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It's not like much has happened since 9 March 2016 anyway, right?!?!
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Acedia
week of 11 February 2017
 

What’s better than your favourite band getting back together? Your favourite band getting back together without there being any real acknowledgement that they stopped; to come back after a long hiatus and pick up from right where they left off, like nothing happened, like everything was normal and the silence was planned. Yeah. That’s a nice way to do it.

So….America was a strange trip. Tension with my family (which I am not proud of), tension across the hyperpolarised political divide (which I am not convinced is so absolute, yet I'm still fearful of the consequences), and tension between my anxiety about overconsumption and my actual behaviour. Yes, I indulged in my usual routine of “stocking up” on books, comics and records while over there. This time the exchange rate barely even justified the purchases; it’s only because of the obscene international shipping costs for vinyl that this made any sense, even after paying United Airlines extra to take a second suitcase back.

Beyond consumption: Hey, the Women’s March in Nashville was great; there were 15,000 people there when only 4000 were expected and it was a beautiful day to do some rabblerousing. And yet Nashville didn’t even make the national news against all of the other cities that turned out even larger protests. The montage of dissent in cities around the world was inspiring, and it was great to be a cog in a larger whole. I worried that people might think I was some undercover FBI agent, as I had no sign, no friends, and was dressed in my usual business-casual attire. But I marched and shouted and clapped and felt the same emotional euphoria that the best public demonstrations provide, even when preaching to the converted. (The anti-austerity protest that took place the last time I was in Sheffield, just after the UK’s unfortunate election, was similarly cathartic). In Nashville, the PA system was horribly inadequate for the unexpected turnout so I couldn’t even hear what I was applauding, and then when it slowly started to move towards the city centre, the pedestrian bridge by the American football stadium was a total bottleneck so everything took a lot longer than anticipated. But that’s OK; I enjoyed taking in all of the sights - the passionate/angry/hilarious signs, and the inspiring diversity of age/race/genders. Nashville is of course a progressive enclave in a generally reactionary state, but being around 14,999 other people whose views you likely mostly agree with is a nice bubble to be in for a few hours. If you squinted and let the din overtake your senses, then you could almost forget how majorly fucked we all are, and think that maybe, just maybe, everything might turn out OK.

Another shadow that hung over my visit was the passing of Karl Hendricks. It hit me a lot harder than I expected, even though he was in bad shape for a long time and I hadn’t actually seen him for a few years. When friends or family die, it’s always hard. When musicians and artists who you admire die, it’s a different feeling, and not something that usually affects me emotionally but more in a strangely romantic way. Karl’s death was a little from each column. We certainly weren’t close friends, but I grew up in the Pittsburgh music scene seeing him as a role model and inspiration. But from the Trio’s performance at Lollapalooza ’93 through all the years buying records from him at Paul’s, and then finally getting to know him a bit when we had a class together at Pitt in ’99 — he became something more to me. Not just a guy in a local band, but an approachable normal human being with a job and a family and a passion for what he did. 

It was intense to attend his memorial, and wonderful in a sad way. Seeing so many people from my past life in Pittsburgh (a life I barely think about anymore) was like some perspective-focusing exercise on the present, and I wish a better reason had brought us all together. Though I was just in town by coincidence, it was a fortuitous one and I’m resolving now to get back in touch with so many of the faces I saw that night.

Buick Electra is the Karl Hendricks Trio’s first album and still the one that resonates the most with me, but I’m trying to find my dubbed cassette of the solo Karl tape Jolly Doom, which is from the late 80s or maybe early 90s. A friend in high school copied it for me back in the day, and it’s Karl before he was rocking, writing songs alone in his bedroom in McKeesport, and laying out his vision of the empathetic, Rust Belt romanticism that he would spend the rest of his life perfecting. In the meantime, I’ve been watching this video of ‘You’re a Bigger Jerk Than Me’ solo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qma_o__vXU) over and over, and footage from the January 1993 gig that’s also on YouTube. And I highly recommend Doug’s special radio show tribute to Karl, where he articulates their relationship in a way that kinda nails how I felt too: http://still-single.tumblr.com/post/156272831496/new-radio-1222017

‘All that’s left… is a song.'

MEDIA INTAKE

So much media came back to Helsinki with me that I’ll be digging through it for awhile. I am proud to now own Dalkey Archive’s translation of Bottom’s Dream (Zettel’s Traum) by Arno Schmidt, which is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever purchased (just narrowly nudging out the unabridged Vollmann Rising Up, Rising Down set and those Avant Marghen box sets). I haven’t even opened it yet; it will probably take the rest of my life to read, and I never even finished School for Athiests. What I particularly loved is that Bill at Copacetic went ahead and got me a copy to surprise me, knowing it was right up my alley, though stupidly I had already ordered one on my own. Amazon or whatever is the future of commerce may be able to use algorithms to predict our every desire, but it’s not going to be the same as the intimate connection between longtime customers and independent shop owners.

Though Bill is so much more than a shop owner! He’s a real friend and it was great to see him, as always. And also as usual, I left Copacetic with a stack of comics and other material which I’ll be digging through for awhile. So far it’s Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #5 that has most impressed me. I’ve been a fan of Huizenga’s work for over a decade - he is probably the #1 person working in American comics today, for me - but this may be his masterpiece, or at least the best thing since Gloriana. This is a work that bridges mundanity and wonder, while staking out a visual territory that is wildly psychedelic, yet uniquely so - there are no 70s prog-rock drug lines here, but a meditation upon geology & ‘deep time’ which is formally experimental in narrative, structure, and representation while maintaining accessibility. GET IT!

I highly recommend all of the Red Red Meat deluxe vinyl reissues on Jealous Butcher. They were such a great band, and one I slept on when they were around. These are beautifully done with new cover art and nice mastering. Get the first Califone album and the Loftus LP too while you’re at it. 

Ugh, let’s face it, I haven’t sent one of these out in ages, so there’s a lot of intake to catch up on. Anyone want to discuss Bratton’s The Stack: On software and sovereignty with me? Ugh, this section is so show-offy and arrogant. Ugh, I’ll stop here.

OTHER STUFF

So it’s back to Helsinki and it feels good. The air is cold and crisp and there’s so so so much to do with Temporary/Biathlon. I’ll probably write more about that next time, but I’m really happy to have this focus right now, and to be working with such great people. There will be some big changes happening next week which we’ll announce via the usual channels.

There’s too much about the political crises in the US and UK right now to comment on, but I think it’s important to try to understand these people (while still fighting and opposing them). Tablet magazine’s article from back in November about Paul Gottfried (http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/218712/spencer-gottfried-alt-right) was fascinating, and it dug into the real differences between conservative and progressive outlooks, and how the paleoconservative movement broke from the neoconservatives and morphed into the ‘alt-right’. I highly, highly recommend this.

OK, that’s all for now. I’ll try to get back to this next week; in the meantime, why don’t you tell me what you’ve been reading, and I’ll share some of your picks next time?

Thanks,

John
Copyright © 2017 No Culture Icons, All rights reserved.


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