Posts Tagged New York City

2014 In Review: Year of The Metal Subgenre

69_photoA near tsunami of new metal bands came to the forefront of the American music scene in 2014.  After Obama signed the controversial law in 2013 that outlawed country music, boy bands and songs by coke addicted former Mouseketeers, metal began to take off as the most popular form of musical expression in the land.

A wave of new bands brought in a flood of popular subgenres.  After all, how can you possibly catch the attention of an audience numbed into a near coma by a never-ending stream of cute kitten pictures on their computer without some sort of hook?

Years back, a number of metal bands figured out that by coming up with new subgenres you can effectively con the audience into the belief that they are experiencing something totally state-of-the-art.  This was a brilliant assessment, because truthfully, there are only so many ways you can cook an egg.  If you take the story out of metal, it’s mostly just a bunch of sweaty, badly dressed people making loud noises for a bunch of sweaty, badly dressed people who are apoplectically staring into The Nothing.

Honestly, how different is one three and a half minute thrash song from another?  Is technical death metal really all that unique in comparison to, say, regular old garden-variety death metal?  Thus, God created the subgenre and gave us a way to turn tiny, obscure distinctions into whole schools of thought and belief.  One man’s doom is another man’s sludge, as the old saying goes.  Or something.

When the next civilization digs through the rubble a thousand years from now and finds all the 2014 issues of Metal Maniacs it will be clear, this was The Year of The Metal Subgenre.  So, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the best new subgenres created in 2014 along with the band that best represents that style.

New Wave of Soviet Socialist Metal (NWOSSM or NWOCCCP)

When I think about 1980’s power metal, my mind often drifts to the Soviets.  Many people would argue that very little great creativity came out of Russia and its satellite states in the 80’s.  Clearly those people haven’t heard some of the early albums by Lenin’s Tomb or Khrushchev’s Shoe.  As young Russians look back on the glorious days of bureaucratic inefficiency that marked the end of the Soviet Empire, many of them have started playing the music that dominated that era.

Best Band:  Iron Curtain

Unblackened Yachtcore

This quirky fusion between the raw, earthy tones of Christian black metal and 1970 and 80’s soft rock caught fire in 2014.  Many music aficionados were looking for a way to reconcile their passion for the music of Michael McDonald and the songs of Darkthrone.  This cutting edge subgenre gave them the perfect combination.  Lyrically, it blends elegant prose from the New Testament with poignant stories about the dreams and inner longings of Yuppies.

Best Band:  Captain Trips and Tenille

Proto Originalist Doom

Who would have believed that doom metal could possibly be blended with the text of Supreme Court decisions written by Antonin Scalia in order to create a new style of music?  Dark, heavy, Sabbath inspired guitar riffs are used here to celebrate the spirit of unbridled judicial restraint and the idea that just about every thought that was formulated after 1787 is entirely worthless.

Best Band:  Woe vs. Wade

Post-Marxist Extremely Technical Progressive Rawlsian Eco Thrash (PMETPRET)

More of a social movement than a style of music, PMETPRET bands have attempted to use technical death metal as a tool of creating social justice and encouraging recycling.

Best Band: Fates Warming

Anatomical Glam Grindslam

Grindcore was a dying subgenre until it caught an infusion of hair metal earlier this year.  Something about the idea of putting together the catchy, party rock stylings of bands like Poison and Cinderella with the fierce brutality of early Carcass and The County Medical Examiners struck a chord with the American public.

Best Band:  Twisted Blister  

New York City Viking Hardcore (NYHVC)As most Americans know, a Viking gang crime wave hit New York City in early 2014.  Alienated young teens joined Viking gangs in droves and pillaged many of the stores and homes that were not guarded by people with assault rifles and high capacity magazines.  NYHVC has become a way of expressing their rage at our dysfunctional social order.

Best Band:  Freyahazard

Heideggerian Ontological Powerviolence (HOP) 

If you are like most Americans, you feel deeply offended that you grew up in a culture that has been thoroughly shaped by Cartesian Dualism.   You also probably wonder how you can best disclose being-in-the-world as a whole.  And you probably own at least the first four Spazz albums (the ones they did before they sold out).  It is not a coincidence that HOP music caught on overnight and became the top selling subgenre in metal in 2014.

Best Band:  Being-Toward-Death-Angel

Old School Hebraic Nu-Metal

The most surprising comeback in 2014 was the resurgence of Nu-Metal, only this time instead of “borrowing” style and imagery associated with African American culture these musicians began stealing traditional Jewish themes.

Best Band:  Limp Brizkit

Symphonic Free Market Hayekia’N’Roll

In an attempt to connect with younger, hipper Americans, The Heritage Foundation, in conjunction with the Koch Brothers, have spent over 30 billion dollars creating melodic death metal records in order to spread the message of free market intellectual titans like Milton Friedman and the guy who invented the chicken sandwich.

Best Band:  Children of Serfdom

 

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Chapter Two-Transformation

Picture By Michelle Fusco (Libertina Grimm)

To start a new life, to be reborn is a gift.  He was gone, forgotten to an afterlife of memories and sunshine.  Living out his days in a blissful, candy-coated purgatory.  He could have stayed forever, but something compelled him to take his beauty and share it again with the world.  His understandings would melt away in his hands if he did not connect them to the world.

All at once, he knew that his hideout was only a weigh station for the soul.  He served his time, shed all the excess scorn and terror that had weighed on him for so long and learned how to breathe again.  The breath he drew in, once composed of bitterness and smog, was filled with life purity and essence.  He was new.  An infant in the frail body of a man.

The past no longer hung around his neck.  As he walked the chilly streets of Manhattan, peering at the billboards that once echoed his name, he knew what it was like to be alive and part of the world.  The world he breathed in tasted clear.  The filth and struggle of a world drowning in its own tears no longer beat on his brow.

He looked in store windows.  He did not long to buy or own or consume, he simply wanted to know.  An electronic store filled with gadgets to capture the past on screens.  A clothing store promising connection and love.  A restaurant screaming dreams of fulfillment. There was no sweetness in the pitch anymore.  He only felt curiosity and wonder.  He was so swept up in the race towards what our world believed to be meaningful; he lost sight of the truth within himself.

To walk the streets of New York City without wearing it’s pace and frustration was divine.  He could notice its push and pull, but not be swept away by it.   As he walked into the middle of Times Square something in him knew to fear its power.  He remembered what it was like to think that the energy of the city belonged to him.  Once, he believed that they were his.  Only later did he understand that he was theirs.  And that was when he began to die.

But, this death of his was a thing of the past.  He was focused on the light now.  He had found something, now he wanted to share something.  It was part of a greater process.  He was a vessel that now belonged to The Ocean.  He felt the subways pull beneath his feet.  His eyes closed and he could feel the motion.  As if he wasn’t but still was.

As he emerged from the acrid, putrefied heat of the subway station into a cold sea of noise and light, he tucked his hands into his hooded sweatshirt.  All of the times he had vanished under a surgeon’s knife in order to hide from them or from death flashed through his mind.  So much agony, but finally he had been created anew.  The final surgery last year, the one that brought him back to the way he looked in the 1980s, had allowed him to finally, once and for all accept himself.  The pale flesh of sorrow had vanished.  The veil of terror had been lifted and his soft, boyish innocence had returned.  Science was not the answer to his pain, but it allowed him to recapture a small piece of the self that was lost to the mob.

New York City was beautiful in all of its stunning chaos, but he knew he could not last here.  Eventually, it would become his skin and the unendurable sadness would return.  He needed to go somewhere where the illusions weren’t so powerful.  He needed to start small.  After all, this was his period of spiritual rehabilitation.

While trailing around the Port Authority Bus Station to keep warm he came upon his next move.  He’d just go somewhere.  He would take the next bus that was leaving.  Wherever the universe might take him.   He bought a ticket for some town named Zenith somewhere in Ohio.  It left in 15 minutes.

He walked through the oddly designed belly of the station. Past all of the portals that looked like they were created to service Martians on their way to Venus.  Past the lost souls stumbling through the stupor of an endless night.  Past the families huddled around their bags on their way to a some distant, sleepy Somewheresville.  Past the shimmering advertisements filled with happy people eating perfectly symmetrical meals and fighting the never-ending battle against hair loss.  Past all of the needless suffering and itinerant wandering.  Onto a bus disappearing into the darkness.  Into a reawakened future.

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A Dish Best Not Served

Jodie Foster Reacting to Her First Reading of the Script

It has taken nearly seven years for a film to eclipse Gus Van Sant’s trainwreck  “Elephant” as the reigning worst film of all time, but today, at approximately 4:33, I finished watching the Neil Jordan 2007 movie “The Brave One”.  All hail the new king!

For me to try to describe the plot of this film in a way that did it justice I would need to use start making gorilla noises and smacking myself in the face.  It is purile, infantile garbage.  Just so you as the reader fully understand my contempt for this vile bucket of swill, I plan on divulging every possible plot point that might surprise a person who has the misfortune of watching it.  Hopefully, this will discourage anyone who has not taken my warning seriously from seeing this monstrosity.

Jodie Foster plays the preposterously annoying Erica Cain, a public radio “personality” who rattles on and on about her love of New York City and all of its whimsical, gritty charm.  Erica and her boyfriend go out to walk their dog and get brutally beaten, he dies and she quickly morphs from Garrison Keillor to Charles Bronson.  A Bernhard Goetz for the Starbucks set.  Erica must just be unlucky because everywhere she goes some demented sociopath shows up and puts her life in jeopardy.  So, she does what every red blooded New Yorker should be doing (if you follow the deeply embarrassing moral logic of the film).  She busts a series of caps in the collective backsides of some of the worst human beings this side of America’s Most Wanted.

Don’t worry, she won’t actually be doing any jail time for killing more people than Charlie Starkweather because Detective Mercer (played with remarkable disinterest by the usually reliable Terrance Howard) is on the case.  There are a whole bunch of conversations where he pontificates about the difference between cops and vigilantes and then, in a plot twist that carries the film to new heights of absurdity, he helps her murder the perps who killed her boyfriend.  The best feat of acting in the film takes place when Howard comes full circle and tells Erica that if she kills someone she should “use a legal gun”.  See, because we thought he was going to arrest her, but, see, he doesn’t and instead he helps see justice done.  What’s great about that moment isn’t what he says or does, but that he manages to do it without bursting into fits of laughter.  I’d love to see one of those old outtake reels that they used to run under the credits of Burt Reynolds films but with Terrance Howard trying to get the dumb line about legal guns out and cracking up over and over again.  Better yet, I’d like to see what Dom DeLuise could have done with that line.

After that, Jodie Foster marches triumphantly through the tunnel where she was attacked and, I swear I’m not making this part up, the dog they were walking at the beginning of the film COMES BACK TO HER!!!!  Months have past since the attack!  WHAT?!?!?!  It still has the leash on for the love of God!  Was the dog just waiting there performing some canine version of Waiting for Godot, hoping Erica would reappear?  How did it survive?  I know there have been some budget cuts in New York, they still have at least one or two people working animal control…right?!?!

Neil Jordan has never impressed me all that much, except for that five second stretch of The Crying Game where America collectively spit its popcorn on the person in the seat in front of them.  This, however, is a new low.  He and the writers spend two hours arguing that Americans should stop leaving issues like crime to the police and simply gun down any of the menacing characters they bump into while trying to find their car after a Saturday night performance of Jersey Boys.

It is a highly irresponsible movie, but I don’t even think it’s worth spending a lot of time on why.  If you can identify with the moral language used in this film you are way past being reasoned with.  Trying to talk someone out of relating to the message in this film is like trying to convince someone who just watched Plan 9 From Outer Space that they should not be afraid of alien controlled zombies.

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George Washington Plunkitt and the Value of Honest Graft

Thomas Nast Cartoon Depicting the "Thought Process" Behind Tammany Hall

It is a rare person who can make being a scoundrel seem like a completely respectable way to make a living. Occasionally, this sort of scoundrel works his way into politics.  Most corrupt politicians today bathe themselves in the murky oil of self-righteousness.  It is quite unique to find a man completely devoid of principals and willing to make that a matter of public record. George Washington Plunkitt was such a man.

Plunkitt was a State Senator in New York during the heyday of Tammany Hall.  The Tammany political machine ran New York City for over a century by offering jobs and protection for new immigrants in exchange for votes and political influence.  Tammany produced some of New York’s most influential politicians (William Mallory “Boss” Tweed being the best known) and even counted a Vice President (Aaron Burr) and a Presidential candidate Al Smith among its ranks.

The organization had many outspoken, charasmatic politicians, but Plunkitt was probably the best at explaining “The Tammany Way”. Plunkitt’s book “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall: A Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics, Delivered by Ex-Senator George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Philosopher, from his Rostrum—the New York County Courthouse Bootblack Stand” contains some of the most intriguing justifications for corruption that have ever been written.  His distinction between honest and dishonest graft is deeply flawed but amazingly compelling.

Here is an excerpt that captures Plunkitt’s belief about how the system works…

Everybody is talkin‘ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin‘ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin’ gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.

There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin‘: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. Or supposin‘ it’s a new bridge they’re goin’ to build. I get tipped off and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank.

Wouldn’t you? It’s just like lookin‘ ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It’s honest graft, and I’m lookin’ for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I’ve got a good lot of it, too.

I’ll tell you of one case. They were goin‘ to fix up a big park, no matter where. I got on to it, and went lookin’ about for land in that neighborhood.

I could get nothin’ at a bargain but a big piece of swamp, but I took it fast enough and held on to it. What turned out was just what I counted on. They couldn’t make the park complete without Plunkitt’s swamp, and they had to pay a good price for it. Anything dishonest in that?

Up in the watershed I made some money, too. I bought up several bits of land there some years ago and made a pretty good guess that they would be bought up for water purposes later by the city.

Somehow, I always guessed about right, and shouldn’t I enjoy the profit of my foresight? It was rather amusin’ when the condemnation commissioners came along and found piece after piece of the land in the name of George Plunkitt of the Fifteenth Assembly District, New York City. They wondered how I knew just what to buy. The answer is—I seen my opportunity and I took it. I haven’t confined myself to land; anything that pays is in my line.

For instance, the city is repavin’ a street and has several hundred thousand old granite blocks to sell. I am on hand to buy, and I know just what they are worth.

How? Never mind that. I had a sort of monopoly of this business for a while, but once a newspaper tried to do me. It got some outside men to come over from Brooklyn and New Jersey to bid against me.

Was I done? Not much. I went to each of the men and said: “How many of these 250,000 stones do you want?” One said 20,000, and another wanted 15,000, and other wanted 10,000. I said: “All right, let me bid for the lot, and I’ll give each of you all you want for nothin’.”

They agreed, of course. Then the auctioneer yelled: “How much am I bid for these 250,000 fine pavin’ stones?”

“Two dollars and fifty cents,” says I.

“Two dollars and fifty cents” screamed the auctioneer. “Oh, that’s a joke Give me a real bid.”

He found the bid was real enough. My rivals stood silent. I got the lot for $2.50 and gave them their share. That’s how the attempt to do Plunkitt ended, and that’s how all such attempts end.

I’ve told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now, let me tell you that most politicians who are accused of robbin’ the city get rich the same way.

They didn’t steal a dollar from the city treasury. They just seen their opportunities and took them. That is why, when a reform administration comes in and spends a half million dollars in tryin’ to find the public robberies they talked about in the campaign, they don’t find them.

The books are always all right. The money in the city treasury is all right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft. Now, let me tell you that’s never goin’ to hurt Tammany with the people. Every good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn’t isn’t likely to be popular. If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I give it to a friend. Why shouldn’t I do the same in public life?

Another kind of honest graft. Tammany has raised a good many salaries. There was an awful howl by the reformers, but don’t you know that Tammany gains ten votes for every one it lost by salary raisin’?

The Wall Street banker thinks it shameful to raise a department clerk’s salary from $1500 to $1800 a year, but every man who draws a salary himself says: “That’s all right. I wish it was me.” And he feels very much like votin’ the Tammany ticket on election day, just out of sympathy.

Tammany was beat in 1901 because the people were deceived into believin‘ that it worked dishonest graft. They didn’t draw a distinction between dishonest and honest graft, but they saw that some Tammany men grew rich, and supposed they had been robbin’ the city treasury or levyin‘ blackmail on disorderly houses, or workin’ in with the gamblers and lawbreakers.

As a matter of policy, if nothing else, why should the Tammany leaders go into such dirty business, when there is so much honest graft lyin’ around when they are in power? Did you ever consider that?

Now, in conclusion, I want to say that I don’t own a dishonest dollar. If my worst enemy was given the job of writin’ my epitaph when I’m gone, he couldn’t do more than write:

“George W. Plunkitt. He Seen His Opportunities, and He Took ‘Em.”

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