a new low in topical enlightenment

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Issue #161 (October 16, 2023)

Photograph by Joe Carducci

Robert Becerra (1958-2023)

Don Lewis

I first saw the Stains in 1980 at the Fleetwood with my friend Max. They blew us away with their ferocious energy, that youthful brash energy of just discovering your power. We were excited.

A few weeks later, Max and I and Hershey went to see the Stains at their practice place in Boyle Heights to interview and photograph them for Rick Wilder’s Youth Party zine. I took a lot of pictures of them practicing and hanging out. Then we all went out in my big old Buick to replenish the alcohol supply. As I drove, I pointed my camera to the backseat and took random flash pictures of them. We got a lot of good shots, they were laughing and we were having a blast.

After that I started going to their shows taking pictures, and around 1982, I got a call from Ceasar. He said they had broken up but they were going to release an album on SST, and since I was the only one who had taken a decent amount of photos of them, could I put together a cover. I’d never done an album cover before, but I said yes. It took several months to come up with an idea, but finally I got this dream image of them in an alleyway at night, so I went to Boyle Heights, did the alley shot, then pasted a group shot I had of them over it. Jesse needed to get into the mix somehow because he wrote lyrics for a lot of the songs, so I put him on the LP label with the spindle hole going through his forehead. It seemed appropriate.

I went over to Robert's and showed the artwork to him and Ceasar. I asked what they were doing musically these days, and Ceasar said they weren't doing punk anymore, they were into metal. They didn't say much about the art but they didn't say no, so I took that as an OK. One thing they did say was they wanted the title to be bigger, but I told them it would mess up the balance on the cover, so they said OK. I put the cover art together and handed it over to SST for production. The album came out and I picked up my copies from SPOT in 1983.

After that, I continued to go to their shows and take pictures from time to time. All the members were great players and performers, but Robert stood out as a powerful guitar player. I didn’t really appreciate this until I saw them play the Doll Hut in 2009. Putting in earplugs somehow enabled me to hear the sound more clearly, and I heard all kinds of flamenco accents in Robert's playing, more than just the main barre chords. Maybe some jazz too. His knowledge was deep.

There was a time around 1992 when Robert and Dez were thinking of forming a band together, and Dez and I went to Robert's rehearsal space in Boyle Heights to do pictures. Robert was taciturn as ever and all I remember him saying was that he didn’t want to play like he did 20 years ago.

Robert didn't say much. It all came out through his guitar, and if you didn't get it, then you didn't get it. He seemed a little scary because his playing was angry, so I figured it best not to talk to him unless I had something absolutely important to say.

But the Stains did like the pictures, and ever since I've been in touch with them. They've been almost like family. It’s funny how when you take pictures of someone, the pictures become a link that lasts for life.

Thank you Robert for your music.


On Robert Becerra

Dez Cadena

I always felt as if Robert Becerra and myself were from some sort of Parallel Universe. Both in the separate places we were born, (Robert from Boyle Heights, L.A. and myself from Newark, N.J.) and especially musically.

I met him when Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski invited me one weekend to attend a party in Boyle Heights to check out this band, The Stains. I had already heard a demo tape, and couldn't believe that anyone could play guitar with such demonicly reckless abandon. Seeing it live for the first time, I also realized that his playing was, in contradiction to what I just said, extremely precise.

I was the lead singer of of Black Flag at the time. The Stains came to visit us afterwards, in Hermosa Beach and that's when we instantly talked of music and the guitar.

Robert was, and still is perhaps the best guitarist I've ever known. His and my musical influences were parallel also: Zappa, Hendrix, Gallagher, Sabbath, Groundhogs, Hawkwind, Motorhead, Ramones, Saints, Yardbirds, Lucifer's Friend, Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, Trower, Thin Lizzy, Frank Marino.... It goes on and on. I could hear a little of all this stuff in Robert's playing, but ultimately it just came out sounding like Robert. Many periods of our lives we were close. One time, when I was distraught about a lost love, or something, he said to me, "Just remember Dez, all you'll ever have in life, is Music!" I find this to be the Big Resounding Note, that will never be forgotten. Rest Peaceful 'Beto.

[The Stains photograph by Don Lewis; Robert Becerra 2nd from left]

Photograph by Joe Carducci

Mark Adams (1958-2023)

Dave Chandler

I met Mark Adams in 1974 at Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California (a part of the infamous CA South Bay). I was living in Torrance and Mark was in Lomita. We shared a lot of the same classes in school, found out that we had the same musical interests/influences and that we were both learning to play the guitar. We always hung out after school, talking music, getting stoned, etc., and going to as many concerts as we could. We both agreed that we wanted to be in a band that only did original songs, no covers like the other local bands did.

In 1978 Mark was living at home, and my parents moved to northern California. So myself and a mutual friend rented a house in Lomita, where Mark and I worked out the first SV songs. Mark wrote "The Psychopath" and I wrote "Look Behind You", "The Sadist", "Mystic Lady", and "Imagination Man".

Since we were both playing guitar, and Mark's amp had a PA jack that allowed me to plug in a mic and "sing". That's how we rehearsed until we met Armando Acosta. Then we started rehearsing at a place he was using and a friend of Mark's nephew played bass for awhile. Michael Quercio left to form a power pop band, Salvation Army, which later became The Three O'Clock. Then Armando asked Mark if he was interested in playing bass instead of guitar. He was, and bought a bass the next day.

Mark had never played one before, so he just played the single notes he was playing as chords on the guitar, and improvised and expanded them for the bass. That'show he got his unique style of playing.

Mark and I were side by side for everything, getting ignored by club bookers for not playing "hair metal", fighting the "early punk wars" on the road, playing to one person (true story) or 100, all the way to headlining the 2nd stage at Hellfest in France for approximately 80 thousand. Mark was always on point, never backing down, never quitting, doing what was needed for the fans and the show.

Mark was taken away much too soon and Saint Vitus was never the same. R.I.P. Mark Anthony Adams, my brother, the best musician to work with, and the most loyal best friend anyone could ever have.

[Saint Vitus photograph by Naomi Petersen; Mark Adams standing left]

Photograph by Joe Carducci

SPOT (1951-2023)

Joe Carducci

Young Glen Lockett took his nickname and ran with it. He grew up in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles and being a somewhat nerdy kid he was stuck in right field. He gained the name by having to fetch flyballs he couldn't catch. When he accidentally on purpose made some sterling catch no kid there that day would ever forget he claimed the name. At least I think so. SPOT told Westword in 2000 that he "earned his nickname in the early '70s while playing softball in Norway (a miraculous catch he had 'no business making' reminded locals of the national glove hero, Spaat; it was a handle he later adopted and Americanized)." So that confirms it. You didn't hear much from SPOT himself about his childhood except what you could discern from how his central childhood enthusiasms carried into his adulthood. His love of the music he heard on AM radio in the early sixties led to his technical-acoustic expertise with all the equipment used to play and record music. And his love of hot rod car culture led him to never drive a car he couldn't work on himself - VWs and Toyotas.

His father, Claybourne Lockett, had been a Tuskegee Airman and unlike most of those select few he also flew WWII missions in the British Spitfires. That fact would've really interested Greg and Raymond's dad Regis Ginn the one time he met Claybourne at SST-Phelan Ave.; Regis had met his wife in London during the war and he was also Air Force and drove an MG two-door motorcar. Claybourne indulged Spot's early interest in cars while his mother, Cynthia (Katz) Lockett, from New Orleans provided more of the music influences. She worked with the musicians union if I recall. Spot's older sister played the piano in the house more than he did; he writes in his Anti-Punk Rock - A History that he got his first guitar for Christmas in 1963 at the age of 12 and was into jazz and in particular instrumental pop hits (Ventures, Acker Bilk, Bent Fabric, Joe Meek...) and his first record purchase was The Village Stompers' "Washington Square" instrumental. We were often all packed into the van driving up or down between the South Bay and Hollywood on the 405/La Cienaga route. One time I remember Spot directing Mugger to his parents' house once so he could pick up some master tapes he'd stashed there after they were kicked out of Torrance in Spring 1981; the Lockett house was pretty big with a large front yard in an upscale black neighborhood. Ray Charles lived nearby, and Spot's first band as a kid included neighbors George and Louis Johnson who later in the 70s hit R&B charts as The Brothers Johnson ("Get the Funk Out Ma Face", "I'll Be Good to You"...). Young Spot's intellectual gifts were recognized and he went to high school at Jesuit all-boys college prep Loyola High on Venice Blvd in L.A. [1965-69] The school's website boasts that 99% of their graduates go on to college. Oh, but that last percentile!

Spot wrote up his early fascination with cars for this very blog in a 2010 two-part essay he called "Tales of the White Snake". Here's his own introduction to young Glen:

"I lived in a second-story bedroom on the northwest back corner of our house. This room had two windows, one that unceremoniously faced the house next door and the other that faced rearward to the low hills that separated my immediate world from my world of dreams. Beyond those hills was a hazy lowland that stretched westward to the Pacific Ocean and southward to what was becoming LA International Airport. The Red Line, LA's fabled light rail transit system, was gone but there were a few wide, open roads left over from the 1930s and '40s before automobiles were mandatory for 20th-century Angelenos. These asphalt ribbons plied through the then sparsely populated landscape which led to a magnificently undervalued - unless you were a surfer - shore break. At the age of thirteen [1964-65] it was impossible for me to break out and go easily to this world but on cool nights I would lay in bed and be bathed by the breezes which found their way inland and through that rear portal. Like any teenager worth his salt, I ran down many batteries listening to the clandestine transistor radio that wirelessly connected me to the outside. Tunes like Nelson Riddle's 'Route 66' and Chuck Berry's 'No Particular Place To Go' were already magical anthems but in the dark, midnight hours both the moving air and the moving airwaves made those tunes and those moments priceless. If only it were me motoring around in the moonlight, engine thrumming, wind in my face and hair, driving toward the heart of this or any other Life!" (SPOT, The New Vulgate)

In one of his notebooks that appears to be from 1984, before he finally moved out of Los Angeles to Austin, Texas, Spot wrote:

"In this world it is expected and customary for the struggle to be in the realm of bringing one's private thoughts into the public domain. I have seen fit to keep my thoughts private. I was born in Los Angeles and lived there for the first part of my life. Later, at the age of fifteen, maybe sixteen, I moved to my mind. Occasionally I come back to L.A. to visit." (SPOT)

After high school Glen tried Hollywood for five years until 1975; these seem the most obscure years of Spot's life. In a 1999 interview he tells Steve Silverstein of Tape Op magazine that in Hollywood he bought a used Sony two-track reel-to-reel deck and began recording himself; then he bought a Teac 3340s four-channel recorder; Spot tells Steve that they came on the market in 1972 and "Those machines might be what created the whole independent record scene." Spot also began using his camera in Hollywood. There are a few startling photographs from this period in his book, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening. These include a 1970 shot of Billy Zoom, and candid shots of Rick Nelson, Dorsey Burnette and Tom Brumley from that same year on a tour date in Anchorage that Spot at 19 attended as a member of an L.A. concert promotion company. There are also shots of cinematographer John Bailey in 1972 in the first AFI filmmaking class, a backstage posed shot of Waylon Jennings, Sky Saxon, Don Bowman and Dorsey Burnette at the Troubadour, an odd, pensive portrait of Gene Vincent in a park in Simi Valley and a posed shot of Geza X at a Sept. 6 1980 punk festival at La Vida Hot Springs in Brea. Apparently Spot auditioned to join Captain Beefheart's Magic Band in this period. Captain may have nixed the idea of having a guy going by the name Spot or maybe he just made an impression; the Captain's 1972 albums were called, "The Spotlight Kid" and "Clear Spot".

SPOT moved to Hermosa Beach in 1975. He writes in his photography book that he moved to Hermosa Beach to help build Media Art studio for its owners Dave Tarling and Rolf Erickson, so perhaps Spot met them up in Hollywood. Spot mentions helping move the equipment into the 111 Pier Ave space. It overlooked the intersection of Pier and Hermosa, one block from the beach. Wyn Davis worked at Media Art studio and his mental image of Spot in those years was on rollerskates, wearing elbow and knee pads, moving fast with a camera covering his face as he looked for his next shot through the viewfinder. At the July 1 memorial held at Wyn's Total Access studio in Redondo Beach he made a point of mentioning that Spot was one of just three black people living in Hermosa Beach then. I recall hearing about the unwritten "sundown" rule that black visitors were to leave before sundown. Somehow Spot became the visible fixture-exception around the Pier Ave blocks.

Sandy Espinoza probably came close to meeting Spot at the music clubs in West Hollywood in the early seventies. She moved to Hermosa Beach from Playa del Rey (just north of LAX) in late 1976 or early 1977 and figures she met Spot right away at either the Cove Theater or at the Surf Hut Cafe which was the locals' place for breakfast. They quickly were part of the Cove's staff where she says Spot was an usher armed with a squirt gun overseeing the midnight screenings of "Rocky Horror Picture Show". It was a typically funky seventies movie theater across the street from Media Art, it had two screens and one of the staff perks was to screen films for themselves after hours. Sandy rented a house in Hermosa, then an apartment and in the eighties a house in North Redondo and Spot helped with the rent and remained a roommate of Sandy's when he wasn't on tour, at the studio, staying at SST or in Hollywood until he moved to Austin. In the late seventies Sandy said their lives were "all giggin' and sleepin'." Sandy's uncle, William Edmondson, was a sound engineer who started at MGM in 1931, and in the seventies was mixing soundtracks for movies like Vanishing Point, The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Trial of Billy Jack. Sandy told me her uncle and Spot would get to talking about sound engineering and go for hours!

    Many years ago Henry Rollins answered an interviewer's question, Do you have any regrets?, by saying, "My only regret is not getting there sooner." There meaning not just behind the microphone in Black Flag but Hermosa Beach and maybe L.A. generally. It was one thing to be in North Redondo Beach at SST-Phelan Ave in 1982-83, but we later arrivals could only marvel that just a few years earlier they'd been able to "sleaze by" right at the beach. I didn't have occasion to plumb the town's history until I was researching my memoir of the late Naomi Petersen. I asked Spot to annotate an aerial shot of Hermosa Beach (see nearby) and he noted the following places and their historical contexts: The Lighthouse jazz club, The Insomniac beatnik coffeehouse, Either/Or bookstore, The Sea Sprite motel, The Burbage Theater, Media Art studio, Cove Theater, The Easy Reader, The Church, Java Man coffeehouse, Pier Music, The Bathhouse-Wurmhole, The Fleetwood club manager Sven Holmes' apartment, Wild Wheels skate rentals, El Yaqui-Los Muchachos restaurant, Garden of Eden vegetarian restaurant, Liz's Cafe, The Surf Hut Cafe.... You could tell he valued it highly even though to my midwestern mind those guys who had been there didn't seem to miss it much. Mostly I suppose, they simply didn't have the time to miss anything.

SPOT had a dark room at Media Art there for his photography but most of his exposed film rolls were just stored away undeveloped for decades. He used the dark room for his Easy Reader music coverage, from Mose Allison to soon enough Black Flag at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach. He wrote up the artists appearing at the Lighthouse club. Ozzy Cadena had owned record shops in Newark that were also live music venues for jazz combos. Ozzy became a producer for the Savoy and Prestige record labels in New Jersey and New York before moving his family to the South Bay in the mid-70s to take over as promoter at the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was a nationally known jazz club since the 1940s; The Fleetwood (originally the Sweetwater) in Redondo Beach was the important local rock club. Ozzy had named his son Desmond after his friend Paul Desmond, saxophonist, member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and composer of "Take Five". Dez Cadena was as likely to be found at the Fleetwood as the Lighthouse. It seemed to me that what set the South Bay musicians apart from / in advance of others was that as kids they'd gone to the sports arenas in Los Angeles and Long Beach to see hard rock and prog rock bands who played the greater Los Angeles area a lot while they hung around doing their label business, taping television, recording, etc. Then as these kids started their own bands they discovered the Whisky and Roxy, the Masque and the Hong Kong Cafe where they could see bands they couldn't hear on the radio, punk bands like The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Television from New York, The Damned from UK, and local bands like The Dogs, The Motels, The Weirdos, The Germs, X, Suburban Lawns, The Alley Cats....

The Fleetwood was the rock club where the Lomita guys who formed Saint Vitus in 1979 saw Black Flag and The Germs. There were some hectic collisions between hippies and punks on its dance floor. Spot writes in the liner notes of Black Flag's "Everything Went Black":

"The days of the Fleetwood were an incredible experience. The epitome of the Hate-Kill-Destroy 'Ethic' where the Huntington Beach types reigned. The HBers were all leather jackets, chains, macho, bloodlust, and bravado, and exhibited blatantly stupid military behavior. It was never a dull moment. There was a mass brawl every five minutes and as stage manager I had a chance to witness them all." (SST 015)

Spot had a scar over his left cheekbone put there by a kick from one of that type - Michael X-head. Mugger was working the stage and jumped down and pulled Spot up before a second kick was administered. Mugger doesn't remember, but Chuck does:

"I totally remember it. Vanguard Gallery show just east of MacArthur Park. I think Subhumans also played and I believe it was a Masque production. SPOT was having fun and ass-head wanted to wreck it for him. Fully fucked up shit. I think it may have been right after Ron walked away from BF at a Fleetwood performance.... I remember seeing SPOT after and being shocked, bummed and angry at the ass who did it to him." (Dukowski, 2023)

Google shows the flyer confirms Chuck's memory: June 9, 1980 (Black Flag, Middle Class, Subhumans, The Crowd, Adolescents - and Minutemen according to info accompanying the flyer scan, and the Fleetwood show Chuck mentions was June 6). Chuck recalls that Brendan Mullen of the Masque sang for Black Flag "for a minute" and Chuck thinks Joe Nolte and others filled in the vacant singer position that night. Dez soon joined the band as the singer.

Spot was a few years older than the scene generally and his sensibility had strayed from his parents big band jazz and ballads to rock and roll, surf instrumentals, beatnik poetics, and then towards prog and jazz which he was beginning to tire of just before he met Greg Ginn who gave him the first Ramones album to listen to. The recording studio gave Spot's music interests focus; it was exactly what he was looking for. Spot was second engineer or tape operator on punk sessions for Dave Tarling. I'd ask Spot about these early sessions and he didn't recall much and didn't claim to have any real contribution to how these records sounded and he didn't know the musicians yet. The Last were the first band of the new Hermosa Beach scene around the Church to record and release their own record, the great 45, "She Don't Know Why I'm Here"/"Bombing of London" (Backlash). Vitus Matare writes that they asked Randy Neece of The Young Americans vocal group about recording and releasing a record in 1975 before Media Art was in business. So Neece recorded The Last at DCT Recorders near Sunset Blvd and he sang harmonies with Joe Nolte. Vitus recalls of DCT, "This hole-in-the-wall lab was run by Hank Waring and always quite an experience to hang out there and hear all about Joe the mastering engineer's experiences with Lou Adler and other types before their records became hits." DCT probably referred The Last to Alberti Record Pressing in Monterey Park. Vitus says, "This was the contact information I shared with Greg Ginn in late 1978 when both of our bands gave up waiting on Greg Shaw to put out our next single." Monterey Park is just south of Alhambra and years later when Virco couldn't keep their pressman Hank busy enough during the Unicorn court fights he moved back to Nashville and Virco subcontracted with Alberti to get work orders done. Both companies were owned by old-timers in their seventies and I bet they both went back to the late forties. So my guess is that Alberti may have been booked up and sent Greg to Virco. Later, The Last recorded basic tracks for their album, "L.A. Explosion", at Media Art with John Harrison (an original member of Hawkwind!) who engineered and produced, finishing the album at Village Recorders where he was on staff. (This may not directly involve Spot, of course, but I know he would love these details so I'm including it!)

    Spot had rollerskated through Hollywood flyering for Media Art and this brought Dangerhouse sessions that Geza X Gedeon or Pat Garrett produced. Dangerhouse Records, run by Black Randy, David Brown, and engineer-musician Pat Garrett was the best label in the country until SST Records took over. Geza refers to Media Art as his alma mater and he writes, "I liked Spot a lot, he had heart and was a great human." Vitus, Geza, and Pat were the other great punk-era producers in L.A. Spot had vague memories of having seen the names The Bags, The Eyes, and The Plugz on studio schedules. Garrett told Ryan Richardson that he didn't care for the studio but that "Geza liked the place." When Dangerhouse wasn't working in Hollywood at Kitchen Sync studio they were at Media Art in Hermosa where Pat produced X and Howard Werth, and Geza produced The Bags, The Deadbeats, The Silver Chalice, and an early Wall of Voodoo demo. The Plugz 1978 45 was released by Slash magazine and the band recorded and released their own 1979 album, "Electrify Me", but its cover only credits "recorded in a studio" so Spot's memory may have been correct. The Plugz album like the Suicide Commandos is an early example of stripped-down punk production in extremis. (These two albums make for interesting if not exactly successful examples of early do-it-yourself punk album recording approaches.)

But the typical day-to-day session work in the late 1970s at Media Art Spot found boring. He described the Media Art workload to Steve Silverstein:

"There was a Mexican record label in town that did a whole lot of stuff. At that time, most of what was coming into the studio was either lame disco or lame light-rock songwriter stuff.... Everything was either light and easy or progressive and just overblown.... I learned a lot from that.... There was this group of local musicians. They played in top 40 bands and had a lot of experience. They were good musicians. They would come in and start doing these song demos for various people. Basically it would start with the click track and what you'd call a single voice. Lots of times only one guy could come at a time, like the drummer would lay down his parts, and then everything else would get played on top of that, usually one track at a time. It was interesting, but damn it was tedious." (Tape Op, May-June 1999)

Spot checked out the music scenes in Austin and Tucson in early 1977, spending most of the trip playing music in Tucson according to his Anti-Punk Rock book. When he returned to Hermosa Beach he took up rollerskating and ran across the punks (Wurm, Black Flag, The Last, The Descendents, Red Cross). That spring Chuck Dukowski's band Wurm moved into the empty derelict bathhouse which stood where the Hermosa Beach pier lifeguard station stands now. Chuck recalls that Spot came in soon after and photographed the band in the living/practice space they called the Wurm-hole. Those photos are on the Wurm "Exhumed" compilation album and in Spot's books. The first recording session for Black Flag, then called PANIC!, was handled by Dave Tarling in Dec. 1977 and mixed in January. The band was Keith Morris, Greg Ginn, Chuck Dukowski, and Brian Migdol; the songs were: "Nervous Breakdown", "Fix Me", "I've Had It", "Wasted", "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie", "I Don't Care", "White Minority", and "No Values"; the first four became the first release on SST Records and the latter four begin the "Everything Went Black" compilation album. In his liner notes for the compilation Spot says he convinced the band to record at Media Art but as "an apprentice engineer my involvement in the sessions was limited to setting up microphones and later running some rough mixes for the band." (SST 015) He also took some photographs documenting the recording of SST 001. It seems Spot cut his teeth as an engaged engineer-producer with the Black Flag sessions thereafter which span the Keith-vocals, the Ron Reyes-vocals, and the Dez Cadena-vocals eras. These continuing sessions, all 16-track, involved late night discounted or free hours where both the band and Spot were learning how to operate in a studio on music that tested the acoustics and electronics of the studio in new ways. Material was rerecorded as new singers and songs were worked in, and once recorded, Spot had time to mix and re-mix alone and with the band present arguing out each decision. Years later they could still crack up recalling how they got sick of Robo's complaints about how his drums sounded until they finally sat back and let Robo do his own mix - the way they laughed I suspect you could hear everything from the kick's subsonics to the chrome on the rims and way off in the distance the muffled voices of a guitar, a bass and a singer.

But the real value of Media Art to Spot and Black Flag was the late night access they had. They could try different microphones on different instruments and try different set-up strategies. And once tracking was done Spot could mix and remix and try what outboard equipment there was and really master the studio over those years, 1978-80, with Black Flag primarily. In his liner notes Spot writes, "I mean I had nothing better to do than remix a song here, remix a song there (just for practice)...." (SST 015) At the July 1 memorial at Total Access Dez joked that his dad would say about Spot the music critic, "I don't know about that guy," but when Spot began engineering and producing at Media Art Dez said Ozzy advised Spot, "Don't try to make the music something other than what it is." Spot was not really thinking along the lines of the other engineers at the studio. Dave, Rolf, and Wyn also did their share of boring work-for-hire but their own interests were working successfully towards a hard rock that could get on the radio culminating in Dokken, W.A.S.P., Guns n' Roses, and Great White who all recorded demos or albums at Wyn's next studio, Total Access in Redondo Beach.

Sandy tells of Spot running into their house on Monterey, often with Black Flag in tow, to listen to a new mix or a test pressing on the stereo. Sandy still sounded exasperated on the phone and at the July 1st memorial as she told of these invasions and having to feed the band or some church group that Spot was recording. Years later Spot would still disappear with test pressings as SST-Phelan had no stereo; now I know where he was going. Sandy stays involved with music via MusiCares and she helped Spot's friend Ryan Richardson navigate some of the difficulties the healthcare industry and government agencies throw up at the end of musicians' typically unorthodox lives. The early non-punk Media Art sessions that Spot talked about were those by the Dutch jazz pianist Rene van Helsdingen who recorded his album, "After the Third Window" at Media Art over the course of 1980; Spot is credited as an engineer with the two owners of the studio, Dave and Rolf, and the album cover features a collage that includes Spot on rollerskates taking air while holding a guitar, as well as shots of Tarling and longtime jazz and punk scene fixture Taquila Mockingbird (she did vocals). Other early engineering credits for SPOT are a 1977 album by a band called Yellow Autumn, the 1978-79 sessions released by Poshboy Records on the compilation, "Beach Blvd", featuring The Crowd, The Simpletones, and Rik L Rik, and the Descendents first 45, "It's a Hectic World"/"Ride the Wild", recorded in 1979, plus the Angry Samoans e.p., the Vox Pop 45, U.X.A.-Illusions of Grandeur" album, The Plimsouls e.p., the Jim French-Henry Kaiser-Diamanda Galas-"If Looks Could Kill" album, the Red Cross e.p., The Klan 45, and The Flyboys e.p.

In early 1980 Penelope Spheeris came to the Church in Hermosa Beach to film interviews with Black Flag for The Decline of Western Civilization. Greg, Chuck and Ron say interesting things on camera but you can see Spot, Medea and Pettibon sitting around too. I was disappointed to hear that the expanded DVD release does not include the apparently lost material she shot of Spot and Medea. I never heard anything with regard to Raymond. Spot apparently did some joking around with a ladder and a hangman's noose which you can discern from the opening wide shot of the Church and Spot's own photographs (nearby). I suspect Penelope shot an interview with Medea, and then what, didn't think it was interesting enough to print? The Church interviews are expanded I gather and then Black Flag was filmed playing at a studio rather than one of their gigs. The early tapings for New Wave Theater (Black Flag, Minutemen, Saccharine Trust) are lost too apparently but Spot took some great shots of the playing and interviewing.

In his liner notes for "Everything Went Black" Spot writes:

"The latter half of '80 was... ripe with some of the wildest, craziest, 'police participation' gigs.... At the infamous Baces Hall gig in East Hollywood I was once again acting as stage manager. Outside the hall was a state of near pandemonium with hundreds of punks milling about, dozens of cops wanting to shut the place down, photographers, reporters, and TV cameras waiting for the inevitable riot.... At one point I was given the thankless job of announcing that 'The LAPD riot squad is outside and we have to shut it down! Black Flag will not be able to play!' To which I was showered with angry 'Fuck You!'s, beer cans and bottles with or without their contents, and hundreds of warm slimy globules of spit. I then thought: 'Well maybe I can talk the cops out of stopping the show.' I pushed through the thick sweaty crowd and under the icy, quivering light of the circling helicopter I somehow managed to convince the officer in command to let Black Flag play a short set. Which they did. The cops then came inside and joined the party." (SST 015)

    The end of the Cali scene-dream of Wurmhole-The Church-SST Records-Media Art all at the beach in Hermosa came fast. The city was proceeding with the condemning of the old bath-house and the Church and the HBPD were circling so Black Flag threw a going away party at the Church just before they left town on tour and according to Dez invited only the H.B.ers (that is the Huntington Beach contingent in the parlance of the day) as they didn't want their local friends to get hurt. Those droogs did what they do and jumped the gun on the city's teardown of the place. Dez told me they were never kicked out of Hermosa Beach because after that party Black Flag left on tour and returned to a new address in Torrance (18104 Prairie Ave.) which they used briefly before moving to the 1409 Sartori office. According to Spot the lease on Media Art's space ran out early in 1981 and rent went from $325/mo to $1,500/mo so the studio closed. The Slivers featured Martin Tamburovich who was in The Reactionaries and Greg Hurley, George's brother; their e.p. "Restraint for Style" on the Minutemen's New Alliance label was one of the last Spot sessions at Media Art. Spot wrote that The Stains album was the last album he recorded there and the final session was for the Black Flag "Louie Louie" / "Damaged I" 45. After Dez's vocal on the SST 015 version of "Louie Louie" was done the recording equipment was dismantled and moved out. Hermosa Beach, the original Surf City, which Spot and others loved for its jazz-beat-punk backwater funk, finally cashed out. Jazz at the Lighthouse barely survives one night a week amidst the now $5-10 million homes. Dez's mother, Gloria, took over the jazz nights from his late father and she has recently retired. Spot invited Gloria, Randy Nauert of The Challengers (Redondo Beach surf band circa 1962-70), and myself to talk at his 2018 Pacific Coast Gallery photography exhibit which incredibly occurred in a new space on Pier Ave. just across the street from where the Church once stood. (The Gallery is now in Manhattan Beach but it still offers fine prints of Spot's photography.)

In 1979 I was working at Renaissance Records in Portland, Oregon, and we were distributing independent releases on labels such as Rough Trade and Dangerhouse to shops around America. We had read about the L.A. scene and heard about the Elk's Lodge police action because The Wipers had been the opening band that night the LAPD declared war on punk rock. I wrote for a copy of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown" e.p. when I saw the SST ad for it in Slash magazine. But we were just moving the company to Berkeley and changing its name to Systematic Record Distribution and by the time the sample was forwarded to us and we made our order for distribution they had sold out the first run and a second run too! Eventually we got copies to sell and the record made it to retail outside of L.A. Systematic's in-house label, Optional Music, began in 1980 by reissuing the first Dead Kennedys 45, "California Uber Alles" and issuing the first run of three thousand of their follow-up, "Holiday in Cambodia". Soon SST issued the Minutemen "Paranoid Time" e.p. and the Black Flag "Jealous Again" 12" e.p. and Systematic became known as the place to go for these new bands' records. I think it was May 1981 when I first talked to Spot. I'd seen Black Flag but hadn't met Spot yet. I called SST to order records; they were then in Torrance. Black Flag had just left on tour to the east coast and the Torrance Police Department took the opportunity to burst in and was ransacking the office just as I called. All I knew was that I couldn't get a straight answer out of Spot. I asked about ordering records and he laughed nervously and said, "Uhhh... I don't know!" Then I asked, "Well, can I leave an order with you?", and he laughed again and repeated, "Uhhh... I don't know!" He was staring wide-eyed at the cops as they searched the office for drugs, certain they would find something. The office was right in downtown Torrance but the real offense to the town fathers was probably the parade of their daughters who were in and out of SST. Eventually Spot handed the phone to Mike Watt who was also at the office that day and Mike whispered to me what was going on.

A couple months later I saw Black Flag at Tut's in Chicago and offered to come down and run their office. Greg was interested because they always checked shops on tour for their records and when they had the records in stock it was always from Systematic. But Greg admitted they had no money and now no office. Nevertheless by mid-September 1981 I moved down to the next SST in West Hollywood, back of the Unicorn Records offices. There I met Spot in person and learned that in the best of circumstances one had to brace oneself a bit when you asked Spot a question - there was going to be a pause before he gave you a circuitous side-long heavily qualified if not fully metaphorical response. This appeared to be Spot's manner in most things. When Greg asked Spot a question Greg would start rocking his right leg impatiently and unless it was an emergency (there was one a week) he'd take the edge off his impatience by smiling indulgently while he waited out Spot's answer. I think both Greg and Chuck enjoyed the circus of characters that were caught up in the heat and light of Black Flag; a few years earlier and I think they'd all been frustrated, friendless weirdos at the end of the hippie era. The band came with a peanut-gallery-cum-brainstrust (Spot, Mugger, Pettibon, Medea, Billy, Merrill, Watt, Boon, Holzman...) that set the lingo and style for the free-thinking that the South Bay area of Los Angeles came to model for the punk era against the marketing/herd instincts of the music industry and its young customers.

Greg and Chuck themselves were a partnership that proceeded via what Spot might deride as "mind-fucking" as they explored all the ways things could be done better than the conventional way. But they also made each other laugh and, like Spot, they often spoke in comic voices as if Looney Tunes' characters were running around SST. Spot had a number of characters, some regular ("Harold Schvenkel" was the old record industry veteran who did blow with all the stars and whose nose had just healed), and at other times as on Johnny Myer's KALX program at UC-Berkeley in late 1981 he'd just key off of Black Flag joking around playing bad major label hard rock and pull out an impression of Jello Biafra to announce that the Dead Kennedys had seen the light and were going "metal". Johnny also set up a mic in the station's bathroom and Spot played free clarinet which was added to the solo John Bonham song from Led Zeppelin's "Coda" collection after which Spot-as-Schvenkel told a story of partying with the late Bonham. In the first minute of Dave Markey's doc made on the last Black Flag tour, "Reality 86'd", Greg and Chuck are captured on the street just before entering a club and in comic mode Greg offers that the first thing they need to decide is whether to leave reality at the door, and in response Chuck expounds that it's important to remember to consider reality to be optional and have reality serve you rather than find yourself serving it. Greg is laughing and then in character says, "Oh, okay," and makes to walk into the club satisfied with that. Now, thinking of Spot specifically, I recognize that while most superior intelligences excel at either intuitive-poetic insight or didactic-scientific comprehension, Spot, God help him, possessed both mindsets. He was at all times both Spot-the-engineer and Spot-the-artist and he had to toggle between his selves before alloying something like an answer to your question.

    The first Minutemen album, "The Punch Line", was probably recorded in early 1981 at Media Art just before the first Saccharine Trust album, "PaganIcons" was recorded there in April 1981. Spot did a late remix of "PaganIcons" later that year at Unicorn. That remix may have been done in part to learn the room before his work on "Damaged". I believe both albums were initially mastered at Virco. I think Max Watts did the mastering and I'm amazed how good that cut sounds. The record was recut, at K-Disc I believe, because Virco's lathe had automatically set wide bands between songs and with as many songs as the Minutemen fit onto a side, even at 45rpm, you just couldn't space each tune. It's interesting that already at Virco Spot is cutting these short albums at 45 for sound quality reasons - the music really jumps off the groove at the higher speed. Spot had to look for alternatives to Media Art and he recorded The Descendents "Fat" e.p. at Music Lab in Silverlake. He writes about it in his illustrated essay publication, Anti-Punk Rock - A History:

"The Fat EP was some kind of landmark I can't put a name on. Recorded in Studio B, it was a full steam, bonus cup approach with Frank Navetta using my old Fender Strat, and we just went for it. I'm pretty sure it was mixed across the street at Studio A where I (the eternal detail dog) had accidentally mixed one tune, fader movements included, whilst monitoring from the 2-track machine's playback head - a definite NoNo. I didn't say anything until, after hearing the mix back, I explained my mistake by saying, 'I thought I had done it now when I hadn't done it now.' Regardless, it was the mix that went on the record - no one took issue with it." (SPOT, Anti-Punk Rock)

In the tumult after being kicked out of Torrance while on tour, Black Flag had no money to release the Saccharine Trust and Minutemen albums. New Alliance released The Descendents e.p. that summer. Also at Music Lab in July 1981 Spot recorded The Fix's second 7" which came out on Touch and Go. Greg and Chuck put out the Black Flag "Louie Louie" 45 through Poshboy and also set up the cassette-only joint release with Poshboy and his bands, "The Future Looks Bright", so that some of the backed-up SST recordings (plus The Descendents) would be out circulating. And for a brief period Greg and Chuck considered releasing the Dez-vocals version of the "Damaged" album on Chris D.'s Upsetter Records.

Black Flag did not want to leave the South Bay. Chuck told me they had thought that moving to Hollywood was what had destroyed the great early Gardena band, the Cheifs. Instead of returning to their hometown after gigging they had moved up to Hollywood and began living the lives of rockers, stopped writing and practicing and broke up. But now Black Flag at Unicorn on Santa Monica Blvd was in walking distance of the Sunset Strip. Spot seemed to me to be either in the studio at Unicorn or else scouting other studios, mastering labs, cassette duplicators, and pressing plants, driving across L.A. in his gray matte single-seat cut baja-bug. When Henry Rollins joined the band and Dez moved to second guitar it was decided to re-do the songs they'd already recorded multiple times. At Unicorn's studio the re-recording of "Damaged" was well along when I moved down from Berkeley in mid-September 1981. I remember them finishing up mixes and tracking the last few songs. For "TV Party" the last tracking would be the backing vocals where TV show names are shouted out. Greg, Chuck and Spot looked at each other having no idea what any current television shows were. I think Dez, Earl and Merrill came up with the show names.

With "Damaged" more or less done we brought in Meat Puppets to record their first album at Unicorn on November 24, 1981. It got a bit complicated as my Berkeley label, Thermidor, paid a flat $400 for an estimated two days for a record SST would release. The Meat Puppets were then young desert mystics managed by Laurie O'Connell of the band Monitor and the arts group, World Imitation. Laurie was by rights the It-girl modeling female art-making that others were later taken to be, but as Tom Wolfe noted, while in the East talent is drawn into the establishment that is less likely in California. Monitor wasn't exactly the hardest working band in show business but they had wide influence via their graphics and mail-art, their music, their records, their connections to L.A.F.M.S., Boyd Rice, Jeffrey Vallance, Devo, Throbbing Gristle, Ata Tak, Takuya Sakaguchi.... Laurie and Boyd did noise-with-vocals performances and recordings as Barbie and Ken. Anyway, the Meat Puppets! Laurie's charges ate mushrooms for the occasion and she became emergency intercessor between Spot and the band who were having trouble playing in the set up for the recording. Spot had seen them open for Black Flag and done their live sound but didn't know them well. Laurie huddled with the band and then explained to Spot that they couldn't play together unless they were facing each other like in practice, and that further they also might be liable to just play and keep playing without regard to commands like, "Okay, rolling!" So Spot, trained for emergencies with Black Flag, set up a submix direct to a two-track and ran it at 15- or maybe even the home format speed of 7.5 ips so the reels would pick up 30 or 60 solid minutes of whatever happened, while he did the usual 24-track two inch recording song-by-song as the mushrooming allowed. Meanwhile Laurie went in and turned the amps to face the drums. I remember Spot watching her from the control room and chuckling; it seemed funny that Curt and Cris couldn't manage to turn their own amps around but were nevertheless now going to record their debut album.

Spot wasn't the kind of careerist producer-engineer who would storm out or demand his name be taken off a session gone off the rails. He wanted to see what was going to happen and didn't mind much if he thought he might learn something new and perhaps catch lightning in a bottle. We don't know what Ed Barger would have done; he was to have been there and he had done the Meat Puppets e.p. and the Monitor album, both great records, and he had been Devo's initial soundman and recording engineer in Akron. By the time Ed showed up Spot had mixed the record - it was easy and it was difficult: you could push the faders of any instrument up or down and nothing changed! Let it bleed to the max! But Laurie now worked at Unicorn and she and Ed mixed and mixed, smoked pot and used that early digital delay plastic jobber that looked like a toy setting on the board. Laurie and Ed were sure the band was going places and probably thought Unicorn if not Warner Bros should release the album.... Did I mention they were smoking pot? In any case the Meat Puppets returned to Phoenix and decided to work with SST; they were smart to put one of Ed and Laurie's mixes on the record so that pseudo-insiders like the late Mike Sheppard wouldn't go around saying "Oh man you should hear the Barger mixes!" Anyway, Spot did catch lightning in a bottle by my measure with the songs "Melons Rising", "Saturday Morning", and "Walking Boss". And the groundbreaking high desert versions of "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" and "Walking Boss" were not caught on the two-inch multi-track but used direct from that sub-mix two-track recording.

I hated how things had gone south with Laurie but it seemed you had to be really young to understand what Black Flag was doing musically, lyrically, with their gig promotion, flyering, touring and with their label. If you were in your twenties and had been involved in punk or new wave or art rock since the mid-seventies you just weren't going to see and appreciate the new populist-hardcore paradigm through which everything from metal to folk would be reconstructed, along with college radio, the club circuit, and record distribution. The older heads thought that had already been done by The Ramones. By the eighties Devo, Talking Heads, and The B-52's were burying guitars to have pop hits just as guitars were popping up unexpectedly in r&b. The Kirkwoods and Bostrom were young and could see this new thing happening when Black Flag came to Arizona or they opened for them in Riverside or San Francisco. It was a relief to me and perhaps Spot when we got to do more records with the Meat Puppets and Spot was able to work under better, or rather, less radical conditions.

    In rare downtime at the SST offices behind Unicorn Spot and Mugger worked up a new song by The Nig-Heist. They had a girl named Terri play bass with them, Spot was on drums and Mugger played guitar and sang the song, "Walking Down the Street". They were using Black Flag's equipment which stayed set up in the practice room and so the guitar is Greg's rig and has his tone. When I heard how good the simple portable cassette recording sounded I offered to release it as was on Thermidor. There was just the one song so the b-side had etched messages to girls from Mugger and Spot - no doubt John Golden didn't fully realize just how crazy we were until we came in with that job. Don't remember where Terri went, but a couple years later during more downtime that I can't imagine them having, Spot and Mugger went into Music Lab and recorded a Nig-Heist album for Thermidor called either "Snort My Load" or "Understanding Basic Economics", which is Mugger on guitar and vocals and Spot doing about everything else. Spot said that The Misfits were the most difficult band to work with; I'm guessing the recording of "Snort My Load" was the most fun session he did. In the extras on the Drag City reissue of the Nig-Heist album there is a practice jam probably from the "Walking Down the Street" session called "Terri" and she appears to be playing bass on it.

Soon after the Meat Puppets sessions Black Flag began touring their way to the east coast. Spot was still at SST in touch with Greg and doing last minute remixes, then recutting lacquers and replacing the stampers at the Virco plant. He was also in charge of finding a better cassette duplicator for the "Damaged" cassettes. Spot liked Virco's vinyl pressings but not its mastering or its cassette duplication. Spot then caught up to the band for its first tour of England. The Cali boys were miserable in England in late December judging by Spot's photos. Ian MacKaye went with them. He and Henry were the only ones interested in UK punk bands and they were disappointed to find the bands they met were jealous and hostile except for the U.K. Subs and The Ruts. (Ian briefly joined the Nig-Heist when they opened for some of the Black Flag shows; there's photos - I don't pass along idle disinfo.) Back in West Hollywood Unicorn was working "Damaged" more than I was, though I did do the label layout for the Licorice Pizza free 45, "Thirsty and Miserable"/"Life of Pain". I had put some money in to pay Virco so as to press Black Flag back catalog and "PaganIcons" by Saccharine Trust and "The Punch Line" by Minutemen. Saccharine went on the Black Flag U.S. tour dates and by the end of 1982 they had been seen by about everyone who had seen Black Flag that year of the "Damaged" touring. That sold their "PaganIcons" debut fairly well. I worked on those releases. That left the Overkill 45 and The Stains album still unreleased from Spot's Media Art work.

In most towns on the Black Flag tours there'd be scene people hoping to talk to the band as soon as they arrived and before things got hectic. The band plus Mugger and Spot were glad to get out of the van and maybe have some time before load-in and soundcheck. Where the guys in Black Flag were perhaps focused on what they'd be doing in a few hours Mugger and Spot began performing right out of the van with typically South Bay L.A. style bravado. It usually started with Mugger looking disappointed at the young punk rockers and asking, "Hey you guys, where are the broads? Come on, get it happening!" Spot seemed to live in an Army green flak jacket back then. Spot and Mugger were the ice-breakers in situations and in the years before SST-Global booked the whole bill Spot would often do live sound for the local bands too. In those early years these were some great bands and they often asked him to do their albums. Studio house engineers and club soundmen could not be trusted back then. The Industry-type wore feathered hair or mullets and white Reeboks. They were clueless at best regarding what these bands might want to sound like, and at worst they resented the punks, were disrespectful and sabotaged their sound. When Spot left the tour (late '82 or into '83) Mugger became the soundman and Davo was added to the crew. Then when Mugger left the tour for the SST office in late 1983 Davo did sound and Tom Troccoli was added to the crew. Dave Levine did sound from 1984 on and Joe Cole crewed the last tour. (Steve Reed worked on later Gone and Mike Watt tours and played in Legal Weapon and Bazooka and knew Spot from the scene though neither knew they were actually cousins until at Cynthia's funeral they each asked the other "What are you doing here?")

Late in the Unicorn period the company moved from West Hollywood to Santa Monica. Chuck reminds me that Emil was worked in on drums at the first address in late April 1982 before tour and when they returned to L.A. in early July Unicorn was in Santa Monica. SST was now on Phelan Ave in Redondo Beach. At Unicorn studio in Santa Monica Black Flag recorded a new single version of "TV Party" produced by Ed Barton and Daphna Edwards with Spot engineering with house engineer Jeff Stebbins who we knew fairly well (he doodled on a photo of Black Flag and we used it for the No Mag ad we called 'Unite Against Society!!'). Barton was an experienced engineer on commercial pop, rock and r&b and unfortunately this was to be the only studio recording with Emil Johnson on drums. The b-side is from the same period and studio but features Bill Stevenson on drums and is credited as produced by Black Flag and engineered by Stebbins; Spot was away in Texas. Bill had been in the band on an emergency basis when Robo wasn't let back into the country after the British dates. Emil did one tour and was a great natural drummer but didn't like the life and when he pined for his girlfriend, Greg, hoping to keep Emil in the band, told Mugger to lay some truth on Emil about her which didn't help matters, but they were lucky to then be in Vancouver just as drummer Chuck Biscuits quit D.O.A.; he jumped in the van and joined Black Flag.

    There are more liner notes where Spot dates a couple of his Texas jaunts, fortuitous because looking at his discography it is impossible to reconstruct his travels. If Spot had two minds you begin to wonder how many bodies he had running around the country as you try to put his L.A. work, Black Flag tours, and Texas jobs into one man's timeline! He wrote this for the Kamikaze Refrigerators LP cover on his own label in 1986:

"In March of 1982 I made a trip to Austin to record the Big Boys 'Fun Fun Fun' e.p. That was when I got my first exposure to the Kamikaze Refrigerators. Tim Kerr played me a tape of one of their live gigs.... The next night I saw the band at the old Studio 29 and they became one of my favorite Austin bands. In a subsequent article in Flipside I described them as '...a real interesting kinda deadpan geek-cum-funk and jangly noise thick eyeglasses type band who don't really make any more or less sense than PiL or Joy Division but what the hell, neither do you...', and found myself listening to their tapes more and more and thinking, 'Gee, these guys could probably make a great record!' Some months later I acquired some new tapes of the Refrigerators and from one of these came their song 'Repetition of Danger' which was placed on the New Alliance cassette-grown compilation, 'Mighty Feeble' (NAR 013). In the spring of 1983 I was back in Austin to do more work with the Big Boys, during which they recorded one of Kamikaze Refrigerators' songs, 'Ambivalence'. A week or so later, I found myself in the studio with the Refrigerators and we recorded these eight songs." (SPOT, liner notes)

Spot explains that there was no response from record labels to those tapes and then the band broke up, so he got the then young, now late, Austin artist-Man's Ruin label owner Frank Kozik to do a cover and released the record himself. Spot characterizes these recording sessions thusly:

"What exists here was essentially a quick, bare bones demo done on 8-track with some of the overdubs recorded directly on to the 2-track during the mix. As a result of this and the band's demise it was impossible for these songs to be given a glorified remix. The Kamikaze Refrigerators should have had a record and they finally do. Here it is. -SPOT" (Ibid,)

We see how improvisational Spot was as an engineer and record label owner as well. And I forgot he did some writing for Flipside! (He apparently wrote things for We Got Power, Thrasher, No Mag, Forced Exposure, and Option as well.)

Back to Unicorn, sorry, yes we must... Spot was present for the A-side of the "TV Party" single. He was the tape-op, sitting on the floor next to the two-inch machine's control panel as Ed Barton and Daphna occupied the cockpit seats at the board. Notably Spot accidently-on-purpose erased a vocal take Henry was doing that Spot judged not up to snuff but they hadn't noticed. Barton looked at Spot unsure whether he could be angry at him; Spot was obviously with the band in some way he didn't understand. Greg, Chuck, Mugger, Henry, myself, Daphna were quiet. Barton certainly only knew the band through Daphna's blather so he just moved on and Henry did another take. Greg dryly congratulated Spot afterwards by saying, "That was pretty crass, Spot."

Also at Unicorn-Santa Monica we did the basic tracking for the Overkill album; this was engineered by Glenn Feit who had worked on the first Motley Crue album and he was Greg's and Chuck's idea to give the band a more metal production. It's not like they thought Feit had done such a great job on the Motley Crue debut but anyway it was a thought - the border between metal and punk was going to fall one day and until Greg broke up the five-piece Black Flag line-up he had a hard rock populist idea of Black Flag's upside potential - afterwards he seemed resentful as he knowingly with malice aforethought pushed it down a black hole alienating old fans and confounding new might-have-beens. Only the most tuned in guitar worshippers were enthusiastic by the end. They had rationalized Spot's absence on tours by saying that Mugger might make for a better sound-guy because he got laid more. (FYI, after Spot's passing many L.A. women reconnected and found they had each chosen Spot to be their first; Spot used to joke that he was a male lesbian because he was into women. Also, btw, Mugger was just this year stressing how extreme Greg's libido was. And that's Mugger talking! A few years ago Spot had characterized the early Black Flag m.o. as driven by Greg's libido as he plumbed Medea's depths. Spot thought she helped break down his inhibitions in terms of pushing his music radically, facially, into the straight world. Medea knew the world was fronting; it had always folded before her blithe louche come-on.) Oh, and re, Overkill: Felice tells me that Merrill was there for the basic tracks recording; the band was kind of shaky every way but musically - Felice, Ron and Kurt tore it up/nailed it down! Merrill did the vocals a year later with Spot at Total Access and then Spot and I mixed it there - it's a masterpiece but the band-with-different-singer fell apart on its way up the greased flagpole of the Troubadour metal scene. (That later lineup has a version of "No Holds Barred" on "Metal Massacre Vol. II".)

    One overlooked album Spot produced back then was by the Vancouver band The Subhumans who came down to L.A. to have him record their second album, "No Wishes, No Prayers". Spot was splitting an apartment in Los Feliz with Dave Van Heusen; they had met when Dave was part of a session that recorded two songs by Jane Gaskill at Unicorn in late 1981. Dave and Spot put up The Subhumans in their small apartment while they recorded at Unicorn in Santa Monica. This was a rare punk-era Spot session that was done to what was then the industry standard. The Subhumans had a manager and they were recording in a Los Angeles of their own Canadian imaginations I suppose. Jello Biafra tells me that D.O.A. also recorded that way, tracking just the drums first, then adding the bass, then the guitar, then the vocals. No live interaction or goading of each other in the moment, but rather a matching to a past moment with multiple chances to patch it together for perfect synchronization. The advantage is more the mixing engineer's than it is the musicians or the listeners, but it's all aimed at radio programmers anyway and they just weren't persuadable.

The first rule of rock as formulated by your author in his shattering tome, Rock and the Pop Narcotic - Testament for the Electric Church, is: The dumber the audience the more perfect the music must be. The radio and recording industries have certainly achieved a dumbed down singularity of the once singularly advanced American folk musical culture and its audiences that could roll with missed notes or slipped beats in otherwise inspired musical performances of ballads juiced with energy jacked in from jazz and gospel. And as we've seen, the mechanization of music has been an engineer's dream of a musical product as perfectly consistent as American cheese. The musicians do it to themselves now in every Pro-Tools enabled home studio world-wide. And let's not forget to thank hip-hop for its contribution to paving over the music's red dirt mother road. In those punk years there weren't many cash-money dreams acknowledged out loud but every band had one that involved their being the one band to get signed and make it onto radio playlists: The Elvis of punk! The Beatles of new wave! The Led Zeppelin of hardcore! This Subhumans' quixotic bid for glory hits its marks though. I thought they were a bit close to bar band rock in their samey arrangements and songwriting - there were alot of punk bands like that then and its a style that can hit you right when you add beer. In any case The Subhumans broke up and there wasn't much we could do. Sorry Spot. I set up the record to be manufactured and distributed by Enigma so as not to spend precious capital on an expired band.

Greg and Chuck had talked to me about moving the office either with Unicorn to their new address which had the extra space, or going back down to the South Bay. I think we all knew that things were deteriorating with Unicorn though we had no idea that with their move they were actually running out on unpaid rent and bills. I do recall us fretting a bit about swiping the Bunn coffee maker from Unicorn and taking it with us to Redondo Beach. If we'd only known... We moved to a small office that the Ginns or the Flynns were paying rent on to store odds and ends from SST Electronics, some furniture and my stuff. West Hollywood had been okay because you could walk to Sunset and its clubs and record shops but Santa Monica would've been merely nice. So now, Spring 1982, we were paying $150/mo. for SST-Phelan Ave in north Redondo Beach. Black Flag and Saccharine Trust did practice at the extra space behind the new Unicorn and Laurie from Monitor was now receptionist with A&R duties there. Spot had been opposed to signing with Unicorn's label based on his gut feeling about Daphna and he proved correct. Even the studio equipment was leased and Unicorn wasn't making those payments either. After Black Flag did court with Unicorn it turned out even their logo had been stolen from another business, Unicorn Typsetting. I took some work in there and they connected Black Flag or SST with the Unicorn company they were suing for stealing their logo! I have to say, however, that that logo is totally Daphna. Deep into the court battle when the bands stopped practicing at Unicorn and nobody except Robo was having anything to do with Daphna (don't ask), a figure on rollerskates raced down Pico and heaved something through the large front window of a certain fly-by-night - aren't they all? - record company after which a dark figure, flak jacket flapping behind him like a cape, skated off into the dark night.

I thought SST's bankruptcy (a tactic in the legal battle) and our prospects were getting to Spot. I was worried he might leave town for good. In case of that eventuality I learned what I could about the studio by going in when possible and I went with Spot to K-Disc too because I was interested but also to be prepared for the day. It was a clinic listening to Spot and John Golden talk audio. (There is five hours of Spot interviewing John in May 2018 still to be transcribed!) If Spot was up on his loft at SST-Phelan and didn't answer a question Mugger, unlike me, would address it head on, "Spot, are you grumpy?" One morning Mugger woke up under his table-desk suffering from what he called "morning boner" so he called up to Spot who was still sleeping, "Hey Spot!" Awakened and annoyed Spot responded "Hey what?!" Mugger answered, "Come down here and give me a blowjob." Spot brightened and said, "Okay Mugger, right after you come up here and give me some butt-licks." I was exasperated reading Robert Hilburn in the L.A. Times six mornings in a row cover Bruce Springsteen live at the Forum six nights in a row, annoyed that the twice-a-year coverage rule didn't apply to the Boss. He didn't have to ask for blowjobs!

When we were brokest at SST-Phelan we would have to walk the mile or so to the Ginn's house to eat something. I tried to tread lightly and make a simple sandwich unless Mr. Ginn had something fixed. I would look at the Mrs.' Christian Science Monitor while talking with Raymond, Adrian, and/or the parents. The Ginns' running commentary on whatever was on television, whether by Raymond or Adrian or Regis was always hilarious; they knew all the gossip on the stars, athletes and politicians. Spot went back further with Greg's family and though he didn't eat at the Ginn's often when he did there seemed to me to be a little anger in how he took over their kitchen to make himself something more elaborate to eat. But it may have just been his oblivious artist's prerogative as he chatted amiably enough with whoever was there while puttering around in their kitchen. In 1982 Thermidor released the S.P.K. album, "Leichenschrei", and the Australians toured America in a van. They played Al's Bar and were painfully loud - pure synth tones blasted out into a brick-walled space! They parked outside of SST-Phelan to use our bathroom and shower and the four of them stood out in Redondo Beach all dressed in black. Greg was interested in their manifesto's talk about test subjects' responses to loud frequencies. Graeme Revell was the friendly one; he's now an accomplished soundtrack composer. I was glad he got to witness one scene of SST madness. Spot was in the middle of moving tapes around the city to finish some editing that probably involved driving up to a Hollywood studio to edit, then to the cassette duplicator, and then back. He was standing in the middle of SST holding a heavy reel of 2" Ampex 456 tape when Greg sitting on his couch informed him that there'd been a change and he would now have to go and do everything all over again differently. Spot began to shake and whine like an overheating Tex Avery cartoon character until he threw the tape up against the ceiling. It fell back to the concrete floor denting the metal reel. Graeme had just walked in and I thought, Good, he'll have this image of America's leading independent record label and its principal record producer.

Late one night at SST-Phelan Spot set himself up in my chair and was putting his clarinet together so I sat on the couch opposite, which was where Greg sat or slept. I was probably going thru the L.A. Weekly when Greg came in with Roseanne. They were going to lay down under Chuck's desk which was a door laid across stacked milk-crates but unlike Mugger's desk, it had carpet nailed to the edge to give the bed privacy. So Spot who was otherwise silent began improvising craziness on the clarinet in between smooth choruses of Mr. Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore", so I began improvising rock analysis: "The playing of a guitar is essentially symbolic of masturbation but as the blowjob becomes more a fixture of American sexuality we can expect the guitar to be supplanted by the, uh... clarinet in popular forms of music in the near future." Greg and Roseanne were laughing as they disappeared into Chuck's bed-cave, but I couldn't get a chuckle out of Spot. So I knew he was angry.

Those years were short but long in crises and sudden reversals and slow progress. Spot lived at SST or stopped at Sandy's in Hermosa or at Dave's in Los Feliz. He recorded the Minutemen's second album "What Makes a Man Start Fires?" at Music Lab in Silverlake as well as The Plebs e.p. for New Alliance. Spot went to Texas to record The Dicks and The Big Boys and then back to LA where he discovered Wyn Davis who had worked at Media Art had opened his own studio in Redondo Beach called Total Access in late 1981. In 1982 Spot put the Descendents and then Saint Vitus into the big unfinished space next to the studio's finished live room to record their debut albums so he immediately got that space figured out for any band on the spectrum of fast high-end attack to slow heavy resonance. The Butthole Surfers crash-landed in L.A. and Spot recorded their first lineup in July at Total Access; they had moved to L.A. broker than us and were having a hard time and James Burns writes at Discogs.com that they never paid the session bill so never got the tapes. Chuck put them on as many local gigs as he could so they could eat and they credited him with saving their lives, but they fired the brothers Quinn and Scott Mathews and moved to San Francisco and re-recorded those songs with a new line-up for Alternative Tentacles. And Husker Du landed at SST in June 1982 to record "Everything Falls Apart" at Total Access with Spot for the band's own Reflex label.

    In January 1983 the Minutemen went into Total Access for one side of the "Buzz or Howl..." e.p. - Spot set that session up as a live mix to two-track and the playing really sounds present, like you can hear there is one tape generation less between you and the music. Spot had a lot of lee-way at SST in the studio, editing the masters and etching remarks on the lacquers and he could get indulgent. We had put the original "Everything Went Black" release together with Unicorn's verbal consent, but when they changed their mind and halted it, Spot thought to re-edit the "Crass Commercialism" side for the blacked-out 2nd version of the album which we tried again to release. He switched out some stuff for an improvised sketch, a "Nuremberg Trial of hard-core punk rock" which seemed newly relevant. In the sketch Dez's then girlfriend Mitzi Lanius tries to defend Spot who is on trial for pushing the buttons and the faders and blowing up the world - Dez shouts occasional objections in the background. But Spot keeps admitting his guilt! For causing the Whisky riot AND blowing up the world! On the other disc of "Everything Went Black", to denote the changeover from Ron/Chavo-vocals and the Dez-vocals material you hear Spot suddenly say, "Okay we're rolling; you can play," after which Dez pounds the piano for about ten seconds before cutting right into the Dez version of "Jealous Again." And the etching on the inner band of that side asks, "Feeling uneasy? Chavo sez here comes Dez - Jealous anyone?" Well, on "Buzz or Howl", Chuck's lyric contribution, "Little Man with a Gun in His Hand" featured in an arrangement that may have been only the second fade-out on a Minutemen recording, this being a violation of the Brechtian punk rock challenge to rock 'n roll/pop entertainment as judged by Pedro-heads like, maybe, Greg Hurley. Only Spot, paying no mind to either Hurley, nor Mike nor D., pulls a switcheroo and brings the volume back up after the fadeout and you hear Mike's frustration with how long they had to repeat the last part to cover the fade, "That good enough?!" before a live mic picks up distant comments as the 'men leave the room - all this included in the final edit and lacquer cut - Brecht lives! But Mike decided that tore it and they were done with Spot; it was their record after all. At the time Mike told me they had to stop working with Spot to stay friends. That sounded like bullshit to me but they did stay friends. I always thought that when Naomi Petersen's camera caught D. Boon giving Spot a kiss soon after that she captured a moment that was one-part the band's kiss of death and one-part D.'s apology for same.

At some point Greg thought we should figure out credit terms to propose to Wyn at Total Access so I figured out how fast we could issue records after a final mix and how fast those invoices could come back to us to pay the studio bill and Wyn agreed to four months billing and SST went to town: the Meat Puppets "II" in April and a few months later Husker Du again for "Metal Circus" and then again a few months later for "Zen Arcade". Spot also worked on his own with Anti, Secret Hate, Nip Drivers and Suicidal Tendencies at Total Access, and AIDS, Circle One, China White, Mood of Defiance, and The Misfits elsewhere around town. One of the interesting things Spot recorded for a friend was what he labeled The Colleen Pancake Experience on the cassette he made for me; it had some absurdist tin pan alley-like songs and I dubbed the cassette for the guys at Global and Chuck really liked it but don't think it was released. Years later it was nice to hear that SST's work at Total Access studio and at John Golden's K-Disc mastering had brought them both alot of business over the years, since they had gone out of their ways to make it easier for us to function when we were broke. K-Disc started putting some of SST's album covers on their wall next to Van Halen, Kraftwerk, and Bob Marley covers, and when I revisited Total Access in 2005 to help record the Unknown Instructors I saw that Wyn had SST covers framed on the wall underneath larger gold record plaques for No Doubt, Sublime, and Guns n' Roses. Earlier, before I'd come down to SST Black Flag had helped make Virco Pressing the go-to plant for independent labels when they'd been basically a plant that pressed Christian albums and the Arhoolie roots label's releases. Slash, Ruby, Poshboy, New Alliance and others pressed at Virco. And the old married couple who owned the plant, Max and Virginia Watts, refused to settle Unicorn's debt and their suit helped lead to Unicorn's collapse, thus freeing Black Flag. I wish we could have returned that favor to them. These businesses talked to Greg or myself on the phone but I think they really felt they knew SST because Spot was always coming by to master, produce or inspect pressings or cassettes. I'm sure they loved days when Spot showed up; he stood out.

In late 1982 Black Flag was still a 5-piece practicing its new songs. They didn't want to play out until they had a new record and they didn't want to just keep playing the older songs. When touring bands asked to watch them practice Greg turned them down. The new stuff pointed in a new direction and Greg didn't want Black Flag to inspire those in their wake who would be free to get their versions out before the originals. But to give the band's players a recording to listen and learn from Spot set them up secretly in Total Access to do a quick and dirty straight mix to two-track. This was sadly the only studio recording made of the band with Chuck Biscuits on drums and whatever its limitations it was heavy and wild - these were the songs written and arranged for two guitars played that way! I got a cassette dub from Spot but never made copies, even for Jack Brewer and Ray Farrell who hear me playing it at SST. But it did get bootlegged somehow and when the New York Times' jazz and rock writer Ben Ratliff was flown to Las Vegas and San Antonio in May 2013 to cover the new contending lineups of Black Flag he listened to the bootleg and asked me about it. The last thing I wanted was to be quoted like a ghost from Greg's past in his re-debut review. But I remember Ben was surprised at the furious power of that demo bootleg; he compared it in an email to the Count Basie Orchestra in its prime. I was glad he could hear that because in no time that line-up flew apart and it was forgotten except by us witnesses. Dez left to start his own band, D.C.3, Chuck Biscuits was fired and Bill Stevenson joined again on drums, seemingly more permanently this time as he also pitched in at the lawyers' office vs. Unicorn. At the time it seemed to me that Bill's enthusiasm kept Black Flag together; this despite Greg and Chuck deciding repeatedly that SST wouldn't put out Descendents records.

Some time after recording the demo Spot went back into Total Access with the now four-piece Black Flag, still in full Nixon mode as the injunction remained in effect... even more Nixon in fact as this recording has never come out to my knowledge. Greg slowed down the arrangements radically for two songs that were recorded in a real non-demo style multi-track session and then mixed; at least I think that's how Spot did it. If I remember correctly the songs were "I Can't Decide" and "Beat My Head Against the Wall". The idea was to test the court's injunction one more time (the blacked-out "Everything Went Black" collection credited to the players' names and not Black Flag hadn't been allowed and Greg and Chuck spent several days in jail). This time Greg and Chuck thought to release a 45 that would be called Black Flag but the members would be listed as Mugger, Spot, Carducci, and Claassen or the like - individuals who were not enjoined from recording as Black Flag. Maybe I regret my response to the recordings but I can't be sure as I never heard them again. Greg played the two songs for me at SST-Phelan and they struck me as boring and long when played that slow. "I wouldn't release it," is what I said and I wondered later if Greg thought I was refusing to release it. Of course I wasn't refusing, I was just advising him that I wouldn't put it out as Black Flag if I was him. Hard to believe he just deferred to my judgment. But he was disappointed and never brought it up again. A couple years ago I asked Spot about those versions and he remembered them but all of his tapes were in storage and not accessible easily. If Spot had had things available and I had known of an easy Nixonesque studio situation I would've been tempted to do a Carducci mix of "Slip It In" as an instrumental like I first heard it back in the five-piece days when the band would play the arrangement during soundchecks before the lyrics were done. I had suggested then that Greg keep it an instrumental as it worked even better than "Obliteration", which was another new instrumental they were soon opening sets with. Well... then... suddenly we forgot about all that because the earth shook and Chuck Dukowski was out of Black Flag!

AND ONLY THEN in late 1983 did Black Flag finally get free of Unicorn! (Unicorn was put out of business by the bankruptcy court for violating rules regarding deposits; Rough Trade-US found their fraudulently cancelled check.) Immediately SST released Black Flag's "Everything Went Black". Fully pressed and boxed copies had been sitting at SST and Virco in Alhambra since the injunction. We also prepared to press our own SST issues of what had been the Unicorn titles, "Damaged" and the "TV Party" 45. I had reserved them the SST catalog numbers 007 and 012 just in case we got them back one day. The only bad news now that Black Flag was free to record and tour was when Mugger and I learned that Greg had borrowed more money to have Dave Levine of Rat Sound build a touring P.A. Mugger knew better than me that rather than make real money on tour and make up for lost time, Black Flag would now barely break even, with double the overhead moving around the country in two large trucks with extra crew. But after all the interference Greg was determined to do the music his way.

The not-so-new next Black Flag album's songs were now being woodshedded by Greg on bass and Bill Stevenson on drums; Chuck was out of the band but not yet replaced. They worked on the album that would be called "My War" after Chuck's great anthem. Greg was trying to wring the punk out of Bill and get him to play an even, consistent "socialist" beat as they termed it, without any emphases, rushing, or even syncopations. When Greg thought they had it down they went into Total Access with Spot and laid down the rhythm section tracks. Greg came back to SST and dropped down onto his couch and shook his head and said, "Bill punked it out." I think he was particularly discouraged because he knew that the money situation demanded we go through with the album and get it released so a tour that Chuck was already booking could happen and records could be sold. Spot couldn't do much; these were Greg's decisions and Greg decided to boost the low end on his guitar which Spot described as trying to push the music where it couldn't go. Spot specifically compared the resulting "My War" album to Saint Vitus albums where the sound structure was built for the music. We didn't know that within mere months Kira Roessler would leave D.C.3 and join Black Flag on bass and she and Bill would then be nailing that socialist beat thing freeing Greg to do his bourgeois individualist thing all over the place, and also allowing Spot to produce the best sounding Black Flag record, "Slip It In", right after the most inadequate sounding one. "My War" has its fans and it is an important record as is, but it might have been / should have been a record that retracked punk and metal scenes and broke open rock audiences seven years after The Ramones and Motorhead promised it and seven years before Nirvana finally delivered it. ("My War" should have been recorded by the 5-piece line-up and come out in late 1982.) Spot had John Golden etch these lines on the "My War" lacquers: "Exploring the inside of empty guns/looking for the markings of rifled thoughts. Is that it then?" And these on the "Slip It In" lacquers: "Only the steaming liquid of caffeine... stark, starker... / and walked out into the bright light without sunglasses".

    Saint Vitus' debut album was a pure live recording at Total Access and got good notice in Creem but not Flipside, however they found more audience interest in West Germany. For their second album, "Hallow's Victim", we managed to get them into Total Access right off a Black Flag tour slot where they had rotated the new songs in and out of their set three at a time to get them gig-sharp and Spot caught what was basically another live performance with better separation, overdubbed riff-beds under the solos and vocal touch-ups. Dave Chandler surprised me by referring to "Hallow's Victim" as their punk album as we prepared to record what he called their metal album, "Born Too Late", with engineer Mike Lardie. To us it was all just Saint Vitus; they were loathe to add things in the studio they couldn't perform live. Dave was the first respondee to buy his plane ticket to Spot's memorial at Total Access, we also saw original vocalist Scott Reagers there and we were able to stop at the memorial for Saint Vitus bassist Mark Adams who died in May of Parkinson's disease. Mark's memorial was held at a Lomita kung fu studio. (Original drummer Armando Acosta died in 2010.) Saint Vitus are Lomita's working class heroes. (And in September The Stains' guitarist Robert Becerra died of cancer...)

Spot was generally a co-producer with any band involved. He didn't remake a band's sound. He didn't use the studio as an instrument. He hoped to keep the studio "invisible" or unheard and let the band's live presentation cohere in its best balance - something impossible in the kind of live venues the bands played. Often club's acoustics were bad enough but there'd also be an inadequate P.A. and monitor system. But soon the bands were tempting their earlier puritanical pursuit of transcendence and rethinking the studio. 1983 was probably the last year that Spot was really in sync with the early SST bands. They had been as radical as he and when you took that into the studio - normally a cold, silent, deadening space - you really could generate some heat. It was still interesting for me but also sad to see happen. Spot had described the compatibility he had with the bands: "Most of those bands and musicians were not interested in sounding like anything that was on the radio, which was fine, because I wasn't interested in trying to make things sound like stuff on the radio."(Tape Op) We were all so busy that commercial calculation crept in like a fog. Mike Watt was the furnace that powered the Minutemen, though since D. Boon's 1985 death Mike has routinely credited D. with virtually all of it. Mike surprised me while we were working on "Project: Mersh" by telling me that their second album, "What Makes a Man Start Fires?", was intended by the band to be a demo to get them signed to a major. I guess he told me this as a joke at the expense of their earlier selves while we were making a new record mocking a real reach for radio play that was recorded at Total Access with engineer Mike Lardie. The Minutemen were alot of fun to work with because everything was serious and funny at the same time and they surely achieved the most in terms of musical breakthroughs. There was nothing like seeing the Minutemen at the Anti-Club! But Mike always made sure to try out different producers, namely Mike Patton of Middle Class and Ethan James at Radio Tokyo studio. The one he didn't try out was the one I regret not intervening to make happen. Mike was fascinated that Dez Cadena's dad, Ozzy, had produced alot of sides for the Savoy and Prestige labels in the 1950s and '60s and here he was in Torrance and Hermosa Beach. In 1982 Mike talked about wanting to see if Ozzy would produce the Minutemen. Greg and Chuck would tell Mike to call him; Dez told Mike, "Call him!" Spot probably told Mike to "Call Ozzy!" They jammed with Charlie Haden but they never did call Ozzy Cadena.

By 1980 there was a new wave establishment that saw but didn't understand the standing Black Flag had with younger bands circa 1980-83. New wavers were well along the maturation of their punk taste into roots, industrial, goth, or hiphop expertise. The Ramones had done their work at the bottom rung of the major label music industry. They did alot of heavy lifting but there was much more dirty work to do. The Ramones and other New York bands talked alot about "the kids" but they actually had an older crowd and it was difficult to get reputable clubs to do all-ages shows. Black Flag played anywhere that had an interested promoter whether he was experienced or just a fan who booked them so they themselves could see the band - all-ages was the default setting here. By the end of 1982 there was only one other band that had been seen by as many Americans as Black Flag and that was Saccharine Trust because they were on the "Damaged" tours. The Minutemen had jobs they couldn't leave. Saccharine got tight and much faster by the time they returned to L.A., but then they lost their rhythm section, first Rob Holzman to Slovenly, then Earl Liberty to Circle Jerks, and with Baiza now more musically ambitious it took a long time for him to allow that the new drummer and bassist, Tony Cicero and Mark Hodson, were ready to record. I worried that by the time their second album, "Surviving You, Always", was released in early 1984 all those people who had seen Saccharine Trust had forgotten them. The new album had an aggro-prog density driven by the new players; it's probably the last SST release as radically disinterested in pleasing radio programmers as Spot was. It was after this album when Joe's jazz interests began to open up the sound - come to think of it Joe and Jack should've called Ozzy too! Why didn't we think of that?!

Spot seemed more interested in the Meat Puppets move toward programmability but that might've been a carryover from the unusual first album. Spot was generally contemptuous of attempts to fit one's music to the business; he wouldn't even sit still for Naomi Petersen's camera when I sent her over to Total Access to get a shot of the Meat Puppets and Spot that we could tease the album with. I guess he wanted to keep the studio space to himself and the band; he certainly had nothing against Naomi. There was new industry trade magazine interest in SST and I wanted all the suits to see Spot at Total Access setting up the Meat Puppets. Oh well... Spot wasn't in the bands; he was a free agent. Each band after the first rush of achievement had to deal with internal pressures. I think the common answer to the big question, "How do we keep doing this?", was that someone had to take over and go for the gold. Curt Kirkwood took over the Meat Puppets after the first album and what had been Derrick Bostrom's idea (let's form a punk band) became a cannier search for an approachable yet idiosyncratic band-voice; all songs were written by Curt now. I prefer "II" and "Up on the Sun" to their post-Spot SST releases which lose the unfussy realism of Spot's sound surfaces, especially in the bass and drums. I remember Curt visiting us at SST-Lawndale and he loved the sound of "Project: Mersh" and generously allowed that they should have asked me to work on "Up on the Sun". I told him I couldn't have improved that album one bit and that the real musical x-factor that popped on that Minutemen e.p. was Crane of Tragicomedy with his trumpet lines. Everyone at SST seemed to agree in 1985 that it was the Meat Puppets who got their shit together, even if it might smell of sell-out.

When Spot got done with the suddenly free-to-record Black Flag blitz of "My War", "Slip It In", "Family Man"... he slipped in a Texas trip in late summer 1984 to do another Big Boys album as well as Poison 13, The Offenders and more. Here's George Brainard's posted story of getting Spot to record The Cavemen's album:

"I first met Spot in October of 1984. Tim Kerr had asked him for us to produce my band, The Cavemen. We were all nervous since we were such huge fans of his work producing The Minutemen, Black Flag, The Descendents and so many others of our favorite records. We were also sixteen-year-old high school students in way over our heads. We expected this terrifying titan of punk rock to come walking in and put out a cigarette on our prep school foreheads. In walked the sweetest, goofiest, funniest, most unintimidating guy swilling Dr Pepper and making bad jokes. Years later Spot moved to Austin and we became good friends and played lots of music together in The Muleskinners. We had been friends for years before he ever mentioned his photography.... I am just hearing that Spot died this morning. I will really miss him. Here are some photos of Spot I took for one of his solo projects along with a couple of Muleskinners shots. Looking at these photos I can hear his giggle. What a fantastic person. What a life." (Brainard, March 4 2023)

While Spot was busy in Texas The Bad Brains got to L.A. and came by SST looking for Spot; they wanted to record but it never happened. When Spot got back from Texas he was decompressing at SST when he averred, "You know, I think I have the most fun working with Husker Du." I believed him, but that was about to change. It was just a week or so later that Bob Mould called and said they had an interest in Nicollet Studios in the building they now shared with the Twin/Tone label. I didn't know much about that scene except via the records that came to us at Systematic and before Husker Du I had only liked the 45s by The Suicide Commandos and NNB. My impression was that it was a shallow talent pool shored up by including Prince and The Time, and that Husker Du had been so easy to work with for Spot, New Alliance and SST because they had burned all their bridges in their young, unruly days before "Land Speed Record". Their first 45, "Statues", Bob had dismissed as being from a "dark" time for the band. Grant and Greg found it easier to concede that Black Flag had turned their heads around and what they found going on generally in South Bay L.A. had re-racked their approach back from the English post-punk Rock-is-dead gambit of PiL, &c. The way the Descendents played their raw blend of pop, rock and punk also loosened up Husker Du so that Grant's sixties pop expertise could manifest within their music. The naturally occurring bravado of the uncool musos from Hawthorne to San Pedro and their ability to bond with each others' bands despite dissimilar blends made the South Bay unique if you ask me. Husker Du's midwestern disease abated quickly, but it seemed a bad sign to me they were now entering their hometown's establishment.

    Spot had a hard time with "New Day Rising", steering the band around problems they didn't see coming as they asserted their ideas in a Minneapolis studio that was in the middle of a rebuild. In the Tape Op interview Spot talks mostly about the studio's condition but he told me one for-instance of mistaken choices: the band insisted on running the drum mics through noise-gates to the multi-track. Maybe you can do that with Kenny Aronoff but not with a barefoot beast like Grant Hart! We all loved Husker Du but they were as close to a thrash band as we had on the label. They wrote excellent songs and Grant and especially Bob became great singers and their competition to top each other was very productive - they were recording an album every six or seven months! Mike Watt marvelled that the two of them could harmonize in the midst of their sonic cacophony through bad P.A. monitors; Bob had told Mike that he and Grant didn't listen to the bass. When I told Greg Ginn that he thought that was odd since he felt Greg Norton had the best sense of time in the band. When Spot got back to L.A. with the tape of "New Day Rising" Greg and I compared our impressions and agreed we liked it and were impressed it could lead with Grant's kick drum though it sounded machine-like, not Hart-like. I was surprised and maybe relieved that Bob's guitar sound was tilting his effects wash toward white noise rather than my expectation that they were heading toward the sophisto tone-style of 4AD, et. al.

The worst of it was that Spot got pushed further toward the door as the rush to radio and major labels began in earnest. At least the bands weren't trying to crowd onto the Billboard Dance 100 Chart like Throbbing Gristle, SPK, D.A.F., and Ministry. In Britain rock was dead, and so recordings got aimed at the gatekeepers that Jim Nash of Wax Trax Records called "1000 Homo DJs" who reported to that chart. It took more years before Billboard invented a dozen micro-charts for college rock or modern rock records. Those charts did help because clueless retail buyers often had policies to simply order the top five or top ten of every chart, but those charts came too late to help SST. When Husker Du got out to L.A. next they cornered me in their van and read me the riot act about how they'd outgrown Spot. I didn't argue with them. Sometimes I wonder if my Italian name makes my suggestions sound like offers one can't refuse. But I could see that they were determined to offload onto Spot anything that could keep them together long enough to have their major label shot at the pot. It was not easy to be a member of our bands in that era. Things were done to maintain the group effort that were not ideal. We were all adults, radical though we were, or as Mrs. Ginn put it, fanatics, so Spot shrugged it off and stayed busy in L.A., and Husker Du continued talking with Warner Bros while they prepped one more album that they produced in Minneapolis for SST, "Flip Your Wig". It's another album of great songs but there is no step forward in production, just an unwise softening of drums and cloudier guitar washes. "Green Eyes" might've been a hit but not sounding like that. Recently Greg Norton commented on a Facebook thread about "Up on the Sun" which Spot recorded in early 1985 and was released just before Husker Du commenced recording "Flip Your Wig". Greg noted how surprised Bob and Grant were when they heard "Up on the Sun". I responded, "I bet they were."

SST Records had first been considered by Greg and Chuck a last ditch tool to release good records by friends of theirs that other record labels weren't interested in. And the ability to put good bands through Media Art with Spot when they might breakup at any moment was to document as posterity insurance. But SST for Mugger and myself was an experiment in the slow build of label profile and power in the marketplace. We had Ray Farrell calling commercial FM stations but that didn't mean we wanted the bands chasing a commercial sound going in; we wanted to change radio! Even in terms of minor commercial radio situations that were new wave or hard rock - each had to be improved by some force from outside. Unlike other record labels we had prime original bands plus gradually a steady business hand. Radio stations' music directors heard from PR firms, not labels, generally speaking. Ray was good at it; once he got them talking music he had them cornered with his knowledge and experience. Each SST band had its own special draw on part of the more sophisticated young music audience.

By 1985 Mugger was accounting to bands for record sales. However, by then our own distributors had set up in-house labels and they seemed determined to sign an imitation of each of our bands, if not lure the original away with money they owed to us! Twin-Tone Records felt it too and called to see if the leading independent labels might organize some kind of chamber of commerce to try to keep our distributors honest. Maybe I didn't give the idea a full hearing but I did mention it to Greg and Chuck and Mugger and it didn't seem relevant to us. We had little interest or commonality with the problems wouldbe new wave foists, as Mike Watt might put it, were having. Later, these waters were all muddied. Greg's 1988 disinterest in Nirvana didn't make sense to me but I was gone to Chicago by then. I hadn't been interested in Sonic Youth early on but once they got Bob Bert on drums I would have been interested. And SST did sign Sonic Youth despite their possessing similar hipster buzz Greg might have resented. Greg checked first impulses to think things through rather pitilessly. But monstrous pot intake apparently led him to indulge and merely rationalize subsequent reactionary impulses as his new business model. Didn't work, but as with Black Flag's sour art-band years, SST's bitter push to flood the independent shops with hundreds of releases seemed designed against the business and maybe even against the bands. It was a testament to the staff that the wheels stayed on longer than I expect Greg expected. Once staffers were replaced by college interns around 1990... well, see Kara Nicks' post, "My Last Day at SST":

"Before the end of the year I was dealing with over 800 direct-to-retail accounts and still the sales to distributors had not fallen off. Then I got the call that I needed to go home to Tennessee for a bit. Needed to tie up some loose ends. I was gone from SST for about a year and when I came back the whole fucking game had changed. The asshole college fuck I had trained to take my place and the jack-off pussy that had taken Mugger's place, those two idiots combined had allowed Jem East, West, and Jem Texas to go out of business owing hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's right, I couldn't believe it, these fucking distributors had ceilings." (Nicks, New Vulgate)

In a better world SST Records would have been fully capitalized and would have drawn the line at using Unicorn's studio, would have released "Damaged" on SST, would have released all of the Spot productions, tried to grab the first Motley Crue album, the first Metallica album, Bad Brains, Flipper, Red Cross, The Misfits, Butthole Surfers and everything else of interest that the larger and even smaller labels did not comprehend as good interesting important music. They were all asleep for ten years so maybe a bit of Greg's indiscriminate approach eight years earlier would've worked. It might have required a couple hundred thousand dollars to do that; it doesn't sound like much now, but back then it was uncertain if I'd have two dollars in my pocket to buy coffee and papers in the morning. Chuck had thought there were no hard limits to SST's upside potential, whereas I thought the extant major labels had warped the reality behind them as they became those majors. Any shot we had passed us by even as we were talking about it. But those very majors quickly lost ownership of themselves. I've written that it's an enduring mark of shame for the American music industry and music media from radio, MTV to Rolling Stone that it wasn't until German and Japanese capital bought half the American major labels that surviving independent label bands were signed and worked and given the thinnest amount of airplay. I imagine the Krauts and Japs met the Hollywood and Manhattan execs and were shocked to discover that they hated bands that they, as foreigners outside looking in, took to be signal American cultural voices, Americana, in fact.

Spot moved to Texas by 1985. Tom Troccoli tells me that it was likely the Summer of 1985 when he and Davo were dropped off by the Black Flag tour at Spot's house in Austin to await a ride back to L.A. with the Minutemen who were returning from their own tour. Tom wrote to me about those few days...

"[S]itting around and having a really nice time with a really really sweet dude. The thing is that of all the things we did those few days we never did listen to any music. None. I thought that was kind of odd. He didn't come out that weekend for the Minutemen, likewise he did not come out that week for the Big Boys. He was certainly much more subdued and perhaps even borderline depressed." (Troccoli, 2023)

Possibly so, but Spot had just recorded The Tail Gators' debut album, "Swamp Rock", a great addition to Texas blues-rock. However it was true that Spot was now done working with Black Flag, Minutemen, Descendents, Saccharine Trust, Saint Vitus, Husker Du, and Meat Puppets... for many reasons or for the same reason. Spot recorded an album by Raszebrae at Phil Newman's Spinhead studio; Phil was in Painted Willie. Spot released it on his own label from Texas; his companies were Unseen Hand and No Auditions. Janet Housden marvelled at the recent memorial at Total Access that Spot had even gone out on tour with them as soundman-tour manager. Then he recorded his last records for SST: Slovenly's "Thinking of Empire" was done in April 1986 at Music Lab in Silverlake, and he mentions in Tape Op that it was a favorite, though he recalls, "I didn't get any sleep before doing it. I had just driven down from San Francisco and I couldn't hear a goddamn thing when I walked into the studio." Spot's last SST credit was the Tar Babies album, "Fried Milk", recorded in Texas in spring 1987.

    SPOT was trying to finally focus on his own music. He released his own stuff on two albums, new stuff ("Cutting Black Crystal", "The Cuckoo", "A Conk and a Shine"...) had been recorded at Spinhead or in Texas at Cedar Creek studio and was released on the LP, "Picking Up Where I Left Off...". Older recordings were issued on "Artless Entanglements - A Collection of Vintage SPOTness" ("Killer Bees", "We Can Live With the Hum", "Flying Babies"...). Most of these tracks were experiments Spot initiated at Media Art from 1979-81 with friends at hand (Ron Reyes, Phoenix, Rene Van Helsdingen, Christian Lunch, Rolf Erickson...). Spot writes in the liner notes that the Media Art tracks "represent somewhat the beginning of an end", and the two Spinhead 1986 tracks (with Janet Housden, Debbie Patino, Greg Burk, Rena, Phil Newman...) "an end of a beginning". But Spot was still in demand as an engineer-producer and continued recording bands in his new state: Not for Sale, The Muleskinners, N.O.T.A., Rhythm Pigs, The Texas Instruments, Bad Mutha Goose and the Brothers Grimm, the Hickoids, Phantom Tollbooth, Hand of Glory, Crust, The Weeds, Ed Hall, Daniel Johnston, The Shindigs, The Pierced Arrows, plus he played on a Happy Family album and likely others under the radar. At some point he decided to stop recording bands but then found he was unable to turn down engineering for the 1989 release by Terry Clarke "Call Up a Hurricane". He knew the producer J.D. Foster of The True Believers and recorded the British country-folk singer at the Fire Station in San Marcos with players that included Flaco Jimenez, Erik Hokkanen, David Grissom, and Rich Brotherton.

This brings us to about 1991 - the year punk broke! Listening to Spot you'd gather that SXSW and Austin itself broke too. Austin was no longer the music town he had loved as a visitor and the Texas character of the old SXSW was suddenly gone. Spot was also trying to maintain his bands - The Delorean Mechanics, and then Spot Removal - but in middle-age keeping a band together requires money and action. Spot had no personal ties in the way of a wife or kids but I'm sure others did, however much younger than he they were. This put Spot in the position of the taskmaster, the band dad. Let's just guess that he might not have been good at that. He played with local Celtic musicians or just willing players or people he liked around Austin. He would get up on stage with old friends like Mike Watt or L7 when they came through town. Spot released two 45s in the early 90s: "Yo! Marry Me!"/"Caca Boudin Popo Pipi", and Spot Removal's "Paper!"/"St.Annie's Reel", both give one the sense that he was taking his skillful Celtic renderings and punking them - neither being faithful nor faithless. Spot was getting known at Irish music festivals in Austin and Chicago areas, but as a player in tune sessions, not for his singing in his songs on his records. The "Paper!" 45 also includes an elaborate newspaper as a picture-sleeve called The Removal Rag in which I believe Spot writes a bunch of parodies under pen-names with some help from friends and bandmates. Here's a witness statement from hurricane Howie's aftermath according to reporter Slim Kegel:

"Perhaps the oddest account of the strage occurrences of Howie is from a man found by Red Cross rescue workers two days after the storm abated. Huddled in the interior of a crumpled Ford van littered with brightly colored 7" phonograph records, the furtive individual would not speak nor come forth until he saw one of the rescuers drop an ancient mud-caked guitar effect pedal from a bag being filled with debris. He excitedly launched himself from the derelict vehicle, tackled the dirty artifact, and began speaking prolificly about many things. Investigators remarked that he seemed agitated but coherent. The following is an excerpt from his taped statement: '...and all those bands in those vans just disappeared. Their strings busted and their amps blew and no one knew they was in the grip of powerful mystical forces. That's what happens when you get into the euphorial zone of convergence. These things happen, you know. And of course it's strongest at ground zero where it's like standing in your grandmother's bedroom and you see her lying in bed as the walls begin to fade....'" (Spot, 1992)

Elsewhere in the paper are hints of his novel to come and echoes of past obsessions. In 1995 I asked him to come up to Chicago and play the sound engineer in my rock band film comedy; Spot made his character an Irishman and underplayed it well with a subtle brogue. He left Chicago with a Jewish girl from England named Patty who was a friend of David Lightbourne's. She'd been living east of Wicker Park with a Native American guy over on Blackhawk and working at Yo Mama's Cafe on Milwaukee Ave run by a somewhat shady black character, a painter of grotesque female nudes that passed for cafe decor. I never got the story of how Spot and Patty blew up after some time at his house in Austin.

Spot appeared at the Hole in the Wall's "Ramones Hoot Night" in December 1996 in character as Junior Brown; Spot seemed to take umbrage at Mr Brown's claim that he was an outsider so he mocks him mercilessly and then shuts him down on a smokin' lap slide guitar solo (it's a must-see on youtube). Also in 1996 he released a 10" record called "Removals...Other Isms" ("April", "Counting Flowers"...). Some novice players wondered why he thought they were qualified to play with him but Spot was never focused on mere expertise, plus he liked surprises! I told him back in the 90s that his Fostex X15 four-track cassette demo was releasable - it was him playing surf-like guitar and bass parts to simple drum programs and it built up a real pleasing mood. The Fostex was his answer to studio fatigue. But there was never telling what Spot would finally decide what of his music could be released and which mixes or takes were the ones. No doubt there are more records in all those tapes that warrant release.

After moving to Wyoming I lost a tenant in my Laramie building and Lightbourne managed to track Patty down in Austin in late 1996 and she came up and ran the Provisional Cafe for us. It was an all-night joint and she collected a managerie of night owls who preferred her company to what was on offer at Petro's or Shari's for coffee or pizza or chips & salsa at three am. I kept telling Patty that her book should be called "Exploring Wild America"; she always laughed because she had no intention of writing a book. As it happened Bill Stevenson had established The Blasting Room recording studio in nearby Fort Collins. He put together two labels, O&O for rock and Upland for roots music. Upland released Spot's album, "Unhalfbaking", and we started the annual Upland Breakdown in Centennial, Wyoming as an attempt to push the label's roster. Now I think about it I'm not sure how Patty and Spot avoided running into each other those first few Breakdowns. On the microphone at the first one in late August 2000 Spot begins,

"I just want to say that I've been all around the country this month and I've seen like a whole bunch of really cool places, you know places you think, Man this is neat I would think about living here and I gotta say Centennial here is right up there at the top of the list." (Spot, Aug. 26 2000)

Then he insulted Austin as being full of Californians and began playing jigs on his banjo. I encouraged him to move up here, or more realistically to Fort Collins but access to a recording studio didn't hold the same attraction for him as when Media Art shaped his entire life. Patty is somewhat high-strung and convinced that Lightbourne was using his female voodoo doll to torment her, she snuck into his room and tore the male doll to pieces and he threw her out of the place. I never asked her about Spot and I never asked Spot about Patty... So much for my nose for a story. (When I listen to Spot's song "Countin' Flowers" I get the sense that its lines alternate between being about Greg or Patty.)

Spot's guitar picking was really something in the new millennium; he was splitting atoms on the fretboard as he played with time in his garagey Celtic/Beat freed jazzed fusion. To note Spot's passing for his Wyoming friends I recently went on Laramie's KUWR and played Spot's answer tune to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A-Train"; Spot's "B-Train" is something of an autobiographical statement of his contrary artistic intent: "The B-train takes you somewhere that the A-train just won't go/The day is full of insults that the night will never show..." But as a solo artist who could play anything Spot didn't seem to be able to will himself into that sweet spot like the best of the bands he'd worked with back before the fall. They would record as they wrote songs, and release records as they recorded. So the "Nae Plumb Nor Square" CD, like the "Unhalfbaking" CD, is a mixed collection of his bands plus solo work and live and demo material. The album he did with boudran player Albert Alphonso, "In the Bag", is probably the only stylistically consistent release he did. He liked contrast and surprises and so he might present comical lyrics next to sentimental instrumentals and low-tech distorted guitars next to pristeen acoustic instrumentation on the same record or in the same live set. Spot the musical performer was considerably out beyond the average audience and yet he picked up intense fans and friends everywhere he appeared.

    Around 2010 Spot turned back to his seventies photography. Ryan Richardson decided to hi-rez digitize all of Spot's negatives (cost: $7,000). Ryan then worked with Johan Kugelberg at Sinecure for the 2014 book, Sounds of Two Eyes Opening - Southern California Life - Skate/Beach/Punk 1969-1982, and with Matt Welch at the Pacific Coast Gallery for a Hermosa Beach-focused 2018 exhibit and print sales. There was also a music scene focused exhibit at Cornelius Projects in San Pedro that year. Spot also began writing his novel, Decline and Fall of Alternative Civilization - A Novel by G.S. Oldman, as well as what he refers to as a 35,000 word draft of a musical memoir which I have not yet come across. The 2017 publication, Anti-Punk Rock - A History, is a photo-heavy excerpt from that text. I'd been encouraging him to write about his career as a producer but I'm afraid that I wasn't very encouraging when he told me he was writing a novel about a girl in a rock band. Art about artists isn't ripe for much beyond comedy I suspect. I also told him the brutal truth of book printing and distribution as I knew it - bad enough for non-fiction but the worst for fiction. He decided to make his novel available as an e-book. Spot's photography book had been noted in major publications and on-line and his Los Angeles gallery showings were well attended. So when the e-book didn't get noticed Spot spent additional, what..., years?, producing the novel as an audio book, something to my ears like a radio drama. It's quite an impressive production that Spot narrates and friends of his act the characters of the story and Janet Housden's casting as the lead was perfect; I knew that would work and managed to be more encouraging. But of the novel's original text itself I prefer Spot's expository digressions like this one from Chapter VII:

"All other rolling innovations aside, the first automotive distributor was created in the early twentieth century, and in 1910 it was successfully utilized on that year’s Cadillac. Credited to Charles Kettering under the auspices of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. [Delco], it was quite an advancement. Early gasoline-powered engines had been sparked by means of a magneto—a simple, static device that proved impractical since once the ignition timing was set, it was a done deal; that was as fast as you could go, and forget about snappy acceleration. After the introduction of the distributor [whose design gave a system of variable timing and more efficient combustion, contingent upon engine speed], things began to change. During the First World War this electronic improvement gave vehicle and tank operators and their respective mechanics more control over their machines in the field. It was cutting-edge technology, and any advantage that made machines of destruction more workable in combat was quick to be manufactured and put into use.

Romantically, the first distributor cap theft occurred somewhere in an enemy motor depot. It was a foolproof method of keeping a machine from running—an essential sabotage: once the cap is removed from the system, no electricity will get to the spark plugs—and the tradition continued in postwar years and flourished in the 1920s when burgeoning industrialism and the popularity of the automobile were on the rise. Thanks again, Mr. Ford. And while he leaned against Chicago lampposts tossing his lucky coin, mechanic Lefty O’Connor didn’t think his fingers would cause such sticky legend during the dark nights of Prohibition. He was just a man, after all.

As men go, Lefty was almost simpleminded and wasn’t afraid to dirty his hands underneath the hoods of sickly automobiles. He also liked the taste of whiskey but the law was standing between him and his glass and he knew something had to be done about it. Some say he commanded a fleet of fast boats but that would have cast him as a mere rumrunner. Perhaps he did, perhaps he didn’t. It was true he often spent his daylight hours at the lakefront but it weren’t no crime if a man wanted to watch boats come and go, were it? And it weren’t no crime for a man to cock his head and harden his gaze when he heard one o them boats’ motors not running smoothly, now, were it? It was also true that when he did hear such an aquatic flivver down on its screws he would soon be conversing with the helmsman about something that made the helmsman smile. In no time, that flivver would be purring like a seagoing pussycat, quieter than ever. He had the fingers to make it happen. While Treasury agents like Elliot Ness had some fast boats and big cars, the Mob had Lefty and Lefty had the means to disable the big bad Untouchable machines, and the booty went through more often than not. No one knew how he did it [or who did it for that matter] but he did it, dammit. He did it. He knew their distributor caps were very touchable." (Decline and Fall of Alternative Civilization)

Or his telling tour detailing as here...

"It had been a long night. So long you could cut it with non-dairy creamer and not leave a scar. Three tables of bandmembers and post-revellers suppressed evidence of regrets and self-accusals. Denny’s was the perfect court for such coffee justice. Judges dished out reputable sentences, prosecution set the tables and kept the cups full, defense rolled silverware like ammunition and shot hot streams of arguments at dirty dishes. Juries would amble in to sit behind menus, make substitutions and pass back out into a world of decisive indecisions, leaving verdicts and water untouched." (Ibid.)

Or this expository male-female dialogue...

“I think you like women.” “Yes, I do. I’m in complete and utter awe of women and it baffles me why truly intelligent women seem to undercut themselves so.” An entire horn section could have tuned up before she spoke. “Like you said: survivalskills. We simply…refuse…to die.” He slapped his forehead. “Of course.” “And you’re so in awe. Of what exactly?” “It’s the sheer beauty of it. Beauty is the most complex thing that can be imagined. But it exists, and in women it’s a pure definition of something that is constantly, constantly changing and redefining itself over and over.”

“A factory of confusion, no doubt.” “You’re so right.” He broke into a laugh. “Confusion is a function of complexity. Complexity is a function of redefinition.” “And where does beauty come into the equation?” “Beauty is the equation.” He ceased laughing. “Like pi.” (Ibid.)

Or here...

"At 35,000 feet air speed becomes the phantom of motion. Minus turbulence, an aircraft is flying in reverse, seatbacks dissolving into air, bodies becoming flotation devices. A physical illusion not noticed in the aisles with meals and drinks inching forward or backward. On the ground there is a tactile connection with positive and negative forces, matter, antimatter, and somewhere in the folds of deepening night is the locus where all sound and all energy converge. As June drove, tapes played, stars and mesas danced a slow atomic ballet, quiet conversations flowed and ebbed. In the glow of dashboard lights she was part of an eternal drama and enveloped in a beautiful loneliness. She drove until she felt lightheaded, then forced a stop, a change of drivers, and crawled back into the loft to dream, maybe even sleep....

An incredible, beautiful loneliness. Deep in the heart of New Mexico, or maybe they were already in Texas. The measurement of time put on hold. It felt good to choke up for no explainable reason." (Ibid.)

    Decline and Fall...has surprises for sure and even a couple rimshot jokes. Spot had been on tour, the O.G. tours in fact, when Black Flag invented non-label support touring wherein one vanful of supernauts launched itself to unknown planets counting on finding breathable oxygen. He worked hard on his novel so I don't know why he used a pen-name; it's a work to be proud of. But there's Spot taking the B-train... I don't presume that social media and Amazon are built for our generation so I expect that Spot misread what was possible via social media, which managed to deny the alienation their very coding presupposes - it can sell some things I suppose, but maybe just eyeballs and info. Sounds of Two Eyes Opening is out-of-print and costly now but Ryan Richardson located some unsold stock and he also has some copies of Spot's Anti-Punk Rock - A Historywhich is a quality fanzine-style publication that Spot was selling himself (write orders@ryebreadrodeo.com for details). In an unused introduction to that publication Spot explains:

"I have never been a record collector and I was never one to diligently scour books and memoirs about rock & roll. Music has always been too personal to me. It exists to be created out of the ether of life - to be played, listened to, danced to and either loved or hated. And, if the right tune is played the right way, some of us have sex, experience love or hate and maybe end up with a tale to tell or some offspring to show for it. End of story. At best, music has charms to both soothe and incite the human beast; at worst, it causes trapeze displays of intellectual blunder. If you want to analyze and dissect it to death that's fine. Just leave me out of that.... There was a time when I hung on every word of the post-Rolling Stone school of rock journalism as if great truths about life and death would spring forth but, luckily, I came to my senses. There were some great truths to be found in such writings but there were also great lies which were harder to discern because they were dressed up in the deceptive guise of truth. To speak of entertainment is an entertainment itself, so why should anyone let the truth stand in the way of good copy? ...Ultimately, there is far too much music to talk about, too many artists and songs to consider. It's why I have resisted even talking about my involvement with that thing called punk rock. Everyone wants - in fact, expects! - the biblical retelling. When I fail to deliver that I am quickly apprised that I must not know what I'm talking about. How could I know? It doesn't sound like anything already said or look like anything already seen. So I must be a fake. Sure. If that's what you believe. Let me not disparage another's religion." (Anti-Punk Rock)

As I go through his journals I'll be setting things aside that belong in an anthology of his writing for hard copy publication. I can illustrate it with his photos and even miscellany like his sketch notations of P.A. mixing board EQ settings for famous or forgotten live gigs by Black Flag or The Misfits. Sinecure's book of Spot's photography did not focus on his music photographs so there is another book of photography to publish as well.

Spot's last posted music releases were on bandcamp, the five song "First Barrel Defused" released Nov. 2022, and the nine-minute tune, "Porcelain Porpoise Parade", released on Dec. 7, 2022. I believe these picking instrumentals must've been recorded before 2022 as Spot was no longer able to play the guitar to his satisfaction. He had recorded a video message while playing the bass sometime in early 2022 (posted Nov. 28, 2022; see link below) to promote a planned second Pacific Coast Gallery show that had to be postponed and then never happened. In the intro he states that he almost stopped playing music ten years earlier, probably the beginning of his work on the novel and memoir. The video-message begins over an expressionistic Celtic banjo vamp with the announcement: "All I ever wanted to do was violate the Great American Myth. I've always known I'm not big enought to destroy it. But that's another story."

Spot's pulmonary fibrosis meant his lungs were failing and he told me he could better handle the bass. When I last saw him, Saturday Nov. 26, 2022, he had small squeeze balls to maintain dexterity and strength in his fingers. Like many who have the disease he got by with just a bit of breathlessness until he had inadvertantly moved past the point of being a likely recipient of a lung transplant - this we learned only later after we met with his pulmonologist at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan. His mother had died of the disease so I think Spot knew what he was in for. He had told me in November that he was just trying to maintain a positive outlook, acting for all I could tell as if he still had a chance at a lung transplant. A day or two after Dec. 7 he passed out while at Morningside Healthcare for tests. He was there about a week when he had a stroke and was sent up to an ICU at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay. I visited him once a week in January and February and my sister Geri who lives in that part of Wisconsin saw him twice weekly. Spot recovered enough to leave the ICU and then he was conscious and responsive. I asked him if he wanted me to post the news of his condition with a photograph and he nodded, though with resignation, as he'd not wanted to alarm his friends. He could nod yes or shake his head no, but the therapist stressed that the stroke might easily cause him to switch up his answers. In an attempt to get the hospital staff to pay more attention to him I told a younger male nurse that Spot was a musician and record producer and when he asked which bands and I said, Black Flag, Meat Puppets and Husker Du, the guy got excited but Spot groaned loudly from around the corner that I had spilled the beans. He could hear and he knew what he thought about his life being reduced to those records!

Spot improved and they moved him back down to the health center in Sheboygan. The head nurse there had led me to believe they didn't have the oxygen delivery capacity that he needed, but there he was until perhaps that caught up with him and he was transferred across town to the Saint Nicholas hospital. Spot may have had some flashbacks to Loyola High what with all the Catholic murals and crucifixes in these three facilities. Spot's lungs though were failing faster than his speech was improving; he never regained speech. He came so close. I didn't know it would be my last visit with him on Thursday, March 2, but he was talking with purpose so I stayed longer to keep him talking. But I just couldn't make out what he was saying and that frustrated him. He glared at me and it felt like 1984 again.

In some long ago forgotten fanzine interview Henry was asked, "Who is Spot?" Henry answered, "Spot is a one-man holocaust." When Spot was working on the first D.C.3 album at Total Access he came into SST after one day's session and pulled out his guitar and began picking out an intricate guitar theme which I 'd never heard. I knew D.C.3's songs but I didn't know that Dez had added a fancy, cleanly picked introduction to the lead song, "This Is the Dream". When I heard Spot playing the mixes of the album I recognized the intro and asked him if he had played that on the record. He said "No", he just liked it when he heard Dez put it down and played it to figure it out. When the Guardian asked Henry about the recent passing of Spot he told a story from the recording of the "Damaged" album at Unicorn studio in Fall 1981:

"When Black Flag recorded 'Damaged', Greg Ginn wanted to hear what it sounded like in the studio, so Spot picked up Greg's guitar and while the band were playing he absolutely nailed the track 'Damaged II', which is like math rock. Greg was an astonishing guitarist, but he was totally shut down. It was hilarious. The chess master got checkmated." (Rollins, Guardian)

Henry arranged to sell some prints of Spot's photographs and the money raised helped Ryan cover some of the costs in Sheboygan and at Total Access for the memorial.

Steve Albini posted at the news of Spot's passing:

"Every music scene needed someone to document it, someone with no agenda, an open mind and hot mics. SPOT was the archetype scene recording guy, the guy we all emulated and whose role we tried to play. For a while there half the records I bought had his name on them. Requiescat." (Albini, 2023)

Bill Stevenson is a musician and songwriter first and second, for The Descendents, All, and Black Flag, but he's also the studio owner and producer-engineer who began as a player in the studios in sessions run by Spot at Media Art, Music Lab, and Total Access. Bill writes,

"...SPOT comes charging in with a big cup of (what he called) 'Football-Go-Go Juice', in one hand, while frantically positioning mics with the free hand, and roaring, 'YEAH!!!!, we're gonna get some heap-deep-dish-gelatinous stuff happening," and we were off to the races, recording Milo Goes to College, all together in one room, in four days." (Stevenson, 2023)

Musically I'd say Spot has a twin legacy. As an engineer-producer he documented the bands of the era who had turned away from commercially plotting out careers in music. It was clear to younger bands that if The Ramones couldn't get on the radio they never would. So they at first turned away from that kind of ambition to face a purely aesthetic challenge of the true musical task laid before them by the best bands of the fifties, sixties and seventies: the leveraging of that inheritance to create something further, new, and perhaps as good so as to pass along an inspiration based in something beyond fame and fortune. Perhaps records that seemed to model such ambition were those by The Stooges, Velvet Underground, or the world of postwar jazz. Thanks to Spot any kid today can get a fix on what those efforts sounded like without amelioration or punches pulled. As electric as those recordings are, they are also pure, like field recordings. And those early records have sold far more as decades-old classics than they did in their day and one doesn't often hear softened, gated, echoey, frosted ambience-from-a-can anymore. As a musician I'd say that Spot came into his own in Austin. He writes on his SoundCloud page:

"I've primarily been a guitarist through life but play most stringed instruments. Sports and beer failed to lead me astray. I got hooked on playin' music and then learned to play a bunch of other instruments which led to my personal highway of a helluva heaven. As if that wasn't enough, Celtic music abducted me in the 90s and I was done for." (SPOT, circa 2015)

I've mentioned the songs by title from his releases that I think are the best of his unique fusions. But you'd have to pull those from the albums and put them with a few titles that remain unreleased (on vinyl or plastic anyway) such as "1748", "Shane's Brother", "Waterloo Sunset", and "Blues Theme", and then you'd have a largely instrumental sublime rocking and jazzed mix of Celtic, European, and American folk forms that might be a tonic for that rather staid section of the record shop. Otherwise Spot's records as released sold mostly to the live audiences his touring attracted, not unusual these days and not measurable in terms of legacy. Still someday his salmon-like swim upstream against the currents of musical history may be seen as a signal part of the heroic battle of the American musician against the swindlers of the music industry waiting downstream to catch those floaters playing the current and the increasingly ungrounded audiences they create.

I used to pester Spot about whether his notebooks and rough mix cassettes could document and date his lion's share of the last run of momentous albums of the rock and roll era. Whether or not those dates and stats are in there I'm certain there will be another Spot book. I had occasion to look through a couple notebooks looking for some words for Mike Watt so we could include Spot words in a recent project that my brother Mark and I are involved in. I also found this nugget from the 1984-85 period:

"I think I can call a shot with a name: It's underdoing everything to the highest magnitude, achieving devious results by working in the opposite direction of perfection. For there can be no perfect definition of same granted. By working in its opposite direction, achieving the inverse relationship, the imperfect. Imperfection, however, being of such an instrinsic state as to allow a much greater potential of variables. Hence, the possibility for a greater magnitude of imperfection exists opposed to that of perfection." (SPOT)

It's "we can live with the hum" all over again, only... read that again and make sure you understand it.... Does a song like "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty model the idea of perfection? I asked Spot about that song when I was looking for a scene-setting tune that could work opening the production of my script, "Naomi's Darkroom." He nodded at the mention of the 1978 hit; he remembered it as some sort of signal high pop moment although his expression told me that he considered it a refined product of some other recording industry than the one Spot invented for himself. Wyn Davis posted at the news of Spot's death that while he was at Media Art trying to figure out how Steely Dan made "Aja", Spot was making history.

When his father died, Spot said his mother picked back up with the things she enjoyed but had not done since before she was married. Spot took this to mean that his dad was "kind of an asshole". Spot's life as an itinerant musician-engineer-writer-photographer-mechanic didn't allow for marriage but I was struck by how many women were impacted by his passing, and he had still been in touch with many of them. His song, "Yo! Marry Me!" is a very funny nightmare scenario that explains what he thought about avoiding being an asshole by not promising anything but an interested empathetic ear and maybe some best advice.

    Spot may have known his lungs were failing quite awhile ago. I think back to his trip up from Austin or L.A. back in August 2011. He was on a tour of baseball parks which sounds in retrospect like a bucket list effort. Possibly he had started in L.A. or Anaheim after moving some last stuff after the sale of his parents' house. I was staying at my parents in Naperville to help mom out with dad who had Alzheimer's. If I recall, Spot called from Kansas City where he was taking in a game and asked if I could find some Cubs tickets as he'd be in Chicago after St. Louis. My brother Matt managed to get four and we all went with brother-in-law Chris. Spot looked at home at a baseball game. Baseball is an acoustic phenomenon as well as a sporting contest. He enjoyed the sounds, the view, the hot dog and the beer, plus he appreciated the Cubs mystique and wore a Cubs cap often in later years. Then he drove up to Milwaukee to see the Brewers. He said he went into a sports bar in Milwaukee with his Cubs cap on and they were going to bar his entry until he joked, "Come on, everyone's entitled to a bad century." After the Brewer's game he went up to check out Sheboygan, which he evidently loved and soon moved to.

In a letter to Spot, rather a recent one as these things go, Greg Ginn called Spot a "traitor" for demanding an accounting and payment of royalties before he would return any master tapes he still had. This, after Greg had spent the intervening decades mastering CD-reissues from vinyl pressings and then mastering neo-vinyl reissues from those CDs. But Spot a traitor? To what? To whom? The RIAA? The Recording Academy? Jazz? The new wave? The Minutemen did a song called "Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?" People are just people though - even Greg - and we get tired of the truth. Like Spot, Greg could take a long pause before answering a question. I wasn't at the lawyer's office at Hollywood and Vine more than once or twice. You had to like Black Flag's lawyer Walter Hurst, but I didn't think it was a good sign when I glimpsed Kim Fowley walking in there for a meeting. Certainly Greg got a crash course in how the music industry really worked. Their trial lawyer, Max Abrams, explained to me before the July 1983 hearing on the Unicorn injunction that the fear was Greg on the witness stand would appear as if he was thinking up a lie before he answered, and they thought that the danger putting Chuck on the stand was that he would answer more than the question asked. So they put me on the stand, and Joseph Pope of Systematic, and Robbin Nagatoshi of Greenworld. I don't imagine I came across on the witness stand as anything other than another would-be criminal mastermind running around Hollywood. There was no jury and one pool reporter who left when the musicians weren't called, so it all came down to the quasi Honorable Bruce R. Geernaert. I got a good sidelong look at his facial expression as he was handed "Exhibit A" and looked over the un-Black Flagged version of the cover of "Everything Went Black", as if careful not to get anything on himself. Nothing on the cover meant anything to him, the individual names, white-out space where the bars had been, certainly not Spot's lengthy beatniked history of the unnamed band..., no, nothing registered with the judge except the Pettibon drawing itself. And, you know, what the hell? Case closed. If only they'd called Spot to the witness stand and then asked him any question at all...

I regret that I didn't think quicker about how to get Spot some better music to listen to in his various hospital rooms. After a few weeks of improvement and he was moved back to Sheboygan I remembered that it was the Celtic music scenes around Chicago and Milwaukee that had been the initial attraction for him to move there. And that the one musician he'd mentioned by name was Liz Carroll the fiddler, so Ryan arranged for her plan to stop by Spot's hospital room the next time she was up in Milwaukee to play for him. He'd never nodded more enthusiastically than when I reminded him on a Wednesday that she would come by on Friday to play for him. But her trip was cancelled due to a snowstorm. However Spot's friend Teek, who owns what was Spot's favorite Sheboygan hang, the Weather Center Cafe, encouraged one of his employees who plays traditional music to go play for Spot the following week. Emma knew Spot because he often played bass as the staff cleaned up after the business hours. So Spot got to hear some music in his room at Morningside Health Center on Thursday, March 2, two days before he passed. Teek later posted:

"Emma and her father did a duet at Morningside Thursday, March 2nd for SPOT. ...She came into the cafe Saturday teary-eyed and said there was nodding with approval [from SPOT] and the whole visit was positive!! As she ended her story, she looked down and said, 'I am sorry but our last song for him was The Parting Glass,' and I thought, SPOT would love that! So I assured her she did right! Our tears mixed with the coffee and I thanked her for her visit! Emma was close to SPOT and I'm sure he loved her visit!" (Teek Phippen, 2023)

"The Parting Glass" is a 17th century Scottish ballad:

"Of all the comrades that e'er I've had, They're sorry for my going away, And all the sweethearts that e'er I had, They'd wish me one more day to stay, But since it fell into my lot that I should rise and you should not, I'll gently rise and I'll softly call good night and joy be to you all, So fill to me the parting glass and gather as the evening falls, And gently rise and softly call goodnight and joy be to you all..."

[Illustrations: Spot self-portrait; Loyola High Glass literary magazine staff 1969 - Spot at right; Hermosa Beach from the air annotated by Spot from Carducci's book, Enter Naomi; Spot's Skatopia membership card circa 1976; Black Flag at Church - by Spot; Anti-Punk Rock book cover; Nig-Heist LP cover; Kamikaze Refrigerators LP cover; Nae Plumb Nor Square CD cover; Spot inscription inside cover of Photographs By Spot photo booklet; Yo! Marry Me! / Caca Boudin Popo Pipi 7-inch cover; unhalfbaking CD cover; Picking Up Where I Left Off... LP cover; Poster for second Pacific Coast Gallery photo exhibition - cancelled; Decline And Fall Of Alternative Civilization e-book cover; Spot at Wrigley Field Aug. 26 2011- by Joe Carducci]

(Thanks to Ryan Richardson, Geri Carducci, Sandy Espinoza, Dave Van Heusen, Teek Phippen, Matt Welch, Henry Rollins, Chuck Dukowski, Wyn Davis, Dez Cadena, Chris Petersen, Vitus Matare, Geza X Gedeon, Tom Troccoli, Bill Daniel, Robin Davies, Kurt Schellenbach...)

Here to Blast Your Concept - An Oral History of SST Records
is scheduled for publication in Fall 2025; Abe Gibson tracked down every member of every band on SST Records to interview them. The book includes extensive interviews with SPOT, Mark Adams, and The Stains except for Robert Becerra who evidently always refused to be interviewed.


SPOT walk-thru with Jordan Schwartz at his 2018 Cornelius Project exhibit.


SPOT on bass and talking on Sept. 3, 2020.

Photograph by Joe Carducci

Jan Wenner (1946-2023)

Joe Carducci

In a freak public relations campaign accident the old hippie publisher. nice Jewish boy wunderkind, baby boomer No. 1, Jan Wenner has died. Foul play was suspected due to the great number of possible suspects, as well as the late ex-Berkeley Barb record reviewer's reputation for pitch-perfect judgment in marketing matters to the "boomer" cohort that seemed to follow him anywhere. However the Suffolk County Coroner ruled the incident death by misadventure. DNA test results on years of toe-jam grime build-up on the earth shoe lodged in Mr. Wenner's esophagus proved it to be his own. Additionally, the shoe was still on his foot.

Touted by both the world's third leading publisher Hachette Livre and America's leading source of publishing industry misinformation Kirkus Reviews as "a visit to the Mount Olympus of rock", the book to be rolled out, The Masters: Conversations with Bono, Dylan, Garcia, Jagger, Lennon, Springsteen, Townsend (Hachette), was a repackaging designed to re-sell and in some cases re-re-sell interviews with rock music royalty Mr. Wenner had conducted during fifty years of publishing the "Bible of Rock and Roll", Rolling Stone Magazine. Only the Springsteen interview was done recently for this book leading music industry survivors and experts in public relations train-derailment clean-up jobs to guess that the midnight oil is burning in New Jersey. Word has it that the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voted to boot Jan from the sinking ship with only Springsteen's manager Jon Landau voting to allow him to cling desperately to the board. Clive Davis, whose net worth is believed to be north of $800 million was quoted as laughing, "You better believe Jann (sic) cashed the advance and spent the money!" The Harvard trained lawyer was the president of Columbia Records, Arista Records, RCA Records, and CEO of BMG North America. None of the artists whose souls Mr. Davis has collected over the course of his hundred-and-sixty year career in the record business appears in the Wenner book nor is alive to testify to any matters within or outside of the statute of limitations under relevant entertainment laws of the State of California.

The long closeted homosexual Mr. Wenner was believed to have started his magazine in order to meet the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. Once this was achieved he fired a politically radical staff obsessed with the MC5, passed along Mayor Richard J. Daley's warnings to stay away from the '68 Democratic Convention before moving away from music coverage for political coverage. Jan changed his name to the teutonic Jann, a strange thing for even the least observant Jew to do. Nevertheless he resolutely stayed in the closet all through the AIDS epidemic, moving the publication out of San Francisco to Manhattan and founding a separate magazine for music called Record while Rolling Stone added coverage of movie stars to dress up its coverage of Democratic party politics. Wenner did exit the closet when he no longer needed his wife's family money after the successful launch of US Weekly wherein the schlub turned on the beautiful people while struggling to lose weight and get into Greenwich Village shape. He remained a staunch opponent of all things punk rock. He was credited with providing cover for radio programmer Lee Abram's "Superstars" format which successfully nationalized formerly free-form underground FM radio and undercut the evolution of the music for the purpose of defending and propping up platinum-selling careers of The Eagles, Pink Floyd, Boston, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The ex-Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and U2 - you know, The Masters.

It is considered a measure of Wenner's achievements in culture jamming that a San Francisco superstar such as Ricky Williams (Crime, The Sleepers, Flipper, Toiling Midgets) could make his debut appearance in the pages of Rolling Stone as an obituary. It is a further measure of Jan's successful cultural cover-up that careers of such geniuses as Spot, Mark Adams, and Robert Becerra were conducted almost entirely under the music industry's and media industry's radars. In recent years Wenner's son, Gus, turned the mag's online presence into a factory of links to empty calories about all manner of 80s underground artists once ignored now proferred to gain relevance today. Jan S. Wenner will be missed by artists and entertainers high and low. Culture writer Richard Meltzer on hearing the news remembered Jan as "a full-fledged 100% SLIME CREATURE."

Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the London Desk of Steve Beeho...

John Gray in NEW STATESMAN, The human era is ending.

Thinkers who look forward to superhuman or post-human species always imagine them as more knowing, not more playful or funnier. These imagined superhumans never possess what is arguably humankind’s only unique attribute – a sense of the absurd. The superior species envisioned by techno-futurists are inflated versions of themselves, showing off their cleverness in a never-ending Ted talk – for some of us, a vision of hell. Fortunately, there is no prospect of any such species coming into being. If AI is evolving in Darwinian fashion, chance will be a decisive factor. The geopolitical conflicts that prevent a pause in the development of AI systems may well blow them up. If superfast machines trigger a nuclear war, they will destroy much of their infrastructure and possibly themselves. Ultra-intelligent machines are as vulnerable to extinction as any other product of evolution.


Robert Tombs in SPECTATOR, The endless myth of British decline.

Britain’s imperial power was always largely a matter of show: as a disillusioned George Orwell put it, being a ‘hollow posing dummy… trying to impress the “natives”.’ The empire was based on trade and broad acquiescence. Yet it brought little economic benefit to Britain during most of its existence (though it enriched some of the colonies) and arguably it distorted economic development. Britain did not need an empire in order to trade: the United States has always been the bedrock of its global trade and investment, and Argentina was a major supplier of food. There was no possibility, and little appetite, to make the Empire a permanent global federation. Expensive and potentially dangerous global strategies were required to defend it. There was no way Britain could maintain it by force, nor did most of its people and politicians wish to do so. When India became independent and broke up, its central provinces (bigger than England) had only 17 British officials, 19 British police officers, and no British troops. Only from a very peculiar viewpoint can the end of empire be seen as decline.


Theodore Dalrymple in CITY JOURNAL, Ill-Served: The British lack the qualities to succeed in a postindustrial age.

We are at an odd, and not reassuring, conjuncture. Britain faces an economic recession, a labor shortage (as a growing proportion of the population no longer works), stagnation in productivity, and unprecedented levels of illegal immigration. Indebtedness, both public and private, is great and growing; a gaping commercial deficit exists with the rest of the world. Current standards of living can continue only through further borrowing, which may not be possible for much longer. Both inflation and taxation are at their highest levels for nearly half a century. It is hard to see any light at the end of this long tunnel: the instinct of many, particularly of the most productive and ambitious, is to flee. They have seen the future, and it is impoverishment. A situation like this does not strike like lightning: it takes years of improvidence and foolishness to lay the ground for it. Demagoguery and frivolity (though without accompanying gaiety) have proved a deadly combination.


Colin Burrow in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, Ah, that's better: Orwell's Anti-Radicalism.

The key thing Orwell learned from the 1940s was that his habitual representations of people entrapped by social norms could be amped up into full-on totalitarian horror. And if that left socialism looking like something that could only be defined negatively, as not what Stalin did and not what Big Brother did, then so be it. The main thing was to resist fascism rather than to imagine a workable alternative. It is radically disappointing, and has often disappointed radicals, that Orwell’s alternative to a totalitarian destructive modernity so often looked like Edwardian England. In his teens he had Housman’s A Shropshire Lad by heart, and it shows. The middle-aged George Bowling, hero of Coming Up for Air (1939), longs to return to the ponds of giant carp from his childhood, but discovers they’ve been built over by a sprawling housing estate, full of smug incomers who have the taint of Orwell’s earlier description of socialist cranks: ‘I knew the type. Vegetarianism, simple life, poetry, Nature-worship, roll in the dew before breakfast. I’d met a few of them years ago in Ealing.’


Edward Luttwak at unherd.com, Has Xi Jinping bankrupted China?.

How do wonderful infrastructures destroy wealth? One example is sufficient. In 2018, on a drive along the North Korea border, I encountered a vast and beautiful white six-lane highway suspension bridge across the Yalu river. It was built to connect the Chinese city of Dandong with North Korea, to service the trade boom Xi expected with the promised opening of the North’s economy. Naturally, it would require a customs house, duly built as a very impressive high-rise, warehouses and more than 10 blocks of commercial offices. Yet when I visited, the bridge ended in a North Korean potato field, traffic was exactly zero, the customs house was empty and so were the office blocks and warehouses, some paid for by private border merchants who were bankrupt when I met them in Dandong (they openly cursed Xi for going along with the US-sponsored Security Council Embargo).


Freddie DeBoer interviewed in the New Statesman, Elite identity politics is destroying the left.

Like BLM, the Democratic Party is dominated by an elite, he argues. “You have an intellectual class, within liberalism, within the Democratic Party, full of people who have never suffered,” deBoer said. “When that’s true… politics becomes a virtue contest. Politics is completely immaterial to [a member of the elite]. You will not suffer if a Republican goes into the White House. It won’t make a difference to you if they cut Medicaid, because you don’t need to be on Medicaid. It won’t make a difference to you if they cut food stamps, because you don’t need food stamps. So politics is permanently immaterial. That is the perfect breeding ground for the kind of politics where you say: ‘If they serve bánh mì in the college cafeteria that’s cultural appropriation.’”


Fred Skulthorp in THE CRITIC, The big turn off.

The biggest piece of “misinformation” that has spread over the past decade is that the news must bend to the apparent apocalyptic whim of the population. People are frightened. They are looking for answers in dangerous places. They fear climate change, pestilence, a world dominated by tech. The victorious post-1989 tenets of the free world — its markets, democracy and stable information systems — are now under threat. Journalists must act and restore the lost consensus that existed pre-2012. They must speak truth not to power, but to disgruntled populations across the West. In attempting to do this, however, they themselves have come to embody the worst excesses of post-journalism. BBC Verify recently crowned a decade of dumbed down and misguided audience strategies when it ended up actually introducing conspiracy theories to a group of people who had never heard of them.


Kat Rosenfield at unherd.com, Stephen King’s boomer propaganda.

There’s something decidedly Boomer about King’s political and creative evolution. His was a generation that fancied themselves revolutionaries, that fetishised youthful irreverence and made “Never trust anyone over 30” into a catechism; imagine their horror at waking up one day to discover that they had become the ones with all the wealth, all the power, all the butts in all the seats of our nation’s elected offices. For some, this identity crisis expresses itself in the form of frantic current thing-ism, as aging members of the protest generation glom onto LGBT pride, or the war in Ukraine, or anti-racist book clubs, all for the sake of aligning themselves with whatever passes for a movement these days; for others, it’s all about white-knuckling those last few years pre-retirement, praying to make it through without being cancelled by their 23-year-old assistants.


 Dominic Green in LITERARY REVIEW on Mick Brown’s book, The Nirvana Express - How the Search for Enlightenment Went West.

The principle of mutual exploitation had already been established by the time the Maharishi came on the scene. Krishnamurti had primed himself to address the West’s spiritual crisis in its own terms through his reading of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. The Maharishi could hardly complain when Californian refugees from Nazism cooked up the Human Potential Movement; he too had ‘read extensively in the literature of twentieth-century psychology and psychiatry’. The Maharishi supposedly told the Beach Boys that if they meditated, they would become ‘the most influential group in the world’. He promised the American Broadcasting Corporation that The Beatles would appear in a TV special. ‘He’s not a modern man,’ George Harrison explained to his bandmates. ‘He just doesn’t understand these things.’ The Maharishi understood the modern world better than George did. That was why he ‘always seemed to have an accountant at his side’. God is in the details, especially when it comes to the business of religion.


William Harris in JACOBIN, Ian Penman’s Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors Is a Love Letter to Postwar Counterculture.

In a telling phrase that Penman makes much of, Fassbinder once said he wanted to appear “ugly on the cover of Time.” The phrase suggests something of the high-low medley of his persona. His movies are undeniably arthouse, claustrophobic productions that hold us for too long in humid interior rooms filled with the wrong furniture and the wrong people. But much of these movies’ style and inspiration comes from lower cultural depths: gangster films (early Fassbinder), the theater (a good splash of Brecht, but heftier pours of cabaret, vaudeville, the flamboyant world of underworld nightclubs), and, perhaps most importantly, the melodramas of German-exile-turned-Hollywood-pioneer Douglas Sirk. From Sirk, Fassbinder learned a certain simplicity, a soft moral sensibility, a humanist feel for the sadness of life. A way to make political films out of everyday scraps.


Julie Burchill in SPECTATOR, Be more Karen.

Imagine if a name favoured by any other ethnic group was used as a synonym for being unpleasant. This is yet another pathetic attack on women and the working class, handily combined in one stereotype. Those who use the term try to weasel out of what in others they would call out as punching down by attributing privilege to their Karen. But if you are an educated person seeking to draw contempt towards a less educated person, how come that doesn’t count? The only women called Karen I’ve ever known came from council houses. Why not call this privileged, arrogant white woman by a more accurate name, such as India, Emily or Charlotte? Because that would be implicating their own social group. In 2020, academic Charlotte Riley and influencer Amelia Dimoldenberg recorded a podcast for BBC Sounds advising women how not to become Karens: ‘Educate yourself…’ giggled Amelia. ‘Read some books’. Charlotte added that white women should ‘think critically about your identity and your privilege… get out of the way’. ‘Yeah, basically leave’, agreed Amelia. What a smorgasbord of unreconstructed snobbery; middle-class women telling working-class women to shut up.


Laura Snapes in GUARDIAN on Marlene Marder’s book, Soft sandwiches, street fights and surrealism.

Rough Trade’s [Geoff] Travis was “astonished” that Kleenex were from Switzerland. “I had no idea what their real circumstances were, what their parents did or where they came from. In those days we really just concentrated on the work. There’s a kind of purity to that. You can hear whether people are sincere in the notes they play.” (Predictably, much of the British music press invoked stereotypes about cuckoo clocks and yodelling when writing about them.) Travis signed the band after Sounds magazine made their debut EP single of the week and Fischli smuggled 500 hand-folded copies into London. In 1979 they came over to tour with Cabaret Voltaire and the Raincoats – until the Cabs’ girlfriends refused to let them tour with women and English punks Spizzenergi stood in. Raincoats singer and bassist Gina Birch describes reading Marder’s account of the tour as “incredibly evocative … so many women started bands in that period. It was so weird how so many of us suddenly found that we could be in a band, and before we didn’t know we could do that.” She “loved” Kleenex. “This naive, shrieky minimalism. But I thought we were better!”


Katie Way at hellgatenyc.com, I Survived the Tom Verlaine Book Sale.

I first heard about the sale, a collaboration between Morse and D'Angelo's Better Read Than Dead and the D.C.-based Capitol Hill Books, from a cool acquaintance's Instagram story. "Tom Verlaine was as prodigious and visionary of a book scout as he was musician and songwriter—scouring for decades to accumulate a 50,000 book collection as staggering in depth as it is volume," the flyer proclaimed, promising literature alongside books on art, music, mysticism, occult, poetry, religion, and spirituality. "Please join us for this first (partial) appearance of putting it back out in the hands of its next stewards and readers."


Alan Rider interviews Mark Perry at outsideleft.com, Lost in Room.

People that were into punk and new wave are now in their 60s and maybe retired and have lots of disposable income. They want to buy books and CDs to validate their teenage years and read about how good it was to give themselves a pat on the back. I know that sounds quite cynical, but I honestly think the biggest audience is people who just want to be reminded how good it was. I've recently worked with people in New York on a range of Sniffin' Glue t-shirts. I didn't want to do it originally, but this is a completely new audience, so I find that a more interesting project. I think a lot of the problems with things like the Rebellion Festival is that it's preaching to the converted, people that already know about it, so you're just regurgitating it all the time. Will it really reach a new audience? I don't think so. It's like a theme park because people go there to be reminded what it was like when they were 18, but in a safe environment, because they're all overweight now, they drink too much, they've all got mortgages and they all go back to their hotels afterwards. The great irony of what punk has become is it's now this thing that we used to rail against. We used to rail against nostalgia, and punk has now become that. I find it really depressing. It’s all become like a theme park for people that are too old to do something new. We still want to listen to what we suppose is cutting-edge music, and read endless biographies or autobiographies about people from 40 years ago.


Thurston Moore interviewed at thequietus.com, Confusion is text.

The Major Labels were the big bad ogres of 90s culture, supposedly appropriating artists and abusing their work and fleecing them, though they seem like benevolent renaissance-era patrons compared to the big streaming companies, who’ve liberated musicians from the dream of making a living from their art. Moore himself doesn’t stream, saying “I don’t get as much out of the listening experience – it doesn’t have the same friction as playing a cassette or a record. And that’s just me being an old man, but I don’t get any spiritual connection.” At 65, he says he doesn’t listen to music much anymore anyway. “I feel like I've decoded a lot of what I really enjoy. I'm more interested other aspects of it, in signifiers. I'm more interested in what the record looks like and feels like and smells like, because I know what it's going to sound like. I very rarely play records, but I like to have them. They're objects that that I glean a lot of creative impulse and energy from, just knowing that this activity is going on.”


Farewell Jamie Reid, artist and anarchist, forgotten by Croydon at insidecroydon.com.

Much of that style of [his Sex Pistols] work can be traced back to Reid’s time in Croydon, with the countercultural Suburban Press, which he began in 1970 alongside Jeremy Brook and Nigel Edwards, and was published out of 433 London Road and then 9 Sidney Road, SE25, the forerunner of thousands of fanzines that would be produced in the following decade. “We are left dwarfed in the streets by huge towers of bureaucracy. An architecture and environment of commerce has been created to manipulate our lives,” began a 20-page diatribe against the “Manhattan-isation” of Croydon contained in Suburban Press No5 published in 1972.
More about Suburban Press.

Photograph by Joe Carducci

From the Wyoming desk of Joe Carducci...

Steve Fulton in EASY READER, Mari Fulton's Early Descendents Photos.

While social and engaging, she never quite fit-in with the kids of Manhattan Beach. There were many cruel words. Friend groups ditched Marz. So she found an alternative path of her own. I find my mom's photos in another box. After scanning all of them, I return to the box of Marz's photos. One set of them in particular catches my eye. Photos of a band taken in what looks like an abandoned field. Their name scrawled in various places in spray paint and masking tape. I was a huge Descendents fan in the late '80s in high school. (notice the "e" not the "a") But these don't look like the guys I remember. There can't be two bands, can there? ...I sent sample photos to my other sister. Maybe she can shed some light? She's bemused to see them. She was younger, but was there too. She sees a clue in the "Descendants" photos. "That's Frank and David." "David used to play 'on-loan' to bands connected to the Church in Hermosa." Of course. David. Marz's ex-husband, David Nolte.


Joe Carducci interview in OX-FANZINE, SST, Das Leben und Der Tod.

Q: I really dig your photography. When on your hikes do you also encounter a lot of wild life or evidence of any distant human activity? How might any or all of this factor into your story development? A: The national forest near me isn't a big national attraction like Yellowstone but there are people you see, mostly on the trails hiking. I haven't seen so many moose or elk in recent years and have only ever seen one wolf. We don't have grizzly bears but do have black bears though I haven't seen any. I think I have seen their scat on ground. I try not to go crashing through the woods where I can't see what's around me. I stay out in the open so if a mountain lion comes at me I have time to pull out my bear-spray. I'm generally hiking above the wet, marshy areas that attract the animals. I do come across old mining pits and cabins. I figure those are from the 1920s. There's a heavy steel boiler laying up somewhere and a mine one can spot on the ridge above Centennial. I do consider my photography as something like location research for The Winter Hand script.


Joe Carducci interview in TRUST, Enter Joe: SST, Wyoming And All That....

Q: Does it flatters you when young rock writers, e.g. Simon Reynolds, one of the most prominent ones, cite you as a major influence for their music writing? Or is more cool when you get props from like Greil Marcus or New York Times writers? Did you have as a young music-writer kind of an idol, probably Lester Bangs or so? A: I think from a fairly early stage of American letters in the 19th century writers were either "redskins" or "palefaces" - those who took advantage of the unfinished American frontier to do less classicly-oriented work and "go native", or those who worked within and measured themselves against the English and European literary traditions. I'm reading 'The Confident Years 1885-1915' by Van Wyck Brooks and its an impressive survey of regional American literature then and he's often gauging that measure of American-ness. I thought I'd just read the two chapters about Chicago writers for this project I'm doing but the whole book is very interesting - published in 1952. After that, in our days, I think rock and roll, movies, tv, comics, etc., what R. Meltzer called "gulcher" as if not quite culture or Kultur, led us "redskins" to half-jokingly treat our gulcher to griticism so-to-speak - not exactly tenure-track works to build an academic career on! But Brooks went to Harvard when you probably got alot out of that schooling. Today you just get refined like Wonder Bread, a real finishing school! As far as my props, there wasn't much to gain by mentioning me in American above-ground media, but in the UK they saw I had a consistent frame of reference that even if antithetical to what the Brits thought, it was interesting to them and they engaged it. So I got more interest from where the books weren't even available - this is back before amazon made it a bit easier.


Punk and Porn in New York City – Part 1 at therialtoreport.com: Elda Stilletto, Warhol, Glitter Rock, and the Birth of Blondie.

Sylvain Sylvain: Max’s started to change how music was influenced: younger kids, like Patti Smith, Wayne County, and others started to be part of Max’s famed back room. Max’s focus went to music… and the days of Warhol’s dominance began to wane.


Ivan Julian at tidal.com, Interview by Brad Cohan.

Q: When you first arrived in New York, were you aware of what was going on at places like CBGB — that there was a scene on the verge of blowing up? A: Yes and no, because I was in Europe. I was playing in Europe at the time, and I decided I was going to bite the bullet and move to New York. It was scary back then. When I came here, I put an ad in a paper [that was] kind of like a Village Voice just for musicians and the scene and all that. I put the ad in, and a month later it came out and on the front cover there was a full-page picture of Richard, explaining that he was a poet from CBGB. In the back of the paper where the classified ads were, I had an ad saying, “Have guitar. Will travel.” So Quine called me up and asked me, “So you want to come down and audition?” I heard what they were doing; they had, like, two and a half songs at the time. It was an opportunity to write, which was another thing I was looking for, and to tour, which was another thing I was looking for, and to put out a record, which is another thing I was looking for. It just all worked for me. Q: Did you hit it off right away with Hell and Quine? A: Well, yeah! To be honest, I thought Quine was Hell. [Richard] was being very quiet and somber there with his bass, and Quine was kind of directing the rehearsal. I didn’t have a picture in my mind of what exactly Richard Hell looked like. I just saw that both of them had dark glasses on...


Miriam Dobson in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, on Stephen Coates' book, Bone Music - Soviet X-Ray Audio.

Some young men – fewer women, it seems – refused to conform. A youth subculture developed that kept alive the wartime fascination with Western, especially American, popular culture. In both Moscow and Leningrad, a section of the central avenue – Nevsky Prospekt in Leningrad, Ulitsa Gorkogo in Moscow – was known as the brodvei (‘broadway’) and became the main drag for young men in distinctive clothing: bright ties, long coats, silk scarfs, a wide-brimmed hat and flared trousers, later superseded by drainpipes. Their rubber-soled boots were particularly eye-catching, as well as heavy. ‘I don’t think anyone in the West wore anything like it,’ Kozlov writes. ‘It was our own invention.’ These young stilyagi, or ‘style-hunters’, spoke their own slang and adapted the jitterbug, the lindy hop, boogie-woogie and the foxtrot, giving them subversive names: the ‘Canadian’, the ‘triple Homburg’, the ‘atom dance’. Among Coates’s protagonists are Boris Taigin and Ruslan Bogoslovsky, who as teenagers in 1947 found that the only way to get hold of the music they loved was illicitly. At first they were just customers, but soon they became dealers.


Timothy Farrington in WSJ, on John Szwed's book, Cosmic Scholar.

Mr. Szwed makes fine farce out of Smith's relations with friends, admirers and patrons (often the same people). One recalled Smith asking "for a couple of dollars to get a cab to Allen Ginsberg's to get $5 so that he could take a cab to Peggy Guggenheim's to ask her for $2,000 for his research." Ginsberg was fond of Smith ("so devious, so saintly") but, despite his presumably high tolerance for irregular modes of life, found the increasingly ill Smith exasperating as a permanent guest. When Bob Dylan came over for an evening in 1985 to play Ginsberg his new album, Smith yelled at them to turn it down. Mr. Dylan then asked to meet the mystical eminence, but Smith refused to get out of bed.


Kris Maher in WSJ, America's Last Washboard Company Is Still Cleaning Up.

Sales jumped 57% in 2020 over the prior year, the company said, goosed by pandemic fears of societal collapse and limited laundry service. "There were groups of people that were panicking," said Mr. Gerstner. His other business ventures include a nearby zip line attraction and local hotel. Columbus Washboard sold more than a million boards a year in its 1940s heyday. That was when wood-and-corrugated-steel boards were used for scrubbing clothing and linens by hand in a washtub of soap and water. Washing machines and postwar prosperity set off an inexorable decline. Today, about 40% of company sales go to bluegrass and folk musicians who use the boards for percussion.


Scott Yenor in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS, The First Ladies of Country Music.

It speaks volumes that Cline’s brand of loneliness has all but disappeared among female country singers. More women over 45 are unmarried today—both as a percentage and as an absolute number—than at any time in our history, and the number is climbing. Yet feminine loneliness and regret have declined as musical themes and in art generally. Either women simply do not mind their newfound solitude, or an entire domain of female experience is going unspoken and repressed. Rising rates of female depression and medication would suggest the latter: women have not lost their longing for love, just their outlets for expressing it. Today’s songs insist on celebrating women’s bravery while minimizing or ignoring their regrets. But does refusing to acknowledge vulnerabilities make one stronger, or weaker?


Roni Robin in NYT, Many Women Have an Intense Fear of Childbirth, Survey Suggests.

Earlier studies have linked preterm birth to psychosocial stress, but this study is the first to find an association with tokophobia, Dr. Thayer said. Fear of childbirth was higher among all socially disadvantaged women, including lower-income women and those with less education, she found. Women who were single, those who were receiving care from an obstetrician and those who were having their first child were also more likely to be more fearful. Women with high-risk pregnancies and those suffering from prenatal depression were also more likely to fear childbirth, Dr. Thayer found.


Jill Filipovic in ATLANTIC, The Resilience Gap.

Back then, I was convinced that such warnings were sometimes necessary to convey the seriousness of the topics at hand (the term deeply problematic appears a mortifying number of times under my byline). Even so, I chafed at the demands to add ever more trigger warnings, especially when the headline already made clear what the post was about. But warnings were becoming the norm in online feminist spaces, and four words at the top of a post—“Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault”—seemed like an easy accommodation to make for the sake of our community’s well-being. We thought we were making the world just a little bit better. It didn’t occur to me until much later that we might have been part of the problem.


Julie Burchill in SPECTATOR, Britain Is Now a Nation of Shoplifters.

I spoke to my favourite worker in my local supermarket, a cheerful and witty older gentleman I see most mornings, about the rise in shoplifting. He wears a body camera but is not allowed to caution any of the thieves who steal from his shop every day (anything from six to ten incidents, more at weekends). One regular is so brazen that he shouts ‘Same time tomorrow!’ as he leaves. I asked the worker if he thought replacing checkout workers with self-service machines had had anything to do with the rise in thieving and he answered immediately: ‘No – it was lockdown... People forgot how to interact decently with people and they’ve never relearned,’ he said.... The death of Britain’s high-street shops, along with pubs and churches, is part of the relentless atomisation of society that was turbo-charged by lockdown, making lonely people lonelier, lazy people lazier and crazy people crazier. If the idle and parasitic can carry on attacking the industrious and productive without fear of punishment, we will turn from a nation of shopkeepers into a nation of shoplifters.


Wesley Lowery in IN THESE TIMES, Meet Brandon Johnson, Chicago's New Mayor.

His father's family migrated from Mississippi to Chicago's South Side, while his mother's made their way north from Tennessee, ultimately landing in nearby Elgin. Johnson's parents were born into sprawling Black families - his father the oldest of 12, his mother in the middle of 15 - who came north clutching tight to their Christian faith. Johnson's grandfather was a pastor in thecharismatic tradition in which he'd been raised as a sharecropper. But in 1984, Johnson's parents, Andrew and Wilma Jean, decided to break away to found their own congregation on a style of preaching more about community than compelling the spirit.... Johnson and his siblings - there are at least 10, including those who were adopted and foster children - learned to drive behind the wheel of a 15-passenger van, ferrying neighborhood kids to the church for music lessons, tutoring and youth groups. Leading the church didn't pay, so Johnson's father continued working whatever jobs he could find - as a handyman, a carpenter, a contractor, a truck driver - while Wilma Jean, who had a fifth-grade education and a cosmetology license, did hair out of their crowded three-bedroom home. Their deal was that Wilma Jean would handle the church's administrative work while Andrew, when he was not working his paying jobs, did the preaching and teaching. Meanwhile, their small army of offspring served as musicians, janitors and Sunday school teachers. Johnson-Williams led the choir; Brandon played the drums.


Claire Cain Miller in NYT, A Tradition Going Strong: Brides Who Take Their Husbands’ Names.

The bridal tradition of taking a husband’s last name remains strong. Among women in opposite-sex marriages in the United States, four in five changed their names, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. --What last name did you give your children? Some families break with tradition when it comes to their children’s last names. Please share your story. (The Times won’t quote you or refer to your submission in a story before talking to you first.) Email the reporter on this story, Claire Cain Miller.-- Fourteen percent kept their last names, the survey found. The youngest women were most likely to have done so: A quarter of respondents who were 18 to 34 kept their names.


Madina Shogunbekova at qantara.de, Tajik women turn to polygamy to survive.

Immediately after the divorce, Manizha received offers to become a second or third wife through the nikah, a traditional Islamic marriage ceremony, with the promise of providing for her financially. "At first I refused because I hadn't yet processed the traumatic separation from my first husband. But because of my financial situation, and because I didn't have an apartment, I had to consider the offers," Manizha added. She soon became the second wife of a local official. "Fortunately he's very young, only 27 years old," she said. Her new husband spends three days a week with Manizha and the rest of the time at his house with his first wife and two children. According to Manizha, the first wife knows about the second marriage and does not mind. "Being a second wife is my decision, I was not forced into it. At the moment, I'm very happy that there is someone in my life who takes care of me," she said. "You can't go against traditions and culture; I have to take life as it is and thank Allah for everything he has given me."


Rachel Shteir at chronicle.com, The Abandonment of Betty Friedan.

In another famous passage from The Feminine Mystique... Friedan criticizes college administrators and professors for instilling sexist ideas of femininity among college students and, in general, contributing to sexism in the academy. “The few college presidents and professors who were women either fell into line or had their authority — as teachers and as women — questioned,” she writes: If they were spinsters, if they had not had babies, they were forbidden by the mystique to speak as women. … The brilliant scholar, who did not marry but inspired many generations of college women to the pursuit of truth, was sullied as an educator of women. She was not named president of the women’s college whose intellectual tradition she carried to its highest point; the girls’ education was put in the hands of a handsome, husbandly man, more suitable to indoctrinating girls for their proper feminine role. The scholar often left the women’s college to head a department in a great university, where the potential Ph.D.s were safely men, for whom the lure of scholarship, the pursuit of truth, was not deemed a deterrent to sexual fulfillment. Behind this critique of academic sexism lies a visceral horror. Friedan recoiled from the kind of life she saw female academics leading. She did not want to be like these lonely women. Her identity depended on a traditional ideal of femininity, even as she sought to overturn that ideal in her work. And, for some reason, she thought she could sidestep this conflict by going into radical journalism.


Jennifer Banks in COMMONWEAL, Reckoning with Birth.

Those who philosophize properly, Plato asserted centuries before Seneca, are those who practice death and dying. In the Christianity that matured alongside such Greek and Roman influences, the crucifix would overshadow the manger as the central symbol of liturgical worship, with Christ’s death and resurrection accruing more theological significance in most communities than Mary’s miraculous birthing. Celibacy and an otherworldly asceticism would be recommended for those on the fast track to salvation; the end was imminent, many early Christians believed, and true seekers should seek not to perpetuate the human race, but to be reborn into God’s kingdom. “Remember to keep death daily before your eyes,” St. Benedict advised a faithful flock of celibate monastics in the medieval period.


Scott Alexander at substack.com, Galton, Ehrlich, Buck.

Beroe: Islam isn’t bad, flying planes into buildings is bad. Likewise, eugenics isn’t bad, involuntarily sterilizing people, or sending them to gas chambers, is bad. What’s the argument against forms of eugenics that don’t do this? Adraste: Like what? Beroe: Let’s say - financial incentives for the most talented people to have lots of children. Something like the old Nobel Sperm Bank, where people with great socially-valuable gifts are encouraged to deposit gametes, and couples who can’t conceive naturally - maybe infertile people, maybe lesbians - are encouraged to make use of them. And making voluntary contraception free and easily available, since by far the most common reason for the less-genetically-blessed part of the population having children is that they want contraceptives but can’t access them. Adraste: Oh, interesting. I thought you were going to say a much worse thing, along the lines of "identify people you consider genetically inferior, then offer them money to undergo voluntary sterilization”. But of course there are many things we don’t allow people to offer other people money for. Like sex work. Or organ donation. Although people are allowed to have sex and donate organs for free, we think the desperation of poverty is so compelling, and the danger of these irreversible actions so great, that we ban seemingly-voluntary economic transactions around them. Call me a BETA-MEALR, but I think sterilization should be in the same category. Still, your suggestion avoided that, so good job.


Adam Kirsch in AMERICAN SCHOLAR, The End Is Only the Beginning.

If humanity’s technological progress can be compared to climbing a mountain, then the Anthropocene finds us perched on a crumbling ledge, uncertain how long we have until it collapses. The most obvious way out is to turn back and retrace our steps to an earlier stage of civilization, with fewer people using fewer resources. This would mean acknowledging that humanity is unequal to the task of shaping the world, that we can thrive only by living within the limits set by nature. But this kind of voluntary turning back might be so contrary to our nature that it can never happen. It is far more plausible that the human journey was fated to end up in this dangerous spot ever since we first began to change the ecosystem with farming and fire. Such a view forms the basis of antihumanism, a system of thought that removes humans from their pedestal and contends that, given our penchant for destruction—not only of ourselves but also all other species—we are less deserving of existence than are animals, plants, rocks, water, or air. For antihumanists, the only way off the precipice is a fall, with the survivors left to pick up the pieces. And if there are no survivors, that wouldn’t be a tragedy; there will always be beings in the world, even if there are no human beings. Australian philosopher Toby Ord uses the image of the crumbling ledge in his book The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity (2020).... Ord is not an antihumanist but rather a transhumanist, a research fellow at the world’s leading center for transhumanist thought, Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, which looks to scientific and technological advances as the only path forward. Transhumanists agree with antihumanists that human nature is morally and physically circumscribed in ways that make it impossible for us to get past the precipice. They likewise agree that Homo sapiens is doomed to disappear. But for transhumanists, this is a wonderful prospect because we will disappear by climbing instead of falling.


Nathan Pinkoski in FIRST THINGS, Fukuyama v. Fukuyama.

For Strauss was not concerned only with material annihilation. He was concerned also about the use of science to transform human nature. In an often-overlooked passage in "Restatement," Strauss contemplates that for the universal and homogenous state to last, its rulers "must forbid every teaching, every suggestion, that there are politically relevant natural differences among men which cannot be abolished or neurtralized by progressing scientific technology." Biology becomes the science by which the regime committed to ensuring equality stands or falls. In a few, arresting lines, Strauss foresaw in the 1950s what many conservative critics of the universities in the 1980s and 1990s did not. It was not that liberal democratic political correctness would drown the humanities, only to splash in vain against the impregnable walls of the hard sciences. The ideology would change the definitions of the hard sciences to correspond to its tenets, then weaponize the epistemic authority of the sciences to advance its agenda. Liberal democracy thus repurposes the life sciences in order to engineer a new condition for humanity, one in which natural differences among men (and differences between men and women) do not exist.


Doug Mainwaring at lifesitenews.com, It's Worse Than You Thought: Transgenderism's Endgame Is Transhumanism.

Outspoken investigative journalist Jennifer Bilek has pointed out that the political-corporate-NGO-legal-academic infrastructure driving "body dissociation" is "mammoth." ...Bilek described how strange it is that these massive global orgainiazations have taken up the cause of trans-identifying individuals. Corporations "don't get behind a miniscule part of the population's identity issues," she said, yet "these entities are all driving and supporting this." This financial and political muscle plus the relentless affirming support given to transgenderism from major media, Hollywood, and even the current White House, Nashville, and beer producers, raises the question: What is really going on? Western populations are being conditioned - "groomed" - to more easily accept transhumanity. "In order to sell that to the public - transhumanism and disembodiment - as a life, you're going to have to groom them and get them there," explained Bilek in a recent video interview. "And the way to do that is to create this ideology that says that you can choose your sex."


Adam Kirsch in ATLANTIC, The People Cheering for Humanity's End.

In the 21st century, Anthropocene anti-humanism offers a much more radical response to a much deeper ecological crisis. It says that our self-destruction is now inevitable, and that we should welcome it as a sentence we have justly passed on ourselves.... Anthropocene anti-humanism begins not with a political program but with a philosophical idea. It is a rejection of humanity's traditional role as Earth's protagonist, the most important being in creation. Transhumanism, by contrast, glorifies some of the very things that anti-humanism decries - scientific and techonolocial progress, the supremacy of reason. But it believes that the only way forward for humanity is to create new forms of intelligent life that will no longer be Homo sapiens.... The anti-humanist future and the transhumanist future are opposites in most ways, except the most fundamental. They are worlds from which we have disappeared, and rightfully so.


Mark Edmundson in LIBERTIES, "These are all good people.".

In Foucault’s day, the chief means of extending discipline was through institutions. You were shaped and sized by the school, the church, the prison, the military, the government, and they did an effective enough job of it. Now power disseminates itself also through the Internet. It’s much harder to run, much harder to hide.... And the powers who are not really powers, the good people, can demand much more of you (and have more demanded of themselves in turn). My annual report used to consist in a typed page. Now it is about fifteen electronic pages. I will now be rated on a scale of one to ten in nine different categories. And I, as a professor, abide in one of the freest jobs there is. It will become more confined and confining over time, for those who are paid to enforce discipline must justify their positions by making ever more disciplinary demands. If they simple left matters as they were, the computers would do their work, and they would be replaceable. In time, discipline will make its way into every interstice of life, for that is the logic of network power. The regulations for sexuality within institutions, say, will become more comprehensive, detailed, and bizarre. A preview of coming attractions can be found in my own university’s rules about sado-masochistic sex undertaken by members of our community. “When parties consent to BDSM 3, or other forms of kink, non-consent may be shown by the use of a safe word, whereas actions and words that may signal non-consent in non-kink situations, such as force or violence, may be deemed signals of consent.” No, I did not make it up. And yes, the combination of liberal tolerance for apparent erotic extravagance and disciplinary control by the institution are emblematic of the present, and of things to come. There is virtually nothing that the Internet and the good people, acting in consort, cannot observe, discipline, and attempt to control.


Tinand de Mainii Strigoii-lor at substack.com, Eunuch Caste Theory.

What the 2010s gave us, more than anything else, was a new method and means of political discourse adopted by virtually everybody, including its critics. Persistent victimhood complexes, cluster B disorder social dynamics, and strong identification with parasocial media figures. Some of these things existed in the past, it's true, but the digitial boom over the last decade intensified these trends, and its actors intensified them intentionally. Trans, however, is the biggest winner from this milieu. It is the perfect mixture of every identity-based special interest group today, and it is the most aggressive. It combines everyting needed to succeed as a poltical venture in this environment and is highly attractive to the most personality disordered, the shrewdest narcissists and sociopaths alive, individuals which are absolutely necessary for brute-forcing a winning coalition. It simultaneously proves that observable reality is easily malleable while also calling attention to how easily manipulated "reality" is. It also, through its body modification rituals, creates functional eunuchs. Not only does it create a caste of administrators, bureaucrats, and activists which are fiercely defensive of their personal interpretation of reality, it also seals the deal by castrating them - and much more invasively than any other form of eunuchization, as this castration is not just external, but courses throughout the whole body. Most of these eunuchs, just like most of the eunuchs created in epochs prior to this one, are too unstable and insane to actually belong to the ruling class's court. Many of these poor degenerates are on the frontlines, antifascist blackshirts brutalizing wayward liberals who are too conservative, who cling too strongly to the liberalism of the pre-digital era, who refuse to unflinchingly accept the new order. These pitiful wrecks are often drug addicts, prostitutes, lumpenproletariat criminal scum who are "to the left" of the Democrats, and who continually push them further.


Anonymous at substack.com, The Glass Delusion and Transgenderism.

Once upon a time of fairy tales, murderous religious prejudice, and unspeakable cruelty - or the Renaissance, as historians call it - some men came to believe that parts of their bodies were made of glass, or sometimes, that their entire bodies were made of glass.... Notably, this delusion was associated with another diagnosis known as "scholar's melancholy," a kind of depression known only to the educational elite. This was a delusion suffered only by "men of letters, or members of the nobility, these Glass Men could have learnt of the delusion from earlier medical treatises, and from contemporary literary accounts accessible to them in the embryonic literary academies. Specialized mystical knowledge was a component of this diagnosis - and no wonder. There are no known laborers or peasants who suffered from this delusion.


Cassidy Morrison in DAILY MAIL, Can the Pill Turn You Gay? Growing Number of Women Report Bizarre Symptom.

The 2013 study recruited 55 straight women and used a computer program in a lab that allowed them to manipulate human features in photographs of different men and women. They could adjust a myriad of facial features such as jawlines and cheekbone prominence to make people in the photos look more masculine or feminine. After that first session, 18 women were given a prescription for a daily birth control pill while the rest were not. Both groups returned three months later to run a similar attractiveness test. When the researchers compared the two sets of images created by the non pill-takers at each test session, they found no differences between the faces they created. But they found that women who had gone on the pill preferred images of males with less masculine features than their non pill-taking counterparts.... Experts in the field of evolutionary psychology have long held that changes in women's sex hormones play an important role in partner attraction and what a woman looks for in a mate. Hormones flip billions of switches on and off in cells throughout your body, influencing how a person interacts with the world. But scientists are still untangling how these influence women's bahavior, and how much a person's sexuality can be swayed by these changes.


Chris Bray at substack.com, The Loathing of Fertility Is the Longing for Death.

I think, and I can neither prove this nor yet fully articulate it, that the growing sexlessness and childlessness of performatively oversexed Western cultures... emerges from the thing we don't want to talk about, which is simply that we know we've failed at the task of stewardship. We know we drove the wheels off our prosperous and strong countries. We know that the future isn't looking great. Our one go-to trick in the face of failure is printing more money; we can't make stuff or run stuff, but here's a couple trillion extra to get the country through the year. The stimulus package, the last great American product. So everywhere you look, women are also men, and men are also women, and the type of body that makes the future is dishonored and emptied. We hate fertile bodies because we hate the future, because we damaged the future with ideological madness and endless corporate-state rent seeking and moral emptiness.


Matthew Crawford at unherd.com, The Politics of Masturbation.

There may indeed be an overlap between the no-nutters and the online Right. That is certainly how it is characterised by those who find it threatening. If there is such an overlap, the common thread is surely the reappearance of "vitalism" as a point of orientation for young men who feel smothered and demoralised in a society that has little use for male energies. European vitalist thinkers include Friedrich Neitzsche and Henri Bergson. In the Amerian context, the vitalist tradition is represented by figurees such as Teddy Roosevelt, William James and, arguably, Mohammed Ali. Its most vivid recent articulation may be found in the movie Fight Club, which depicted a masculinist revolt against the androgynising and enervating effects of a consumerist, white-collar existence that offers little place for male solidarity.... Whatever meaning and political valence the no-fap movement has for its adepts, the journalistic Left's ready identification of sexual self-regulation with "fascism" has a definite genealogy. Retracing this gives us a glimpse into a fascinating chapter of 20th-century social engineering, a programme of sexual "liberation" that is still with us and can feel, if not obligatory, certainly on the agenda for all who would be well-adjusted. Acquaintance with this history should disabuse us of the idea that the sexual revolution was an entirely organic eruption of cultural change, and that it happened in the Sixties.


Richard Hanania at richardhanania.com, How Monogamy and Incest Taboos Made the West.

A fascinating line of evidence documenting the development of changing family norms can be found in the linguistic record. Earlier in their history, European languages had terms for things like "mother's sister" or "male cousin on my dad's side" instead of just saying "aunt" or "cousin." Such distinctions matter in societies in which clans and extended family relations are important and descent is traced through either the male or female line alone, and so these kinds of words are still used in modern languages such as Arabic. They would disappear across Europe, first in the Romance languages like French and Italian around 700, and then German and English by around 1100. Usually, it takes languages a few centuries to catch up to cultural changes that have taken place in people's daily lives, so the timeline is consistent with the decrees of the Catholic Church having had a major effect on society.... What Henrich calls the Church's "Marriage and Family Plan" (MFP), which included features like monogamy in addition to an obsession with preventing broadly-defined incest, had important downstream consequences in practically every aspect of life. Young men would be more likely to find marriage partners since a few high-status leaders could not claim a disproportionate share of women, creating incentives for individuals to be more hard-working and less violent. The powers of elders was further reduced by an inability to arrange marriages in ways that would keep wealth and resources withing the same family, unlike in Muslim societies where the son of one brother would often be wedded to the daughter of another.


Jacob Siegel at unherd.com, Michel Houellebecq's Sexual Apocalypse.

The author whose work anticipated or channelled the Bali bombings, Brexit, the alt-Right, the Gilet Juanes, and other characteristic developments of the new millennium was assumed to be acting more as a medium than as a crafter of fiction. Yet Houellebecq's prophetic streak seems to be a direct result of his disinterest in politics.... Along with politics, Houellebecq has ignored the standard markers of literary seriousness. His books lake subtlety and roundedness. They eschew both social realism and formal inventiveness, while fixedly pursuing the stunted emotional logic of their characters.


Robert Zaretsky in AMERICAN SCHOLAR, The Decreationist.

These works teem with notions that rattle our understanding of the world and our place in it: affliction and attention, force and friendship, necessity and rootedness, the Good and God. Yet Weil's most thought-provoking, if not thought-defying notion is decreation. Decreation declares that God, in making the universe, had to unmake Himself. "In a sense," she wrote, "God renounces being everything." In return, Weil held, "we should renounce being something. That is our only good." Put crudely, Weil believed that the cosmos was not big enough for both God and His creatures. Those who were created from God's sacrifice must thus reciprocate by the same act of sacrifice - by decreating themselves. It's as if Descartes, in a moment of mystical rapture, announced, "I am, therefore I must no longer be."


Christian Lorentzen in JACOBIN, The Hopeful Dystopian.

In a discussion of poliitical debate, he argues that the press, in becoming professionalized and prioritizing the objective dissemination of information, had declined relative to the more opinion-driven, even yellow jourjalism of the late nineteenth century. It's an argument of a piece with his constant return to the ethic of small proprietorship as a countervailing force to centralized power. The twenty-first century has not returned us to such a nineteenth-century scheme of things (or media landscape). In The True and Only Heaven, Lasch expresses admiration for the virtues of the petty bourgeoisie - "its egalitarianism, its respect for workmanship, its understanding of the value of loyalty, and its struggle against the moral temptation of resentment" - while refraining from "minimizing" its vices ot "narrowness and provincialism," nor denying that it has produced "racism, natiivism, anti-intellectualism." This class has long been a hinge in American politics, the proverbial small-business owners to whom each party tends to pander.


Barton Swaim in WSJ on Fredrik deBoer's book, How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement, and Thomas Sowell's book, Social Justice Fallacies.

His first book, "The Cult of Smart" (2020), rightly criticized the public education system for ignoring the interests of children who, for reasons of background or inclination, don't score well on standardized tests and can't make it in the "knowledge economy." His prescription, though, was to flood that same system with more money so it can do more of what it already does, only equitably. Excellent diagnosis, bewildering prescription. But if you want to understand the most salient development in American politics in the past half century - the Democratic Patry's slow transformation from a coalition of working-class whites, racial minorities and disaffected hippies into a party of hypereducated urbanites, well-paid activists and expert-class virtue-signalers - Mr. deBoer's "How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement" is a fine primary source. Mr. deBoer describes the "elite capture" of the American left as a "drift from the material and the concrete to the immaterial and symbolic."


Sarah Mervosh in NYT, A 'Science of Reading' Revolt Takes on the Education Establishment.

About one in three children in the United States cannot read at a basic level of comprehension, according to a key national exam. The outcomes are particularly troubling for Black and Native American children, nearly half of whom score "below basic" by eighth grade. Science of reading advocates say the reason is simple: Many children are not being correctly taught. A popular method of teaching, known as "balanced literacy," has focused less on phonics and more on developing a love of books and ensuring students understand the meaning of stories. At times, it has included dubious strategies, like guiding children to guess words from pictures. The push for reform picked up in 2019, when national reading scores showed significant improvement in just two places: Mississippi and Washington, D.C. Both had required more phonics. But what might have remained a niche education issue was supercharged by a storm of events: a pandemic that mobilized parents; Covid relief money that gave school districts flexibility to change; a fresh spotlight on racial disparities after the murder of George Floyd; and a hit education podcast with a passionate following... The movement has not been universally popular. School districts in Connecticut and teachers' unions in Ohio, for example, pushed back against what they see as heavy-handed interference in their classrooms.


Faith Bottum in WSJ, California's Weapons of Math Destruction.

California's education bureaucrats are seeking to reinvent math as a grievance study. "Big ideas are central to the learning of mathematics," the framework insists, but the only big idea the document promotes is that unequal outcomes in math performance are proof of a racist society. To achieve equal outcomes, the framework favors the elimination of "tracking," by which it means the practice of identifying students with the potential to do well. This supposedly damages the mental health of low-achieving students. The problem is that some students simply are better at math than others. To close the gap, the authors of the new framework have decided essentially to eliminate calculus - and to hold talented students back. The framework recommends that Algebra I not be taught in middle school, which would force the course to be taught in high school. But if the students all take algebra as freshmen, there won't be time to fit calculus into a four-year high-school program. And that's the point: The gap between the best and worst math students will become less visible.


Stephanie Lee at chronicle.com, The Divider.

Last April, Jelani Nelson woke up to a jarring email from Jo Boaler, a Stanford University professor and the nation's most prominent expert on math education. The two had never met. "As you know," she began, "I am one of the authors of the proposed mathematics framework and I know you are working to oppose it." That "framework" is a policy document that will shape how math is taught in California and beyond, and Nelson, a computer-science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, had major problems with it - and with Boaler, too. He's seen a series of tweets critical of her, and reposted one of them with his own scathing commentary. Now, Boaler was confronting him. "I wanted to let you know," she wrote, "that the sharing of private details about me on social media yesterday is now being taken up by police and lawyers." Later, Boaler apologized on Twitter for "leaving the impression" that she'd called the cops on Nelson, saying she was upset because her address had been posted elsewhere in the same Twitter thread. She'd just wanted to talk, she told me, "which is why I wrote him an email." Nelson, who is Black, wasn't buying it: "She wanted me to be scared. She wanted to intimidate me." Welcome to America's knock-down, drag-out math wars.


Vincent Lloyd at compactmag.com, A Black Professor Trapped in Anti-Racist Hell.

This might be just another lament about "woke" campus cuture, and the loss of traditional educational virtues. But the seminar topic was "Race and the Limits of Law in American." Four of the 6 weeks were focused on anti-black racism (the other two were on anti-immigrant and anti-indigenous racism). I am a black professor, I directed my university's black-studies program, I lead anti-racism and transformative-justice workshops, and I have published books on anti-black racism and prison abolition. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood of Philadelphia, my daughter went to an Afrocentric school, and I am on the board of our local black cultural organization. Like others on the left, I had been dismissive of criticisms of the current discourse on race in the United States. But now my thoughts turned to that moment in the 1970s when leftist organizations imploded, the need to match and raise the militancy of one's comrades leading to a toxic culture filled with dogmatism and disillusion. How did this happen to a group of bright-eyed high school students?


Glenn Loury interview in BROWN ALUMNI, Maverick.

Shankar: Despite what others may have inferred about you, I sense a deep humanism and even a tentative optimism in your work. Is that part of the case you are making for Black patriotism? Loury: Look - here we are. We're African American but we are Americans first. We are not African in any way that's meaningful. Yes, our ancestors may have been enslaved, but they were also emancipated. We are literally the richest and most powerful people of African descent on the entire planet. We have ten times the income on average of the typical Nigerian. There's an enormous Black middle class and Black billionaires. Woke racialism, claims the American Dream doesn't apply to Blacks, which is a patronizing lie that robs us of agency and authenticity and self-determination and dignity. It doesn't acknowledge that we possess the ability to rise to meet our challenges and carry the torch of freedom.


Yarimar Bonilla in NYT, Enrique Tarrio and the Curious Case of the Latino White Supremacist.

Just look at the census, which states that Hispanic populations can be of any race, but then clearly distinguishes between those who identify as Hispanic and white, and those who are “White Alone, Not Hispanic or Latino.” The implication being that if you’re Hispanic, and also white, then you’re at best a different, not quite so American shade of pale. Mr. Tarrio himself employed this logic in his defense, claiming that he cannot be a white supremacist because he is of Cuban descent. Instead, he and his fellow Proud Boys call themselves “Western chauvinists.” The 2019 documentary “The Right-Wing Latinos of Miami” sheds insight on the mind-set of these white-identifying Latinos. In it, a Latino Proud Boy argues that Latin Americans are essentially “displaced Spaniards.” While this claim may seem ridiculous, it speaks to the deep history of Hispanophilia and Eurocentrism in Latin America. Just as “Western chauvinists” in the United States cling to their European heritage by celebrating Celtic culture, many Latinos hold onto Eurocentric standards of beauty, aesthetics and culture.... Dr. Bonilla is a contributing Opinion writer who covers race, history, pop culture and the American empire.


Susan Pedersen in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Kal Raustiala's book, The Absolutely Indispensible Man: Ralph Bunche, The United Nations and the Fight to End Empire.

The Watts riots of 1965, and those in Detroit and Chicago soon after, shook Bunche deeply. In 1965 he denounced the lawlessness and was denounced by Black Power militants in turn, but in 1967 - in failing health and in the wake of his daughter's death - he began rethinking his stance. In private writings that recalled his analysis of the brutal Kikuyu initiation rites in the 1930s, he posited that, however destructive the riots, for the participants they were an experience 'of throwing off shackles, of getting out from under white domination', of saying to 'white bosses and the power structure and white people generally... for once you are going to know who the hell we are.' Remarkably, having long opposed all politics based on racial identification, he began to express sympathy - although, again, only in private writings - for what he called 'Blackism'. Bunche had always disliked the elitism of the 'talented tenth'. Perhaps 'Blackism' could reach across that class divide to foster pride in the mass of Black people. From childhood, Bunche had been the smartest person in a room full of whites, and he grew up having little contact with the segregated clubs and churches that sustained Black life. Small wonder he had striven to prove himself equal,, and more than equal, in the world he knew, but now he found the praise showered on him by white America unbearable.


Michael Powell & Ilana Marcus in NYT, California Vote Exposed a Divide Amid Democrats.

The results were quite different in 1996, when California voters banned affirmative action through Proposition 209. The population was majority white, the Republican governor opposed social services for undocumented immigrants, and nativism was in the air. That year, 63 percent of white voters opposed affirmative action, according to an exit poll by The Los Angeles Times. Sizable majorities of Black, Latino and Asian voters favored affirmative action, according to that poll, and many viewed the campaign as grounded in white resentment. By 2020, that coalition was greatly diminished. “The 1996 vote was significantly more racially polarized than the 2020 vote,” noted Richard Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a critic of race-conscious affirmative action. “The 1996 campaign was cast in stark racial terms. The Prop 16 campaign was much less so and to the extent that it was, voters did not buy it.”


Phillip Magness & David Waugh in INDEPENDENT REVIEW, The Hyperpoliticization of Higher Ed: Trends in Faculty Political Ideology, 1969-Present.

Although this trend is more pronounced in some academic disciplines than others, each domain has increased in left-wing identification since the 1990s. Samuel Abrams (2017) analyzed the HERI survey data across disciplines and found a uniform leftward political shift in every discipline between 1989 and 2014 (figure 3). At the same time, he confirmed that the gap between the liberal arts and hard sciences, first noticed in Lipset and Ladd’s work, had dramatically increased. Whereas most STEM disciplines and professional degrees in fields such as healthcare and business still maintain a semblance of viewpoint diversity among their faculty, the humanities and social sciences have become monolithically left-leaning. In some fields such as English and history, self-identified moderate faculty have diminished to a tiny minority, and conservatives are practically nonexistent.


Malloy Owen in HEDGEHOG REVIEW, From Frankfurt to Fox - The Strange Career of Critical Theory.

If all that is not enough, the critical theorists also have to reckon with the strange allure the Frankfurt School and French theory have in certain corners of the right. Michel Foucault, never a reliable ally of the left, was taken up anew by conservatives during the COVID pandemic, when the concept of biopower seemed eerily apt. Giorgio Agamben, an heir to Foucault’s account of biopower, has alienated large parts of the left and won new friends on the right through his power analysis of the global pandemic response. The critical theory journal Telos, along with some of its regular contributors, was never averse to thought from outside the left but is now seen in some quarters as positively right-wing. One of the intellectual godfathers of the latest incarnation of the New Right is Nick Land, who was once a leading figure in a cutting-edge school of digital media studies influenced by the French theory luminaries Georges Bataille and Jean Baudrillard. A new generation of conservative writers, almost wholly severed from the old ecosystem of National Review and the American Enterprise Institute, regularly invoke twentieth-century critical theory against institutional progressivism; many of them have gathered around the slick new online journal Compact, which was founded with the explicit intention of marrying the critical theories of left and right against the despised liberal center. And as Compact’s managing editor, Geoffrey Shullenberger, has pointed out, a number of influential figures in and around Steve Bannon’s Trumpist circle were initiates into the mysteries of the Frankfurt School and French postmodern thought.


Jonathan Sumption in SPECTATOR on Doug Stokes' book Against Decolonisation - Campus Culture Wars and the Decline of the West.

However, the main objection to decolonisation is not that it is false but that it is narrow-minded, obsessive and intolerant. People will continue to disagree about the prevalence and the origin of racial prejudice. Error and discord are inevitable hazards of the free market in ideas. But the decolonisers are not just trying to defend their views. They are seeking to upend the free market in ideas by imposing them. This is a natural consequence of their approach to intellectual inquiry. For those who believe that knowledge and truth are mere social constructs there is no point in debate. Alternative visions of the world are just the product of social conditioning. Social change and suppression of dissent are the only answers. Schools and universities must be the battlegrounds. Hence the obligatory decolonisation statements, the imposition of a highly controversial agenda on the syllabus, the no-platforming of opponents and the real fears of so many academics that if they step out of line their careers will be blighted.


Katherine Stewart in NEW REPUBLIC, The Anti-Democracy Think Tank.

At the time, Bill Kristol characterized Anton as a minor-league Carl Schmitt, noting on Twitter, "From Carl Schmitt to Michael Anton: First time tragedy, second timefarce." In communication with me, Kristol emphasized the connection anew. "If you look at recent issues, it becomes like Carl Schmitt," he said of the measures that are needed to defend against the tyranny of liberal Democrats. They seem to want to blow through all the guardrails and are OK with that." ...A truly scholarly history would show thatwhat we call "the West" is the work of human interactions spanning the globe. The fabled Greeks drew inspiration from as far afield as India, and many encounters with different cultures shaped history decisively. It is also clear that not every person who has mattered in the process was white or male. But Claremont doesn't do intellectual history, properly speaking. There is a better name for what it does do, and that is identity politics.


Len Gutkin at chronicle.com, Chris Rufo Can't Decide Between Propaganda and Intellectual History.

To the extent that Marcuse remains directly relevant to the institutional implementation of activist concerns, it is through the influence of his third wife, Erica Sherover-Marcuse, who developed, as Rufo writes, “the training programs that became the prototype for university DEI programs nationwide.” Sherover-Marcuse’s thinking — which has been explored by the historians Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn in her 2002 book Race Experts and Beryl Satter in her contribution to the 2015 volume Rethinking Therapeutic Culture, and most recently in a 2021 article by the journalist and economist Christian Parenti in the journal nonsite (one of Rufo’s sources) — is the “evolutionary missing link,” as Parenti puts it, in the development of contemporary activist culture out of the ferment of the ’60s. The story is a weird one. In the 1970s, Sherover-Marcuse became convinced, as she explained to Marcuse, “that the difficulties the left had in the ’60s and also in the ’30s are precisely because there wasn’t in the Marxist tradition a theory of the development of subjectivity … it didn’t deal with how do you transform people’s consciousness? How do we actually transform our own consciousness?” The workshops she developed to achieve those goals were based on the methods of Re-evaluation Counseling, a still-extant organization founded in the 1950s. Re-evaluation Counseling, or RC, encouraged group-therapy sessions designed, as Satter summarizes, to “eliminate damaging biases and liberate innate rationality, thereby enabling people to solve the problem of exploitation and injustice.” As both Satter and Parenti discuss, RC’s founder, Harvey Jackins, was an early adherent of Dianetics — what would later become Scientology — and RC’s techniques of emotional conditioning are modifications of the pre-Scientological phase of L. Ron Hubbard’s thinking. Rufo deserves credit for bringing this peculiar history to a wide audience.


Matt Taibbi at scheerpost.com, Report on the Censorship-Industrial Complex: The Top 50 Organizations to Know.

You’ll often see it implied that “information operations” are only practiced by America’s enemies, because only America’s enemies are low enough, and deprived enough of real firepower, to require the use of such tactics, needing as they do to “overcome military limitations.” We rarely hear about America’s own lengthy history with “active measures” and “information operations,” but popular media gives us space to read about the desperate tactics of the Asiatic enemy, perennially described as something like an incurable trans-continental golf cheat. Indeed, part of the new mania surrounding “hybrid warfare” is the idea that while the American human being is accustomed to living in clear states of “war” or “peace,” the Russian, Chinese, or Iranian citizen is born into a state of constant conflict, where war is always ongoing, whether declared or not. In the face of such adversaries, America’s “open” information landscape is little more than military weakness.


Matt Taibbi at racket.news, Eat Me, MSNBC.

MSNBC bet everything on its switch in 2017, and though it paid handsomely at first — in spring of 2017 they became the first cable network in two decades to unseat Fox for the #1 spot, with Rachel owning the top-rated non-sports program on cable — the collapse of the Mueller investigation triggered a long, frankly earned, post-trout-fishing slide. No doubt the indictment of Donald Trump will reanimate things, but prior to that it was grim, as Fox was beating CNN and MSNBC combined by the end of January. The ratings picture for March showed that MSNBC’s top show was The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, rated 11th, followed by The Beat With Ari Melber at 16th. After all this, after throwing away all their standards, clowning themselves with years of wrong stories, doling out rice bowls to the procession of spooks who now clog their airwaves, and watching as their ratings predictably collapsed, now they want to give me a hard time. Not because I got anything wrong, but because they don’t like my opinions, or where things like the Twitter Files reports came from. After the first thread, Mehdi was one of 27 media figures to complain in virtually identical language: “Imagine volunteering to do PR work for the world’s richest man.”


Duncan Campbell at bylinetimes.com, Russia and the US Press: The Article the CJR Didn't Publish.

Once Trump took office, Cohen branded media investigations of Russia’s involvement with the Trump campaign as “neo-McCarthyism” and “Kremlin-baiting.” For these critiques, Cohen won praise from outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart, anathema to The Nation readership; soon, he began making periodic appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight. “Today, in my scholarly, long-term judgment, relations between the United States and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever—let me repeat, ever—been, including the Cuban missile crisis,” Cohen told Carlson in 2018. Nation employees became uneasy about Cohen’s assertions and who was airing his ideas. “The people who work there, especially the younger staff, are disgruntled about the Russia coverage,” Adam Shatz, a former Nation writer and literary editor, says. A joke began circulating around the office: “We tried to fact check Steve’s pieces but we couldn’t find any facts to check.” (Vanden Heuvel denies that her husband’s work was not checked by normal standards, saying that whether or not something is checked “depends on the complexity of the piece.”)


Duncan Campbell at bylinetimes.com, Who Watches the Watchdog? The CJR's Russia Problem.

In the fall of 2018, I was introduced to the Columbia Journalism Review. On December 19 2018, Kyle Pope signed a contract for me to report in depth on The Nation and the background to its blind spot on Russia. The CJR urged me to look deep into the historic roots of the problems the magazine faced in publishing critical reporting on Russia. By April 2019, all did not seem right at the CJR. But I failed to recognise the first warning signs. On 9 April 2019, my line editor emailed me: “Kyle told me this morning that he would write to you to talk fact-checking policy and give you the info you need to reach Katrina and the new editor [of The Nation].” Pope followed up: “Just thought we should [have a discussion], given CJR‘s past and current tie-ups with The Nation.” We spoke for 31 minutes at 1.29 ET on 12 April 2019. During the conversation, concerning conflicts of interest, Pope asked only about my own issues – such as that former editor Victor Navasky, who would figure in the piece, had moved from running and owning The Nation to being Chair of the CJR board; and that the independent wealth foundation of The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel – the Kat Foundation – periodically donated to Columbia University. She and her late husband, Professor Stephen Cohen, were at the heart of my reporting on the support The Nation gave to Putin’s Russia. Sixteen months later, as Pope killed my report, he revealed that he had throughout been involved in an ambitious and lucratively funded partnership between the CJR and The Nation, and between himself and vanden Heuvel.


Jeff Gerth at cjr.org, Looking Back on the Coverage of Trump.

He made clear that in the early weeks of 2017, after initially hoping to “get along” with the press, he found himself inundated by a wave of Russia-related stories. He then realized that surviving, if not combating, the media was an integral part of his job. “I realized early on I had two jobs,” he said. “The first was to run the country, and the second was survival. I had to survive: the stories were unbelievably fake.” What follows is the story of Trump, Russia, and the press. Trump’s attacks against media outlets and individual reporters are a well-known theme of his campaigns. But news outlets and watchdogs haven’t been as forthright in examining their own Trump-Russia coverage, which includes serious flaws. Bob Woodward, of the Post, told me that news coverage of the Russia inquiry ” wasn’t handled well” and that he thought viewers and readers had been “cheated.” He urged newsrooms to “walk down the painful road of introspection.” Over the past two years, I put questions to, and received answers from, Trump, as well as his enemies. The latter include Christopher Steele, the author of the so-called dossier, financed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, that claimed Trump was in service of the Kremlin, and Peter Strzok, the FBI official who opened and led the inquiry into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign before he was fired. I also sought interviews, often unsuccessfully, with scores of journalists—print, broadcast, and online—hoping they would cooperate with the same scrutiny they applied to Trump.


Jonathan Chait in NEW YORK, Columbia Journalism Review Had a Different Russiagate Story - and Spiked It.

That Columbia Journalism Review has weighed in on the pro-Trump side of the Russia scandal — despite the collapse of Barr’s investigation — is a sign Trump and his allies continue to hold the momentum in pushing their message that the media made a huge error investigating the Russia scandal. This is a triumph of spin. You could, if you were so inclined, paint a picture of the Watergate reporting as a liberal-media witch hunt. There were clear errors of reporting, hyperventilated expectations (that Richard Nixon would be proven to have ordered the break-in), and even credible allegations of unethical conduct by the press. The deep state was even involved! But in the broader scope of things, that conclusion would be silly. In the main, Nixon was guilty, and the media’s reporting was good. The same can be said of the media’s coverage of the Russia scandal. Yes, some of the reporting, as you would expect of a sprawling investigation, was wrong. And some expectations of where the scandal would go from opinion journalists were wrong, too. (I speculated the Steele dossier would be proven mostly true, and that prediction turned out very wrong.) Still, the investigation produced extensive evidence of misconduct. The Russians secretly dangled a nine-figure payoff to Trump, whose campaign manager, who had previously worked to elect a pro-Russian candidate in another election, was working secretly with a Russian intelligence agent. The weight of this scandal would have forced a normal president to resign.


Mike Solana at piratewires.com, Democracy Dies Without Chinese Espionage.

In any case, nobody is making the best argument for banning Chinese software, which is China has essentially banned American software while freely selling products into our own market. No thanks, I’m entering my mercantilist era. Imagine an idea so simple, so beautiful, so powerful: the American government should only act in the best interest of America, which critically includes American industry. I first traced out my desire for some light mercantilism in the context of semiconductors back in August (check out American Hustle: Microchip Edition for the full take), and ultimately abandoned my free market aversion to spending money on our businesses. U.S. manufacturing will never be competitive in a global market without subsidization, and if Covid taught us anything (other than ‘always check in with the pandemic factory in the middle of a pandemic’) it’s domestic manufacturing capability is critical to our survival. Our trade relationship with China on the software front should be considered in similar terms. In any case, enough of what we should be discussing, and back to the relentlessly stupid discussion at hand. The New York Times, in its typical way, succeeded in drafting a basically decent piece of coverage on the growing tension surrounding TikTok before considering how a ban on the app might actually constitute a violation of our First Amendment. This is of course something the Times never considered over the last five years of social media censorship on such topics as the last election, Covid, Hunter Biden’s laptop, and basically anything so much as hinting at diversity, equity, or inclusion.


Isaac Schorr at mediaite.com, 'I Was So F*cking Freaked Out': Ex-NYT Staffer Describes 'Crying' and 'Bloodthirsty' Colleagues Seeking Vengeance for Cotton Op-Ed.

"It was just so bizarre what was happening," said McCreesh. "It was like a Maoist struggle session." McCreesh told Krakauer that leadership at the Times completely lost their nerve" in the face of "angry backbiting staffers" including some Bennet had brought to the Times. McCreesh said he was "so fucking freaked out" by the mob and remarked that the scene "was like a murder." McCreesh said:
"There was like this giant communal Slack chat for the whole company that became sort of the digital gallows," he told me. "And all these angry backbiting staffers were gathering there and demanding that heads roll and the most bloodthirsty of the employees were these sort of weiird tech and audio staffers and then a handful of people who wrote for like the Arts and Leisure section, and the Style section, and the magazine, which, in other words, you know, it was no one who was actually out covering any of the protests or the riots or the politics. It was just sort of like a bunch of Twitter-brained crazies kind of running wild on Slack. And the leadership was horrified by what was happening. They just completely lost their nerve."
"The worst part was that a lot of the people who were stabbing James in the front were the ones that he had hired and brought to the newspaper," McCreesh added. "It was like Caesar on the floor of the Roman Senate or something."


Harry Lambert in NEW STATESMEN, How Bari Weiss broke the media.

Their dislike is axiomatic. They do not need to refer to her by name when they traduce her online; they all know who they are talking about... In trying to destroy Weiss, that media set made her. Since 2017, Weiss has gone from being an unknown books editor at the Wall Street Journal to the founder of one of the biggest platforms on Substack, via the opinion pages of the New York Times. Her news and comment site, the Free Press, is estimated to be bringing in around $2.5m in reader revenue per year, and is growing quickly. The venture has also attracted outside funding from major investors in, friends of Weiss tell me, both the San Francisco tech class and an older generation of Jewish backers in New York who see Weiss as a voice of sanity in a journalistic generation they do not understand. In December, Weiss was granted access by Elon Musk to what became known as the "Twitter files": the first installment of which concerned a series of internal documents detailing Twitter's decision to suppress news coverage about Hunter Biden's leaked laptop in the weeks before the 2020 election. The release of these documents... led to Weiss's Twitter audience all but doubling; she added 450,000 followers in a fortnight. Weiss has left New York for Los Angeles, relocating there with her wife Nellie Bowles, another journalist who felt she was forced to flee the city's media by a certain social milieu. "You are dating a Nazi," one New York Times editor is reported to have howled at Bowles after she and Weiss started seeing each other.


Scott Locklin at wordpress.com, Historical censorship attempts and shifting elites.

The present clerisy “expertocracy” has been in power roughly from the time of radio. These are people who take on the mantle of “science” and technology which in the time between radio and television was a real power in the world. It’s possible the “expertocrats” knew something back then, but probably not: the people who pushed science and technology forward generally weren’t “experts” -they were mostly gentleman amateurs and industrialists (early government programs like NIST and the FDA were also pretty useful). The “experts” were always parasitic middlemen whose authority came from certification and propaganda techniques in place in those days. They were trusted because science was doing some good at the time, but an awful lot of the stuff they came up with is now known to be bullshit and graft. By now it’s clear there has been no major physical technological development since the ipotato, if that even counts, which it shouldn’t, but people keep telling me it’s the shizz. That’s 16 years: a technological eternity back in the early 20th century. It was also a fairly marginal “invention” which was more of a popularization of things in place for 10 years already. Since our clerisy hasn’t been able to deliver anything, it has invented new forms of “social progress” -most of which are luxury beliefs which deny reality. This is for dividing up the good seats in a narrowing social class: you can’t be one of the “clever people” unless you pay public allegiance to a bunch of transparently false things. Hence the popularity of ideologies such as postmodernism, whose basic premise is the truth is whatever power says is the truth: the philosophy of the bureaucratic slave.


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Tom O'Neill interview in JACOBIN, The Manson Murders May Have Something to Do with CIA Mind-Control Experiments.

A year into my reporting, I brought all the information I had on Manson's get-out-of-jail-free card - which he seemingly wielded from 1967 until he went to jail for the last time in 1969 - to a retired deputy DA, who had actcually gone on to become a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court. In an inteview with me, he said, while looking through all this, "You can often blame things like this on bureaucratic red tape or incompetency. But what you're showing me here is a pattern - and it's a joke. It's clear they deliberately wanted him out of jail and free." He says, "I can't tell you why this happened, but it isn't a mistake. Somebody wanted him out there. And what you need to do is find out who it was." Was it the FBI? Was it the sheriff's department? The LAPD? Some powerful agency didn't want him behind bars.


Jacob Siegel at tabletmag.com, A Guide to Understanding the Hoax of the Century.

For more than half a century, McCarthyism stood as a defining chapter in the worldview of American liberals: a warning about the dangerous allure of blacklists, witch hunts, and demagogues. Until 2017, that is, when another list of Russian agents roiled the American press and political class. A new outift called Hamilton 68 claimed to have discovered hundreds of Russian-affiliated accounts that had infiltrated Twitter to sow chaos and help Donald Trump win the election. Russia stood accused of hacking social media platforms, the new centers of power, and using them to covertly direct events inside the United States. None of it was true. After reviewing Hamilton 68's secret list, Twitter's safety officer, Yoel Roth, privately admitted that his company was allowing "real people" to be "unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse." The Hamilton 68 episode played out as a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the McCarthy affair, with one important difference: McCarthy faced some resistance from leading journalists as well as from the U.S. intelligence agencies and his fellow members of Congress. In our time, those same groups lined up to support the new secret lists and attack anyone who questioned them. When proof emerged earlier this year that Hamilton 68 was a high-level hoax perpetrated against the American people, it was met with a great wall of silence in the national press. The disinterest was so profound, it suggested a matter of principle rather than convenience for the standard-bearers of American liberalism who had lost faith in the promise of freedom and embraced a new ideal.


revolver.news: Democrat Hatchet Man Norm Eisen's Fingerprints Are All Over a Dark New Element of the Jan 6 Witch Hunt.

Before we conclude this study, it is worth noting something about Norm Eisen's new lawfare outfit, States United Democracy Center. Besides the characteristically cynical use of the term "democracy," we are struck by some of Eisen's colleagues who are also associated with the group. Eisen co-founded States United with Christine Todd Whitman.... If Whitman's track record make her an odd choice to partner up with Norm Eisen in his latest lawfare venture, Eisen's other associates are still more ominous. Take a look at the advisory board and see if you can notice a pattern.... The truly striking thing is that the advisory board to Norm Eisen's new lawfare group contains not one, not two, but three former heads of the Department of Homeland Security - that's right, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Tom Ridge were all heads of the DHS. The overwhelmingly heavy presence of top DHS officials at States United contrasts dramatically with the absence of any top DHS officials at CREW, Norm Eisen's previous lawfare outfit. More importantly, the heavy DHS presence at States United takes on a special significance given States United's special focus on January 6 lawsuits and in directly assisting the January 6 Committee and its Chairman. As Revolver has reported extensively, the Department of Homeland Security is the tip of the spear when it comes to the "Domestic War on Terror," that is, the reconfiguration of the national security apparatus as a political weapon to target Trump and his supporters.


Alan MacLeod at mintpressnews, Graphika: The Deep State's Beard for Controlling the Information Age.

Even Graphika's staff with journalistic backgrounds have eyebrow-raising connections. Chris Hernon, who contributed to Graphika's report on Russian influence operations, was a member of the U.K. government Institute for Statecraft's Integrity Initiative, a secret group of hawkish journalists that the British intelligence establishment has used to plant false and coordinated stories into media around the world. Connecting the worlds of the national security state, the defense industry, and social media is the aforementioned Ben Nimmo. In addition to his role at Graphika, Nimmo is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and was NATO's press officer between 2011 and 2014. Last February, he was also appointed as intelligence chief for Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta. The coldest of cold warriors, Nimmo has accused everyone from Welsh pensioners to internationally-recognized Ukrainian pianists of being Russian bot accounts. Unforrtunately, in his positions at the Atlantic Council and Meta, he is in a position to take action on his suspicions, allowing the botfinder general to act as prosecutor, judge and executioner.


Malcolm Harris in NATION on Julie Turnock's book, The Empire of Effects - Industrial Light & Magic and the Rendering of Realism.

The Empire of Effects shows how today's return to pre-CGI effects is part of a longer history - one defined by a realism that never wanted to appear truly real. Against the floaty Yoda of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the new ILM aesthetic is gravity-bound, even if the characters do spend a lot of time flying around. Picking up on Favreau's rhetoric, Turnock calls this formula "grounded" realism, both because the elements are expected to conform to gravity and because the digital effects are grounded in their practical predecessors. The approach, "modelled on ILM's 1980s style of highlighting the effect of the human camera operator's mistakes," Turnock writes, "is designed to provide that analog feeling to a largely CGI production." The unconscious nostalgic gestures of the '80s and '90s were combined with the conscious nostalgic commercial program of the 2010s to produce a field of Disney content that openly aspires to visual and emotional regression rather than experimentation, adventure, or progress.


EcoHealth Alliance Statement Regarding Book by Andrew Huff:

2) Mr. Huff alleges that EcoHealth Alliance was engaged in gain of function research to create SARS-CoV-2. This is not true. 3) Mr. Huff makes a number of other speculations and allegations about the nature of the collaboration between EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Given that he never worked at or with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, his assertions along these lines cannot be trusted.


Russell Jacoby at tabletmag.com, The Takeover.

For earlier American intellectuals, the university remained peripheral because it was small, underfunded, and distant from cultural life. The Edmund Wilsons and Lewis Mumfords earlier in the 20th century to the Jane Jacobs and Betty Friedans later saw themselves as writers and journalists, not professors. But I missed something, the dawning takeover of the public sphere by campus denizens and lingo. What I called a transitional generation, the largely Jewish New York intellectuals, ended up later in their careers as professors, but usually they lacked graduate training.... But the story changes for the next generation - my '60s generation. In pose we were much more radical than previous American intellectuals. We were the leftists, Maoists, Marxists, Third Worldists, anarchists, and protestors who regularly shut down the university in the name of the war in Vietnam or free speech or racial equality. Yet for all our university bashing, unlike earlier intellectuals, we never exited the campuses. We settled in. We became graduate students, assistant professors and finally - a few of us - leading figures in academic disciplines.


N.S. Lyons at substack.com, The China Convergence.

The counter-culture revolution of the 1960s and its “anti-authoritarian” quest to “liberate” the self from restraints therefore served the managerial regime perfectly. It swiftly broke down traditional informal bonds of stable, resilient communities that had for centuries helped to shelter individuals, and tore up moral norms that had helped them structure and discipline their lives without the aid of the state. So liberated, the self-expressive individual was made a king in name, but left far more isolated, alone, and vulnerable in actuality. Such an atomized individual proved far easier pickings for the mass corporation, which swooped in to offer all manner of ready-to-purchase replacements for what was once the social commons, and for the state, which acted on demand to guarantee the sovereignty of these liberated selves and protect them from their own choices. Their capacity for self-governance thus degraded, and encouraged to think of themselves as reliant on the state for their freedom, the public’s demands for management by a higher authority then only increased relentlessly.


Eric Bennett at chronicle.com, Can Literary Scholars Transcend Their Training?.

Every semester, thousands of American literary scholars concoct new interpretations of works of literature and new arguments about literary studies itself. They assume, pretend, hope, or dream that their words carry the revolutionary force of radical policy reform. They believe that literary studies done right - like defunding the police or dismantling systemic racism - shall topple what needs toppling. Their criticism will help overthrow the ideological status quo of proto-fascist neoliberal statles like the United States. It's a curious overestimation of muscle for a discipline whose landmarks include Don Quixote and Madame Bovary - novels about people who confuse books with life.


John Gray in NEW STATESMAN, The Delusions That Bind Communism and Liberalism.

Though liberals failed to recognise this fact, the Soviet collapse was the end of an era of political faith. The international system will be shaped not by universal political projects, but by the tragic choices of realpolitik in a world of contending great powers. It would be wise to admit, as Koestler did with regard to communism, that the post-Cold War order was an illusion. But for most liberals this is a psychological impossibility. Without the mirage of a new world, they face - like Bukharin - an "absolutely black vacuity". If liberalism has a future, it is as therapy against the fear of the dark.


Gary Morson in NEW CRITERION, Emperor of Chaos.

According to Muller, one reason Taubes gave up his position at Columbia University in New York to become a professor in Berlin was that, as a Jew in post-war Germany, "his ideas and his behavior were beyond criticism.... [I]n other words, he was granted a kind of get out of jail free card - forever." There is something truly repulsive in taking advantage of the (recent) Holocaust, or an other tragedy, in this way. He was not the last. Taubes made enemies of friends and mentors by shocking acts of betrayal. When he worked at Beacon Press along with his friend Philip Rieff, Taubes called their boss Melvin Arnold to ask him for a job as the editor for academic books. Arnold, who already distrusted Taubes, put Rieff on the extention phone. When Arnold told Taubes that Rieff was already doing that job, Jacob replied: "You dont need Philip. I can do it all. And he's practically a fascist." Taubes never did discover why Rieff broke off their friendship.


Daniel McCarthy in MODERN AGE, The Culture Behind the Culture War.

The cultural left has hijacked the narrative superstructure of Western civilization in general and of the United States in particular. With Christianity came a generalized idea of individual life and cosmos alike as stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. Chivalry and commerce encouraged a perception of life as an individual's adventure - the entrepreneur and the knight errant lend themselves to similar story arcs. And Protestantism helped to intensify a sense of inner struggle and desire for integrity in the face of an institutionally corrupt world. The New World and Protestantism alike suggested the possibility of new beginnings - and utopias. These facts of Western history were material to be shaped and turned into archetypal narratives by creators of all kinds.... These frames have been ingeniously put to use by the culturally revolutionary left. The right has tried to use them too, with some success. But the left seems bolder about using them in new ways, and the right is with good reason divided over whether these master narratives can be employed for all conservative ends or whether entirely different narratives are needed. That question must be answered at length. For now, as a start, we simply call on conservatives to confront it.


Claes Ryn in MODERN AGE, How the Humanities Could Have Saved Conservatism.

To say that American postwar movement conservatism failed because it was philosophically deficient and had the wrong priorities is not to deny that it was up against very high odds. Powerful trends within Western civilization had long eroded its moral-spiritual foundations. Liberationist idealism and Enlightenment rationalism had long had the initiative. In America, the progressive era and the so-called Red Decade - the 1930s - had been recent manifestations of powerful cultural trends. In the early twentieth century, Babbitt had unmasked these trends. He had exposed their moral-spiritual core and indicated the necessary remedy, which was incisive criticism of current illusions and a moral-spiritual awakening in which sound imagination had to play a central role. But the postwar conservative movement was fascinated by politics.


Ross Andersen in ATLANTIC, Inside the Revolution at OpenAI.

Several years ago, Altman revealed a disturbingly specific evacuation plan he'd developed. He told The New Yorker that he had "guns, gold, potassium iodide, antibiotics, batteries, water, gas masks from the Israeli Defense Force, and a big patch of land in Big Sur" he could fly to in case AI attacks. "I wish I hadn't said it," he told me. He is a hobby-grade prepper, he says, a former Boy Scout who was "very into survival stuff, like many little boys are. I can go live in the woods for a long time," but if the worst-possible AI future comes to pass, "no gas mask is helping anyone."


Graeme Wood in ATLANTIC, The Rise of Bronze Age Pervert.

After the museum prank, almost 20 years passed before BAP's politics emerged into the light. And just as it did, the Romanian himself shrank vampirically into the shadows.... When I heard his podcast, it took me about 10 seconds to identify him. Costin Alamariu is in his mid-40s and he has never publicly admitted that he is BAP. I met him only once, two decades ago, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after a mutual friend intuited that we might enjoy each other's company. Costin appeared one night wearing a dramatic overcoat - the kind whose wearer is begging for those around him to make a comment. I resisted. He had emigrated from Romania, he said, when he was about 10. That explained the Dracula note in his voice.... He stresses that in ancient Athens, the cultivation of physical perfection was a privilege of the elite. Only citizens could train in the gymnasium. The process of creating an ideal male form was deemed beyond the station of lesser entities, such as women and slaves. The parade of Adonises has led many to question BAP's sexuality. Bizarrely, Costin is not the only fascist I know who has been dogged by such rumors. Richard Spencer, my chemistry-lab partner in middle school, faced persistent questions about his sexuality when he was a leader of the alt-right. (If anyone out there can explain why homoerotic fascists keep seeking my company, please let me know.) Spencer told me, more than a little exasperated, that he thought the case for BAP's homosexuality had been proved. "If I had posted even one photo of some guy's ass on Twitter, do you think there would be any question in anyone's mind?" In Bronze Age Mindset, BAP writes that the confusion of masculine bonding for homosexuality "is misunderstanding and exaggeration promoted by the homonerds of our time...."


Casey Chalk in SPECTATOR, How Catholics Became the New WASPs.

Though today Catholic institutions (including churches) remain a frequent target for activists and vandals, it is less because of the otherness of the Catholic faith than its identification with the same patriarchal, religiously informed, bourgeois norms liberal ideologues aim to dismantle. Indeed, in 2022, it would be more accurate to say that rather than threatening WASP culture, Catholics are America's best chance of preserving it.


Jeffrey Polet in RELIGION & LIBERTY, Horace Mann and the Irony of Secular Education.

Mann had traded his Calvinism for a largely secularly faith in progress, accomplished by an ordered liberty, economic stimuli, and moral reform. On the policy end, "moral reform" meant the triumph of the temperance movement, of which Mann was an active advocate, and a Prussian-style system of education that would tame the savage animalism of human nature, which alone could "turn a wilderness into cultivated fields, forests into ships, or quarries and clay-pits into villages and cities." All prior efforts solve the problem of human sin and error had failed because they neglected "a solution so obvious" that it is as if it were "written in starry letters on the azure sky: Train up the child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."


Matthew Rose in FIRST THINGS, Leo Strauss and the Closed Society.

Strauss worried that Western thinkers were no longer capable of contemplating perspectives beyond liberalism, even against liberalism, from which to judge the present. Far from constituting a threat to clear thinking, such a perspective is essential to it - for only outside the open society can we identify its virtues and its vices, and gain the strength to endure its discontents. But if we are to reach this horizon, Strauss argued, a popular prejudice often directed against critics of liberalism must be rejected. For what is mislabeled "nihilism" is not a destructive doctrine at all. It is a protest on behalf of something of the highest human importance - something liberalism dismisses at its peril. What kind of protest? In answering this question, Strauss reflected on he generation of students who had been intellectually formed and politically radicalized during the interwar period. As his later writings would make clear, these reflections drew on his own experiences as a student in the early 1920s, when he struggled to reconcile his devotion to Max Weber with his growing interest in Martin Heidegger, who seemed willing to address questions about human existence that no other living German philosopher would. These students, Strauss recalled, had been shattered by war, disoriented by the collapse of traditional authorities, and distrubed by a culture that seemed to celebrate transgression. For many of them, the Weimar-era experiment with parliamentary democracy had proven a failure. Only a rejection of the "cancer" of liberalism, as one author called it, could save them. Strauss's portrait of his classmates was unsparing, but not disdainful.


Kyle Paoletta in HARPER'S, The Incredible Disappearing Doomsday.

Where once the climate corps provided weary summations of daunting research, now they offer assurances that progress has been made and the future may be just fine. Give how quickly the tone has shifted, the average news consumer might assume that something fundamental has changed. Perhaps, thanks to all those new solar fields and international summits, a carbon-neutral future is already on the horizon. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Global emissions have plateaued at a level that will likely produce 1.5 degrees of warming, meaning that billions of people will suffer. That isn't good news in any sense of the phrase - it's not good and it's not even really news. Indeed, it is precisely the earlier work of the climate catastrophists that makes the present reality seem novel and agreeable. The facts have remained the same; only the story has changed. The last time the tone of the conversation changed this drastically, it happened even more abruptly, over the course of a single night in 2016. "Pessimists will find abundant support for despair this morning," the MIT researcher John Sterman announced the day after Donald Trump's election.


Jonathan Lesser in RANGE, The Green Assault.

High-voltage transmission lines require lots of land, too. The SITE legislation refers to 500 feet of land on each side of the line for the right-of-way. However, the larger the transmission line, the more land is required.... Building 500,000 additional miles of transmission lines thus will require over 10 million acres of land. So installing 500,000 MW of wind, 900,000 MW of solar, and building the 500,000 miles of transmission lines to deliver the electricity produced will require 190 million acres - 140 million for wind turbines,40 million for solar photovoltaics, and 10 million for transmission lines. Even if solar is co-located on the land needed for wind generation - that is, if the solar PV is located where the wind turbines are - the amount of land needed will be larger than Montana and North Dakota combined. And the 10 million acres of transmission line right-of-way is larger than the combined areas of Connecticut and Vermont. Green-energy cherleaders like the New York Times are demanding that rural America sacrifice their land to "save" the planet. But even if one believes carbon emissions are leading to climate "catastrophe" (they aren't) and even if U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell to zero tomorrow, the impact on world climate would be miniscule. That's according to John Kerry, former senator from Massachusetts and currently President Biden's climate "czar."


Richard Wouters at euobserver.com, The Geopolitics of a Post-Growth EU.

Science is increasingly expressing doubt as to whether continued GDP growth is compatible with a liveable planet. "It is unlikely that a long-lasting, absolute decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures and impacts can be achieved at the global scale", according to the European Environmental Agency. 'Green growth' seems an illusion. Hence the recent popularity of the 'Degrowth' movement - which advocates a shift from accumulating material wealth to living within planetary boundaries in a more equal society focused on well-being, including through the provision of high-quality public services. It makes sense for the EU to be a frontrunner in the transition to a post-growth society. Firstly, as a matter of ecological justice. EU countries bear the greatest historical responsibility for the crises of climate and biodiversity. Abandoning economic growth would free up natural resources for the Global South, where growth still contributes to well-being.


David Adler & William Bonvillian in AMERICAN AFFAIRS, America's Advanced Manufacturing Problem.

Ford was building cars in Yokohama, Japan, as early as the 1920s. By the 1930s, Ford, together with GM, completely dominated the Japanese auto market. The Japanese government, however, sought to change this, and pursued interventionist policies to foster a locally owned industry. In 1936, Japan enacted the Automobile Manufacturing Enterprise Law favoring domestic carmakers. The American firms were forced to leave Japan, Toyota and Nissan took over their manufacturing equipment.


Daniel Bring in AMERICAN AFFAIRS, A Brief History of Industrial Policy in Vietnam.

State revenues fell, especially as foreign aid tapered off with the decline of Soviet power, and deficits grew unmanageable. A poor harvest led to famine conditions in the winter of 1987 to 1988. Amid this worsening crisis, Vietnam's final break from socialist management unfolded over the final years of the 1980s. A land law promulgated in 1988 began the privatization of 80 percent of the country's land by returning collective farms to peasant households. The next year, direct subsidies to state-owned enterprises were massively reduced. Their long-planned autonomy finally became reality. For many smaller, unprofitable state firms, this meant prompt closure. Larger, more strategically significant firms were spared with government support. A program not of privatization, but of equitization - whereby shares in state assets were auctioned off to domestic and, eventually, select foreign buyers - would also be launched in the decades ahead. With Vietnamese economy still reeling from hyperinflation, the government also set a target of 0 percent growth in the money supply. Interest rates rose, disciplining state enterprises into less reckless borrowing, and prices fell. Market mechanisms would now set wages, prices, interest rates, and exchange rates. All this occurred over only a few years - a process of reform far faster, and more radical in its economic liberalism, than what Deng, Hu, and Zhao presided over in China.


Michael Anton at compactmag.com, Why the Great Reset Is Not 'Socialism'.

The Great Reset quietly but unmistakably redefines socialism to allow and even promote wealth and power concentration in certain hands. In the decisive sense, then, the West's present economic system - really, its overarching regime - is the opposite of socialistic. Yet there are ways in which the regime might still be tentatively described as socialistic, at least as it operates for those not members in good standing of the Davoisie. If the Gret Reset is allowed to proceed as planned, wealth for all but the global overclass will be equalized, or at least reduced for the middle and increased for the bottom. Many of the means used to accomplish this goal will be socialistic, broadly understood. But to understand both the similarities and the differences, we must go back to socialism's source, which is the thought of Karl Marx and his colleague, financial backer, and junior partner, Friedrich Engels.


Eli Saslow in NYT, With Police Scarce, Security Guards Carry Burden.

In Portland, a record-breaking number of daily emergencies has strained every part of the system: 911 hold times have quintupled since 2019, the average police response has slowed to nearly an hour, firefighters work overtime to handle more overdoses than actual fires, and each week there are no ambulances left to respond to hundreds of medical emergencies. What has arrived into the void are thousands of private security guards hired by office buildings, coffee shops, stores, schools and parking lots in what has become one of the country's fastest-growing industries, with annual revenue exceeding $40 billion. Most major U.S. cities now have at least three times as many security guards on the street as sworn police officers, even though guards typically operate with little power to enforce the law.... His job was mostly to help businesses deal with the impacts of public drug use and erratic behavior, and over the last few years he'd come to know dozens of regular offenders by name. There was Stephanie, who sometimes stole diapers for a newborn baby that existed only in her mind; and Christopher, whom Bock had resuscitated after an overdose only to see him smoking fentanyl again an hour later; and Stephen, who had a history of violence and was now standing naked in the middle of Third Avenue, wearing only his left sneaker, gyrating and yelling something about how he was a sumo wrestler.


John Ketcham in WSJ on Philip Howard's book, Not Accountable - Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions.

Mr. Howard... describes a world in which inefficiency is "mandated by contract," and out-of-control, unfunded pension liabilities threaten service cuts. Meanwhile, arbitration stymies accountability, and a morass of work rules "add up to personnel policies where there's always a reason not to do what's needed." Nothing much gets done, he says, because elected executives "no longer have effective authority over the operations of government." Armed with vast revenue from members' dues, nearly all such unions operate from the same playbook: elect pliant public officials as their future bosses; negotiate with those officials for more favorable pay, work rules and fringe benefits in the next round of collective bargaining; and push for laws that expand the government workforce and make reform impracticable. Political leaders intrepid enough to propose legislative fixes can expect fierce resistance and, with few exceptions, defeat at the hands of labor aligned lawmakers and union backed primary challengers.


Alex Konrad & Kenrick Cai in FORBES, ChatGPT Boss Sam Altman Hopes AI Can 'Break Capitalism'.

Q: Greg [Brockman] has said that while OpenAI is research driven, it's not anti-capitalist. How are you navigating the wire act between being for-profit with investors who want a return and the broader goal of OpenAI? A: I think capitalism is awesome. I love capitalism. Of all of the bad systems the world has, it's the best one — or the least bad one we found so far. I hope we find a way better one. And I think that if AGI really truly fully happens, I can imagine all these ways that it breaks capitalism. We've tried to design a structure that is, as far as I know, unlike any other corporate structure out there, because we actually believe in what we're doing.


Ho Fung-Hung in JACOBIN, Mussolini in Beijing.

This economic model, based on the state's paternalistic guidance of private firms and a work ethic unfettered by socialist welfare, resembles state capitalism under fascist regimes in interwar Europe and Asia. But the likeness doesn't stop there. Many have already pointed out the party-state's ever more militant nationalist rhetoric, persecution of minorities, rise of the cult of the great leader, and obsession with total surveillance and control of the population. Prominent official scholars' open and fervent embrace of Nazi theorists like Carl Schmitt in recent years says it all.


Kurt Zindulka at breitbart.com, Klaus Schwab: Govts Must Harness AI to Become 'Masters of the World'.

Appearing at the Wold Government Summit in Dubai this week, arch-globalist Klaus Schwab said that the world is heading toward of period of exponential growth of technologies, in which Artificial Intelligence, the so-called Metaverse, near-space technologies, and synthetic biology among others will become key levers of control for the world. "Our life in 10 years from now will be completely different, very much affected, and who masters these technologies, in some way, will be the masters of the world," the German economist said. Apart from coining the ominous term 'The Great Reset', the WEF chairman also popularized the term the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", with his 2016 book of the same name. Schwab has previously said that this new phase of human economy will be characterised by transhumanism, with "a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres."


Monika Pronczuk & Claire Moses in NYT, Labeled Climate Culprits, European Farmers Rebel Over New Standards.

The dairy sector in the Netherlands, which also produces cheeses like Gouda and Edam, is celebrated as a cornerstone of national pride. But the sector also produces almost half the Netherlands' emissions of nitrogen, a surplus of which is bad for biodiversity. Ms. Breunissen and thousands of other farmers bridle that they are now labeled peak emitters. "I was confused, sad and angry," said Ms. Breunissen, who manages a farm of 100 cows in the middle of the country. "We are doing our best. We try to follow the rules. And suddenly, it's like you are a criminal." For many farmers, the feelings run deep. The prominent role of agriculture was enshrined in the European Union's founding documents as a way of ensuring food security for a continent still traumatized by the deprivations of World War II. But it was also a nod to national identities and a way to protect competing farming interests in what would become a common market. To that end, from its outset, the bloc established a fund that, to this day, provides farmers with billions of euros in subsidies every year.


Benjamin Parkin & Mahendra Ratnaweera in FT, Sri Lankan Farmers Reap Bitter Harvest from Fertiliser Ban.

For centuries, Sri Lanka has been renowned for its vast and varied produce, its fertile soil fostering everything from cinnamon and black pepper to fruits and fragrant teas. But over the past 18 months, the country has become a cautionary tale for global agriculture. Vital inputs such as fuel and fertilisers are in short supply, with prices soaring. Yields from rise and other stables have halved in many areas and the once largely self-sufficient Indian Ocean island now depends on international aid to combat a hunger crisis. In April 2021, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then president, announced an abrupt ban on the import of chemical fertilisers to force the country of 22mn to embrace organic farming. The prohibition lasted only about six months but analysts said the policy stoked not only an economic crisis but is set to leave the agricultural sector hobbled for years.


Alexander Zevin in NYTBR on Christopher Clark's book, Revolutionary Spring - Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849.

What made the city-dwelling constitutionalists most vulnerable was their isolation from the countryside and the grievances of the peasantry, who were everywhere a majority. There was also disharmony within cities. Affluent liberals dreamed up the constitutions; the laboring poor fought for them. But their interests diverged. In June 1848, thousands of the latter were killed in Paris when they rose up against the decision of the former to close the national workshops, on which, by then, more than 100,000 depended for survival. Nationalistic rhetoric could mobilize radicals, but it was also exploited to limit co-operation among them - pitting Germans against Czechs and Poles, and Hungarians against the Croats and Romanians - to the benefit of temporarily back-footed Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns and Bourbons.


Francis Gooding in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on David Graeber's book, Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia.

Widening the view to make men like Ratsimilaho and Nathaniel North the heroes of a bootleg Enlightenment is an exciting subversion of the orthodoxy, no doubt: a usefully provocative bit of history from below that shows the periphery was moving faster than the centre, as is so often the case. But Graeber's point is larger than that. It isn't just that the story of the Enlightenment needs amending to reflect its true complexity, it's that conventional approaches to global history are in need of profound recalibration. The Malagasy weren't just the backwater hosts of pirate kingdoms, imaginary or otherwise: they had busied themselves with their own political experiments. It wasn't pirates who took the lead, or even their children, but coastal Malagasy who had fully involved themselves in a rich and intimate dialogue for many years with a motley crew of strangers from distant lands. The Betsimisaraka Confederation should be seen as a "proto-Enlightenment political experiment, a creative synthesis of pirate governance and some of the more egalitarian elements in traditional Malagasy culture'. It was part of a web of trade, politics and folklore that stretched around the globe and made the people of the coast 'global political actors in the fullest sense of the term'.


Gavin Mueller in NYTBR on Brian Merchant's book, Blood in the Machine - The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech.

To make the book's political stakes even plainer, Merchant renders the early 19th century in current-day language. Factory owners are "entrepreneurs," "the one percent," even "tech titans" who are "disrupting" the textile industry - moving fast and breaking things, to borrow Facebook's old slogan. Factory technologies spread "virally" and represent a form of "automation" (a term, as Merchant notes, that was not coined until the 1940s). The Luddites themselves are likened to decentralized movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. In the book's final section, Merchant shifts back into a journalistic register, interviewing labor lawyers, analysts and workers struggling against the worst abuses of the gig economy.


Steven Shapin in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on The Last Writings of Thomas S. Kuhn - Incommensurability in Science.

Campus radicals seized on Kuhn's book as a brilliantly subversive expose. Just as they had suspected, science wasn't the open-minded objective pursuit of truth, but merely one more mode of authoritarianism. Scientists were just as dogmatic as anyone else, and one way of seeing the world was as good as another. If there were no better criteria for judgment than communal assent, why should anyone bow down to scientists' pronouncements? Student radicals read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as revealing irrationality in science - which, Kuhn said, 'absolutely blew my mind'. 'Oh thank you, Mr Kuhn, for telling us about paradigms,' he remembered the students saying. 'Now that we know about them, we can get rid of them.' This sort of (mis)understanding did not escape philosophers' notice. One of Kuhn's critics - the Hungarian emigre and one-time Communist apparatchik Imre Lakatos - pointed to the political consequences of construing scientific consensus as nothing but 'mob rule': 'Kuhn's position would vindicate, no doubt unintentionally, the basic political credo of contemporary religious maniacs ("student revolutionaries").' Kuhn stood accused of being yet another philosophical 'corrupter of youth'. Philosophy of science here bled seamlessly into Cold War politics. Kuhn was contemptuous of the politically radical 'Kuhnians'.


Jonah Goldberg in RELIGION & LIBERTY on Patrick Deneen's book, Regime Change - Toward a Postliberal Future.

During his talk at the conference, Patrick Deneen made great rhetorical use of the poverty he saw in the city and the surrounding areas. After describing Steubenville, Ohio, as a town that looked like it lost the Second World War, he illustrated his point by comparing photographs of busy streets from the mid-20th century to the abandoned storefronts of late 2022.... Deneen, whether he knew it or not, was making the same appeal to the "deserted temple" of liberalism that Mussolini had made during the 1920s. Deneen, of course, does not cite Mussolini in his argument; his preferred authority on the subject is Christopher Lasch. The point is not that Deneen endorses Il Duce. He does not. Rather, Deneen's rhetoric is quite similar in its obsession with blaming liberalism as the sole cause for what he perceives as American decline, and... that similarity is worrying enough. Something similar can be found in the work of Michael Anton. Anton began this appeal in his 2016 "Flight 93 Election" essay for the Claremont Review of Books, originally under the pen name Publius Decius Mus. Anton breathlessly concluded in that essay, "If [the core of the American nation] cannot rouse themselves simply to vote for the first candidate in a generation who pledges to advance their interests, and to vote against the one who openly boasts that she will do the opposite... then they are doomed. They may not deserve the fate that will befall them, but they will suffer it regardless." Again, the language is that of humiliation and decline.


Jonathan Ree in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Bruce Caldwell & Hansjoerg Klausinger's book, Hayek - A Life, 1899-1950.

We socialists like to hark back to better days, when ideals shone bright and principles stood tall: equality, fairness, democracy, internationalism, mutuality, jobs, education, food, housing, medicine, pensions, peace, friendship and love. But there is one strand of the tradition we prefer not to think about: the idea of putting an end to the wasteful chaos of capitalism by implementing a comprehensive economic plan. Central planning is usually associated with Marxism, though Karl Marx himself expressed only a vague hope of bringing industry under political control and getting rid of 'haggling' (Schacher). Friedrich Engels was more specific, asserting in 1878 that socialism would eliminate the 'social anarchy' of capitalist free markets by delivering 'social regulation of production upon a definite plan'. Forty years later Lenin promised to rejuvenate Russia with a 'national state economic plan on scientific principles'. Modern postal services could serve as prototypes for a 'socialist economic system', he said, and the 'immediate aim' of a Bolshevik government would be to 'organise the whole economy on the lines of the postal service'.


Greg Afinogenov in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Christopher Ely's book, Russian Populism, and Peter Kropotkin's book, Mutual Aid.

The Russian word narod is similar to the German Volk, but while Volkishness became associated with conservative nationalism, narodnichestvo belonged mostly to the left. The post-Petrine state remained firmly committed to the Westernisation that had created it. Even during the reign of Nicholas I (1825-55) - an arch-counterreolutionary - the embrace of norodnost (sometimes translated as 'nationality' but meaning something like 'being of the people') remained relatively superficial. It was the Slavophiles, a group of Herder-inspired intellectuals based in Moscow, who first developed narodnost into a potentially subversive doctrine. While they rejected revolution or political reform, they believed that the communitarian, pious, localist beliefs they attributed to the Russian peasantry constituted a kind of spiritual alternative to the power-grasping of the imperial bureaucracy and its courtiers. The Slavophiles, however, were themselves serf-owning educated elites just like the people they criticised, and their direct experience of the world of the narod was largely limited to interactions with people they owned.... The central object of fascination for the Slavophiles was the peasant agricultural commune, or mir, which they believed to be the opposite of everything individualistic and corrupt about the modern world.


Jim Gomez, Aaron Favila & Joeal Calupitan in AP, China Makes Waves for Philippine Sea Patrol.

The two ships visited one or two destinations a day, working without interruption day and night. The easiest stops were at places occupied by Filipino forces, where the ships sent motor launches to deliver basic supplies like water, crude oil and cigarettes. At one, thirsty sailors offered dried fish in exchange for extra drinking water. Visits to Chinese-controlled areas were harder. At one reef, the patrol encountered more than 100 small Chinese boats, suspected of belonging to the militia, anchored in groups. The Filipinos lowered launches and demanded the boats leave Philippine waters. The Chinese boats did not reply, or leave. The patrol faced off with the Chinese Coast Guard at Chinese-occupied Subi Reef, and later at the Second Thomas Shoal, which is occupied by Filipino sailors on a beached, crumbling navy ship, surrounded by Chinese ships. These encounters are tense, drawn-out affairs. Chinese coast guard and navy ships shadowed the patrol for more than an hour, and over the radio accused the Filipinos of intruding into what Beijing claims as its territorial waters and ordered them by radio to leave or face unspecified counter actions. A radio operator, holding a paper script in the corner of the bridge, asserted Philippine sovereign rights and asked the Chinese ships to stay away and abide by international anti-collision regulations. Meanwhile, the rest of the bridge was quiet, and intensely focused. A radar operator watched intently for tiny changes in the other ship’s speed or bearing. When it approached one knot faster, the commander barked an order to alter the Malabrigos’s speed in response. The encounter lasted for more than an hour.


Kathrin Hille in FT, Philippines and Taiwan List Chinese Incursions.

Several countries across the region have become more assertive about publicising information about Chinese incursions into disputed waters and airspace, highlighting the pressure China’s fast-growing military and maritime policing power is putting on its neighbours. Since the beginning of this year, the Philippine coast guard has accused China of putting its patrol vessels at risk by targeting them with lasers, and repeatedly published data about manoeuvres by Chinese coast guard and maritime militia ships to disrupt supply missions to Philippine-controlled land features in the South China Sea. It has documented that behaviour with an overflight and last week’s ship patrol, on which it invited journalists. Taiwan’s defence ministry has been providing more detail about Chinese military activity close to its shores since the unprecedented week-long manoeuvres with which Beijing sought to punish Taipei for hosting then US House speaker Nancy Pelosi last August. The drone disclosed on Friday was one of 38 Chinese military planes active around Taiwan between Thursday and Friday morning.... On Friday, Japan also included frequent intrusions by Chinese coast guard vessels into its territorial waters, and unauthorised maritime surveys, among a number of maritime threats in its new five-year ocean policy. Japan said it needed to strengthen its coast guard.


Felix Solomon & Rajesh Roy in WSJ, India Monitors Militarization of Great Coco Island.

Satellite images captured over a decade show the gradual buildup on Myanmar's Great Coco Island, which lies north of an archipelago that hosts a significant Indian military presence, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In addition to the new infrastructure, equipment is visible at the site that could be used to track aircraft, one of the officials said. Chinese engineers and military personnel have been spotted on the island in recent years, according to the official, who said that bolsters New Delhi's assessment that Beijing could be providing technological and other backing for Great Coco's militarization.


Tushar Ranjan Mohanty in SOUTH ASIAN INTELLIGENCE REVIEW, Targeting the Chinese.

A statement on the website of the Chinese consulate noted, A Chinese convoy from the Gwadar port project was hit by roadside bombs and gunfire on its way back to the port area from Gwadar. No Chinese citizens were killed or injured. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which took responsibility of the attack, however claimed that 11 SF personnel and four Chinese nationals were killed in the attack.... The BLA's statement read, further, "We have cautioned China repeatedly to reconsider its activities in Balochistan. BLA views such endeavours as acts of exploitation… Any foreign investments in the region should only proceed after Balochistan achieves independence. The statement added that BLA had issued China a 90-day ultimatum to withdraw from Balochistan, or prepare for intensified attacks on its "key interests" in the region.... According to partial data compiled by SATP, since July 19, 2007, at least 14 attacks directly targeting Chinese nationals have been recorded in Pakistan (12 in Balochistan and two in Sindh), resulting in 79 deaths (data till August 20, 2023). The dead included 10 Chinese nationals, 13 Pakistani SF personnel, 41 Pakistani civilians and 12 attackers. Another, 53 persons, including six Chinese nationals, were injured in these attacks.


AP: China Fishing Fleet Defied U.S. in Standoff.

“The behavior of the United States is unsafe, opaque and unprofessional,” the foreign ministry said in a statement to the AP. “We demand that the U.S. side stop its dangerous and erroneous inspection activities.” The Coast Guard disputes that assertion, saying all members of the boarding team, in addition to being vaccinated, were wearing masks, gloves and long sleeves. The Biden administration also reported possible violations discovered on the two boats it did inspect to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization, or SPRFMO, a group of 16 members — including China and the U.S. — charged with ensuring sustainable fishing in 53 million square kilometers of ocean. One of the most serious accusations is against the Yong Hang 3, a refrigerated cargo vessel used to transport fish back to China so that smaller vessels can stay on the water for longer periods. The vessel was among those that ran from the Coast Guard patrol, disobeying direct orders to cooperate from maritime authorities in Panama, to which the vessel was flagged. To obscure activities, some vessels, especially refrigerated cargo vessels, often fly under other flags but are named, managed and docked in China.


Demetri Sevastopulo in FT on Alex Joske's book, Spies and Lies - How China's Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World.

At the more innocuous end of the spectrum, the MSS used cultural front groups to bring foreign musicians to China, including French pianist Richard Clayderman. With MSS help, Julio Iglesias became the first western entertainer to perform live on Chinese television. And in one of many fascinating details in the book, Joske unearths a photo of George Michael sitting beside Wang Shuren, a top Chinese spy, at a banquet for Wham!. But Joske looks mostly at more formal policy-oriented institutions that are more than they seem. One of the most prominent is China Reform Forum, a government-affiliated research institution with high-level MSS connections that gives foreign officials and scholars access to Chinese policymakers and top officials in Zhongnanhai, Beijing’s leadership compound. “It was cocaine for China watchers from Washington to Tokyo to Paris, manufactured in Beijing by the MSS,” writes Joske. MSS found a receptive audience in some visitors to China who were part of an “access cult” who would return home boasting about the powerful people that they had met.


Mara Hvistendahl, David A. Fahrenthold, Lynsey Chutel & Ishaan Jhaveri in NYT, A Global Web of Chinese Propaganda Leads to a U.S. Tech Mogul.

Some, like No Cold War, popped up in recent years. Others, like the American antiwar group Code Pink, have morphed over time. Code Pink once criticized China’s rights record but now defends its internment of the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, which human rights experts have labeled a crime against humanity. These groups are funded through American nonprofits flush with at least $275 million in donations. But Mr. Singham, 69, himself sits in Shanghai, where one outlet in his network is co-producing a YouTube show financed in part by the city’s propaganda department. Two others are working with a Chinese university to “spread China’s voice to the world.” And last month, Mr. Singham joined a Communist Party workshop about promoting the party internationally. Mr. Singham says he does not work at the direction of the Chinese government. But the line between him and the propaganda apparatus is so blurry that he shares office space — and his groups share staff members — with a company whose goal is to educate foreigners about “the miracles that China has created on the world stage.” Years of research have shown how disinformation, both homegrown and foreign-backed, influences mainstream conservative discourse. Mr. Singham’s network shows what that process looks like on the left.


Steven Myers in NYT, China's Search Engines Have More Than 66,000 Rules Controlling Content, Report Says.

Baidu blocked all results for searches that included the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the international warrant for the Russian president’s arrest issued days ahead of Mr. Xi’s visit to Moscow in March. The report said that the Chinese tech companies had adopted more rules than Bing, one of the few foreign tech platforms allowed in the country, but compared with Baidu, Bing’s rules were broader and affected more search results. They also on average restricted results from more domains. Caitlin Roulston, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, said the company would look into the findings but had not yet fully analyzed them. “We are reaching out to Citizens Lab directly to get more information so that we can conduct any further investigation needed,” she said. Microsoft is one of the few foreign technology companies that still operates inside China, and it has acknowledged that to do so required complying with the country’s censorship laws, something other companies, most prominently Google, refused to do.


Long Ling in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS, Xi Jinping Studies.

To get through the lecture quickly, I tried dragging the progress bar to the end, a trick we used last year. To my horror, when I returned to play the next lecture, the program told me that I had only watched 42 per cent of the first lecture. It didn't tell me which 42 per cent. The developers had improved their surveillance since last year's study session. The easiest solution is to play the video on another computer or a mobile phone, which leaves you free to concentrate on other things. Someone must have tried this workaround, however, because there was soon a report in the WeChat group: 'There is a problem with the website design... it says there is a conflict between my computer login and mobile phone login.' The branch secretary said the website had been tested and launched only a few days earlier, but he would contact the developer.... I don't know what tricks my fellow party members used but if you Google 'Xuexi Qiangguo plug-in' or 'Xuexi Qiangguo assistant' in Chinese you'll find some useful gadgets to browse webpages and watch videos on your behalf.


Eleanor Olcott, Clive Cookson, & Alan Smith in FT, China's Fake Science Industry.

“To survive in Chinese academia, we have many KPIs [key performance indicators] to hit. So when we publish, we focus on quantity over quality,” says a physics lecturer from a prominent Beijing university. “When prospective employers look at our CVs, it is much easier for them to judge the quantity of our output over the quality of the research,” he adds. The world’s scientific publishers are becoming increasingly alarmed by the scale of fraud. An investigation last year by their joint Committee on Publication Ethics (Cope) concluded: “The submission of suspected fake research papers . . . is growing and threatens to overwhelm the editorial processes of a significant number of journals.” The problem is that no publisher — even the most vigilant — has the capacity to weed out all the frauds. Retractions are rare and can take years. In the meantime scientists may be building on a fake paper’s findings.


Tunku Varadarajan in WSJ on Yasheng Huang's book, The Rise and Fall of the EAST.

The seeming ease with which the Chinese Communist Party has governed since taking power in 1949 is best understood, Mr. Huang says, by turning the clock back to the late sixth century. That was when the Sui Dynasty introduced a civil-service examination to recruit functionaries of the state. Variants of the exam, known as Keju, persisted through the centuries and exist to this day. In such a way, the state "monopolized the very best human capital." The finest minds were taken out of wider circulation, so they weren't available for subversive deployment in such spheres as religion, commerce and the intelligentsia. As a result, writes Mr. Huang, China hasn't every really had a society that is "considered separately legitimate from the state."


Eva Fu in EPOCH TIMES, Death of Chinese Official Amid COVID-19 Wave Casts Spotlight on Forced Organ Harvesting.

The death of a former Chinese deputy cultural minister amid the country's COVID explosion would have attracted little public attention if not for a short-lived obituary. With his "sharp mind and a booming voice," the "spry" Gao Zhanxiang didn't "at all resemble a patient" before the COVID surge, wrote Zhu Yongxin, deputy secretary general of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Party's top political advisory body. "I never imagined that he would leave us so soon." But in his condolences, Zhu might have revealed a little more than he desired. The 87-year-old, as he noted, had "replaced many organs in his body" as he "tenaciously fought with illness," to the point that the former official once joked that "many components are not his own anymore." The article caused a stir on Chinese social media Weibo despite its swift deletion. Keen-eyed observers produced copies before censors got to work, circulating them in disbelief over Gao's alleged extensive organ transplant history and the casual way in which Zhu had mentioned it.


Farah Stockman in NYT, He Made His Country Rich, But Something Has Gone Wrong with the System.

Consider that in 1960, Singapore and Jamaica had roughly the same gross domestic product per capita — about $425, according to World Bank data. By 2021, Singapore’s G.D.P. had risen to $72,794, while Jamaica’s was just $5,181. It’s no wonder that Lee Kuan Yew has become a folk hero. It’s not hard to find people from South Africa, Lebanon and Sri Lanka praying for their own Lee Kuan Yew. Last month, President Biden hosted his second democracy summit and gave a speech about the epic global struggle between democracy and autocracy. Singapore — a U.S. partner rated “partly free” by Freedom House — was not invited. But Washington’s talking points about the imperative of democracy ignore a simple fact: Some autocrats are admired because they get results. While established democracies do better economically than autocracies overall, the handful of autocrats who have focused on economic growth — rather than their own Swiss bank accounts — have managed to outperform fledgling democracies, according to Ronald Gilson, professor emeritus of law and business at Columbia University, who co-wrote a 2011 paper, “Economically Benevolent Dictators: Lessons for Developing Democracies.” Chile under Augusto Pinochet, South Korea under Park Chung-hee and China under Deng Xiaoping stand out as countries that achieved wholesale economic transformation, while weak democracies stagnated.


William McGurn in WSJ, The Pope Abandons His Own.

Cardinal Zen is being tried alongside Margaret Ng, a prominent former legislator; scholar Hui Po-keung; Cyd Ho, a former legislator; Sze Ching-wee, the 612 Fund secretary; and Denise Ho, a popular singer and gay-rights activist. They too have their champions. But not, alas, in Rome. "The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen's arrest and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention" was the Vatican's only official comment. The Vatican architect of the still-secret deal with Beijing, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, professed his "closeness" to his fellow cardinal - before revealing his true priorities. "The most concrete hope," he said, "is that initiatives such as this one will not complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue." Just two years ago Cardinal Zen, who grew up in Shanghai, flew to Rome in a desperate attempt to get the Holy Father to reconsider his China deal. But a pope who always seems to have time for private audiences with celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio refused to meet a cardinal with long, first-hand experience with Chinese communism.


Michael Dillon in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Ildiko Hann & Chris Hann's book, The Great Dispossession, and Gulbahar Haitiwaji & Rozenn Morgat's book, How I Survived a Chinese 'Re-education' Camp, and Sayragul Sauytbay & Alexandra Cavelius' book, The Chief Witness, and Darren Byler's book, In the Camps.

In complete contrast, the author of Chief Witness, Sayragul Sauytbay, is a member of the Kazakh minority in Xinjiang and was a teacher rather than a detainee. Her account is autobiographical, concentrating on her early life and her family: the camps aren't mentioned until halfway through the book. Sauytbay, who trained as a doctor and worked as a teacher, was a civil servant in Urumqi in 2016 when she was taken from her home in the middle of the night and told that she was to teach Chinese to inmates in a re-education camp. Her account of the mechanical teaching programme is convincing, as is her description of the Chinese pressure on the Kazakh justice system. After Kazakhstan became independent many Xinjiang Kazakhs (and some Uighurs) tried to move across the border. Beijing put the new government under pressure to return refugees to China and Kazakhstan ceased to be a place of refuge. The documents she cites that seem to contain plans for the Chinese occupation of Central Asia countries and, eventually, Europe are bizarre, however, and her allegations of torture and other abuses, including rapes taking place in front of prisoners, are sometimes sensationalist.


Sheila Fitzpatrick in LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on Timothy Phillips' book, The Curtain and the Wall, and Franck Bille & Caroline Humphrey's book, On the Edge - Life Along the Russia-China Border.

Bridges, or rather their absence, are a central theme in On the Edge. The Russians are suspecious of them, seeing bad roads and few bridges in the border area as a security advantage, impeding any potential miltary advance. Russian instincts about borders are portrayed as anxiously exclusionary and territorial, whereas China's 'expansive, fluid' approach, epitomised by its Belt and Road Initiative, prioritises influence over possession. Thanks to Russian foot-dragging, 'high-speed Chinese motorways come to an abrupt stop when they reach the Siberian border.' ...There is smuggling, poaching and even armed piracy off the coast near Vladivostok, where North Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Russian boats share the seas. Culturally, the influence of Russia's gulag - manifest in clothes, slang, criminal organisation and gang warfare - is ubiquitous on the Russian side.


Maahil Mohamed & Mujib Mashal in NYT, In Maldives, Voters Elect Ally of China Their Leader.

For China and India, the jostling for influence among their neighbors is nothing new. China enjoyed an early advantage because of its deep pockets and the development loans it brought as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, but India has asserted itself more in the region in recent years. New Delhi stepped in to assist Sri Lanka with billions of dollars when the country's economy crashed last year. It has also expanded its presence and projects in the Maldives since Mr. Solih won the presidency in 2018, ending the five-year tenure of the pro-Beijing Abdulla Yameen, who is now in prison for corruption.


Sheikh Saaliq in AP, Ethnic Strife Leaves Indian Region on Brink of War.

The conflict was sparked by an affirmative action controversy in which Christian Kukis protested a demand from the mostly Hindu Meiteis for a special status that would let them buy land in the hills populated by Kukis and other tribal groups and get a share of government jobs. The clashes have persisted despite the army’s presence in Manipur, a state of 3.7 million people tucked in the mountains on India’s border with Myanmar that is now divided in two ethnic zones. The warring factions have also formed armed militias, and isolated villages are still raked with gunfire. More than 60,000 people have fled to packed relief camps. Police said the assault on the two women happened May 4, a day after the violence started in the state. According to a police complaint filed May 18, the two women were part of a family attacked by a mob that killed its two male members. The complaint alleges rape and murder by “unknown miscreants.”


Ray Takeyh in WSJ, The Real Story of the 1953 Iranian Coup.

[T]he CIA didn't create the opposition to Mossadeq. Lt. Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi, one of Iran's most distinguished officers, had already organized the military to overthrow the prime minister, mullahs were using their street muscle to organize demonstrations against Mossadeq, and merchants were closing their bazaars in protest. All the while the monarchy as an institution still commanded popular support. America's most essential contribution to Mossadeq's removal was to get the shah to dismiss his prime minister. The monarch had the constitutional authority to do so but lacked the courage. Finally, on Aug. 15, after much American arm-twisting, Pahlavi fired Mossadeq. All the talk of a coup should note that once the shah issued his decree Mossadeq's premiership was rendered illegal. Tipped off by communist cells in the Iranian army, Mossadeq was waiting for the officer who delivered his dismissal orders. The officer was quickly arrested, and the shah fled the country. For Washington, the coup had ended. The State Department acknowledged that the "operation has been tried and failed and we should not participate in any operation against Mossadegh." Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's aide, told the president that the plan had failed and that "we now have to take a whole new look at the Iranian situation and probably have to snuggle up to Mossadeq if we are going to save anything there." In Tehran, the Iranians took command of the situation. The mullahs inflamed the streets with their sermons while the military gained control of the capital. Mossadeq went into hiding, onlyu to turn himself in after a few days on the run. A stunned shah planning for a life in exile was summoned back to Iran. No one was more surprised by this turn of events than the spy masters at the CIA.


Bruce Gilley in AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, King Hochschild's Hoax.

The history of the Congo might have survived one gut punch from California (Hoschschild did his research entirely at libraries in the state and teaches at Berkeley). But once Hollywood weighs in on the matter, history as such will be impossible. Before that happens, let's set the record straight and end this most malicious form of imperial plunder. The first and biggest deceit at the heart of King Leopold's Ghost is the attempt to equate Leopold's "Etat independant du Congo" or EIC (long mistranslated as the Congo Free State) with Western colonialism. Yet the EIC was a short-term solution to the absence of colonial government in the Congo river basin. The deal was simple: Leopold was to open the area to trade and eliminate endemic Arab slave empires and African tribal wars. In return, he hoped to bring glory to the Belgian people for having done what no other European ruler dared. The EIC had nothing to do with the Belgian government. To the extent that limited abuses and misrule occurred in some parts of his domain, this was a direct result of its not being controlled by a European state. As no less than [British reformer E.D.] Morel insisted (not quoted by Hoschschild), "Let us refrain from referring to the Congo as a Belgian colony, let us avoid writing of 'Belgian misrule." In a pattern of misrepresentation that is repeated on other issues,, Hochschild at first mentions this inconvenient fact and then proceeds to say the opposite for the entirety of the book.... The freelance EIC had at its peak just 1,500 administrative officers and about 19,000 police and soldiers for an area on third the size of the continental United States. As such, it exerted virtually no control over most areas, which were in the hands of either Arab slave-traders and African warlords, or of native soldiers nominally in the employ of Belgian concession companies without a white man for a hundred miles.


Stanley Payne in CHRONICLES, The Myth of the Spanish Civil War.

The resulting dilemma was exemplified in the career of Javier Tusell, Spain’s leading political historian of the late 20th century. In 35 years, he turned out some 20 books, all of high quality and most based on original archival research. But to maintain a freedom for objectivity and critical interpretation while remaining in the good graces of his colleagues, Tusell devoted himself primarily to studies of the Spanish right and never undertook a major critical study of any aspect of the left.... Amid this intellectually stagnant situation, there suddenly appeared in 1999 a work titled Los orígenes de la Guerra Civil española (“The Origins of the Spanish Civil War”) by a completely unknown author—Pío Moa. He was not an academic but an independent scholar, the kind of figure somewhat more rare in Spain than in the English-speaking world. Moa was a repentant Marxist who had begun adult life as an active member of the Revolutionary Antifascist Patriotic Front (FRAP), a 1970s revolutionary terrorist organization that had fought Spain’s democratization tooth and nail. In the years that followed, he devoted himself to prolonged study and reflection concerning his country’s history. After two decades, Moa reached conclusions widely at variance both with his own early convictions and with the conventional myths concerning recent Spanish affairs. Los orígenes, Moa’s first book, took direct issue not with myths about the war itself but with standard ideas about its background, exposing the “origins” of the conflict in 1933 and 1934 as the left first sought to impose an exclusivist system and then, having failed, turned to multiple revolutionary insurrections, climaxed by the violent Socialist assault of 1934. Moa had written the most dramatic and original work in recent Spanish historiography and quickly followed it in 2000 with Los personajes de la República vistos por ellos mismos (“Leaders of the Republic as Described by Themselves”), an eye-opening portrait of the key leftist leaders as painted by their own original and acerbic descriptions of each other.

Obituaries of the Issue...

Larry Mahan (1943-2023)

He also made his matinee-idol reputation at least a tad literal, studying acting in Los Angeles and appearing in The Honkers, a 1972 rodeo drama starring James Coburn and Slim Pickens; Sixpack Annie, a racy 1975 drive-in special; and The Good Old Boys, a star-studded 1995 television western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. Even music beckoned — if briefly. In 1976, Mahan released a country album, “King of the Rodeo,” on Warner Bros. Records. “Couldn’t sing a lick,” he recalled in an interview with the newspaper The Oklahoman. “It was a flop, but it was fun.” Perhaps his biggest mark on popular culture came in 1973, when he was the subject of The Great American Cowboy, which won the Academy Award for best documentary feature.... But for all his glittering escapades, he never lost sight of the stakes — especially when riding a 1,500-pound Brahma bull, a feat that has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” After he suffered a broken leg at a rodeo in Ellensburg, Wash., in 1971, Sports Illustrated wrote, “Outsiders sometimes protest that rodeo is cruel to animals, which must have struck Mahan as ironic once the horse stopped dragging him like a rag doll along the hard ground.” He echoed that point in an interview with the same magazine two years later: “Bulls are the meanest, rankest creatures on earth. Horses don’t try to step on you when they throw you off. They don’t want to trip. Bulls love to step on you, or whip your face into the back of their skull and break your nose and knock out your teeth.”
SPOT (1951-2023)
“Spotski,” Mr. Watt added, “always was about trying to capture what was us, like with this record — kind of like a ‘gig in front of the microphones’ trip, where he big-time said he didn’t want to get in the way of us trying to bring what we had that made us what we were.” Mr. Lockett’s sensibility dovetailed with the attitude of SST, which the rock critic Byron Coley once described as “archly xenophobic,” referring to the label’s revulsion over the highly processed sounds being stamped out by the major labels in the hit factories of Los Angeles. “There was a general dismissal of what rock radio had become, so Spot was bent on capturing what the band was putting out, without softening, buffering or tampering with it,” Mr. Carducci said in a phone interview. The label’s storm-the-barricades ethos might not have resulted in chart-topping hits, but SST had an impact in the industry, growing from “a cash-strapped, cop-hassled storefront operation to easily the most influential and popular underground indie of the ’80s,” as the music journalist Michael Azerrad wrote in a 2001 article for The New York Times.
Robert Becerra (1958-2023)
He was born on Dec. 17, 1958, in Boyle Heights and raised by his mother, Carmen Rodriguez, who supported her three sons — Sal, Ollie and Robert — as the head nurse in a nursing home. In the ’70s, when many of Becerra’s childhood friends turned to drug-dealing and gangs, he started the Stains with singer Jerry “Atric” Castellanos, bassist Jesse “Fixx” Amezquita and drummer Tony Romero. (Rivera replaced Romero in 1980 and Rudy Navarro replaced Castellanos in 1981). The Stains blended Becerra’s blistering guitar riffs with Amezquita’s lyrics about living at the margins of society to create a sound that combined the urgency of punk with the precision of metal — years before newer subgenres like thrash or speed metal became prevalent. Although the band members were all Mexican-Americans and were among the first — if not the first — punk rockers from the Eastside, they saw themselves as part of the larger community of first-wave Hollywood punks that included X, the Plugz and the Gears. The parties at Becerra’s house would start after the punk-rock shows in Hollywood or Chinatown and go all night. They weren’t strictly parties but epic jam sessions that would be attended by the likes of Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X or whoever else wanted to come over and play.

Photograph by Joe Carducci

Thanks to Andy Schwartz, Mark Carducci, Jay Babcock, Steve Beeho, Joseph Pope, Jane Schuman, Mike Vann Gray, aldaily.com, revolver.news...

1 comment:

  1. So Medea was in some sense really the brains behind it all.