Zola Carr – Medicalizing Society

Link to an article by Zola Carr:

“Medicalizing Society”


Bonus links: “Are We Governed By Secondary Psychopaths?” and “The War Inside Your Head” and  “Mental Health and Neoliberalism” and “Are the Young People That Shrinks Label as Disruptive Really Anarchists With a Healthy Resistance to Oppressive Authority?” and “Social Service or Social Change?”

Oblivians – Popular Favorites

Popular Favorites

ObliviansPopular Favorites Crypt Records CR-065 (1996)

The punk movement in the United States took place almost entirely in the north.  Drawing on the primitive rock of Detroit’s The Gories, Oblivians represented probably the south’s best contribution to punk-inspired rock.  Popular Favorites is perhaps the band’s defining statement.  The guitars are loud and crunchy.  The rhythms are relentless.  The lyrics are visceral piss-takes on the travails of a broke working band trying make a living, find romance, come to terms with their place in the world, and maybe also popularize some dance moves.  Everything still sounds great more than two decades after it came out.  The best cuts tend to be those with Greg [Cartwright] Oblivian on vocals.  This album is now out of print but is available for streaming.

Captain Beefheart – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Captain Beefheart and The Magic BandShiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) Warner Bros. BSK 3256 (1978)

After a pair of widely panned albums in 1974, a 1975 collaboration, and a few years without any new albums — much of these travails the result of his entire backing band quitting in the face of Stalinist leadership tactics — the Captain returned amidst the punk era with one of his best.  He had actually recorded an entire album (Bat Chain Puller) then lost control of the master tapes as part of a tangentially-related royalty dispute between owners of his label.  He and yet another reconstituted version of The Magic Band then re-recorded some of the tracks, and some completely new ones, for a different labelBat Chain Puller tracks omitted from Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) showed up in later re-recordings on Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow.

Anyway, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) is something of a summary of many things the Captain had been doing in the 1970s along with a few new hot takes.  The delivery is slicker, but, surprisingly, that generally works for rather than against the music.  The album opens with “The Floppy Boot Stomp,” which signals that it was going to draw from the sort of idiosyncratic music that the Captain had been making in the Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby era but had abandoned in recent years.  But the second cut, “Tropical Hot Dog Night,” channels Jimmy Buffett (and maybe also Flowmotion) in service of a statement of hesitant yet macho sexuality — a song reprised decades on by PJ Harvey as “Meet Ze Monsta.”  A latin flavor later reappears on the song  “Candle Mambo” too.  This version of The Magic Band includes a brassy horn section that is somewhat unique, given that other recordings leaned more on woodwinds than brass.  “Suction Prints” even sort of resembles punk — the first part of the song has a rhythm not too far off from Iggy Pop and The Stooges‘ hardcore punk B-side “Gimme Some Skin.”  “Harry Irene” is a kind of ironic/nostalgic cabaret song (compare cuts like “Jean the Machine” and “Joe” on Scott Walker‘s ‘Till the Band Comes In).  Sure, in “Owed T’ Alex” and “Apes-ma” (the one track held over from the original sessions), there are a few throwaway tracks here.  But for the most part this album is great from top to bottom.

So how does this compare to the aborted Bat Chain Puller album (eventually released in 2012) this originally replaced?  Well, in a way the original is even better — a little rawer, sparer and unified while still in territory that seems uncharted.  But the Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) incarnation replaces prominent keyboards with its horn section that adds a new dimension, and the caribbean flavor of “Tropical Hot Dog Night” was completely absent on the original recordings.  And the original lacked a song quite that good.  The general eclecticism and fullness of the re-recordings is also something different and an asset in their favor.  So maybe the new version of the album is better?  Frankly, it is pointless to pick a favorite between Bat Chain Puller and Shiny Beast because they are both great.  Beefheart fans are going to want to hear both (although the original recordings were officially released in 2012, they fell out of print quickly).

Captain Beefheart – Bluejeans & Moonbeams

Bluejeans & Moonbeams

Captain Beefheart and The Magic BandBluejeans & Moonbeams Mercury SRM 1-1018 (1974)

Captain Beefheart released two album in 1974 on the Mercury label in the US and the Virgin label in the UK: Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams.  They both ventured into MOR (mainstream oriented rock) territory.  Most Beefheart fans are appalled by both of these albums.  The problem is that Beefheart had released some of the most inventive and abstract rock ever recorded.  His turn toward smoothed-over commercial pop-rock is not something music snobs ever accept.  On the one hand, Unconditionally Guaranteed is pretty dull, save for bits of a few tracks (“Peaches,” etc.) with horn sections that seem like less energetic versions of material off 15-60-75‘s Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town (1976).  A clear parallel to the album’s overall turn toward mediocre conventions is CAN’s Out of Reach (1978). Unconditionally Guaranteed was recorded by the same Magic Band lineup that had worked with Beefheart for many years.  They all quit after finishing the album.  So Bluejeans & Moonbeams was recorded with any entirely new backing band.  Some fans give the new band the derogatory nickname “The Tragic Band”.  But all this is a bit wrong.  Bluejeans & Moonbeams is a pretty decent album.  Sure, it bears no resemblance to Trout Mask Replica.  But so what?  If this had been released under a new band name rather than being credited to “Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band” it seems likely many who hate it would have an entirely different opinion.  In other words, the problem here is one of expectations.  While this is definitely not one of the Captain’s best, with an open mind this fits comfortably alongside bluesy MOR rock of the mid-70s.  This is definitely not a bad album — the same cannot really be said for Unconditionally Guaranteed.  If you expect new frontiers to be crossed you will be disappointed by this.  But ask yourself first whether such expectations are appropriate.

Victoria Law – Captive Audience

Link to an article by Victoria Law:

“Captive Audience: How Companies Make Millions Charging Prisoners to Send an Email”

This article buries at the end the official rationale for banning conventional mail (smuggling in drugs).  But it also provides a simple explanation of new methods by which prisoners and their friends and families are exploited by the prison-industrial complex.

Bonus links: “9 Surprising Industries Profiting Handsomely from America’s Insane Prison System” and “This System Is a Moral Horror” and …And the Poor Get Prison

Slavoj Žižek – Quote about Democratic Socialists

“what do democratic socialists effectively want? The rightist reproach against them is that, beneath their innocent-sounding concrete proposals to raise taxes, make healthcare better, etc, there is a dark project to destroy capitalism and its freedoms. My fear is exactly the opposite one: that beneath their concrete welfare state proposals there is nothing, no great project, just a vague idea of more social justice. The idea is simply that, through electoral pressure, the centre of gravity will move back to the left.

But is, in the (not so) long term, this enough? Do the challenges that we face, from global warming to refugees, from digital control to biogenetic manipulations, not require nothing less than a global reorganisation of our societies?”

Slavoj Žižek“The US Establishment Thinks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Too Radical – With an Impending Climate Disaster, the Worry Is She Isn’t Radical Enough”

Gary Olson – Are We Governed By Secondary Psychopaths?

In his article “Are We Governed By Secondary Psychopaths?” Gary Olson suggests that political leaders in the West are psychopaths/sociopaths.  While well-intentioned, Olson’s article can be rejected as based on dubious theory.  Namely, the concept of “psychopathy” or “sociopathy” is premised on a DSM-style psychological theory of deviation from normalcy.  This is a contested and highly politicized topic.  For instance, Lacanian psychoanalysis rejects the concept of “normalcy”, instead positing that there are only different ways interacting with the world but none of them can objectively be called normal or abnormal.  (For what it’s worth, Lacanians recognize psychosis and neurosis, and address ethics and duty in a very different framework — see Ethics of the Real).  Second, Olson’s attack on politicians for what amounts to hypocrisy (he calls them secondary psychopaths) can be seen as medicalizing political questions to bracket out and essentially de-politicize the central political questions that underlie his analysis through an appeal to expert medical authority (much akin to appeals to “expert” economists or teachers).  For example, Domenico Losurdo‘s Liberalism: A Counter-History provides a very convincing alternative theory, namely that political liberalism is a politics of exclusion that devotes its energies to drawing lines between the community of the free and those excluded from those same freedoms — this theory is very similar to what Jacques Rancière calls the “part of no part”.  Losurdo explains this as not simple hypocrisy in the sense of being an “error” in practical application but rather consistency with an outwardly-denied exclusionary tenet of political liberalism.  From that perspective, Olson’s claims suggest that anyone who subscribes to political liberalism is a sociopath, a notion that is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.  Olson is making an unfortunate ploy here to sidestep questions of politics and surreptitiously insert his ideological framework through a disingenuously “neutral” medical (psychological) framework — a form of “university discourse”.

Jason Hirthler – Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes

Link to an article by Jason Hirthler:

“Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes”


Bonus links: “Clinging to Collusion” and “Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies” and “Mueller Investigation Seeks to Implicate WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in ‘Russian Interference'” and “Be Careful What You Ask For: Wasting Time with Manafort, Cohen, and Russiagate” and “Leaked NSA Report Is Short on Facts, Proves Little in ‘Russiagate’ Case” and “Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era” and “Remembering Alger Hiss in the Age of Russia-Gate” and “How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites” and “Hey Intercept, Something is Very Wrong with Reality Winner and the NSA Leak” (plus combative interview) and “Someone Finally Connected the Dots: Russiagate is Helping Trump” (“this massive belief that Russia is some sort of existential threat to western society, is entirely the result of failed western elites needing a scapegoat for their own failures.”) and “Money Still Rules US Politics” and “A Look Back at Clapper’s Jan. 2017 ‘Assessment’ on Russia-gate” and “Iraq’s WMDs Found…In Russia” (with delicious irony: “Surely no reputable newspaper would give front page coverage to unproven allegations made by political operatives working against the Party and personages currently in power, right? Doing so could be perceived as taking sides in an internecine political battle to undo the democratic will of at least a bit more than a quarter of eligible voters.”) and “Finally Time for DNC Email Evidence” and “Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away” and “Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism” and “RussiaGate as Organised Distraction” and “From Russia, with Panic” and “The Unanswered Questions in the Latest Russian ‘Meddling’ Allegations” and “Western Journalists Are Cowardly, Approval-Seeking Losers” and “On The Media Of ‘Russiagate’ And Related Fake Stories” and “The So Far Non-Existent Vulkan Leaks”