Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
Regardless of your pointed political leanings, your zealous religious beliefs and/or your ill-considered musical tastes, I'd like to wish one and all a peaceful, happy, healthy and hopeful 2018 from New York City.
Well, yeah, here we are at the ass-end of 2017. That means it’s time to revisit that survey.
What did you do in 2017 that you'd never done before? Travel to Ireland.
Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Honestly, I don’t believe I made any beyond that age-old intention to scale back on the beer-imbibing, which –- of course -– I didn’t do. With that in mind, that remains the resolution. I have a colleague, meanwhile, who has an interesting one. Instead of interpreting the concept of a resolution as some sort of disciplining penance, she is envisioning hers as a horizon-broadening exercise. Someone gave her a coffee-table book about iconic albums from an array of different genres, and her resolution is to sit down and listen/experience/digest one or two a month, thus enriching her knowledge and listening habits. I think that’s pretty cool.
Did anyone close to you give birth? No one in my immediate circle, but I’ve certainly had a few friends who’ve had babies.
Did anyone close to you die? Sadly, yes. We lost my dear Uncle Carly in March of this year. He was a tirelessly funny, big-hearted gent, and I will always miss him.
What countries did you visit? As cited above, I visited Ireland for the first time back in November, which was genuinely life-changing.
What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017? A different president.
What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory? January 21, wherein a vast multitude of New Yorkers flooded the streets to voice their displeasure with the results of the election.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? Around the middle of the summer, I’d been tasked with putting together a video presentation for a company-wide town hall meeting at my organization’s headquarters in Nashville. It proved to be an arduous slog rife with numerous, heated clashes between myself and the head of my department. The stress was almost overwhelming, but I managed to get it where it needed to be at the proverbial eleventh hour. When it was shown at the meeting, the attendees literally stood up and cheered. Mission accomplished. That was a feat I didn’t expect to pull off.
What was your biggest failure? As my children continue to flourish towards young adulthood, my wife and I have yet to determine where we’ll be living next. As such, while it’s all they’ve ever known, they continue to reside together in the same small room. I’d hoped we’d have at least been on the road to remedying that by this point, but other priorities took precedence. I’m also disappointed by the book project that lost its foundation.
Did you suffer illness or injury? ::Knocks wood:: No, I had a fairly stable and relatively healthy twelve months. I have the same minor quirks and complaints, but never contracted any illnesses nor sustained any major injuries. Maybe a toothache or two. This all said, I haven’t seen my primary care physician since I don’t know when. Since I recently turned 50, I have an appointment with a brand new one in two weeks, and he’ll doubtlessly scold me about any number of irresponsible life choices and prescribe a frightening battery of invasive tests. So, yeah, …. really looking forward to that.
What was the best thing you bought? I bought a sweater --- as one does -– in Ireland that I’m getting a robust amount of use out of.
Whose behavior merited celebration? On a personal level, I’ll nominate my kids for their tireless good cheer and scrupulous hard work at school. On the grander scale, I raise a toast to those speaking truth to power.
Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Anyone who fails to recognize the embarrassing and horrific downward trajectory this country is taking under the Trump administration. That, and the disarming cavalcade of public figures from all strata of society and sensibility who evidently cannot keep it in their pants.
What did you get really, really excited about? In a negative way? The politics of the day. In a positive way? Ummm…..
Where did most of your money go? The ludicrously ill-advised endeavor of raising children in New York City.
What song will always remind you of 2017? Not because I like it (although I’ve certainly heard worse), but “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. Not only because of its maddening ubiquity, but because we used a bit of it in that video presentation I alluded to earlier. I’ll forever equate it with stressing out about that project.
Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? While I’m horrified and depressed by things happening on the world stage on pretty much a daily -– if not hourly -– basis, I mentally remain in a good place. The wife and I are both employed at jobs we are enthusiastic about and engaged by, and our kids are both happy and healthy. We’re alright.
Thinner or fatter? In the wake of the holiday season, I am certainly fatter.
Richer or poorer? “Flush” would not be the best adjective to describe our situation, but we’ll be alright.
What do you wish you'd done more of? Reading books (i.e. not screens).
What do you wish you'd done less of? Engaging in pointless political arguments. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
How did you spend Christmas? Bouncing around Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Pennsylvania visiting various pockets of family, all the while telling my kids to “stop coughing, dammit!” (both were nursing colds at the time). Fun.
Who did you spend the most time on the phone with? Not a single clue. Probably the wife.
Did you fall in love in 2017? Already there.
How many one night stands in this last year? None. Happily married for sixteen years.
What was your favorite TV program? “Twin Peaks: The Return”
Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? The only person I believe I genuinely hate is Donald Trump. I hated him last year, too, but that’s only intensified in the last twelve months.
What was the best book you read? As alluded above, I didn’t get the opportunity to read nearly as much as I’d have preferred, this year, but my favorite book was without a doubt “Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul” by my comrade Jeremiah Moss.
What was your greatest musical discovery? It legitimately upsets me to say this, but I can’t say that I heard anything genuinely new this year that impressed me. I mean, I heard some new stuff that I liked, but nothing that really blew a new part in my hair, or anything. I mean, I liked the new Ride record, but I was a big fan of theirs back in the early 90’s. I also enjoyed Dead Cross, the new hardcore ensemble featuring Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo, but again – those are old dudes, too. I can’t point to any single new artist I really dug. I spent most of 2017 listening to the music I already know and love. Here’s hoping 2018 will have something more musically interesting in store (or for me, anyway).
ADDENDUM:Also quite enjoyed this one.
What did you want and get? In terms of material possessions, I’m pretty much at a stage in my life where I don’t need any more stuff in my home. If anything, I should be getting rid of things. Beyond that, most of the stuff I actually like is in pretty short supply. I mean, I have my eye on a new pair of shoes and shit like that, but that’s ultimately just a question of maintenance. That all said, I did get the ludicrous 40th anniversary box set of Queen’s News of the World for Christmas. I asked for it, and I got it. Did I need it? No. Is it cool? Yes. So yeah, that.
What did you want and not get? For the Trump Administration to be brought to its knees, for Donald to be impeached and for him and his acolytes to be frog-marched out of the White House in cuffs. We’ll see what transpires in 2018.
What were your favorite films of this year? I quite enjoyed “Blade Runner 2049,” “Thor Ragnarok” and, sure, “The Last Jedi,” although my enthusiasm for all things “Star Wars” is taking another sharp dip.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? My wife threw a small dinner party for me, as I crossed the perilous rubicon of 50.
What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? See the answer above to “What do you want and not get?”
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017? Basically, still “Am I Too Old to Get Away with This?”
What kept you sane? My lovely wife and kids.
What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I don’t do a lot of “fancying” at this point, but I thought deposed Attorney General Sally Yates was pretty badass.
What political issue stirred you the most? Jesus …. pick one.
Who did you miss? Beyond my Uncle Carly, I was greatly saddened by the premature losses of Chris Cornell, Grant Hart, Malcolm Young and Pat DiNizio. And I continue to really miss Lemmy and, especially, Bowie.
Who was the best new person you met? A couple of great new colleagues at the job.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017 H.L. Mencken was right. No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.
Song lyric that sums up 2017 Not a new song, but from Gang of Four’s 1981 single, “To Hell with Poverty,” …
IN THIS LAND, RIGHT NOW, SOME ARE INSANE –- AND THEY’RE IN CHARGE!
I’m way behind on my reading, these days. While I’m currently paging throgh Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, “Believe Me,” I still have to finish Tim Lawrence’s “Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980 – 1983” and give my full attention to Richard Boch’s authoritative look back at “The Mudd Club.” I also want to dive into Mike Ruffino’s “Adios, Motherfucker,” which is the follow-up to his hilarious memoir about the Unband, “Gentlemanly Repose.” Beyond those, I was also gifted Bruce Dickinson’s new autobiography and the new book about Jann Wenner for Christmas. Suffice to say, my side-table looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
There is one book, however, that’s been making the rounds this year and that many people had been throwing my way, but I’ve thus far been quite able to resist. Lizzie Goodman’s “Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011” hit shelves this past May, although I’d already been hearing reverent mumblings about it in the cirlces of the similarly inclined, pedantic rock-journo types I am known to mix and mingle within. When I finally spied a tactile copy of it, I was somewhat amazed by its girth. Obviously taking its cue from Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain’s seismic oral history of 70’s Punk, “Please Kill Me,” Goodman’s sprawling tome seeks to give some equal time to the very period cited in the title, a decade which saw the fleeting rise of a generation of bands like The Strokes, Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem et al.
Initially, I exhaled loudly and arched my eyebrow. With all due respect to Goodman’s weighty endeavor, having also lived through and experienced that same period and seen many of the bands involved first hand -– albeit through the cynical eyes, jaded ears and strenuously opinionated sensibility of someone about fifteen years older -– I was skeptical. I picked up the book and rifled straight to the index. Finding no citations of a wide host of my favorite bands – from Cop Shoot Cop, Missing Foundation, Barkmarket and the Cro-Mags through Pussy Galore, Firewater, Skeleton Key and SWANS – I closed the book with a thud.
Now, obviously, given the crux of the project -– let alone the specifics of the title -- it would have been exceptionally naïve of me to expect Goodman to devote any meaningful amount of pages to the bands I cited above (although, to be fair, Firewater was entirely active during that book’s era, and even shared bills with some of the bands she concentrates on). My objection, however, was that I priggishly projected that she was perceiving herperiod as some sort of unique bubble of groudbreaking activity and not, conversely, part of New York City’s larger continuum of music. I admired and interpretted bands from my era like, say, Kraut, Cop Shoot Cop, Prong and Skeleton Key -– to laboriously invoke that obvious handful -– as all indebted to forebears like the Velvet Underground, the Modern Lovers, the Fugs, the New York Dolls, Television, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, the Dictators, the Tuff Darts, The Jim Carroll Band, The Contortions, Teenage Jesus, DNA, etc. I’m not equating, say, Prong with the Velvet Underground (although Prong were/are fucking great), but rather that Prong didn’t just sprout out of nowhere. Prong wouldn’t have existed without Tommy Victor’s experience doing sound for the hardcore matinees at CBGB. CBGB wouldn’t have been hosting those matinees had it not been for the impact of the generation of bands that first played there. Those first few CBGB bands wouldn’t have become what they became had it not been for the crucial influence of artists before them like the Velvets and the Dolls, etc. It’s all part of a larger cycle, to my mind.
It was for that very rationale, I believe, that “Please Kill Me” doesn't start with Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell walking up to Hilly Crystal on the Bowery, but rather with the St. Mark's Church poetry scene and the formation of the Velvet Underground. There has to be some historical context.
More to the point, however, as great as the Strokes, Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD, the Rapture and some of the non-NYC bands like the White Stripes, Hives, the Hot Hot Heat might have been (my personal favorite of the era being the Futureheads), it’s not like they were especially original. Some were more guilty than others, of course, but one wouldn’t be totally off base to lambast bands like The Strokes and Interpol as being rather pointedly derivative of more celebrated acts. To my ears, there was an inarguable element of what James Murphy cannily described as “borrowed nostalgia” to the whole 2001-2011 scene.
But, again, as I expounded on back on this post, that’s the patronizing old man talking. And it’s the old man that made those assumptions, thus talking himself out of actually further investing in the idea of reading Goodman’s book. For me to write off, say, Interpol as being derivative doesn’t matter. As much as I might have enjoyed their early material –- when I could forgive the crap lyrics, at least -– Interpol’s music wasn’t for me, or at least not in the manner music from a decade earlier might have been.
So, long story short, I didn’t read it, and didn’t really harbor any further interest in reading it until Marc Maron -– a guy who I genuinely admire -– hosted Goodman on his podcast, WTF, to discuss it. Somewhat ironically, one of the only times I’ve mentioned Marc Maron here on Flaming Pablum was because of his stint living on the Lower East Side and him trying to remmeber the name of Missing Foundation. As it happens, Marc is one of the lone “older” voices Goodman sought out for the book.
If you listen to the podcast -– which also includes the entirely hilarious and slavishly underrated Dana Gould -– Marc and Goodman extrapolate on some of the very grievances I’d been harboring about the book, and of course Goodman concedes that there were whole swathes of crucial bands and scenes that prefigured and informed the era she’d concentrated on. That said, she also takes pains to point out that the book isn’t so much specifically about the bands as it is about the whole experience of those ten years -– and that experience doesn’t have to be this all-encompassing, historically pedantic timeline that touches on every possible little detail. It’s actually a great, thoughtful chat, and it totally made me change my tune about the book.
That all said, she’s entirelytoo impressed that Marc owned the Jonathan Fire*Eater album. Regardless of age, era or sensibility, they were never all that.
POST SCRIPT: In the wake of posting this entry on a thread on Facebook, it occurred to me that my slavishly overwritten and hastily composed words might be misconstrued.
As such, here's what I'd consider the takeaway: I WAS WRONG, MYOPIC, PRECIOUS AND PRESUMPTUOUS TO PRE-JUDGE LIZZIE GOODMAN'S BOOK. That it took Marc Maron's show to convince me otherwise is incidental, as it was Goodman's own words and accounts that showed me the error of my ways.
if I'm guilty of anything here -- and I invariably am -- I'd like to believe it's agism and not misogyny. I don't think Lizzie Goodman's gender has anything to do with the veracity of her writing or insights.
No, don't get excited. This is not an update on the still-somewhat-ill-fated Cop Shoot Cop book project. As discussed here, that endeavor hit a crucial snag when the film production that was sponsoring it failed to meet a significant Kickstarter goal. Mission aborted.
While myself and the lads from the band are all still game to make the book a reality, the stark absence of financial muscle, interested publishers and actionable deadlines has put in on the back burner of an entirely different oven. I'll let you know if there's ever a change in that status.
That said, earlier this year, someone uploaded onto YouTube this great set from 1992. Here is Cop Shoot Cop firing on all clangy cylinders somewhere in the wilds of Long Beach, California.
Hey there, gang — Happy Boxing Day. I hope everyone’s had a joyous and festive holiday thus far. Here’s a quick one I thought I’d share with y’all for your nostalgic viewing pleasure.
I’ve mentioned proto-video-blogger Nelson Sullivan a few times here before (notably here, here and here), but — in a nutshell — Nelson was a maverick character who documented his daily doings on video. That sounds quaint today, but in the early-to-mid 80’s when he was doing that, you have to remember that the endeavor would have required a bulky videocamera. Overall, it must have been a somewhat labor-intensive undertaking. But, god bless’im for it. Sadly, we lost Nelson at the dawn of the 90’s. One wonders what he would have gone onto document — or what he’d have to say about the changes to this city.
In any case, this past December 22nd, 5ninthavenueproject published another archival clip of Nelson’s, and a friend of mine on Facebook gave me a quick nudge about it. Check it out below.
Entitled “A Walk from Washington Square to the East Village, 1985,” this clip captures just that — a leisurely stroll from west to east in July of that year. While that might sound low on thrills, the amount of since-vanished businesses, buildings, landmarks and other visual delights will positively enthrall anyone who harbors an affinity for this era of downtown Manhattan.
Regular readers here might possibly remember a fleeting post from 2013 wherein I cited a t-shirtt I was entirely besotted with, that being Venom’s cheeky tweak on the whole “Home Taping is Killing Music” campaign from the early 80’s. I mentioned that it was a garment I fervently coveted, but held little hope of ever possessing.
Four years later, my good friend — and fellow bug-eyed Venom acolyte — made good on that unlikely promise, sending me a brand new version of the shirt, which arrived — inappropriately enough — on Christmas Eve.
In any case, huge thanks to Dean and Merry Christmas!
As has been reasonably well documented here on Flaming Pablum, I'm a big fan of street art. Time was when I loved the cryptic nature of it. I loved seeing inexplicable images rife with presumably hidden meanings adorning the walls of the city. I loved the whole clandestine aesthetic of it all.
More recently, however, in these politically and socially tumultuous times, I find myself tiring of street art that doesn't have anything meaningful to say. In much the same way I wish the music of the era was more reflective of the tenor of the times, I now prefer my street art to make bold statements. As such, in the spirit of this gallery from earlier this year, herewith a compendium of images I snapped over the course of the last twelve months that speak to the pointed collective disdain for the current occupant of the White House and his gaggle of hateful troglodytes. Enjoy.
Whilst walking home last night, I passed by the corner of Elizabeth Street at East Houston and was struck by the above, the latest in a string of murals gracing the westerly-facing edifice.
At first glance, one might perceive this mural to be some sort of palpable blow against the empire, so to speak, but dig a little deeper, and it’s fairly dispiriting.
I’ll get into its content and execution shortly, but it should be acknowledged that for all the bravado of a legend like “Gentrify This,” it was still commissioned at the behest of the shop around its corner, Rag + Bone/Jean, a bespoke habberdasher specializing in ludicrously expensive casual menswear. The influx of businesses like Rag & Bone -- which displaced the restaurant, Café Colonial, which had, in turn, been there for fifteen years until a rent hike forced them out in 2010 -– represents the quintessence of gentrification. One could credibly argue that Café Colonial was equally representative of that same gentrification. Feel free to go down that rabbit hole, if you so please.
In any case, this mural is the street art equivalent of poserism, steeped in a slick patina of cultural appropriation. Rag & Bone doesn’t lament the gentrification of the Lower East Side. Rag & Bone is the manifestation of the gentrification of the Lower East Side.
These next points are fairly petty and pedantic, but you should expect as much from me by this stage.
Right off the bat, let’s get this right out of the way -– while the Clash are inarguably synonymous with all things Punk Rock and did indeed spend a shitload of time in New York City (recording at Electric Ladyland and playing venues like The Palladium, Bond’s Casino and Shea Stadium), at no point did they ever perform at CBGB, which makes the sloppy rendering of Paul Simonon smashing his bass (from the iconic cover of London Calling) adjacent to the approximation of the CB’s logo sort of lazy and incongruous. As a side note, there was a far better replication of this same image formerly adorning the wall of since-closed bar on East 12th back in the 90's. Don't look for it now, but here's how it's done:
The ersatz “SAMO” tag (the street art nom de plume of Jean-Michel Basquiat) also feels somewhat cheaply tacked on. Overall, the whole endeavor seems like something you might find at a Disney park.
Back at the tail end of 2015, I wrote a sniffy little entry about how I was growing steadily weary of the pop-culture-engulfing cult of “Star Wars” and how I really wasn’t expecting “The Force Awakens” to sway that opinion one way or the other. Put simply, one can only sustatin the wide-eyed wonderment of a 10 year old for so long. I drew what I considered to be a fairly sound analogy, that being that I similarly didn’t expect 2013’s mbv, the long-delayed follow-up to My Bloody Valentine’s iconic 1991 album, Loveless, to make me 24 again, as appealing as that might have been. I’d grown up and moved on.
I think “Star Wars” became easier to shake once it reached maximum saturation. What had once been an elective had swiftly become cumpulsory. In due course, there wasn’t anything distinctive or unique about being a “Star Wars” fan anymore. You were expected to get all hot and bothered about each new installment. It was everywhere and inescapable, especially when they re-booted the original three (replete with that whole revisionist bit wherein Han Solo was no longer depicted shooting Greedo in the Cantina first, thus arguably making him more virtuous a role model). Then, of course, they rolled out the prequels. I’m not even sure I lasted through the entirety of “The Phantom Menace.” All I remember of that film today is the somewhat clinical explanation of the Force as not so much a spiritual element as some amalgamation of galactic mitochondria … or something, and a cloying character named Jar-Jar Binks. It was almost a relieft that it sucked. I was free. I've never even seen the two films that followed it.
Then, of course, I had kids. In relatively short order, they, too, were indoctrinated into the “Star Wars” faith, albeit in a totally different manner. While I’d been privy to the birth of the phenomenon in real time, “Star Wars” was already well part of the establishment for them. By the same token, the inarguably broad appeal of the original films' mythology still works its magic, if you’re young enough, or at least able to suppress your inherent cynicism. As such, I re-watched all the original ones with my kids. I don’t believe we’ve ever made it onto the prequels. No rush, as far as I’m concerned. But, when “The Force Awakens” rolled out in 2015, it was a given that they wanted to see it. And, being that my wife has steadfastly avoided all of the films (her excuse being that she’s British, not that that should matter, really), it fell to me to take them.
So, yeah, before I took them, I posted here that I was reasonably certain that the Force was no longer with me, but that that was ultimately okay.
Then, I’ll be damned –- “The Force Awakens” was pretty damn great. Honestly, I only saw it with the kids that one time, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a kick out of it. Then, seemingly almost immediately afterwards, “Rogue One” came out. When I was a kid, it seemed like cruel years between episodes. Now they were dropping with the dependability of pungent dollops of crap from an incontinent cow’s posterior.
But, that was perfectly okay. Probably because George Lucas was no longer writing and directing them, these two new films seemed fresh, engaging and –- dare I suggest it -- cool again (there was assuredly nothing cool about “The Phantom Menace”). They didn’t change my life, but I was more or less back on board.
Here we are, then, at the tail end of 2017, and “The Last Jedi” has come out and touched off a raging maelstrom of bickering all over my social media feeds. Bug-eyed fanboys, cosplayers and Lucas-purists are lashing out at dilletantes, film critics and other quasi-legit zeitgeit-assessors about myraid plot points, inconsistencies and perceived betrayals. Opinions seem jaggedly divided as to whether this eighth episode (evidently “Rogue One” doesn’t count?) measures up.
But while I’m otherwise always ready to get vindictively purple in the face about ultimately inane pop culture bullshit of this variety, I can’t really seem to care too much, in this case. My son Oliver and I went to see the movie on Saturday, and all I know and care about is that my little boy got a tremendous kick out of it and came out smiling broadly. Was it too long? Probably. Were there scenes, characters and/or entire story-arcs I, personally, would have cut? Absolutely. Did that ruin anything for me? Not one bit.
I was kind of hoping “The Last Jedi” would embrace the fateful adjective in its title and finally put the series to bed, but I suppose there’s still gobs of money yet to be made.
But if you’re finding yourselves all up-in-arms about how this film went down, I’d just suggest borrowing a page from enjoyably broody Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. Maybe it’s finally time to let go of the past.