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Notes From The Flip Side: 10.03.2004

"Look carefully at everything around you, and conserve your strength. For a day may come when it will be up to us to give an account of the fraud and mockery to the living - to speak up for the dead."

Tadeusz Borowski

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I Am Not A Nugget!

Thanks to everyone who entered the PETA2 drawing - things went swimmingly and working with the folks at PETA2 was awesome, so you'll probably be seeing more from them on this site in the future.

Arbeit Macht Frei; Or, How The President's Grandfather Helped Hitler

The rumors of a connection between the Nazi party and Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's gradfather and the source of most of that family's wealth, have been bubbling for a long while now. In the May / June 2002 issue of Clamor Magazine, Toby Rogers wrote a well-researched article called "Heir To The Holocaust" about these allegations. More than two years later, just in time for the election, these allegations are bubbling up to media outlets like The Guardian in articles like "How Bush's Grandfather Helped Hitler's Rise To Power." To add to the fun, survivors of Auschwitz are apparently suing the Bush family for damages. Now Dubya has another reason to hate trial lawyers.

The Win And How To Swing It

I'm not a Kerry advocate. I don't even like the guy. However, I really don't want four more years of this shit. Cityrag.com has been focusing a fair bit of attention on voting issues lately, primarily key swing states that could decide the election. To help achieve that end, Cityrag has actually been posting ideas about how to help swing those states, even if you don't live there. It's definitely worth reading. The rest of the site is fairly New York focused, but usually features bits about food, lots of tattoos and cool dog pictures.

If America Were Iraq, What Would It Be Like?

In the interest of providing some context around this whole crazy war thing, University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole recently wrote a piece which described what America would look like if it were in Iraq's current state.

That Rug Really Tied The Room Together, Did It Not?

Kerry totally peed on Dubya's rug in the first debate. What was the rug in question? Iraq. Poland. Summits. 9/11. Weapons of mass destruction. (Seriously dude, that's just embarrassing now. We know they weren't there in the first place. Please. Just stop it so we don't look any more foolish than we already do.) Kerry pulled the rug from under Dubya's feet and left him stammering, flustered, stumbling over his words, and reminding us of Poland's heroic (and soon to be scaled down) contribution to the conflict to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction / bring Saddam Hussein to justice / reduce nuclear proliferation in the Middle East / (de)stabilize the region / implement a democratic regime for fundamentalist states to use as an example in their own respective marches toward utter anarchy ... I think there were a few other reasons that someone thought up along the way, but honestly, you can't really expect us to remember them all, can you? And how about that exchange in which Kerry said he would actually hold bilateral as well as multilateral talks with North Korea, huh? That really marked it zero.

An Elegy For Leaving Home.

I used to buy records at a shitty little hole-in-the-wall called Swap-A-Tape. They didn't have much of a selection - a wall of tapes, some 8-tracks, some bins filled with records, some bootlegs scattered here and there. I went there because it was cheaper than another store called Blue Meannie (which recently closed, having subsisted on selling black, death, doom and other types of metal for the past several years). And yes, I have always had an affection for dingy used record stores and sifting through the things that can be found in them in the hopes of finding something wonderful.

After all, that store was where I picked up all of my X vinyl. I picked up a lot of other old punk and hardcore records there. I even bought a CD or two as those started trickling through the doors in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And that's also where I bought pretty much every record I've ever owned by the Ramones.

Back in those days, no one gave a shit. These records really weren't that collectible. The Ramones were effectively a footnote in musical history at that point. The world simply hadn't caught up, hadn't gotten the point, hadn't grasped the concept. And so I bought every last one I found there because no one else would.

The Ramones kept me sane for most of high school. Those records stuck around when I was in college and didn't feel like I fit in any better there. Pretty much every day since I heard "Blitzkrieg Bop" for the first time has been colored by a Ramones song in some way, shape or form; from the way I hear songs to the way I think about music.

One of the most important things the Ramones showed us was that anyone could do this shit - you didn't need hair down to your ass or coursework at a conservatory or music lessons of any kind, really. If you could count to four, if you could manage to play two or three notes or chords in sequence without fucking up too much, if you could keep a reasonably steady beat, then you could also write songs and make your own music. You didn't have to be a subject of musical history - you were no longer a passive recipient of the Guess Who or Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Suddenly, you were an agent with a cheap guitar and a stack of old 45s.

Much like Tommy Ramone's drumming and Dee Dee's bass playing, Johnny Ramone's riffs taught me everything I needed to know about that instrument. I don't care if it's rudimentary, it's still empowering to be able to figure out how to play "Blitzkrieg Bop" by myself without tabs or someone showing me the chords. And yeah, I called it empowering.

For years, I've known I'm a shitty musician. Give me enough chord diagrams and I can figure out simple shit - a Lou Reed or Replacements song here and there. Johnny showed me something different - he showed me that maybe I don't need much beyond power chords and speed, that maybe substance isn't just technique and competence.

I'll never be able to play guitar like Bob Mould or Davey Quinn (hell, playing like a shitty garage band is a stretch for me), but I learned everything I need to know about punk guitar - all three chords - from Johnny Ramone.

Opening Up A Can.

Open source rocks. Mozilla has released an awesome browser and mail client which resolve most of the security concerns around Microsoft's browser and mail client. Plus, the software is free. It's easy to set up. It's easy to use. It has awesome features (like tabbed browsing and pop-up blockers in Firefox). The browser uses Web standards and means that you see sites like they should look. Thunderbird, the mail client, has a sweet adaptive junk mail filter and some totally killer functions for users to brew their own. I love these apps as much as I love punk rock and that's saying something.

And in a sense, these apps are punk rock - they're DIY, developed by people outside the mainstream who just want to do something cool or awesome without having marketing getting involved (too much). Plus, every time you use Firefox or Thunderbird, you're effectively striking a blow against Microsoft ... and that can only be a good thing, right?

Off The Top Of My Head ...

  1. I'm waiting on Aaron Anstett's new volume of poetry. I really don't want to say that Anstett is the only American poet worth reading, but he's the only contemporary poet with whom I'm familiar whose value I would estimate as anything more than a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. It may seem like tall praise to describe his brawling, blue-collar, drunken, frustrated and hilarious odes as the poetic equivalent of Nelson Algren's work in fiction or Dillinger Four's work in punk rock, but I believe it's accurate. This is poetry for people who actually live in and deal with the real world, with petty bosses and shit jobs, dingy apartments on the wrong side of town and public transit ... not people who go to workshops or spend too much time in grad school.
  2. Want to develop an even better understanding of what the war in Iraq is really costing us? Check out the Cost Of War.

Now Playing:

Julie Doiron. Television. Tara Jane O'Neil. Radio 4. Converge. Jaga Jazzist. Hot Water Music. The Faint. Maria Callas. Seam. I Am The World Trade Center. Mojave 3. Signer. Kissing Tigers. Mice Parade. Glenn Branca. The Magnetic Fields. Handsome Boy Modeling School. Fairweather.

Just Finished:

Neal Stephenson, "Cryptonomicon"

Now Reading:

Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Bertrand Russell, "Why I Am Not A Christian"; 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"; 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