Charter to Offer Free Broadband Access (60 Days)

I was going to wait until my next Sonic Sunday post to put this out there, but our world hasn’t exactly slowed down to crawl as may be advisable. My department chair has sent this link, which I will be sharing with my students, and here, in case anybody needs to see it.

Charter To Offer Free Access to Spectrum Broadband and Wifi for 60 Days for New K12 and College Student HouseHolds, Etc.

This is not an endorsement of Charter (as we are discovering these days, internet access should not be privatized), but this may be a valuable service to many, so I wanted to pass it along.

Enjoy this whimsical commercial from 1999.

 

Your “Stay Home” Sonic Sunday Spiel

A week ago, when I was writing about the Replacements, I couldn’t have anticipated we’d be here. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the ramifications of this moment in history that’s any better than what Mike Davis wrote (see my previous entry).

Considering how COVID-19 inspired the cancellation of multiple major sporting events, including March Madness, the next few weeks are going to help shift into focus just how necessary many of these “unalienable” institutions truly are. South By Southwest and Coachella both cancelled, and as obvious as the lost revenues will hurt many individual artists and (yes, some) vendors, both events were unquestionably bloated and appeared to have been teetering on the edge of sustainability for years.

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The euphoric experience of seeing New Order in a giant tent at midnight with thousands of other people wasn’t enough to cancel out how there are so many things wrong with this picture. (Coachella, April 2013)

To be fair, I’ve only been to Coachella once and I’ve never made it to SXSW, but the former presented a brutal overuse of already-constricted resources in California’s low desert, and the latter… well, I have many friends who’ve enjoyed attending it, but most of my Austinite friends and musician friends (who actually work or play at South-By) hate it. Mega-events like these represent the late-capitalist culmination of generations of corporate commodification of pop culture. As Simon Frith put it over three decades ago,

The rock era – born around 1956 with Elvis Presley, peaking around 1967 with Sgt Pepper, dying around 1976 with the Sex Pistols – turned out to be a by-way in the development of twentieth-century popular music, rather than, as we thought at the time, any kind of mass-cultural revolution. Rock was a last romantic attempt to preserve ways of music-making… that had been made obsolete by technology and capital (‘Music for Pleasure’ 1988, p. 1).

Cut to: A scene I think about a lot. When I was 18, I stood in the back of the crowd at the Warped Tour Main Stage, watching Henry Rollins scream about how some corporation had the nerve to charge $4 for a soda. Nearby, a young kid grabbed a Gatorade from an ice barrel, and the middle-aged vendor screamed “Hey! Put it back, you little shit.”  Corporate America had co-opted youth culture (again, in another vein), and they were making it increasingly clear that they would only tolerate the youth so long as they kept their cash flowing. It astounds me when people (mainly my age and older) wonder “why kids today don’t care about rock music.” Moreover, I can’t help but imagine that experiences like those accelerated Rollins’ departure from the music business.

As festivals got increasingly abundant, expensive, and bloated, I always wondered where the tipping point would be. Well, here it is. A lot of pundits thought it came in the form of the failure of the Fyre Festival, but (hilarious as it was), that fiasco didn’t appear to result in Goldenvoice and LiveNation stepping back and taking a long, hard, look at what they were doing. All Fyre Festival did was prove that rich idiots were still able to sell snake oil to other rich idiots.


I do not want my propensity to excavate silver linings from the most dire and ahistorical of situations to make light of how the COVID-related halting of certain institutions has already profoundly impacted millions and will likely hit millions more. It is why I will end this post with a series of links to check out to help support those in financial or physical need this month. However, I hope more than anything that those who stand to benefit from this in any way (even in terms of valuable lessons learned), do.

Mike Davis on COVID-19

Few historians (by trade) have been more influential under the Big Top of critical geographical thought (especially the Urban side) than Mike Davis. His book City of Quartz remains one of the most cited cautionary tales about the civic and social costs of privatization, especially considering how he arguably anticipated the 1992 LA Riots.

This essay he wrote came to me via social media, which (as much as I’ve been saying this for years, what with the failure of ‘the global village’ and all) we need to be vigilant about how we use. Under ideal circumstances, yesterday was the peak of what can only be referred to as “a productive hysteria.” The American Association of Geographers announced that their Denver meeting was cancelled, which has changed the layout of my spring a bit (more announcements soon). The NBA announced that their season is being suspended and the NHL is likely taking similar measures. To their benefit, I would absolutely watch a televised sporting event with nobody in the stands (The Three Stooges were out ahead of this 86 years ago, but I digress).

As I said, hopefully, as we learn more about COVID-19 and continue our collective efforts to mitigate its spread, the small bouts of hysteria I’ve witnessed will calm down and people won’t let it ruin their lives. Naturally, the relative paucity of gatekeepers to differentiate between valuable information and thoughtless pablum (mostly in the form of tired, regressive jokes about beer brands and 37 unique of Smash Mouth lyrics under a hand-washing diagram) has diluted what should be a teachable moment. That being said, I do find it ironic that 3/11 was the day for the greater public to suggest that we DO stay home, but again, I digress. Maybe there is something in using humor to battle something we might feel powerless against (not that it hasn’t been a primary function of comedy for thousands of years).

Without further ado, here is Mike Davis discussing important points about COVID-19 in light of the 21st century’s precarious balance of resources, growing population, and neoliberalism. Enjoy and feel free to pass it along or share your thoughts.


COVID -19 is finally the monster at the door. Researchers are working night and day to characterize the outbreak but they are faced with three huge challenges. First the continuing shortage or unavailability of test kits has vanquished all hope of containment. Moreover it is preventing accurate estimates of key parameters such as reproduction rate, size of infected population and number of benign infections. The result is a chaos of numbers.

There is, however, more reliable data on the virus’s impact on certain groups in a few countries. It is very scary. Italy, for example, reports a staggering 23 per cent death rate among those over 65; in Britain the figure is now 18 per cent. The ‘corona flu’ that Trump waves off is an unprecedented danger to geriatric populations, with a potential death toll in the millions.

Second, like annual influenzas, this virus is mutating as it courses through populations with different age compositions and acquired immunities. The variety that Americans are most likely to get is already slightly different from that of the original outbreak in Wuhan. Further mutation could be trivial or could alter the current distribution of virulence which ascends with age, with babies and small children showing scant risk of serious infection while octogenarians face mortal danger from viral pneumonia.

Third, even if the virus remains stable and little mutated, its impact on under-65 age cohorts can differ radically in poor countries and amongst high poverty groups. Consider the global experience of the Spanish flu in 1918-19 which is estimated to have killed 1 to 2 per cent of humanity. In contrast to the corona virus, it was most deadly to young adults and this has often been explained as a result of their relatively stronger immune systems which overreacted to infection by unleashing deadly ‘cytokine storms’ against lung cells. The original H1N1 notoriously found a favored niche in army camps and battlefield trenches where it scythed down young soldiers down by the tens of thousands. The collapse of the great German spring offensive of 1918, and thus the outcome of the war, has been attributed to the fact that the Allies, in contrast to their enemy, could replenish their sick armies with newly arrived American troops.

It is rarely appreciated, however, that fully 60 per cent of global mortality occurred in western India where grain exports to Britain and brutal requisitioning practices coincided with a major drought. Resultant food shortages drove millions of poor people to the edge of starvation. They became victims of a sinister synergy between malnutrition, which suppressed their immune response to infection, and rampant bacterial and viral pneumonia. In another case, British-occupied Iran, several years of drought, cholera, and food shortages, followed by a widespread malaria outbreak, preconditioned the death of an estimated fifth of the population.

This history – especially the unknown consequences of interactions with malnutrition and existing infections – should warn us that COVID-19 might take a different and more deadly path in the slums of Africa and South Asia. The danger to the global poor has been almost totally ignored by journalists and Western governments. The only published piece that I’ve seen claims that because the urban population of West Africa is the world’s youngest, the pandemic should have only a mild impact. In light of the 1918 experience, this is a foolish extrapolation. No one knows what will happen over the coming weeks in Lagos, Nairobi, Karachi, or Kolkata. The only certainty is that rich countries and rich classes will focus on saving themselves to the exclusion of international solidarity and medical aid. Walls not vaccines: could there be a more evil template for the future?

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A year from now we may look back in admiration at China’s success in containing the pandemic but in horror at the USA’s failure. (I’m making the heroic assumption that China’s declaration of rapidly declining transmission is more or less accurate.) The inability of our institutions to keep Pandora’s Box closed, of course, is hardly a surprise. Since 2000 we’ve repeatedly seen breakdowns in frontline healthcare.

The 2018 flu season, for instance, overwhelmed hospitals across the country, exposing the shocking shortage of hospital beds after twenty years of profit-driven cutbacks of in-patient capacity (the industry’s version of just-in-time inventory management). Private and charity hospital closures and nursing shortages, likewise enforced by market logic, have devastated health services in poorer communities and rural areas, transferring the burden to underfunded public hospitals and VA facilities. ER conditions in such institutions are already unable to cope with seasonal infections, so how will they cope with an imminent overload of critical cases?

We are in the early stages of a medical Katrina. Despite years of warnings about avian flu and other pandemics, inventories of basic emergency equipment such as respirators aren’t sufficient to deal with the expected flood of critical cases. Militant nurses unions in California and other states are making sure that we all understand the grave dangers created by inadequate stockpiles of essential protective supplies like N95 face masks. Even more vulnerable because invisible are the hundreds of thousands of low-wage and overworked homecare workers and nursing home staff.

The nursing home and assisted care industry which warehouses 2.5 million elderly Americans – most of them on Medicare – has long been a national scandal. According to the New York Times, an incredible 380,000 nursing home patients die every year from facilities’ neglect of basic infection control procedures. Many homes – particularly in Southern states – find it cheaper to pay fines for sanitary violations than to hire additional staff and provide them with proper training. Now, as the Seattle example warns, dozens, perhaps hundreds more nursing homes will become coronavirus hotspots and their minimum-wage employees will rationally choose to protect their own families by staying home. In such a case the system could collapse and we shouldn’t expect the National Guard to empty bedpans.

The outbreak has instantly exposed the stark class divide in healthcare: those with good health plans who can also work or teach from home are comfortably isolated provided they follow prudent safeguards. Public employees and other groups of unionized workers with decent coverage will have to make difficult choices between income and protection. Meanwhile millions of low wage service workers, farm employees, uncovered contingent workers, the unemployed and the homeless will be thrown to the wolves. Even if Washington ultimately resolves the testing fiasco and provides adequate numbers of kits, the uninsured will still have to pay doctors or hospitals for administrating the tests. Overall family medical bills will soar at the same time that millions of workers are losing their jobs and their employer-provided insurance. Could there possibly be a stronger, more urgent case in favor of Medicare for All?

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But universal coverage is only a first step. It’s disappointing, to say the least, that in the primary debates neither Sanders or Warren has highlighted Big Pharma’s abdication of the research and development of new antibiotics and antivirals. Of the 18 largest pharmaceutical companies, 15 have totally abandoned the field. Heart medicines, addictive tranquilizers and treatments for male impotence are profit leaders, not the defenses against hospital infections, emergent diseases and traditional tropical killers. A universal vaccine for influenza – that is to say, a vaccine that targets the immutable parts of the virus’s surface proteins – has been a possibility for decades but never a profitable priority.

As the antibiotic revolution is rolled back, old diseases will reappear alongside novel infections and hospitals will become charnel houses. Even Trump can opportunistically rail against absurd prescription costs, but we need a bolder vision that looks to break up the drug monopolies and provide for the public production of lifeline medicines. (This used to be the case: during World War Two, the Army enlisted Jonas Salk and other researchers to develop the first flu vaccine.) As I wrote fifteen years ago in my book The Monster at Our Door – The Global Threat of Avian Flu:

Access to lifeline medicines, including vaccines, antibiotics, and antivirals, should be a human right, universally available at no cost. If markets can’t provide incentives to cheaply produce such drugs, then governments and non-profits should take responsibility for their manufacture and distribution. The survival of the poor must at all times be accounted a higher priority than the profits of Big Pharma.

The current pandemic expands the argument: capitalist globalization now appears to biologically unsustainable in the absence of a truly international public health infrastructure. But such an infrastructure will never exist until peoples’ movements break the power of Big Pharma and for-profit healthcare.

Recommended Reading: ‘The Revenge of Analog’ by David Sax

512bolgqtoilWhen I was visiting DC in November, my friend and I were preemptively reminiscing about how we’ll remember the 2010’s. I said, from where I sit, it seems like where the 2000’s were the decade of us spelunking into the technical possibilities of the digital century, and the 2010’s were the decade of humans reckoning with affiliated dangers (some more evident than others) and escaping the vortex when they could. Resistance, when it boiled down, was so much more than just a buzz word related to people upset at the actions of an administration or particular politicians. To me, it’s about resilience and breaking punching through the wall of a near-Orwellian dynamic of cultural conformity – the kind of society where I got ridiculed for (get this) paying for music in 2005, or daring to use an iPhone 4 in 2016.

Of course, it’s hard to see these trends in action. They’re only observable in terms of, for example, physical book and turntable/vinyl sales, which are still both arguably niche markets. But their meaning and importance transcend those niches, and then some. The process of digital detox is an intensely individual, private phenomenon. One cannot easily observe people cancelling their Facebook or Twitter accounts, and (let’s be honest) the ones who post publicly about plans to do so are usually back around in a week or two.

I just finished David Sax’s 2016 book The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only is Sax a very (very, very) good writer and journalist, but at least once every few pages, he made a point that hit me like a ton of bricks. This paragraph did, in particular, considering the wastelands of digital detritus I’ve spent much of the past month sifting through to find some old photos across at least 4 different hard drives:

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Writing this out now, I think one of the greatest victories of Sax’ book is how it helps me realize how easy it is to just take stock of all the great analog businesses in my life and realize that I’m not alone.

By the way, to paraphrase Sideshow Bob, I’m aware of the irony of taking a digital picture of a block of text in an analog book to post on the internet in order to prove a point, so don’t bother pointing that out.

The Decade in Music

In case anybody cares…. [deep breath]:

SonicGeography: 10 Favorite Records of the Decade

MY 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF THE 2010’S

  1. Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven (2011, Swami)
  2. Turnover – Peripheral Vision (2015, Run for Cover)
  3. Daddy Issues – Deep Dream (2017, Infinity Cat)
  4. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want (2018, Ipecac)
  5. Suede – Night Thoughts (2016, Warner Music UK)
  6. Touché Amoré – Stage Four (2016, Epitaph)
  7. Makthaverskan – II (2015, Run for Cover)
  8. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (2012, Top Dawg)
  9. Rival Schools – Pedals (2010, Photo Finish)
  10. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (2012, Fool’s Gold)

(And While We’re Here… my REDUX Top Ten Albums of the Century)

  1. Good Luck – Into Lake Griffy (2008, No Idea)
  2. The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle (2004, One Little Indian)
  3. Frodus – And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea (2001, Fueled by Ramen)
  4. Blur – Think Tank (2003, EMI)
  5. Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven (2012, Swami)
  6. Turnover – Peripheral Vision (2015, Run for Cover)
  7. The Ergs! – dorkrockcorkrod (2004, Whoa Oh)
  8. Piebald – We Are the Only Friends That We Have* (2002, Big Wheel Recreation)
  9. Sondre Lerche – Faces Down (2002)
  10. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound* (2008, SideOneDummy)
*This album was released between 2000-2009 but did not appear on my ’25 Albums of the Decade’ list in 2009. I love it now, though.

60 TOP SONGS OF THE DECADE

(Arbitary Rules: One Song per Artist, Nothing from my Top 10 Albums. I linked a bunch of them but I got tired, and I have confidence your collective ability to google.)

  1. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl” (2016)
  2. Robyn – “Dancing on my Own” (2010)
  3. BIG HUGE – “Carnal Pleasure” (2015)
  4. Taylor Swift – “Style” (2014)
  5. Basement – “Crickets Throw Their Voice” (2011)
  6. Ash – “Annabel” (2018)
  7. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Your Type” (2015)
  8. PUP – “DVP” (2016)
  9. The Arcade Fire – “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” (2010)
  10. The Smith Street Band – “Ducks Fly Together” (2013)
  11. Future Islands – “Vireo’s Eye” (2010)
  12. Swearin’ – “Just” (2012)
  13. Blur – “Ong Ong” (2015)
  14. Bob Bucko Jr. – “Heavenly Routine” (2015) – top instrumental
  15. Ex-Gold – “I’m a Man” (2014 technically)
  16. The Varsity Weirdos – “No Life on Planet Mars” (2015)
  17. Ex Hex – “Waterfall” (2014)
  18. White Reaper – “Pills” (2014)
  19. Teenage Bottlerocket – “They Call Me Steve” (2015)
  20. Suede – “It Starts and Ends with You” (2013)
  21. Gorillaz – “On Melancholy Hill” (2010)
  22. Big Boi – “Shutterbugg” (2010)
  23. Merchandise – “True Monument” (2014)
  24. Aesop Rock – “Kirby” (2016)
  25. Direct Hit! – “Werewolf Shame” (2012)
  26. Radon – “Headaches and Bullshit” (2017)
  27. Kanye West – “Runaway” (2010)
  28. Foxing – “The Medic” (2013)
  29. Billy Cobb – “1955” (2018)
  30. Smidley – “Power Word Kill” (2017)
  31. ALVVAYS – “Lollipop (Ode to Jim)” (2018)
  32. The Gaslight Anthem – “’45” (2012)
  33. Kacey Musgraves – “Space Cowboy” (2018)
  34. Jason Derulo – “Want to Want Me” (2015)
  35. Loud Boyz – “4 the Ladies” (2014)
  36. Nothing – “Blue Line Baby” (2018)
  37. Pinback – “Proceed to Memory” (2012)
  38. Mogwai – “We’re Not Done (End Title)” (2018)
  39. Royal Headache – “High” (2016)
  40. Saves the Day – “Beyond All of Time” (2013)
  41. Alex Cameron – “Candy May” (2017)
  42. FIDLAR – “No Waves” (2013)
  43. Paramore – “Rose Colored Boy” (2017)
  44. Teenage Exorcists – “Love Buzz” (2010)
  45. Danny Brown ft. Purity Ring – “25 Bucks” (2014)
  46. Drug Church – “Tillary” (2018)
  47. Against Me! – “Crash” (2016)
  48. Walter Schriefels – “Open Letter” (2010)
  49. The Rentals – “It’s Time to Come Home” (2015)
  50. Sorority Noise – “No Halo” (2017)
  51. Weezer – “California Kids” (2016)
  52. The Sidekicks – “Everything in Twos” (2014)
  53. AJJ – “Kokopelli Face Tattoo” (2014)
  54. Plow United – “Bright Eyes” (2016)
  55. Cullen Omori – “Cinnamon” (2016)
  56. American Football ft. Hayley Williams – “Uncomfortably Numb” (2019)
  57. Hot Chip – “One Life Stand” (2010)
  58. Tender Defender – “FEFE” (2015)
  59. Bleachers – “I Wanna Get Better” (2015)
  60. Post Malone – “Sunflower” (2018)

TEN BEST LIVE PERFORMANCES I SAW THIS DECADE

  1. Davila 666 (Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, 09/09/11)
  2. Lipstick Homicide (Media Club, Vancouver, 07/20/13)
  3. VOIID (The Tote, Melbourne, 7/13/19)
  4. King Kong (The Pilot Light, Knoxville, 11/12/2016)
  5. Merchandise (Ace of Cups, Columbus, 6/7/2013)
  6. Direct Hit! (Surprise Gig, Allston, MA, 4/6/17)
  7. The Dismemberment Plan Weekend (Washington, DC, Jan. 2011)
  8. Mdou Moctar (The Pilot Light, Knoxville, 1/13/19)
  9. Hot Chip (Coachella, April 2013)
  10. Ex Hex (Athens PopFest, May 2018)

THREE FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEOS

Dan Deacon – ‘True Thrush’ (2012)

Suede – ‘Life is Golden’ (2018)

Julien Baker – ‘Sprained Ankle’ (2015)

 

 

 

Of Course Geography Matters (Nathan Rabin)

There was an instant chemistry between us [strangers at a Phish concert], both because we were fucked up and because we were all from the Midwest. I had once believed that the Internet had rendered geography irrelevant. If you can send ideas and energy out into the world, then why should it matter where you are physically?

That now seems naïve. Of course geography matters. Cities matter. Cities get in your bloodstream. They tell you who you are. They’re in your soul. They define you.

Nathan Rabin, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes. 2013, Scribner.

Really enjoying this book.

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MetroTimes.com

Recommended Sunday Reading & Viewing

Happy Sunday. It’s a rainy and cold day here in Michigan, and I’m taking advantage of that to catch up on a few things I’ve neglected over the past couple of weeks. I don’t have time to write a proper entry (yet) about my Ben Irving Postcard searching in Detroit, but it was a successful start. In the meantime, I wanted to signal-boost a great article in Sports Illustrated and a great new documentary. I don’t know how valuable my endorsement here is, but I wanted to at least commend the respective producers for jobs well done from this geographer’s perspective.

Recommended Reading : THIS IS BRAVES COUNTRY / THIS WAS BRAVES COUNTRY

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I’ll be honest; I subscribed to Sports Illustrated following the Caps’ Stanley Cup victory so I could get an Ovechkin print and a limited-edition Washington Capitals Collectors’ edition. I only care about a few sports, and my short list doesn’t include the gambling-heavy ones the magazine usually focuses on.  All that being said, Sports Illustrated deserves a LOT of credit for elevating their topical writing and specialized coverage in an age when some magazines (which shall remain nameless) have turned into tabloids in an act of desperation to retain physical sales. For one thing, their 2019 swimsuit issue made a point to feature an ethnically and physically diverse set of models, focus on the models’ lives and thoughts, and address the elephant in the room about why the swimsuit edition even exists.

For another thing, the latest issue (October 7th, 2019) includes an excellent article about race, class, and baseball in Atlanta. Brian Burnsed takes a critical look at how the Braves’ move from Fulton County to Cobb County is not only a gigantic middle-finger to the team’s middle- and under-class African-American fans, but also microcosmic of Atlanta’s accelerating privatization and segmentation of population along racial and political lines in its unyielding sprawl. Though several of my best friends live there, I would never consider Atlanta among my favorite American cities, and I’m hardly familiar with the MLS stars Atlanta United, but Burnsed’s article makes me want nothing more than to go and hang out with the team’s fans in “the Gulch.” I had the “privilege” of going to a Braves game at Suntrust Park last season, and (to give the most insightful, academic analysis) it sucked. We parked in a lot adjacent to an office park, paraded over one mile with thousands through at least one or two other office parks, and sat in a sea of fans who, following a spirited video of Jason Aldean telling them to do so, did the tomahawk chop (in 2018). It’s all disenchanting, and a little dispiriting, particularly considering the angry letters I’m sure SI is receiving from “100% not racist” white Braves fans in the wealthy, season-ticket holding pockets of Cobb County upset that Sports Illustrated had to “make everything about politics.” I’d be interested in seeing what happens when Atlanta beefs up and privatizes the Gulch around Mercedes-Benz stadium.

Recommended Viewing: PUNK THE CAPITAL, BUILDING A SOUND MOVEMENT IN WASHINGTON DC (1976-1984)

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The post-screening Q&A panel for Capitals of Punk. (L-R) Moderator Otto Buj, Andy Wendler (The Necros), director James June Schneider, Tesco Vee (The Meatmen/Touch & Go zine), Jeff Nelson (Minor Threat/3/Dischord Records).

Though I’m still processing the fact that it happened in the first place, on my way out of Detroit, I stumbled upon a screening of James June Schneider’s new Punk the Capital documentary at Third Man Records. I met James a few summers ago when I was in DC to do some zine research for my dissertation, so I wanted to say hi and congratulate him on completing the thing. I knew that the film’s release had been delayed for some years. On Friday night, I found out that he had been working on it for over 15 years, and it showed.

Punk the Capital is a MASTERPIECE, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t think I had seen as much as five seconds of the footage, most of which came from Paul Bishow’s treasure-trove of Super 8 footage from the proverbial ‘back in the day.’ I can’t remember the last time a documentary made me smile and tap my foot this much, and in a strange way, it made me feel even more validated in devoting so much of my own life to studying and writing on how harDCore has seismically changed the world.

Also, the Q&A was a lot of fun, replete with stories from the handful of punk legends sitting on the stage. Tesco Vee mentioned the latest price tag he spotted on one of those /100 Necros Sex Drive EPs on eBay: $5,300. That’s not a typo. Five thousand and three hundred dollars. Good luck if you spot one for sale and have a 401k sitting around you can cash out.

James was joking with me after the screening that he and I would be competing on google now. I don’t imagine that will actually happen, but on the off chance somebody stumbles onto this website or Capitals of Punk, I’ll copy and paste the slew of upcoming Punk the Capital screenings here, in case you’re in one of these cities so you can drop whatever plans you have to go see the film (if isn’t already sold out).

  • October 13th, Milwaukee WI, Real TinselQ and A with Jeff Nelson ( Dischord Records / Minor Threat ) and filmmaker(s)
  • October 14th, Kansas City MO, Record BarQ&A with Jeff Nelson ( Dischord Records / Minor Threat ) and filmmaker(s) – co sponsored by Oddities Prints!
  • October 15th, Iowa City IA, Film Scene Q&A with Jeff Nelson ( Dischord Records / Minor Threat ) and filmmaker(s)
  • October 16th, Omaha NE, The Union for Contemporary Art Q and A with Jeff Nelson ( Dischord Records / Minor Threat ) and filmmaker(s)
  • October 17th, Denver CO, Aztlan Theatre 7:30 pm – no advance sales 
  • October 18th Reno NV, (flash screening! TBA)
  • October 19th, San Francisco CA, Artists Television Access Q and A with Chris Stover (Void), filmmaker(s) + bonus Void short film!
  • October 20th, Oakland CA, Land and Sea Q and A with Chris Stover (Void) and filmmaker(s) + bonus Void short film!
  • October 21st, Los Angeles CA, The Regent Q and A with Henry Rollins, filmmaker(s) and others moderated by Ian Svenonius
  • October 23rd, Tucson AZ, The Screening Room Q and A with co-director James June Schneider
  • October 24th, El Paso TX, Alamo Cinema Drafthouse (listing TBA) Q and A with co-director James June Schneider
  • Phoenix AZ, October 26th, Film Bar, Facebook Q and A with co-director James June Schneider
  • October 27th, Albuquerque NM, The Tannex, Facebook Q and A with co-director James June Schneider
  • October 28, Tulsa OK, Circle Cinema (POSTPONED BY VENUE!)
  • October 29, Memphis TN, (flash screening! TBA)
  • October 30th, Asheville NC, Grail Moviehouse – Q and A with filmmaker (s)
  • November 9, Washington DC area, AFI Q&A with filmmaker(s) and special guests TBA
  • November 10, Washington DC area, AFI Q&A with filmmaker(s) and special guests TBA
  • November 11,Washington DC area, AFI Q&A with filmmaker(s) and special guests TBA
  • November 17, Leeds, UK, Leeds International Film Festival
  • November 19, Leeds, UK, Leeds International Film Festival
  • November 23rd, Amsterdam NL, Occii

NOW AVAILABLE: “Capitals of Punk: DC, Paris, and Circulation in the Urban Underground”

Happy Almost-Summer, everyone! As you may have noticed, I added this to the sidebar widgets here, but I hadn’t taken a moment on this blog to properly announce… [drum-roll, fireworks, and elaborate Busby Berkeley-derived dance sequence] I have a book out!

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It was released earlier this month on Palgrave MacMillan Press. Special thanks to my editor Josh Pitt in Melbourne (who should be no stranger to anybody who’s been on this site over the past month), as well as to Sophie Li in Shanghai for an awesome cover, as well as to Karthiga Ramu and the whole copy editing team in India. I never suspected the academic publication process would be that globetrotting, but that’s the 21st century for you and an added bonus to an already great experience.

Early reviews I’ve read of the book have been humbling and flattering, both in the best way. I’m grateful that this project, which began in earnest ages ago, has finally coalesced and brought so many people together who factored into this story.  As Palgrave enumerates on their website, the book includes exclusive new interviews with music legends like Ian MacKaye (Fugazi, Minor Threat, Dischord Records), Craig Wedren (Shudder to Think), and Cynthia Connolly (Banned in DC) as well as a number of key characters in the growth of French punk. It also features over thirty photos of this slice of punk history, many of which are exclusive, never-before-seen images. 

You or your library (please tell your library!) can purchase Capitals of Punk in hardcover or as an ePub/Annotated PDF from Palgrave at their official marketplace here.  Here is the synopsis via Palgrave’s website:

Capitals of Punk tells the story of Franco-American circulation of punk music, politics, and culture, focusing on the legendary Washington, DC hardcore punk scene and its less-heralded counterpart in Paris. This book tells the story of how the underground music scenes of two major world cities have influenced one another over the past fifty years.  This book compiles exclusive accounts across multiple eras from a long list of iconic punk musicians, promoters, writers, and fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Through understanding how and why punk culture circulated, it tells a greater story of (sub)urban blight, the nature of counterculture, and the street-level dynamics of that centuries-old relationship between France and the United States.

If you would like to review the book or have me as a guest on your radio show or podcast, I’d be happy to do it. Please get in touch at SONICGEOGRAPHY [AT] GMAIL or (+1) 865 974 6033.  You can contact Palgrave via the page linked above.

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Condition: Jawbreaker

41o2-subljl-_sx364_bo1204203200_I recently read Ronen Givony’s book on Jawbreaker’s 1994 album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy (Bloomsbury 33 1/3 series), which I highly recommend to anybody interested in the pre-internet circulation of underground music. While it’s so easy to wax poetic and nostalgic about 20th century pop culture, Givony illuminates the dark side of that era. The backlash that Jawbreaker faced for signing to a major label was downright savage. As many of their friends and colleagues have implied, it would likely not have mattered if it had happened five years earlier or later; the conditions in 1995 were just right for righteous indignation among their fans.  The Dismemberment Plan, who I’ve focused a lot of my music writing on, followed a similar early-to-the-party/first-to-leave timeline (though it took Jawbreaker 21 years to reunite, whereas the Plan reunited in earnest within 8).

Givony’s Jawbreaker story made my jaw drop exactly twice.

1979970_700682193307329_4809697842692758554_oFirst, I was genuinely amazed to discover that their bassist Chris Bauermeister went to high school in my hometown. He grew up in a German-speaking household in Connecticut and attended a prep school in Madison that closed down in 1991. I only have vague memories of the school; my mom recently told me she voted in the town’s referendum on whether to purchase the property (with the school building on it). I didn’t have any real overlap with Chris, who graduated and moved away to New York in 1985, the year before my family moved to town. Still, it’s a remarkable coincidence considering how (1) I always considered Jawbreaker to be a quintessential San Francisco band, and (2) I tended to assume nothing cool ever came out of my hometown. It’s taken half a lifetime away, a PhD dissertation, and some sprinkled-in hindsight to realize how wrong I was about that. Also, the youngest person to graduate from Hammonasset is in their mid-forties now.

Second, in the middle of a “get off my lawn” screed about the contemporary state of the music industry, Givony drops an incisive observation that I think bears block-quoting here (emphasis mine):

In the music and media industries today, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a band in possession of a good single must be in want of a fortune. In a time when almost no one still buys albums, and tens of thousands of streams will earn a band pennies, the reasoning goes, artists deserve to get paid any way they can manage, and rightly so. Who are we to blame them if the only people still paying musicians their true worth are corporate advertising and branding companies? It’s a difficult claim with which to argue, which is why almost no one ever still does.

As much as I balked at the assertion that “almost no one still buys albums” (pressing plants wouldn’t be backed up to hell if that were true), this bold statement hit me like a ton of bricks. The idea that musicians can only make a healthy living through licensing (title idea: Better Living through Licensing) has been analyzed comprehensively at this point. Todd in the Shadows broke it down beautifully in this video late last year. However, the specific angle that corporations were the only ones either capable of (or willing to) pay musicians their true worth has been banging around in my head for days. I am steadfast that Google and Spotify have both been instrumental in institutionally and purposefully devaluing music to create a paradox in which artists would be beholden to them. I’m aware that music piracy on the internet long pre-dates either of those companies, and label heads were freaking out over cassette tapes much more in 1987 than they were over MP3.com in 1997 (Thanks, Telecom Act!). Regardless, whether people want to pay for music is not the issue. That so many people feel entitled to not pay for music, or even own it, is noteworthy. Then again, this is nothing new, and people have still not slowed at creating art. Artists, as Marshall McLuhan wrote in 1964, always have the advantage since they are sitting at the point of creation:

In the history of human culture there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists. The artist picks up the message of cultural and technological challenge decades before its transforming impact occurs.

We can’t travel back to the point in time when 24 Hour Revenge Therapy was created, but fortunately the internet has enabled the next best thing: virtual flânerie! Here is some Super-8 footage that Adam Pfahler found of the trio driving around their adopted neighborhood in 1992. Just like Jawbreaker encapsulated the pre-internet era of underground America in their music, this video does well to provide a peek into pre-Google, pre-Facebook San Francisco, when the Mission was cheap and bursting with potential. Also, it gives “Boxcar” the long-overdue music video it deserves.

New Release: Entry on Ethnographic Research in the SAGE Encyclopedia of the Internet

51oe9xjvafl-_sx385_bo1204203200_I was invited to contribute a passage on Ethnographic Research and the Internet in the brand new SAGE Encyclopedia of the Internet (B. Warf, Ed.). It just hit the SAGE online portal this week, and my entry is located on pp. 363-366 in the print edition.

If your institution has library access to the volume (which they should… this is the SAGE Encyclopedia we’re talking about), then you can just search under my name within the book, or find it via direct link here.

Thanks to Dr. Barney Warf for inviting me to contribute, and thanks to Dr. Michael Semen for recommending me to Barney.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! I will post some updates on a few projects when I have the chance soon.