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20
Aug 17

40 YEARS AGO–I WROTE THIS REVIEW OF THE LAST SEX PISTOLS SHOW

[What follows is a review I wrote in early 1978, as a young man in my early 20s, of the final SEX PISTOLS show--final until they did a reunion tour, sans the deceased Sid Vicious, twenty years later. The review appeared in a Portland, Oregon punk zine called Magazine X. This was the band’s notorious last show at Winterland, in San Francisco, and I think you can now see most of the event on youtube, including opening acts The Nuns and The Avengers. I was there, jumping about in the audience…The magazine was hand-made, photocopied I think, stapled together, handed out. The writing was scissored from typing paper and glued in on the pages with, perhaps, rubber cement. As I was very much a punk rocker in those days, and though I had published professionally, I tried to write the review in a way that felt honestly punk-rock to me, hence the deliberate run-on sentences, the ranting quality to it, the haphazard organization and too many parenthetical interjections.  When I wrote the thing, I was going for spontaneity. In transcribing this, I find the content varies from somewhat adolescent bombast--eg, “pour out their instants like kaleidoscopic entrails”--and material I think was fairly closely observed, even borderline inspired. Also, none of it is untrue. I wanted to keep it true to the original, simply cutting a few sentences that would be regarded as, ah, too insensitive in today’s world. One line is missing from the photocopy I was sent of the zine, too…I changed nothing except for the little cuts, and in a spot or two added a qualifier in brackets. I didn’t have to correct spelling errors, as there weren’t any except in that I used a couple of words that don’t exactly exist (like ‘echoey’).      

The reader will notice I used New Wave instead of “punk” to describe my tribe, as the punk term had been so overused and wrongly splashed about by the media, and had become, in record time, so to speak, an egregious cliché. The document seems true to its era, certainly to the young J Shirley; and to the twitchy, impulsive thing serving as my personality at the time. My friends and I had journeyed from Portland to see the show, and for people curious about the Portland punk scene in those days, I recommend Mark Sten’s very good, photo-charged book on it, All Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock, 1977-1981. And now, here follows my youthful review of the last Sex Pistols show...]

It’s all in fragments because it was a chaotic scene and bomb-bursts make shrapnel and sometimes events break open and pour their instants like kaleidoscopic entrails. My vision wasn’t much affected by drugs in this instance because I couldn’t get anything worth taking. I was tired, having found it impossible to sleep on the train behind squalling babies and in front of complaining old ladies (these two being, after all, just inverse sides of one coin, fresh infantility and stale infantility) so I was looking for stimulants to keep me awake, but I wanted to avoid speed because I mistrust the stuff generally so I opted for psychedelics…There was some black guy standing in in line (we stood in line for four or five hours for the last of the tickets, just before the show) in front of me, actually selling “LSD” (he said) in fucking sugar cubes. This was San Francisco and it was on sugar cubes! He offered to sell me some…and said, “Take it or leave it man, it’s good acid.” It occurred to me that since he was standing in line he’d be there for hours so if the acid was bad I could confront him with it and demand satisfaction. I said as much and he laughed and said, “Yeah that’s right.” That laugh should have warned me but like a jerk I decided to trust him and bought the sugar cube (three fucking dollars) and chewed it up and about ten minutes later he left the line. And then I realized he didn’t want to see the Pistols, he’d been standing there just to sell “acid” which turned out to be speed and not much of that. And the last thing Johnny Rotten said on stage was, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

…[line missing from photocopy here about local tv news people interviewing people in line.]

…They kept smiles pasted on their polyester face-holes while three-fourths of the people in line hurled insults. Some people despised them and let them know, like Mike King [an artist, known now for his show posters and other art, also my sometime band-mate] calling her a “Peroxide Cunt!” and some people shouted at them because it was the cool thing to do and they were trying to be strange-and-violent-punk-rocks and then turn their backs so the cameramen couldn’t see who was saying what. Real heroic.   They’d snicker behind their hands. There was a lot of that surfacey let’s-play-punks horseshit, and carefully arranged safety pins, strategically ripped shirts. And there were a small percentage of really committed people who were what they were and are what they are because they can be nothing else, because it’s part of the trajectory of their lives and they went that way the same reason a bullet aimed at a wall goes through the wall, fired by explosive lifestyle-origins, and maybe the gas-compression of sheer alienation. The media catchword ‘alienation’ was never more appropriate because the committed, the ones who really DON’T CARE looked pretty fucking alien, like Japanese Spaceheroes, or like things found drowned at the beach, exquisite deterioration, reminding me of Dali’s obsession with ants marching like black-legged gems through rotting amorphous flesh. Like neon coffins…Anyway we screamed at the cameras and the mikes they shoved at us, and I can remember saying, “You don’t have the guts to find out what’s really going on here because if the truth came out on TV about how insipid and useless you are you’d be out of business! And if you came in and really looked and stopped your stupid preconceptions you’d melt like the witch in water because you can’t live with sincerity and people who are themselves and don’t care so SUCK YOUR MICROPHONE and NEW WAVE WILL DESTROY TELEVISION!! WE WILL KILL YOUR CAMERAS!” No matter what we said, they smiled idiotically. And we sang, “She got a TV eye on me!” for a joke.

The line got longer and though we were under the marquee most people stood in the rain and as the hours passed so they got pushier and nastier …And so we pushed back when we got pushed (and since we kept bunched up on the sidewalk beside a chain, like bondage, we went into a porn store the next day and bought a vomity-funny bondage magazine called Fetish Times and saw Nazi pornography, books about torturing Jewish girls at Dachau, and I almost threw up. Also popular were dog-fucking books like BEND OVER FOR ROVER) so we got compressed laterally as well as toward the doors. It was torture. All of us sticky and sweaty and our legs aching from standing in one spot and we felt sick and after awhile started screaming LET US THE FUCK IN!! and pushing on the glass doors. When they finally let us in we were coiled up all tight springs inside with tension and this in addition to the long wait, a couple more hours till the first band started [or so it seemed], wound us up evilly so we were ready for violence or pogoing.

It was a big echoey place. They had a videotape of past bands on a big screen over the stage, and we could watch and listen to that and that was something the Paramount could use, anyway. The Tubes and Link Wray and some other people.

The place filled to capacity but about half the goers were there because they were bored and it promised to be a freak show and they wore Grateful Dead t-shirts and growled at me when I screamed FUCK THE GRATEFUL DEAD!

The hard core people chattered and gesticulated in parody or obscenely for the photographers and reporters inside and I remember one of the more twisted, deliciously twisted shouting “GOD THIS IS SICKENING WHY DON”T YOU TAKE PICTURES OF THE FUCKING WALL?”

The reporters just smiled. Idiotically.

The Nuns played, and the Avengers. Jennifer [Miro] opened alone with a song about being bored with love and not wanting to bother with it and the last lines in the song were something like and anyway/ all the men in San Francisco are gay.” Which I thought was funny but half the crowd yelled “Hey fuck you bitch!” or something. She was like a mechanical mannequin but she radiated stage presence like black light and she reminded us of Nico. The Nuns were all black leather and fascist uniformity, their music was very military and over-all they came on like well-rehearsed shock troops, very efficient. Posed maybe. They did lots of spitting and bathed in it, someone bounced something off their Oriental guitar player’s head. The Avengers were more true New Wave, in my opinion, but it was hard to hear Penelope’s voice a lot of the time. They were spontaneous as a gag-reaction when you stick your finger in your throat and their guitar player had lots of cold ringing notes like sword clanging on sword.

The Sex Pistols came out without any pomp and ceremony, very casually and so-this-is-San-Francisco-so-what? (In between bands R Meltzer of VOM and rock critic fame came out and insulted the crowd and I fucking loved him. He told em there were all posters and he’d pick out people and say, “Hey suck my dick, okay? Hey you with the stupid passed green hair, fuck you alright?” And a lot of more elaborate stuff I can’t remember. He was great. They kept having to drag him off stage.) And the first thing Johnny said was, “Welcome to London!”

There are reports that Sid (who came out and talked to us, everyone in line, briefly, before the show and sang Reggae songs. When a Security Guard asked him how his hands, knuckles, had got so bloody and marked up, Sid said, “I was just having some fun with me mates.”) didn’t have his bass turned on during the show but I don’t buy that because the sound was too solid…Anyway maybe he had his bass turned off for one or two songs…His hair was matted in spikes and he was the most active figure on stage, with his mouth twisted into a permanent sideways S-shape, apotheosis of sneer, and he danced crab-wise playing hard, never missing, spitting for every crowd-spit. Someone bounced a can off his head and he said, “That didn’t hurt at all and you know why? ‘Cause I’m sick that’s why!” His chest was covered with scratches and scars.

What can I say? It was like World War Three up there. It rained spit and refuse, people threw anything they could and after the show when asked about this, Sid [allegedly] said, “When they throw stuff at us it’s the greatest tribute you can get.”

Johnny was static in body most of the time, didn’t move around much but he didn’t need to, didn’t give a shit about stage image or anything but what he felt RIGHT NOW and he stared, he compressed the black rays coming out of his eyes so they cut us. He looked right into my eyes–I was about thirty feet from the stage–and didn’t blink, just cut into me with the gimlet eye, eyes like drills…oh sure you hear that expression describing hitler or some charismatic guy but it’s a cliché most of the time, it’s bullshit when they say “His eyes went right through you, drilled you–” But it’s not bullshit in this case. Industrial lasers. It was like he was taking all the pent-up hostility in the crowd (and we were full of it, we were squashed badly and there was lots of pushing and shoving and pocket outbreaks of fighting) and soaked it up and shot it back at us in a delirious cathartic circuit while the band reamed ears with the steely squeal of semitrucks and the thrum of copter blades, the grunt of all ugly civilization itself. He blew snot out casually and  sat down to sing when he felt like it. Once when some asshole hippie in the audience said something like, “You guys suck, get off the stage!” Johnny laughed and said sarcastically, “Oh what a blow to me pride!”

I dunno I can’t describe it much more because about then I started getting frenzied everything got bang-bang-bang-ROAR so I couldn’t concentrate on clear pictures to relay to you. I remember moronic photographers looking smug and above-it-all standing on wooden boxes, and shoving their telescopic lens over your shoulder, disdainfully getting in the way so they could get their assignment done which is all they were there for, their pulp-sucking magazines like ROLLING STONE which should die or ought to be buried to spare our noses like it’s already dead and it’s stinking. Reporters are maggots. I’m no reporter.

But the next thing I knew they had done their only encore, “NO FUN” and they left and that was it, it was over, and they’d played 40 minutes maybe and yeah I felt cheated, Johnny. I wanted more. We thought of going to the Mabuhay but we found that the “STREET PUNKS” were playing there, which is a pseudo-New-Wave band …so since there was no more show, went to the hotel.

Next day watched wreckers smash a building; it was lovely, made blue sparks when it hit steel and dropped tons of masonry with wham! and the guy working there said the ball weighed 8 tons which is ideal stage equipment and–we went home.


17
Aug 17

Liars Know They’re Lying

They actually know what it’s really about. Trump’s claim that taking down Confederate statues foolishly “rips apart” history is a lot like responding to Black Lives Matter by saying, “Oh and white lives don’t?” Most of the “Oh, White Lives don’t?” people know that’s not what is meant by Black Lives Matter. They know perfectly well it’s a slogan meant to remind us that there is racist invalidation of the value of black lives, as demonstrated by biased police violence.

And Trump knows, as the KKK knows, that the statues are being taken down because the Confederacy was created in an effort to sustain slavery. Other causes of the Civil War were secondary. It truly was about slavery. Which is in turn about racism; about the claim that blacks have a status that is less than human. Wartime heroics is cover–that’s not what is being remembered here. It was treason and an insistence on slavery. They know that. Even Trump knows that. Liars know they’re lying.


1
Aug 17

A Military Response to North Korea: Hypotheticals…

I’m not down with Trump on anything, because he’s an incompetent. But I’d consider non-nuclear, concise military action against North Korea…The claim that it would kill millions in the region is over the top. Since Trump and his staff are largely incompetents (although the guy who is running the Defense dept does have it together as a strategist, I think) I would expect them to totally screw any military action up there, at least if Trump is making decisions. If the Pentagon and experienced strategists come up with an intelligent plan, that could be executed without his interference, I would not be opposed to it.

I’m not a pacificist and I do think NK is a real threat due to its ICBM testing and its declaration that it is ready to attack us. In my way under-qualified opinion I *suspect* that what the smart strategist would do would be to move anti-missile emplacements into place asap, move ships equipped with the requisite Tomahawks et al in place, prep drones with rockets and stealth jets, designate these targets: all the missile emplacements employed by N Korea within reach of Seoul. Simultaneously, a bunker buster attack on the known site of the NK nuclear weapons development facility, possibly selective targets in Pyongyang. These attacks should come in rapid waves. We would NOT use nuclear weapons…There might well be few missiles launched, in return, by NK–but they won’t have much left to shoot them from…The run-up to all this would be done with as much smoke-screening and secrecy as possible. Keep in mind that this would not be carpet bombing–only military and research facilities would be targeted. This could be carried out to “de-fang” the North Koreans and I believe it would end with, at least, internally-effected regime change. It would not require a long commitment of troops or air power.

All this is hypothetical, just thinking about what could be done. But if there was a good plan –something like this–and if I were one of the Joint Chiefs I wouldn’t oppose it.

People in Seoul would take shelter or be carefully evacuated, as the attack starts, if possible.. US and SK troops would be withdrawn to a safe distance and then special forces would hit Pyongyang, while our on the ground forces now in SK would advance once the initial bombing was over. NK would fold–or sue for peace. Kim Jong Un would be killed or removed from power. But would there be a price in casualties? Yes. *However*–*more lives would be saved* in the not-very-long run because NK is starving and in many cases torturing its own people…This would set them free, to unite NK with South Korea…


1
Aug 17

FINALLY saw ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE

I finally, finally, FINALLLLLLLYYYYY saw ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE. I saw it on cable. I meant to go see it in the theater but it was nowhere near me and people slagged it so…however, I enjoyed it, it made me laugh a lot, and seemed simply an extension of the show with a great many more celebrity cameos. (Barry Humphries has a good part in it!) I can see why many Americans were not thrilled by it, I suppose, first of all you need to be a fan of the show, which I am, and second, you have to get past the way that it’s sort of less concentrated, in its movie form–the TV show is visually concentrated in a few sets, the occasional street scene, and we’re very much involved almost face to face. The movie has a sort of movie distancing, at least for awhile; also the accents fly thickly, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve gotten so I often watch British television (a great deal of my tv watching) with the subtitles turned on! And I recommend that with this one. It’s bubbling with bizarre imagery, it’s a farce, Pats is still Pats, Eddy still Eddy, Bubble is still Bubble…played by the fabulous Jane Horrocks… and it had cool music in it too…

There was some controversy about how they had a white person play a Japanese person but this turned out to be *absolutely*, as it were, BULLSHIT…the character was Scottish….And the movie did NOT flop–it cost less than four million to make and made 34 million BEFORE the DVDs and cable…


3
Jul 17

BEWARE THE TRUMP SWARM

Bill Maher said Trump voters aren’t upset by his public misbehavior, his vulgarity, but instead “they bond with him over it”. They remind me of the sort of entourage that follows a school bully around, the ones who laugh and encourage him as he bullies someone.

Many people have probably noted the phenomenon of Trump Trolls turning up in swarms now–first time I noted it was on the Washington Post’s subscription page. They were there in large numbers, a Trump Troll Swarm using many of the same links and “fake news” phrases, condemning the WAPO; I decided to subscribe to the Washington Post online because they said not to (and because it’s good). But their numbers and consistency made me feel that they had been directed there by someone else, an organization; then, when I posted a particularly pungent Washington Post article about Trump and his Russian connections, on Facebook, they swarmed in on my thread. I counted forty of them, arriving in short order–people I’d never heard from before.

The bully’s entourage apparently had been directed by some low-level, perhaps unofficial, Trump propaganda group or bot to ridicule the post, and what they called “the big Russia Hoax” being pulled off by the “mainstream media”. I predict we’ll see this more and more–in wider numbers. Beware The Swarm.


3
Jul 17

A Voice from My Pants

I heard a voice coming from my pants pocket. “I’m sorry,” said my pocket. “I didn’t understand your question.” A nice lady, it sounded like, was calling out to me from my pants pocket as I pulled weeds in the yard. “What the hell?” I said. “Could you repeat that?” she said. My phone, yes, had bumped something and –it was my front pocket so I won’t say I butt dialed Siri.

I find the phenomenon of over anxious, too-easily-activated Apple phones irritating. About a week later, I was doing some recording in my little studio, and of semi dancing a bit to the guitar solo. I’d forgotten and left my phone on. During a lull in the song I heard voice in my pants say “Hello? Hello? Hazel Dell framing? I can’t hear you.” Somehow a business call had been re-called. In my pants.

Then today, I took my youngest son and wife out for a July 4 weekend brunch. I heard music from under the table at the restaurant. First I heard the Pixies, then the Toadies, then, amazingly, the band Television. “Wow,” I thought, “this restaurant has a *really hip mix* playing! But why did they put the speaker under the table? Then I heard a song from Lou Reed’s first solo album. “What wonderfully good taste!” I said, looking under the table for the speaker. “Lou Reed’s singing from under the table.” My son said, “It’s your cell phone.” The MP3s I have on my cell phone had been activated. My wife, the waiter– a young guy–and my son were all laughing at me.

I blame Apple.


26
Jun 17

Do Conservatives Fear Complexity?

One of the problems with Democrats and progressives standing up to conservatives (and “conservatives” as in Trump, who actually believes in nothing but Trump), is that progressive people recognize truth in *complexity*. The other side usually rejects complexity as if it were a kind of amoral smokescreen. It’s much easier to say, “a fifteen dollar national minimum wage is a giveaway to people who don’t want to work harder for more money” than to explain that 1) it’s not that much money, it’s an expensive society to live in 2) the money stimulates the economy overall because the average person will have more money to spend, and they’ll spend it 3) the evidence is that low-wage laborers work as hard as anyone else does, often harder. There are also four and five and six in the ever-more-complex but convincing list of considerations.

Same goes for food stamps/SNAP programs, and other safety nets–most people who get them *are* working already, and under tough circumstances, but it’s easier to say they’re loafers. It’s simply easier to say that single-payer healthcare, medicaid, and so on, are “only needed by people who haven’t worked hard enough” than it is to explain that medical problems can come out of nowhere and be overwhelming even for hard working, wage-earning people, and many working people have become homeless because of medical bills, and it actually helps the economy when we don’t have to rescue them with emergency rooms and special housing and we’ve allowed medical costs to get out of control in this country…and more.

It’s easier to say, “the free market will eventually end pollution” than to explain how the history of regulations and how they are not harmful to the marketplace.

It’s not that Republicans are (ironically) intellectually lazy, in particular, it’s just that they feel safer with simpler explanations, with echoing some parental homily, than with the uneven, challenging ground of complexity…Simplification offers simple emotional satisfaction.

 


24
Jun 17

MOST RELIGION IS SPIRITUAL-FOOD POISONING

A young mind inundated by lies, swept away by them, reshaped so that he can bury his conscience–so he can learn to “beat and kill prisoners”. Decent people twisted by religion–and the most twisted form of religion, or perhaps pseudo-religion–into blind indecency. Spirituality–that is nourishment, to me.

Organized Religion, say Christian or Muslim, is at best a relatively harmless analgesic; at worst it turns good people into monsters. Fundamentalist religion is a “brain-hack.”

Read it and weep:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/is_fighters


18
Jun 17

Proof of God!

Proof of God! This afternoon my wife Micky and I were in the park walking our two dogs, one leashed dog each, and realized we (meaning I) had forgotten to bring poop bags. And the dogs had that restless, searching stiff-legged appearance. Then–one of them pooped hugely. We don’t believe in leaving dog poop about so I looked desperately around for large leaves, which make poor substitutes for poop bags. A tiny elderly Asian lady in dark glasses and a sunshade hat walked up to us, blessed us, and offered me a leaflet. The leaflet called for us to SUBMIT TO GOD before it’s too late. It suggested that Jesus would soon return and we would do well to consult certain apocalyptic Bible verses. Additionally, it was quite specific that when we were offered a bar code to be imprinted on the arm or forehead, or the mark 666–an offer soon to happen–we were to spurn these marks of surrender to the AntiChrist.

I gladly accepted a leaflet and Micky instantly said, “I’d like one too!” The lady was pleased to give her one, said “Have a blessed day!” then she hustled onward, passing out leaflets. My wife and I exchanged a look, then waited till the lady had passed out of sight. As if also waiting for this, the second dog pooped as well…Yes: once the Jesus lady had gone we used the leaflets, which were the perfect size, to enfold and pick up the droppings of each dog–and we took them triumphantly to the trash can. God, or perhaps Jesus, had sent us those leaflets for cleaning up after our dogs. Proof of dog, certainly…


9
Jun 17

My review of WONDER WOMAN

We saw WONDER WOMAN today. Gal Gadot is charismatic and fierce, as they use the term now, and when she plays Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman in her first exposure to the larger (early 20th century) world, she’s very charming, manages to make you believe in her innocence. One of the things I liked about the film is its firm skepticism about war, especially the horror of harming of non-combatants, and the Wonder Woman character is very definite and clear about it.

The movie was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, director of the very good true-crime drama MONSTER about a woman serial killer. Jenkins was Emmy nominated for her directing of the tv series pilot for The Killing. Patty Jenkins comes through with WONDER WOMAN.

Perhaps the first part of the WONDER WOMAN is a little top-heavy, I mean the first part of the script, smart alec; some might think it’s too long, but what a great thing to explore this myth about Amazonians and Wonder Woman’s origins. But it does make a statement: women as warriors *who do not need men*. Who live in an orderly civilization without men…The movie is two hours and 21 minutes and I personally found it to be well paced. It wasn’t dragged out.

Chris Pine is a likable presence in the film, and he has real chemistry with Gal Gadot. We see some Wonder Woman action fairly early but it’s not till she’s in WW1 and stepping out onto a No Man’s Land battlefield that she *explodes* into action. We can FOLLOW all the action in this, which to me is important–action movies fail at that a surprising amount. The screenplay is by ONE PERSON (Snyder and a couple other guys contributed story) and that is one of the reasons it actually makes sense, it has good internal logic. The whole story works because there was ONE SCREENWRITER instead of a host of screenwriters. And fortunately, it’s a good writer.

This is a much better superhero film than the last few from DC. . .Oh and there’s a cool steampunk vibe, even, about it, when she emerges into the world…

And yes, Gal Gadot is gorgeous and shown to best advantage without seeming over-posed. She looks great from every angle, in this movie, and when you see her profile–what a beautiful nose. Seriously. YES I MEAN HER NOSE you animals! It really is a beautiful Mediterranean/Semitic nose. “Best Nose in a movie goes to…”

I do think the film makes a feminist statement, even if it doesn’t follow the exact outline of every feminist doctrine. Women are powerful! Just look at Wonder Woman…