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.
Last week, on a friend’s Facebook thread about the uproar over Trump’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show, I joined the conversation, basically supporting the condemnation of Fallon as simply a shill for Trump. Ultimately, though, that’s just kinda what Fallon does — by his own admission, his show is the quintessence of softball. Like Jay Leno before him, he’s never going to hold anyone’s feet to the fire or ask the tough questions. But, then, was that ever in his job description?
Sure, we’ve grown accustomed to certain comedic figures from television — Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Bill Maher, Chelsea Handler, etc. — who are versed and eloquent at speaking truth to power, but should we have such high expectations from merely the host of an ostensibly “funny" late night talk show? Is it their job to voice the concerns of the populace?
I’d say “not necessarily,” but still don't let Fallon totally off the hook. I think my biggest problem in that instance is that — in the wake of all that’s transpired and all that’s been said and how things have escalated to this implausibly surreal place we are all at now — it just seems far too late for a goofy puff piece about Trump’s hair. Is he still a roundly silly person easily made fun of? Of course he is, but that stuff doesn’t really matter anymore after the tribulations of the last few months. It’s a grand comparison, but it’s a bit like making fun of Hitler’s mustache after Krystalnacht. His superficial personal attributes don’t matter anymore.
Then I put my foot in it by asserting that Fallon played the same role for … wait for it … Axl Rose. Some of you might remember an MTV Music Awards several years back when Axl Rose first revived his celebrated ensemble — albeit in name only (he was the only original member present) — for their first television appearance since “re-forming.” Even die-hard GN’R fans — a demographic I’ve never been an ardent member of — knew that this wasn’t really the momentous occasion Axl was intent of having them believe it was. Regardless, Jimmy Fallon came on to introduce them, breathlessly extolling the merits of the band, and entirely glossing over the fact that most of the integral players were absent. If you genuinely care, you can watch what I’m talking about right here.
So, yeah, I said that. It was a tenuously relevant footnote ... at best.
Someone then chimed in, incredulously asking if I’d seriously just compared Donald Trump to Axl Rose. I blithely replied that, yes — I think they’re comparable in that they’re both fatuous blowhards with disproportionately fragile egos.
This rejoinder came quickly:
"NO THEY ARE NOT COMPARABLE. Axl Rose can't select a supreme court justice and destroy reproductive rights and deport immigrants AND THIS IS WHY OUR COUNTRY IS GOING TO DIE BECAUSE MORONS LOVE FALSE EQUIVALENCY.”
I tried, unsuccessfully, to backpedal and explain my flimsy position, but the palpable hit was already made and the point taken. While I’d suggest it was a bit of a snap judgment concerning an ultimately jokey allusion, this person’s retort was entirely on-target, speaking to the point I was trying to make in the paragraphs above.
It’s too late to be concerning ourselves with the perceived silliness and inexorable pop-culture-infected elements of Donald Trump’s presence. At this stage of the proceedings, he remains a viable contender for the presidency. If that notion rightly sends a chill down your spine — and, if it doesn’t, you need to stop and think hard about the tenets you’re genuinely espousing by supporting him — it’s more imperative than ever that you get out and use your vote to make sure he never sees the inside of the Oval Office.
As I’ve suggested as much over the eleven years I’ve been composing this blog (let alone the fifteen years since the day in question), I’ve largely run out of insightful things to say about the events of September 11, 2001. I’ve written about the death of my high school friend, Mike Armstrong, who was working at Cantor Fitzgerald the morning that first plane hit the first tower. I’ve written about how New York City has (and hasn’t) changed in various capacities. I’ve written about my reactions to how the day has been used as a political football to further the agendas of any number of dubious endeavors. By and large, I don’t think what I have to say about it is especially distinctive or unique, at this stage of the proceedings.
While my memories of the event and the days and weeks thereafter still seem entirely fresh, it’s prudent to remember that it’s been a decade and a half. I've raised two kids and changed jobs ... jesus ...four times since 9/11 (and even fifteen years later, I still hate referring to it as "9/11." Something about that really bugs me, although I'm at a loss as to articulate why).
Strangely enough, I now work pretty much directly on the site. My current office is inside part of the since re-built complex. In fact, the building I work in stands in the footprint of the epicenter of a thousand conspiracy theories -- i.e. the building the collapsed despite not having been hit by a plane.
The odd thing for me now is that I find it very hard to reconcile the neighborhood in question as I remember it, and what it's like now. Truthfully, I rarely went down to the WTC, and I only ever went to the top of the towers once -- with my friend Steve, who discovered his long-dormant, acute acrophobia the second we reached the top, forcing us to immediately come back down.
I've always been more or less versed in the topography of TriBeCa, but I rarely went south of it -- there wasn't much reason to, for me. There weren't any cool record stores, comic shops or live music venues that far down. What was the point? As such, I can't remember what the very bottom of West Broadway (where I walk every day) really looked like prior to that morning in 2001.
I do remember walking around it relatively soon after the fact. But even those images seem incompatible with the scene there now.
I haven't been inside the 9/11 museum, and I don't foresee a time I will anytime soon. I've fleetingly walked by the memorial fountains (built into the actual footprints of the towers), but have not taken the time to find my friend Mike's name carved into the marble. Maybe it's a cliché, but I'm entirely put off by the hordes of obliviously smiling tourists in their American flag t-shirts and selfie-sticks.
Again, even after this many years, it doesn't feel real.
This is invariably going to lose me points with my rightier-tightier friends, but as much as a fervent appreciation for the music of Black Sabbath is IN MY VERY BLOOD, I’m afraid I’m just not down with this shirt.
Listen, I’m well aware that a sense of humor is critically essential to maintaining both one’s perspective and one’s fucking sanity in this current socio-political climate, and I’m often the first to dole out an inappropriate quip at the most inopportune of moments, but here’s the thing: Making a little not-even-that-clever joke about #BlackLivesMatter is basically akin to making light of, belittling and ultimately discrediting a movement that is really nothing at all to laugh at.
Equating your own appreciation for a band –- and this is coming from dude perilously close to 50 who still gets in heated debates about rock trivia -– to an activist movement against systemic violence and discrimination isn’t funny, isn’t cute, isn’t ironic, and ultimately really isn’t smart. You're only making yourself (and, by proxy, the estimable Black Sabbath) look entirely ridiculous.
If you want to accuse me of being overtly “politically correct” about this, go right ahead. As I’ve said before, being “politically correct” is only shorthand for being inclusive, considerate, and cognizant of our respective cultural differences. It’s something proper, sentient adults are.
If you wear this shirt and get punched in the face, please don’t be mystified.
There’s nothing timely about this in the slightest, but given that the tenor of the times is so rife with the unthinkable (Trump, gun violence, racism, police brutality, terrorism, global unrest, Brexit fallout, “Pokemon Go!,” etc.), maybe being out of step with what’s timely is perfectly okay.
Moreover, when I do speak my mind about current events (like, say, the very real possibility of an impending Trump administration), I tend to get a bit frothy at the mouth. I’ve been informed by some that making declarative statements on, say, Facebook about my zero tolerance for Trump supporters might rub some people the wrong way. Too bad. Put simply, if you even tacitly support the perspectives and “policies” (such as they are) that Trump’s espousing, I don’t want to spend any time with you. You wouldn’t stay friends with a David Duke supporter, would you? It’s pretty much the same thing. Think about it, and vote wisely.
See? I’ve digressed with bug-eyed fervor already.
Anyway, to get back to that which isn’t even remotely timely, I stumbled upon the pair of images below on Flickr, courtesy of one Anthony Rau, in a folder titled “Greenwich Village and Downtown NYC.” I’ve spoken about the place several times here before (notably here, here, here, here, here, here and most recently here), but this is, of course, the intimately appointed interior of Subterranean Records on Cornelia Street.
I’ve said it before that stepping down into Subterranean felt like entering a chapel. It was cramped and dank and a bit musty, but I loved it.
It’s gone now, of course … seemingly replaced by nothing.
My eagle-eyed comrade Drew spotted this gallery on Flickr by way of NYU’s Tamiment Library. Check this selection of images from photograph John Penley, largely focused on social activism circa 1989-1994. Be warned, there are also a few NSFW shots in there.
I don’t post too often about politics here, but this current election season seems fairly exceptional, so I am going to again part from convention –- pardon the pun –- and dabble in that taboo topic, albeit with a nod to this blog’s normal preoccupations.
Rock ‘n’ Roll and politicians rarely play nice together. Aspiring candidates want to appear populist, hip and down with the kids, so they play canonical favorites at their rallies –- only to be scolded, in predictable course, by the rockers responsible for those songs for appropriating their music without express consent. It’s happened more times than can be humanly quantified, replicated this past week at the RNC, where Trump’s been playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” -- rather presumptuously –- much to hirsute guitarist Brian May’s “frustration.” Really nothing new about that story at all. Reagan did it to Springsteen. Rand Paul did it to Rush. Sarah Palin did it to Heart. It’s old news.
In those instances, one feels that Republicans should really stick with unmistakably affirmed supporters in that realm, but I guess Ted Nugent and Kid Rock can only be at so many places at once.
But there were a couple of other rock/RNC stories that broke recently that I thought were a bit more fun.
First up, there’s G.E. Smith. If his name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, you may recognize this sorta journeyman guitarist as a long-time player for folks like Hall & Oates and David Bowie (look for him in the video for “Fashion”). More famously, he was the longtime bandleader for “Saturday Night Live” (as well as prefiguring Gene Wilder as Gilda Radner’s husband). In any case, Smith is apparently a card-carrying Trump-supporter and leads the house band at this year’s arguably troubled RNC. His judgment was called into question earlier this week when he unveiled an ill-conceived trek through one of his former employer’s hallowed classics, that being “Station to Station” by David Bowie.
Beyond it simply being a musically ambitious and presumptuous choice (would the late Mr. Bowie have wanted his music played at this event?), there are other concerns that should have sent up a few red flags. Instead of dusting off something comparatively innocuous like, say, “Let’s Dance” or “Golden Years,” Smith selected a sprawling, quasi-conceptual suite from Bowie’s most notoriously troubled era, when a dabbling in fascism, the occult and massive piles of blow were the order of the Thin White Duke’s day. Suffice to say, “Station to Station” isn’t a simple pop ditty. Its clearly stated invocations of “one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth” and that “it must be the side-effects of the cocaine” might have given some pause, had they been paying closer attention. Given the tenor of the event, I’d suggest Smith’s band would have been better served by an airing of “I’m Afraid of Americans.”
More giggles were had, however, on Tuesday, when 90’s “alt.rock” hit-makers Third Eye Blind showed up to play an RNC-affiliated event … and proceeded to mock the fuck out of all present (“Raise your hand if you believe in science”) and endearingly not really play any of their hits. Now, say what you want about this somewhat notoriously dickish band and their music, but that was pretty ballsy. I generally have no problem with avowed dicks behaving like dicks towards other dicks. And with a similar nod to “Station to Station,” who at the RNC thought it was a good idea to invite a band WHOSE BIGGEST HIT IS ABOUT DOING CRYSTAL METH to their convention? Sorry, but they shoulda seen that comin’. 3EB, I salute ye.
This, in turn, got me wondering about how some other fabled right-leaning rockers might reconcile the dichotomies between their political affiliation and their art. Take, for example, the outspokenly Obama-hating Glenn Danzig of Flaming Pablum favorites, the Misfits et al. While boasting one of the most distinctive voices in punk and metal – largely devoted to crooning about monsters, necrophagia and murder -– our Glenn is a committed, Fox-watching Republican. Some might remember the enjoyably ridiculous inner sleeve of 1994’s Danzig 4 which depicted a Bill Clinton-impersonator shaking hands with a sniper who’d, evidently, just put all four members of the band in oblong, pine boxes (see below). Yeah, like Bill didn’t have bigger fish to fry, at the time.
But being the meat-n’-potatoes, blue collar Jersey Republican Glenn arguably is, how must he feel about Dr. Ben Carson taking potshots at the ol’ Lightbringer? I mean, Danzig put out a goddamn album called I Luciferi! Which infernal master do you serve, Glenn? It must be a real dilemma!
My greater suspicion is that Danzig is probably more of a Johnny Ramone-styled Republican – more defined by his disdain for the other party than for an admiration for the tenets of his own. Comparable to Danzig’s split loyalties, let’s remember, Johnny Ramone might have sworn allegiance to Reagan and Bush, but he also thought the Manson Family was pretty swell, as well.
It’s been another flabbergasting week of horrible news, and yet another instance wherein the stark realities of the world render virtually everything on this blog unspeakably trivial. I’d love to put up more pictures of lost record stores or needlessly detailed ruminations about one dumb band or another, but that all seems so stupid and moot right now.
I have no salve to assuage the news of the day, beyond emphatically asserting that racism is very real and should be entirely intolerable, but this week’s crimes -– like countless ones before them -– are systemic.
I have a couple of posts in the works, notably yet another Flaming Pablum Interview, which I hope all will enjoy.
Unfortunately, the news events of the day (from the Brexit to the continued failure to enact meaningful gun control legislation to the ongoing, terrifying circus of abject idiocy that is Donald Trump), make it all feel more meaningless and trivial than can be quantified.
As such, consider this applicable tune a place-holder....