It’s time for GENTRI-FI!
Bell’s Palo Alto – Bound Together SF – Pt Reyes Station Books – Monkeywrench Austin – Wooden Shoe Philadelphia – Bluestockings NYC
It’s time for GENTRI-FI!
Bell’s Palo Alto – Bound Together SF – Pt Reyes Station Books – Monkeywrench Austin – Wooden Shoe Philadelphia – Bluestockings NYC
I saw fuckin Bill Laswell, the man, last night in SF with his frequent collaborator John Zorn doing a thing they call Konx Om Pax. I went with my old pal Diahrrio of A Fashionable Disease, the best band in Santa Cruz in the oughts, and his girlfriend Danielle, who together do various noise projects. One of my other old friends showed up at the Chapel by surprise and a fine time was had by all. Below is the lame cellphone proof photo of the Chapel, one of SF’s great newish venues in the face of so many old ones dying.
Laswell’s doing his Material bass thing with all the effects and Zorn’s farting into his thigh with those red army camo pants. Tell me he wears those around Manhattan.
The coolest part was after the end when the two retreated upstairs after an hour, having said not a fucking word to the audience. Me and this other cat waited at the bottom of the stairs and finally our main man, Security Fred, offers to take our records up with him and get them signed. Thanks Fred! Laswell signed my old Celluloid Records Time Zone single!! Fucking stoked. Thanks Bill!!! It was a once-in-a-lifetime show, and even benefited something about pretending to care about abuse and destruction of migrant laborers over the last 50 years.
For the uninitiated, it’s hard to put the scope of Laswell’s contribution to punk rock and alternative (in the true broad sense, not like the 1994 BMG catalogue) music over the last 40 years into a quick statement. Before and even with the internet, Laswell is the only reason we know about Fela Kuti in the US. He seems to have been playing a game of making the most connections throughout his life. His bands Material, Last Exit, and Praxis, just to name a few, touch punk, hiphop, new age, ambient, jazz, Coltrane’s biggest fans Pharaoh Sanders and Sonny Sharrock, Bernie Worrell, and the Primus guys. He’s all about collaboration and mutual aid amongst artists. If you play the six-degrees game in contemporary music, you will find Bill every time. That woozy light-funk bass he’s known for might sound goofy in today’s context, but remember that he did it first and never stopped. It’s further notable that both Bill and Zorn have worked tirelessly to unite musicians on both coasts.
Not until I saw the ad for the show did I really feel how much his stuff has informed my life. What a treat to see him play. You can look up the similarly-cosmopolitan Zorn, I’m not really an expert except to say that his record project Tzadik was the inventor of the $35 fucking CD in the 90s, so we never dared hear Naked City even though we knew it’d be the most badass hardcore skronk that we needed to hear. Diahrrio’s band A Fashionable Disease was just a little influenced by Naked City, as it happens.
It was an old-guy set, which I loved, done by 10, and we were in bed by midnight.
Three Californias: it’s one idea that appeals to both idiotic white trash and the technocrat fascists whom they worship.
Us versus them, dude! Self-determination, dude! Local, brah! But it’s really about what it’s always really about: a legislated goldrush. In this case, that’d mean annihilating a tax base and maybe a commercial system that barely hold things together as they are.
For you consumers who don’t pay attention to who and what make this state go, here are some realistic, yea, likely inevitable scenarios for a rich man’s three Californias after the November 2018 election. Vote yes, vote no, but vote your ethics!
1. Governor Antonio Villaraigosa, often costumed as a sea otter
2. Populated exclusively by billionaires paying each other no taxes
3. Populated exclusively by billionaires, no one minds that water from the tap costs $1.00 per gallon from those hicks in Northern California
4. Soon the entire entertainment industry is made of degenerate inbred celebrities from Los Angeles, who have to be made attractive using After Effects
5. The frigging air is “organic” and “artesanal”
1. Governor Greg Gopman, because people fall for “redemption” in the media every time
2. Populated exclusively by billionaires and nonprofiteers
3. Constant warfare with the South over the aqueduct system, disguised as more-distracting hate crime
4. Robotic service industry: cooks, cleaners, landscapers, all of it
5. Every lightswitch and streetcorner is named after fucking Steve Jobs or fucking Ed Lee
1. Governor Don J Grundmann (after he gets booted from the North), because people fall for “redemption” in the media every time
2. Anything green to eat from Salinas or Santa Rosa basically costs a month’s rent
3. Robotic police, medical and service industry bought at a huge price from the North
4. Fresno finally gets to be the capital, with a banking system of crystal meth and slaves
1. Salinas, Pajaro, Santa Inez and Santa Maria valleys are to be bent to feed the Los Angeles Basin, while Sonoma is to feed the San Francisco Bay and the rest of the Northern state will likely be deforested to grow weed.
2. Northern and Southern states will be one continuous swath of freeway-dominated suburbs with no recycling, each population 50 million and therefore,
3. No government will ever be up for election not made of executives from Hovnanian, Alliance, Irvine Company, Webcor, Granite, etc., and therefore,
4. The Sierra Nevada will be completely deforested and exploited for all possible minerals in order to build houses and California’s tech gizmos, except Yosemite
5. Humanitarian crises at borders with California, each other, Arizona and Baja. At the border with Baja, a world-famous child-rape sales industry. The border with the North becomes the busiest and most violent border on Earth, bustling for a chance to work for Google, Apple, or Starbucks
6. 100% charter schools or straight-up private schools, and you can forget the state college system
7. The need for an enormous genocide against people of color in order to even get the thing to work
The fascist Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper, who really has nothing better to do than sponsor this bill, not pick up garbage, not rent housing to people for cheap because he doesn’t need the money, not help the state buy up old ranches for open space, said the following:
“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes…”
Such a brazen lie gets past voters all the time. What he means is better control of infrastructure, education and taxes that favor the interests of the rich; not the self-determination of a working republic who don’t have to choose housing over healthy living, but the self-determination of plutocrats who redraw a country in their own image. One thing’s for sure, it already can’t get any worse for the immigrants who will continue to come because no in all three states will pick their own food or clean their own house…
UPDATE 18 JULY: the California Supreme Court, whom you really have to piss off in order to get them to work, found an embarrassingly lame loose end in the proposition process and took the Three Californias piece off the ballot, so that’s the end of that. This asshole Draper spent enough money on his campaign to have paid how many elders’ medical bills. But the real losers here are Californians, who still believe enough in the libertarian drivel jackoff dream to desire the creation of two Red States in order to pay fewer taxes that they can afford and in fact must pay in order to go around being Libertarians on Californian freeways and drinking from Californian pipes…
At the lovely, dearest Green Arcade in the “hub” of San Francisco we encountered this store-exclusive Lit Crawling from Bentboybooks, a tiny publisher of whom we are, as usual, the shit-last to learn.
Funny enough this October 2017 zine, besides being exclusive to Green Arcade, is not listed on Bentboybooks’ website. Turns out to be a survey of their recent zines.
The collection of mostly poetry begins with an anthology, complete with CV beginning in 1972, of Jan Johnson Drantell, whose work evidently has been rediscovered and put into the zine. Her poems could be called provocative: her voice earnestly and compassionately pushes against the ideas and word-bunches of her time, beginning in the Vietnam era. I really can’t pick a favorite poem, they are all so precise and on-point.
Then comes Pam Martin, who is quite joycean, and I’m a sucker for anything joycean that pulls it off, so I’m in. She’s apparently a big deal in the local art-organizing scene, and I mean the upper echelons, the museums and so forth.
Drew Cushing closes the collection out, and he seems to be the ringleader of Bentboybooks. His selections have a lot of political allusions that will have to remain over my head until sometime after I finish this zine review.
I’m finally excited to say that the book turned me on (ha ha) to the devotedly naked Ronald Palmer, whose books I will be investigating soon. Apparently he’s complex, capable and raunchy, so I’m looking forward to it. His story Manikin is very San Francisco-completist, lots of locations named, five-Os bleaching sidewalks. He’s always naked in his promotional photos, so it’s got to be good.
Check out Bentboybooks every time you spot one!
SF Zine Fest is coming this Sunday, the third of September, to Golden Gate Park’s county fair building. In its 16th year, the FREE Zine Fest is sure to be a party and full of more fun art and educational opportunities than you thought. Plus the burner dicks will be out of town, so it’s the perfect time to visit SF!
Those interested who have a Facebook can reply to the event here. My friends at Éxitos Gnosis will be nice enough to sell my stuff along with a bunch of other great art at their table, so look for them!
Video by Nick Taplin, Post-Consumer Records
Saw a video a few months back of Brontez Purnell reading from his up-and-coming book Since I Laid my Burden Down and had to get a copy as soon as it came out. Tried to read it with his voice in my head. The book has been doted upon with a marvelous thick library jacket by New York City University’s Feminist Press.
The punk rocker, performance artist and otherwise notable Oakland figure, whom I remember as one of the few interesting people on Earth in the vacuous universal hell of 2005, published the zine Fag School beginning in 2003. He has also published the Cruising Diaries in 2014 with the collaboration of Janelle Hessig, from whose Tales of Blarg I first heard of his exploits, as well as 2015’s diary-style Johnny Would You Love Me if my Dick Were Bigger. Since I Laid my Burden Down is sort of a Bildungsroman framed in a memoir. Is there a word for that?
DeShawn, blessed with the emotional receptivity that marks a faggot amongst his church-centered community, reflects during a funeral trip to his Alabama hometown of his trajectory in making his life meaningful, and not wasting his faggot people skills in the office of a rural preacher. Regardless of his shifting relationship with his mother, there is the feeling that he thinks his mother has limited her life becoming a preacher herself.
DeShawn is drawn as a product of generations raised by women, with men absent or devoid of father quality. The protagonist seeks mentorship and trust naturally, nevertheless, through his everyday channels, even through an older married lover. Despite making his own way, fleeing Alabama for California, DeShawn never really feels like he can stand the weight of his life on his shoulders, and has problems with memory and scale. Like a lot of us.
The book is full of family, church, death, sex, and the perverse distortion of time and place unique to being in one’s early thirties. Particularly rewarding are the terse but deft descriptions of family members, such as “DeShawn’s mother always spoke recklessly when it was unnecessary, and coolly when it was greatly needed.” Wait –how do they ever know when is which? Does the narrator mean this in hindsight or…?
Throughout the story DeShawn visits two funerals and relates cleaning out several dead people’s houses, visits the gracious and lovable mother of both an early lover and an early abuser, and wears out the patience of a girlfriend in New York, all the while taking stock of the relationships he put on hold or fled when he left Alabama. Along the way he sees some ghosts that grow more vivid and some that thankfully fade.
The prose is unadorned and direct, more diary-like in the beginning, with creams of sly humor beaten in. The back of the book features quotes that I personally found a little hysterical, such as “foul-mouthed and evil.” Perhaps these refer more to Johnny. Purnell’s narrator swears a lot, but only in that the book irreverently records the living language, and is meant to be read out loud. This, in my opinion, is one of the book’s greatest strengths. Anyone obsessed with Pitchfork-level simile-spraying could find any great oral art in corners of Brontez’ sentences, from beat literature to Henry Roth to … I don’t even know, I hate that phony free-association name-dropping stuff. Altogether I appreciated that the prose, though steeped in contemporary slang and naturally-occurring humor, betrays none of the lascivious revelry of Johnny but rather a deep and true affection and understanding for most of DeShawn’s characters, regardless of whether he gets along with them.
He knew feeling good was a setup
Reading the sexual escapades and mentions of a youth steeped in punk rock, it was kind of hard for me, at least, not to place Brontez himself in for DeShawn –as he placed himself as close to the fictional glass as can be in Johnny –so I recommend the reader enjoy the book first and then go cyber-stalk the poor, highly-exposed author. The night their post-Loma Prieta freedom punk warehouse gets closed down, even a fictional lover tells DeShawn “everyone knows who you are.”
I also appreciated how Purnell manages to fit the realities of Deep South life into the story in tiny but excellent bites. This stuff is unimaginable for us west-coast types with our Hollywood-deadened intellects, and the author even points that out in a funny moment. He relates how the principal at the school would remind DeShawn, when he got in trouble, that “your great-granpappy used to raise chickens for my family…” This is the medium of DeShawn’s family’s story that must never be overlooked: in the south there are these horseshit relationships that can be evoked as if to show loyalty, but are really just threats of force. In turn, the protagonists internalize this doublespeak and wield it on each other with varying degrees of purpose (we’ve got this out west with Latino immigrants too). Maybe I just found this insightful and brilliant as a dumb Californian beach bum. What am I gonna school the reader with, the abusive roundabouts of various pelagic fish?
It’s probably clear by now that my only challenge for Purnell for next time, should he decide to do a next time, is to work out before writing who the narrator is. This way the key emotion, be it sex-crazed enthusiasm or reflective love, can really shine through consistently. The reader also could really get cozy within the work’s world if Purnell takes the above decision, moving on some from the format that seems to have begun with Johnny. Finally, this will doubtlessly also address some nitpicky tonal issues I have with some parts.
Since I Laid my Burden Down is a document of a unique life within its unique time and place, an effective and efficient balance of the personal and the universal. Cut that self-conscious crap out about “I don’t recommend every book to everyone.” Get Brontez’ new book and have everyone you know read it!
I have to say, for myself, that I feel that more of these kinds of stories are auspiciously coming into my life. Not necessarily being written, but coming to my attention. Maybe I just don’t get out enough, I don’t know.
But anyhow, when I read Since I Laid My Burden Down, I enjoyed it in one way the same as I so immensely enjoyed Malae’s What We Are: in that the books are full of people I would be friends with. It’s not so simple as “an outsider,” because the question would be, outside of what? Rather it’s a member of a certain socio-economic group who has made certain socio-economic choices within the flush of cash of the Bay Area, a consciously growing and becoming, empathetic scumbag, with no time for the oppression of success, health or other bullshit. Stuck in a phenomenological spiral. The kind of people whose extinction I constantly fear after years of living in Santa Cruz and San José. When I read these books I feel like they were written for me!
Incidentally they both dropped Bukowski’s name, who may well have been highly empathetic besides being a scumbag. Some scholar can comment below about that.
I feel, further, that this book’s approach belongs at least in part to the great tradition of “pack all my youth into some stories so I can stop trying to remember every last bit of it and get ready for the all-out fuckery of maturity.” Brontez certainly demonstrates in Burden the wisdom and ability to handle time and memory necessary to do so, and he certainly has a fascinating maturity and decline ahead of him, unlike most of us. The Savage Detectives is also a great example of this approach, and even I myself, at least as concerns dialogue, am dumping all the silly shit I ever heard from fifth grade up into the mouths of my characters in Byebye and Shlort, the thing I’m working on. I’m excited to see what Brontez comes up with next.
The great great Anika Balaconis has done it again with Far Cry #9, the biggest little speculative fiction zine in the scene, published while she’s not punking down and running her own restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Authors Andrew Massey, Jean Paul Garnier (namesake of the condoms and glowsticks on the cover) and Joe Urson are featured besides Anika’s own story, and she put one of my stories in too!!! Audio version of the latter here for those of you too busy, too nonprofit or too ‘post-literate’ to read. Cover artist London Roman also has an illustration in the back, like a single page from a longer comic, to round it out.
Not nearly enough has been written about John Irving’s In One Person since its publication in 2012, so having read it just now I thought I should contribute notes of both a literary and a most spiritually didactic nature. For a synopsis one can visit any number of websites.
In One Person’s world has a private language habit, a Shakespeare lens for everything, and a spiralling theme of crossdressers and otherwise non-gender-binary men. Irving’s trademark truly excellent characterization and cagily naive narration abound. What struck me most about Irving’s book, however, is how funny it is. Even in the grim third quarter in which we watch most of protagonist Billy Abbott’s friends die of AIDS, we get about 500 words of tragedy and then an offhand remark that makes us laugh out loud. Maybe it’s just my sense of humor. Like when he comes after a long series of AIDS vigil sequences to his hometown for a relatively simple checkin with a dead faculty member of his school: it is discovered that the orderly has only brought the corpse out in the snow to smoke a cigarette, not to wait for the hearse. Anyway, In One Person has no gags; rather, the timing is incredible.
I would like to point out a marvellously-rendered literary surprise in the book out of fear that it may be too often missed. The arc of investigating people’s identity soars beautifully throughout the book, but the end holds a satisfying surprise. As much as the book’s title may allude to the folly of casting people into vulgar categories that support people’s gang mentality, and the phenomenon of these categories occurring “in one person,” the title is revealed in the final chapter to also represent a conceit about our lifespan, aging, and successive generations. When the son of the protagonist’s forbidden crush from the very beginning of the novel shows up, bearing the only reliable evidence of what’s become of the wrestler Kittredge (his own one person mirrored in the elder wrestler and love interest Miss Frost), Billy underscores the voice and look of the younger Kittredge, who is the spitting image of his father. As Kittredge helped Billy start off on a path, Billy is now providing perspective for Kittredge’s kid.
Here the story’s spirals finally converge: we have not only the sexual phenomena gathering in unexpected groups in one person, but also the mysteries of maturity and life experience. The son of Kittredge and his father are as one person, but also the fate of Kittredge, Miss Frost and now the young transgender student Gee fit into one person, shifting identity through time.
Irving has been subtly warning us about this conceit throughout the book, particularly with the symbol of the yearbooks and with his complaints about terminology. As an artist who’s also struggled with the identity police over time, I really appreciate Billy’s annoyance not with the new terms, ie., transgender vs. transsexual, but with the rigidness with which successive generations of people insist on the correctness of these terms. Irving argues hereby for compassion and also curiosity: before you criticize someone older for not using the new hip term, be a fucking smart person and find out the nature of the old term.
Finally, I’m grateful on behalf of those old enough to remember that Irving has chosen now, in the age of complacent suburban gender-queerness that seems unable or rather unwilling to see itself from its socio-economic angle, to force AIDS back in our faces. People my age will always remember that AIDS was far scarier than nuclear war, and people Irving’s age get the satisfaction of having their 1980s set –properly, I would argue –in the frame of the AIDS epidemic. Think of the suburban Christian terrorism we’ve lived through since the late 80s-early 90s: the PMRC, enforced gangster rap, youth group, Faith Driven Consumer, the Bush administration, No Child Left Behind, Gay-Straight Alliance … what would Robert Mapplethorpe, Klaus Nomi, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, even Eazy-E and the local dancer, have taught us about these assholes and their judgmental phoniness if they’d made it longer??? Irving reminds us of the time not so long ago when we had to try to stick together, rather than run our campus GSA into the ground for not being suburban white gay or trans enough, because our fucking lives depended on it.
Thank you, a thousand times thank you, Mr Irving, for reminding us about all the possibilities and the cumulative richness of life that must be pursued In One Person.
Almost forgot to mention Smuttywood, whose charming integrants I met at Local Color during their zine fest in downtown San José. They make comics about either famous people’s dicks and boobs or famous people portrayed as dicks and boobs. The thing that caught my attention, however, was the photographic zine Men are Disposable, which I regrettably didn’t buy, but which you can order at their site. They make great gifts!