Wednesday, March 28, 2012

coding the self

This post first appeared on Myspace, Jan 3, 2004.

These over-HTML'd myspace profile pages are as intriguing as they are annoying...the rush to say everything about oneself, all at once, in a concatenation, nay, an explosion! of pictures and visual motifs (and/or a song, while the text, by contrast, becomes barely legible), a kind of hysterical insistence, identity by proxy, as though a list of favorite movies were not already enough to flatten subjectivity into a display of effects. There is in this rush, this hysteria, a certain honesty. Overwhelm me with your truth! And when you do, thankfully, there will be nothing left to desire and no speech.


This post first appeared on cranky dilettante, February 17th, 2009.

In futile symbolic protest of the new Facebook TOS, I’m deleting my one “Note” in Facebook and reposting it here.

March 15, 2008

Yesterday morning I read — mostly sympathetically — an opinion piece on Salon about youth and the Internet ( One bit of diction pricked me: “Teenagers today read and write for fun; it’s part of their social lives. We need to start celebrating this unprecedented surge, incorporating it as an educational tool instead of meeting it with punishing pop quizzes and suspicion” (emphasis added).

For the last year, since the so-called surge of occupation forces in Iraq, I’ve been taking note of the use of “surge” in the press, on- and off-line, and I believe that its use has increased. Admittedly it’s possible that endless prattle about the surge in Iraq has sensitized me to the word, permitting me to take note, whereas before the word would have slipped past, invisibly, as it were. But I don’t think so. I would contend that, now, everything can be a surge, is capable of surging: profits, hospital admissions, inflation, companies, support for presidential candidates, market demand, unemployment claims, liabilities, interest in an issue, crime, sports teams, prices, emotions, and so on; support for the troop surge itself, if there is any, can be said to surge. Now, “surge” has become so current as to be able to describe the increase in its use: a surge of writers using “surge.”

This is not to say that “surge,” deployed figuratively, cannot accommodate this broad range of uses. Rather, reflecting on the current context of this range, I want to ask to what extent the militarization of the U.S. is accompanied by, or bound up with, a rhetorical militarization. After all, I’ve just written “deployed” in connection with the use of a word.

A friend commented nearly a year later, writing:

Very astute. And not to have elicited a comment. Pearls before swine. I’d like to suggest “seiche” as a possible antidote to the overuse of “surge.” A seiche, I learned today, is a standing wave in an enclosed body of water that, due to its long wavelength, is often imperceptible to the eye

I’m thinking that “seiche” could be used to describe long, subtle trends, that go unnoticed to “observers in boats on the surface.” Say, ramping up of law enforcement surveillance after 9/11, or rising rents in NYC.

It is not a sexy, militarized word. The other problem is one of pronunciation. “Pronounced “/seɪʃ/, or approximately saysh)”, it does not rhyme with quiche. Please advise.

"Bones of the Hills"

This post first appeared on Goodreads, Jul 12, 09.

These Genghis novelizations are fun. However, I was annoyed and disappointed by the author's inexplicable decision to refer to the Persians and Persianized Turks encountered by the Mongols in this installment as Arabs, e.g., the Khwarezmids were decidedly not Arabs! Such an incredible departure from history requires an explanation, but the historical note at the end of the novel doesn't mention it, though it does mention a number of much less drastic alterations to the record. How to account for this disastrous lapse? Is the author stupid or lazy or both? Or perhaps he needs to fire his editor.

old school detritus

This post first appeared on MOG, March 19, 2007.

The Maggot will be having a house guest while I am away next week visiting The Fam, so I’ve tried to clean up my desk area, which is in the living/guest room. Part of the clean up has been to reorganize the piles and piles and piles of tapes in light of my new motivation for continuing with the tape digitization project, mainly MOG. Yes, these MOG posts are affording me some focus on the process. And in the process I came across some (7) low hanging fruit, i.e. had already been captured and just needed to be cleaned up and tagged...

Two tracks, one from Coffin Break, the other from Skin Yard, from an old Kiss covers compilation (from vinyl to tape to mp3: the results sound, mmm, iffy).
Two more tracks, one from Coffin Break again, the other from the incomparable Alice Donut (Brooklyn?), from an old Buzzcocks covers compilation (again, from vinyl to tape to mp3).
A side of an old Coffin Break 7”, Freebird/Pop Fanatic.
So that’s five covers of quote-unquote classics from predominantly Seattle bands. In fact – though without the original sleeves I’m only guessing – I’ll bet all of these were recorded by Jack Endino. If the so-called Seattle sound exists then it’s determined exactly by the tireless work of Endino in the 80s and 90s. Anyway. I must have more covers compilations featuring Seattle bands lurking in the towers of tapes. I recall that they were all the rage among the SubPop/related folks.

Two tracks from Tad’s 1989 “God’s Balls,” which still fucking rules (and was also recorded by Endino, natch). When you buy the “Salt Lick” CD you get a chunk of “God’s Balls,” but for some reason these two gems, “Hollow Man” and “Nipple Belt,” aren’t there (along with the first couple tracks on the album). “Nipple Belt,” especially, totally rocks me...and not in a nostalgic way. I love this song – long, throaty yells from Tad and a punishing two guitar attack over a simple and fuzzy bass line: “And I need some kerosene / I need some antifreeze / to keep my girls young.” Word.

tweet #5

annual blog post

This post first appeared on cranky dilettante, March 4th, 2010.

my messenger bag — made in good ol’spokane, wa, in about ’90 or ’91 and guaranteed for life, though the manufacturer has been out of business for years — my messenger bag — the one that has served me daily through college, grad school, long beach, seattle, hijinks, tomfoolery, work days, lost days, fat days, thin days, days in cairo, beijing, yangon, deep winter commutes in cambridge — my messenger bag — the nylon of which is now so thin you can see through it — my messenger bag needs to be retired. won’t you recommend its replacement? i’m looking for a hand-made-in-usa, over-the-shoulder courier bag to join me for the next 20 years...

after images

This post first appeared on MOG, February 10, 2008.

In response to my post about Ben MacMillan, Pleaseeasaur wrote to say, "It's so wild to me how certain albums or bands conjure up specific eras and even specific moments in my memory." I agree. I am always blown away by how microscopically certain bands/albums/songs evoke moments and stretches of time. I can't listen to "Joe's friend's band" (that was how Pleaseeasaur's Superchunk, "Foolish" tape was labeled) without seeing the two of us, driving in his yellow Volvo, on Sportsman Club Road on Bainbridge Island, on a relatively sunny day, with a small cassette deck between our two seats. Where were we going that day? The destination cannot be recalled. The journey unfolds in my mind with radical clarity: we turn off 305 onto Sportsman Club, the car begins to climb a long, gradual hill, the song is "Like a Fool."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


yeah, at about 1:18 into "blossoms from boils," the split cranium album pretty much forces you to stop what you're doing and hear it out..all of it...including the freaky intro in "black binding plague"...all the way to the weirdass, mesmerizing finale...

tweet #4

RIP, Ben

This post first appeared on MOG, February 9, 2008. Since then various bits have been fixed, the photo added.

Ben McMillan died recently. I am really saddened by this news. My sincere condolences to Ben's fiance, family, and friends—and fans.

My friend and fellow fan Pleaseeasaur wrote me yesterday to point me to a Seattle PI blog with some songs and videos from the two bands Ben sang for: Skin Yard and Gruntruck, both of which I adored when I was growing up.

I still love both of these bands. For me, Skin Yard's music has aged better, maybe. Or perhaps it's simply that Skin Yard was one of the first bands, along with another SY band, Sonic Youth, to obsess me completely—and not only because of the coincidence of shared initials. Of course I have all of the albums and most of the singles recorded by Skin Yard and Gruntruck, and then some. My favorite Skin Yard incarnation is the lineup of Ben, ingenius Jack Endino, drummer Scott McCullum a.k.a. Norman Scott (who also drummed for Gruntruck), and bassist D. House (weirdly, a dozen years ago, I was involved in interviewing Daniel for a job to which he applied). Skin Yard's '88 album Hallowed Ground, which I'm listening to right now, feels classic. Every time I listen to Skin Yard, Hallowed Ground in particular, I get choked up on a wave of memories and flashbacks from my youth in the Pacific Northwest. It's raining, I'm driving through a seemingly endless tunnel of evergreens.

I tried to go to every all-ages show Skin Yard played in Seattle during my last two years of high school. Once I stayed for an especially long encore and missed the last Winslow-bound ferry. I slept on a wooden bench at the Colman dock. I was sweaty, it was cold, but I didn't care. Seems there was always a large pit when Skin Yard played, but I felt that it was a safe space, that someone would pick you up if you fell, people were smiling, laughing. I credit Ben's community-minded, almost fatherly, regard for his fans as the reason for these slam dancing utopias. I can't number the nights that my friend Josh and I drove around Kitsap County in his old Audi, listening to Skin Yard and smoking nasty Benson & Hedges menthols.—Or, driving along in an altered state, having to pull over during the song "G.O.D." because I was experiencing something like an epiphany. The song remains one of my favorites: the way Ben's saying "talk" over and over organically fuses into the rhythm of the song's opening moments to become a "tock," a haunting, extra bit of percussion, of time.—Or, driving with Josh to Olympia to see Nirvana, singing along to "Drunk on Kerosene" at the top of my lungs. Ben's long scream in the song "Hallowed Ground" is one of the most spine-tingling rock vox in my music collection. I had the Skin Yard t-shirt with the nasty Giger image on the front and "too much acid / too many people / too little to do" on the back. My mother refused to touch the shirt, so its purchase marked the moment when I began doing my own laundry. I wore the shirt so frequently that, when it was retired to a cedar chest with other scrapbook-like objects, only the printing was holding it together, the cloth having disintegrated.

I think Ben was from Poulsbo, the tiny town where I grew up, but, at least, he hailed from the same side of the sound? maybe Suquamish? I think I wanted to be Ben McMillan. After my first Skin Yard show, I started wearing jeans and black leather belts and shoes like Ben. I grew my hair, had earrings. I formed a band with friends, The Dorx. Whether unconsciously or not, I tried to imitate Ben's vocals. Lots of effects, tight versification, some religious themes. I listened to Gruntruck's album Push on a daily basis during my sophomore year in college. It was the soundtrack for my bout with a certain addiction and of my coming to my senses several months later and recommitting myself to my studies.

One of my birthdays coincided with a Gruntruck show at the OK Hotel (I can't quite triangulate the date, must have been my 18th, spring of '92). The logic of the coincidence was compelling: I took the ferry to Seattle for the occasion. Gruntruck played with savage precision that night. "Move in Silence" was perfectly executed and listening to it now, years later, gives me a shiver. Ben high-fived me when I was being squeezed against the stage by the moshing crowd behind me. He was drenched in perspiration, his long hair matted to his forehead. I was ecstatic. The evening is captured in the black and white photo inside the Push jacket: the top of my head can be seen just below Ben on stage; I am facing the crowd, as though part of the performance, which I was, for, despite the aural brutality of his music, there is beauty: Ben had a way of linking himself to the audience to create a momentary antidote to alienation. He will be missed.

tweet #3

Monday, March 26, 2012

four old friends

This post first appeared on MOG, March 18, 2007.

As I mentioned in my second post, for months I have been digitizing my old cassette tapes, which number in the hundreds. The population is uneven and mostly marked by various periods of poverty: from albums I taped in college before selling the disks for cigarette money to rare and out of print vinyl I taped over the years. Some of these, of course, will not be digitized because, hearing them now, I think they suck. Others are cause for disbelief: how could I have gone for so long without hearing this? Last night's digitizing falls into the latter category:

Jesse Bernstein, "The Sad Bag" (1) an out of print 1990 Trigger Recordings cassette-only release, recorded live at COCA (Seattle), with a cover designed by Madame Talbot. (Does anyone know what the fifth track is titled?) I originally copied this from Ben Blankenship (2) back in the very early 90s; I was just finishing high school. Ah, the stories I could tell about seeing Bernstein read. His "opening" for Jello Biafra at the OK Hotel back in, uh, 90? 91? sticks out in my mind: it was very crowded and hot, and Bernstein repeatedly dowsed the crowd with water from a plastic gallon jug.

Steel Pole Bath Tub, unidentified cd5 (3). I have no idea when this came out (and haven't been able to ID it; offers of help gratefully accepted), and the sound quality is awful. But, hey, I was able to preserve two of my favorite SPBT songs. In college, tens of times, I saw SPBT at the apparently now defunct Satyricon (Portland). They frequently appeared on the bill with Heavy Johnson Trio (whose bassist was a cook at the then recently opened Delta Cafe in SE and whose diminutive guitarrist usually appeared wearing a huge viking helmet, complete with horns), as well as the fucking amazing Gern Blanston, long since broken up -- a huge loss for PDX music. This SPBT is a very special recording for me, as I copied it from a dear friend who passed away a few years ago and who was my constant companion and driver for all those nights at the Satyricon: Julia Harrison, peace be upon her (4).

Both Bernstein and SPBT have significant online afterlives: here and here, respectively.

tweet #2


This post first appeared on cranky dilettante, August 2nd, 2008.

About ten years ago I lent Ali Ahmed my copy of VN’s The Gift. I can’t recall now the precise reason for his request. Professor Ahmed was one of my favorite people at Queens College. I savored our short, energetic conversations about marxism, Professor Ahmed saying, “Yes, yes, yes,” and nodding his head rapidly while we vibrated in the field of students coming and going across the threshold of Rathaus. I forgot to ask him to return the The Gift before I moved out of The City a couple of years later. That copy has become a gift in its own right. It had been a member of the full set of VN’s novels that my parents presented me with when, after the first semester of my junior year of college, I announced that I was going to read every word the man had ever written. Imagine my delight — yes, I just typed, “Imagine my delight” — when the box under the Christmas tree was ripped open to reveal the tremendous bulk of VN’s novels. That delight was repeated and intensified infinitely in the actual reading, which took me a semester and a summer and cued my senior thesis on Pale Fire. Today, at the Cambridgeside Galleria Borders Bookstore, I finally bought a new copy of The Gift.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

tweet #1

horde hoard

The following first appeared on Facebook, Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 6:57am.

the therapist was right.

in any case, as i was throwing away a dossier of notes, jottings, papers, correspondence, etc. from about a decade ago, i came across an envelope filled with fragments that were intended for but never made it online. let's listen in to this younger self:

"The Tile Bar is actually called WCOU Radio, and it still sort of sucks."

written inside an empty matchbook from Circa Tabac, 32 Watts Street: "'The wound is healed only by the sword that smote you.'"

"St. Nick's Pub -- St. Nick & 147 (Sugar Hill beer?) Did I pay for the cab?"

in an increasingly illegible hand: "days go by days go by days go by days go by days go by days go by"

were these fragments and many others wrapped up in an envelope that also contained a plastic shopping bag from gourmet garage? yes, they were.


If the cognitive map of The City that grew in me, in my 20s, consisted of a dynamic network of places/spaces in which to drink and smoke, then my image of this city, Berlin, now, is an expanding archipelago of Kinderspielplatzen Kinderspielplätze: Rüdesheimer Platz, Hohenstaufenplatz, Bolzplatz Böckhstraße, Hasenheide, Tempelhof, Grimmstraße ("Grimmi"), Hobrechtstraße at Pflügerstraße (what do people call that one?), Victoriapark, etc. The beer garden next to the Spielplatz in Victoriapark represents a possible, personal sort of point de capiton...