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Notes From The Flip Side: 09.28.2003

"And listen, about those bitter songs you sing? They're not helping anything. They won't make you strong."

The Weakerthans

We May Have Money But We Don't Have Cash.

Johnny Cash was the quintessential American bad-ass. I'm going to miss him. And there ain't much else to say about that.

The Revolution Will Be Downloaded.

Fuck the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). No, that isn't strong enough. Skullfuck those gouging, bullying, desperate hyenas with sledgehammers. And don't ask me how I really feel about an industry that sued a 12-year-old honors student living in public housing and took $2,000 from her mom. Fuck their $18.99 list prices. Fuck their multi-album, multi-million-dollar deals with washed-up hacks. Fuck them.

If you're as pissed off as I am about this situation, the EFF, an organization I have an immense amount of respect for, is taking a petition to Congress. Please sign it and refrain from buying any albums or downloading any songs released by a major label or any subsidiary until they stop this nonsense. Let's remind them that they may hold compelling legal power but that it takes the money in our wallets to finance their litigation.

The Closing Of The American Mind.

Several things never fail to amaze (by which I mean disturb) me. The first is exactly how Republicans manage to claim to support education while still attempting to undermine library policies and have books removed from library shelves. The second is the role that religion plays in this behavior (and here I thought that most religions opposed hypocrisy).

Don't get me wrong - I have no use for religion. I believe that religion is both generally and specifically a bad thing (you'll notice that I'm not saying a word about faith - believe all you want, just leave the dogma out of it). However, I'm also quick to point out when people do something which is inconsistent with their self-identified value structure - in short, to call bullshit on hypocrites.

A group called the Citizen's Task Force for Family-Friendly Libraries - including a member of the Republican Leadership Council - recently sent a secret letter (which is no longer secret) to the Commissioners Court and County Judge for Montgomery, Texas, urging changes in the policy to reflect community standards. In case these parties needed some guidelines, the group helpfully drafted a working document for a new policy which incorporated what they considered more family-friendly values, including noting that:

Any time a person mentions censoring or controlling a library's catalog due to values or community standards, you can bet your ass that religion is behind it. This is perfectly aligned with religion's historical role throughout the past millennium which has largely been to suppress and actively oppress knowledge and the people who seek it. Of course, this activity has now moved into an political sphere as fundamentalist religious folks attempt to impose their values on a society which does not necessarily share those views, and effect that imposition via codification of new standards in boards which are typically not privy to public oversight. You'd think they might get tired of losing.

And my take on all this is very simple. Unless you want me in your churches - and I'll paraphrase and modify the proposed Library Patron's Bill of Rights to my own twisted ends here - presenting another point of view on current and historical issues in a scholarly and factual manner, get and stay the fuck out of my libraries. If these advocates of censorship want to drive push to shove, they'd better understand that the education and reading that libraries afford make it far easier for someone like myself to refute every argument they can make.

And, come to think of it, maybe that's just why they try to pull this shit.

Want to learn more? Start by looking at the ALA's Banned Books Week page.

Somewhere Love And Justice Shine.

For once, I'm at a loss because I don't know how to articulate what happened last night.

The short of it is that I drove to Chicago last night to see The Weakerthans.

After two hours and change driving, I found a parking spot in a suburb, guided in by three squirrels who sat up and looked at me as if to say that the car would be safe there. While we drove to the city from the suburbs, I drank more coffee to stay awake and smoked cigarettes to calm down after the ridiculous amounts of stress over the past three weeks. The roof, work - it seems that everything had been piling up, stress on top of stress, culminating in a sinus infection that I'm just about over.

All of this was wearing on me before the show. I was tired. No, scratch that - exhausted. I hadn't eaten all day. I hadn't slept at all the day before. I had just burned the last of my fumes. And then The Weakerthans took the stage.

The concert was a series of moments, framed in convictions, expressed in music which was frequently so delicate and gentle that it seemed in danger of breaking. Every one of those moments - each following immediately on the footsteps of the one before - seemed like a temporary autonomous zone, a point in the time-space continuum in which all things seemed possible, but foremost among them were absolute liberation and transcendence.

For a good part of the show, I felt as if I were outside myself, as if the crowd didn't exist and all that surrounded me was sound ... and compassion. Last night, both love and justice began to shine for us and we were the core where both exist.

Of all the shows I've ever seen, last night was one that I will never forget.

This Day Could Someday Be An Anniversary.

While I was browsing through Clamor's site today, I saw the date of the first issue I helped proof - September / October 2000. I've been proofing, writing and helping out with that magazine in miscellaneous other ways for three years. Time really does fly when I'm having fun.

Off The Top Of My Head ...

  1. A live Dillinger Four album exists. The sound isn't that great but if you care about hearing one of the greatest bands in the world in their environment and can't make it to a show for whatever fucked up excuse you can summon then you absolutely need this. Highlights include a hilarious voice mail from HR, calling Fat Mike and the drummer from Boston, and brief renditions of more classic rock songs than any band should know.
  2. Minmae. "Microcassette Quatrains" makes early Guided By Voices sound like a Daniel Lanois production, "Loveless"-era My Bloody Valentine sound like it's free of distortion and every basement or garage band in the world wish they had half as much musical inspiration ... and if it doesn't do the last, it should. This is absolute bedroom pop, sounding like it was recorded on a four-track with three left over just in case for shoegazers rocking the lo-fi indie tip. It's stunning, dreamy, headphone music for late nights when you can hear the snow falling or those lazy So. Cal. sunsets over empty beaches which never seem to end or those endless expanses of desert in the Southwest ... just imagine solitude, indescribably vast spaces and as much volume as you can. This album deserves to be played loud in the middle of nowhere. It is, by itself, practically an altered state and one which is absolutely worth experiencing.

Now Playing:

John Zorn. Kid 606. Beehive And The Barracudas. Mozart. Minmae. Flogging Molly. Arab Strap. Flying Saucer Attack. Mazzy Star. Freddie Hubbard. Bob Dylan. Prefuse 73. Dillinger Four. Bill Hicks. Boards Of Canada. Stiff Little Fingers. Jaga Jazzist. The Abyssinians. Beulah. The Oath. John Cage. Philip Glass. Lucero.

Now Watching:

"Ghost Dog," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Boogie Nights," "12 Monkeys," "Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels," "The Boondock Saints"

Just Finished:

Patrick Humphries, "Nick Drake"

Now Reading:

Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"; Andrew Feenberg, "Questioning Technology" and "Alternative Modernity"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008