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.
I was back at my wife’s family’s place in Park Slope, Brooklyn last weekend and, in keeping with that vow I made in 2012, I carved out a little me-time and took a stroll over to Music Matters on 7th Avenue, as I’d long been planning on checking out Bowie’s new record, Blackstar. I’d dutifully picked up his previous effort, The Next Day, but never fully got into it, but the buzz on Blackstar was already pretty pronounced, ever prior to the great man’s devastating passing last week. I now figured I was pretty much obligated to go get it.
As much as I do like Music Matters, I’m frequently heard to bitch that they never have the specific items I’m looking for, at the time. Happily, this instance was the exception to that rule. I snapped up a copy of Blackstar off the shelves immediately, and then spied a handsome, hard-book-formatted limited edition of Bad Magic, the newly released (and, sadly, newly final) Motorhead album. Since I was feeling ill-advisedly spendy (I don’t get the opportunity to splurge in disc shops all that often), I sprang for that, too. Again, it felt like the least I could do.
I paid up, hit the bricks, hand have spent the following few days soaking both albums in.
I’d only seen a little bit of the frankly bizarre video for the title track of Blackstar, but true to that small taste, the opening, nine-plus minute song is indeed an ominous tone-setter. A former colleague and scrupulously encyclopedic rockhead friend of mine had mentioned that he was initially “freaked out” by the song, and I totally agree. It makes for unsettling listening. Given all that we (think we) know about what Bowie knew about his own impending fate while recording this album, it’s incredibly difficult to listen to its seven songs objectively (i.e. without trying to “de-code” them, so to speak). Was he, as some project, trying to prepare us for what was coming? There are some tantalizing hints to support that theory, but we’ll never know for sure. Regardless, I continue to find “Blackstar” (the song) indefinably creepy, and the malaise it establishes is hard to shrug off over the next six songs.
Obviously, those fair-weather fans -- and they are legion -- who might be expecting the poppy strains of Let’s Dance…Again when they pick up Blackstar are in for a chilly disappointment, but there are some less impenetrable moments on the record, notably “Dollar Days,” arguably the most accessible song of the seven. While comparatively brief (barely over 40 minutes), Blackstar is not a record that is going to reveal itself fully to the casual listener. It demands immersion, and I don’t really feel like I’ve done that yet. Stay tuned.
I wasn’t originally planning on buying Motorhead’s Bad Magic. I’m not positive, but I believe it’s something like the 25th (!!!) studio album from the band, whereas I started basically tapering off buying each new successive Motorhead disc after 1991’s blistering 1916. Sure, they continued to crank out some great isolated tracks (I remain a fervent fan of 1992’s title track to March or Die and “Rock Out” from 2008’s Motorizer), but given their storied, iron-willed adherence to stylistic consistency (see also their brethren in AC/DC and the Ramones), I was kinda feeling like I had all I needed from the band.
But, given that Bad Magic turned out to be Lemmy’s swan song (or at least until the contents of the Motorhead vaults are explored, if anything’s left), I figured I should dutifully hear it. I’m happy to report that it’s better than I ever would have expected, given the circumstances.
Does Lem sound slightly old and wheezy throughout? A bit, but not as much as you might think. Moreover, Lemmy has always kinda sounded like this, although there is certainly no lack of signature bite. Lemmy’s body may have taken several hits by this point, but his sensibilities hadn’t otherwise mellowed in the slightest.
And while disarmingly consistent with the band’s storied sound, proceedings still sound remarkably fresh (thanks in part to some great production). To listen to tracks like “Victory or Die” and “Tell Me Who To Kill” (my favorite of the set), you would never know that this was a band about to be silenced.
As with Blackstar I did indeed find myself listening for signs that Lemmy knew his number was up. Less oblique that Bowie, he does pretty much address his final convictions and lack of regret in the fittingly titled and introspective “In the End,” but it’s not executed in so much a somber manner as it is a declaration of intent. Lemmy knew who he was, knew what he wanted, knew how he wanted to live and knew what ultimately was waiting for him. That said, this wasn’t the first time he’d expressed as much.
The album closes with an endearingly unlikely cover of “Sympathy for the Devil.” While it may lack the serpentine slinkiness of the Rolling Stones original, it’s still delivered with a credible amount of chutzpah. I’m curious to hear what Mick and Keef might have to say about it.
On a personal level, I’m still wrestling with that thing that I cannot talk about here. This all said, at least my new job has been a great, engaging, life-affirming and verily life-saving godsend, one for which I am eternally grateful to an otherwise seemingly maleficent deity for.
I constantly feel like apologizing here for sub-standard or erratic posts, although I’ve fielded a couple of genuinely lovely notes from readers in the past couple of days that have really lifted my spirits. Thanks for bearing with my melodrama.
In any case, as I was hoofing it downtown to work this morning in a funk worthy of Charlie Brown, I looked up and spotted a doorway that triggered something.
Those of you who’ve been hanging around here might remember an unwieldy photo quiz I posted back in 2011, wherein posted a slew of notable pics of rock types hanging out in specific locales around the city. Some of them, of course, were crazy obvious, while a couple of others really stumped the experts. One of the latter variety was this one below.
Here we see, of course, the inimitable Lydia Lunch. This is actually a still from a Vivienne Dick film she starred in from 1979 called “Beauty Becomes the Beast.” As you might imagine, it sure ain't a feel-good romcom.
Anyway, I posed the question to readers to identify that doorway wherein our Lydia is seen looking desperate and expectant. Given the subject matter and the casting, it wasn’t exactly a giant leap to suspect that it was somewhere on the Lower East Side, but no one seemed to nail it. I thought it might be on Bond Street just a few steps in off the Bowery, but never made a solid match-up.
In any case, years later, I’m walking down West Broadway to work this morning, and I spied this.
But, of course, that’s not it either. The numbers don’t match. But, it’s kinda similar, right? Anyway, the hunt continues. At the very least, it got my mind off my troubles for a moment.
“Beauty Becomes the Beast” used to be on YouTube, but doesn’t seem to be anymore. That said, here’s a suitably grim little snippet of Vivienne Dick’s, also featuring lovely Lydia in petulant form.
I had an interaction earlier this week with a friend of mine wherein I posted a video by a band on my Facebook page, and he kinda took me to task for liking something he considered unfit for human consumption. Under normal circumstances, if someone doesn’t get why I like something (or fails to share my affinity for it — whatever it may be), I’m usually not bothered. But this one really kinda bugged me, as this is a friend whose opinions and tastes I really respect, and it got back to this quandary about the perilous gulf between what’s perceived as suitable for appreciation by discerning music heads and what isn’t. In turn, I started typing out a sprawling, windily detailed post about it, but the draft of said post is on another desktop at the moment, so … you’ll just have to wait for that one, I guess (if I indeed decide to post it). Suffice it to say — LIKE WHAT YOU LIKE!
In any case, herewith a clip I spotted in passing during my week of intense, unexpected stress between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day (which I’m not at liberty to get into). I’d never seen this before, but dating back to 1984, here’s Lou Reed, Jim Carroll and storied Voidoids guitarist/curmudgeon Robert Quine having a bash through Carroll’s perennial punk requiem, “People Who Died” (which I previously wrote about in greater detail here). Ironically, all three of these luminaries have left us.
Play it loud, and have a safe, uneventful and healthy weekend.
As I was taking my daughter to school this morning, I looked out the window of the bus going up Third Avenue, only to spy that, evidently, Gothic Cabinet Craft -- the longstanding wood furniture supplier on East 13th street (as immortalized in 1976's "Taxi Driver," above) has closed up shop.
Had it not been for Gothic and Surprise Surprise across the street (also gone, replaced by a Basics Plus), my first apartment on East 12th Street would have been largely bereft of anything to sit on, put clothes in or eat off of.
Hi all. Well, that surprise curve ball I cryptically alluded to in my year-end survey rebounded and, basically, clocked me in the head on New Year's Day. Everything should be alright, but suffice to say, it's been an exhausting couple of weeks. In any case, I will have my hands full for a little bit, so things may slow down here. But please stand by, anyway.
I have never been an especially religious person. Sure, I spent fourteen years in Catholic schools, but the potent combination of a series of pivotal life experiences and a deep, deep well of virulent cynicism has largely prevented me from investing very seriously in the practice of faith. I still genuinely believe in a lot of the tenets of Catholicism (i.e. try not to be a total shit to people, don’t kill anybody, etc.), but largely refrain from adhering to any specific dogma. My blasphemous bluster aside, I am still duly plagued with a tenacious strain of guilt.
But put me under pressure, and you may indeed find me petitioning the skies with prayer, because … you know … why not? My last couple of years were fraught with multiple deaths in the family, some serious ongoing illnesses for certain loved ones and an arduous bout of sudden job-loss that slammed into me like a torpedo when I was at my most vulnerable. During those crises, I did indeed find myself appealing to the mercies of a higher power, literally begging for the strength and the insight to move forward past the obstacles. At the end of my rope, at my wits' end, at sixes and sevens, all at sea … call it what you want, but I was truly lost and in need of help.
But the things I asked for not to occur still took place. The people I prayed not to be taken from me were still taken. The hurt I earnestly asked for not to happen to individuals I dearly love was still inflicted. The wisdom and the answers I sought didn’t arrive.
Suffice it to say, the last couple of years haven’t really changed my perspective. If anything, they’ve reinforced it.
2015, by and large, was difficult. Still clawing out of the events detailed above, much of the year was marked by worry and frustration. My endeavor to get re-situated in the work force plowed through many hills and valleys, and took much, much longer than I had ever conceived that it would. As a result, you will never hear me give anyone around my age and/or circumstances looking for work the slightest amount of grief. Until it happens to you — AND IT PROBABLY FUCKING WILL! — you don’t know how hard it is. I don’t wish it on anyone. I really don’t.
But, I got lucky. I stuck to my guns and held out for the right position. I even turned a gig down (and that after 13 months on the street), because I knew it wasn’t right for me. In the end, after a long, iffy, protracted dance with a specific outlet, I landed the job I wanted. Granted, I’ve only been at said outlet now for a month, but I am immeasurably grateful for the opportunity. It was a deeply humbling experience, but I came out on the other side. You might think, for a moment, that that experience might get me to change my tune.
Here’s the thing: Just when you think things are looking up, and when you think your luck is finally changing — THAT’S when you should expect your next curve ball.
And at the risk of being insufferably cryptic, we just weathered another hit. We are going to get through it, but right when I'm thinking that 2015 was the year I was going to look back on as the one when everything turned better and brighter, I am forcibly reminded that it just doesn’t work that way. Count your blessings and be thankful for everything you’ve got and everyone you love, but take nothing and no one for granted. And when you least expect it — EXPECT IT.
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Since my preamble above is rather doomy gloomy, I’m going to keep this answer light and submit that I sailed on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t believe I made any, because they never stick — but I am flirting with the idea of doing a “Dry January,” but we’ll see.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My good friend Tod and his wife Selin had a little girl.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Mercifully, not this year.
5. What countries did you visit?
I went to Canada.
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
An end to the fucking curve balls.
7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory?
There are a few indelible ones, but I’m going to concentrate on the positive and cite Friday, November 6, which was the day I fielded the offer from the job I now hold.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Landing that job offer and getting back to work.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I spent the previous sixteen months feeling like an abject failure, so it’s hard to know where to start.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, but someone very close to me continues to.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
For being the love of my life, I bought my beautiful, patient and supportive wife a lovely pair of earrings that I believe that she truly adores.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
See answer above, as well as my two indescribably dear children, Charlotte and Oliver.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
That which passes for the Republican Party in 2015. MAKE SURE YOU VOTE WITH YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR CONSCIENCE IN 2016!!!
14. Where did most of your money go?
COBRA and tuition.
15. What did you get really, really excited about?
In a good way? The prospect and fruition of my new job. In a bad way? I cannot say right now.
16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Probably “She Does it Right” by Dr. Feelgood
17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
If you’d asked me a couple of days ago, I’d have said ‘happier.’ But at the moment, I’m a little shaky.
18. Thinner or fatter?
About the same, I believe. Still have a beer gut to get rid of.
19. Richer or poorer?
Poorer, but poised to improve my station, now that I’m earning again.
20. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Working and earning
21. What do you wish you'd done less of?
22. How did you spend Christmas?
With my family.
23. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
No idea. Probably the wife.
24. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Yes, with my wife all over again.
25. How many one night stands in this last year?
None. I am very happily married.
26. What was your favorite TV program?
This year, I’d probably have to go with “The Affair,” despite the awfulness of so many of the characters. I also abhor Fiona Apple's theme song to same, but the show is great.
27. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I pretty much genuinely hated a certain trio of people last year. This year, I can’t say I’m especially fond of them, but it’s over and I’ve moved on to greener pastures. I don’t necessarily wish them well, but I don’t wish them ill anymore. Move forward.
28. What was the best book you read?
2015 was actually a great year for reading. Hard to say, really, but I’d probably have to go with “Your Band Sucks” by Jon Fine.
29. What was your greatest musical discovery?
They’re not new by any stretch, but in terms of discovery — Dr. Feelgood, without a doubt.
30. What did you want and get?
A JOB I ACTUALLLY LIKE
31. What did you want and not get?
Piece of mind and an actionable solution to that ongoing problem I can’t talk about.
32. What were your favorite films of this year?
“Mad Max: Fury Road” and “AMY.” No, I still haven’t seen the new “Star Wars” yet.
33. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent it with my wife and children and I turned 48. Hard to get excited about that number.
34. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A clean bill of health for a certain someone.
35. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Well, being the jobless son of a bitch that I was for most of it, I spent most of 2015 dressed like a roadie for the Butthole Surfers. Now gainfully employed at an upstanding and respectable outlet, I’m endeavoring to walk my wardrobe upstairs a bit.
36. What kept you sane?
Once again, who said anything about being sane? There were moments this year when my grip on rational thought felt genuinely tenuous. My love for my wife and children and my obligation to achieve a better situation for them kept me focussed.
37. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
If you waste your time fancying celebrities and public figures, please fuck right off this blog and get a life.
38. What political issue stirred you the most?
I am aghast that individuals like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and — good grief — Donald Trump are serious contenders. And if you’re a proud member of the N.R.A., please go strenuously fuck yourself.
39. Who did you miss?
The family members we lost in the previous two years.
40. Who was the best new person you met?
I’ve just met a number of great new folks at my new job that I’m looking forward to getting to know better. Also, I’d like to give a big, robust shout-out to my friend Jonathan Tessler, who fought in the same trenches as myself this year. He deserves the same luck I’ve experienced. He’s a good man.
41. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015
Again, if I was asked this question a week ago, the answer would be vastly different. I’ll say this: Be thankful for what you have and those you love. Stay focussed. Act on your instincts.
42. Song lyric that sums up 2015:
There is some contention as to where the turn of phrase originates, but I know where I first heard it. From “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon (a touching ode by a deeply flawed father to his innocent, little boy): “Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans.”
I was ten years old when “Star Wars” first hit theaters, and it had a fairly seismic effect on me.
I have vivid memories of first seeing it –- possibly as part of a birthday party -- at a long-since-demolished movie house on East 86th Street between Lexington and Third, and my mind being summarily blown. In pretty much one fell swoop, I was indoctrinated. Almost immediately, my adoration for the comparatively quaint “Planet of the Apes” (the until-then gold standard for sci-fi) was handily eclipsed by all things “Star Wars” (rivaled *only* by my unwavering fandom for KISS). Like pretty much everyone else in my peer group, I bought right into the whole thing.
The funny thing about that, however, is that at the time, there was a genuine dearth (pardon the sorta-pun) of actual “Star Wars” merchandise available. Upon the release of the film, Kenner hadn’t rolled out their first line of action figures yet. I don’t remember how long after the fact the toys actually showed up, but it wasn’t exactly overnight, if I’m not mistaken. For the longest time, the only bit of genuine “Star Wars” ephemera I owned was an oversized button that read ”DARTH VADER LIVES.” To my considerable discredit, I am depicted wearing it in my fifth grade class picture, and grimacing accordingly. My mom, as you can imagine, was thrilled.
In due course, out came the toys and the rest of the merchandising blitz (again, rivaled *only* by KISS). In relatively swift succession, the next two films in the series arrived. If I’m being honest, I must admit that the bloom was fairly off the rose by the time the Ewoks showed up. Moreover, I was quite let down when they unmasked Darth Vader to reveal …well, Humpty Dumpty. I was envisioning someone more like Gene Simmons.
Anyway, here’s the thing.
As fucking ridiculous as the cult of “Star Wars” was circa the first three films, it was still relatively MANAGEABLE. At the end of the day, despite all the toys and the comic books and the Halloween costumes and the odd television special, they were still just MOVIES. There was no street team. There was no viral marketing. There was no maddeningly ubiquitous advance buzz. We let things happen when they happened, and society, nay, Western Civilization as a whole didn’t seem to lose sight of the fact that this was just entertainment, however expensively crafted.
Honestly, prior to the first “Star Wars” film (oh, excuse me, pedants…. “Episode IV”), I only ever saw a fleeting commercial for it, and there was still a great deal of mystery about it all. You had to actually go see it to learn all about it.
Suffice it to say, that’s not really the case anymore.
Let’s suggest, for a moment, that I want to see this new “Star Wars” film (even after completely losing my taste for the whole thing following an abortive viewing of “The Phantom Menace”). If I want to go into it with blind objectivity, I pretty much have to sequester myself in a goddamn cave. It’s not just about avoiding social media (much less the entirety of the internet, in general), I can barely step outside without being inundated with images, iconography and synchronized commercial tie-ins. Hell, my own son already wears a fetching black “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” t-shirt (with that weird soccer ball droid on it), and he obviously hasn’t seen the movie yet. We’ve already reached maximum saturation … haven’t we? Please tell me we have.
I’m going to (eventually) check out the movie. I have to. My kids are dying to see it, of course –- although I don’t know if the characters and the myth are as significant to them as they were to me in 1977 (I think “Harry Potter” still trumps all, for them). And, of course, being that members of the original cast are back, I am genuinely curious to see how it’s all going to hold up.
But the difference is this: To put it in the parlance of the insufferable music geek, in much the same way I didn’t expect m b v, the long-in-the-making follow-up album to My Bloody Valentine’s watershed opus Loveless to make me a youthfully sneery 24-year-old again (and, believe me, it didn’t), I have precious little faith that “The Force Awakens” is going to live up to strenuous expectations and transform me back into that wide-eyed, wonderment-addled ten-year-old.
I can hear the purists click their tongues now, laboriously quoting Yoda’s somber “That Is Why You Fail” admonition. Whatever. I’m okay with that.
It’s quite possible that the Force is no longer with me.