a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Issue #15 (October 14, 2009)

Venice, Italy

Photo by Jon Boshard

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the desk of Joe Carducci...

Brendan Mullen, RIP.
Brendan set up the Masque practice rooms and club in 1977 and ran Club Lingerie too. I got back in touch with him in '05 while working on my Enter Naomi book. I intended to quote liberally from his two books, We Got the Neutron Bomb, and Lexicon Devil. I remembered introducing him to Naomi Petersen at the Lingerie so she'd have the run of the place, and got to talk to him about those years and look through his archive. I was struck by his enthusiasm for drumming and he even hoped to get back in touch with Greg Ginn and play with him; I couldn't help him there but he wanted me to tell him about anything he didn't already know about the music scenes in California. I had the feeling he had a Neutron Bomb Vol. 2 in him the way he asked about the LAFMS, Monitor, the Stains, Saint Vitus, Across the River, Secret Hate, the Sleepers, Toiling Midgets, Fang... I made him a lot of tapes. He was still very enthusiastic about what had happened in Los Angeles in those years and very proud of his involvement. Perhaps there will be additional material to be published under his name. That will surely be more essential reading. It's nice to see his death and life noted in the papers and websites, though the NYT misrepresents L.A. as it was, in its obituary today. But that's the task they've often assumed.

LA Times obit

LA Weekly's best of Brendan Mullen


The Rhythmless Method.
This scratches the surface of an interesting, rarely visited topic -- if it‘s true we've slid from Patriarchy to Gynocracy and now at risk of outright Gynarchy then this might be its last mention anywhere. There were all kinds of social side-effects of the Pill, including dramatic rises in the rates of rape, incest, STDs, the spread of caddishness now that it no longer required the soul-chill to shrug off a girl’s complete ruination. Even more perversely the Pill contributed to the decline of racism. But these University of Sheffield Drs Alexandra Alvergne and Virpi Lumma are noting that females reward more assertive, masculine men only during their fertile days, “However, if women are taking the Pill they no longer have fertile days.” Exit macho Steve McQueen, Enter user-friendly Zac Efron, according to the Daily Mail editors. Conde Nast meanwhile ties its Glamour and GQ mag sites readerships together in a new dating site based on fashion-sense. Presumably they have data suggesting that GQ’s readership is heterosexual.


The Chicago Way.
I’d focus on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee itself, vicarious sanctimonious livers-down of Alfred Nobel’s invention of the Anarchist's best friend dynamite, if only because in all their confidence that their every pronouncement is a learning opportunity for Americans, they’ve hurt the one they love. Actually it’s their own profile they lovingly tend to so I guess that wouldn't matter to them. But the Trib’s John Kass is worth reading for his funny recap of the 12 days of the Obama presidency that netted him the nom, plus his reminder that Illinois ex-Governor George Ryan was also nominated for one just prior to his trial and incarceration. The Nobel Peace Prize! What dreams are made of... Them things is shiny!


Predictioneering by the good Doctor.


New books by Ehrenreich and Derbyshire. Parallel lines do intersect; cheer up.


"There was no such thing as Tribeca back then." James Marshall on Lester Bangs.


The Community Method.
I made near-mentions of this syndrome in my Brave New Class essay in NV6. European politicians aren’t like normal ones like say in Chicago where they win Peace Prizes. No, in Europe politicians are mean and rotten and they, being to those manners born, do dislike their voters intensely. It’s a class thing and they can’t help trying to sign into law a whole lot of unreadable lingo translated into all those other constituent Latinate mumbo-jumbos so as to place an impenetrable wall of words between their prerogatives as royal-manqué and the judgment of the citizenry. But that doesn’t mean European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso wants the new post of President of the European Council to become a President of Europe, somebody like Tony Blair who would relegate him to paper-pushing in Brussels. Maybe Barroso has begun to appreciate the Czech check on things. Gideon Rachman in the FT suspects the dead hand of Jean Monnet behind the G20 as well. The mechanism of term limits seemed a mistake to me once, but who can say, maybe someday it will take Hal or Skynet or Gort to relieve us of these lawyers who specialize in the kind of international law that exists at the expense of free nations which are inclined to respect law, and to the profit of tyrannies which are not.


Roman's Method.
Sunday’s NYT finally put some seventies context to the Roman Polanski extradition story, now that all of his defenders have hurt his case. Since I’m not in Wyoming I am unable to dig out the one copy of the old L.A. Free Press that I saved from my first year out there in 1977. I was a pretty naïve 21 year-old when I got to Hollywood which was certainly the correct place to go for a cure. Reading the leaked police and hospital reports on the 13 year-old model’s condition and complaint because I had liked "Knife in the Water", and "Chinatown", made an impression on me and even influenced a couple of my scripts, now that I think about it. Not many of those forensic details have surfaced in accounts today. But this piece quotes two psychiatrists from that distant planet, 1977 Los Angeles: “Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century. While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.” Polanski’s childhood was to have been the basis for Jerzy Kosinki’s novel, The Painted Bird, when everyone stopped believing that it was based on its author's own life -- soon no-one even believed he’d authored it -- great book though. Polanski also had Nastassja Kinski at 15 when they made "Tess" in 1979, but of course she was Klaus Kinski’s daughter so perhaps Roman’s the plaintiff there. Among his wives he claimed to be happiest with Sharon Tate, so there you go. He feared psychoanalysis would destroy his art and preferred that French screenwriters do that.


BBC: Cooling Hotting Up.
Global Cooling is still Climate Change so everyone's right, everyone’s wrong. It’s called myopia, one of many human conditions each of which opens the door to a form of vanity. One where one’s fervent wish appears granted on a scale that seems existential and so quite sublime. Some activists sync up with al-Qaeda’s interest in the glories of the 8th century. Were our labs to master the moving around of atoms to allow for total 100% efficiency of solar energy conversion and transfer, many of our finest citizens would cry real tears as the rest of us zip around in our new solar-hellacious-mobiles. Plenty of our fellow citizens are now political combinations of The Puritans and The Indians. They fancy the stone age and are too socially concerned to bear to sight of others rambling around to their hearts content. I'm surprised the ELF hasn’t taken to blowing up those isolated wind-turbines out west. Or PETA for that matter as birds are batted out of the sky by the blades. They used to tour hydroelectric dams and geo-thermal power plants too, but turned on them for aesthetic reasons when no others came to mind.


Steven F. Hayward’s parsing of the question of conservatism’s animacy is fair enough, though typically media-unsavvy for what goes on in the Washington Post and academe and think tanks -- Hayward is with American Enterprise Institute. He forgets in his contrasting Glenn Beck’s television program with the late William F. Buckley’s that Buckley lost his hour-long program in 1988. He was then shoehorned with his verbose guests into useless half-hour debate formats, and that was on PBS! “The Firing Line” began on WOR in 1966 and featured Buckley interviewing someone interesting for forty minutes before introducing a three guest questioners. These guest questioners were gifted grad students at top schools. Later there'd be one examiner, Pat Buchanan, Michael Kinsley, Mark Green, among them. I saw Buckley do a segment on cable news during his last year and as soon as he began talking I knew it would end clumsily with the host cutting him off and moving on to the usual unproductive mid-day info-flow, and that was Fox! So Hayward’s critique of television and radio programming, like most critiques, is dated and irrelevant. CSPAN is there for you when you want it; everything else is commercially-paced programming, including public television. People can learn from different formats what they seek and precious little else. I’ve seen Glenn Beck recently since my parents watch him and I can report that he does some good writing for his show and is often making subtler points than one imagines he could when you first hear liberals sticking pins into some new media titan of their imagination.


Empire, Multitude, and now, drumroll... Commonwealth (all Harvard).
Hardt and Negri are hard at work rewriting Marxist theory to keep up with the ongoing, accelerating Revolution of the Bourgeoisie, which, if Marx is to be believed and Karl seemed to forget this himself, must first churn through all familial, national, and cultural ground before it destroys its own root system and some bunch of college professors takes over in the name of a working class wishing for nothing so much as a Goddamn soul-destroying factory job. We can only pray our heroes Michael and Antonio might still be alive and out of prison when that day comes.


Lewis Sorley in Monday’s WSJ on Vietnam’s possible relevance to the Vietnam syndrome.


Ottoman revisionism.
After 9/11 it seemed to me that the West needed to rethink its casual dismissal of the fears of Turkey’s secular successors to Atatürk in the military, the ruling party, and academe. Maybe the hijab and all the rest of female dress issues are a form of fundamentalist patriarchal bullying that needs redress. This column by Soner Cagaptay interestingly probes whether the Ottoman Caliphate itself needs rethinking, at least as to whether it was actually the first step in the Westernization of Turkey and therefore is misunderstood by both the secularists and the Islamists.


And now a Brief Youtube History of SPARROW and STEPPENWOLF:

JACK LONDON & THE SPARROWS - “If You Don't Want My Love”
First single off of their one album released in Canada, featuring the Edmonton brothers, drummer Jerry and guitarist Dennis, a.k.a., Mars Bonfire.

THE SPARROWS - “Meet Me After Four”
No more Jack, now more surf-garage than Mersey.

THE SPARROW - “Isn't It Strange”
Now turned on and singular, you know, like the concept of The Sparrow, not just a bunch of birds.

JOHN KAY & THE SPARROW - “Down Goes Your Love Life”
Kay was a solo folk-blues performer in Toronto before he joined Sparrow. He makes an early appearance in the Neil Young bio, Shakey, when he teaches Young a blues in early sixties Canada. Goldie McJohn and Nick St. Nicholas of Sparrow and Steppenwolf had both been in The Mynah Birds with Young and Rick James. Sparrow moved to Boston, to San Francisco, and finally to Los Angeles and the name change, where Nick St. Nicholas also starred as the one true musician ideal in Pamela Des Barres book “I’m With the Band” (user-friendly pretty boys’ guitar-playing has deteriorated some).

STEPPENWOLF - “Sookie Sookie”
The Don Covay-Steve Cropper tune performed live on the “Playboy After Dark” syndicated television program. They jam on this.

STEPPENWOLF - “Born to be Wild”
The A-side Mars Bonfire Idiomorph. They jam on this and it was a #2 pop hit so some more would bum on its departure from the single.

STEPPENWOLF - “Screaming Night Hog”
They started to lose folks as they got more musical; live in an Australian radio studio 1970. Again they are jamming.

STEPPENWOLF - “Renegade”
From “7”, more or less John Kay’s creation story with album track studio jam.

STEPPENWOLF - “Shackles & Chains”
I’m not sure they got any radio off their last album, “For Ladies Only”, but they should’ve. Rock or pop once had this much blues in it.

After the breakup John Kay did two pretty good solo records before they got back together with Bobby Cochran on guitar. They were then notably less bluesy, though Eddie's nephew could play scales faster than Alvin Lee. They never got back to the blues and all hated each other. We got a pretty good demo from Goldie McJohn while I was at SST. I’d also asked John Kay to sing on the Minutemen’s cover of “Hey Lawdy Mama” since D. was having trouble with it; his people declined. Kay should tour like John Lee Hooker used to at his age, instead studio musicians have been playing Steppenwolf playing the oldies behind him. Such is the burden of their string of Top-40 hits. Not much jamming now.


Saint Vitus in New York.

Saint Vitus in Village Voice.

[European Council photo from the European Commission website; Ottoman empire map from the University of Texas at Austin website]

Ocean Liner in Cape Town Harbor, 1957

Golden rectangle framing on 120 film, camera unknown. Photo by Anthony Collins

Drawing by Henry Carlsen

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• The New Vulgate
• Joe Carducci, Chris Collins, James Fotopoulos, Mike Vann Gray, David Lightbourne
• Copyright retained by the writer, artist, or photographer


  1. that's quite a shame about mr mullen going so suddenly, almost welled-up here in the public library reading the la obit...i remember going to the variety arts center to see the b'hole surfers in like '87, w/black bird going on before them...but fire marshall closed it down right before surfers came out...almost a mini-riot out in front that night.

  2. and on a lighter note, if u follow the link for saint vitus up above, one hilarious comment slams them for being 'pussy pop metal'(oh also: 'and they're ugly' !)...i've never even given them a real listen, just think it's outrageous on the face of it, & after all, pinhead had bad enough taste to got to a fucking poison/great white show...in fucking philly no less!

  3. I think Slow Flux is a great late example of Steppenwolf's integration of jamming and song craft. Especially Jeraboah. That one is greased.