Category Archives: Lucubrations

Well, so much for that XXXTentacion guy.  I knew his music was bad, but not that bad.


I don’t follow team sports at all, but every year when football comes on, I am vocally excited to see it: “Hot damn!  Football’s back!”  Not that I give a rat’s about football… I just know with football comes fall and winter.  So it’s basically a Pavlovian response: football = cold weather and long nights.

Unfortunately there is an exact inverse to this phenomenon, which is the appearance of fireworks booths in grocery store parking lots.  That, of course, means long, hot days, and nights that are never either long or cool enough.

Balls.

N.P.: “Blues From A Gun” – The Jesus and Mary Chain

Spotify Almost Lost Me.

I have said (in online forums much sleazier than this) that “I would go without food before I went without my Spotify.”  Which may have been an exaggeration, but not a very big one.  My loyalty to Spotify is deep, for a variety of reasons.  I’ll give you the Top 3:
  1.  Spotify gave me access to unlimited music when I was totally broke and lonely and desperate.  I was as if some miraculous new friend just suddenly showed up at my apartment with perhaps the world’s largest collection of music, and wanted to play them for me in whatever order I wanted to hear them 24 hours a day.  Sure, I had to sit through a 15-second self-promotional commercial every few songs, but who cares…I was broke and had all the music in the world.  Well, a hell of a lot of it.
  2. I’m a big fan of underdogs, and Spotify took on Pandora, Google, and Apple, all of whom have been trying and failing to play catch up since.  Spotify is one of the few apps I subscribe to not to access the features that come with subscriptions, but because I actually want to see the company do well and will do what I can to support it.
  3. Spotify is just an excellent product.  It’s reliability is amazing, it’s cross-platform functionality, even it’s design and color choice…it’s brilliant.
I have defended the practices of Spotify as well as other streaming services (most commonly the relatively small paydays for artists from streaming music) of being the only viable legal alternative to digital piracy.
You get the point:  I love and adore Spotify, and I’m fiercely loyal to things I love and adore.
So how could it come to pass that all of sudden in the last week of May, I found myself very close to deleting my account and taking alternative measures?

It should have been a great week for us: At long last, Peter Gabriel’s entire solo catalog became available to stream.  This was huge news.  And I listened to the hell out of Mr. Gabriel for a few days straight.  Things were great.  And then, right at our finest moment, Spotify announces that it’s concocted some bullshit PC policy that apparently stated that if someone somewhere was upset or offended by something an artist had done, that Spotify would not promote that artist’s music or include it in any promotional playlists.  There was no mention of artists who had been charged with crimes or not, no mention of who exactly was on the committee to decide which artists’ personal lives and behavior were so unacceptable as to have their music…what, unpromoted?
An hour later came the list of organizations with which Spotify had suddenly gotten into bed with: it included the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Color Of Change, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), GLAAD, Muslim Advocates, and the International Network Against Cyber Hate.  Holy shit.  As big of an advocate for Spotify as I have been, I almost (and it could still happen, now that I’m thinking about it and getting pissed off all over again) became one of their legions of opponents: I don’t want anybody placing any kind of filter on what I can or cannot, should or should not listen to, watch, or read, especially the members of this parade of idiots.
Suffice it to say, this dimwitted idea backfired immediately.  The first wave came about 10 minutes after the policy was announced, when American listeners who would never have listened to the artists on this bullshit blacklist otherwise (the main two were R. Kelly and something called XXXTentacion) immediately put both of these acts on heavy rotation on their personal playlists, not because we were suddenly interested in this music (personally, I could not be less interested: R. Kelly can sing, I suppose, but his songs are banal bullshit, and XXXTentacles or whatever it is is unlistenable to my ears…but that’s just me), but because fuck you, Spotify. I could not give less of a rat’s ass about what the Impoverish of the South or the goddamn Muslim Advocates thought about the musicians on Spotify, and if I had wanted their opinions of shitty musical acts, I would have asked.  Who the hell do you think you are, attempting to in any way censor artistic expression based on the opinion of the moronic PC herd.  That shit may fly in Sweden, but not here.  Never mind what the PC rabble say…America expects its artists to behave badly.  More on that in a few weeks.
Quick cut here to 1977: the Sex Pistols released “God Save the Queen,” a withering punk indictment of the treatment of the British working class by the monarchy, and when this happened, the monarchy absolutely shit themselves.  They did everything they could to ban the playing and sales of this record.  The manager and much of the group’s entourage were arrested after a performance of the song: sales went up.  The government sought to manipulate the charts to keep the song from rising above #2 on the charts: sales went up.  When the government could no longer deny that the song was far and away the best selling song in the country, it censored the actual charts, showing a blank space where the song should have been:
Image result for blank space on the music charts where God Save The Queen by the Sex Pistols should have been
Quick cut back to the present:  One day after the roll out of this insipidly stupid policy, Spotify was about to find itself in the same humiliating situation as the English Crown did over 30 years ago: these two acts (Kelly and XXX) were suddenly sailing to the top spots on the charts, not due to any artistic merit or even a new release, but because of Spotify’s own ill-conceived, ill-intentioned, and misguided attempts to placate the mewling morons that constitute the PC Thought Police these days.  I know I was not alone in looking forward to seeing exactly how Spotify was going to try to handle R Kelly being on the Top 10 most played artists of the week when doing so would violate it’s own new pathetic policy.
Unfortunately, we wouldn’t get a chance to watch what promised to have been one of the all-time great minefield tap-dances because later in the week, “industry pressure” had been so extreme on Spotify as to cause it to completely cave and “walk back” their doltish policy on “hateful content.” [Which, by the way, how the fuck is “I Believe I Can Fly” hateful content?  It isn’t.  None of the actual content was hateful at all…so why censor it in any way?]  The arguments went something like this: You’ve concocted this absurdly vague policy which puts you in the position to censor things at will.  You immediately used it to censor two acts, both of whom were black men.  Are you suggesting that there are no white, Hispanic, or Asian acts which have participated in essentially the same behavior to these two?  And before you answer that, let’s just state the fact that if you do impose this ludicrously over-reaching vague censorship policy “fairly” and evenly across the board, you will be left with about 3 albums in total you’ll be able to work with, and 2 of those will be by ABBA.
So just as quickly as this stupid policy was rolled out, it was voided, with Spotify saying that they didn’t want to put themselves in the position of being “judge and jury” on these issues.  Oh, really?  What exactly in the fuck did you think you were doing, you cretinous simpletons?
Okay…enough of this bilge.  There is a book that needs writing.  Now I’m all upset again.
N.P.: “Anarchy in the U.K.” – The Sex Pistols

A couple of weeks ago, on May 14, we lost Tom Wolfe, and then, the following week, on May 22, Philip Roth died.  Roth was not nearly as big of an influence on me as Wolfe was, but that had more to do with the forms he worked in as opposed to actual writing.  For whatever reason, Roth’s work didn’t speak to me in the late ’90s when his name started popping up on lists other writers would give me of people whose work I should be paying attention to.  I tackled Sabbath’s Theater a couple of times, and American Pastoral when it came out in ’97.  It was obvious he was an incredible talent, even if I wasn’t connecting with his work.  But that was, of course, then…perhaps now is a good time to revisit his stuff.
Then on Friday came news that Anthony Bourdain hanged himself.  To me, Mr. Bourdain was a writer who, incidentally, knew how to cook, and used food and cuisine as a sort of excuse to travel the world and write about life.  Which was absolutely brilliant, because I’m guessing he figured his audience was composed of foodies, and since he’s got them sitting there listening, he’d insert a little message and meaning into everything he did, but those of us who read and followed him just because he was a brilliant writer found ourselves interested in trying new foods, and maybe (as was the my case), heading into the kitchen to learn/experiment.  There’s a great deal of great things to be said about Anthony Bourdain, and people are saying it.  Suffice it to say, this is a tragic loss of an all-too-rare American voice, and he will be very missed.
Then, on Friday night, another favorite writer and columnist, Charles Krauthammer, let the public know that after one hell of a battle with all manner of health issues for his entire adult life, that battle is over and his doctors have told him he has just weeks to live.  He concluded with this:
I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.
My God.  What class.  I am envious: after all, what goal could one possibly have in life if not to be able to say that at the end of it: “I lived the life that I intended.”
I sure as hell can’t say that.  Maybe that’s the point, if there is one to all the mortality that seems to be in the news these days: if you’re lucky enough to live long enough to find yourself horizontal with a tube in your nose looking back at everything, are you content, satisfied with what you did?  Given whatever shitty hand of cards you were dealt, did you do what you could with what you were given?
Or maybe that isn’t the point.  Maybe, as I have suspected for a while now, there is no point.  Who knows.  I certainly don’t.  I do know there is desk whiskey.  I shall now raise one to Mr. Wolfe, another to Mr. Roth, another to Mr. Bourdain, and another to Mr. Krauthammer, that last one hoping against hope that he’ll get to stick around with us a bit longer.
N.P.: “Set Me Free” – In Strict Confidence

Dearest Reader, thank goodness you are here.  Things have been ridiculous.  Adventures, misadventures, and yes, actually rather a lot of writing.  Just nothing for here lately.  But I heard you may have been worried, so I just wanted to say hey, I’m okay, and I am working as hard as I can on everything.  And even if I don’t have anything specifically for you here, I promise to just check in much more regularly.  After this latest round of chaos, things should be settling down, at least for a few weeks.
Alright…rocketh on,
Youknowwho
N.P.: “The Tower That Ate People” – Peter Gabriel

R.I.P. Tom Wolfe (1931-2018)

Thom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe died today of pneumonia at age 88.

Shit.

Kesey, then Hunter, and now Tom Wolfe.  He was the only one of the three I didn’t get to meet.  I’d go reread The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, but I’d memorized that book by the time I was 23.

I learned a lot about writing and style from Mr. Wolfe, but his most valuable lesson, I think, was from his dedication to the art.  Every single day, without fail, he would put on his suit, sit in front of the typewriter, and bang out 10 pages, regardless of how long it took.  If he could rip through it in 2 hours, great.  If he was still there when night fell, so be it.  That is how it’s done.
Rest in peace, Mr. Wolfe.


Postscript:    Goddammit.  I have a lot of opinions about the state of “journalism,” about writing, about publishing, about contemporary readers, and about society in general that contribute my disinterest in publishing anything “significant” these days.  I’m not sure exactly where this fits into all that, but it’s generating the same feeling of disgust and hopelessness that I feel right before I throw my hands up and walk away from the keyboard and think something along the lines of, “Well, if they aren’t going to bother trying, why should I?”  Barnes & Noble posted this:

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The problem is that Ken Kesey said that, not Tom Wolfe.  Yes, the quote is from a book written by Tom Wolfe, but he is quoting Ken Kesey.   You’d think the cretins at Barnes & Noble might have someone on staff who had read Wolfe’s work and could pull his actual words to use as a eulogy, but then I remember the times we live in and realize that that would be expecting far too much.  But Jesus…hundreds of thousands of original words to choose from and you pull a quote of someone else?

Big ol’ finger to Barnes & Noble.

For what it’s worth, here’s the actual quote from Kesey (as quoted by Wolfe).  It’s long been one of my favorites:

“None of us are going to deny what other people are doing. If saying bullshit is somebody’s thing, then he says bullshit. If somebody is an ass-kicker, then that’s what he’s going to do on this trip, kick asses. He’s going to do it right out front and nobody is going to have anything to get pissed off about. He can just say, ‘I’m sorry I kicked you in the ass, but I’m not sorry I’m an ass-kicker. That’s what I do, I kick people in the ass.’ Everybody is going to be what they are, and whatever they are, there’s not going to be anything to apologize about. What we are, we’re going to wail with on this whole trip.”

Anyway, it’s time for desk whiskey.  Meet you back here soon.

N.P.: “The Garden of Allah” – Don Henley

 

art

Most Literate and Tasteful Reader,

Don’t think I haven’t been thinking about you…I have.  And apologies for the lapses in missives on this end.  Suffice it to say I have been extraordinarily busy.  Regrettably, I can’t tell you with what, but yeah.  I should be writing more regularly here very soon.  In the meantime, I just wanted to say hi.
Hi.
I’ll meet you back here soon.

N.P.: “A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free) – Megadeth

  1. fill er up
I am blaming the current sorry state of the writing on a very poor and ill-advised decision to “experiment” with the desk whiskey.  The usual menu goes something like this: in times of destitution, it’s a bottle of Evan Williams Bourbon, cheap and dirty.  I got into this shit in Seattle when the only way to get hard liquor was from state-run liquor stores that had very temperamental hours and didn’t even pretend to bother on Sundays.  Coming the first commercial distillery in the US, this shit is what the cowboys drink.  It’s American as fuck.  The folks at Evan Williams describe their product as “smooth,” and that’s fine…that’s their job, but this is not smooth: it’s about as harsh as your ex when she finds out you gave her the herp from a ho.
Unfortunately, there has been much destitution in the last decade or so.  Ha.  Writing.  I should have known when I was getting hammered with my editor in Manhattan and he said, ” So…when are you going to make an album and make some real money?”
Anyway, when things are north of destitute, the next step up is Jack Daniels.  Fucking right.  Uncle Jack.  Also American as fuck.  I don’t really have to say anything here: it’s Jack.  Bonus, pro-tip, however: Jack Fire is significantly more smooth than Fireball.
When things are going well, when you are flush, or when you want to write The Greatest Thing Ever, the desk whiskey simply must be Chivas Regal.  Scotch.  From Scotland.  This stuff could be from the moon, it would still be amazing.  (By the way, the moon has really been pissing me off lately.  I’ll get into that another time.)  It’s a blended scotch, which also happens to be the case with this swill I “experimented” with.  But I don’t think this crap was blended using 12-year-old scotch: this stuff was aged for about 10 minutes.

To properly reset the Desk Whiskey scales, the next bottle will be Chivas.  For the sake of the writing.   If I decide to do any more “experimenting” in the future, it would likely involve Four Roses Single Barrel.  If that happens, you’ll be the first to know.

N.P.: “Would That Not Be Nice” – Divine Fits

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I don’t drink coffee, but clearly something had to be done, so I went to one of the 7 coffee shops on the corner. You may not know this, but in Seattle, our coffee is served up by girls in bikinis. It’s nice. I told this particular barista that I was not a coffee drinker, but I also wasn’t the sort of person to be awake during daylight, and could she please help a brother out. She winked at me and said, “Oh, I’ll jack you up,” and concocted this horrible bubbling brew with five shots of something awful in it (I assumed it was whiskey, but in retrospect I don’t think this was the case).

I brought the coffee back up the street and drank it quickly.

Jack me up she did.

It’s been half an hour, and I have removed my shirt, am pacing (actually running) around my apartment gritting my teeth, barking at the balcony squirrels every 3 minutes, and watching documentaries about the Manson Family at inordinate volume. If things don’t improve soon, I am going to march back down there to see if that bikini-clad witch has any thorazine.

You people do this every day? Madness.

N.P.: “Revolution” – Uppermost

sniper

Hello, dearest reader,

And every apology under the sun for what I’m sure you consider my gross negligence of you here.  I can assure you that that is not the case, though I’m sure appearances suggest otherwise.  The truth is I’ve just been busy as hell.  Working on my own projects, things for others…it’s just been a hectic time.  I’m 12 years behind schedule, and catching up can be a bit daunting most days.  But I haven’t forgotten about you.  I’ll have some things here for you soon.

N.P.: “Inheritance” – New Model Army