(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Punk

“The function of small corner shops in maintaining cities as viable social institutions does not appear in the Washington consensus. The possibility that corner shops may do better at safeguarding social cohesion than mass imprisonment is considered outlandish – if it is considered at all.”*…

For decades, globalist neoliberalism (and here) has driven the policies and practices and political, commercial, and financial leaders and institutions across the developed– and given development policy, the developing– world. Rana Foroohar argues that its time may be up; geography is retaking the upper hand…

For most of the last 40 years, U.S. policymakers acted as if the world were flat. Steeped in the dominant strain of neoliberal economic thinking, they assumed that capital, goods, and people would go wherever they would be the most productive for everyone. If companies created jobs overseas, where it was cheapest to do so, domestic employment losses would be outweighed by consumer benefits. And if governments lowered trade barriers and deregulated capital markets, money would flow where it was needed most. Policymakers didn’t have to take geography into account, since the invisible hand was at work everywhere. Place, in other words, didn’t matter.

U.S. administrations from both parties have until quite recently pursued policies based on these broad assumptions—deregulating global finance, striking trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, welcoming China into the World Trade Organization (WTO), and not only allowing but encouraging American manufacturers to move much of their production overseas. Free-market globalism was of course pushed in large part by the powerful multinational companies best positioned to exploit it (companies that, of course, donated equally to politicians from both major U.S. parties to ensure that they would see the virtues of neoliberalism). It became a kind of crusade to spread this new American creed around the globe, delivering the thrill of fast fashion and ever-cheaper electronic gadgets to consumers everywhere. American goods, in effect, would represent American goodness. They would advertise American philosophical values, the liberalism tucked inside neoliberalism. The idea was that other countries, delighted by the fruits of American-style capitalism, would be moved to become “free” like the United States.

By some measures, the results of these policies were tremendously beneficial: American consumers in particular enjoyed the fruits of cheap foreign manufacturing while billions of people were lifted out of poverty, especially in developing countries. As emerging markets joined the free-market system, global inequality declined, and a new global middle class was born. How free it was politically, of course, depended on the country.

But neoliberal policies also created immense inequalities within countries and led to sometimes destabilizing capital flows between them. Money can move much faster than goods or people, which invites risky financial speculation. (The number of financial crises has grown substantially since the 1980s.) What is more, neoliberal policies caused the global economy to become dangerously untethered from national politics. Through much of the 1990s, these tectonic shifts were partly obscured in the United States by falling prices, increased consumer debt, and low interest rates. By the year 2000, however, the regional inequalities wrought by neoliberalism had become impossible to ignore. While coastal U.S. cities prospered, many parts of the Midwest, the Northeast, and the South were experiencing catastrophic job losses. Average incomes among U.S. states began to diverge, having converged throughout the 1990s…

Since the beginning of the neoliberal era, a handful of economists had pushed back against the received wisdom of the field. Karl Polanyi, an Austro-Hungarian economic historian, critiqued classical economic views as early as 1944, arguing that totally free markets were a utopian myth. Scholars of the postwar period, including Joseph Stiglitz, Dani Rodrik, Raghuram Rajan, Simon Johnson, and Daron Acemoglu, also understood that place mattered. As Stiglitz, who grew up in the Rust Belt, once told me, “It was obvious if you were raised in a place like Gary, Indiana, that markets aren’t always efficient.” 

This view, that location plays a role in determining economic outcomes, is only just beginning to land in policy circles, but a growing body of research supports it. From the work of Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman to that of Raj Chetty and Thomas Philippon, there is now a consensus among scholars that geographically specific factors such as the quality of public health, education, and drinking water have important economic implications. That might seem intuitive or even obvious to most people, but it has only recently gained broad acceptance among mainstream economists. As Peter Orszag, who served as President Barack Obama’s budget director, told me, “If you ask a normal human being, ‘Does it matter where you are?’ they would start from the presumption that ‘Yes, where you live and where you work and who you’re surrounded by matters a ton.’ It’s like Econ 101 has just gone off the path for the last 40 to 50 years, and we’re all little islands atomized into perfectly rational calculating machines. And policy has just drifted along with this thinking.” He added, “The Economics 101 approach, which is place-agnostic, has clearly failed.”

The importance of place has become even more evident since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic decoupling of the United States and China, and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Globalization has crested and begun to recede. In its place, a more regionalized and even localized world is taking shape. Faced with rising political discontent at home and geopolitical tensions abroad, governments and businesses alike are increasingly focused on resilience in addition to efficiency. In the coming post-neoliberal world, production and consumption will be more closely connected within countries and regions, labor will gain power relative to capital, and politics will have a greater impact on economic outcomes than it has for half a century. If all politics is local, the same could soon be true for economics…

All economics is local: “After Neoliberalism,” from @RanaForoohar in @ForeignAffairs. Eminently worth reading in full (and contemplating the consequences of this all-too-plausible shift for addressing global issues like change change and the migration it is sure to drive).

John Gray

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As we re-scope, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that prescient objectors, the Sex Pistols, made their live debut at St Martin’s School Of Art in central London, supporting a band called Bazooka Joe, which included Stuart Goddard (the future Adam Ant).  The Pistols’ performance lasted 10 minutes.

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November 6, 2022 at 1:00 am

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple”*…

Putting it as simply as possible…

Try explaining something difficult or complex using only the most common thousand—sorry, ten hundred—words [the list is here]. The Up-Goer Five Text Editor isn’t a new idea (here’s a MacOS app from 2016) but now it’s on the web…

Boing Boing

Here’s your correspondent’s shot at explaining “Manichaeism”:

Explain something with the thousand most used words in English,” via @BoingBoing.

* Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

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As we streamline, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to an avatar of a different kind of plain speaking, Steve Jones; he was born on this date in 1955. A musician and songwriter who has recorded and performed solo, in the short-lived supergroup Neurotic Outsiders with members of Guns N’ Roses and Duran Duran, and with the likes of Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, and Thin Lizzy, he is best remembered as the founding guitarist of The Sex Pistols (whose songs he co-wrote with John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon and drummer Paul Cook). He ranks in Rolling Stone‘s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.”

Jones, with Johnny Rotten (John Lydon)

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September 3, 2022 at 1:00 am

“There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories”*…

In the late 1970s, Asian restaurants in California’s cities started booking some unlikely dinner entertainment: punk bands…

Bill Hong was a Cantonese immigrant dad in his late 40s, running a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood with his sister Anna Hong and her husband Arthur, when two young promoters approached him with a business proposition: What did Hong think about renting out the restaurant’s upstairs banquet hall on the evenings when it wasn’t being used?

It was 1979, and LA was struggling. The entire country had plunged into a deep recession just a few years prior, and now Chinatown and the city’s downtown areas were falling into disrepair. More recent Chinese immigrants had started moving to suburban enclaves like the San Gabriel Valley, bypassing Chinatown and its businesses completely; the non-Chinese customers who used to flock to the neighborhood for exotic chow mein dinners were now avoiding downtown altogether.

When Bill Hong said yes to the promoters, he was trying to be practical. He knew the restaurant needed more customers; maybe letting a few young bands play could help bring them in. He never could’ve foreseen that his family’s establishment, the Hong Kong Low—located on a small street called Gin Ling Way—would become a focal point for a seminal music scene: West Coast punk.

Nor did he know how many times the restaurant’s toilet would get smashed in the process.

Hong’s restaurant—known as the Hong Kong Café to showgoers—was far from the only Asian restaurant to incubate the California punk scene. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, from Sacramento to San Francisco, some of the state’s most important punk venues were actually Chinese and Filipino restaurants. At eateries like Sacramento’s China Wagon and Kin’s Coloma, or San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens, now-iconic bands such as X, the Germs, and Black Flag played some of their most memorable early gigs. The Hong Kong wasn’t even the first place in LA’s Chinatown to host gigs: the restaurant across the courtyard, Madame Wong’s, had already been doing the same for at least a year…

Su Tissue of the Suburban Lawns performing at the Hong Kong Café, 1979. Photograph by John Brian King.
Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys, performing at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens—otherwise known as the “Fab Mab”—in 1979 (the same year he ran for mayor of SF). Photograph by Mike Murphy.
Withdrawl, known as Sacramento’s best local punk band at the time, playing at Kin’s Coloma, 1981

Tour the venues: “How Chinese Food Fueled the Rise of California Punk,” from Madeline Leung Coleman (@madelesque)

* “Punk rock, when I was a part of it, was called ‘the underground.’ There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories.” – Mary Harron

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As we muse on the mosh, we might recall that this date in 1979 was “Fleetwood Mac Day” in Los Angeles, as the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (about 6 miles northwest of the Hong Kong Café).

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“Don’t hate the media; become the media”*…

Punk Planet was a 16,000 print run punk zine, based in Chicago, Illinois, that focused most of its energy on looking at punk subculture rather than punk as simply another genre of music to which teenagers listen. In addition to covering music, Punk Planet also covered visual arts and a wide variety of progressive issues — including media criticism, feminism, and labor issues.

The most notable features in Punk Planet were the interviews and album reviews. The interviews generally ran two or three pages, and tended to focus on the motivations of the artist (or organizer, activist, or whoever) being interviewed. Punk Planet aimed to be more inclusive than the well-known zine Maximum Rock and Roll, and tried to review nearly all the records it received, so long as the record label wasn’t owned or partially owned by a major label. This led to a review section typically longer than thirty pages, covering a variety of musical styles. Although much of the music thus reviewed was, expectedly, aggressive rock, the reviews also covered country, folk, hip-hop, indie rock, and other genres. The Punk Planet reviews section also encompassed independently released comics, zines, and DVDs…

The first issue of the zine was published in May 1994, in part as a response to the perception that Maximum Rock and Roll was becoming too elitist. In September 2006, Punk Planet had printed 75 issues of their bi-monthly publication, and in the fall of 2004 launched a book publishing arm, Punk Planet Books, in conjunction with the New York-based small press Akashic Books…

A number of poor distribution deals and the collapse of the Independent Press Association resulted in mounting debts for the editors. As a result, issue 80 was shipped with a cover reading: “This is the final issue of Punk Planet, after this the fight is yours.” Subsidiary business Punk Planet books remains in business…

The annals of punk, the subculture as much as the genre– the invaluable Internet Archive (@internetarchive) has digitized and made the full run available: “Punk Planet Archive.”

* Jello Biafra

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As we travel in time, we might recall that this date in 1959 was “the day the music died”: the day that a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (aka, The Big Bopper), and pilot Roger Peterson.

If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music… and of aviation.

– Tom Stoppard

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February 3, 2021 at 1:01 am

“I find it hard to focus looking forward. So I look backward.”*…

In 1995, “the Godfather of Punk,” Iggy Pop published a review in the scholarly journal Classics Ireland

In 1982, horrified by the meanness, tedium and depravity of my existence as I toured the American South playing rock and roll music and going crazy in public, I purchased an abridged copy of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Dero Saunders, Penguin). The grandeur of the subject appealed to me, as did the cameo illustration of Edward Gibbon, the author, on the front cover. He looked like a heavy dude. Being in a political business, I had long made a habit of reading biographies of wilful characters — Hitler, Churchill, MacArthur, Brando — with large profiles, and I also enjoyed books on war and political intrigue, as I could relate the action to my own situation in the music business, which is not about music at all, but is a kind of religion-rental.

I would read with pleasure around 4 am, with my drugs and whisky in cheap motels, savouring the clash of beliefs, personalities and values, played out on antiquity’s stage by crowds of the vulgar, led by huge archetypal characters. And that was the end of that. Or so I thought.

Eleven years later I stood in a dilapidated but elegant room in a rotting mansion in New Orleans, and listened as a piece of music strange to my ears pulled me back to ancient Rome and called forth those ghosts to merge in hilarious, bilious pretense with the Schwartzkopfs, Schwartzeneggers and Sheratons of modern American money and muscle myth. Out of me poured information I had no idea I ever knew, let alone retained, in an extemporaneous soliloquy I called ‘Caesar’.

When I listened back, it made me laugh my ass off because it was so true. America is Rome. Of course, why shouldn’t it be? All of Western life and institutions today are traceable to the Romans and their world. We are all Roman children for better or worse. The best part of this experience came after the fact — my wife gave me a beautiful edition in three volumes of the magnificent original unabridged Decline and Fall, and since then the pleasure and profit have been all mine as I enjoy the wonderful language, organization and scope of this masterwork.

Here are just some of the ways I benefit:

1 I feel a great comfort and relief knowing that there were others who lived and died and thought and fought so long ago; I feel less tyrannized by the present day.

2 I learn much about the way our society really works, because the system-origins — military, religious, political, colonial, agricultural, financial — are all there to be scrutinized in their infancy. I have gained perspective.

3 The language in which the book is written is rich and complete, as the language of today is not.

4 I find out how little I know.

5 I am inspired by the will and erudition which enabled Gibbon to complete a work of twenty-odd years. The guy stuck with things. I urge anyone who wants life on earth to really come alive for them to enjoy the beautiful ancestral ancient world…

Iggy in roughly that period

Iggy Pop on the relevance of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall in particular, and of history in general: “Caesar Lives.” (Free JSTOR registration may be required.)

* Iggy Pop

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As we note, with Faulkner, that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past,” we might recall that on the pop music charts on this date in 1967, The Monkees continued into the New Year at #1 with “I’m A Believer.” “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen was second, with Aaron Neville making a push for the top with “Tell It Like It Is”.  Former #1 “Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band grabbed the #4 spot, followed by Nancy Sinatra (“Sugar Town”), and Dad Frank (“That’s Life”). The rest of the Top 10:  Boise, Idaho’s Paul Revere & the Raiders with “Good Thing”, the Mamas and the Papas climbed from 19 (to #8) with “Words Of Love”, the Four Tops nearly matched that with “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” while Donovan took a turn downward with “Mellow Yellow.” On the album chart, The Monkees made it nine weeks on top with their eponymously-titled first release.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 7, 2021 at 1:01 am

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