Sunday, December 26, 2010

Apathy for the devil - a 70s memoir (review)

I just finished reading Apathy for the devil, the autobiography of Nick Kent. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I read it twice through in one sitting.

Buying this book was a no brainer for me. I was head-over-heels in love with Nick Kent during his first few years at the NME – I mean, look at the cover picture of this book. Wouldn't you fall in love with the man?

Nick Kent book

In my defense, I was fourteen years old. And that's what I went for back then. Kent knows how he looked – he describes himself time and time again in the book as "like a girl" or "effeminate" or "androgynous" and estimates he won the 1970s prize for being called a pouf (faggot) by strangers in public. Oddly enough, he wasn't a pouf, but his looks were perfect for the times. In 1972, Glam Rock had just been invented, Kent was in the London musicians' orbit, the NME needed to get writers on board who could double the youth circulation within 12 weeks, and bingo! Mr. Kent became a shining example of being in the right place at the right time. Just as my own musical taste was developing – mostly a chimerical mashup of Led Zeppelin and Marc Bolan, with a side order of the Stones, Captain Beefheart, Roxy Music, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, the MC5, Can, and so forth, most of whom Nick Kent managed to interview or write about within a short few months of arriving at the paper – the NME metastasized into an organ that delivered information on my kind of music. Or perhaps it told me what to listen to. I don't remember it being that way around – I don't think it had much sympathy for Marc Bolan, for instance – but in the pre-internet, pre-torrent days the very best you could do was wait for the NME (and Sounds, and Melody Maker) to reach the newsagents each week and scour it to find out what was happening.

I love reading what people write. I put it that way because I don't really read much literature – Kent, who went to university and struggled with Chaucer (Canterbury Tales is like a bad Carry On script written by a halfwit, he says) and Milton, has me beat there – and I can really do without poetry, but journalism and opinion writing really float my boat. Other crushes included two other NME scribes, Charles Shaar Murray and Mick Farren, and from there I didn't branch out much. I loved Steven Wells (Seething Wells) for instance, but I think he was an NME writer off-and-on too. There's something I get out of a good description of a situation or a description of a thought or emotion that I can't get out of anything else in life, and when you love music, it's natural to gravitate to those who have access to musicians and music that's unavailable to you.

Kent had it better than me. About eight years older than I am, he remembers growing up in a world where you could get a student grant, buy affordable records and see the greatest rock bands the world has ever known in sub-2,000-seater auditoriums for a few quid. I had the grant and could afford a few records, but the Stones and the Who were struggling, the Beatles were long gone and the Stooges, the MC5, and the rest of the panoply were sidelined by drugs, drug busts or other problems. Nick Kent chronicles how this all happened, how the decade started out so promising (albeit with Performance and Gimme Shelter its first big rock-related movies, harbingers of what was to come) and then slid into mighty suckage.

But wait, you say, did not punk rock come along and save us all from the dinosaurs and their coke habits? Well, Kent has an angle on that too. He was a friend of Malcolm McLaren's, a (short lived) Sex Pistol and a man who played with the Damned pre-them becoming the actual Damned, so he was as well-positioned to observe punk as he had been to hang out with Keith Richards and Iggy Pop. It turns out he was not a fan of the punk scene and the punk scene was really, really not a fan of Nick Kent. He was attacked by Sid Vicious with a bike chain, and many wannabees over the next few years attempted to finish the job. Besides, by this time he was a full-blown heroin addict, living in squats and spending his entire income on either heroin itself or other drugs to go with it for their additive or calming effects. His path crossed that of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen a few times in assorted nasty drug dens, and Sid apologized for his attack - and Kent accepted.

In a way, this is the classic rock story – fame, fortune, drugs, rock-bottom, redemption and reflection – except told by a rock journalist instead of a rock musician. I love those stories and I love Kent's story at least as much as I enjoyed recently reading Keith Richards' autobiography, Life, which I've forgotten to post about here. I've seen a couple of bad or so-so reviews of this book, none of which have anything substantial to say, and basically boil down to "who is Nick Kent and why does he think he's all that?" To which I can only reply, people who write autobiographies do tend to showcase their own story. Nick Kent was demonstrably there as all the things that made the seventies The Seventies unfolded, and he puts it all down in the book. He got caught up in very bad drugs and writes about that too, but makes it very, very plain that so did pretty much everybody else, and the effects on the music scene, whether it was American Punk, American singer-songwriter music, English classic rock or English Punk, were profound and devastating.

Now Kent had something besides androgynous good looks and a backstage pass, and so it's good to note that his phenomenal writing is almost back to its early-seventies glory, straining and soaring against the entire dark ages of music journalism (© Tony Palmer). There are metaphors and similes in this book that made me laugh out loud. He manages to work in several classic lyrics and many rock references without going out of his way to set them up, including the wonderful feat of quoting a Spinal Tap lyric as a description of one of his hard-won lessons on life. "You know where you stand in a hell hole."

On the other hand, there are several passages that sound as though he was dictating into Dragon Naturally Speaking and never went back to clean up the sentences in writing. "This quaint spectacle were known as Tyrannosaurus Rex and they quickly came to enjoy the patronage of… John Peel", he writes. This quaint spectacle were? I know transatlantic travel completely screws up a writer's ability to tell whether a group is a singular noun or a plural noun, but that's too much. Later he tells us that he had been afraid of full penetrative sex with a woman as a young teen, "because so many of my school-going cronies had gotten their girlfriends pregnant." Once at college he says, "[b]ut I'd finally escaped that sorry fate and was now free to make up for lost time". But, my brain kept telling me, you can't be sure you've finally escaped the sorry fate of getting a girl pregnant when you are 19 years old. You're in the middle of that predicament for the next 60 years or so. "Fate" is the wrong word to use here. There are several sentences that take the form, "a thin young man with long Pre-Raphaelite hair called John May", which lead you to wonder what the man was called and why the name of his hair was more important. And in relating the otherwise hilarious story of man-mountain Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant once accidentally sitting on Elvis Presley's father, who was unfortunate enough to be quietly occupying a chair Grant wanted to sit in, he writes that it might not be true as, "Grant could have broken every bone in the poor man's body if he'd descended on him from behind." And I'm sure someone the size of Grant could have, except in this case, of course, he would have descended on him from in front, not from behind.

And weirdly, at one point Kent says that he came up with the term that defined the rock aristocracy in the seventies, "wastedly elegant". No, you didn't Nick, FFS. The term you came up with was "elegantly wasted". I know, I was there in the seventies.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Abbey Road Cam

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The Abbey Road zebra crossing, made famous on the cover of the Beatles Abbey Road album, is under constant surveillance by the Abbey Road Cam.

I'm told the crossing has moved since the iconic album cover, but the shot is still mesmerizing -mostly due to the traffic sounds, which are soothing in an ambient fashion. And the crows cawing above the traffic add a slightly aggressive counterpoint to the composition.

Live webcam Here.

Abbey Road is now a listed historic site in Britain, an unusual honor for a landmark which is not a building.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When the levee breaks...

I hadn't realized the extent of the damage to the creek walls in San Juan Capistrano when I posted about the breach yesterday. Both sides are out; and the creek there is above the street level, making the creek walls a levee rather than a channel. If the levee breaks, then Led Zeppelin have told me what comes next.

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Photo by GORDON TOKUMATSU and JULIE BRAYTON from NBC Los Angeles , who go on to say that 400 people have been asked to evacuate the low lying areas.

(You can click on the picture in the original NBC story for an enlarged view.)


Weather (not dead)

They say it never rains in Southern California. Actually it rains about every five years or so. And then it does it with a vengeance. I woke up about six this morning to pump out my backyard. I was just in time.

Pool equipment under water


See the pool equipment, which is usually found outside of a pool? Well, this morning it was about eight inches underwater. The pool itself had grown to encompass my entire yard, the drains being too overloaded to get the water out as fast as it was coming down. The pool could only take so much runoff before it overflowed. The water was at the foot of the french windows and just about to come inside.

My work place, which is up the Ortega Highway, was cut off all day, the road being closed due to mudslides and subsidence in both the western and eastern directions.

In San Juan Capistrano town, the creek didn't overflow, but did its usual trick. The creek walls are lined with huge concrete slabs. If the flow gets strong enough to start to eat away at the joins, it can get right behind the slab and just peel it off the wall and into the creek like peeling away a soaked label on a bottle. Once the concrete is gone, the soft dirt behind it is hollowed out in no time.

This is the creekbed just by the post office, a few hundred yards from City Hall.

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Here's a close up of the damage done once the slabs were torn off.

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And that's just a couple of days rain! By late afternoon workers had amassed a huge pile of boulders ready to be dumped into the breach, which will at least break up the flow and stop the creek eating the post office. Not to mention the city hall, which is where the emergency evacuation supplies are kept. Perhaps we need to keep them on higher ground? But not so high as to be on the Ortega Highway, the national unreachable wilderness highway?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do It Like a Man

I first heard Do It Like A Dude by Jessie J a few weeks ago on the radio, and it's been stuck in my mind ever since. It has that same insistent trick of wriggling under the skin that Cameo's Word Up had lo those many years ago. I know that makes it sound like one of those tropical worms you have to wind out of your body on a stick, but...but I guess that's exactly what it's like.


When we first listened, the inestimable STB opined that she was unlikely to be able to do it like a dude, or for that matter, do it like any gender, without benefit of Auto Tune. This certainly seems to be the case with the single, but there's a video of an 'acoustic' version here, which shows that apart from not being able to say "motherfucker" without wilting, she's actually pretty good at teh chanteys.

Not that I had my fingers crossed that it would be the British Christmas Number One. I had my hopes pinned on Cage Against the Machine's 4'33" for that - a complex joke involving trying to keep X-Factor winners off the Christmas number one spot (last successfully attempted by Rage Against the Machine) by re-recording John Cage's famous composition 4'33", four minutes and thirty three seconds of incidental sounds as the musician sits in front of his instrument and the audience waits. (Most often described as four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence - it's not; the instruments are silent, but not the performance.) Alas, CATM lost out to X-Factor this Christmas, so I will play Jessie J instead - or perhaps just have a few moments of silence with CATM.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Octopus

Kali Durga sent me this octopus gif (via I Can Has Cheezburger)

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Their ability to change color so rapidly fascinates me[1].


[1]The octopus, not Kali, who is a nice blue color.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Captain Beefheart, 1941 - 2010

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that Don Van Vliet died today, from complications of multiple sclerosis.

So sorry to hear that. Captain Beefheart was one of the few musicians who managed to wrench me out of my rockist little rut and teach me something about the unlimited joys of music.



And that's about as conventional as he ever got.


My condolences to his family. RIP.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Met.

The Metropolitan Police are known as "The Filth" in London. That's not a hippy or commie thing or anything. Londoners have called them that for a long time. They do their best to live up to it, too.

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However, the politicians side with their enforcers, of course.

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I wonder if that tweet was true, yesterday, that was all over the net? The one that quoted David Cameron, the Prime Minister, talking about the student days of himself and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, back in 1986, when they weren't, yet. "Things got a bit out of hand. We smashed the place up and Boris set fire to the toilets” David Cameron, Oxford, 1986.″

Hmmm. Was he a leftie, or just an entitled toff? I think I know the answer to that.

How about America, since I live here now?

Elizabeth Edwards died this week, the estranged wife of Senator John Edwards, one-time Democratic Presidential nominee. She was the liberal one of the family, apparently pro-choice, in favor of gay rights and against the Iraq war.

This made Elizabeth Edwards so "hard-left" and 'communist" she didn't mention Jehovah in her parting statement!
You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces—my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined.
Apparently this makes her a special kind of ultra-Lefty.
Clearly Elizabeth Edwards wants to put her faith in something, be it hope or strength or anything. But not God. I wonder if it's just bitterness, that's she's been forsaken by more than just her estranged husband --- that's she's been forsaken by Him. And imagine if she'd have become First Lady. Americans generally expect outward expressions of faith in our presidents, Christian faith especially, and thus in our First Ladies as well. The Democratic base obviously doesn't care, as we can see in the "wow factor" expressed by the author at the American Prospect. Being anti-religion is cool, so Edwards' non-theological theology gets props from the neo-communists. Still, at her death bed and giving what most folks are calling a final goodbye, Elizabeth Edwards couldn't find it somewhere down deep to ask for His blessings as she prepares for the hereafter? I guess that nihilism I've been discussing reaches up higher into the hard-left precincts than I thought.

That's from Donald Douglas, who appears to be a bit of a knob-end. Let's find something a bit more sympathetic to her.

Ah, CNN's description of the funeral an obiturary-lite. What do we have here?
In addition to the eulogies....another friend, Glenn Bergenfield spoke, remembering when Elizabeth Edwards told staffers about her cancer. According to Bergenfield, she rubbed their backs as they sat on the couch, then turned to them and told them they had on awful shoes, and outlet shopping was necessary, right then and there.

Aw. Shopping makes it all better. How Hard Left.

Someone so far out of mainstream America that she couldn't quite thank god while dying of cancer, was defined by the actions of her son (famously dying) and husband (famously unfaithful) and had an opinion on fashionable footwear and the power of shopping. The Left is well-positioned in this country, I'd say.

(I don't want to dump on Mrs. Edwards personally. This is entirely aimed at the people who lionized and vilified her, and their choice of words.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

London's Burning (again)

Student protests in London yesterday - again - as the government voted to triple the tuition fee for university students, one of the things Nick Clegg (below) said he wouldn't do. But that was before it was a condition of him having power over the hordes. Not the first campaign pledge ever broken.

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But it does seem to have struck a nerve. Young students are on the march for the first time in years, and good for them. Many of them, in the news reports, seemed a little shell-shocked that the police didn't smile and hand out cocoa, but instead beat them up and "kettled" them, a British term for crowding protesters inside fences out in the open for sufficient hours for them to freeze, or their bladders to burst or their insulin to run out, or whatever it otherwise takes to shut them up, and then letting the survivors out when it's too late to take the last tube train home. In the meantime, the Met used their usual tactics, like pulling someone out of a wheelchair and dragging him on the ground for being 'too close to the police horses'. (I read somewhere that some of them had brought olive oil to reduce the police horses' traction. Must have been boy scouts; always prepared. Apparently ball bearings work well during a cavalry charge on an asphalt road. Just sayin'.)

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(c) Google

In order to avoid the worst of the beatings and kettlings, the students organized a Google Map update rota that showed, more or less in real time, where the major horses, truncheons and Black Mariahs were, the golfing four on the A308, below, being a team of riot cops. From what I hear this didn't work particularly well, but it's a start and I'm sure the next one will be even better.

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(c) Google

Violence begats violence, and a bunch of sixth-formers and pimply first-years who probably never had an anti-establishment thought in their lives are now radicalized, and indeed, some of them chanced upon Chuck and Cam, the Prince of Wales and his wife, heir to the British throne, in an unarmored Rolls-Royce. They paint bombed it and shouted "Off with their heads!" at the prince. I'm almost sorry for poor Charlie. He's nearly a non-combatant in the class war as he's so far up on the top edge (and mentally so far from reality) I'm surprised he still has a corporeal entity that can be transported in a roller. Anyway, the crowd didn't follow through with their threat. The policemen who were supposed to be escorting the roller are thinking about what went wrong right now, and were, according to the news reports, a little cagey about whether they were authorized to fire on the protesters. Now THAT would have made headlines. England's own Bloody Sunday or Kent State.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

US to Host World Press Freedom Day

It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Coming back from Dulles Airport, I was pornoscanned by the TSA. This is a device that, among other things, takes an image of your vulva and shows it to some guy hidden a few feet away. If he gets a nice shot of your vulva (and your breasts, or if male, your glans penis and testicles) he says "Clear!" into the headphones of the government employee who has just taught you how to stand to have your genitals photographed (with hands up in the air, slightly together, in the international gesture of "I surrender"), and you can get on a flight.

If it doesn't take a good picture of your vulva, you are directed somewhere else so that someone can finger your labia instead. That happened to this woman, who was wearing a cloth sanitary towel. Since the pornoscanner-personing dude was unable to get a good look at her genitals, she was directed to someone else who felt them instead. She wasn't happy. A lot of people aren't happy. The litany of people who have been groped, or had their children groped, or been asked to remove their post-cancer reconstruction breast prosthetic, or take off their artificial limb, or cut off their nipple ring with pliers, or been "patted down" (had their genitals felt) while in a wheel chair is growing. All to get on a plane, when any terrorist has to know that it's easier to take down a cargo plane, if all you want to do is take down a plane.

I went to the gym for the first time in months. I've had a bad knee and slobbed around rather than exercising. When I got there, they asked for my fingerprint. My fingerprint - to get in my $10 a month gym!

Today, Britain arrested Julian Assange, the public face of WikiLeaks. There was an international warrant out for him, based on outstanding charges in Sweden that have nothing to do with the "leaks". He was remanded in custody (not allowed to post bail). At the gym I listened to Bill O'Reilly crowing that his goose was as good as cooked, as once he was extradited to Sweden, that country would gladly extradite him to the United States to face charges. Not that he's been charged with anything in the states. There have been calls for him to be murdered, though. And calls to try him for treason. (Tip: you can't charge a foreign national with treason. They actually know that, but are presumably unable to think of a country outside of the US that has English speaking blonds in it. The world, as you know, is divided into Murricans and brown guys who either hate our freedom or want to take our jobs, or both.)

Steve Audio, December 6th (I can't get the site to give me a permalink, so that will scroll down the page) has a roundup of the various calls for Assange's prosecution, and the companies that have cut him off under pressure (in PayPal's case, caving after receiving orders from the government and confiscating the money as well).

The New York Times checked the cables they published with the US government to ensure they were harmless before publishing.


And after all that, boingboing tells me that the US is to host the next World Press Freedom Day.

Congratulations, America! It couldn't happen to a freer country!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Class Act

This Australian article says that British people are obsessed with class and incorrectly perceive class mobility to be low.
As economist Peter Bauer put it in a pamphlet 30 years ago, British intellectuals have "class on the brain". So, nowadays, do British politicians. In the last three years of the Labour government, three official reports were commissioned on class inequality. They all concluded that Britain is an unfair society where lower-class children are blocked from realising their potential.
But the writer is having none of it.

I recently published a review of what the evidence on social mobility actually tells us. I found that movement in Britain is extensive, both up and down.

If we divide the population into a professional-managerial class at the top, a manual working class at the bottom, and an intermediate class in between, more than half the population is in a different social class from the one it was born into. One third of professional-managerial people come from manual worker backgrounds, and one in seven sons born to professional-managerial fathers end up as manual workers.


It's strange to see such a description of 'class'. Of course a manual laborer's son can become a doctor (or could; I doubt if he could afford the tuition fees now), but he can't change his class. I was the first person in my family to go to university and become, as the writer would probably see it "middle class", but the fact is a good portion of the middle class families I encountered quite cheerfully explained to me that I was actually a working class oik - and always would be. "I hope you never again bring over the girl with the accent", one upper-middle matron told her son, my then-boyfriend.

So I came to America where they I believed they have no clue about this sort of thing. It turns out it's just because they can't rank my accent and give me a default class status. The LA Times, in an article on income equality, recently said,

One of the distinctive features of the Great Compression, as described in the book, was that "an investment banker went to Andover and Princeton, while a newspaper person went to Central High and Rutgers. But now the financiers and the writers both are likely to have gone to Andover and Princeton. The student who graduated from Harvard cum laude makes $85,000 a year as a think tank fellow, while the schlump she wouldn't even talk to in gym class makes $34 million as a bond trader or TV producer."

Yes, that sounds familiar - the schlump she wouldn't even talk to in gym class. Except in England, you wouldn't even be in the same gym class.

Jack White invents new paradigm, promises hellfire

(As mentioned by Mike in comments.)

Third Man Records recently announced they'd be selling limited edition colored vinyls of some White Stripes records or other (I don't know the details and, actually, don't care). The day before they were due to go on sale at Third Man's only outlet, in Nashville, the record company put five of them up for sale on eBay. Bidding quickly got to the $500 or so level. The announcement of the auction was made on the paid fanclub website The Vault, and tweeted to fans who subscribe to the feed.

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(Yes, I know this isn't the White Stripes.)

Jack White jumped into The Vault chatroom to defend his exciting new business model, and Antiquiet has done a wonderful job of cutting out all the usual chatroom crap and presenting his words in context here.

He begins with the less than cheery greeting "see you in hell", which was also the sign-off to the eBay listings. It's nice to see a pop star who can quote Han Solo. His argument was that placing them on eBay himself takes the wind out of the flippers' sails. (Many Nashville locals go to the opening day of these limited editions, pay $20 and 'flip' them - list them on eBay the same day.)

He muddied things up a little by talking about the eBay price "setting the price" for the ordinary sale of the record - though of course the eBay price of five rare albums is not the actual value of 300 rare albums bought by locals with zero travel and shipping costs to cover. Many people were left with the impression that the eBay price would be the retail price at the store the next day.

Oh well. It doesn't bother me and for the three grand or so Jack makes out of it, I doubt if it's feathering his nest so much. But it did invoke a major shitstorm from fans who felt otherwise - not so much in the chatroom, but on the comments thread on The Vault's listing of the auction. After all, they'd been roused by tweet to go to the (paid access) website and then found nothing but an announcement that five of 'our' (fans') limited edition records were being sold off to collectors - and told "see you in hell" for their troubles. Major angst ensued. After a while, someone joined the comments thread using Jack White's account and posted an amazing rant that one blog described as,

quickly devolv[ing] into the Four Loko-fueled ramblings of the drunk dude outside your bodega.

"You act like we bury [records] in tunnels in Vietnam for Gods sakes!" said Jack White.

"Uh, not really," said fans, putting on their headphones and discreetly crossing the street.

What all of the blogs who reported this seem to have missed is that the rant was from Jack's account but was signed "the staff at Third Man Records". And it doesn't sound like Jack either.

Here is the major part of it, because it's jolly entertaining.

Posted by trucks on 11.29.2010 at 04:22 PM Well I think it's official this is my last Vault experience. Really nothing on here worth paying for anymore. Think you get something special with a message, but it's really just a link to fan exploitation. fan exploitation? really? if you don't want it, DONT BUY IT. and if you do want it, don't act like you DON'T want it. get in line like anyone else, hunt for it like anyone else. you act like we bury them in tunnels in vietnam for god sakes, you can get one randomly in the mail if your lucky, in line at a store if you're lucky, in your hometown if you're lucky, etc. who is guaranteed a rare hard to find record? only vault members and their quarterly subscriptions. there's luck in every other version. Posted by surfingelectrod on 11.29.2010 at 05:07 PM Fuck you, Third Man. really? you think we deserve that? would you like us to just stop making limited edition records? you would go so far as to say fuck you to us? for what? we didn't do anything to you but give you what you want. you're a vault member obviously, for what reason? limited records you can't get elsewhere? would you kindly send us those records back so we can sell them to some other fan who didn't get to have them? don't want a split colored limited edition record? then guess what? don't buy one. don't want them to be expensive? then guess what? don't WANT them. it's you and others wanting them that dictates the price and the entire nature of the idea. make no mistake, we could make twenty thousand split color whatevers for you, and they'll be worth 20 bucks, and you'll pay 20 bucks for them, and you'll never talk about them, desire them, hunt to find them, etc. why should ebay flippers, who are not real fans, dictate the price, make all the profit (taken from the artist and the label) and take the records out of the hands of real fans. there's a guy who waits in a black suv down the block from third man who hires homeless people to go buy him tri colors when they are on sale. doesn't even get out of his car. should he be charged ten bucks or two hundred? don't be spoiled, don't insult people who are trying to give you what you want. last quarter every vault member got a black and blue live record. a record you're only supposed to get if you ACTUALLY GO to a live show at third man. are you pissed about that? we've done giveaways, contests, auctions, etc. a lot of different ways for vault members to get first crack at limited records when we don't have to. we do it because by being a member you're supposedly making a statement that you're a real fan who wants the music, and to be involved in collecting rare and interesting vinyl. from some of these comments i take it that a lot of you would like this to be all digital, available to anyone on amazon dot com, anytime. boring, lifeless, lazy, and redundant. don't get mad at third man for giving you exactly what you've asked for. and seriously stop all of the whining, because what you communicate to us is that all of the trouble we go to isn't worth it because nothing we do will make you happy. we'll try to do back rubs door to door when we get a chance. sincerely the staff at third man records [1]
Oh, poor widdle record company! Fans hurt its ickle feelings.

Actually I would like music to be available to anyone on Amazon... and it's never hurt any other pop singers. As for easily available music being "boring, lifeless, lazy and redundant", that's so true. Here's a clip of Jack White playing his favorite record. He's almost in tears as he listens to it, and I bet that's because it's the limited-to-15-copies triple-decker tri-color Japanese pressing with the blue, white and black plastic cover that folds into a clockwork-powered Tesla Coil and the Eskimo scrimshaw for "strength" hand-carved into the run-out groove by the artist himself.


Oh, wait, it's not. It's a black vinyl pressing of the popular release with the regular cover. Is Jack (or is the record - I can't tell whether the Third Man commenter meant to skewer the buyer or the product) boring, lifeless, lazy and redundant in this clip? If not, why not? Might Son House have been onto something here?

I especially liked "don't get mad at third man for giving you exactly what you've asked for" in the next sentence to "nothing we do will make you happy". Clearly logic isn't this person's strong point...if it's exactly what we asked for, we'd be happy, wouldn't we?

The postscript to all of this is even weirder - or it's spin control. According to a poster on one of the (free) fan message boards, as one person was lining up outside the record store the next day, Ben Swank of Third Man Records explained, "it was just an experiment gone wrong. They were hoping that people would not bid them very high and the price would be set low. Then a bunch of douchebags created fake accounts and bid the auctions up." He said that they would "just offer second chance offers to legitimate bidders."

Whatever he said while handing out hot chocolate to freezing fans then, he's unapologetic in the Grauniad this morning. "The industry is constantly changing. I can't believe it's taken 15 years for a label to start selling its own releases on eBay (even in limited numbers). We're going to continue doing it. We're also going to continue all the contests, giveaways, pop-up shops, random mail orders, subscription services and manufacturing of insane new vinyl products and any other ridiculous idea that strikes our fancy. Why? Because we're American. And American's do crazy shit for capitalism. See you in hell."

Getting a bit tired of "see you in hell" now. A little glint of anger from Han Solo was kind of sexy, but three times in three days from a record company is like having your knuckles sandpapered. And it's Americans, FFS. Plural.


[1] I'm claiming fair use. Swank knows where to find me if he wants it taken down.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wikileaks

There's been a bit of a kerfuffle over the Wikileaks thing, hasn't there? Weeks of advance warning about how terrible it's all going to be and how the entire planet will self-destruct if anyone (outside of the three million people who already had access) got to read the leaked 'cables'. (Are they really 'cables'? Do we still have those?)

When they finally get here, we find they are the equivalent of YouTube comments by diplomats and just about as earth-shattering. Some countries don't get along. Sometimes, in order to get their own way, people say one thing and do another. The Royal Family smells of elderberries. That kind of thing.

In fact, Dull Cables Are Dull, so much so that there almost seems something fishy about it. I was expecting the Conspiracy Freaks who write to me on a daily basis to start saying Wikileaks is a disinformation campaign approximately tomorrow, but I was wrong. There was a link in my email on Tuesday morning. I just hadn't gotten around to opening it.

Wiki-Leaks Serves Israeli Agenda of Demonizing Iran

(Of course, mentioning Israel is the diagnostic sign of a conspiracy theorist. But still, the guy has some good points.)

So, thanks to Wiki-leaks, the unlikely darling of the mainstream media, the world is being informed that the 'enemy' in Afghanistan is growing stronger, Pakistan and Iran are to blame, and brave US troops are engaged in 'reconstruction' there!

But Pakistan and the Taliban are not the main target of disinformation in these documents. As more documents are released, it becomes clear that, sitting square in the bulls-eye, is Iran.[...] Only in their wildest dreams could the war-mongers in Washington and Tel Aviv have wished for a more on-message leak of 'secret information'.
[...]
Is there no one in the alternative news community that can see this for what it is? North Korea supplying missiles to Iran to attack Europe?! Right when the US and Israel are involved in a protracted effort to demonize Iran to the world and the US has an aircraft carrier sitting off the Korean Coast!? Is all of this meant to be so obvious, or did my reading of 'psychological operations for dummies' gift me with amazing insight into how political propaganda really works?


The person who sent the link to me pointed out that last week, the Department of Homeland Security shut down the domain names of about 70 file-sharing websites, without warrants or court orders. They just grabbed the sites and took them down. If Wikileaks was an actual threat, they'd have taken that site down too. Assange had been crowing for a while that this release was coming up, and the government walked around wringing its hands about it. They didn't shut it down, so what does that suggest?

(I note it is now shut down, however.)

And if the several million 'cables' are actually true, unaltered and unfiltered...well, whenever the American government wants to curtail its citizens' freedoms, such as by following us around cyberspace, tapping our phones or peering at our naked bodies in airports, there's always a herd of people who swallow their cud in order to say, "If you haven't done anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about!"

Hear that, Obama and ruling class chums? If you haven't done anything wrong, you've no need to worry.

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