fits more or less into the female singer-songwriter subgenre, as heard on VH1. The lyrics to songs like “Wrong Miracle” and “Different” are introspective, yet quirky, not unlike the work of artists like Sara Bareilles (with whom Sariñana will be touring in 2011) or Feist, and the arrangements are piano-based with additional elements coming from laptops and other instruments as necessary.

“There was a lot of writing and producing at the same time, where on my first record I wrote the songs for piano and voice and we added stuff on them,” says Sariñana about the creative process behind the disc. “There was a lot of writing for different instruments, and production while writing, and I think that changes the way the songs sound. It’s a bigger, more electronic and more produced sound.

“It’s a harder industry in the US, because it’s more competitive than in Mexico,” she continues. “It’s way harder to make a record. For the first record I wrote 15 songs, for this one I had to write 30. The first record took me a month and a half to record, this one took a year and a half.”

Hometown: Valencia, Spain
Album: Getting Down From The Trees (Nacional)
Check out: “Fireworks
Spanish band Polock (named for painter Jackson Pollock, and yes, the misspelling is deliberate) have just released their first full-length CD, Getting Down From The Trees, following a self-released EP keyboardist Alberto Rodilla describes as the low-budget product of a pure desperation to be heard.

Bands from Spain have it tough; the Latin music market is dominated by acts from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, and the country itself is still culturally somewhat conservative, a holdover from Franco’s decades-long rule. But things are looking up; says Rodilla, “It’s not that easy to get into the North American market coming from Spain, because there’s never been bands that have toured the US or England. We’re now beginning to create a movement where bands are getting in, like Delorean or El Guincho, or right now us.”

The band has hints of Television’s arty guitar interplay, mixed with the atmospheric synths of Pink Floyd and Joy Division. Listeners who enjoy Interpol could easily find space for Polock in their iPods. These are the sounds that the bandmembers grew up on, and that’s what influenced their decision to sing in English. “It’s not about the market only,” explains Rodilla. “I mean, it is as well, but if you hear rock music it’s the same in Spain or in the United States, you know. Everybody gets Lou Reed, Television, the Doors, it’s always English music. It’s the language that goes with that kind of style. So we didn’t really think about making it in Spanish.”

Monday, July 25, 2011


Almost any guess as to who this is directed at is likely to be correct.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'll see your Bob Ross and raise you this Turkish guy.


I don't like this song very much. It's catchy; it's sticking in my head. But this kind of shimmery pop doesn't work as a soundtrack to any life experiences I'd enjoy having, and as a lifelong wearer of headphones, that's the primary way I judge music's worth. But I've always been fascinated by Jonestown; I've read a couple of books about Jim Jones, and have considered writing a novel with a Jones-like character at its center. So the video fascinates me, too. It's got a seriously creepy, haunting power, and/but the fact that a major label (Sony) released it says something—about the amorality of corporations or the history-destroying power of irony, I'm not sure which. (Hundreds of people killed in a coerced mass suicide—what an awesome backdrop for our video!) Could Slayer or Cannibal Corpse have gotten away with exploiting tragedy in this way? I don't think so. But when you're a conventionally pretty white girl (and/or white boy) making indie pop, there are no aesthetic or moral boundaries, I guess. Must be nice.
Anyway, here's the video.

Go Outside, by Cults from Boing Boing on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Do you feel like it's been too long since you were driven into a red-eyed, slavering homicidal rage?

Here, watch this:

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


I haven't had time to really delve into her most recent album, Soldier of Love, but it's not like she's gonna make a bad one, right? And I missed the tour when it came through, but I saw her in '93 and she was fantastic.

Friday, July 01, 2011


First up, remember how I mentioned I wrote a novel, Hard Lessons? Well, it's available now through multiple outlets, including,, and You could also go straight to the publisher's website, where you can read a short piece I wrote about New Jersey in popular culture and how I hope Hard Lessons will expose a different side of my home state. The book is only 99 cents, a price I think makes it an ideal beach read for the holiday weekend. Check it out, and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Now, on to the other stuff. Here are two things I did for MSN Music:

The first was an installment of their recurring Fight Club series, on the pros and cons of music festivals. I took the "anti" side.

The second was an interview with Weird Al Yankovic. This is the second time I've spoken to him, and it went as well as the first. A blast. I may post the full-length version here soon.

Next, two reviews for Alternative Press:

Take It Or Leave It—A Tribute To The Queens Of Noise: The Runaways (MainMan)
There are several problems with this two-disc tribute to the Runaways. The biggest is that it starts off almost too strong—the first disc opens with the Donnas’ version of “Queens Of Noise,” followed by Shonen Knife’s take on “Black Leather.” Those are followed by a bunch of substandard versions of the half-decent glam-punk songs that padded out the Runaways’ four-album discography. While some are pretty good (Delirium Tremens’ speed-crazed take on “Wasted,” Cali Giraffes’ “You’re Too Possessive” and particularly Tara Elliott & The Red Velvets’ steamy, blues-rock strut through “You Drive Me Wild”), others are just not.

The two biggest disappointments are the Dandy Warhols’ sludgy, zoned-out version of the Runaways’ signature song, “Cherry Bomb,” and the electro-fied duet of “Dead End Justice” by Kathleen Hanna and Peaches, two of the most annoying performers in the history of Western culture. Another puzzling thing about the compilation is that some bands have chosen to cover songs which were already covers: The Runaways recorded versions of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock N’ Roll” and the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” both of which are redone here. Ultimately, these weak tracks (and the pointless inclusion of snippets of the band members, radio DJs and other musicians of the era talking about them) undermines the whole exercise, making Take It Or Leave It a slog when it should be a blast. (Buy it from the Amazon MP3 store)

Weatherhead (Hydra Head)
This Seattle-based trio fronted by Ben Verellen, formerly of sludgy rumblers Harkonen, can get heavy when they feel like it, but just as often, if not more so, they drift into more psychedelic, shoegazey spaces. Verellen is supported by bassist Dana James and drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, each of whom also sing. In fact, the two women sing more than he does, and not just because he mostly barks and roars. James’ voice has a cool detachment that recalls Kim Gordon’s vocals on Sonic Youth’s “Shadow Of A Doubt,” and the women’s sometimes woozy, sometimes edgy harmonies are crucial to the band’s expansive, dreamy sound. When James and Verellen harmonize, on the other hand, it can be like the second coming of John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X. Ultimately, Weatherhead (the second Helms Alee full-length, following 2008’s Night Terror) sits comfortably somewhere in the neighborhood of Kylesa, Totimoshi, recent Melvins and even (maybe most of all) Baroness. There are riffs and vocal melodies on this album that could have been cribbed straight from Blue Record. This is one of the best heavy alternative rock albums of the year, combining ’90s throb with ’70s stoner riffs and thick coatings of fuzz, swirling it all into something that’s recognizably of a specific subgenre (see the work of all the bands cited above) and yet unique and heartfelt. Highly recommended. (Buy it from Amazon)

And finally, 10 All Music Guide reviews:

Dekapitator, We Will Destroy...You Will Obey! (Amazon link)
Farmers By Nature, Out of This World's Distortions (Amazon link)
Stefon Harris/Christian Scott/David Sánchez, Ninety Miles (Amazon link)
La Vida Boheme, Nuestra (Amazon link)
Joe Morris/Agusti Fernández, Ambrosia (Amazon link)
NYJAZZ Initiative, Mad About Thad (Amazon link)
OvO, Cor Cordium
Devin Townsend Project, Deconstruction (Amazon link)
Devin Townsend Project, Ghost (Amazon link)
Vitruvius, Vitruvius (Amazon link)

Enjoy the holiday weekend.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


L-R: Keith Morris, Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins. Caption from the website I saw this photo on:

“I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now, what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me.”

Friday, June 24, 2011


A few years ago, I saw the 2004 movie Head-On, directed by Fatih Akin. If you haven't seen it, do so. Netflix has it streaming. Hell, see everything you can by Akin. In Head-On, Sibel Kekilli plays a young Turkish woman living in Germany with her overbearing family. She's so sick of them (to the point of suicidal despair) that she convinces an older Turkish guy, played by Birol Ünel, to marry her. He's a dirtbag ex-punk rocker who wants little to do with her and less to do with marriage, seeing as how he's in a psychiatric clinic following his own suicide attempt (he drove his car into a wall, despairing over the death of his first wife). They initially lead separate lives, but gradually fall in love. Then things go bad again. I'm not gonna go into all the chaos that ensues, but there's rape, murder, prison, and much more. It's an amazing movie, one that could easily have become a hammering polemic about conservative Muslim thinking and how it conflicts with the more liberal social atmosphere of Western Europe, but chooses instead to focus on individuals who are themselves, and not mere symbols.

I wish the same were true of When We Leave, a 2010 movie, also about German Turks, and also starring Sibel Kekilli, that I saw this week. In this one, Kekilli (who had a nose job between the two movies, so I wasn't sure it was her until her name popped up onscreen at the end) plays a young Turkish woman who flees her abusive husband in Istanbul, taking their son, and attempts to seek refuge with her family in Germany. Her parents are more concerned with maintaining their status and honor within the community than they are with her happiness or safety, and her older brother is a psychotic thug who beats her, attempts to steal the kid and return him to his father, and is basically starring in a Lifetime movie about the evils of Muslim gender politics. The movie is so melodramatic that from the moment I saw the brother glowering at her across the dinner table, the first night she's back under her parents' roof, I knew he was going to attempt to punish her via "honor killing," and the only questions were how long it would take for the movie to get there, and whether he'd be successful or not. But in between, Kekilli's character does pretty much everything she can to lose the audience's sympathy. She repeatedly attempts to gain her family's support, long after it's obvious to everyone else on Earth that it's not coming (doors are literally slammed in her face—this is not a subtle movie), in the process breaking the rules of the women's shelter she's placed in by the German authorities, she disrupts family gatherings with public displays that wind up dishonoring them even further in the eyes of other Turks...I found myself basically shouting "TAKE THE HINT, STUPID" at the screen about a half dozen times.

So yeah, if you're gonna watch a movie about Turkish immigrants to Germany and their problems, Head-On is the one, and When We Leave is a propagandistic crapfest you can safely avoid.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I finished reading The Idiot two or three nights ago, after a months-long struggle. There were never any times when I considered just abandoning the thing, but plenty when I thought, "I need to go read something else for a while." I'll admit it; a big part of it was the names. The way Russian names are written out - "Soandso Soandsovich" or "Whatsername Whatsernamova" - really annoys me, but then giving everyone nicknames by which they're also referred to got confusing and irritating at times. Also, because I let long intervals pass during which I'd go read something else, I frequently found myself forgetting who was related to who when I came back to the thing. But that was entirely my fault, and could be easily remedied with a quick trip to Wikipedia.

Another problem I had was just with Dostoevsky's general overwroughtness. How much of this was due to Constance Garnett's translation, and how much of it was due to the book being written in the 19th Century, is hard to say. But people are constantly in what seem to me to be absurdly heightened emotional states—clutching at their hearts, feeling physically ill as a result of some (to my mind) entirely minor social slight or passing remark, etc., etc. It's very weird to submerge yourself in a world like that if, like me, you're someone who tends to ignore all but the most overt conversational/emotional cues.

Ultimately, though, I'm glad I read the book. Not just because of the awesome ending, which I won't spoil but which I totally didn't see coming, but because I feel like Dostoevsky may not have written the book he thought he was writing. It seems to me he set out to satirize social climbers in 19th Century Russia, and he does that ably enough. Whether he successfully created the character of Myshkin is more debatable—the idea that the guy was some sort of innocent, too good for this world, doesn't quite work for me. He really does seem more like someone who's just socially maladjusted, a man who's never been trained in the blithe lies and masquerades that are necessary to navigate any civilized society during any period of human history. But what I think The Idiot is really about, and I'm not sure Dostoevsky meant it to be, is the ways in which bourgeois society drives women insane.

The two primary female characters, Nastassya Filippovna and Aglaia Epanchin, are both out of their minds. They remind me of Jack Nicholson's line from As Good as It Gets about how to write women—"think of a man, and take away reason and accountability." Their capriciousness and weird, ultimately self-destructive displays of pique make me think of an exotic bird bashing its own brains out against the bars of its cage. And the men treat them like alien creatures impossible to comprehend or empathize with, but obsessively loved for reasons that are never quite made clear. I mean, what does Rogozhin even like about Nastassya Filippovna? Does he ever even say? Does Myshkin say why he likes Aglaia? There's so much talking and talking and talking in this book, and yet no one ever lays emotional cards on the table—it's all dancing around social obligations and trying to make sure someone is an acceptable suitor.

It's a weird book. I think I'm gonna have to read it again. In about a decade.

This is the edition I bought, if you want to read it yourself.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


This is a long one, so get comfortable.

First up, some things Alternative Press's editors subjected me to:

Astral Rejection (Epitaph)
The second song on I Set My Friends On Fire’s sophomore (and sophomoric) album is called “Infinite Suck.” As they say in Hollywood, the joke writes itself. The duo of Matt Mehana and Nabil Moo is now the duo of Mehana and Chris Lent, with production assistance from Travis Richter of the Human Abstract. The music is as annoying as ever, mixing the worst qualities of Brokencyde, I See Stars and Agoraphobic Nosebleed into one swirling blend of cheesy rave synths, ultra-affected “extreme” vocals, talentless guitar mangling, ultra-primitive drum programming and song titles that probably seemed funny at the time (“My Paralyzed Brother Taps His Foot To This Beat,” “Life Hertz,” “Erectangles”). It’s hard to decide which is the album’s worst quality—Mehana’s scratchy-throated “extreme” vocals or his lame, off-key attempts to sing cleanly. Maybe it’s neither of those things; maybe it’s the lyrics.

At least there aren’t any lame hip-hop covers on Astral Rejection—the group’s debut, 2008’s You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter, featured their “hilarious” take on Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat.” That’s a tiny, tiny plus. There are one or two moments on Astral Rejection that are briefly and superficially entertaining, in exactly the way drinking a bottle of Jolt Cola instead of eating lunch is temporarily satisfying. But both leave you with an empty, gurgling pain in your guts and the feeling that you made a very poor decision. (Buy it from Amazon)

Enhanced Methods of Questioning (Alternative Tentacles)
It’s not impossible to age gracefully within the confines of punk rock. Ian MacKaye’s done it; so has Henry Rollins. Jello Biafra hasn’t. And it’s too bad, because of the three, he’s probably made the greatest sacrifices for his art and his beliefs. Biafra is a true free-speech icon who spent years in court fighting an obscenity bust for a poster included in the Dead Kennedys’ 1985 album Frankenchrist. But based on what he’s been doing musically in the last few years, it seems like he may have finally lost it completely.

His first album with backing band the Guantanamo School Of Medicine, 2009’s The Audacity Of Hype, had some decent songs and featured a fairly killer lineup that included two guitarists, moving the music out of the realm of hardcore or punk and towards psychedelic hard rock. Unfortunately, the lyrics were a mixed bag—some songs were trenchant critiques of modern society, while others were already-outdated jabs at the George W. Bush administration. This new EP, while it’s still got some quality music on it, travels even further back in time to find things to complain about; “Dot Com Monte Carlo” is a tirade about how yuppies in the high-tech industry have made San Francisco too expensive for Jello and his punk-rock buddies to live in, a subject it’s difficult to imagine anyone in the rest of the country caring about, especially when he starts in on a highly specific list of streets and places that are overly yuppified. And “Miracle Penis Highway” is a seven and a half-minute(!) song about Bob Dole and Viagra, a subject that was already tired a decade ago.

And let’s not even get into the 18-minute closer, “Metamorphosis Exploration On Deviation Street Jam.” Okay, let’s. It’s a dubby, acid-fried, one-riff jam over which Jello relentlessly declaims his own iconoclasm and awesomeness, talking about how going against punk orthodoxy makes him super-duper-ultra-punk, or something. At one point, he talks about how he’s been into rock ’n’ roll since he was seven years old—in 1965. It’s hard to be sure whether he means to come off as punk’s pissed-off grandpa, or he’s just so lacking in self-awareness that he doesn’t take even an instant to question who would want to hear him jabber endlessly about this stuff. He should be admired for battling censorship, but he should have exercised some self-censorship before releasing a record this half-baked and pointless. (Buy it from Amazon)

Next, the latest batch of All Music Guide reviews:

A Life Divided, Passenger (Buy it from Amazon)
Ancestors, Invisible White (Buy it from Amazon)
Behemoth, Abyssus Abyssum Invocat (Buy it from Amazon)
bb&c [Tim Berne/Jim Black/Nels Cline], The Veil (Buy it from Amazon)
Cave In, White Silence (Buy it from Amazon)
Cerebral Bore, Maniacal Miscreation (Buy it from Amazon)
Gigan, Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes (Buy it from Amazon)
HammerFall, Infected (Buy it from Amazon)
Hell, Human Remains (Buy it from Amazon)
Magos Herrera, México Azul (Buy it from Amazon)
Living With Lions, Holy Shit (Buy it from Amazon)
Daniel Menche, Feral (Buy it from Amazon)
Morbid Angel, Illud Divinum Insanus (Buy it from Amazon)
Joe Morris, Traits (Buy it from Amazon)
Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian, Live at Birdland (Buy it from Amazon)
Pitto, Objects in a Mirror are Closer Than They Appear (Buy it from Amazon)
Scar Symmetry, The Unseen Empire (Buy it from Amazon)
Starlicker, Double Demon (Buy it from Amazon)
Trúbrot, Undir Áhrifum (Buy it from Amazon)

I also reviewed Amon Tobin's ISAM for AMG, but they didn't use it, so here's that:

Amon Tobin
ISAM (Ninja Tune)
ISAM is pretty far from the manic breakbeats and jazz appropriations of Amon Tobin’s Ninja Tune debut, 1997’s Bricolage. Dense and complex, it recalls the late ’90s output of Warp Records (particularly the work of Autechre, Squarepusher and Plaid) more than anything else. Synthesizers squelch; programmed drums slam like concrete slabs; voices are reduced to squiggly background noises, only occasionally bursting out of the mix to sing nonsense syllables like “doot-doo-doo”; melodies are ominous and even militaristic at times. It surges and recedes, and the density of the sound is astonishing—although some elements seem like field recordings, in fact nothing is created from samples. Tobin has created an astonishingly focused, multilayered album in ISAM, one that is unlikely to ever find itself part of a DJ mix but which will undoubtedly reward close, attentive listening for years to come. (Buy it from Amazon)

Finally, and most importantly, I've written a new book, which will be available via Amazon's Kindle store on July 1. It's a novel called Hard Lessons, and this is the cover:

Hard Lessons, in two sentences: Freelance writer and part-time ESL tutor Harry Shaw went to a strip club to meet a potential new student. Now he's on the run from Russian gangsters and corrupt cops, trying to solve the murders of six kidnapped girls while saving a dozen more from lives of sexual enslavement.

Hard Lessons takes place in New Jersey. These days, when people think about New Jersey, they think of The Sopranos, or The Real Housewives of New Jersey, or the guido kids of Jersey Shore. But where I live, the stores have signs in Spanish and the streets are filled with Latino immigrants just trying to survive and make their kids into Americans. That's the New Jersey I'm writing about in Hard Lessons. And the problem at the book's center—human trafficking—is very real. At my local train station, the state government has posted flyers, in Spanish, advising people of the signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking, and who to contact about it.

The book is, I think, a fairly mainstream thriller, the kind of thing that would do well in airports as a mass-market paperback if I'd gotten an agent and/or a major publisher to handle it. Instead, I'm selling it through Xynobooks, a friend's ebook imprint. It's going to be available to you, the consumer, at the very friendly price of 99 cents. Think you can spare a dollar for an exciting story of sex, violence, and political corruption? I think you can, and I thank you in advance. I'm proud of Hard Lessons, and I think you'll like it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Why? Because Suffocation are awesome, that's why.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I've got a longish feature on the Brooklyn-based black metal-ish band Liturgy in the Summer 2011 issue of Signal to Noise. I'm not gonna put the whole thing here; you should buy the magazine. But here are a few paragraphs, to give you some idea of its tone:

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix's core idea, that black metal is fundamentally European in outlook and thus requires philosophical reshuffling in order to be relevant to American life and culture, is certainly defensible. This has been true of other musical movements in the past; contrast, say, the Sex Pistols' declaration of "No Future" with Black Flag's determination to "Rise Above." Compare the fatalistic doom of Black Sabbath when they were 100% English to the heroic mythmaking of their second lineup, with Italian-Americans Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice on vocals and drums, respectively. The wintry nihilism of black metal as performed by its Scandinavian creators—Mayhem, Enslaved et al.—is only minimally applicable to American sensibilities. Consequently, US black metal acts like Nachtmystium and Black Anvil add elements of punk, industrial and Goth in order to give the music a rock-star edge it would otherwise lack.

Hunt-Hendrix's use of the word "transcendental" is misleading, though. He seems to be primarily talking about transcending the limitations of black metal as a musical genre and set of philosophical concepts—actual links to Transcendentalism are minimal. The closest thing modern America has to the 19th Century Transcendentalists are the Amish, or maybe some super-committed hippies, militant environmentalists, et cetera. There are black metal musicians who have taken the genre's embrace of paganism and primeval nature in that direction, most notably the Pacific Northwest-based group Wolves in the Throne Room, whose members live on a collective farm in the woods. But Hunt-Hendrix is a city kid, and he wants no part of this kind of rejectionism. "I'm not interested in pre-industrial ideals," he says. "The more technology and science the better."


Of course, it's possible to argue that black metal itself is essentially anti-metal, that the qualities it emphasizes—obscurantism, lack of catharsis (blast beats aside, the guitar riffs seem to hover in place rather than galloping forward), crude sound quality—are precisely the opposite of metal as it's been known since the late 1970s, when bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest were first forging a unique sound out of the ashes of the heavy blues-rock scene. Black metal rejects the strutting godhood of arena-sized metal, and the use of makeup puts them into a weirdly androgynous performative space occupied mostly by, yes, Kiss and the other glam-rockers of the 1970s (from stars like David Bowie and Alice Cooper to also-rans like T.Rex and Jobriath). Is black metal itself androgynous, and is Hunt-Hendrix, with his shrieks that are sometimes more like the yelps of a startled Girl Scout, playing into that?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Why not have dignity today, for ourselves? We don’t need to wait for a Gandhi or Bobby Seale for this. You wake up, regardless of your circumstances, and you have a pretty open book. You can turn on the teevee and have some people yell at you, and then get in the car and have people yell at you, and then feel bad all the time, and then come home and flop on the couch or in front of the computer, and eat fast food that you know is rotting you away, and then go to bed exhausted and depressed and repeat until death...or you could not do any of those things, because you’re going to choose personal dignity instead.


We have a remarkable ability to know exactly what things we’re doing are harmful to us...and then we keep doing those things, until we decide to stop.

For anyone who feels this Internet emptiness chewing at them, I would say, do a little test. Go outside and take a 15-minute walk — around the block, through the park, just a short walk. While you’re doing this, clear your mind of work and of home. Just look at things, birds and cars and trees and the clouds and buildings and dumpsters, and when you think of something internal just say “thinking” to yourself and go back to walking and breathing. Then return to your computer. Do the usual things you do on your computer, like check the news and your email and the blogs you read and whatever people post on Facebook and Twitter.

Do this second part, the computer-looking-at, for just 15 minutes. You can set one of those web timers...hang on, I have one in my bookmarks.

When this stopwatch beeps, honestly ask yourself how you feel. Compare this to how you felt at the end of your 15-minute walk. Ask yourself what, if anything, you learned during those 15 minutes of wasting time on the Internet. Did it help you in some way? Are you better off? This is a question often asked by political challengers: Are you better off than __ years ago? Well, are you better off than fifteen minutes ago? If not, don’t re-elect the Internet.


[T]he answer is almost certainly going to be No, you’re not better off. But you’re going to be agitated now, both restless and slothful, and you’re either going to feel something negative about somebody you don’t even know or you’re going to want something you don’t need, because you’ve been bombarded with advertising the whole time, even in the corner of your vision while reading your gmail.

The above comes from an interview with now-former Wonkette editor Ken Layne, who has a book out (Kindle-only, apparently) that sounds sort of interesting. But who said it, and in what context, is sort of beside the point.

Recently I wrote about giving up cable, and how it's helped me out mentally - I'm reading a lot more, and writing a lot more (which means I'm making more money, so while cable was an expense, the absence of cable has turned out to be an economic engine). Now I'm thinking about erasing all my bookmarked political sites, too.

I've lately come to the realization that a lot of things are out of ordinary people's control. You can apply for a thousand jobs and never get one, because in 2011 America, jobs are like meteorites - one either falls out of the sky and hits you, or it doesn't. You have no control over it - who you know doesn't help, volume of applications doesn't help, skill levels don't help. You're just out there making your way in the world, and maybe someone steps over and taps you on the shoulder and says, "Hey, I'll pay you to do [x thing]," but more likely than not, no one ever comes.

Politics is similar. We, the governed, have no control over what our leaders do. None. We can vote for them based on what they say when they want us to vote for them, but they're almost certain to be lying. This has been proven time and time again. So what recourse do we have left to us? Why, we have the Internet! We can tell each other how angry we are that our leaders keep lying, and we can even address our angry thoughts directly to the leaders in question, as though Barack Obama or Sarah Palin or Anthony Weiner or whoever is reading the comments on We can call each other names and explain in agonizingly minute detail how wrong everybody but us is, or we can clap each other on the back and talk about how smart we are and how dumb and wrong and destructive-to-America everyone else is. And none of it matters.

I used to read some right-wing sites (National Review Online most prominent among them) along with a bunch of putatively left-wing sites and blogs. I felt it was "important" to know what people who disagreed with me thought. Now I don't even care what people who agree with me think. Most of American politics, and all of American political commentary with one or two exceptions whose names I will not cite, is composed of people I don't want on my side of any issue. They're ugly (I mean this in the spiritual/philosophical sense, though Washington, DC is not exactly a hotbed of modeling-agency recruitment), narcissistic people who don't seem to have even fleetingly thought "But what if I'm wrong?" in decades. And that includes the ones in their twenties.

I just don't have time for it. Reading about politics is like studying meteorology. You can know all you want about weather patterns, but it's not going to help you stop it from raining on a day you'd rather it not rain. You can figure out what causes tornadoes, and maybe learn to predict them, but they're coming whether you know about it in advance or not.

I choose to be ignorant. I wish I didn't know who was President, and couldn't name any members of Congress just like I can't name a single baseball, basketball or football player. I for damn sure wish I didn't know the names and faces of political writers and TV talking heads, because they are to a man (and woman) a worthless, debased group of people who should be rounded up and shoved into the Fukushima reactor to prevent further leakage.

The more time I spend thinking about politics, the less time I can spend doing things that make me happy. Like reading stories, and writing them. Listening to music, and thinking about it and writing about it. (Buy Burning Ambulance - issue four just came out this week.) Watching movies (not documentaries, movies - preferably ones where things blow up and people get kicked in the face). Like just hanging out with my wife.

I don't need this shit anymore. I'm done.