Guns, Hardcore, Carnitas and Camp

by Daniel A. Kaufman

One of the best articles I’ve read on America’s gun problem.  Particularly effective is the video which shows what happens when ordinary people, who have been given some gun training of the sort being proposed for school teachers in some districts, are confronted by an active shooter.

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Fascinating photo essay on the emergence of hardcore out of the punk-rock scene in the late 1970’s.

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A nice little reference tool for those who have had difficulty understanding “intensionality” and “intentionality.”

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Susan Sontag’s fascinating observations on “Camp.”

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My favorite recipe for Carnitas.

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A remarkable “debate” between Will Self and Adam Gopnik on the relative merits of Brave New World and 1984, with actors playing out scenes from both books.

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Iris Murdoch in dialogue with Bryan Magee on philosophy and literature.




9 responses to “Guns, Hardcore, Carnitas and Camp”

  1. DW

    Good links!

    Oh, the carnitas recipe is timely. Of late, I’ve been trying out a few recipes for enchiladas and am at about the point where I’m contemplating making corn tortillas. So I’m probably going to soon want some other recipes to use with fresh homemade tortillas. The citrus in the carnitas sounds crucial, but I wonder if a bit less lime and more orange wouldn’t be better. I’d also be tempted to put a couple of bay leaves in there.

    I read that Sontag years ago. I’ll have to revisit it to see what I think now.

    I’ve seen a few of those “intelligence squared” debates. Some have been very interesting and some have seemed silly or trite. This one sounds promising, so I’ll watch it. Since I haven’t read “Brave New World” for many years, I suspect that I’ve rewritten it my head to make it philosophically sharper and more interesting. I’ve also thought about the idea of a contemporary rewrite that takes account of the sorts of technology that’s probable in the next few decades. So instead of needing to engineer humans down to simpler biological robots for the drudgery, we will just build AI robots to automate away vast types of work. So there could be a society of just alphas and betas running around who didn’t have to pay attention to anything they didn’t want to. What would they want to do? If you remove the bits of “Brave New World” that were intended to shock the reader, you get the question of is it all so bad to have a society that is stable, peaceful, and with minimal conflict and suffering? And how shallow would it have to be before the price was too high?

  2. It is almost impossible – at this late stage – to determine the origins of hardcore. – the Dis imitated the Clash, but were more radical. W/o bands like the Dils, there would have been no Hardcore –
    – no, that[‘s probably untrue, The fact is the Ramones and, by import, the Sex Pistols, had exposed a vein in American youth.

    We went hardcore because keyboard rock just sucks. (And I like the Doors, but would someone shoot Manzarek, please?)

  3. The Dils – the “missing link” between “punk” and “Hardcore” – and one of the least remembered but most important rock bands in rock history.

    “I Hate The Rich ” is what it’s all about, both musically and lyrically.

  4. EJ:

    I think we have a better idea of where hardcore comes from than you give credit. If you read John Doe’s “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk,” it’s pretty clear that hardcore’s emergence was largely demographic. I.e. the already existing punk scene, of which X was the “leader,” was a largely urban, bohemian phenomenon, to which was then added people from the suburbs and especially Orange County. This produced a cultural clash within the scene — it’s fascinating to read the dueling accounts in the book by Doe, of X, and by Jack Grisham, of TSOL, one of the original hardcore bands. Doe describes the hardcore kids as being a bunch of violent knuckleheads, while Grisham thinks the original punks a bunch of hypocrites and snobs. Regardless, the focus shifted, the original punks faded — though X remained quite strong — and hardcore surged.

    Musically, the differences are also very pronounced: the original punk was essentially stripped down rock-and-roll, even sometimes channeling the rockabilly sounds of the 50’s — X’s Billy Zoom is a classic example — while hardcore pretty much eliminated traditional song structure, got rid of any residual blues, and favored a blistering, super-fast sonic attack that would later become the template for thrash metal, by way of crossover bands like Suicidal Tendencies and the Cro Mags.

    The differences are as pronounced as can be.

    Traditional punk:

    X, “Beyond and Back”

    Hardcore punk:

    7 Seconds, “Definite Choice”

  5. Dan,
    I Just didn’t find the article on Hardcore as informative as it made itself out to be. I was writing lightly, off the cuff, nostalgically. Much of what you say is quite correct.

    The ‘original’ NYC punks (who were actually largely influenced by the Detroit scene of ca. 1970) had ambitions to become established rock groups, played on the radio. They just didn’t understand that radio in NYC at the time (which had a couple stations that would play new music) was no microcosm of national radio. But there’s no doubt (having lived among these people for a year) that they shared much a hope for commercial success. This seriously disillusioned me – the music industry people I met at CBGBs were all pigs (and at the time I was something of an anarchist).

    I mention the Dils because listening to their first single somewhat restored my faith in the punk alternative. They had no interest in commercial success. (My understanding is that So-Cal bands counted themselves lucky if they got a single played once on KROQ.) The Dils’ songs were abrasive, their musical attack was abrasive, the Clash were as far back in the past as they wished to refer. It was clear that if American punk was to go forward, the Dils (and bands like them) were the way to go.

    I was kidding about Ray Manzarek, but I wasn’t kidding about keyboards. There are no keyboards in hardcore. (Notably, X – which you rightly identify as a straight-ahead punk band – had their first two albums produced by Manzarek – including his keyboards on one of them.)

    You’re right about the demographics; but there are zeitgeist issues as well. The original punks were the younger siblings of the most affluent generation in history, and as this affluence began to recede in the ’70s, they were making a determined effort to brand the future as their own – and once they mutated into New Wave (with plenty of keyboards, BTW), some of them achieved this.

    Hardcore, on the other hand, may not sound like the Sex Pistols (and really, it doesn’t), but they took the promise of “No Future” seriously. Along with the original rap of the early ’80s, hardcore is the soundtrack for the real social effects of the de-industrialization of America. It’s the music that makes sense as your lower working class neighborhood degrades into a slum.

    I was never part of the hardcore scene – the original bands and their audience were very young. But I was always sympathetic. And I always found the brighter among such audiences receptive to musical weirdness of all sorts. I occasionally performed with a sound-poetry group and also a guitar improvisation band in the ’80s. Those audiences into hardcore were probably the most receptive.

    So, I understand that you were “there” in such audiences, and that I am something of a dinosaur. But I remember the transitional phases as being more complex – and much muddier – than we like to think of them. How could Black Sabbath and David Bowie somehow converge into the Sex Pistols? Why would a now largely forgotten aesthetic abortively generated in an industrial city beginning an incredible decline (Detroit) resurface in NYC? How did a musical revolt in the council tenancies of London somehow resurface in the declining white neighborhoods of Los Angeles and San Fancisco (and on the east coast, New Jersey) and morph into a national underground of angry teen outrage? Greil Marcus gave a fine Hegelian reading of one phase in Lipstick Traces, and many of the survivors have autobiographies, and there have been documentaries, almost from the start. But it doesn’t add up to me – and I lived it. Maybe that’s why I think a real historical explanation cannot be found. Only my memories can account for my memories – and they can’t be trusted. (A lot of beer back then, man…. I vaguely remember that.)

    Anyway – Keyboards, bro, it’s all about the keyboards (and per Fear, the saxophones).

  6. As always, EJ, I love talking with you about this.

  7. ej: It wasn’t the most informative essay, by far, but that’s partly because it was a photo-essay. As a complete package, I thought it was really cool, and for people who know nothing about the scene, I thought it was informative enough.

    This is a really good documentary about the ground-zero hangout of the hardcore scene, the Cuckoo’s Nest, and features interviews with some of the major players in hardcore.

    And I *do* recommend John Doe’s book, which I mentioned earlier. It’s got entries by all sorts of people across the whole west coast punk scene.

  8. I hadn’t read the Sontag article on Camp before, it’s very good.

  9. I liked the Susan Sontag piece on camp. Very nice was

    > 54 (…) Camp asserts that good taste is not simply good taste; that there exists, indeed, a good taste of bad taste.

    Personally, I’m not very interested in good music or bad music. Much more interesting are the categories of good bad music and bad bad music (there’s also bad good music – the Doors come to mind – and good good music).

    The most interesting category is good bad music, but it’s hard to define. Some people I know have this attitude “sometimes it’s so bad it’s good”, but I don’t agree. Good bad music is often very well made; it only has the problem that it’s bad music – but fortunately, it’s good bad music.

    I could give an example, but I posted it once here and Dan K. was so disgusted by it – musical taste is subjective – that I’m not going to post it again.

    Perhaps a parallel can be made with poetry. Sometimes you read a poem and the author uses a weird turn of phrase. You wonder for a second why, and then you understand that he uses it to make it fit into the hexameter or whatever metrical foot he’s writing in. It’s a question of technique, and it’s glaringly obvious that it’s one of the lesser moments of the author – you imagine him or her secretly hoping that nobody notices, or at least that the reader will understand why this weird turn of phrase was necessary to make the poem move forwards – but the result can be great.