Archive | May 2013

The Fine Art of Not Belonging

hat and bagOne of the perks of working as a financial journalist is that you sometimes get to go to parties in nice places where food and drink are free. It doesn’t make up for working for years without a raise and being in constant fear of being laid off, but it’s nice nonetheless.

Last evening was one such party, a charity event put on by people in finance.

Ostensibly my coworker and I were there to meet people that would help us do our job. Schmoozing with financial people is part of my job, but it’s a part of the job that I am bad at.

I dressed well enough and was pleasant and polite and still had no hopes of blending in. Members of the financial class are their own race, though they are made of different races. They can look through you as if you are not there and walk with a confidence that bristles with a condescending hostility and feels perpetually offensive and false. I wore a nice suit but maybe there was something in the way I said thank you to the caterers, or the fact I thanked them at all, that gave me away as decidedly not one of the financial class.

There’s nothing wrong with finance, but the people who work in the higher echelons of finance today are not cut from the same material as the people who invent things or pioneered and forged new industries. They are custodians of other people’s money and often speak in a gloating jargon that moves lots of money but creates little of value. I’m sure many of them are decent people and good at their job, but they do not possess the fire of the technology entrepreneurs or venture capitalists I met during previous jobs.

After thirteen years of working in financial journalism, I have actually gotten worse at the art of fitting in at these types of gatherings. My motivation for the easy smile and the glad-handed talk has waned. But I am glad not to fit in among this alien class. Somehow I feel that in the important calculus of life I’ll have more to show for it at the unspoken reckoning at the verge of the great beyond.

I ate as many miniature lobster rolls as I could without making a spectacle of myself and made my discreet exit after putting in a respectable amount of time at the event. I briefly enjoyed the sights of the city on the first really warm evening of the spring before making my descent to the subway for home.

Read Poetry, It Is Good For You

Impolite Literature photoSo there is a new poem on another blog you should read. I wrote the poem, but don’t let that discourage you. Read the new poem and then peruse the rest of the Impolite Literature blog.

The goal of the blog is to kick me in the ass to write more poetry and fiction, it’s also to declare a kind of populist war against the powers that be in the literary world. The literary world is in large part comprised of snooty academics that are too busy scratching each other’s backs to promote the cause of literature or even acknowledge much of the good writing that’s out there. A handful of professors judge poetry contests and award decisive publishing prizes to students, lovers, or other effete snobs they owe favors to. Impolite Literature says fuck all of that.

Enjoy the literature.

Dew the Manufactured Controversy

Mountain Dew GoatThe latest manufactured racial controversy involves a talking goat that drinks soda. Mountain Dew has pulled a commercial from the Internet that was supposedly “racist” because it featured black men in a criminal lineup along with a talking goat that loves Mountain Dew.

The brief clips that I’ve been able to watch of this “racist” commercial actually look funny. A crazy goat guzzles Mountain Dew and beats up a waitress. The waitress, cut, bruised, on crutches and wearing a neck brace, is viewing a lineup at a police station that features the brown goat and four black men. Even though her assailant is obvious in the lineup, she is too traumatized by the Dew-crazed goat to identify her attacker.

The men in the lineup are all members of the rap group Odd Future, and the video was directed by Odd Future member Tyler the Creator. Tyler the Creator is not that good a rapper—and he’s disrespected Yonkers to boot (watch this parody of his work by the much-better rapper Hopsin)—but he and other members of the group have a comedy show called Loiter Squad that has actually had some funny moments.

What seems to be lost on the legion of intelligentsia who’ve condemned the commercial as racist is that IT FEATURES A TALKING GOAT. Do we really need to explain any further than that? I’m sorry, but once you realize that the commercial centers around a goat that drinks soda and goes crazy, shouldn’t that be a clue?

If the fact that it is a Mountain Dew commercial didn’t tip you off not to take it seriously, the goat should have. Once you introduce livestock into the mix, you’re done trying to say anything serious. (I’m aware of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and the like, but it’s safe to say that Orwell would be above writing soda commercials if he were still with us).

The fact that the black rappers are there in the lineup doesn’t make it racist. The goat is brown in appearance like the rappers, but he is a goat and they are human beings, and the absurdity of the lineup is humorous. Maybe the black director was criticizing our country’s criminal justice system. Perhaps he was presenting a piece of racial realism and calling the corporate world’s bluff on it. But I’m willing to bet he was just trying to make a ridiculous commercial.

And maybe it’s not that funny; maybe it’s pretty dumb like just about every commercial on television. I have yet to sit through a Mountain Dew commercial that I found erudite, awe-inspiring or even tasteful. That’s OK though, Mountain Dew drinkers aren’t known for their good taste.

And someone please tell me that animal rights activists have complained that a goat was made to drink a large sugary beverage.

The entire “controversy” is most likely a work like New Coke: something that wasn’t meant to even be a real commercial but put out there just to generate press. It worked: I just spent 25 minutes trying to watch an admittedly asinine Mountain Dew commercial. 

Hell Just Got Louder; RIP Jeff Hanneman


The man who made thrash thrive and kept rock music’s Satanic side alive has passed. Jeff Hanneman, one of the founding guitar players of SLAYER, passed away May 2. He had been in bad health for the past few years after contracting a rare illness from a spider bite.

It is not only the state of heavy metal music that wouldn’t be what it is today without Jeff Hanneman. Anyone who listens to metal, punk, hardcore or any variation thereof owes a big debt of gratitude to Hanneman, who made thrash metal faster, harder and louder than it ever was before.

Slayer is the thrash metal band that never turned away from its roots, never wrote an embarrassing love song, never apologized for singing about evil, and never gave up. While the more popular heavy metal bands of the 1980s were wearing makeup and buying hair spray futures, Hanneman was writing amazing songs that were fast and furious from beginning to end. His songs’ subject matter included necrophilia, Nazi war criminals, Satanic blood sacrifices, and other things that were evil and a lot more interesting than weeping about girls.

You remember how every heavy metal band used to have at least one slow, sappy ballad on every record? Slayer has none of those. Remember in the 1990s how heavy metal bands cut their hair to try to fit into the alternative or grunge scenes? Not Slayer.

In the 1980s, the punk rock and heavy metal scenes often did not mix. A punk rocker would never go to a heavy metal show and metalheads were likewise required to hate punk. Slayer changed that, and Jeff Hanneman was leading the charge.

Hanneman was a punk rock fan first and gravitated to metal because he wanted to play more blistering guitar solos than the punk genre allowed at the time.

For Hanneman, the divisions that fenced in the various genres of aggressive music were arbitrary and false, and he shredded through them with gusto. When Slayer put out an album of cover songs, they weren’t classic rock songs or tribute to popular groups of the day; they were mostly hardcore punk covers from bands that were little known at the time.

You’d rarely see a metal musician wearing a punk rock t-shirt until Jeff Hanneman did. And if Hanneman did it, you couldn’t argue it wasn’t heavy metal. He opened up aggressive music in that way and helped popularize the many great crossover bands that tread the line between punk rock and heavy metal.

[Author’s Note: For the past decade, I have regularly brought deviled eggs to parties and family gatherings and they have become quite popular among family and friends. My deviled eggs are called Double Satanic Deviled Eggs, and every time I make them, I must at some point listen to SLAYER.]

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