Tag Archives: earbud commandos

It’s Ok To Admit You Don’t Know Things, Hank Rollins

Yes, yes, y’all, it’s not hipster, elitist hype — vinyl sounds better. Much better. There is actual music in those grooves. Technically speaking, there is no music whatsoever on a CD. Lots of information but no music.

Yes, yes, y’all, I know it’s supposed to be a metaphor and a commentary (unwitting or not) on the atavistic power we imbue objects with, but c’mon. Using that tortured line of reasoning his column isn’t actually language, just a computer spitting out numbers and stuff.

Add a text-to-speech program and it isn’t even reading.

To be fair, Hank is what he is and he is damn good at being what he is. And I don’t disagree about the power of youth, of objects, of the way things used to be, of taking care and control. But he’s also completely ridiculous, and probably not entirely unintentionally.

I think most music fans of the oldster variety would agree that walking up to their 12 year old (pre-internet, pre-mp3) budding music dork selves and saying “See this thing that looks like a deck of playing cards? There are hundreds of albums on this with no tape hiss and you can hear new music in seconds.” The only thing coming close to being more exciting than introducing the files-without-borders world of internet music distribution to our pre-internet selves would be introducing global pornography distribution to that same set of chronic masturbators.

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2009 Was The Sort of Year That Passed In One Month Increments

Music For Infants: My preliminary field notes indicate that babies, by and large, don’t give a shit about music. However, there are two exceptions in Vashti Bunyan and David Tibet, particularly Sleep Has His House. Weirds me the hell out, it does. Not because Sleep is a bad album, or because it is rightfully considered one of Current 93‘s finest works and this indicates supernatural prescience, but because it’s about a dead father, sung by his living son.

But it soothes the savage beast, and so I worry not.

This past year was one of preparation and rediscovery. Health and Death and yet another triumphant Boredoms experience. Throbbing Gristle, set in motion during my own infancy, played “Discipline” in an old Masonic Temple and drew a circle around what I imagined my youth to be. Will Oldham demonstrated extreme American exceptionalism while millions inexplicably mourned a dead pedophile; Antony showed an overwhelming capacity for international superstardom, hemmed in only by being a beautiful woman who doesn’t look like one. Continue reading


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Death To Bass Cars; Or, To The Guidos Of All Nations

the-fish-carThe rich multi-ethnic polyglot of northeastern Queens extends even to the “bass car” phenomenon. Not only are there genuine 80s hair metal fans still running about – bless their souls – but it seems as though every ethnic grouping here has their own preferred soundtrack to match their fast-riding, look-ma-no-eyes motoring about town.

Traditional Italian-esque “Goodfellas/Scarface” composite guidos have their KTU techno and freestyle, a zombified musical form that refuses all attempts to kill it with decent electro; various “Queens Shmoes” – white, black, Asian, etc – really do seem to love Queensryche with a genuine heart that will never be hard-of-hearing, no matter how many pedantic guitar solos it endures; an even wider ethnic blend enjoys the loud sounds of whatever passes for hip-hop as it coasts through its hair-metal phase right into the arms of neo-disco; arabica and bhangra beats abound; there’s even plenty of that hilarious Mexican style of music with all the accordions in it. Aside from driving like complete assholes, they share the heavier-than-heavy need to bleed from the ears. They do this to let everyone know they’re coming and going, as well as allow those equipped with sonar know their approximate density, speed and distance.

The one exception to this rule are the Hasidim, who prefer to do their peerless homicidal driving in a comparative near-silence – all the better to haunt my dreams as an army of Civil War reenactors dressed like obese Abraham Lincolns and guiding half-wrecked minivans towards my terrified family.

I now share the road with them all, having been a legally licensed driver in the state of New York for almost a week. But I have studied guidos and bass cars for years. Continue reading


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James Blackshaw – The Glass Bead Game

glassbeThe transfer at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue from the 6 train to the N or W is delightfully multi-cultural. And as rush hour bodies ebb, it becomes a poly-ethnic stew of shoving, heaving jerks.

Now, I can get pushed all damn day long and not go anywhere, as the majority of my fellow passengers are four feet tall and trying to shove someone twice their weight. The material universe is a cruel god of constant consistency and their efforts are for naught. There’s a lot of interesting things to say about cultures with varying understandings of proxemics all being stuck in a similar space, and there’s a lot of prejudicial things to say about tiny people from all over the globe whose approach to proxemics is to just push forward and hope that no one like me knees their wee faces out of spite. Continue reading

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Subway DJs Are Messing With My Cocoon

42-16080304A small part of the problem is a design flaw – the stock earbuds that come with any player are going to be shitty. They never fit anyone’s ears properly, so there’s always going to be leakage.

The larger issue is that people desire a cocoon. It’s a bit like the bass car issue, but in the opposite direction. The bass car is meant to attract attention, to say “I live with my mom and am probably a rapist.” A poem written in shitty music by shitty people.

The loud earbud issue is about isolation. If I cannot hear the world, it ceases to exist, at least until it’s time to get off the train. Whether this is a desire for a contemplative space in a hurried, secular world or simply wanting to drown out the hundreds of people who are also pretending that no one else is on the train…well, that is for each seeker to decide on their own. What it does mean is that you end up hearing a lot of cymbals. It’s also a bit of a blow against ethnic stereotyping, as (what sounds to be) cock rock is beloved by people of all races. When did that happen? Why did that happen? Continue reading


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