Sunday, July 27, 2014


I keep thinking that I’m going to tumble into the crime lit/noir lit void that has engulfed so much of my reading-minded friends and acquaintances’ time, but there always seems to be something else I wanna read. My pal Danny P’s been balancing acres of the hardboiled 30s-50s stuff w/ modern crime writers like Megan Abbot and the oft-celebrated Scandinavians quite well, and his diligence to the form kind of makes me jealous. These crime books can usually be torn through in three sittings, less if you’re childless, and the sense of accomplishment therewith is at least half the price of admission. The Los Angeles Review of Books crime novel editor, a longtime friend as well, recently asked me to try my hand at submitting reviews there, assuming me to be a member of the hardboiled tribe. I had to decline on account of barely knowing my Willefords from my Thompsons (pretty much the only two genre writers I’ve read), but directed her to her cousin-in-law instead, who just happens to be the aforementioned Danny P, and who’s now ably writing there in my stead.

What does this have to do with Kim Cooper’s excellent recent LA-based 1920s noir? Well, I finally read one, didn’t I? I know Kim as well – she was one of the first contributors to my early 90s fanzine Superdope; I contributed to her “Lost inthe Grooves” book of forgotten rocknroll LPs; and we shared a few good cultural laffs in the 80s and 90s. Though we’ve only sort of kept tabs on each other over the years – she’s in LA and I’m in San Francisco – I just knew she’d spin a good yarn for her first work of fiction, and she very much did.

“The Kept Girl” is like a code-era noir film screenplay turned adapted into fiction, with nary a vulgarity or any real violence to speak of. This is not to say it’s not unseemly at times; heinous crimes are committed, marriages are soiled, and foul-smelling death occurs. Having seen enough of the 30s talkies to know the drill – you can bet Cooper has as well – my mind visualized many of the book’s scenes playing out in glorious black and white. Cooper keeps away from cliché gumshoe/wiseguy noir patter in her dialogue, opting instead for simplicity and something midway between realism and movieland.

It centers around an apparently real 20s angel-worshipping cult called “The Great Eleven”, who bilk a mealy-mouthed oilman out of great sums of money in pursuit of the great, preposterous mission. The oilman’s even richer uncle sends his right-hand company man – an unhappy alcoholic roustabout named “Raymond Chandler” – to help figure out where the cash went. Chandler brings his secretary and a good-hearted teetotaling cop named Tom along for the ride, and together they uncover a bunch of creepy weirdness and disappeared humans, all in the name of religion. Each of the erstwhile detectives has alternating chapters as they piece together bits of the puzzle, often while at loggerheads with each other. It’s brisk, it’s funny and it’s as bright and clever a genre read as I’ve come across in my limited research. I’m glad to see Kim turning her pen in this direction, and sincerely hope she’s got plenty more in her like this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #41, broadcasting from a cramped bedroom in Oslo, Norway, is now on the proverbial air - and is available for streaming or download in all the usual places. We attempt to explore all nooks and crannies of the sub-underground rocknroll music "scene", and to that end, we think we were fairly successful in this forty-first edition of the pod. 

You'll thrill to new sounds from THE NOTS (pictured), CCTV, COLD BEAT, ROACHCLIP, USELESS EATERS, SEX TIDE, PIECE WAR and several more of your new favorite bands. You'll gasp at reissues from X__X, Monkey 101 and The Spies. You'll start stocking your Paypal accounts for rare records from The Petticoats, Fireworks and the Desperate Bicycles. And you'll weep when you hear just how good "fogey rock" like Alex Chilton, Green on Red and True West sounds when sandwiched between some of today's hottest young hitmakers.

I invite you to get this thing while it's fresh, new and maybe - just maybe - the best 70 minutes of music ever assembled in one place.

Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #41 right here.
Stream or download the show on Soundcloud here.
Subscribe to the show on iTunes right here.

Track listing:

C.C.T.V. - Mind Control
PIECE WAR - We Are At War
MONKEY 101 - I Wait in the Ground
ROACHCLIP - Master's Den
TRUE WEST - Lucifer Sam
NICE STRONG ARM - Life of the Party
THE SPIES - The Star and Us
BO-WEEVILS - That Girl
FIREWORKS - Silver Moon
X__X - Dolly Boy (live)
SEX TIDE - Never Get To You
SLOTH - Fetch The Wedge
ALEX CHILTON - Hook or Crook
GREEN ON RED - Death and Angels
MEN OH PAUSE - Tight Chest

Some past shows:
Dynamite Hemorrhage #40    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #39    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #38    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #37    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #36    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #35    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #34    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #33    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #32    (playlist)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Russians: they’re just like us, or probably desperately want to be us, don’t they? Gregory Feifer’s wide-ranging and deeply felt exegesis of all things Russian posits that a combination of history, repression, endemic corruption and even sheer land mass have molded an otherness that refutes this question as soon as it’s asked. Russians, in the aggregate, most certainly wish to be Russians more than anything else, warts and all. It’s these systemic and historical warts that “Russians: The People Behind The Power” wishes to illuminate. How does a country renown for centuries of contribution to literature and the arts, and a purported “world power” to boot, come to be a gauche, hideously corrupt cesspot of alcoholism, poverty, cronyism, inefficiency and bad taste? And why does it seem that the populace – again, in the aggregate - continue to bow down in meek subservience before its dictatorial leaders and say, “yes sir, we’d like more of that, please”?

A word of warning, though I don’t personally feel it to be a drawback in the least to this terrific book: some might deem this tome the “hatchet job” to end all hatchet jobs on Mother Russia. If you’re not a fan of Vladimir Putin, has Greg Feifer got a book for you. Lucky for Feifer, I think Putin and the Soviet culture he grew from and has brought back with a vengeance is odious and foul. It may not be ahistorical, however. Over twelve chapters, Feifer weaves a series of journalistic narratives on aspects of Russia and Russian culture that’s truly more sad than angry. He himself comes from Russian stock, and his well-told stories of his Russian-born and –bred mother and her family form part of the backbone of stories of Siberian exile, alcohol-soaked parties, secret police, KGB informers and tentative steps toward the west during Soviet times.

It’s that intense, all-encompassing 74-year Soviet experience, as well as previous heavy-handed repression under the tsar system, that Feifer (and virtually every other Russianologist) believes has stamped Russia’s culture for ill, and which he believes they’ll have a long, hard slog to crawl out from. It’s no accident that Putin is generally supported by the huddled masses of Russia, who aren’t yearning to be free so much as taken care of. The spasms of the early 1990s, when “capitalism” meant appropriating or stealing as much state property as humanly possible within a limited window, terrified much of the populace. Moscow, to say nothing of the rural regions wholly dependent on all-encompassing state support for decades, retreated into the comfort of the stage-managed modern tsar Putin, who has bullied and broken virtually every obstacle that has stood in his way since he entered the stage in the late 1990s, and who now enjoyed virtual dictatorial power over nearly every aspect of Russian politics and society, with the fortune of well-timed oil wealth giving him cover to plunder the country.

Feifer spares no vitriol in recounting the well-known incidents that have been reported in western media about Putin and his gang of oligarchs, as well as dozens that have barely registered outside of the country. He’s spent much of the last twenty years traveling to, living in and reporting from the country as a reporter for NPR and other publications. I like that he wears his venom on his sleeve, and it’s hard to find fault with his disgust with Russia’s squandered potential and the beaten-down people of the country. Naturally, he sympathizes with those who’ve attempted to shine democratic light into Russia’s dark corners, from Memorial, who are a brave voice attempting to document Stalinist abuses to a country that prefers to forget, to the more well-known political opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny, who tend to appear every couple of years before being imprisoned on trumped-up “bribery” or “forgery” charges before most of the West forgets about them.

Beyond the criminality and the horrific work ethic left over from Soviet sloth, it’s the country’s endemic alcoholism – a lament that also formed a large part of Oliver Bullough’s recent (quite complementary) nonfiction elegy for the country “The Last Man in Russia” – that is perhaps more troubling. I learned here that there’s a political-industrial-alcohol complex in Russia that feeds greater and greater tax revenue from vodka sales into state coffers, and drinking, already part of a much-revered macho culture in the country, is tacitly and often explicitly encouraged by the government. Alcoholism rates are the world’s worst (and are actually getting worse), and life expectancy is declining as a result. Feifer quotes the cynicism of many Russians he’s met and interviewed, who see alcohol as a much-needed escape from the tyranny of the state and the culture that surrounds it; there’s even an entire chapter about the country’s legendary cold, and how even that plays into the country’s many myths and sad realities, alcoholism included.

An uplifting tale about Russia’s imminent partnership with the west it’s not – and it was written and published before the 2014 Ukraine crisis. The book is edgy, funny in parts, and utterly bitter and sad. It completely ruined my long desire to visit St. Petersburg, while redoubling my support for the few flickers of civil society left in Russia. More than this, though, it’s helped me to understand and appreciate that Russia is not a part of Europe; never has been and never will be, and frankly – doesn’t want to be either. That’ll be something to chew on in every wonky Russia news article I read from this point forward.

Friday, July 4, 2014


You can pretty much set your watch by the arrival of a new DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO podcast, every two or three weeks or so, give or take a few days on either end. Our newest edition is our fortieth (four-zero; #40) and was recorded on the 4th of July in a place where said day is utterly meaningless and uncelebrated. I've been enjoying larding these shows up with new stuff rather than mp3s from my outrageously bountiful mp3 collection (you should see it!), primarily because every two weeks I keep hearing new stuff I think is totally rad. Case in point: THE COOLIES, PIECE WAR, THE YAKKS, DARK TIMES, MEN OH PAUSE, POW!, WOLF GIRL and COLD BEAT - all brand new. All great - or else we wouldn't play it, right?

There's also the new reissue of The Flesh Eaters' "A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die" to contend with, as well as important material that its essential you listen to from Tales of Terror, The Milky Ways, Naked Spots Dance and others. It's one hour and a few minutes, and it's available for download on iTunes and Soundcloud and in other spots as well - like right here.

Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #40.
Stream or download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #40 on Soundcloud.
Subscribe to the show on iTunes.

Track listing:
YAKKS - Sonja is a Racist
PIECE WAR - Call on Me
COLD BEAT - Falling Skylines
POW! - One Eyed Scorpion
WOLF GIRL - Freudian Slips
USELESS EATERS - Desperate Living
MEN OH PAUSE - Concrete Woman
NAKED SPOTS DANCE - Crescendo/Circle Moon
MEAT PUPPETS - Unpleasant
WORKDOGS - Funny $
MILKY WAYS - Guillotine
GANG GREEN - Kill a Commie
THE FLESH EATERS - Divine Horseman

Some past shows:
Dynamite Hemorrhage #39    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #38    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #37    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #36    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #35    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #34    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #33    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #32    (playlist)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: “Up, Up and Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos” by Jonah Keri

If you’re like me you tend to reward yourself for tackling & completing a more challenging book with the succor of the “easy read”: a novella, a book about music, or perhaps even a nyuk nyuk inside-baseball (literally) history of the Montreal Expos. Not exactly sure what I was thinking with this one. I frequently read and enjoy Jonah Keri's baseball writing on the Grantland website, so out of a sense of loyalty and curiosity, and because I’d come through the cathartic crucible of just having completed Flannery O’Connor’s “The Violent Bear it Away”, I decided to check out his new book on the Expos, a team I always found fairly comic, as baseball teams go. It also probably had something to do with a “wacky 1970s sports book” culture that’s developed over the years; I suppose I hoped this one might join the ranks of Terry Pluto’s “Loose Balls” (oral history of the ABA), Dan Epstein’s “Big Hair and Plastic Grass” and Murray Greig’s “Big Bucks and Blue Pucks” (World Hockey Association history).

That was the hope anyway, but Keri’s book is really more of a love letter to his favorite boyhood club, with way too much clipped prose and forced hilarity – the sort of things that are really funny when you’re 15 years old (mascots, nicknames, terrible ballclubs). I mean, the Expos probably never really had a chance in Montreal; the fact that they stayed for 30-something years despite awful parks, poor weather and a rotten financial structure that included tightfisted owners and a rapidly weakening Canadian dollar was a minor miracle in itself, and a clear demonstration of the oligarchical nature of organized professional sports. The team made the playoffs only once, though Keri hyperbolically makes much hash of the strike-shortened 1994 season that ended with the Expos in first, with much conjecture about how that was the year they probably might have any maybe could have “won it all”.

I mean, I know the feeling. As a San Francisco Giants fan since 1976, it was only the exorcism of ghosts and phantoms that came from the 2010 World Series victory that truly allowed me to see my team as more than cursed losers, so I know there’s both pain and pride in suffering. I just wish Keri could have wrapped it all up in a more interesting and less vanilla bow. “Up, Up and Away” is the sort of book that’s forgotten mere days after it’s been read; I’m actually struggling a bit with a review and I just finished the thing about ten days ago. Outside of some of the financial chicanery that allowed Montreal to get, and then retain, a baseball franchise in the first place, there’s really nothing particularly out of the ordinary here. Good players come and go, prospects don’t pan out, the team draw lots of fans, and then they don’t. You know Keri had a blast putting this together, and his enthusiasm in recounting some of his personal tales from Jarry Park and Olympic Stadium with his baseball-crazed pals are all cuddly and stuff. Yet if you’re looking for something that captures the zeitgeist of 70s & 80s pro sports, this one’s definitely something of a footnote.