I'd like to offer a personal Thank you to the good, God-fearing people of St. Louis for providing me with some of the best blog fodder in months. As long as you're at it, why not pray for some decent new home mortgages? Plenty of people need that, too. Or how about some realistic student loans for us college students? Can God drag down those rates a little more, do you think?
God: The cosmic cash machine. If I was a religious man, I'd be pretty offended. Good thing I'm a godless heathen. (*Whew!*) Reducing God to such a silly idea surely goes beyond anything we've seen in recent months. (When he's not lowering gas prices, he's crushing sexual minorities with natural disasters.)
When all the praying and singing (there'll be singing!) is done with, why don't these idiots get the hell away from the gas stations and let actual customers through, hmm? That'd be great.
I have an affinity for evil things. Evil movies, evil books, and most of all, evil music. For me this is the summer of Coil, of Current 93, of doom and death metal, of dark & techy drum & bass, of cold dark ambient soundscapes, of distortion pedals and quiet weeping. And for the second year in a row, I'm going to unleash my firestorm of woe on a (kind of) unsuspecting audience.
Last year I made a retrospective goth mixtape (highlighting mostly UK gloom bands circa 1980 - 1983) and air-dropped the CDs on a (kind of) unsuspecting city the week before Halloween. The faces of the CDs were blank, save for the words Do Not Play hastily scrawled in black marker. I did submit the track list to Gracenote's CDDB, but I left my name completely out of it. It was, until this moment, an anonymous, aural assault on the hipsters and freaks bold enough to take the CDs home and... well, play them.
Here's the track list of last year's collection:
ii:ii II:II - Do Not Play
Einstürzende Neubauten - Steh Auf Berlin
Bauahus - Double Dare
Psychic TV - Southern Coumfort
The Cure - Splintered In Her Head
Killing Joke - The Wait
ii:ii II:II - Transmitting From The Basement Of Hell
Meat Beat Manifesto - God O.D. (Part 4)
Delerium - Lost Passion
Cocteau Twins - Blood Bitch
Sonic Youth - I Don't Want To Push It
II:II ii:ii - Interlude I
Coil - Titan Arch
Joy Division - She's Lost Control
Giorgio Moroder - Night Rabbit
Siouxsie & The Banshees - Premature Burial
Coil - Hellraiser Box Theme
Tones On Tail - Christian Says
II:II ii:ii - Interlude II
Test Dept - Fall From Light
ii:ii II:II - He Has Waited For This Night
And so I find myself, now that summer has reached its peak, starting to pull together another dark collection of stomach-turning sounds to foist upon a hapless city in the prime weeks of autumn. The Antichrist is the theme of this year's collection. The Book of Revelations will serve as my guide. Darkness will penetrate my iPod. Puppies will quiver in corners. Candles will float through dark, empty rooms. Wheels of despair will grind slowly. Your mom will ask you to turn it down.
I'll be distributing the putrid discs randomly throughout the uptown, dinkytown, and downtown areas on the weekends of the 3rd and the 10th of October. Think of it as an evil Easter egg hunt. You might find a disc in a random gas station bathroom, or in between sweaters at a used haberdashery. But you'll certainly find them on flier tables in indie businesses up and down avenues Lyndale, Hennepin, Como, University, Washington, and Nicollet. I plan on making around 100 copies this year. (E-mail me or leave a comment if you want a copy of last year's collection.)
So when you're out shopping for black lipstick or trying out leather slings this fall, look for blank CDs with the words He Sees You hastily scrawled in black ink and left suspiciously perched in upsetting, out of the way corners. On second thought, be thankful if you don't find one. It will be the sonic equivalent of suffering turned inside out.
This year there will be no mercy.
(Ooo! But there will be a brand new, super secret surprise bootleg remix of an early 80's Cure song.)
Biofuel, while a burgeoning and promising field of renewable energy, is by no means ready for prime time. Until switchgrass and closed-loop ethanol plants get more efficient, it is irresponsible in this gas-crazed climate to suggest that a green alternative is out there, prêt-à-porter.
Not even close. While the City Pages wants us to believe that happy Brazilians breeze through gas stations making smart, economical choices on ethanol over gas, the gloomier realities of biofuel production get swept under the rug. Considering that it presently takes almost a gallon of oil to produce a gallon of ethanol, choosing a cheaper ethanol at the pump could actually do more damage to the environment that using plain old gas. That fact shouldn't have escaped City Pages' otherwise deft attention.
What City Pages did get right is that pioneering renewable energy resources should be the number one priority of this country today. The tentacles of the oil industry infect everything from our national security to our tattered economy. The world's largest oil reserves are controlled by some of the most unstable nations on the planet, causing no end of the mischievous games of diplomatic Twister we play every year. Drilling at home may seem a sensible solution for now, but it's not going to help much. We need much, much more than that to get through the next century. (Hi, China. Hi, India.)
Biofuel is a small part of a larger picture, but it's by no means going to save us in the short run. City Pages should be ashamed for trying to mislead their readers, but they probably won't be. I challenge them to consider both sides of an issue before the ink hits the paper. (It's called journalistic integrity.) Anything short of this must be called out for what it is: propaganda.
On Sunday it was reported that nine US soldiers were killedwhile fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. "The attack, the worst against Americans in Afghanistan in three years, illustrated the growing threat of Taliban militants and their associates, who in recent months have made Afghanistan a far deadlier war zone for American-led forces than Iraq," said the New York times. Heady stuff, this.
The next day we see the cover of the new New Yorker issue, featuring a Quaeda'd out Obama burning a flag under a portrait of Osama Bin Laden, a failed attempt at levity at the expense of Fox News and Co.
I find this exercise in poor taste to be offensive in the extreme, and here's why: it's flanked on both sides by news reports of blood and carnage at the hands of Muslim extremism. It reared its head a day after 9 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and a day before a report that suicide bombers wearing explosive vests killed 35 and wounded 63 Iraqis in Baghdad. The timing of the New Yorker editorial board -- while I'm sure not purposefully meant to coincide with such chaos -- certainly couldn't have been worse.
I will never qualify my support for free speech and free press. The last thing in the world I would do is call for the censorship of a venerable (if not terribly snide) publication like the New Yorker. But let's remember what happens when you stoop to the level of children. Fox News isn't above distorting the mug shots of dissenting journalists. You really, really can't get any lower than that. If the New Yorker is free to pander to the far, far right with what's arguably the most tasteless joke of the decade, I am free to stand on my tiny soap box and chastise them. For shame!
Barack and Michele Obama are trying to raise the level of the discussion in this country today. There really isn't anything funny about talking to America like a grown-up during one of the most existentially difficult chapters of our nation's history, and there's even less funny than giving a megaphone to the drunken swine in the balcony who are trying to bring the Obamas down for doing so. When elitist liberals are doing the dirty work of the neo-con nutballs, something is terribly wrong. (At least a paradigm somewhere is shifting. That should give good grist for the dissertation mill.)
The right wing whack jobs are not going to take the bait, and the rest of us don't appreciate being talked down to. It's not that I'm not sophisticated or educated enough to get the joke - I just don't think it's funny. And don't tell me to lighten up. The families of the victims of these latest attacks by religious lunatics aren't laughing. The New Yorker has brought shame upon the house of the democratic party, and my heart sinks at the prospects for the liberal agenda.
And what's the money shot? "If you're a socialist, you should be happy." The quote has a ring of bitter grapes to it, and betrays the larger mood of the far right. They're mad as hell and that makes me mad. There's something desperately wrong with the notion that the government's latest (and as of today impending) big bank bail out amounts to a socialist's wet dream. Didn't we get here because organizations like The New America Foundation -- not to mention a certain Hungarian-Jew with an Ayn Rand fetish - have been crying and stomping their feet for less and less regulation in the first place? Or am I making that all up in my confused head?
The Federal Reserve Bank stepped in last March to try to help save Bear Stearns. It then went on to push madly on as many levers as it possibly could to avoid the mother of all economic trainwrecks, which would have in turn caused a worldwide concussion. Had they not acted we'd probably all be buying loaves of bread with wheelbarrows full of 100's by now, and there'd be a seventeen mile-long rhumba-line in the mountains of Afghanistan.
To think that not stepping in now is a good idea is probably as insane as giving corporations options to "self-police" in lieu of regulations in the first place. It's not just about irresponsible lending practices anymore. Our entire economy is experiencing tribulations not seen since the 1930's. Keeping us solvent is not an act of the far left pinko commie committee. It's a responsible act of a usually sober and clear-eyed governmental body.
Michael Lind is a freaking idiot. His lack of integrity is matched only by his naked chutzpah. People like this make me less afraid of shuffling off this mortal coil when I finally reach the end of my road. If it means getting away from neo-conservative whack-jobs, I'll welcome death like an old friend.
...unless of course I'm kicked downstairs for being an atheist queer. Then I'll have to spend eternity with these assholes. (Dammit!)
Newspapers are in trouble, according to a recent episode of KCRW's To The Point. They follow up the headline with a question: Why should we care?
The gist of the report is that newspapers are losing money hand over fist because of shifting dynamics in the marketplace, which in turn are largely driven by technological innovations. For example, I'm blogging about a podcast right now. How 2.0 of me.
Six years ago I would have gone out and purchased a copy of the New York Times to read over lunch. That's unthinkable today, unless I plan on lingering over a Sunday brunch in my pajamas. I read the "papers" online, and so does almost everybody else... and I read blogs.
Journalism is the burning issue here, and rightly so. Is Arianna Huffington a journalist? Sort of. Does she fact-check? Yes, but she doesn't really have to, and that's the point. Ms. Huffington goes on and on about focusing on the "truth," yet her blog reads like an anti-McCain propaganda machine. All that aside, Huffington Post writers either comment and/or link to stories in other publications, like the New York Times, Time, and CNN, or they publish transcripts from a tape-recorded speech that most other outlets missed. The latter is an example illustrated by South Park's young characters sneaking into just about every imaginable fortress (from Fox Broadcasting Company to the White House) because they're 3rd graders, and 3rd graders are invisible to most grown-ups. Once they're in, they fearlessly tell truth to power.
But small and scrappy insurgencies like The Huffington Post may not be as thorough in their research and fact checking -- they simply don't have the money, manpower, and resources of a Chicago Tribune or an LA Times -- and their reports should thusly be taken with enormous grains of salt. When I want news, I go to the big boys. When I want commentary, gossip, and rogue stealth investigation, I go to the blogs. We need both.
Aye, but there's the rub. It doesn't cost much to run a blog, and it costs a fortune to run a newspaper. With circulation and classified activities down, big papers can't rely on revenue provided by banners and pop-ups on their websites. They need more to survive, and here's where I think the real innovation must happen.
To be honest, it's the same thing with music downloads. I've been screaming for monthly subscriptions for years now, and they're still not here. (At least not on the scale of an iTunes or Amazon.) Why not do the same for professional newspapers? I don't pay for the papers anymore, yet I still read them incessantly. Why shouldn't I pay -- even a little bit?
I propose that a humble monthly subscription of even $2 would be enough to offset the troubles we're seeing in professional newspaper companies. For less than the price of one iced espresso a month, I should be able to access all the content of my favorite professional publications. This isn't a requisite for online perusing now, but I plan on making a donation anyway.
I'm willing to pay for the pleasure, because quality journalism is important to me. Scrappy underdogs have their place, but a country as susceptible to corruption and subversion as the United States needs healthy watchdogs -- big and small.
I don't wring my hands in fits of anxiety too often. I'm even-tempered, as far as my Irish blood will allow. But two things have my constitution in a nervous twist this summer: a repetitive-stress injury from too much typing, and my impending (and wholly voluntary) self-sacrifice at the temple of higher education.
I will take my first university classes this fall, an activity I've been anticipating since my drug-addled and painfully naïve youth. I used to wander the hallowed and tree-lined lanes of the university campus, lost in the romance of academia, frozen in the mysterious airs of autumn. Now I cringe when I see the campus skyline, and imagine myself trying to slit my wrists with a dull pencil the night before a midterm. It won't be long, I tell myself, before I am led to my slaughter - like a quivering lamb - into the drooling maw of indifference.
Ouch! And it hurts to type. Not every word, mind you. But after a while it does. My career aspirations now shy away from technology, taking with them fantasies of lofty condos near water and cars that run on attitude. Those who can't do teach, but those who teach can't afford groceries.
Maybe it won't be all that bad. Maybe the eager light within my eyes won't be extinguished so soon by soul-sucking professors and under-slept TAs on crystal meth. Maybe I won't cry myself to sleep every night to the echoing sound of laughter coming from smarter and younger classmates. Maybe I'll find a way to embrace technology without losing the use of my thumbs. Maybe I can find a way to put my degree to use without chaining my foot to a cubicle.
Maybe I'll actually do well. It's not entirely out of the question, but I don the cape of demonspawn now in anticipation of my turn at the wheel of casual dismemberment. Less experienced students that come after me will suffer, too. What doesn't kill us makes us much less likely to resist the dark side. If you can't hear the ripping of flesh from bone and the blood-drowned screams for help, you're in the wrong lab.
I want nothing more than to work at NASA someday. That would be pretty sweet. If I'm existentially eviscerated before my tenure as student comes to an end, I'll reassure myself that the U.S. government always needs janitors... who can't type.