Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New: Four Fresh Sites

THE INTERNET, April 27 - An average of eight new websites get added to the world wide web every day. I know the people behind four of today's:

- Neil Burke's new art site. This is, to the best of my knowledge, the only place where you can safely purchase a copy of "Oid" for your dorm room. Or perhaps you're not in college quite yet, and you are instead looking for a juicy quote for your high school yearbook. Again, is where you want to be.

- Neil Burke's new blog. I have great hopes for this, and I envy all of us for being around to see its origins. It's like if you or I got to peer over Thomas Jefferson's shoulder as he wrote up the DOI. Don't sneeze!

photo by John Michaels, but only because I was driving

- Jesse Pearson's new site. Jesse is the former editor of Vice, and hands down the best of many great editors I have worked with. There are interviews with Elmore Leonard and William Gibson and photos of Omar Little and the whole thing is simply delightful and classy. If you work an office job, than I am going to ask that you hold off on those TPS reports and instead spend the morning reading Jesse's website.

- Noelle Burke's blog. Noelle runs Xenotees, secretly runs Monoroid, and without her work Etsy would still be a one-room yarn store in Sheepshead Bay. Why was this concealed from me for so long?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Archive: Best Business Writing

FROM THE ARCHIVES, April 20 - I am, at heart, a frustrated business writer. My old column in Punk Planet (2000-2003[?]) was intended as a forum for business writing in the least businessy publication I knew of. I think the idea was to give my writing some focus. It didn't work - those columns were still pretty disjointed - but it did give me a yearning to someday work on actual finance writing. When I'm grown up. In my late 70's.

Of the Punk Planet pieces, there's the 1,582 word "Indices Of Doom" (discussing an economic downturn that feels quaint now), and the 1,590 word "One Year Of Boring Magazine Subscriptions".

Then there are three pieces from my old websites; the 555 word "Time To Fight", the 590 word "Notes From The 2001 Mordam Convention", and a 609 word piece on the finances of my old band.

Finally, there's the 500 word "The Crying Of Lot '77", a clever little piece from the Village Voice (online). If you are a steady reader of this blog and you also happen to work at Bloomberg Businessweek, seriously: put me in the game. I'm great with deadlines, have decent personal grooming skills, and a simply hilarious resume.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Archive: Best Film Writing

FROM THE ARCHIVE, April 15 - Writing about cinema is tough, in that sitting through most movies is tough. But I have gathered a few decent, small scale film pieces over the last few years. Let me get this graphic out of the way, and then I'll provide links.

From my old, pre-blog websites, there's the 778 word "Grief On Mute" (written back in the days when I was more charitable towards audiences at the Egyptian; at the last film I saw there, a drunk behemoth squeezed in next to me and produced his own flask and martini glass), my 989-word review of 2003's "The Core", and a 1,050-word look at the straight-to-DVD "Last Best Chance".

Then there are a few gems from this blog, such as an 817-word review of "What We Do Is Secret", a 1,018-word review of the Turkish non-masterpiece "Kurtlar Vadisi Irak", and an 841-word review of the near-masterpiece "Times Square".

Also, I conducted a delightful interview with filmmaker Alex Cox for the Village Voice. At least it was delightful for me. Enjoy??

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Problem: Perpetual Mess Machines

RECURRING FAILURE DEPT., APRIL 13 - My eBay store - and the affiliated auction of my old fanzine, Dear Jesus - has come to an end. Despite my careful bookkeeping, the whole thing devolved into a shameful and protracted clusterfuck. Dealing with the pricing bureaucracies at eBay, Kinkos, and Paypal was like negotiating with the East German government. I could never get a consistent per-unit dollar amount on the project, and every month eBay hit me with seller fees that equaled two utility bills. It felt counterintuitive. It's like if you wrench $90 worth of copper piping out of your basement, but when you call the guy at the recycling plant, he tells you there's an $88 processing fee. How badly do you want your two bucks? In my case, the answer is Not So Much. These are mere first world problems only occasionally masquerading as second world problems. There's nothing unique about my situation.

Except there is one thing unique about my situation: I hate my product. The jolly Fedex Kinko's staff made this reality especially awkward, what with their insistent cheerfulness and helpful staff. Years ago, a Kinkos employee actually chewed me out over issues of content. I know the drill. It therefore seems a tad dishonest for these nice people to now ignore the awful smut I must enlist their help in manufacturing. When the editor of San Francisco's MRR politely requested a copy for review, I declined (although this would've been problematic anyway) on the grounds that I don't really want anyone to know about Dear Jesus. But how does one manufacture, distribute, and market something on the extreme DL?

So Dear Jesus is now available through this blog*. I'm doing it without the use of eBay, and it's a print-on-demand scenario, which means the orders could take a few days longer to make. I have no idea how long I'll be making and selling these things. The hassle factor is definitely one large consideration.

The humiliation factor is another. My original hope was that the exculpatory introduction would insulate me from all the bad writing and bad ideas I cooked up 20 years ago. But I know that's not really possible. Each little zine packet I send out into the world is another entity representing a "me" that no longer exists. It's confusing, and frustrating. Even though PDFs of the zine aren't online, the mean spirited imp responsible for it is still out there, an autonomous persona with a seemingly open-ended lifespan. I can choose to ignore him, or I can choose to wring a few bucks out of him. But he - the ghost of me - isn't going anywhere.

NY Times writer Jonathan Dee nailed this phenomenon in January 2010:

Not only can the past never really be erased; it co-exists, in cyberspace, with the present, and an important type of context is destroyed. This is one reason that intellectual inflexibility has become such a hallmark of modern political discourse, and why, so often, no distinction is recognized between hypocrisy and changing your mind.

Again, my predicament isn't special. Many people - millions - find themselves typecast and pigeonholed by their former selves. There's nothing unique about my situation.

And yet, again, there is one other thing unique about my situation: the Fear Of Smell blog. This flattering, well-intentioned site documents a compilation album my record label released nineteen years ago. It's a great record, and although I had no real part in its greatness - besides being in the right place at the right time - I did design a wonderful cover for the second pressing in 1998.

The F.O.S. blog, however, focuses on the covers of the first pressing. I did not design a cover for that run, great or otherwise. Instead, friends and distributors were given markers and hundreds of blank record jackets. It didn't occur to me until far too late that many of these covers would be supreme bummers, and it didn't occur to me until it was really far too late that someone might actually want to document all these bummers. Meaning I now have a website where I can regularly find fresh horrors I have inflicted on the world without my own knowledge, as if I were a naughty amnesiac or a chronic black-out drunk. It's a portal of inexhaustible mortification without precedent. I haven't yet figured out how to make a dime off this particular perpetual mess machine, but when I do you'll be the first to know about it.

* 5/5/11 - screw it, I'm done. No more for sale. What a nightmare.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New: Null Detector Revisited

THE INTERNET, April 6 - My old bandmate Andy Coronado has just posted his salute to DC outsider bands on the LA Record site. Years ago, he and I had envisioned this as "Null Detector", a specialty radio show on KSPC (meaning we were going to pitch it to KSPC). The idea was that each night would be affectionately devoted to the loser bands of a different major US city's early punk scene. But we just weren't able to get our acts together.

Except for the t-shirt, Andy did a bang-up job with the concept. I'm glad this exists.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Archive: Best Music Writing

FROM THE ARCHIVES, April 4 - My computer tells me I've written 82,379 words about music in my lifetime. It stands to reason that a fraction of these pieces would end up in the Not So Bad category. A fragment of those articles are in the Almost Good category, and a wee selection of those pieces rise to Kind Of Readable grade. These are the articles I want to share with you.

I gave the OC Weekly a few good pieces. There's the 605 word "Extreme Extremeness",the 647 word "The Disappointment Remains The Same", the badly retitled "Beyond NC-17", and the contemplative, 866 word "Ashlee's Jam".

Then there's the 888 word "Best Records" for DC's Dusted Magazine, and the 800 word "The Formula", which appeared in The Stranger.

Of course if you're a masochist, a night shift security guard, or have jury duty, you can always read the 9,263 word "Survival Of The Streets". This one counts as a film piece as well, but there are plenty of words about music towards the end. Enjoy??

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hard Drive Miscellany (2011)

BALONEY TIME, April 1 - After a computer virus sent my personal files all over the globe ten years ago, I do all my work on an offline Dell 2400. The 200 GB hard drive - a luxury when I got it - chugs away like an espresso machine. Occasionally I take little excursions through its vast and unordered files to see what kind of weird shit I accumulated during the aughties.

I designed a website for my pal Anthony a long time ago. It didn't really do anything except pop up links to the Cro-Mags site, and eventually the domain expired. D'oh.

A few years ago, I and Tara and Justin and Sarah all went to the Renaissance Fair in Irwindale. The ladies had full 17th century costumes ready to go (what woman doesn't?), but Justin and I didn't have anything from that time period. I salvaged a few pieces from my old Uncle Sam outfit and found a furry camera bag for a hat. Justin apparently murdered a hippie drifter for his duds. At the Faire, we encountered a surprising amount of animosity, with several blacksmithees and pizza booth wenches calling us "jam band guys". I have never seen so much sunburned back-cleavage as I have in that one day.

Early man. I always keep one of these on hand for a few yukks. No matter how bad things get, I'll never be as stupid as this guy. What a bozo!

Only photo from the old fridge. We had 200 of these little portraits up there. It was impressive. Moral: always document your refrigerator.

Found this near my car in 2003(?). If I'd still been living in Jersey City, I would've assumed a Santeria curse had been placed on me. Out here, it just means someone's crummy band didn't work out, and they probably had a meltdown after a bad practice or show and threw this out the car window while driving to a strip bar.

I don't know what this fellow is doing in my computer. Shoo!