October 7th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Semi-Automated Quicktakes

(Brad is at Archon this weekend, and probably won't have enough access to a computer to write a journal entry in real-time. That's why he stuffed this entry into the queue Wednesday night after packing for the weekend, before his Thursday afternoon ride picked him up.)

A Perfect Halloween Present: Not that anybody gives Halloween presents. But this thing dropped into my lap with absolutely perfect timing. I had been agonizing over what to get kukla_tko42 for her birthday when a blog I was reading reviewed this. She was literally the first person I thought of when I heard of it, because of her "Goth Since Before You Were Born" userpic, and I found out about it just barely in the nick of time to rescue me from as lame a gift as an Amazon gift certificate or something. What is it? It's A Life Less Lived: The Goth Box from Rhino Records. Yes, it having been 20 years since the first peak of the goth subculture, back before it even became a fad, it's been long enough ago for Rhino Records to be doing one of their big fancy retrospective collections. Actually, I bought two of them: one for her, and one for me. I'm not exactly goth myself, although nobody seems to think I'm a tourist on the rare occasions I show up at goth night. Or at least, not so as I can tell. But I just plain had to have one of these. Even if I'd hated all the recordings on it, the packaging all by itself is just an artistic joy to behold. Three CDs and one DVD printed in black on red with a mixture of horror-movie, pagan, and celtic symbolism. A both insightful and drop-dead funny book packaged with it in faux-reptile-skin red oversize paperback. All of that wrapped in a great box that lacks only a title of being a better hoax Necronomicon than any of the gazillions of faux Necronomicons out there. And then, the icing on the cake, they wrapped the whole thing in a leatherette corset that's probably at least as sturdy as any of the corsets sold at Hot Topic. If nothing else, I wanted it for the same reason I bought Madonna's crappy book Sex years ago, as a cultural artifact.

But the true surprise came for me when I ripped all the songs and shoved them onto my MP3 player for a long afternoon and discovered that they pulled off something that even some goth nightclub DJs can't do. They actually came up with four hours of classic goth music and none of it sucks. They even managed to find two songs by The Cure that don't suck, that aren't whiny proto-emo suicide notes from a guy who (to my disgust) still hasn't gotten around to slitting his wrists like he's been flirting with us over for 25 years, and I wouldn't have bet that the Cure had two songs I could stand. The rest do exactly what Rhino does best: each song is a jewel by itself but is also historically significant because you can see in each of them the seeds of one of the future spin-off genres that descended from goth rock. I'm not as crazy about their selection of videos, only one or two of which didn't annoy me in some way and which will doubtless delight purists over the fact that they're not on-screen labeled but I kept being aggravated by that, too. But even without the DVD, I feel like this is the best investment in music I've made in a very, very long time. It'd also make a perfect gift for someone who self-identifies as goth but hasn't gotten around to tracking down the best of the music from before Hot Topic.

An Accidental Revelation of the Real Truth: Good thing I was able to find an archived copy of this story, because I put it off so long it dropped off of most of the news sites: Russ Bynum, "Immigration raid cripples Georgia town," Associated Press, September 18th, 2006. The story is somewhat interesting even for the reporter's main point: the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service just rounded up and carried off an estimated one fourth of the residents of a Georgia factory town that all-but belongs to meatpacker Crider, Inc, and another quarter or half of the population fled into the night to escape the round-up. The reporter is drawn to the apparent human tragedy of a thriving town turning into a ghost town in a single night, but that's not the part that interested me. The part that interested me is this: "The poultry plant has limped along with half its normal workforce. Crider increased its starting wages by $1 an hour to help recruit new workers. Stacie Bell, 23, started work canning chicken at Crider a week ago. She said the pay, $7.75 an hour, led her to leave her $5.60-an-hour job as a Wal-Mart cashier in nearby Statesboro." Doesn't that provide at least anecdotal proof of something that most of us have been saying all along, that illegal immigrants depress wages? Or are pro-illegal activists going to claim that it's a coincidence that as soon as they had to hire legal workers, wages went up a buck or more, and that suddenly when they did there were Americans available to work those jobs after all?

Why Does Everything Happen the Same Night? There's an interesting looking independently produced documentary called Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers by Robert Greenwald, the same director that made Outfoxed and a few other semi-famous documentaries. As with his earlier work, he wasn't able to get theaters to book his film, so he's dependent on various volunteer groups to organize screenings for him, and the local Peace Economy Project has scheduled a 100-seat screening for October 14th. Unfortunately, I'm already booked for the 14th. Maybe I'll get another chance to see it. Frankly, if she were smart, Claire McCaskill's campaign would be promoting this, too, at least hosting their own public showings. Early in her campaign, one of her signature issues was a call for the Senate to re-constitute then-Senator Harry Truman's World War II investigative commission on war profiteering. Part of me thinks that rather than just going on the defensive against the Talent campaign's ill-thought-out attack ads (is it really smart politics for them to remind the public that she's the same Claire McCaskill who was, during her tenure, the most popular state auditor we've ever had, and that she went after the nursing home industry even though it was her own family's ox getting gored?), she could do a lot worse than to order a bulk-purchase of these DVDs and mail them out to swing voters all over Missouri in a mailer renewing that promise of another Truman Commission.
  • Current Music
    The Ran-Dells - Martian Hop [2:12] - Halloween Hits [Rhino] on HalloweenRadio.com
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