Noosphere Blues

[ Saturday, August 31, 2002 ]

While rock n roll talk radio might seem an oxymoron, DeRogatis does a good job at it. This show comes out of WXRT-FM, Chicago, a commercial ! station. Almost impossible to believe for someone used to deplorable New York radio. And it's archived.
Phil [3:47 PM]

This interview/debate , and dialog between Jim DeRogatis and Dennis McNally, about McNally's Grateful Dead biography, is an interesting expression (for those who still care) of the two poles of classic rock counter-culture sensibility and aesthetic, garage/ punk hard-edge, and hippie folk-rock jamband. Probably the millionth such discussion in 3 decades, but given strong POV by both writers. I'm guessing for a smart 16 year old this must seem incredibly arcane history.
Phil [3:30 PM]

[ Friday, August 30, 2002 ]

Max Blagg is probably best known as the spoken word performance poet in the Gap's "slam" ad circa 1995 or so. But that shouldn't dissuade you from reading his stuff, like this piece, a terrific urban poem and great "period piece", in the best sense of that word. It's the best evocation of lower Manhattan in the 70s and early 80s I know. Try this too if you get a chance. (If you ever roamed around late night bars in downtown NYC during the 80s or 90s at places like One University Place or Raoul's he may well have been your bartender)
Phil [4:03 PM]

[ Thursday, August 29, 2002 ]

He, as much as anyone, invented the Reagan "Revolution" (sic), and perhaps, more even than Gilder himself, was the chief theoretical mentor of the most successful government directed redistribution of wealth (upward) in U.S. history. But,say what you want about Jude Wanniski, the dude's an original intellectual gadflyand entertaining polemicist. He's also, to his great credit, way too unpredictably heterodox for the cable punditocracy. Working in semi-obscurity from his interesting website he lambastes Roger Ailes and Fox News (aka The War Network).
Phil [3:51 PM]

[ Wednesday, August 28, 2002 ]

Just in case you didn't think The Patriot Act was a real threat to freedom of speech, check this out.

Yes, the kid sounds like a juvenile anarcho-naif. But what (aside from literary quality) is the difference between this and the shut-down of the Wobbly loving The Masses under the auspices of The Espionage Act. With any luck at all John Ashcroft will be remembered by history as a laughing-stock in the tradition of A.Mitchell Palmer.
Phil [3:29 PM]

Looking at the picture you'd think Murray the K (Kempton that is) was subbing for the Edgy Enthusiast this week. But the by-line's still Ron Rosenbaum's and the column's a good one, a very skeptical (but actually constructive) appraisal of the Columbia School of Journalism's own agonizing reappraisal of its "mission".

Phil [2:14 PM]

[ Tuesday, August 27, 2002 ]

As a long-time investigative journalist and researcher, Jim Bamford knows a thing or three about the police state proclivities and ambitions of sectors of the government national security apparatus (thankfully, so far, usually thwarted by the Constitution). In the NYT today Bamford delinates the Kafkaesque style of the Ashcroft regime at "Justice".
Phil [1:01 PM]


A revisionist look at the current cult of the "Greatest Generation". A bit tame (it's American Heritage, after all), but a step in the right direction in framing a fresh alternative to the nostalgic Tom Brokaw version of the World War 2 generation as stoic, straight arrow, traditionalists. Indeed, as Baker suggests, despite the Achilles heel of collective racism, the World War 2 generation will be remembered as the ur-modernist social generation. The 40s in particular emerge in this brief account as a time of exteme social ferment, the radical dissolution of class hierarchies and gender roles, and the blossoming of a youth pop culture. Plus (not least) unencumbered by political, dietary or lifestyle correctness, they knew how to party.
Phil [12:43 PM]

Simon Carr traces Martin Amis's devolution from cutting comic novelist to turgid moralist. Unfortunately Carr's otherwise shrewd debunking devolves itself into the last few paragraphs with extraneous,over-wrought and over the top analogies of of British national health service hospitals with Soviet gulags.
Phil [12:25 PM]

[ Monday, August 26, 2002 ]

British-born Christopher Hitchens, as witnessed by books like For the Sake of Argument, is one of the finest literary essayists in the U.S. Certainly he's the best regularly published in the commercial "glossy" mags. He's also perfected an often interesting brand of contrarian cantankerousness, combining a perverse mixture of radical attitude and often very tory positions, delivered in an acerbic haute Oxbridge style American readers eat up.

One who's untaken by Hitchen's impish charm is Justin Raimondo. Indeed, Raimondo makes a good case that, far from being the iconoclastic heir of George Orwell or Gore Vidal, Hitchens has "devolved" into a very predictable neo-con, the "War Party's" mascot leftist.

Nathan Newman, on the other hand, in another interesting post, sees Hitchens the gadfly as performing a useful function in challenging the anti-war left to rethink its "simplistic" oil-centric interpetations of U.S. policy motives.

Newman's comments section has generated some debate:

Nathan, I disagree with your point about oil. Afghanistan was not about oil, but Iraq would be. Afghanistan has no proven crude oil reserves. On the other hand, Iraq has 112.5 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, second most in the world. Oil is the biggest reason why Bush wants this war. See Bill Keller's column in Saturday's "New York Times" for an admission by a war supporter that the war will help US oil business. The other reasons given for making war now do not add up. There is zero evidence of WMDs currently held by Iraq, for example. The oil explanation is the only one that makes sense. If Bush gets to fight this war, he will not allow any nascent "Kurdistan" to break off. Wolfowitz already promised the Turks that. This war would be fought for oil. This is a valid criticism of Bush's war plans and we should make it.

The left generally has dismissed Hitchens because of his war stance. Yet, he's saying stuff that needs to be heard. Progressives need to understand that when they go around shouting that blood for oil rhetoric, the American mainstream stops listening.

More intelligent and reasoned critique from the left is needed
2- Posted by: outback on August 26, 2002 09:38 AM

And, for what it's worth, a contribution from yours truly:

There's always plenty of room for more intelligence and reason from the left, and Hitchens (if only for his great literary style) is worth paying attention to. But I think his characterization in the Observer piece of rampant "peacenik"-ism among the business and political establishment(s) is way off the mark.
There's certainly disagreement about pragmatic strategic issues (basically multi-lateralism vs. unilateralism), procedures (Congressional authorization vs. Executive fiat) and tactics of when and how.

But I don't see any fundamental departure among any of the figures (Kissinger etc.) he cites from a consensus view that "preemptive" invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi regime (and of essentially any regime perceived as a potential threat) is justifiable and likely inevitable. With the exception perhaps of Dick Armey (who's more of a libertarian type, and is questioning open ended interventionism on more philosphical grounds, sort of) all that's being debated among the figures Hitchens discusses are the hows and whens. So I think it's sophistry on his part to lump critics questioning the premises of premptive interventionism as annunciated in Bush Jr.'s State of the Union address, with Kissinger etc.

Interesting devil's advocacy perhaps, but wrong.

3- Posted by: Phil Leggiere on August 26, 2002 06:26 PM

Phil [4:48 PM]

[ Sunday, August 25, 2002 ]

Never mind Sex Pistols "reunions". The Big Bad Bullocks.
Phil [2:57 PM]

[ Saturday, August 24, 2002 ]

John Sinclair, of course, is generally associated with his younger days as intellectual mentor,polemicist, publicist behind the Detroit radical underground rock scene of the late 60s, arguably, via the MC5 and The Stooges, the major precursor of American hardcore. Aficionados may also know him as the founder of The White Panthers, and political prisoner (sentenced to 10 years in prison for two joints of pot) celebrated in a mostly forgotten John Lennon song. Less known is that, neither sold-out nor burnt-out, he's continued writing about blues, jazz and r&b, fronting a band, and hosting a music radio show.
Phil [3:40 PM]

Unfortunately, Blues Access, in many ways the best of the blues zines, folded in January of this year, after a twelve year run.
It always distinguished itself in particular, I think, in its balance of scholarly zeal and lively, culturally and politically engaged writing.
In its last couple of years, it also offered a regular forum to read John Sinclair on CD reissues of classic American blues, r&b, and rock n roll "roots" music.
Phil [2:58 PM]

[ Friday, August 23, 2002 ]

For true pop culture and history nerds, a treasure-trove of audio time capsules. Especially this one, an unedited logger tape of KLIF, Dallas's numer one Top 40 rock n roll station, broadcasting from about 12:30 pm 11/22-63, the hour JFK was assasinated. The broadcast begins as if it were routine day (early 60s pop songs, commercials, DJ patter), and only gradually does this mundane normalcy give way to a realization of the history-shaking extraordinariness of the day .
Phil [3:54 PM]

The first (to my knowledge) full-length critical essay on Gore Vidal's book Perpetual War for Perpetual Piece, along with good background on Vanity Fair's squelching of Vidal's post -9-11 analysis.
Phil [10:57 AM]


Interesting, encouraging article in The Village Voice about how radical books by Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Greg Palast cracked the best-seller lists by going around (via grass-roots word of mouth, and political "viral marketing") rather than through the NYTBR, the newsweeklies, cable pundit shows, and other gatekeepers of intellectual-ideological respectability.
Phil [7:11 AM]

[ Thursday, August 22, 2002 ]

Who knew:

1)That new media prophets of a decade ago were right to predict the demise of big media monopolies (even if the corrollary vision of democratic cyber-topia has been proven at the very least premature, if not just wrong).
2) Or that the spectacular implosion and decomposition of the media establishment would find such a great, obsessive chronicler (think Juvenal on the Roman Empire, or Waugh on the British) as Michael Wolff.
Phil [2:45 PM]

[ Wednesday, August 21, 2002 ]

One of the upsides of living in "interesting times" is the chance to see ideologies mutate, sometimes to positive evolutionary effect.
Witness the battle between the neo-con establishment and its right-wing nemesis anti-imperialist "paleo-conservativism".
Phil [4:12 PM]


Where literary experimentation and sound DJ-ing "mix"?
Phil [3:51 PM]

[ Tuesday, August 20, 2002 ]

David Brooks sees(and celebrates) a new conservative majority forming in the exurbs, inspired by "cultural populism", that is to say reaction against the latest incarnation of "new class intellectuals" , the only politically viable kind of populism, according to conventional wisdom. And one the intellectual and political neo-con right, despite its insistence that "class warfare never works in America", has raised to an art form.

Two good pieces, by Arianna Huffington and Paul Krugman, attempt to puncture the shibboleth that "economic populism" (aka "redistribution of wealth" ) is untenable in U.S. politics.

Phil [4:16 PM]

[ Monday, August 19, 2002 ]

A few years ago David Brooks wrote a fascinating book about the rise of a new elite professional-managerial class in America, the "bobos" (or Bourgeois Bohemians). Unlike their Organization Man predecessors the values and mores of the thirty, forty and fifty-something bobos derived not from the classic WASPy codes of the old establishment, but from a strangely ironic synthesis of hyper-capitalism and (watered down) hippie counter-culture. In a sequel article "The Patio Man and The Sprawl People", Brooks explores the a new antithesis spawned by the coming to power of bobos in gentrified city neighborhoods and the inner rung affluent burbs (Bethesda, Princeton, Bryn Mawr), a populist revolt of middlebrow America against "liberal" snobby yuppies. Brooks (with his own signature blend of tongue in cheek satire and serious sociology), apparently believes ,and makes an entertaining, if not totally persuasive case, that the new class war of patio man sprinkler city exurb vs. multi-culti urbane neo-burbs will define U.S. electoral politics in 2004 and well beyond .

As often in his more substantive pieces, when he isn't offering glib, ideologically warmed over neo-con tripe, Brooks is a worthy heir to the young Kevin Phillips (the older one's good too, but brooks isn't there yet) or Tom Wolfe-combining a rich eye for social-pyschographic trends and generational stylistic shifts with keen grasp of political and class dynamics. .

Here's Brooks-

"Sprinkler Cities are the fast-growing suburbs mostly in the South and West that are the homes of the new style American Dream, the epicenters of Patio Man fantasies. Douglas County, Colorado, which is the fastest-growing county in America and is located between Denver and Colorado Springs, is a Sprinkler City. So is Henderson, Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. So is Loudoun County, Virginia, near Dulles Airport. So are Scottsdale and Gilbert, Arizona, and Union County, North Carolina.

The growth in these places is astronomical, as Patio Men and their families--and Patio retirees, yuppie geezers who still like to grill, swim, and water ski--flock to them from all over. Douglas County grew 13.6 percent from April 2000 to July 2001, while Loudoun County grew 12.6 percent in that 16-month period. Henderson, Nevada, has tripled in size over the past 10 years and now has over 175,000 people. Over the past 50 years, Irving, Texas, grew by 7,211 percent, from about 2,600 people to 200,000 people.

The biggest of these boom suburbs are huge. With almost 400,000 people, Mesa, Arizona, has a larger population than Minneapolis, Cincinnati, or St. Louis. And this sort of growth is expected to continue. Goodyear, Arizona, on the western edge of the Phoenix area, now has about 20,000 people, but is projected to have 320,000 in 50 years' time. By then, Greater Phoenix could have a population of over 6 million and cover over 10,000 square miles.

Sprinkler Cities are also generally the most Republican areas of the country. In some of the Sprinkler City congressional districts, Republicans have a 2 or 3 or 4 to 1 registration advantage over Democrats. As cultural centers, they represent the beau ideal of Republican selfhood, and are becoming the new base--the brains, heart, guts, and soul of the emerging Republican party. Their values are not the same as those found in either old-line suburbs like Greenwich, Connecticut, where a certain sort of Republican used to dominate, or traditional conservative bastions, such as the old South. This isn't even the more modest conservatism found in the midwestern farm belt. In fact, the rising prominence of these places heralds a new style of suburb vs. suburb politics, with the explosively growing Republican outer suburbs vying with the slower-growing and increasingly Democratic inner suburbs for control of the center of American political gravity.

And so now there are crucial fault lines not just between city and suburb but between one kind of suburb and another. Say you grew up in some southern California suburb in the 1970s. You graduated from the University of Oregon and now you are a systems analyst with a spouse and two young kids. You're making $65,000 a year, far more than you ever thought you would, but back in Orange County you find you can't afford to live anywhere near your Newport Beach company headquarters. So your commute is 55 minutes each way. Then there's your house itself. You paid $356,000 for a 1962 four-bedroom split level with a drab kitchen, low ceilings, and walls that are chipped and peeling. Your mortgage--that $1,800 a month--is like a tapeworm that devours the family budget.

And then you visit a Sprinkler City in Arizona or Nevada or Colorado--far from the coast and deep into exurbia--and what do you see? Bounteous roads! Free traffic lanes! If you lived here you'd be in commuter bliss--15 minutes from home on Trajan's Column Terrace to the office park on Innovation Boulevard! If you lived here you'd have an extra hour and a half each day for yourself.

And those real estate prices! In, say, Henderson, Nevada, you wouldn't have to spend over $400,000 for a home and carry that murderous mortgage. You could get a home that's brand new, twice the size of your old one, with an attached garage (no flimsy carport), and three times as beautiful for $299,000. The average price of a single-family home in Loudoun County, one of the pricier of the Sprinkler Cities, was $166,824 in 2001, which was an 11 percent increase over the year before. Imagine that! A mortgage under 200 grand! A great anvil would be lifted from your shoulders. More free money for you to spend on yourself. More free time to enjoy. More Freedom!

Plus, if you moved to a Sprinkler City there would be liberation of a subtler kind. The old suburbs have become socially urbanized. They've become stratified. Two sorts of people have begun to move in and ruin the middle-class equality of the development you grew up in: the rich and the poor.

There are, first, the poor immigrants, from Mexico, Vietnam, and the Philippines. They come in, a dozen to a house, and they introduce an element of unpredictability to what was a comforting milieu. They shout. They're less tidy. Their teenage boys seem to get involved with gangs and cars. Suddenly you feel you will lose control of your children. You begin to feel a new level of anxiety in the neighborhood. It is exactly the level of anxiety--sometimes intermingled with racism--your parents felt when they moved from their old neighborhood to the suburbs in the first place.

And then there are the rich. Suddenly many of the old ramblers are being knocked down by lawyers who proceed to erect 4,000-square-foot arts and crafts bungalows with two-car garages for their Volvos. Suddenly cars in the neighborhoods have window and bumper stickers that never used to be there in the past: "Yale," "The Friends School," "Million Mom March." The local stores are changing too. Gone are the hardware stores and barber shops. Now there are Afghan restaurants, Marin County bistros, and environmentally sensitive and extremely expensive bakeries.

And these new people, while successful and upstanding, are also . . . snobs. They're doctors and lawyers and journalists and media consultants. They went to fancy colleges and they consider themselves superior to you if you sell home-security systems or if you are a mechanical engineer, and in subtle yet patronizing ways they let you knowit.

I recently interviewed a woman in Loudoun County who said she had grown up and lived most of her life in Bethesda, Maryland, which is an upscale suburb close to Washington. When I asked why she left Bethesda, she hissed "I hate it there now" with a fervor that took me by surprise. And as we spoke, it became clear that it was precisely the "improvements" she hated: the new movie theater that shows only foreign films, the explosion of French, Turkish, and new wave restaurants, the streets choked with German cars and Lexus SUVs, the doctors and lawyers and journalists with their educated-class one-upmanship.

These new people may live in the old suburbs but they hate suburbanites. They hate sprawl, big-box stores, automobile culture. The words they use about suburbanites are: synthetic, bland, sterile, self-absorbed, disengaged. They look down on people who like suburbs. They don't like their lawn statuary, their Hallmark greeting cards, their Ethan Allen furniture, their megachurches, the seasonal banners the old residents hang out in front of their houses, their untroubled attitude toward McDonald's and Dairy Queen, their Thomas Kinkade fantasy paintings. And all the original suburbanites who were peacefully enjoying their suburb until the anti-suburban suburbanites moved in notice the condescension, and they do what Americans have always done when faced with disapproval, anxiety, and potential conflict. They move away. The pincer movements get them: the rich and the poor, the commutes and the mortgages, the prices and the alienation. And pretty soon it's Henderson, Nevada, here we come."
Phil [11:19 AM]
Phil [8:10 AM]

Another nail in the coffin of NYC radio. Lynn Samuels' Saturday night talk show got axed by ABC. Lively,local (even when talking about national/global issues), idiosyncratic, radical-liberal without being "PC" or predictable (how many liberal radio hosts, even the minuscule handful that exist, would admit to admiring Pat Buchanan, at least on foreign policy), it was really the only thing of its kind in NY commercial radio. And, unfortunately, I'd add, on NY "public" radio as well, as NYC-AM (at least for political/news talk) remains a bastion of edge-less toothless milquetoast respectability.
Luckily her website is still around.
Phil [7:13 AM]