Saturday, August 23, 2014

There’s A Situation Brewing In The “P” Section

By: Ben Johnson

Editor's Note: It turns out The Pheromoans are actually from England, which is like a super shitty version of Australia that's still an island but it rains all the time. They do at least sound like they might be an Aussie band, which is a compliment.

I have a record collection. It’s a record collection. There are records in it. It’s… you know, it’s whatever. I like it. It’s for me. I don’t expect you to give a shit. I’m not, like, proud of it or anything. I just have it and I like to listen to the records in it and that’s about it.

When you have possessions, though, there’s always a temptation to personify them. That one green shirt at the bottom of your drawer is always like “mehhh, I’m greeeen, why don’t you do your damn laundry, you loser!” And you go “okay, green shirt, it’s your time to shine” and you put on the green shirt and you do our laundry and the green shirt’s like “mehhh, that’s more like it, finally a little respect around here,” and the green shirt says inappropriate things to strangers like “hey you, Sugar Tits, check me out, am I green or what?” And you throw away the green shirt as soon as your laundry’s done because you’re tired of making imaginary apologies for it. "Sorry my shirt is so green and sexist."

I have a fantasy, sometimes, when dealing with my record collection, that while the records are sitting on my shelf, all of the artists represented in my collection are sitting at tables in some giant banquet hall waiting for some kind of an awards ceremony to start. When I buy a new record and organize it alphabetically, it’s like a host showing that artist to their seat. “Oh, welcome, Paul Collins of The Paul Collins Beat, let’s see, oh, you’re gonna love this, you’re at table three right next to The Beatles and The Beau Brummels. The server will be around with your meal shortly. Enjoy!”

Often, as in the case of Paul Collins, the artists are psyched to be in the presence of luminous royalty. “Oh wow man, great to meet you guys! I probably wouldn’t even have had a career if it wasn’t for the 'Taxman' riff! And the production on Bradley’s Barn is fucking impeccable, you guys. Really superb. Let’s see. Beef or chicken.” They talk about industry stuff and technical stuff. They loosen up after a few drinks. They swap stories. They enjoy it, being together in my record collection. Or so I imagine.

The artists from my records get along, for the most part. They’re musicians. Professionals in the same industry. They have that in common. Musicians tend to find a way to get along, most of the time, even if they think the other person’s music totally sucks. Even in cases where there’s no mutual admiration, they at least know that they both have roughly the same job. They can talk about which regional promoters and venue owners are the biggest pieces of shit, which green room has the stalest hummus platter, which A&R rep is the douchiest. That kind of stuff. They can relate to each other.

But then there are some situations where the vibe is icy and confrontational and awkward. The Stooges and Cat Stevens were having a real hard time making small talk until I sprang for that Stiff Little Fingers reissue. Now Cat Stevens and Stiff Little Fingers are finding general agreement in a fairly intense political discussion. The Steely Dan guys are frowning quietly in their shades, but at least they’re keeping to themselves. Even they can’t help but crack a smile every once in a while whenever The Strangeloves do something quietly weird. Obscure Washington, DC powerpoppers The Strand cannot believe they’re even invited, and obscure Italian riff thieves Starfuckers are fawning over The Stooges in broken english. Everybody silently agrees that The Stranglers are full of shit. They are being really insistent about asking Stereolab what gear they use. The “ST” table might have started out a little weird, but it’s much better now. Lively, even.

Meanwhile, though, there is a situation brewing in the “P” section.

First of all, I sold my copy of The Pheromoans “It Still Rankles” LP which was maybe a weirdly impulsive move to pull on a fairly interesting band doing kind of a lo-fi version of The Fall, but I guess I needed money and listed it for sale in a fit of “fuck it, I’m never gonna listen to this, and I’m never going to think ‘I could really go for some Pheromoans right now’ after this is gone,” and then Discogs came a’ callin’. I think it was a decent call. The sheer volume of lo-fi rock bands that are only this good but never any better is growing pretty tiresome. I’m selling Pheromoans and keeping Taco Leg because at least those guys are funny. But, unintended consequence, kicking The Pheromoans out of my little banquet set me up for the single worst imaginary banquet seating arrangement disaster in my collection, which just started this weekend.

Last week at a flea market I picked up a used copy of the John Phillips Wolfking of L.A. album, which I have a cornball attachment to. Okay, well, I just sat the erstwhile Mama and Papa down at his seat, right next to guess who… Liz Phair. This has “powder keg” written all over it. You KNOW Liz Phair knows the whole sordid story on John Phillips. I can feel her shooting dagger eyes at me from her seat right now. She’s being quiet now but from the way she’s chugging down her wine I can just tell she’s going to make a scene. This could get ugly.

She calls the host over. “Hey, what happened to those Pheromoan guys. I mean, sure, they were rude and smelly, but at least none of them RAPED THEIR OWN DAUGHTER IN A DRUGGED-OUT STUPOR.” John Phillips is trying his best to ignore her. He is trying to pay attention to what’s happening on his left, which is only Mick Farren and the rest of the Pink Fairies obnoxiously throwing the “eat pussy” gesture and whatever else they can think of to try and piss off Roger Waters. Liz Phair had moved on from The Pheromoans and was developing a none too well hidden crush on them before Phillips showed up and permanently soured her mood.

Petty, to her right, says “Hey Liz, let it go, he’s not hurting anybody. Look at him. He’s been dead 13 years. Take a sip of water and cool out” in the one tone he has in his speaking voice, a soothingly even croak which in itself is a plea for sanity, or if sanity is too tall an order at least please try not to ruin this nice Chicken Saltimbocca meal for everybody. Phair sees his point while at the same time not being in the mood to hear it. “Don’t condescend to me, Tom, you fucking dinosaur!” she roars back. Petty flashes a “suit yourself” facial shrug and goes back to his meal in silence.

This is all within 15 minutes of seating John Phillips. This is a disaster in the making. Nobody’s having ANY fun at the PE-PH-PI table. Except Pissed Jeans. Those guys are the type of people who watch YouTube videos of people’s legs breaking and love it when situations are as awkward as possible. Nobody can tell if they’re high or just acting like assholes because it amuses them. Probably a little of both. This whole banquet is not their scene.

“So Liz, who did you write that Hot White Cum song about?” asks the guy from Pissed Jeans. The Penetrators and People's Temple laugh. “Fuck you,” says Liz Phair, and angrily picks at her salad, muttering "sexist pigs." She is very drunk, but she is not wrong. “Hey is it true that the guys from Metz are around here somewhere?” Pissed Jeans guy asks the host. “Yes sir.” “Can you ask them if they want to start a new section together or something?” “I’ll see what I can do.” The host leaves.

I can see what’s probably going to happen next. Personal and the Pizzas Guy is gonna try to make everybody laugh by saying, “Heyyyy, let’s all just eat some pepperoni pizza!” It’ll work for a second until David Peel says something about making fun of the way he actually talks. Then general uproar. Possible food fight. Somehow David Thomas from Pere Ubu will end up crouched under the table eating a whole ham with his bare hands. Just complete chaos. And to make matters worse, John Lydon is lurking only a table away with the rest of PiL, ready to pour gasoline on the fire. The whole banquet could explode at any moment thanks to the "P" section.

I don’t like to let this little weird fantasy of mine influence me in any way, but I might have to find another used copy of that Pheromoans LP I sold just to keep the peace. It might not be a great or necessary record, but it’ll slide right in there between Phair and Phillips, and nobody can handle a situation like this as well as a bunch of lo-fi rockers from Southern England can, since it so obviously calls for indiscriminate yet oddly charming overuse of the c-word. I could maybe try a Pharcyde LP, but then they’d be so lonely in the rock P's without their other rap buddies.

And that’s the situation under development in my “P” section right now. I’m kind of worried about it. I probably need to go outside and do any other thing. It’s what Petty would do.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ask A Hungover 24 Year Old: "Rights" Versus "Not Being Dead"

By: Pete Johnson

Five years ago I found myself in a situation where I was face to face with a dozen or so incarcerated juveniles in Camden County, NJ, and I was supposed to teach them about their Constitutional rights. It was hard and frustrating and early in the morning, but it was rewarding. I got to tell these people things they had never heard before, like "there is such thing as the U.S. Constitution which is supposed to pertain to you" and "NO NO NO PLEASE DON'T EVER ACTUALLY DO THAT CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED THING YOU'RE CURRENTLY TALKING ABOUT BECAUSE THEN THE COPS WILL SHOOT YOU AND YOU WILL BE DEAD."

It is terrifying and crazy and not at all good that I found myself in this position as a hungover 24 year old law student. My qualifications were being a law student and also at some earlier point writing my name on a piece of paper saying "hey, I'll do that thing." This is the person these kids were learning this information from. Every person in America over the age of 11 should already know that there is a U.S. Constitution with guaranteed rights in it that are supposed to apply to all Americans, and if you are a disadvantaged black youth, it is also sadly necessary for you to be familiar with a long list of Constitutionally protected things which you should nevertheless avoid doing because if you did them the cops will shoot you and then you will be dead. These kids should not have to commit a crime and then be locked in a room with some random 24 year old law student who was maybe going to bail but then decided to power through a hangover anyway in order to hear these things for the first time.

Of course, the list of excuses cops can rely on as a reason to kill you was not actually on the syllabus. Originally I was supposed to talk about things like what a cop can legally do to you during a search and what that means for you later on in the court room. It quickly became clear that not only were those things boring to my audience, they were not the kinds of things these kids needed to hear. From a practical, don't-get-killed-by-a-policeman perspective, these kids most needed to hear that their Constitutional rights, as people who grew up where they grew up and looked like they looked, did not mean much. A depressingly popular question was "so wait, the cops can't do that?" I told them that while cops are not technically, like in a U.S. Constitution way, supposed to do certain things which cops apparently would nevertheless always do to these kids, these legal rights are pretty goddamned moot when right then and there in the street the cops can and will do whatever the fuck they want. Unfortunately for these kids, it seemed like the smart thing was to concentrate on avoiding being murdered before engaging in any kind of conversation about "rights."

This was five years ago, and it is sadly still true that "cops sometimes shoot black people for no reason" is a way better safety tip for these kids than "don't run with scissors." I think it would be really cool if someday there was a 24 year old hungover law student that found themselves locked in a room in somewhere like the detention center in Camden with the task of teaching some imprisoned children about their Constitutional rights, and that person didn't even have to teach the "hey seriously guys the cops will murder you sometimes if you say Constitutionally protected things like 'fuck you' to them" portion of the course.

This imaginary eventual 24 year old is probably not even born yet. 24 years is a long time, but probably longer than it will take for "rights" to mean more to black kids than "murder avoiding tips." It's a frustratingly solvable problem. One idea is to put a camera on every cop all the time and actually record the footage and save it from all the cops whose job it is to lose important cop footage right after their buddy did something awful. I mean we do definitely have the technology and everything, and it would only take a small fraction of the money it took to give a every police force in Iowa a fucking tank, but nah. Something that completely doable would take forever for everyone important to agree on and to implement, and it would still be only a small step towards really holding the police accountable.

The role of police force in institutionalizing American racism is a complicated issue that no one is solving any time soon. I like to think that all this talking about it on the internet that is currently happening is helping in some way, but it's still way easier to imagine reading a "Cops Still Doing This Shit" headline in 10 years than it is to imagine ever reading one that says "Internet Fixes Racism." If talking about it has even a prayer of letting those future kids worry about something else, then good. Then maybe someday that not even born yet hungover person could talk about other things, and then the kids could get bored and start running with scissors, and everyone would win.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Anaconda News Throughout the Years

By: Kelly McClure

Not too many hours ago, at midnight to be exact, although I have nothing to do with that because I was definitely sleeping, a nice young woman released a video that a bunch of people woke up and masturbated to while thinking "thanks for the masturbation, but this song sucks." The name of the song that the video was made for is "Anaconda" because of penises. 

Here are some more memorable news items about Anacondas, because the Internet is for three things: News, butts, and churning out some straight up garbage can garbage. If you masturbate to these news items then there is something wrong with you.

July 21, 2014
(Don't tell anyone about these snakes.)

April 18, 2014:
(Snakes for pets? Got a smelly house.)

April 12, 2014:
(People don't think that snakes are very nice.)

February 26, 2014
(Weird and gross little girl.)

January 21, 2014
(Snakes in a toilet. How come?)

November 27, 2013
(Don't be drunk by snakes.)

November 18, 2013:
(Oh no.)


Monday, August 18, 2014

Make More Informed Decisions About Your Books and Burritos, Your Essays and Enchiladas

BY: Christopher Forsley

I love San Francisco, its people and its places, both from the past and the present.  Jerry Garcia, Laffing Sal, Andre Nickatina, Harvey Milk, Frank Chu, John Waters, Fillmore Slim, Bruce Lee, S. Clay Wilson, Willie Mayes, Emperor Norton, Tim Lincecum, Janis Joplin, The Gonz, Robin Williams -- I love them all.  I love them like I love Chinatown, McCovy Cove, Booksmith, Last Gasp, DELUXE, Sutro Baths, Delirium, Fort Funston, Castro Theater, Hippie Hill, Kayo Books, Musee Mecanique, Muddy Water's, Clarion Alley, and Little Shamrock.  

But it is San Francisco's writers, who attracted me here, and its taquerias, which keep me here, that I love best.  No other American city besides New York -- which is unlivable due to its pigs, pollution, and pinstripes -- can boast of a literary tradition and a food culture that are both historically enriching and contemporarily bitching.  And this boasting, if you ask me, is only possible because of San Francisco's word-wielders and tortilla-tossers. 

The two, I admit, seem to have little in common with each other.  While the products that San Francisco's writers produce are consumed intellectually, the products that its taquerias produce are consumed physically. The writers explain shit, but the taquerias create shit. One favors English and the college-class, the other favors Spanish and the working-class.  And although they both uphold the city's liberal conventions, the writers do so through their opinions whereas the taquerias do so through their portions.  

But they have more common than you know.  Their products are affordable and, in both cases, go down better with beer.  They also, in addition to helping you get to sleep, come in a disguise -- with a book cover and a tinfoil wrap -- that makes their glorious insides a surprise. They both face technological threats: for the writer it's the internet and e-books, and for the taqueria it's the microwave and frozen burritos.  And they each offer their ingredients in different forms.  Writers, for example, use their words to form essays, poems, novels, scripts, plays, and short-stories.  Taquerias, on the other hand, use their fillings to form tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and tamales.   

These similarities are not a coincidence, rather they are proof of their boundless bond.  This bond between San Francisco's writers and taquerias is so strong that you could, based on their individual characteristics, pair every great San Francisco writer with every great San Francisco taqueria. . . well, maybe you couldn't pair them, but I certainly could.  And I will do just that so you, San Franciscans, can make more informed decisions about your books and burritos, essays and enchiladas.  

I'll start by pairing the first San Francisco writer I ever read, Jack London, with the first San Francisco taqueria I ever ate at, Taqueria Cancun.  Neither offer anything extraordinary, but they both offer consistent creations at accessible locations.  London, a San Francisco native, wrote two adventure novels, Call of the Wild and White Fang, that, because of their potent plots and simple symbolism, have been taught by teachers and scanned by students for over a hundred years and can now be found in every bookstore and library under every section from 'teens' and 'classics' to 'animals' and 'sports'.  And Cancun, with its properly folded rather than haphazardly rolled burritos and its rational ratio of fillings that include the oh-so-rare whole sliced avocado, is so solid that I'd use any of its three locations as an earthquake shelter -- especially since their jammin' jukeboxes and free ice-water allows one to hydrate with Mariachi music.  

Contrasting the consistency and accessibility of London and Cancun is the individuality and extremity of Richard Brautigan and La Taqueria.  Both Brautigan's nearly non-existent narrative in Trout Fishing in America and La Taqueria's refusal to put rice in their burritos break the rules that every other San Francisco writer and taqueria follows.  Although their excessive nature -- obvious in Brautigan's repetition and La Taqueria's prices -- alienate many San Francisco readers and eaters, they each have a small but fierce army of devotees.  Enemies of this army don't understand that Brautigan and La Taqueria can only be fairly judged as a whole.  If you take one abstract sentence or one rice-less bite alone, you won't get it.  You have to read Brautigan's entire novel, eat La Taqueria's entire burrito, and let them digest. Only then will you realize their greatness.    

About Brautigan, Lawrence Farlighetti, San Francisco's first Poet Laureate, said "he was much more in tune with the trout in America than with people."  And about La Taqueria, the friendly faces at El Farolito would probably say something similar -- if they weren't so busy serving their people.  Farlighetti and El Farolito put their people on a pedestal.  Farlighetti -- by opening City Lights Bookstore, publishing Allen Ginsberg's HOWL, and winning a defining obscenity trial -- exposed the world to San Francisco's writers.  And El Farolito -- because it stays open until 3:30AM, is located next to the 24th St. BART station, and serves up the greasiest and tastiest super suiza quesadilla in the city -- exposed the world to San Francisco's taquerias. . . that might be an exaggeration, but it did save many drunken hipsters from many bad barhopping hangovers.  Then, the next morning, they used their fancy phones to expose the world to San Francisco's taquerias.  Farlighetti's poems, like Farolito's quesadillas, are so good that their essence will soak into your brain and body so deep that you'll dream about them for a week.  

But if Farlighetti and Farolito exposed San Francisco writers and taquerias to the world, then Amy Tan and Papalote made the world embrace them.  Although San Francisco writers and taquerias have always been embraced, it wasn't until Tan wrote The Joy Luck Club and Papalote won Bobby Flay's 'Burrito-Off' on the Food Network that they were embraced on a massive scale.  While London is embraced by educators, Braughtigan by the counter-culture, and Farlighetti by poets, and while Cancun is embraced by avocado aficionados, La Taqueria by protein fiends, and El Farolito by bar-crawlers, only Tan is embraced by both academic scholars and Hollywood producers and only Papalote is embraced by both condiment connoisseurs and television personalities.  But don't let their mainstream success fool you.  Tan offers the most unique perspective -- she's a daughter of a Chinese immigrant mother -- out of every San Francisco writer, and Papalote offers the most unique salsa -- it's smooth, smokey, and rich -- out of every San Francisco taqueria.

Although not the house-hold names that Tan and Papalote are, Daniel Handler and Gordo Taqueria are equally indispensable parts of San Francisco's literary tradition and food culture. . . for a particular portion of the population: children and child-like adults in the case of Handler, and residents of the Richmond and Sunset districts in the case of Gordo.  In fact, for the individuals who make up those particular portions of San Francisco's population, Handler -- aka Lemony Snicket -- and Gordo are not only house-hold names but are the only names.  Handler is the greatest children's author San Francisco has ever had, and Gordo is the greatest San Francisco taqueria that The Avenues have ever had.  They both cater to their clientele with cleanliness, and because neither has any competition, they each get a crown.

Handler and Gordo are San Francisco kings, no doubt, but only the kiddies and the Avenueites are loyal to them.  San Francisco is changing, and it is Michelle Tea, the queer queen of lit, and The Little Chihuahua, the fusion friendly taqueria, that best represents this change. Because of Tea's spellbinding spoken-word and autobiographical novel, Valencia, and The Little Chihuahua's sustainable meats and outlandish vegetarian options, together they are leading San Francisco's writers and taquerias into the 21st century.  Although their products are sometimes unconvincing, Tea's stylized syntax and Little Chihuahua's super salsa-bar always win me over in the end.  Reading Tea and eating Little Chihuahua is fun.  It's the kind of fun a straight gringo from Middle America has when partying at a Latin club in the Castro.  The experience might not be authentic, but it sure is memorable.

If you're looking for a more authentic San Francisco writer and taqueria combination, I'd suggest grabbing Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon and heading over to Taqueria Castillo for some lengua in whatever form you fancy.  After reading about Tea's drug-fueled lesbian exploits and eating Little Chihuahua's organic green tortillas, I always have a desire to get back to the basics.  And no San Francisco writer or taqueria is more basic than Hammett and Castillo.  Holding down the Tenderloin, San Francisco's grittiest and storied neighborhood, neither Hammett nor Castillo rely on gimmicks.  Their writing and meat speak for themselves.  They say, in the voice of Sam Spade, "You'll take it and like it."  And it's true.  Hammett and Castillo never fail to fill me up with delicious violence and old-school flavor.  

Acting in direct opposition to the simplicity of Hammett and Castillo is the fragmented, stream-of-consciousness, periodically poetic prose of Jack Kerouac and the unpredictable, always wet, sometimes succulent selections at Taqueria San Jose.  Taken together, they're a pair on par with Bonnie and Clyde, Abbott and Costello, Ren & Stimpy. . . salt and pepper, apples and oranges, pepperonis and pizza.  But both Kerouac and San Jose, due to the moisture in their make-up, are required tastes.  Some will eagerly lick up the juice that rolls off the tongue while reading Kerouac and down the arm while eating at San Jose, but others will curse it for distracting from the story and for making the tortillas soggy. No one, however, can deny the impact Kerouac's Great American Novel, On The Road, and San Jose's persistent presence on Mission St has had on the evolution of San Francisco's writers and taquerias.  In fact, only The Godfathers are more influential.    

Mark Twain is The Godfather of American Literature, and Taqueria La Cumbre is The Godfather of the Mission Burrito.  Twain came to San Francisco as Samuel Clemens, but after getting fired from the Daily Morning Call and writing the first uniquely American story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," he became Mark Twain who, to this day, embodies the benchmark to which every San Francisco writer is measured.  And La Cumbre came to San Francisco as a meat market, but after moving to its location on 16th and Valencia and selling the first Mission-style burrito on 29 September 1969, it became La Cumbre which, to this day, sets the standard to which every San Francisco taqueria is compared.  Twain's dialogue is so tasty and his wit so sharp that it can only be complemented by a La Cumbre burrito stuffed with the tastiest of chicken breasts cut to pieces with the sharpest of knifes.  If I had to choose one novel to read and one burrito to eat for the rest of my life, I'd choose Twain's Huckleberry Finn and La Cumbre's pollo asado burrito.

But if I had to choose one novel not to read and one burrito not to eat for the rest of my life, I'd choose Danielle Steel's latest and that wet sock served at Shitpotle. . . I mean Chipotle.  Both Steele and Chipotle are corporate-created leeches that suck the magic pumping through the veins of San Francisco's writers and taquerias and then corrupt it for an easy profit.  Owning some of the best real-estate in the city does not make Steel a San Francisco writer and Chipotle a San Francisco taqueria.  Their products, which are written by ghostwriters and made by high-schoolers, are cheap imitations of the real deal and should be avoided at all costs -- especially since the costs for their slop are higher than you'd have to be to enjoy it.   

Bridging the gap between the cheap imitations and the real deal is Dave Eggers and Pancho Villas.  I'm not saying their creations are between cheap imitations and the real deal.  I'm saying those who consume their creations are too smart to read and eat cheap imitations but too skittish to read and eat the real deal, so they read Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and eat Pancho Villas's tofu tacos.  From my observations, they want the Believer to guide their reading and a security guard to guide their eating.  They, however, refuse to read The Circle and eat al pastor, which is a shame.  It's a shame because with that book and that meat Eggers and Pancho Villas offer a dystopian vision, a vision warning of the tech companies and the trendy bistros that are driving both San Francisco's writers and taquerias out of the city and killing the literary tradition and food culture that I love so much. 

Illustration by Cameron Forsley

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


By: Ben Johnson

One of the things in the world I would very much like to avoid doing is to write anything in response to anything that Grantland music critic Steven Hyden has written. I would really, really love to not do that. There is no point to it. There is never any point to the original thing that Steven Hyden wrote, and there is even less point to anything I could write in response to that thing.

I lose. I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Steven Hyden wasted his time, writing about what American bands have been the current best American bands since the 1964 “invasion” of British rock bands. I, along with many many other people, wasted my time reading it. I wasted my time thinking about it. I wasted my time disagreeing with it. I am now wasting my time and energy responding to it. I am blowing it. Large. Big time.

Hyden does a good job, for the most part, with the completely arbitrary self-assigned task of listing the best American bands in each year since 1964. I’m not mad at Steven Hyden for having done this, or for the way he did it, or really for any of the decisions he made. Steven Hyden has a job to do, and it’s to write dumb things about music on the internet for Grantland, that great repository of the collectivist narratives and opinions of the thinking man’s bro, dedicated to cataloging the dumb things they think hard about. This American band championship belt thing is just such a dumb thing. On the internet. For Grantland. I get that. Steven Hyden did his job.


Oh boy. I am really, really not handling this well. I should take a deep breath or something. It’s like take a chill pill, you know? Take a chill pill, me. Oh God. Oh jeez.

There used to not be such a thing as rock music critics. There was for a long time no such thing as rock music, so the lack of critics wasn’t really a problem. Then there became such a thing as rock n’ roll music, and then very soon that music became subsumed as an emblematic nugget within a larger economic and cultural shift which focused on the identification, manipulation, and exploitation of American youth culture. 

Teenagers who listened to rock n’ roll grew up and became adults who listened to rock n’ roll. Different kinds of rock n’ roll emerged. There became such a thing as bullshit fake corporate undangerous rock n’ roll, and confusingly, some of it wasn’t all that bad. There became such a thing as “experimental” rock n’ roll, and nobody really liked it all that much except some people really liked it. Rock n’ roll music, itself a very simple thing, you know, “one two three o’clock, four o’clock, rock,” became ensnarled in a weird and nefarious and crowded and complicated landscape of rock n' roll musiclike entrapments and signifiers. It became kind of helpful, not to mention fun and often funny, to have critics around to sort all of this stuff out and say "YES: Black Sabbath; NO: Jethro Tull." And so there became such a thing as rock music critics. Like within ten to fifteen years after the discovery of rock n’ roll music, which is a pretty fast turnaround if you think about it.

There have been rock music critics ever since, even as rock music itself has remained a mostly very simple thing ensnarled in a complicated landscape which for all its shifts has maintained just about the same level of weirdness. There are less songs about rocking now, but it’s still basically 4/4 blues permutations, and rock acts are still incentivized to abandon the raw wildness of rock n' roll to focus, smartly for them, on making good business decisions. These essential truths have not changed. Do we still need rock music critics now that rock n’ roll has existed for 60 some odd years? Did we ever “need” them in the first place? Who cares? Apparently I do.

Apparently I go running for the nearest word processing software the instant I read Steven Hyden’s assertion, for a very popular website whose readership I am obviously a part of, that LCD Soundsystem was the best band in America from 2004 through 2007. Apparently I’m a moron who has some kind of a deep-seated reaction to that kind of a thing, even though it’s not a thing at all, even though it’s just random untethered information, and giving it even a single backwards glance is giving it the power it should not have, to decide things and destroy things and shape things and mean something. Apparently I’m too damn dumb to relax and get out of the way. Apparently I’m starting to sound like that kid from that video.

I mean, here I am, doing all of this, because I don’t think LCD Soundsystem was the best band in America from 2004 through 2007. That’s what this is really coming down to. That’s my line in the sand. The 85 richest people in the world have as much as the 3.5 BILLION poorest living humans, and my beef is with what I see as undue critical praise for LCD Soundsystem from 2004 to 2007. There are quite a few things wrong with me.

To the extent that it was probably a good idea to have rock music critics within the time and context they emerged in the late 60’s and early 70’s, it’s probably still a good idea. Because there are 85 rich people standing on our necks, profiting somehow from just about everything we do, and because people on our social media feeds are circulating research studies about how public relations people make more money than journalists without questioning the terrible vice-grip reality of the underlying premise that because those 85 people have their boots on our throats, money has to be the reason why people do anything, and because there were other bands in America between 2004 and 2007 which did not suck, and because, crucially, LCD Soundsystem, while endemic of its time, sucks, in a manner also endemic of its time.

LCD Soundsystem sucks.


I’m overreacting, sure, but I have to react to something. I choose to react to the fact that Grantland, a website owned by Disney, which is the 61st largest corporation in the world and is worth over 140 BILLION DOLLARS, which is more dollars than there are MILES BETWEEN HERE AND THE SURFACE OF THE SUN, and which could, with those dollars, end world hunger for four and a half years, is paying Steven Hyden to tell me that while The Stooges were the best band in America in 1973, which is an actual fact, LCD Soundsystem was the best band in America from 2004 to 2007, which depending on your beliefs is either a completely fabricated lie or else another in a long list of obligatory market-driven half-truths which our current corporate media’s critical infrastructure must forever push on the rest of us in order to feed their families.

I am dumb enough to read it, and I am dumb enough to disagree with it, all of it, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about any of it except go write a thing about how LCD Soundsystem actually sucks and everything is actually unfair and I lose. I lose all of it. All the time. Forever.

And so do you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It Won't Be Long Now, For the Thing That's a Thing

By: Kelly McClure

Over the weekend there was a thing. It's still Summer, and Summer is the season for things. A lot of people like to go to things. Sometimes you feel like you want to go to a thing, and then you do. Sometimes you feel like you SHOULD want to go to a thing, and then you do, or you don't. Usually when you feel like you SHOULD go to a thing, and you don't, you feel great. Sometimes when you feel like you should enjoy going to a thing, it turns into you feeling like you SHOULD go to a thing, and then you go, and it's bad. A lot of people like to do things outside in a big clump. A lot of people like to do free things outside, in large parks, where there is music playing, for free, and everyone is there. Like, everyone. Like the whole city, in this park, is there, and you're there too, and it's definitely happening.

Sometimes you leave your home, on the weekend, in clothes. Sometimes you walk a few miles, drinking wine from a sports bottle, all in effort to make it to a thing, and have the thing turn out to be a good idea. Sometimes half way there you stop at a bench and sit down to smoke a cigarette and finish the wine in the sports bottle and think about how you are not actually going to the thing. You are definitely walking towards it. But you are not going to end up going to the thing. You can already feel the "not going to the thing" pull yanking you away from the thing. You intended to go to the thing. You are not going to the thing. All those people are. You're not. 

You are near the thing. You walk around the outside of the thing. There is a thing, and you circle it. You recognize that you are very near the thing. If the thing were an egg, you'd be like a sperm, bouncing around in a little strip of goo, maybe trying to get up in the thing, but also not really caring because you're goo. You're doing what goo does. You're basically doing the best job of being a goo that you can do. You are not going to be making a baby thing today. No baby. No thing. 

Everyone is lining up to go to the thing. Everyone has been lining up for many hours to go to the thing. They are excited about the thing. You are not trying to be in the line for the thing. You are watching the thing, as a thing. You are wondering what it means that you don't try harder to make it so you will actually be in the thing, and not just by the thing. You wonder how going, or not going to the thing will alter the trajectory of your life, as the moving train of a thing that it is. You wonder if your occasional effort put forth towards maybe going to a thing can be seen as a mental or physical weakness, or if your lack of effort put forth towards the thing is the thing that's the thing. You wonder what your proper place in the thing is. You wonder if anyone around you can also feel the pressing, unforgiving burden of being given one life, and having it infringed upon daily by the societal taxing of human interaction. At the thing.

Did you go to the thing? It sounded so good at the thing. I got impregnated twice at the thing. I heard that broadcasted live from the thing. I got to drink for free at the thing, and then we went to this other thing. Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Time Is NOW To Crush Your Opponents

By: Ben Seeder

Imagine yourself crushing the skulls of your enemies. Imagine yourself finally feeling good about being able to look people in the eye again. Envision yourself climbing to the top of a genuine corporate ladder, but one constructed from the marrow of promise and opportunity. Be honest, you were never meant for non-greatness. You were born to live life in the fun department. You were put here to command men so why not achieve maximum growth potential through new media platforms and evolving digital landscapes? The time is now.  

Let’s be serious for five minutes: anyone who is not you is a fucking coward. They’re non-citizens in the corporate community and forever will be because they don’t have the horse sense for regional growth, let alone global expansion. They’ll never bathe in the golden sunlight of corporate pleasure. Everybody knows it. Everybody talks about it. It’s all going digital. Everything’s going digital, and you’re on the ground floor. Pretty soon, there won’t even be anymore TV shows, everybody knows that. Why not choose to blast off on a rocket ride for Mars? It is honestly that simple.

It will start like this: We establish a strong, loyal grassroots clientele that cements a foundation of trust and results. A generous base salary to begin, with handsome steak benefits awarded to top performers. Once you establish a healthy regional leadership presence, diversification is sure to follow, that’s no secret. From there, we capitalize off digital inclinations and internet tendencies. Interest rates will compound and you’ll notice the corporate playing field will begin to level off. Be warned, your life will begin to change. Strangers will come out of the woodwork. People will want a piece of you. I suggest you crush them. You’re in the big leagues now and people are talking. Here’s the good news: they were never really your friends and they’ve been out to destroy you since day one.

Do not be rattled by your family’s surprise at your new identity. They will want to touch your hair, your jewelry. They will compliment your car. They are entirely ignorant to promising business ventures. They will never ride in company jets. They will never eat fresh lobster. They wear carpal tunnel gloves. You’re PF Chang and they’re Panda Express. They hook up with each other at SeƱor Frogs and you’ll be dating reality stars in helicopters. Let them talk, they’re not long for the bone orchard. Your success will lie in the execution of vital tasks with the ability to correctly identify vital market patterns and trends. In this idyllic financial paradise, you’ll forget you’re not backstage at Max’s Kansas City partying balls with Justin Beaver.   

Doubts and second guesses will become a thing of the past. Push these strange and unhelpful feelings to the bottom and never look back. Leave your friends and their Y2K mentalities behind and when you run into them pretend you don’t know them. You play to win, and they will tell their grandchildren with awe and wonder about the day you decided to crush them. Hard work conquers all, just kidding, it’s all about connections baby; are you an idiot? We’ll be eating rare premium-cut steak with everyone who counts, that’s a motherfucking promise.

Once you have maximized grassroots brand loyalty you will expand outward like the Russian Empire, easily acquiring essential and lucrative markets like the Pacific Northwest, etc. The competitors are raising their eyebrows? People say you’re moving too fast? People say you’re not technically qualified for a corporate leadership position? People say you want the world and want it yesterday? Who are these clowns? Let me at them. The blood will be everywhere and I won’t stop till I get enough. I say we act like The Undertaker and Tombstone them all straight to Hell. You close a deal? We’re at Chipotle in fifteen minutes eating American beef tubes, I don’t give a shit.

All the while market research will identify and isolate preferred clientele. Some clients will prove unreasonable and you will quickly and concisely wash your hands of them and the whole reeking business. Sadly, it’s unavoidable and it is the price of increasing corporate visibility in the new digital marketplace. We will massage social media relationships without exploiting internet tendencies. Are you ready to be part of a sleek, new brand that screams “sex” without needing to go online for it? Are you ready for an upwardly mobile position with real earning potential? Clandestine growth opportunities in major markets await you.  

Clowns. Charlatans. Imposters. These are the three demons you must slay to maximize market growth potential. “It’s about the friendships you make on the way up.” You know who said that? Me neither, but I heard he died broke and alone. As an upstanding corporate citizen in charge of his own destiny, your destruction will be plotted with regularity. I implore you to obliterate the competition, to leave them dead and bloodied at the bottom of some forgotten sinkhole business park office in Boca Raton, wondering what happened, effectively ending their life in a manner as dark and as final as possible. Ingratiate yourself towards key market real estate possessors. Play tennis with them and firmly establish yourself as a leader in digital advancement. Unloyal connections must be severed instantly and negative rumors about the party in question are encouraged.

You know how to perform. You know how to win. You know how to command a room of prospective buyers and deliver. One look at you, and I said to myself “Who’s this confident champion capable of competing outside his paygrade?” Not everyone can handle total domination. The truth is, some walls need wallpaper. What does that mean? I don’t even know what it means, but you know what I mean.

So I guess what I’m saying is come fly with me. The time is now and I don’t talk like this to everyone. Once I get your bank account and routing numbers we can complete the application and get started. You’re going to kill, I promise.