Friday, March 29, 2013

MEMORIES, LIGHT THE CORNERS OF MY MIND

This blog hasn't been particularly prolific of late, but it hasn't been for lack of want. The Hedonist Jive's actually been an active blog now for 3 full years, which surprised even me. 358 total posts, which equates to about one every three days. I guess that's actually a pretty frantic pace for a yeoman blogger who's not getting paid and writes multiple other blogs to boot. That said, I'm going to try to get on the stick and ramp up production in the weeks to come. I have soooo much to say.

If blogging is catharsis, than consider myself relieved. I've been posting memories and half-wit reminiscing for all three years I've been doing this. Some of the posts are even halfway decent enough for me to want to re-share. If you haven't read these ones before, clicking on the link will allow you to do so:

Let's Go Record Shopping in 1987 Los Angeles
Let's Go Record Shopping in 1981 Berkeley
My Freshman Year Roommate
In Praise of the G Channel
Scenes from 1982 China
The Summer of My "Swinger's Serenade"
KFJC and a Post-Punk Education
1991 Oldsmobile Commercial Tryouts
The Story of Helevator, San Francisco Rock Group
KFJC, April Fool's Day and "The Month of Mayhem"

Saturday, March 23, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "INFERNO - THE WORLD AT WAR, 1939-1945" by Max Hastings

After several decades of laser-focused readings and documentary viewings of aspects of World War II, I found myself confronted with some chronological and contextual challenges. Namely, when did x happen in relation to y, and how was it perceived in the contexts in the times, versus by historians in the 21st century? A representative example might be the role of Finland in World War II. Maps of the Nazi allies always show Finland as axis country - why? Were the Finns anti-semites and big fans of Hitler? (No - they hated the Soviet Union with a passion for a repelled late 30s invasion of their country). Another example: "The Battle of Britain" is rightly hailed as a huge milestone in defending the English people against Hitler - but when did it happen again? Before or after Hitler started bombing London in the "blitz"? (Before the blitz, and England's success in the air over the English channel helped steel that country for both the blitz and the perils of the larger war - changing history as we know it for the better as a result).

Being marginally familiar with the work of historian Max Hastings, I'd vowed to read one of his books one of these days - I always tell myself when I retire, I'll read all of the books, the ones by Hastings and everyone else  - and then his single-volume World War II history "INFERNO: THE WORLD AT WAR 1939-1945" arrived in late 2011. (It's called "All Hell Lets Loose" in other parts of the world). I figured it was just the ticket to help me get a stronger grounding with the war - and if it was well-written and a compelling read, all the better. It was, without a doubt, all those things - and one of the strongest works of history I've ever read. It would be hard for me to recommend it any higher to both WWII buffs and novices alike. Like Tony Judt's "POSTWAR", which for obvious reasons picks up right where this one leaves off, it's a dense but amazingly approachable work of history, and I was quite honestly bummed out when I was done with it.

Hastings tackles WWII with a number of biases that I'd hesitate to call biases - they're more "historian's prerogative". One prerogative is that a work of history like this one is more illuminated by real-time personal stories and narratives - here's what a besieged Leningrad girl wrote in her diary in 1942 - than it is by the historian's retroactive judgement on events. I happen to agree with this line of writing, as did Judt, and it really helps place many WWII actions and reactions in the context of the times. Examples include the US decision to drop nuclear weapons on Japan in 1945 and massive bombing of German cities such as Dresden and Hamburg by US and UK planes. It's not like Hastings doesn't use historical revisions and the unsealing of evidence over the years to his advantage and only relies on eyewitness, real-time judgment to tell stories; he supports the Japan decision and reviles the Germany bombings, for instance. Yet he's a master at threading chonological names-and-places history with recollections of people on the ground to then tell deeper stories, and while he may have his view on what was necessary and just, and what was simply cruel and barbaric, he presents history in such a way that gives all sides a voice - and that includes the non-Nazi Germans and the Soviet citizenry who were tormented by Stalin and Hitler and then Stalin again.

Another prerogative of Hastings' is just how poorly we in the west have interpreted the bigger picture of the war over the years, in our zeal to tell great stories of American and British valor. Hastings, along with many modern historians, knows that World War II was primarily the story of the Soviet Union vs. Germany, and that the true war was won & lost in the bloodlands between those countries. I'm sure younger people among you, accustomed to a more thorough telling of history in the 1990s to today, might see that as pretty obvious. I was schooled in the 1970s, only thirty years after the war's end, and I knew much about the US and England's battles and decisions, but didn't even hear the word Stalingrad nor about the destruction of the Baltics, nor the many enormous battles in what's now Belarus and the Ukraine. Hastings covers the entire breadth of the war, including huge parts on the Asia Pacific theater, but he's very clear about the scale and the strategic importance of the Eastern front in determining the sort of world we all live in today. If you're on the fence about it, read (or listen to) this book, and I assure you you won't be much longer.

Finally, it's the mark of a great writer and storyteller to be able to write a full single volume on a massive war and still haunt you viscerally with the sheer pain and horror suffered by so many. I had to stop on numerous occasions and contemplate the human stories of displacement; long marches to new lands; hideous and unimaginable starvation; the death of children; cannibalism; death camps and so on. Hastings, while capturing a litany of horrors along with his staid, chronological telling of the war, is careful to examine the human cost not just in lives, but in what the war did to human psyches: how it made otherwise good men barbaric killers, say, or how starvation drove Jewish prisoners or besieged Soviets to turn against one another. I know a lot of people say it and a lot of them say it often, but I can't believe this happened in the lifetimes of people still living. It seems like another world, another people, another age. Hastings reminds us time and again that this metaphorical "Inferno" exists not just in 1939-45, but in the hearts and minds of men both before and after that era as well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

THE HEDONIST JIVE 2013 BASEBALL PREDICTIONS

Every year in this space – well, the last 3 years anyway – we get the upcoming baseball season a little bit right and a lot wrong. On the former front, for 2012 I picked the San Francisco Giants to go to the World Series last year, and they did. In case you forgot, they even won the goddamn thing. On the latter front, I had the World Champs being the Texas Rangers, and while they made the silly 1-game wild card playoff, they were toast by that point, and lost to the Baltimore Orioles (!). I had the Orioles and Oakland A's finishing in last place in their divisions – in my defense, so did everyone else – and both made the playoffs. I did not predict the decline of the Phillies, nor the rise of the Nationals. I predicted the rise of the Royals (they stunk) and the mediocrity of the Cincinnati Reds (they were amazing). But the Giants won the World Series, just like they do every other year.

This year I'm going to buck some conventional wisdom, draw out some dark horses, piss on a few parades and go for broke with a few of my picks. I've done my homework, having read two season preview magazines. I listened to MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM a bunch during the offseason, and I think I've gleaned a little "insider" information that will allow my prognostication skills to really shine this year.

So without further "adieu", meet your 2013 World Champions – THE ATLANTA BRAVES. They'll be besting the LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM in a 6-game series this October. I'm a big, perhaps foolhardy, believer in the Atlanta Braves, and feel like they underachieve relative to their talent level most years. But this year – that outfield! Both Upton brothers and Jason Heyward, at least two of whom will have monster years in 2013. Craig Kimbrel, the best relief pitcher in baseball by a mile. Freddie Freeman, only the sixth-place hitter on the team but who underachieved with a still-great .340 OBP and 94-RBI season last year. Expect him to rage this year. Tim Hudson, my favorite old guy in the majors. Kris Medlen, a guy who barely threw a bad pitch in 2012. Something about this team looks very fetching this year; would be funny that they only managed one World Series Championship with Chipper Jones in the lineup for 20+ years, but that they'll bring one home this year in their first year without him. Enjoy your La-Z-Boy, "Chipper"!

More insight and trash talk after you absorb my picks (playoff-bound teams in bold):

NL East

  1. Atlanta Braves
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. New York Mets
  5. Miami Marlins
NL Central
  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Chicago Cubs
NL West
  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres
AL East
  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Tampa Bay Rays
AL Central
  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins
AL West
  1. Los Angeles Angels
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Oakland A's
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros
NL Wild Card = Los Angeles Dodgers over Washington
AL Wild Card = Texas over Toronto

NL Divisional Playoffs =     

Atlanta over Los Angeles Dodgers
Cincinnati over San Francisco
 

AL Divisional Playoffs =    
Detroit over Texas
Los Angeles Angels over Boston

NL Championship = Atlanta over Cincinnati
AL Championship = Los Angeles Angels over Detroit

World Series = Atlanta over Los Angeles Angels

  • Did you choke on your coffee when you saw last year's last-place Boston Red Sox as my NL East champs, in what's universally hailed as the best division in baseball? I'm pretty sure I'm alone on this one this year, but I'm of the mind that their 2012 was a bizarre aberration of injuries, off years and Bobby Valentine, and that the true talent level of this team laid latent all year. We all have bad years, don't we?
  • That division has 5 very good teams, but two of them are going to regress big-time this year, and I'm super totally psyched to report that one of them will be The New York Yankees, you guys!!! I loathe the Yankees viscerally, and I am dying for them to finally have the sort of lost, soul-sucking, ache-in-the-pit-of-the-stomach year the Red Sox had, or that my Giants have had more than half of the years since I've been a fan (i.e. 1977 up through now).
  • I (incorrectly) predicted it last year as well, but the Kansas City Royals will be quite good this year, just narrowly missing the playoffs due to the rise of Toronto, and the Texas Rangers still having a little something left in the tank. They're my American League team that I follow, and people of Kansas City, let me be the first to congratulate you across the plains that your team will finally be worth watching for a change this year.
  • (Note: Corrected this on 3/22 because I changed my mind with the Dodgers' injuries and a general malaise drifting up from LA....I now think the Giants will take the NL West crown). Just to show you I'm not a total homer, I've got the hated LA Dodgers beating my Giants this year in the NL West. Oh sure, we'll still make the playoffs, but unfortunately, they will be awesome. No, it's not because of their heralded new guys, it's because Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, their homegrown studs, will lay waste to the rest of baseball this year. A full, healthy year of Matt Kemp. God help us all.
  • I like the Nationals, just like everyone else, but I see a little "regression to the mean" this year. What if LAST year was their big wad-shot, and now they'll have to scrap to keep up with true giants like The Atlanta Braves? That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
See you April 1st! Can we just get spring training over with already?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO PODCAST #9

I'm back with the 9th edition of the Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio Show Podcast, a podcast that pretends it's a live radio show but is really just a guy drinking a beer in his den, dragging files across his laptop's screen, blathering into a mic and then calling it a podcast.
It's a big hour and ten minutes this time, with rare tracks from bands you've heard of (The Cramps, Guided By Voices, Royal Trux and Giant Sand) along with buried gems from bands you haven't (Liechtenstein, Mambo Taxi, The Girls and Family Curse). In between are bands that your friends have heard of, but that you haven't: Sic Alps, King Tuff, Veronica Falls, Saccharine Trust, The Consumers, Gang Green, White Fence and many more.

Track listing:

GANG GREEN - Snob
WHITE FENCE - Pink Gorilla
KING TUFF - Sun Medallion
SUZI JANE HOKOM - Home
SIC ALPS - God Bless Her, I Miss Her
THE GIRLS - Keep It Simple
VERONICA FALLS - My Heart Beats
GUIDED BY VOICES - Melted Pat
AMY LINTON & STEWART ANDERSON - Hipsters, Scenesters, Teenstars and Fakers
KELLEY STOLTZ - Double Exposure
O-LEVEL - Pseudo Punk/O-Level
UV RACE - Life Park
THE CONSUMERS - Teen Love Song
SACCHARINE TRUST - Hearts and Barbarians
DUSTDEVILS - Throw The Bottleful
ROYAL TRUX - Red Tiger
LIECHTENSTEIN - Stalking Skills
THE CRAMPS  - Subwire Desire
MAMBO TAXI - Screaming In Public
GIANT SAND - Center of the Universe
BILL DIREEN AND THE BILDERS - Retail Trade
FAMILY CURSE - No Return

Download all of our past shows - each about an hour, and easily as good as this one:

Download Show #8
Download Show #7
Download Show #6
Download Show #5
Download Show #4
Download Show #3
Download Show #2

Download Show #1

Thursday, March 7, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "I WANT MY MTV - THE UNCENSORED STORY OF THE MUSIC VIDEO REVOLUTION" by Rob Tannenbaum & Craig Marks

My sister and I were captured and shackled children of cable television, circa 1978-83. We watched a lot of TV. I've written about the G Channel before, and I'd have written a post about watching Australian Rules Football and division 3 college basketball on ESPN in 1979, when it first debuted, if I hadn't disliked the ESPN oral history book so much and stopped reading it midway through. The biggest event in our suburban world, however, was the debut of MTV in the summer of 1981. I was 13 years old, my sister was 10. We were both pretty music-crazy, with me a budding new waver and punk, accustomed to looking for marginally different culture in any crevice wherever I could find it. We got the channel from Day One, and as the fun and funny MTV oral history "I WANT MY MTV" makes clear, we were one of the only cable systems that had its 24-hour music videos from launch day onward. We were "lucky", if that's what you want to call it.

Before I go any further, I'll say for the record that reading this book was a "trifle" that made for some light written entertainment between my many books on 20th century slaughter and failed cities. I stopped watching MTV around the time of my 16th birthday. Yet it would be fatuous to ignore how much time I spent with the channel as a young teen, and wrong-headed to discount how influential it was at molding the mainstream music culture to its optics-friendly way of thinking (and spending). The night before MTV's debut, our cable system, San Jose's Gill Cable, did a one-hour host-free preview of the upcoming channel in which they played videos. We were so excited, we invited some friends from across the street over, and watched visual representations of songs by Pat Benatar, The Buggles, Tenpole Tudor, REO Speedwagon and others. If MTV hadn't debuted at midnight that night, we'd have been up to watch it (as it was, the day they went live was the day of the Charles & Diana Royal Wedding, as I recall - and that was on every other channel).

From that point forward, we must have watched 2-4 hours a day, every day, for at least two years. MTV didn't have much inventory - they'd started this channel in the hope that it might take off, and record companies would then make the inventory for them, which is exactly what happened. Yet in the beginning it was a lot of weirdo new wave bands and long-tail rockers. I made my sister a CD-R a few years back of all the early MTV bands that we'd barely heard or even heard of since 1981-82: Blotto, Classix Nouveau, Bootcamp, Robert Palmer ("Looking for Clues" was played every 30 minutes), Split Enz, Adam and the Ants, Rupert Hine, The Shoes, April Wine, Ultravox and so on. Just look at this list. I truly must have seen each of these videos 100 times or more. We would play "video charades", where we'd act them out. Totally obsessed. They played Kate Bush, whom I loved, and they even snuck in some Bauhaus here and there. And TONS of Pretenders and Phil Collins. Always with the Phil Collins.

A couple years later, when MTV really started to shift how record companies and artists defined themselves - and when the channel's popularity exploded with the careers of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince - I'd self-righteously renounced it, and was instead deep into college radio and obscure record collecting. The book carries on from there, though, and takes you into the early 90s, and ends right when MTV as a music video channel ended - when they began running reality programming and realized that the music video era they'd created had peaked long ago and wasn't sustainable as a business. Savvy move for sure - since no one created an alternative to fill the supposed gap.

Call it a guilty pleasure or whatever you want, but this oral history is well done and totally readable. A good oral history, well-assembled and edited, is hard to beat, and this is as kind to its subject matter as "Please Kill Me", "Live From New York, An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live" and "The Other Hollywood" were to theirs. I don't know why the ESPN history was such a bust, since the two books were so similar in form - upstart cable channel that no one believed in scraps for funding, then scraps for programming, then proves all the haters wrong, gets rich, lives large. Tannenbaum and Marks gather interviews from across the MTV universe, from the business people who founded and funded it, to the VJs (surprisingly light on the Nina Blackwood and JJ Jackson, though) to the rock stars themselves. 

The more sordid the tale, the more likely it makes this book. I often find drug- and booze-filled "I partied soooo hard" memoirs to be among the lamest of all genres, but thankfully this one doesn't go too overboard with it the way, say, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" did. There are many people, bands and later MTV shows that I've heard of, but really know nothing about. I missed an entire 2nd and 3rd wave of MTV "VJ"/hosts, people like "Adam Curry" and "Karen Duffy" whom I can't visually picture, and I believe I am the better for it. Likewise, even though I never saw supposedly seminal shows like "Remote Control", "Club MTV" and "Yo MTV Raps", the book is really good at painting a picture of American mass entertainment circa 1981-92 and even makes these stories compelling and interesting for jaded boors like myself. 

Of course, the music industry is filthy, disgusting and full of idiots. This book does nothing to dispel that truth. People who stand out for being pompous, ridiculous and full of it are the aforementioned Adam Curry; Abbey Konowitch; "Sebastian Bach"; and some of the toadies who helped found MTV, especially Les Garland. Some of the stories of how the industry, or how artists, interacted with MTV are great fun: Michael Jackson and his label insisting that MTV VJs had to call him "The King of Pop" on air at least twice a day; Nirvana terrifying MTV with their threat to debut their new song "Rape Me" at the 1992 video music awards, and then playing the first few bars of it before launching into a different song; the late 80s female VJ who was fired for wearing shorts onto the set without shaving her legs; and pretty much anything having to do with Van Halen and their more-more-more approach to video making.

See, even you wanna read this book now, don't you?  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

THE FORTHRIGHT GLORY OF "LARGE LETTER" POSTCARDS

I've been hanging around the insular world of postcard collectors a bit this past year, ever since inheriting my grandma's postcard collection. At first I started scanning her old postcards here on the blog, and posted some of her best ones here, here and here. Then I kinda got swept up into the mania, and started adding new postcards from the 20th century to her boxes. My focus has been on roadside americana, particularly motels of the 50s, 60s and 70s. To that end, I even started a blog called THE POSTCARD MOTEL, which houses scans from my collection. Check it out, and let me know if you've got any shoeboxes of these things lying around.

I recently became acquainted with "large letter" postcard collectors. These are just what you see here – large letters that greet you from a particular city. Usually the letters of the city's name includes pictures or drawings of some of its "top attractions". I'm kind of getting a bit hooked on these as well. They're cheesy, dated, totally of their time, and loaded with civic pride. Here are scans of a few from my burgeoning collection.







Sunday, March 3, 2013

DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO SHOW PODCAST #8

Here's a new edition of the Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio Show Podcast, our eighth, recorded at home on a Saturday afternoon while the rest of the world was doing more important things. Download it, stream it, do whatever the hell you want with it - but do listen to it, as you'll hear an hour of righteous sounds from some pretty gnarly artists, including The Scientists, Grass Widow, Big Blood, the Gun Club, The Door and The Window, Look Blue Go Purple, Sally Skull, the Black Jaspers, Clothilde, the Flesh Eaters and As Mercenarias.

Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #8

Playlist for the show:

THE SCIENTISTS - There's a Monster in Me
SALLY SKULL - Raven
ABE FROMAN - Russian 101
BLACK JASPERS - Smart Car
HEAVY TIMES - Ice Age
A-FRAMES - Neutron Bomb
LOOK BLUE GO PURPLE - Safety in Crosswords
BURNT ONES - Protection Circle
CLOTHILDE - Je T'ai Voulu et Je T'ai Bien Eu
GRASS WIDOW - Advice
THE HOMOSEXUALS - Technique Street
THE DOOR AND THE WINDOW - Dads
FLESH EATERS - Dynamite Hemorrhage
THE GUN CLUB - Devil in the Woods
GOLDEN STARLET - Baby
THE NIXE - You Say
AS MERCENARIAS - Policia
THE MASTER'S APPRENTICES - Undecided
THE BIRDS - You're on my Mind
THE BREAKERS - Jet Stream
THE GORLS - TV's On
THE MONTELLS - You Can't Make Me
BIG BLOOD - Sovereignty You Bitch

Download all of our past episodes, each about an hour long:

Download Show #7
Download Show #6
Download Show #5
Download Show #4
Download Show #3
Download Show #2

Download Show #1