a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Issue #31 (February 3, 2010)

DuPage River, Naperville, Illinois

Photo by Joe Carducci

From Steve Beeho at the London desk…

Peter Ivers was a restlessly creative figure with a flair for self-sabotage. Until the recent spate of CD reissues he was probably best remembered for anti-hosting New Wave Theatre, the early 80s cable show which provided rare national exposure for punk and new wave bands (via USA cable network’s “Nightflight” program). Josh Frank’s and Charles Buckholz’s biog, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre, charts the diverse cultural strata Ivers straddled (e.g., Jello Biafra was a fan of Ivers' early LPs well before their paths crossed on New Wave Theatre) and in particular how LA punk intersected awkwardly with Hollywood.

Before New Wave Theatre, Ivers recorded three off-beat LPs for Epic and Warner Bros, and the likes of Van Dyke Parks, David Lynch, Harold Ramis, Francis Ford Coppola and National Lampoon founder Douglas Kenney all figured in his life at various times. The account of Ivers torpedoing his opening slot for “Rumors”-era Fleetwood Mac shows how his self-destructive streak was ripe for the looming punk upheavals.

At times though it feels as if the authors are too keen to validate Ivers in terms of the Hollywood company he kept and other potentially fertile angles are left unexplored. There’s a passing reference to him “often sitting in on harmonica with John Cale” – but that’s all we get. And the capsule Ivers biog in the afterword casually mentions that he produced Circus Mort but the actual text has nothing to say about his involvement with Michael Gira's first record, even though it sounds as if it wasn’t the smoothest recording session in the world. On the "plus" side, there’s plenty about the making of Caddyshack.

Josh Frank’s pseudo-novelistic style, where he presumes to know what thoughts are going through his subjects’ heads (on a given day, yet!) also gets a bit grating after a while. I'm not sure when this approach to biographies started (possibly round about the same time that documentaries stopped bothering to slap on "RECONSTRUCTION" whenever they dramatised something) but it really is irritating.

Although the mystery of Ivers’ death isn't solved as such his NWT partner David Jove is fingered as far and away the most likely suspect for his murder. The most startling aspect of this is the revelation that the ”megalomaniac bully” David Jove was also apparently David Schneiderman aka "The Acid King", a character who features prominently in British 60s counter-culture chronicles as the shadowy figure who infamously supplied the drugs at the Redlands bust and then conveniently disappeared when Jagger and Richards were arrested, amid dark suggestions later on that the whole thing was a set-up engineered by Schneiderman/Jove.

It’s not made terribly clear by Frank the extent to which Jove’s previous life was common knowledge to his LA circle. Some idle googling revealed though that a novel was also written about Jove by Maggie Abbott who was familiar with his murky past. In The Acid King: A Rock’n’Roll Novella the David Jove character claims that after being busted himself he was forced into acting as a pawn of the FBI/CIA to infiltrate the rock establishment to ensure it was undermined before it got (political) ideas above its station. Abbott’s plot also suggests that Peter Ivers may have been mistakenly murdered by people who were actually after David Jove.

Jove died in 2004 and the full truth of his life and any alleged involvement in Ivers’s murder will probably never be known. Michael Dare’s sympathetic tribute to him dismisses the idea of Jove murdering Ivers but even Dare describes him as "the closest thing to Charles Manson I've ever met loose in the street" (!)

I wouldn’t hold your breath for a New Wave Theatre DVD box set but pirate copies can be found on the internet easily enough. Meanwhile Ivers’ back catalogue is finally getting the reissue treatment - Jim O'Rourke picked “Take It Out On Me” as his pick of the year in the Christmas edition of The Wire so a tribute album is probably only a matter of time.

Excerpt in the L.A. Weekly on Ivers, Eraserhead, NuArt, Devo…

More on NWT/Jove from Michael Dare.

Drawing by James Fotopoulos

From the Kroehler Midwest desk of Joe Carducci…

Minutemen were Reactionaries
(liner notes for new archival release by The Reactionaries)

by Joe Carducci

For most of the music world – or rather the much smaller rock world – of the early 1980s, the Minutemen seemed to arrive fully formed, as if from some other planet. Questions must have immediately crossed minds: Where are these guys from? What drugs are they on? Are they carbon-based life forms? Those reactions were understandable, as it was the 45-song, double 33 rpm “Double Nickels On The Dime” (SST 028) that introduced the band to most folks outside of Los Angeles.

If I remember right, the initial sales jumped from the five thousand range for “Buzz Or Howl Under The Influence Of Heat” (SST 016), to fifteen thousand for “Double Nickels”. (Of course all those releases sold far more after the day.) D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley were always deflecting the effusiveness of fans in clubs, or in interviews – it was part of their charm. But think about it, the Minutemen were telling kids that they could pick up instruments and do the same! Nobody who saw them live believed that for a second.

I was at Systematic Record Distribution and got their first record, “Paranoid Time” (SST 002), from the label and ordered it for distribution to shops around the country. It was hard enough for me to discern how great they were from that and their early follow-up records and compilation tracks. To my ear, I don’t think I really heard what they were capable of until they were playing the Anti-Club regularly in 1983-84. There was just so much music packed into their short, fast tunes. And at each gig a few older, simpler tunes were replaced by new, even more masterful tunes.

At their first San Francisco gig at the Mabuhay, Dirk Dirksen (who ran and MC’ed the club), strolled out on stage to introduce them and the first thing he saw was a four-foot long set-list taped to D.’s mic-stand and Dirk said, “What is this, the history of music?!” It was! When we recorded the long tail of the song “More Spiel” for “Project: Mersh” (SST 034) I joked to D. that he had just laid down a six-minute history of the guitar solo. At SST, hearing guitarists Greg Ginn, Joe Baiza and Curt Kirkwood all the time, it was easy to underestimate how great a guitar player D. was. That radical reformation the Reactionaries performed on themselves to become the Minutemen encouraged that, because it elevated Mike and George to co-lead players.

But their world-historical, musical summation had a history as well. And that was their late-seventies band, the Reactionaries. Mike and D. had known each other since junior high. They met Martin Tamburovich and George Hurley at San Pedro high, although they wouldn’t claim they knew George because in Watt’s words, “he was a happening cat,” whereas D., Mike, and Martin were on the not-so-happening end of the high school social spectrum. As George tells it: “For a long time Mike would ask me to play music with him. He wanted to jam out, but I really wasn’t into it ‘cause I was a Surfer then and he was sort of a geek. I don’t know, we were kids. Finally, I agreed to it.” This kind of transgression of school social hierarchy is common when music brings young kids together in their first band. It’s an under-appreciated aspect of the power of music.

Thankfully the Reactionaries recorded a practice in their attempt to get gigs so we have these 10 songs to contemplate. What you can hear are the rudiments of the Minutemen’s sound, only unlike most bands, they only got rid of stuff as they improved. D. is already a good guitar player with his trebly sound in place. Mike and George play more standard-rock bass and drums parts, and Martin sounds like he belongs on the mic, though the quality of the lyrics varies widely.

Chuck Dukowski saw them and reports, “Martin was a cool singer and I liked his style.” They were just out of high school and though they already had their obsessive interests, the lyrics (by Mike, Martin, and friends outside the band) show an awkward adaptation to the punk style as they understood it. Like a lot of lyrics by seventies punk bands, television is of particular concern – punks who were determined to create a music scene thought watching TV was a fate co-equal to Death.

In February of 1979, Chuck and Greg Ginn were flyering a Clash, Bo Diddley, Dils show at the Santa Monica Civic when they met D. and Mike. The flyer was for what would be the second Black Flag gig and it was going to be in San Pedro. D. and Mike were amazed to learn of a gig in Pedro and Chuck hadn’t known there was a punk band there, so he put the Reactionaries on the bill. It was their first gig; they played with Black Flag, the Descendents (their debut too), the Alley Cats, the Plugz and an impromptu mini-set by the Last. A world-historical night, however many paid at the door.

The Reactionaries played only two more gigs, opening for the Suburban Lawns at their practice pad in Long Beach. They made a pass at getting a gig at the Other Masque up in Hollywood, but the band was falling apart. Mike’s description of D.’s loss of interest in the Reactionaries is interesting. Apparently D. didn’t offer his songs to the Reactionaries and then found them another guitarist (Todd Apperson) so he could quit. They broke up around mid-1979. George found a band in Hollywood called Hey Taxi! and is on their 45. Though soon enough, D. and Mike regroup and eventually pull George back into their new, improved mess after their new drummer (Frank Tonche) walked offstage and quit during their second gig.

At the Minutemen’s first gig (May 1980), Greg asked them to do a record for SST.

[cover art by Joe Baiza]

LP release party in San Pedro, Calif., February 20, 2010
more info: Water Under the Bridge Records

Here’s something I wrote about the Minutemen themselves for Mike’s Spiels of a Minuteman book in which I made my debut in French translation -- I’m told I make even less sense in French but that’s probably true of Thoreau too.

Chicago was late to the table but Walter Klein built the early venue alternatives to the Jam Productions monopoly (currently passing as an indie in their fight with LiveNation). Klein’s obit ran today and it’s interesting, though the detail that catches my eye is that the Minutemen reference is not linked to the great Tribune info mainframe whereas their pea-brain imitators the RHCPs are. Like anyone needs to know more than we’re forced to know about them.


Keith Morris tells Don Waller (Imperial Dogs, Back Door Man) a lot of cool things about seventies Hermosa Beach in this week’s Easy Reader. There’s also a mistake or two: It’s news to me if Raymond and Erica are twins but I suppose it’s conceivable that I don’t know. Spot had a few clarifications. He writes, “Greg never wrote for Easy Reader. so that would be me he was referring to in that regard…. I'm pretty sure that the photo Keith is referring to is the one I took that ran with the original article in ER. That was sometime in 1979... I have photos of all the bands that played that day. Perhaps the answer to these questions (re. Big Wow, Eddie & the Subtitles) lies in the film negatives. Interestingly, the guy who organized/mc'd the whole Polliwog Park show (who soon after became an ER staffer) said he was never upset about the events of the day. Instead, he was totally amused at the pandemonium it caused.”

Don Waller is this week’s guest on The Watt from Pedro Show.

Hey Mike: the half-time Who show by-the-numbers in the WSJ.


SST Records Hop in Cologne, Germany

Following up on their Dec./Jan. 2009 SST Records special issue #133 noting the 30th anniversary of the label’s founding, TRUST fanzine
 is throwing at least three DJs and two turntables at a complete (!?) pile of SST releases, (“even gonna spin Zoogz Rift!”). Videos and movies are promised too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Bar "Qlosterstüffje"
Venloer Str. 221, tube station Piusstr, Köln (Cologne)


WGRB AM Gospel 1390am, Chicago is a Clear Channel station and according to Lewis Lazare in the CS-T (second item), they are dropping from a 50-50 mix of Church choir songs and “new, hotter gospel artists” to one that leans to this hip-hop-style studio gospel by 80 or 90%. That isn’t all bad news judging by a track I heard in the car the other day. I would guess it was called “Back to God” but can’t track it down under that name so I’m hoping to catch it again. They stream.


Werner Herzog says interesting things in the DGA Quarterly that the Directors Guild members in good standing with terrible filmographies, more than most, would need to read:

“I always felt estranged from my peers. Having been self-reliant from age 15 on, my life had been very different from theirs. With the student revolt in 1968, everyone was talking about liberating the working class. I asked, “Have you ever worked in a factory one day? One night? One hour?” No, none of them had. [They talked of liberating prisoners and] I asked, “Who of you has been incarcerated?” None. But I had seen prisons in Africa from the inside. They were just talking about a figment of their collective fantasy and had no idea. It's not that I would postulate that to be a filmmaker you have to first be a proletariat or go to jail, but you have to experience life. You need very naked, stark, fundamental experiences.”


The Chicago papers are where the action is on a weekend like this one past, when both parties have competitive primaries for Governor, Senate, and in Chicago the one-party also has its sitting potentates challenged by this or that buppie, bourgie or street radical trying to stand up for voters who may care more about the Lotto numbers. We also got stories about Cicero’s ex-mayor Betty Loren-Maltese getting out of her half-way house after prison for her part in a municipal insurance scam, and stories about ex-alderman Ed Vrdolyak perhaps wending his way toward the slammer. Also both the Blackhawks and the Bulls returned from their long “Ice-Show” road trips successfully. However, the rockcrit pages have been ridiculous as DeRogatis and Kot use the Grammies as an excuse to plum the shallows of the world their pop crit elders cheered the creation of -- seems it's enough for ‘em. And the Tribune just announced it will get a full inch narrower, qualifying it for pamphlet mailing rates I think.

“Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak to Sneed: “Hey, not even fishing is on the square.”

Rich Samuels WTTW “Chicago Tonight” blog
(please visit his blog so he doesn’t force us to take this photo down!)

Caption: “Sunday, March 1st, 2009: The sentence Judge Milton Shadur handed down for Edward Vrdolyak last Thursday will certainly be remembered as one of the most controversial (and surprising) in many years. Let me share with you a photo "Fast Eddie" sent me not long after his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Mayor Harold Washington in 1987. The inscription reads: ‘Rich, why is your wallet in your front pocket?’ Vrdolyak from time to time cultivated his image.”

Laura Washington in her Sun-Times column, “Youth vs. experience in two hot races”, reviews two contests including Alderman William Beavers vs Elgie Sims: “fervent defender of patronage politics and tax increases… Beavers, 74, proudly touts that he’s ‘the hog with the big nuts.’ Over coffee last week, Sims told me it’s time African-American voters retired the pork. Sims, 39, speaks for a ‘new breed’ of black professionals who reject the ‘old guard, old mentality, not willing to change, not willing to come to the 21st century.’” The other one profiled is for alderman of a Southwest side ward that features Rudy Lozano, an activist son of an organizer murdered by assailants unknown against Dan Burke, the brother of long-time alderman Ed Burke. Washington writes: “Lozano, 34, is the first serious challenger to Burke, an Irish American who has held office for 19 years. When he was elected, the district was mostly white. Today, 75 percent of its registered voters are Latino. Burke argues he brings cash, influence and electoral know-how. As a non-Latino member of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus, he helped win a $98million state grant for local charter schools…. Burke, 58, admits he distributed thousands of pumpkin pies, hams and turkeys in the district over the holidays… [and] Burke is already grooming a Latino to succeed him, he assures. Some day.” Washington also notes that the use of the late Harold Washington’s torching of Governor Pat Quinn was legit and on target, without her vouching for Hynes the younger at all. Sidenote: The Harold once told Joel Weissman that he did not think Vrdolyak was racist, but that he did think Ed Burke was. Let’s hear it for Fast Edward R. Vrdolyak.

John Kass on the lay of Tuesday, while his ankle-biting commenters hope to instead shame him into focusing instead on you-guessed-it Eddie Vrdolyak.

Bring Me the Head of Walter Kozubowski.

The Sun-Times had the better election-day front page but the Tribune has this excellent rogues gallery. If you do not click through this Illinois Perp-walk Hall of Fame these public servants will have been incarcerated in vain.

The Sun-Times’ John Jackson’s Bulls-are-back piece. They finished 5-2 during their Ice-Show exile and he writes, “According to ESPN, it's the first time in NBA history a team has won five road games in a row against teams with winning records.” Sports pages are the most Orwellian corner of the world of the written word and in Chicago-now the future of Bulls coach Vinny del Negro was never in question now that ESPN has proclaimed thusly. Still the sports pages are full of columnists trying to make any coach’s job impossible as they demand Derrick Rose take over the game, the team, the city council…. They should stick to writing about the Bears where such keen insight harms no-one’s chances for anything. It’s actually been easy to see that the Bulls are coming together albeit in slow motion dictated by injury and illness, these primarily of Kirk Hinrich but also of Tyrus Thomas, John Salmons and others. This would have occurred even if Scott Skiles was still the coach. As second-year man Derrick Rose, and third-year man Joakim Noah mature the Bulls are getting heavy minutes from a 23-year old rookie, Taj Gibson, and back-up center Brad Miller regularly cracks up the Bulls broadcast team (Stacey King, Neil Funk) as he pounds his heavy pale carcass down the paint past sleek doberman forwards waving him by for a lay-up or free throws. James Johnson is another rookie that can do a thing or two. They may not make the finals as is but they have not reached their potential yet. I hated to see Chris Duhon go to the Knicks, but if they trade Kirk Hinrich to the Lakers, Bulls v.p. John Paxson should fire himself again and completely. Hinrich plays defense like Jerry Sloan did (and he’s got the face to prove it) but he shoots like Paxson. Give the Lakers Hinrich and Derek Fisher will retire while Kobe goes on to trump Jordan’s trophy shelf. In Tuesday’s paper it’s the Celtics who want Hinrich -- that’s pretty rich seeing as how Rondo, the Celtics and David Stern still owe Hinrich and the Bulls a game seven, either that or Kirk might try to add some character to Rajon’s smooth but twitchy face. I like watching Luol Deng and John Salmons play; they have that cool economical style that’s in short supply in these days of tattooed hot-heads playing the refs, but size-wise in the playoffs? The trade deadline is three weeks away.

[Blackhawks, photo by Joe Carducci]

The Tribune’s Chris Kuc’s Blackhawks road trip breakdown. The Blackhawks have already convinced the city they will bring the Stanley Cup one or many times over the next decade, and their “One Goal” pr campaign is just pouring on that pressure. So their 5-3 road trip was slightly disappointing. They seem to operate inefficiently as they often dominate puck-possession and the shots-on-goal count while allowing their opponent to stay in the game. This leaves questions about their goaltenders but the beat writers haven’t convinced me they need to trade for a readymade cup-winner. Here the sports columnists are busy making excuses for missing the construction of this team, not knowing who Joel Quenneville is, and claiming none of it matters because hockey is simple. Again, they should stick to their Bears because they will continue to miss the sport even now that they are forced to watch. That’s no shame in hockey because when coaches change lines and defensemen on the fly for the match-ups they want, there are probably only a couple dozen fans who really are able to keep up with any coach’s strategy, home or away. Plus they’d have to sit a few rows center immediately behind the benches just to see it all. I’m not one of the experts so I know what I’m talking about. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: “Hockey = Jazz”. I keep measuring the Hawks by the old gold-standard Edmonton Oilers of Gretzky, Kurri, Messier and Fuhr. The Blackhawks can be as fast but they do not yet know each other well enough to be that efficient a wrecking machine of other teams’ defenses. They are for flashes here and there though, and by May…?

Scotty Bowman named his son Stanley and he’s the Blackhawks GM, by the Trib’s David Haugh.


Steve James new doc, No Crossover - The Trial of Allen Iverson. It’s about Iverson’s hometown Hampton, Virginia which is still hot about some race rumble or other. Just in time for Iverson’s retirement from the NBA and his return as an all-star starter.

Loretta Chao on Stephon Marbury now starting for the Shanxi Zhongyu Professional Basketball Club, from the WSJ.

[Extra: Report of and video from Marbury's first game in China here]


The Washington Post’s vaunted editorial/beat firewall can shelter the cleverest of the home-ful and the cake-eaters as the CityPaper reconstructs a WP blog since removed.


New Russia’s New Kronstadt by Andrew Rettman.


Fr. Boris Moreno, economist, in Palabra Nueva, the Havana Diocese magazine warns that the Cuban economy is “close to free-fall.”


Qaddafi content to be King of Kings.


Michel Gurfinkiel reviews Frederick Brown’s For the Soul of France.

Peggy Hollinger in the FT on France’s plan to consolidate/urbanize the French countryside: “France accounts for 40 per cent of all municipalities in the European Union. More than half -- some 19,428 -- have fewer than 500 inhabitants and 33,000 have fewer than 3,000.”


Remembrance of Candy Bars Past, by Steve Almond in the WSJ:

“All of these companies are acutely aware of how tenuous their businesses are. The consolidation of retail outlets has destroyed the network of mom-and-pop grocery stoes that sold their products. And the giant chains, that dominated the retail landscape, such as Wal-Mart, charge so-called ‘slotting fees’ -- a fee paid by the supplier for desirable shelf space -- that are often prohibitive.”


Christopher Caldwell in the FT on Louis Menand’s new book, The Marketplace of Ideas:

“Menand draws his idea of what an American university education can be from the history of what it has been. This approach illuminates, as polemics cannot, two grave present-day problems: the loss of consensus on what to teach undergraduates and the lack of intellectual diversity among the US professoriate.”


David Barboza from Changsha, China in the NYT on the hacker subculture:

“Majia and his fellow hackers keep secret their knowledge of certain so-called zero-day vulnerabilities -- software flaws -- for future use, he says. ‘Microsoft and Adobe have a lot of zero days,’ he said, while scanning Web sites at home. ‘But we don’t publish them. We want to save them so that some day we can use them.’ When asked whether hackers work for the government, or the military, he says ‘yes.’ Does he? No comment, he says.”


China set for global lead in scientific research, by Clive Cookson in the FT looks over Thomson Reuters’ index of scientific papers from 10,500 journals, re. Brazil, Russia, India, and China over the last thirty years.


The Rise of the capitalist kibbutz, by Tobias Buck in the FT reviews the privatization of most aspects of kibbutzim since the 80s as they began to de-emphasize farming for industry and required standard business practices to operate profitably. “And though their number is dropping fast, of the 262 kibbutzim in Israel today, some 65 still operate in the traditional way, while 188 have been completely, and nine partially, privatised.” What shadows this development I think is the end of European intellectual investment in the health of the state of Israel; now that it isn’t a socialist project they’d as soon it loses the next war…

Except for the prankster P.M. Silvio Berlusconi wants Israel to join the EU so as to make that next war the efficient trigger for several simultaneous final solutions, I suppose.


The Swedes earnest social engineering in Malmo, according to David Harris.


There’s an interesting article called "The Illusion of Regulatory Competence", by Slavisa Tasic in Critical Review; it’s not posted but this abstract is:

“The illusion of explanatory depth, which has been identified by cognitive psychologists, may play a prominent role in encouraging regulatory action. This special type of overconfidence would logically lead regulators to believe that they are aware of the relevant causes and consequences of the activities they might regulate, and of the unintended side effects of the regulatory actions they are contemplating. So, as with other cognitive biases, the illusion of explanatory depth is likely to lead to mistakes. And unlike the biases that have been the focus of so much behavioral economics, the illusion of explanatory depth is uniquely resistant to correction by those who are aware of it as a general problem and rigorously attempt to keep it under control.”

And here’s John Judis in TNR to illustrate the acidtrip-like wonders said illusion swallowed whole provides. After 9-11 it seemed to me there might be a chance at reorienting the state away from jobs it does not do well so that it might do one or two important jobs better. But immediately Bush caved on Homeland Security, making it just another immoveable vote-rich civil service bureaucracy protected by union contracts and the Democrats in Congress and legislatures. It hasn’t failed yet but that delayed flinch from the White House over the Christmas attempt on the airliner signals what all might have to be disgorged upon any such dramatic failure. Still, now we see the state trying to open its distensible jaw so as to swallow another massive chunk of the private sector. I suspect it's enough to cross the line past which the beast chokes, but the appetite gets rolled back to something more sustainable.

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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. joe: goddamn, that k. morris intv. is really great, gets into such detail, and i didn't even finish it yet, and thanx fo the link to the photo so we can see what he's talking about....fell asleep real early last night, so was up at about 2:30 and only had this morn's bbc radio 'programme' to listen to in the dark, but then all the sudden there's a rollins intv. to listen to!...it's great to hear the journo do the intro and talk over 'rise above' and then proclaim it to be 'just amazing'(quite sincerely)...wish he would've hammered hank more pointedly about why he doesn't just go into politics finally, hank gives some silly, too-easy excuse of not having the smarts(what bullshit)...like just take a look at who's in there currently and been there all these years, does anyone really believe the intelligence-bar is all that high for american political life?? he's got the most important quality, the passion for helping/doing right by the common people.
    thought u/others might wanna tip to it.

  2. Had an Annabelle's (Hayward, CA) Rocky Road Bar today, loved all of it from the unique packaging to the great marshmallow-ey taste. Long live small market producers!!!!!!!!!!!