There’s Not a Riot Going On

This is the piece that put a huge crack in the foundation of my reverence for Malcolm Gladwell (yes, it’s about school shootings). I’m not sure Winkler’s recommendations at the end of the piece add up to much, either, but there’s no question she’s right about the flaws in comparing school shootings to riots. Since reading this, I’ve noticed Gladwell often has the fatal structure of superficially compelling argument based on a messed-up premise. Of course, the New Yorker goes ahead and reprints his essay about school shootings as though nobody had said nothing.

R.I.P.: Mark E. Smith

He had a great Fall and I think he’d appreciate this non-obit obit.

I tried to write an obit in the manner of his lyrics — “Now he’s dead. Can’t get him outta your head-uh.” — but even incorporating as many actual phrases from his songs as possible, I didn’t have the chops to pull it off. (Or it was a misguided project, period.) The key problem was that it could be read as a mockery of his mannerisms. You couldn’t stick in some dopey explanation that it was an homage, since that would ruin everything. But in this touchy age, it would certainly be read as a satiric attack on a guy who just died, you jerk.

End of an Era for Cuneiform

One of my all-time favorite labels.  Intelligent, experimental, all high-quality even on the rare occasion the music wasn’t my thing. Thanks to all — esp. ace publicist Joyce — for generous promotional material and enlightening sounds for many years.

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Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Pervert?

As I noted recently, comics after Jonathan Winters are off my screen. [Male ones, anyway, I know, if anything, even less about female stand-ups, but don’t have the same specific objections to them.] Nobody’s ever accused me of being humorless, so I don’t feel bad about this outlook at all. What surprises me is how much reinforcement my attitude has gotten over the years. I thought The Sophisticates was a huge indictment of all the stand-up society. When I first moved to Boston in the late ’70s, comedy clubs were undergoing quite the boom. So I went to a show, I don’t remember who. I found the atmosphere relentlessly icky. Making members of the audience uncomfortable and encouraging those who were yukking it up to look down on them was a clear component of the act. It was a divisive collective experience the opposite of what I enjoyed about music performances. The final conclusion I came to is that far too many comedians are like what I consider the utter worst kind of fiction writer — those who create feuds and disasters in their own life to use as raw material.

Newspapers in Trouble; Likewise Newspaper Delivery

We’ve had more screw-ups with a Sunday Only Times this year than ever before by a huge margin. Today was a beaut — fractions of the Globe and NY Times scrambled together.

As I’ve said before, no young’un could ever imagine what a glorious medium newspaper comics were once upon a time if all they had to look at was today’s examples. Only “Mother Goose & Grimm” made me smile — and it got a slightly grotesque joke right. Other strips trying to be “edgy” were more strange and crude. And some are so sloppy and slight with the artwork as to sicken me. Like I say, if you want a prime example of an extinct form …

Short List of Bogus Philosophies Sure To Be Big Hits

If you find a way to dress them up in new terms and spins.

  1. There’s a way to eat and eat and eat and not get fat.
  2. Big organizations and institutions can’t be understood by anybody.
  3. Gender roles are really in the genes and can’t be fundamentally changed, ever.
  4. The government is hiding some big secret about (pick one): UFOs and aliens; paranormal mind powers; why gun violence really happens.
  5. Being an asshole isn’t really being an asshole.

 

Real Estate Developments I Pass Every Day

I think it was Anthony Bourdain who noted that certain business locations can become, well, cursed. No matter what opens in the space, it quickly goes out of business. This can last for years (maybe even forever), but it can also end.

This one corner spot on Beacon had been a superb convenience store for ages and ages. Then it got kinda outta touch and closed. The location became cursed and about four different operations tried to make it work;. The two I recall were the bad Asian gift shop with a misspelled word in its sign and a store that offered a strange mixture of plants and make-up products and never seemed to have staff that knew nearly enough about either. The spell broke when the space changed direction entirely and became a tres-hip Yoga center that won a Best of Boston award.

Only a block away was a very chic bicycle store that had a cool display of bikes on the roof (I don’t ride myself, so I never went inside), but seemed to do next to no business in the winter. It closed and has been replaced by a crushingly mediocre liquor store (that claims to have gourmet foods and cheese but I sure as hell didn’t see any).

Finally a salute to my late, great friend and editor at the Phoenix and Boston Globe, John Ferguson. The deeply authentic Irish pub where we held his Official Wake has been torn down to make way for another faceless glass tower. Especially sad because it helped me think about him many days when I drove past. He’s been gone for more than 13 years now. He was only 52.