December 6, 2013
"Everybody's dancing tributes 'cross the world tonight..."
That's a line from "Madiba," a song we wrote, recorded and uploaded to the world yesterday -- the day we lost Nelson Mandela.
"Except darkhearts stuck in the past/scared of the hopes of the free" the verse concludes. See, no one in 2013 wants to admit they didn't dig Mandela. Today, we are all Nelson Mandela.
As we should be.
But we weren't back when it mattered.
U.S. foreign policy worked to un-do the African National Congress and the ANC's military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe ("Spear Of The Nation"). Dick Cheney voted in Congress against a resolution calling for Mandela's release from prison. Margaret Thatcher was notoriously opposed to the freedom struggles throughout Africa in the 1980s. The CIA provided intelligence to the South African security forces that led to Mandela's arrest.
The list is long.
Maybe time heals all wounds, including the political kind. Virtually every public figure is toeing the Mandela Is My Hero line. But politicians and celebrities know an easy stand when they see it.
In the 1970s and '80s, it wasn't this way at all. Mandela joined the ANC in the early '60s. He teamed with other young bulls like Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. They were fierce and brash and impatient with the ANC's stodgy timidity. Incorporating Marxism, Che's guerrilla tactics and pan-African freedom, Mandela pushed for militancy. He was one of the creators and leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and while the group's armed struggle didn't reach the militarism of, say, the IRA or the U.S. colonial army, it did up the ante.
Today, the day after Mandela's passing, we hear little about his militancy. Rather, it's his forgivingness, his refusal to hate, the notion of redemption for the oppressors. All wonderful things, the best of humanity. They were also the things that helped keep South Africa from really exploding in early '90s, when the nation was on the brink of a conflict parts civil, race and class war.
Mandela, though, doesn't get to be this great man without the militancy.
And we don't get to sit here, misty eyed, ruminating about the grand man without the activism of so many a generation ago. Mandela didn't do it alone, and he knew it better than any of the rest of us.
If you were a lefty in the '80s, fighting apartheid was part of your everyday existence -- along with the battles against nukes (weapons and power plants), the U.S.'s intervention in Central America, Reaganism, the decimation of unions, and a passel of other attacks on the easily attackable.
"Sun City," by Artists United Against Apartheid, is one example of cultural activism at its best. Organized by Steve Van Zandt, it was one of those 1980s all-star benefit songs. Except this one wasn't treacly awkward crap like "We Are The World" and "Do They Know It's Christmas." It wasn't all wealthy white rock-star saviorism. "Sun City" was a six-track EP that featured '80s rappers, jazz artists like Miles Davis, salsa greats Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades, older soul singers like David Ruffin and Darlene Love, and a wide range of rockers who were grittier and more determined to change the world.
Watching the video, one sees the vibrancy of the anti-apartheid movement. No one feels obligated to be there -- they want to be there. There's no self-consciousness about thrusting their fists into the sky.
A band I was in at the time, The Service, put on a benefit to raise money for groups fighting apartheid. That was in 1984. We got bands we knew from the Lower East Side to play, including the False Prophets and other punk stalwarts. One of the False Prophets invited the great Matt Jones, a '60s civil-rights-era singer, to play a few songs. His version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" brought down the house.
Playing benefits to fight apartheid was as natural for musicians back then as growing beards and singing about water-logged romance is today.
It was a different time. Every time is a different time. We needn't have left the activism behind, though.
The day Mandela was released was euphoric. For as long as I could remember, Nelson Mandela looked like this:
And then, one night in February 1990, my girlfriend and I got home and a few minutes later switched on the 11 o'clock news (it might have been Bill Beutel on Channel 7 in New York, but it was a Saturday night, so maybe not). The broadcast opened with an odd thing -- a grainy flash-lit photo of an old white man and an old black man. In a split second, the mystery cascaded into astonishment.
I instantly recognized F.W. de Klerk, the Afrikaaner leader of South Africa. Then, the black man. It was Mandela, gray haired and thinner than he was the last we'd seen him. The enormity of it blended with the voiceover -- "This, the first we have seen of Nelson Mandela in 27 years." I reached for something to hold onto, but I was in the center of the room and just stumbled a bit. "The South African president, F.W. de Klerk, announced tonight that Mr. Mandela will be released from prison tomorrow."
I put my hands to my face and started to shake. It was a bolt out of the blue. We'd learn much later that it had been in the works for a long time -- months, perhaps years. At that moment, it was an astonishing, grand and wholly unexpected victory -- the kind that people fighting the status quo never experience with such clarity and euphoria.
The next day was a Sunday. I got up early, watched Mandela walk out of prison -- actually, up a long road to the prison's outer-most security booth. I recorded an instrumental music piece between the release and Mandela's first speech as a free man on the steps of Cape Town City Hall. I had to do something while waiting for the speech. Music was it.
It was hard to fathom that he was free. After the speech I grafted excerpts onto the instrumental I'd recorded earlier, and the next day mailed a cassette to the local Pacifica radio station WBAI. They played it once.
It was a very hopeful day.
A few months later I got to see Mandela at Yankee Stadium. Got to sit close, too -- working at Human Rights Watch had its benefits. It was a night of celebration. I even forgave Mandela for wearing a Yankee cap and and jacket. So recently free and already willing to cozy up to an oppressor he'd just met. See, even I cold forgive such a transgression.
Of course, he made up for it later on:
Now he's gone. His death wasn't a cold-water immersion. Madiba had been on one of the longer death-bed watches in some time. He was 95. Still, when you love someone, no matter how much you know it's time for them to go, it's sad. Many of us are in grief mode. The famous people, the ones who get quoted, have had months to prepare their tidy soundbites.
The best we can do now is to follow Mandela's legacy. That blend of militancy and kindness, determination and joy, steely dedication to the cause and mirthful embrace of the people we meet. These semingly contradictory elements go hand in hand if we let them. I don't agree with carte-blanche forgiveness. Evil doers know that they're doing evil. Apartheid wasn't a crime of passion. Its shocking cruelty was well-thought-out state violence against millions of people. It was done for commerce, for a misbegotten heritage, and at a certain point, because those practicing apartheid became scared shitless. That led to bigger hammers, more fear, and so on.
Still, I love Nelson Mandela. He was the greatest big-time leader of our lives. No one can even approach his story, his leadership, his insistence on sticking with the program, his strength and his joy.
Perhaps the worst part of Mandela's passing is that there's no one out there to take his place. Maybe a toddler or middle-schooler in the unwritten history of the future. But of all the world's current leaders, no. Not even close.
Great leaders are only great because of the people they lead. That means that we, the masses, aren't giving leaders any reason to climb aboard the nearest soapbox and start leading. There are issues and campaigns and freedom struggles still. There always will be.
Somehow, though, we -- you and I -- have abdicated the notion of getting involved, of fighting, and seeing others in worse shape and not finding ways to help. We live in a shockingly depoliticized time. Upheaval and calm are cyclical patterns, but it doesn't mean upheaval will get here without us showing it the way.
Madiba, the freedom road will guide you home. You're in our hearts tonight.
November 30, 2013
Beethoven, it turns out, was a cantankerous punk rocker. He fought with musicians in orchestras he was conducting and wrote passages that were too fast to play. He wanted the soloists to play with fire in their hearts, and if they skipped a few notes, it was okay as long as the emotional maelstrom of his music came across.
Radiolab had a feature this week, Speedthoven, on the composer's late-in-life compositions, his deafness, and the long-standing myth that his metronome was busted.
Spoiler: it wasn't.
November 29, 2013
There's a musical on Broadway called Kinky Boots. It's about a square, conservative business owner who ends up joining forces with an extravagant transvestite and -- BINGO! -- the company is a big success. The underlying message is tolerance, acceptance and kindness. It's this year's Hairspray. Bright, happy, self-referentially gaudy, fun, and...the aforementioned tolerance-and-acceptance message.
On the telecast for yesterday's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the cast of Kinky Boots did their thing.
Some seriously mean conservatives didn't dig it.
Here's a sample tweet from someone named Jenni Blockey: "I'm no prude but Kinky Boots is part of the parade? That made for some awkward learning experiences for kids today." Another frightened crusader, a certain Jonathan Becker, tweeted "[n]ow I have to explain 'Kinky Boots' to my kids. Thanks, Macy's."
Yeah, so sad for Jenni and Jonathan. How "awkward" and "hard" it must be to explain those awful concepts of "equality" and "fairness" and "fighting prejudice" to the little ones. Next thing you know, the holidays will start in on crap like "good will toward men" and "peace."
What's the world coming to?
It seems the far tougher job will be explaining those things to Jenni and Jonathan. Message to the rest of us: good luck with that.
'Tis the season, alas...
November 28, 2013
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Thanksgiving scribings can be full of clichés and maudlin sentiments. No matter how pure, heartfelt and genuine, it feels like a confessional reading all the things columnists, bloggers, and radio-interviewed people are thankful for.
Even the notion of ghettoizing mass thankfulness into the fourth Thursday of November is weirdly constricting. Are we blithely ignorant of our good fortune and friends the rest of the year?
This is not to disabuse folks of the notion of being thankful. Goodness knows we are, for all manner of things having to do with family, friends, our fortunate outcomes and close brushes, and of course the band.
It's fair to ask, though, if we're not being appreciative enough the rest of the year. Whether it's awards shows, religious contemplation or Thanksgiving, we seem to have compartmentalized and encased thankfulness to very specific moments...moments set by the calendar rather than our beating hearts.
There...a Scrooge-esque screed for today's feast, family and friends happiness.
Seriously -- have a good one.
November 27, 2013
My main guitar is a black 1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline. It was originally a wood-grain finish that got painted cherry red and again got painted, a dull black so haphazardly applied that brush strokes are visible and, in sunlight, blanches to a murky brackish olive.
It's the first thing I grab if the house is on fire -- after my gal, our dog and cat.
Its backup is a brown wood-grain 1990 Fender Tele Thinline reissue. I also have a turquoise mid-'90s Epiphone Riviera with a Bigsby whammy bar, my main guitar for recording but terrible on stage because it goes out of tune so easily. Completing the roster is a black Fender Jazz bass, an '80s Yamaha acoustic model and a Fender mandolin. Lots of Fenders, mainly 'cause they look good and as John Cameron Swayze used to say, take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.
Sounds like a lot of geetars. But it's not, really. I'm not a geetar nerd. I have what I have, they do the trick, and if I never lose one of these I'll never need another one. They cover all the ground my pugilistic six-string stylings could ever require.
There are weekend warriors who buy expensive models and keep 'em down in their basement rec rooms, sequestered and still, their strings silent and still. Their stylish tweed cases feel like coffins to guitars that never get played. And of course there are guitar-slinger pros who have a different model for every contingency.
My guitars are all beat up. Come see RebelMart and you'll see why. Still, none of them have the extraordinary history of Willie Nelson's wonderful guitar, Trigger.
This article, from Texas Monthly, is a fine read -- the story of a pair of musicians: Willie and Trigger. A fine, fine read.
November 23, 2013
WHO'S MORE POPULAR, ROB FORD OR BARACK OBAMA?
According to separate polls conducted in Canada and the U.S., crack-smoking/wildly-gesticulating/cunilingus-loving Toronto mayor Rob Ford ranks higher in Canadian hearts than website-malfunctioning/hard-to-convince-people/birth-certificate-not-good-enough President Barack Obama does here with the U.S. citizenry.
A large portion of the U.S. populace never gonna give Obama a chance. Much as he's tried to make nice with conservatives, they only paint him as unreasonable, arrogant and a commie. He might as well have actually been all of those things and steered the country into healthier places.
Instead, the president has mangled his agenda so badly that righties can't stand him and lefties don't have his back. The writing was on the wall as soon as he took the oath of office. Obama simply ignored it and tried to accommodate everyone. The GOP's goal since 2008 was to simply destroy Obama. The GOP's scorched-earth policies and the president's lack of spine is why we're in the morass we're in now.
It's popular to take the Jon Stewart position -- everyone not perfectly in the middle is crazy and obstructive. Talking calmly is good, but the middle of the road is never, ever where real change happens. We might not agree with opposite political ideologies, but it's better to have a beer with the other side than someone who sits smugly and do-nothingly in the middle.
One other note on this: being madder at someone for trying to improve peoples' health care, however imperfectly, than at an inept laughingstock like Rob Ford is a sad place for Americans to be these days. Perspective is always good to have, even when it goes out of style.
This next thing is just plain sad: WalMart, Sears, Children's Place and other U.S. companies are refusing to help the families of the 3,000 Rana Plaza workers in Bangladesh who died or were injured when the factory collapsed earlier this spring. Those companies were making profits off cheaply-made products they had contracted for.
It's not like no companies want to help. Ireland's Primark and the Dutch/German company G&A are heavily involved in helping the families, according to the New York Times. Key quote from the story:
“Compensation is so important because so many families are suffering — many families don’t have anyone left to support them,” said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “There’s been a good response from some European brands, but so far none of the U.S. retailers have agreed to pay a single penny for compensation.”
WalMart claims the factory wasn't producing anything for them at the time of the disaster. But papers found in the factory show that on the day of the tragedy, 55% of the factory's output was for WalMart.
WalMart's awful. Just awful. Remember that this holiday season.
November 22, 2013
Today's the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.
Okay, there were two of those. John F's is today. Five years from now is his brother Bobby's.
There's coverage everywhere. This morning's Seattle Times nailed it with the headline The Day Boomers Will Never Forget. It's true -- this means something to the baby-boomer generation, something younger ones might resent a bit.
It's one thing for people younger than World War II fighting age to constantly hear that there'll only ever be one Greatest Generation -- and that'll never be us. It's another thing when the drumbeat says that no breaking news story will knock your socks off the way the reports out of Dallas fifty years ago did.
At least during World War II, the nation all pitched in. Soldiers fought, their families put Gold Star banners in the windows, everyone dealt with rationing. On November 22, 1963 it was hearing a newsflash and reacting.
The entire notion of Where Were You When You Heard About...? is fairly new. It doesn't come into play until most of the nation had access to news. Pearl Harbor in 1941 was the first. JFK the second. 9/11 the third. We're talking about the entire nation drawn into collective consciousness by the undertow of disbelief and shock.
Where Were You? is powerful and inclusive because our routine day-to-day predictability gets greatness thrust upon it. Hearing an overwhelming news bulletin burst from the radio while you're getting a haircut, someone gasping in line at the grocery, a co-worker impulsively shouting "Hey, did you just hear?..."
That mundane moment is drafted into our own narrative and we bestow greatness upon it. Previously ordinary, we all become party of history. A shared history that the world will never forget.
We get to be part of the time capsule.
It's more complicated, of course. JFK, all Camelot and Space Age excitement, was the perfect atom-collider for the boomers' moment in history. Historians disagree over how much fundamental society change Kennedy had in the works. The U.S. in 1963 was intense -- the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile crisis were still fresh, the civil rights movement was scaring the bejeesus out of most white people, Cold War paranoia was rampant and Vietnam spinning out of control. The Old Guard was in serious emergency mode and deploying Operation Freak The Fuck Out as fast as it could.
The Occam's Razor notion that the simplest explanation is the most plausible certainly covers Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin. But honestly, given the maelstrom of the times, this explanation in Oliver Stone's JFK is just as plausible:
It's just as plausible because so many of us believe it is. We might not endorse Stone's view, but we wouldn't put it past our government to do such a thing
It's much more than boomers' nostalgia today. The JFK assassination was the starter's pistol as the nation charged headlong into a new era of paranoia.
It was the moment we stopped believing what we could see. Before Dallas, 1963, the country was split into two camps: those who the government favored and those it didn't. After that, a third enormous sector emerged -- those it couldn't control the narrative for. Media started reporting it (Watergate), and we started thinking things through. We learned enough that conspiracy theories didn't sound so far fetched.
To this day we listen to those theories because most Americans today believe that our government is capable of extraordinary malfeasance. We don't agree on what malfeasance it is, of course, but we know smoke means fire.
The real Where Were You...? that today is the 50th anniversary of is Where Were You When You Started Seeing The Power Structure For What It Is?
November 21, 2013
You could see it coming.
Jay-Z can't last forever.
Maybe Shawn Carter's impending demise wasn't as obvious as Toronto's colorful trainwreck of a mayor, Rob Ford. Still, events move faster than any one person.
For a self-styled kingpin, they move all the more briskly.
All it takes is a smidge of vincibility, a single misstep. It's the celebrity circuit's version of a butterfly flapping its wings along the coast of western Africa -- one imperceptible moment, and before we know it, Hurricane Katrina is bearing on down on the Gulf Coast.
For a celebrity, it's the approaching dissipation of cred and cool.
During the '00s Jay-Z participated in a land-grabbing/eminent-domain-abusing/poor-people-harming mega real-estate deal in Brooklyn by purchasing 1/8 of one percent of the then New Jersey Nets. During the Occupy Movement's heyday his Rocawear line of Occupy All Streets tee-shirts either deftly embraced Occupy's politics or cynically exploiting the moment to sell the product.
Seemed like the latter when Jay told the media he actually didn't like Occupy because he realized they were gunning for One Percenters, that rarified crowd he's one of.
When his kid Blue was born he took over an entire maternity ward of a hospital so his partner Beyonce could give birth. His security guards barred fathers from seeing their own newborns on the same ward. Mr. Z announced that he'd stop using the word "bitch" on his recordings because now he had a baby girl.
Earlier this year, Jay released a new CD, a bloated paean to himself more notable for the NSA-like data fishing Samsung used it for than the music itself -- it was a critical failure. Now, he's in bed with a company that's been racially profiling African-American shoppers, Barneys New York.
Oh, and Jay's back to using the word "bitch" on his recordings.
Regarding the Barney's thing, here's some of Mr. Shawn Carter's Barney's line of attractive, necessary and fairly priced items:
The collection has been unveiled to a resounding thud or gaping yawn, depending on the report. Wait'll you see what RebelMart's merch table's gonna price our buttons, stickers, badges and t-shirts at. We might top single-digit mark on the t-shirts alone!
Do we delight in seeing the mighty tumble. Only when they deserve it. When you push a boulder to the top, it'd better not crush people during the ascent.
You wanna hang with Warren Buffet and Michael Bloomberg and sell thousand-dollar tee-shirts and claim you're a player and not just a playa? Be our guest. That's the gilded bed you've made for yourself. The "both ways" people up there in the thin atmosphere want to have it makes it hard to set one's moral compass.
Jay proudly pontificated that "he's a business, man." Part of being a business, man, is the potential to bankrupt one's morals. In this recession, it's easy to do, and Jay's greased his own skids.
Don't let that ten-thousand-dollar designer screen door hit you on the way out, Mr. Shawn.
November 19, 2013
With all that's going on in the world, sometimes a song makes the day a little bit better.
Here're the Ohio Players' "Fire," The Spinners' "Rubberband Man" and the Five Stairsteps' "Ooh Child."
Our day just got a little bit better.
November 17, 2013
It's official -- Kshama Sawant, a bona fide and unapologetic socialist, has won a seat on the Seattle City Council.
Her opponent, the four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, has thrown in the towel after Sawant's stunning comback after Election Day, which saw her on the losing end of a 53-46% vote.
Seattle has an all-mail-ballot system, and a lot of people still vote on Election Day [me included -- Scott]. The past week-and-a-half, Conlin's lead shrank and shrank. Then, a few days ago, it was gone. Sawant had a 41-vote lead, then a few hundred, then a thousand-and-a-half.
What national press there's been has been disingenuous on a couple of levels. One, they're not reporting it much at all. Two, they're assuming that because Seattle is one of the nation's most liberal cities, a socialist candidate isn't much of a stretch -- sorta like a tea party candidate beating an establishment Republican in Alabama.
It's not like that at all.
This is a country that skews conservative to middle of the road. Just because Dems have the White House and one of two congressional chambers, and the GOP is on the ropes these days, doesn't mean that the U.S. is a left-wing workers' paradise. An unabashed socialist winning a big city election is still a very big deal in America today.
Tea party candidates run on the Republican ticket. Kshama Sawant isn't a progressive running on the Democratic Party ticket. She rejected the Democrats entirely, running and winning as a socialist representing the Socialist Alternative party.
Seattle is liberal, yes. But liberal is nothing like socialist. Seattle skews progressive (legalized pot and gay marriage, recently) but like any other big city in the U.S. is run by big corporations (Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and the reprehensible Boeing), big real-estate interests, and a cozy old guard political system. The political establishment here cuts public programs like free bus services, dithers on social safety-net initiatives, and throws tax breaks and public money at rich-people's playthings like a new basketball arena for a new NBA franchise. The Seattle Police Department is one of only a handful that the U.S. Justice Department has deemed so bad on civil rights that it had to step in an fix the department.
What's most amazing, and grand, about Sawant's victory is that she did it by promoting her socialist credentials and beliefts -- and not by soft-selling them. Would she have done this well in righter-leaning cities? The conventional wisdom says no, but in these hard times, that sort of thinking is too conventional and not particularly wise.
A lot of people reject socialism on what they think it is, not what it can actually do. There's a lot of fear cooked up about a way of thinking whose main tenant is "do what you want but let's make sure no one falls through the cracks." Sawant is eloquent and determined, and she connected with voters from all communities in this city.
Perhaps the City Council's old guard is worried about Sawant walking through those members-only doors. They won't be able to shush poor-peoples' issues the way they've gotten used to doing. Sawant says her first task after getting sworn in will be to introduce a $15 city-wide minimum wage in Seattle -- much like the one that's holding on by a hair down in the city of SeaTac.
With Sawant aboard, the status-quo is being pushed out at City Hall. Her presence will shine bright lights on how things are done in Seattle governance. More people than ever will watch what goes on. Sawant will certainly give a voice to people who long ago were locked out, many of whom gave up hope that government would ever accept its madate to work for the people.
It won't be easy for Kshama Sawant. Good things never are.
Here's a toast to a seriously audacious new beginning here in Seattle.
November 14, 2013
Big props to the International Association of Machinists Local 751, who stood tall yesterday by voting down a disgraceful contract offer from Boeing. Moreover, they took down union leadership who'd cozied up with Boeing's CEO -- a man whose pension will earn him $250,000 a month -- a month! -- while insisting that the machinists' pensions be slashed.
Boeing has been abandoning the Puget Sound area workforce over the last several years. They moved their corporate headquarters to Chicago, and has been opening assembly plants in non-union "right-to-work" states (South Carolina, Alabama). The current offer to the machinists is tied to a big new project -- building Boeing's new 777X aircraft. Boeing has been dangling the project as a carrot-and-club approach to the machinists, saying in effect "take our crap offer or we'll move it to a non-union state -- and away from you."
It's a union-busting move. Boeing is trying to villify the union. They ran a huge two-page ad in yesterday's Seattle Times to promote a kind-and-benevolent Boeing. The ad wasn't for union rank-and-file, who already knew what a terrible off it was. Boeing spent that money to convince the general public that a union NO vote would be the union's fault -- and worse, would take all that business away from the Puget Sound region.
At the same time, Washington governor Jay Inslee and the state legislature gifted to Boeing the biggest package of tax breaks in the history of the United States for the 777X project. The package is contingent on the union approving the deal. Boeing's numbers-crunching has them believing it's more profitable to forgo the biggest tax-break benefits ever and build in a non-union location.
Which means all of this is a big winged red herring from Boeing.
Many union members voted NO because the offer would leave younger union members worse off. So not only were their votes about their own households, but those of newer members -- and workers not yet even in the union.
A popular take whenever a union stands up for workers rights is that they're "radical" and "naive" and "getting bad advice." How come Boeing isn't being tagged with similar tags? How about "brutal," "greedy" and "money-obsessed?"
The union did get bad advice from their lame leadership. In this case, they ignored it and stood up for workers everywhere.
November 12, 2013
Camo jerseys, appliques, decals. Tweets for the soldiers and sailors. Military-family charities. Athletes telling us to support the military lock, stock and barrel. Stadium spectacles that rival Chinese and North Korean propaganda fests.
Sports in the U.S. is conservative in its political orientation. If you don't buy into very specific hegemonies, if you don't pray to a New Testament god, if you don't embrace machismo and varying degrees of sexism and homophobia, you're an outlier.
This is a topic that goes all over the map -- race, class, culture, aethetics, gender, sexual orientation, violence, propaganda, political spectrums, power, and always -- always -- money.
For now, this piece by Justin Doolittle in Salon.com is a good starting point.
November 7, 2013
Ian Hill has a heart of gold.
Sadly it's the wrong kind of gold for this day and age.
Ian, you know, is RebelMart's bass player, and recently he's been making a magnificent effort to buy the Comet Tavern -- a Seattle rock'n'roll landmarkt that closed several weeks ago.
Ian's mission was simple. Forging a competitive bid out of passion, smarts and just enough money, Ian was going to re-open the Comet and make it right again. The Comet is the proto rock tavern -- decidedly off 2013's radar. Dark walks, old dollar bills pinned to the high ceiling, iffy restrooms, cheap drinks and no-nonsense staff, an aces soundperson (Nicholas) and booking agent (Michelle), space for the bands to set up and get ready, and a sense that this was a big show in an intimate space.
And Ethel. Ethel was a bartender who passed away decades ago. She didn't want to leave the place, and made that clear. She didn't...her ashes rest encased in the bar's corner stool, in whatever peace the Comet can offer.
Ian knows about Ethel. He's alone among the Comet's suitors that does. Even the Comet's landlord's attorney didn't know about Ethel.
Our Ian's quest was simple: save the Comet. Run it for the musicians and their fans. If Ian had wanted to be a nightlife baron, he'd already have a bar. His hopes -- and ours -- was about our rock'n'roll hearts and souls having a home in Seattle, and not about making money.
We didn't know until yesterday that Ian's quest was a quixotic one. In the least surprising development, let's see, ever, the Comet was sold to a bidder who offered four times what Ian and his investors could.
Weeks ago, when news first broke about the Comet closing and Ian being one of the bidders, someone wrote a comment at the bottom of a Seattle Weekly story:
I hope whoever buys the Comet keeps it a rock'n'roll club, and doesn't turn it into a "rock'n'roll club."
So eloquent, succinct, dead-on. I probably should have saved all the words in this missive, and just run with this perfect one-sentence analysis.
I didn't because it leaves out Ian -- his quest, his heart, and the clear understanding that Ian was Seattle's best hope for keeping the Comet a rock'n'roll club.
November 6, 2013
Kanye West is an idiot.
Now there are plenty of incidents, quotes, lyrics, videos, appearances, personal affairs, lack of discretions, self-image issues and aesthetics that ol' Jeezy can be called out on.
This missive is about the latest of West's aesthetic choices -- his embrace of the Confederate battle flag -- the Stars'n'Bars -- as his own.
A tee-shirt being sold on West's current tour has the Confederate flag with a skull and the legend "I Ain't Comin' Down"
West -- self-absorbed as ever -- has this to say:
React how you want. Any energy is good energy. You know the Confederate flag represented slavery in a way--that's my abstract take on what I know about it. So I made the song "New Slaves." So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It's my flag.
Now what are you going to do?
First, this isn't an "abstract take" kind of issue. This is serious and straight forward and, absolutely refuting all attempts at a pun, an unyieldingly black-and-white issue.
The flag was the banner flown by the Confederate States of America's army in defense of a slavery-endorsing nation. Outside of the Ku Klux Klan it was mostly relegated to the 19th century. The Confederate flag made a big comeback in the 1950s and '60s when southern states re-deployed the Stars'n'Bars to taunt the civil rights movement. It was a burning-cross firewall against integration and the rights of people of color.
It's not your flag, Kanye. It will never be your flag. It's controversy for controversy's sake. Controversy for merch-sales sake. Controversy for headline-grabbing sake.
What are we going to do about it, you ask, Kanye? Point out what a colossal asshole you are.
Besides West's galling misappropriation of the Confederate flag, he's giving cover to all of the regressives who shout and scream that the banner is just about celebrating Confederate heritage...that it's not racist...that the Confederacy wasn't racist...that its inclusion in state flags during the Civil Rights era wasn't racist.
None of those things is true.
Kanye is a very confused guy when it comes to politics. He wore the bomber jacket (pictured above) to a Barney's New York store in Beverly Hills as a difused protest against the company's recent racial-profiling episodes. Fine, good, Barney's New York should be confronted. And Macy's for the same transgressions. But here's a guy who lives with such opulence that his new song "New Slaves" -- partially about our society being strung out on consumer goods -- goes flat via West's hypocrisy.
Maybe Kanye's paying tribute to all of those B-52 bomber pilots in Confederate air force at Gettysburg and Antietam. Who can tell with a guy whose tour features Jesus of Nazareth climbing on stage to have a chat.
This act of Kanye's is selfish and stupid and astonishingly tone deaf. It's also sad to see commentators celebrating the West's marketing acumen. That's the age we live in -- marketing trumping decency.
"The world is controversial," Yeezy says about his brand new flag. "The world is classist. The world is racist.”
And Kanye West is doing his best to keep it stay that way.
November 5, 2013
Football -- the kind played here in the U.S., where feet rarely touch the ball -- won't look like this in another generation.
Concussions and brain damage are the big reason. An expert in a recent PBS Frontline documentary says that the average NFL player absorbs the impact of a 35mph car crashing into a brick wall on average 1,500 times a year. For college, high school and youth players, it's fewer and slower, but still dangerous and life-changing.
The other element is the culture of the game. The Miami Dolphins' Jonathan Martin has left the team for emotional counseling after another player, Richie Incognito, heaped abuse on Martin. It went beyond "hazing" and "bullying," the words we've come up with to soft-sell highly stylized assault and battery. Incognito's attacks on Martin involved racist messages and threats to Martin and his family.
There's been a tidal wave of commentary saying, in effect, "hey, man, don't blame football for a few bad apples." That's faulty thinking, because today's football thrives on macho, misogynistic brutality. There's no football without the ginned-up aggro that players are taught for their very earliest years.
Could football exist without it? Could it be played without the proto-militarism that courses through the game? Sure.
Do most football fans want a game based on skill but absent the purile infantile behavior that coaches and players believe is the only way to gain a competitive edge? Unlikely. The NHL could stop on-ice fighting in a heartbeat, but won't because they believe it's what fans want. The same with the NFL, whose only strategy when controversies erupt is to hope desperately that it just...goes...away.
The U.S.'s sports culture is dependent on aggression. Even the logos on caps and helmets have changed. A generation ago, an eagle or husky might have been a simple, non-expressive rendering. Now they're growling, drooling killers. Worse, young athletes believe they gain an undeniable edge by dressing head-to-toe in Darth Vader black with uber-aggressive logos perched just above the Nike or Under Armour logo. (To be sure, it's Nike and Under Armour that have worked very hard to instill that idea.) Training, strategy, conditioning and desire aren't nearly enough. The uniforms need to be stormtrooper cuts with pro-military cuts.
Take a good look at Richie Incognito. He might not me the face of football in the U.S. today, but he's the face of the game's underlying bloodstreams. Veins flowing with bile and brutality, ingredients that too many believe to be the oxygen our country breathes.
Either the game changes for the better, or our nation continues to change for the worse.
November 3, 2013
Heathah Josepowitz, New York City's best unpublished rawk critic and social commentator (think Jonathan Swift sharing an apartment in Queens with Lester Bangs) sent us this article today. For musicians, it's another indicator that A) things ain't like they were; and b) our job continues to be devalued by most everyone who uses our services.
There's no grieving here for the music industry dying. The part where musicians ourselves get hit hard, that's a different story.
Go here to read Edward Helmore's must-read piece about the potential death of the Album. Here's the key para:
“The album is dying in front of our very eyes,” industry commentator Bob Lefsetz wrote. “Everybody’s interested in the single, and no one’s got time to sit and hear your hour-plus statement.”
Another nail in the coffin. The hammer? Our TwiftterYouTube short-attention-span habit.
Just one of many hammers, in fact.
October 31, 2013
Happy Halloween! It's a great holiday, and maybe more than any other, we get to be kids year after year.
Remembering back to our band years in New York ('80s through the '00s), seeing wildly costumed people on the subway was terrific. Not because there were wildly costumed people on the subway, but the utter disinterest of everyone else on the subway. New Yorkers are self-consciously stoic, until a) we're personally insulted or b) the city is. The surface indifference to Halloween revelers waiting for the doors to open was a vast urban coverup.
Here's to those moments, and hopes your Halloween tricks and treats are scary good. Hint: always choose the trick.
October 30, 2013
When you join a band, you go places.
Not just geographically, but emotionall, culturally, politically and commercially.
In many cases, our road cases are our passport stamps. 'Specially now that passports don't get stamped.
Here's my chords'n'strings'n'cables'n'pedals'n'set lists'n'batteries'n'pickes'n'loose change'n'Sharpies'n'geetar-fixit tools case. I've had it since the mid 1980s when I roadied for the Richmond, VA band The Good Guys -- an amazing groundbreaking band that predated Fishbone and the Black Rock Coalition. There's precious little about The Good Guys on the webs, and that's a culture crime that we're all guilty of.
Here're the stickers that have ended up on the case. I try not to cover up the old with the new. This is a living, breathing and very, very sturdy quarter-century-old document.
1. The Spunk Lads -- the late great band I played in from 2001 to 2006, sporadically reunited for benefits and political rallies. Our last gig was the legendary Freddy's Bar's last night before it was torn down to make way for the reprehensible Atlantic Yards/Barclays Center fiasco. Nick Knickers on vocals, Bloody Dick on guitar, Prince Albert on bass and, at various times, Spikey Dread, Viz Chaos, Jack Hammersmith, Jackson Bollocks and others on drums.
2. A paper photo sticker with tie-die colors that's worn away any clue of what it was. Ghostly, watery images of people wearing ski goggles.
3. The Diet Tribes -- a band I fronted in 1990, with Mark Westin on guitar, Pedro Gingerich on bass, Sally Barden on keys and Buck Buchannan -- not the Kansas City football legend, but an aces musician with a wide floppy hat -- on drums. We opened for Fishbone at CBGB and were at the center of a riot at Bard College. Mark was arrested, wrongfully charged with second-degree assault, and ultimately cleared.
4. The Blackout Shoppers -- a current punk band in New York City that rawks. I helped them re-design their cartoon-bomb-in-a-shopping-cart logo as well as their first album.
5. A Rawlings baseball sticker.
6. Peelander Z -- a Japanese punk band based in New York City.
7. Bossa Nova Beatniks -- rockabilly folk with slick hair and a bongo beat, man. Their first album lifted from that Elvis Presley album that the Clash's London Calling lifted from.
8. Another Peelander Z sticker, this one made of paper and an adorable panda.
9. Georgetown Music Store, one of our fave music shops here in Seattle.
10. Greenpeace. The Rainbow Warrior ship was docked here in Seattle this past weekend, but I'm sorry to say I didn't make it out to take the tour.
11. Punknet.com -- the very early punk website by Marc Lefton, who was way ahead of the social-medial tsunami. It isn't around any more, and I wish it were.
12. The Milwaukee Irish Festival (underneath the Punknet sticker). Never played it, but someone I know from the Rocky Sullivan's scene in Brooklyn did and I got it from then. That I don't have a personal connection made it okay to put another sticker over it.
13. An ancient strip of red duct tape. I wrap a strip of tape, usually the duct variety, around my left thigh before every show I play. This is likely from that. Or from taping down cords. Or the zillion other issues that duct tape is the magic elixir for.
14. A "No Dollar Bills" sticker from a New York City bus. They still don't take bills -- just coins and MetroCards, the latter a really good way for the NYPD to track your movements.
15. "The World Says No To War" sticker from the first of the two massive anti-Iraq War demos in 2003. It was at this event that Nick Knickers, a.k.a. Roger Paz, wrote the love-song/anti-war anthem "Girl At The March," a seminal Spunk Lads single. And yes, I just nestled "seminal" and "Spunk" back to back.
16. Army of Juan -- a ska punk band in Flint, MI that I met on tour with Remember Alice in 1996.
18. "No 187 -- Who's Next" -- the reprehensible 1994 anti-immigrant ballot initiative in California. Thankfully, a federal court ruled it unconstitutional five years later.
19. The Anvil Cases numbered plate. That was Anvil's idea -- it came affixed to the case.
October 29, 2013
Here's something you don't see every day -- a big ol' bucketful of Estonian weirdness. Be honest -- how long have we, The Fans Of The Rock And The Roll, been hungering for dog-boy facial hair, wrestling unitards, bass gourds and metal banjos, screeching-weasel vocals and strung-up-by-the-ankles acrobatics?
A long time!
Winny Puhh does this. They do it well. And have been for a decade. There. It's been kicked onto your side of the field.
Oh...and Hansen, the band, is licensing itself to a new brand of beer called Mmmhop.
The world continues its wobbly spin...
October 27, 2013
They're breaking ground for a legendary groundbreaker.
Lou Reed has left the building.
He was a grump and a junkie and all sorts of fitting rock'n'roll things. At the end he was hanging on with someone else's liver and Laurie Anderson for a wife, and that meant he had a good last several months.
Brooklyn-born and Manhattan-famous, Reed was probably a big softie under that hard veneer of punk snottiness. He was one of those rock legends who lived out his life in the prison of everyone else's construct of him. Yes, with all the benefits of a rock legend who was well off enough to record and play occasionally. But still, every set of eyes that fell on him saw THE MYTH OF LOU REED. Few got enough time with him to actually meet Lou Reed himself.
Also, and this is important, Reed built his that imprisoning personality all by his lonesome. It encouraged people focus on the Velvet Underground drugs-and-gutter vibe. Missed were the sporadic tender moments like "Satellite Of Love." Well, maybe not missed -- "Satellite of Love" is a well-known tune. But underplayed, certainly.
In the Eighties, a lot of bands cited the Velvet Underground as an influence. It's a weird thing -- they were slow and moody and Mo Tucker wasn't the most propulsive drummer. Yes, the VU was groundbreaking and brash and shocking and edgy. That didn't mean we needed countless bands being droll and moody, bands whose members had none of the dirty pavement experiences that Lou Reed and the others lived and lived hard. The VU was a peep show into some harsh realities that married narcissism and nihilism like no band before or since. Their sounds was right for them, and them alone.
Reed was always uncomfortable with rock'n'roll trappings, but that doesn't mean he did everything he could to distance himself from them. He was a reluctant rock'n'roll prince. He tossed his adoring fans the occasional crumpet. His last album of true substance was 1989's New York -- nearly a quarter century ago. It's maybe unfair to say he coasted for all that time. He certainly kept his creativity close to his chest.
It's one thing when old rockers dies. Rock'n'roll is a young person's game. Even in this day and age when nearly everyone alive absorbed rock'n'roll in their youth, its power still emanates from the hands of young'ins. When a rock legend dies, it can't help but remind us of our mortality.
When it's a rock'n'roller as disdainful of normalcy as Lou Reed, it's harder to fathom his passing. Wasn't Reed stubborn and cranky enough to keep death at arm's length?
Wherever souls go, they're girding for a sneering new member in the club. A club, by the way, that has more than its share of groundbreakers.
October 25, 2013
Sports can be grand, but one of the downsides is the bullying. The tough-guy macho intolerance for anything or anyone who doesn't toe the establishment line is virulent in sports.
In New York City, the big sports-talk radio station is WFAN, and it's biggest star is the afternoon host Mike Francesa. He's a bully. He carries water for the local sports and conservative political establishment, and when a guest or a fact proves him wrong, he flat-out steamrolls them with pointless misdirects and non-sequiturs.
Michael O'Keeffe is a sports reporter for the New York Daily News. He challenges the status quo with every question he asks, every sentence he writes, every fact he digs up. He and his cohorts at the Daily News I-Team are the reason we hear about the facts the sports establishment would rather we didn't.
It's cozy and warm for Francesa to hobnob with big shots like Alex Rodriguez, Bruce Ratner, Rudy Giuliani, an insider's warm realm. Mike O'Keeffe is in that cold outsider's place, an exile for those who do their job and challenge the status quo.
O'Keeffe doesn't bite the hand that feeds him because he won't get close enough to the stench of sycophancy and seduction. If we had more journalists and editors like O'Keeffe, power and corruption couldn't gain any traction. Our lives would be better for it.
All this as a lead in to O'Keeffe's appearance today on Francesa's radio show. O'Keeffe fought Francesa's bullying during an interview about A-Rod's steroid use and evidence suppression.
Head here to watch the shorter video clip, or if you have time, listen to the full audio clip.
O'Keeffe's the one on the left of the video -- the one trying to get a word in.
One more thing about O'Keeffe. He won't take the swag that the sports establishment greases media skids with. Once, during the long battle to stop the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, many of us were standing in the bitter cold outside the Brooklyn Museum, protesting a press conference for the project.
Ratner's development company, Forest City Ratner, and the team he bought just to help sell the project, the (then) New Jersey Nets, were giving away backpacks and basketballs to all of the journalists. The only journalist to come out into the cold and interview the demonstrators was O'Keeffe.
At the end of the event, all the media exited the museum carrying their Ratner Nets swag -- all except for O'Keeffe. I asked him whey he didn't have the the swag everyone else had. "I don't accept that crap," Mike replied. "I'm a reporter."
October 24, 2013
Maybe it's Giving Fatigue. Maybe there are so many colored ribbons out there that we're overwhelmed by their sheer, desperate numbers. Maybe some causes are more popular than others. Maybe it was a Wednesday night in fog-shrouded Seattle.
Our band played a benefit for the domestic-abuse-victims support organization New Beginnings last night at the High Dive in the Fremont section of Seattle. Cool, well-known bar on a main drag known for music clubs, a destination that's easy to get to on a night where not much was happening in town. (Even the World Series was over here on the West Coast before the first band hit the High Dive's stage.) The show was $5 at the door -- a ridiculously low price for a benefit. The Seattle Weekly gave the show a good notice. And the organizers papered the town with fliers and posters.
It was a good, lively crowd. Props to everyone who showed up, to the other bands on the bill -- Poverty Bay, Darin Jones & Gavin Fischer -- for donating their time, the High Dive for hosting the event, Leeza from New Beginnings for her eloquent, passionate speech to start the evening off, and especially Ashley Marie, who tirelessly organized the event.
A lively crowd, but not all that big a crowd. Part of that is on us, the bands, for not having a bigger draw last night. But that's not all of it.
It's not that people don't want to give, show up, be supportive. It's that everyone has a breaking point, even the kindest of souls. This age we live in is overwhelming. Information overload is rampant. Bobbing in that tsunami of data is the flotsam and jetsam of countless shows, events, benefits, fund-raisers and crowd-funding appeals. Taken separately they're all beautiful. From afar, it starts to look like debris.
Never have so many had to claw through so many pleas to decide when and how to be kind.
There's no real solution to the problem. As the internet makes us more and more dependent on it, we'll get hit up by more and more appeals. That's fine -- we're big boys and girls, and we'll choose like we always have. But with the D.I.Y. of today's self-created media -- like the one you're reading now -- it'll get harder and harder to pick the right lifeboat in this sea of need.
The other issue is what's in and what's out. Sadly, it's been a long time since AIDS has been on the fund-raising radar. Partly it's that science has made strides, partly we've moved on to the next flavor of the year. Of course, diseases should never be such flavors. But ethics and p.r. have different agendas.
Breast cancer is the current tasty flavor. Powerful sports leagues lap it up -- it helps them look like good guys, and all the pink accessories on sports uniforms in October (and May in baseball on Mother's Day) help, however superficially, attract new fans previously turned off by the sport's male-centric machismo. It's unclear whether the players themselves are disabusing themselves of their testosteronic moods or just finding the fuschia sweatbands and shoelaces cool in this look-at-me sporting era.
That's the tough thing about a single issue getting all of the press -- other equally needy issues get shoved into the shadow. It's grand that breast cancer gets the bright lights. Would that others could, too. Domestic abuse is uncomfortable for many -- moreso these days than cancer. For one thing, men don't cause cancer, but we overwhelmingly cause domestic abuse. There's nearly half the populace who might shy away from domestic abuse because maybe, sadly, we don't shy away from domestic abuse.
And that's another bleak flank in this war -- womens issues, or simply those perceived as womens issues -- find it harder to get traction. Breast cancer's Pinktober notwithstanding.
Hopefully, this will change, and the insanely difficult work of helping victims of domestic abuse will find itself in more peoples' comfort zones. It'll take more than a particular color that sports leagues will wear for a month.
October 23, 2013
A sad statistic this week: only 8 percent of the money made from selling pink-colored NFL merchandise during October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month goes to actual breast cancer research. The lion's share is simple profit for the NFL and their licensees who produce the goods.
The report comes from Business Insider magazine.
Just once, it'd be nice to see a colossus corporation do it the right way all the way. Alas, no. The NFL veers down the street like a drunk jettisoned from a tavern at closing time -- extorting new-stadium money from taxpayers on behalf of wealthy team owners, the Washington team's Native American mascot controversy, football concussions and brain damage, this Pinktober impropriety.
Speaking of the concussions issue, there's this disturbing fact: according to Dr. Robert Stein, a neurolosychologist at Boston University, NFL players absorb the impact of a 35mph car crashing into a brick wall on average 1,500 times a year. That was in the recent PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial. If you haven't seen it yet, make time and watch it.
October 22, 2013
We're opining today with the release of our latest album, Black River Rising.
October 21, 2013
Increasingly, good solid arguments are being met with lame responses.
The lamest? "Seriously, aren't there more important things to think about?"
It's the lazy rejoinder du jour when you haven't a clue how to answer a well-researched, eloquent position.
You hear it a lot around the Native American mascots issue. It came up in all manner of ways during the debt-ceiling/government shutdown machinations. Hell, it comes up all the time.
Besides the not-having-a-pot-to-piss-in issue, it also conveys a disturbing belief by whoever proffers it: humans are incapable of doing more than one thing at a time.
In other words, if one were to say "the Washington NFL franchise has a racist nickname," it's very likely the reply will be "really, aren't there more important things we could be working on?" and the insistence that we can only operate on a few fronts at a time.
This is humanity we're talking about. For all of our ills, we can confront problems on as many fronts as we open up -- problems that are interwoven because humanity is interwoven. Besides mindlessly selling short the substance of the argument (that "redskin" is a racist moniker), it trivializes racism, the campaigns against it, the people who fight the battle, and the very notion of fighting anything at all -- without offering a single idea or position that counters the claim.
You wanna engage in discourse, that's great. It really is -- as a populace, a culture, a species, we don't engage enough. But once engaged, do us all a favor and actually make points and defend them with research, facts and opinions.
October 19, 2013
First, let's get this out of the way. None of the members of RebelMart were in Frankfort, Kentucky over the last few weeks. That's where 65 cases of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon disappeared. At least one of us has a really good alibi. Really good, and by "good" we mean "convincing."
Now that we've tentatively cleared our names, let's move on to hazing. It's stupid, the immature end of bullying. People who haze are bullies, and them that get hazed are tools. Besides the physical and emotional danger, it teaches a terrible lesson: "shut up, suffer pain and indignation, and we might -- might -- let you be part of our society."
In a weird way, bands haze other bands. Particularly, successful bands that treat opening acts as, well, opening acts. One of the prime justifications for hazing is we-got-hazed-so-now-it's-your-turn. Sad. As we're finding out from all manner of contemporary issues -- the Washington NFL nickname, say -- "tradition" is no excuse.
Many bands are wonderful to their opening acts. Occasionally, it's the club or the promoter that bring down the hammer. Of course, if a band is big enough, even that's not a justification. Years ago, U2 hid behind their phalanx of lawyers to go after the band Negativeland, whose "The Letter U And The Number 2" ripped apart U2's pretentiousness.
Hazing's time is time to go. So Miley, Stones, Pearl Jam -- give us a break when RebelMart opens for you.
October 16, 2013
Keep an eye on this page. It'll be updated daily -- guaranteed -- and sometimes more, as events warrant.
Most of the time, it'll be Scott doing the writing. Sometimes, Ian. Maybe a guest here and there.
Could be the American government-shutdown crisis. Or someone's new album. Or the return to the airwaves of the greatest t.v. show ever, Firefly. (A band can dream, can't they?).
Might be a sentence, a photo, a jarring sentiment or a heavilly researched broadside with footnotes and photos.
RebelMart doesn't use Twitter. We don't like Twitter. Occassionally it's useful -- say, when there's revolution in the streets. The Arab Spring made good use of it. But mostly, it's narcissistic crap that corrodes our celebrity-obsessed view of the world. Plus, it gives cover to brigands who think that nuance and subtlety are quant old notions in this age of "MY 4HEAD HURTZ 'CAUSE NEW ICP TRACKZ ARE SICK!!!"
Not that we're the best spokespeople for subtlety. Still, 140 characters don't cover all the bases. Or even start.
1. a tiny scrap of the yellow Diet Tribes logo sticker -- a bullhorn with DIET TRIBES underneath.
2. Another Punknet.com sticker.
3. Malachy Kearns Bodhráns -- a long-time bodhrán maker in County Galway, Ireland. A bodhrán is the round Irish frame drum, and I've played it since the mid-1990s. I own one made by Malachy Kearns.
4. Meow Mix -- the legendary lesbian bar on East Houston Street in Manhattan. Like most good things in NYC, it isn't there any more. The Devil's Advocates and the Spunk Lads played many shows there. The pub's policy was based on very leftist politics. It's where I first met Jimmy MacDowell, about whom our song "Jimmy Of The Rockaways" is about.
5. Yamato Shipping Company -- a sticker I collected in 2006 in Japan. It looks cool, it has the urgent yellow/black striping, and Yamato's wonderful mother-cat-carrying-a-kitten logo. What does it say? Um..."FRAGILE: CONTAINS MOTHER AND BABY CATS"?
6. Team Spider -- Xris fronts this anarcho-bike-riding Critical Mass band.
7. New York Mets -- a potentially major-league baseball team in the Eastern United States. My team. My sad culturally deprived trainwreck of a team. Sadly, this is a newer Mets sticker and doesn't include the small, odd "stick NY" from the team's '60s-through-'80s logos.
8. A larger Blackout Shoppers sticker
9. MissWit, a terrific smart tee-shirt company in Brooklyn. In the late '00s, I did some design work for MissWit, including this sticker. Check 'em out -- they'll have something you want. Guaranteed.
10. The Zambonis -- an all-hockey/all-the-time band that performs in hockey jerseys and helmets. Their shows used to feature a fella in an atrociously odiferous gorilla costume running through the audience. At least we all thought it was a costume.