Records, Punk Economics and Why the Artist and the Product are not Separate Entities
In the interest of full disclosure I didn't actually read many of...moreRecords, Punk Economics and Why the Artist and the Product are not Separate Entities
In the interest of full disclosure I didn't actually read many of the words in this book. I just looked at the pictures. The words could be total bullshit, as one reviewer pointed out, who is rightly annoyed that the author/publisher has seen fit to copyright the book, and then state that reproducing images in the book is against that copyright. They also state that they have made every effort to trace accurate copyrights to the images and words used in the book.
This probably didn't take them very long to do, since I'd wager like a bazillion dollars that over 99% of the records in this book have no copyright.
Of the words I did read in this book, which were about ten that weren't part of the 'art' or the copyright info, there was a mistake. The book says that the 1996 LP released by Crudos was screen-printed on folded sheet. It wasn't. It was screen-printed on cumbersome cardboard that was then folded.
It also missed noting all of the other stuff packed into packaging.
I only mention this because it was one of the most intricately packaged LPs I ever bought for eight bucks.
If I read the words in the book I might have read something about the reasons why such innovative packaging was used then. It might even be my own idea for why, but I have a feeling that their reasoning would be more artistic than my feelings about looking at some of these records I owned about twenty years after the fact.
My theory is that by the mid-90's it wasn't conceivable to release a record (and as a side note, the title of this book is DIY Album art, but quite a bit of the records shown aren't albums, but rather 7"s. We were a judgmental and picky bunch back in the day), and not lose money on it if you went with the conventional route. To make a 7" record cost roughly a dollar a record, so if you pressed a thousand it cost you a little under a thousand dollars. I didn't know anyone who figured out a DIY way of getting around this cost. If you mailed your record out to someone the postage was a little under a dollar. Again, this is a cost you had to spend, unless you had some mail fraud going on, or worked in an office, or someplace else with a postage meter that you could get someone else to pay the postage. So at this point you are at a little under two dollars. Now if you used an envelope that was another ten or twenty cents, you know if you bought it yourself. So on the low end lets say that brings up the cost to $2.10. Of course, the envelope could be created in some DIY manner from materials laying around your house.
$2.10 cents doesn't sound like too much to send your nine minutes or so of musical genius out to the world.
Here is the kicker, though. Back in the day a band called Minor Threat released their 7"s for three dollars, and now about fifteen years later you were expected to do the same. Maybe you could get away with charging four, but you better have made it something fancy to justify that extra dollar.
It was pretty difficult to actually make a record and sell it for that price. Nevermind the background costs of recording the thing, or the time it took everyone to make the record, money you might have lost because you called out from work, or whatever else.
So you got creative with the cover, really the one place that you spend about as little money as you wanted to, if you were willing to be innovative and maybe put in lots and lots of hours of labor (ignoring the simple fact that if you factored in the time you were spending it might have just been cheaper to pay a printer to do it the normal way).
Fortunately, and totally uncynically, the results were sometimes amazing (and sometimes they sucked, but lets forget about those times). This book captures quite a few of the more amazing instances. It doesn't capture all of them. It's pretty much solely focused on the HeartattCk sort of (post)hardcore/emo of the day. It doesn't have any of the Profane Existence / Crass influenced stuff that was just as impressive for some of the DIY package design they came up with (although it wasn't as arty. And of course it doesn't include everything I would have liked to see. There is no Bacteria Sour releases (although it could be argued that there wasn't anything DIY about Pushead, even if a lot of the bands he was working with were staunchly on the DIY hardcore side of the musical world.
(for the record, I never produced a record, I did research it quite a bit though at the time, and kept planning to do projects that never went anywhere. I did do a zine, which was also under similar financial constraints. With grumbling from people I could sell my zine for a dollar, anything more I could have had a hard time justifying the cost, unless I turned to the un-punk response of, but it's costing me money to produce and sell this thing at a dollar, which was true. Paying for my photocopies the thing cost a little over a dollar to print, nevermind postage, envelopes, and all the time it took to write the thing, poorly edit it, do the layout, then collate the pages and then fold and staple them, and that also didn't take into a account the cost of new x-acto blades or glue-sticks. But then again I was asking someone to give me a dollar to read my opinions about things, so I should have been (and believe me, I sincerely was) grateful anytime someone did give me their dollar).
This isn't the point of the book, or records, but it does have something to do with the little aside I just made. I'm well acquainted with producing content for free, on my own time, in ways that more capitalist minded folks may even say at my own cost, since I could be (have been) doing something more productive with my time (like right now reading a book for my volunteer position as a reader for an award (ok bad example)).
But do you know what I'm also an old hand at (a hint is I sort of mentioned in a parenthetical aside above, and also alluded to it in the title)? Judging the creators of a work of art and letting that knowledge come into play when I decide if I'm going to give support to that work of art with my hard-earned money.
Growing up in the DIY punk world there was always lots of judgments going on.
For example. I was called a sell-out in a chatroom once by a fairly angry person because my band was playing the next day with those fucking rock-stars Blanks-77 (wait, you never heard of them???) In this I was paying the gas to drive a total of five hours to and from the show and receiving nothing for playing, and those fucking rock-stars were getting about $150 for the show.
I should have had that motherfucker TOSed.
So and so has a fucking cell-phone, sellout. Dude from the band that has caused all this weird economic problems in the punk world dumps motor-oil in a creek behind his house? Motherfucker. Angry guys band is on the soundtrack for put out my Warner Brothers, nevermind that no one ever saw the movie or listened to the piece of shit soundtrack? Ostracize him. The dudes in this band treat women like shit? These other dudes in this band are now wearing gold chains? This band has allowed Tower Records to put a UPC symbol on their record? These guys have a copyright symbol on their record? This guy allegedly raped some girl. Those dudes actually eat meat. And those guys now drink and smoke. Those three guys went on tour with that band that broke punk.
These are all real things that people made real deals out of in zines, in columns and in online forums back then. For some of the more absurd sounding ones people and bands were pretty much blacklisted from the little microcosm.
You could say, what the fuck does it matter if someone once dumped their motor oil in a creek. If I like their music I'm going to keep listening to them. That's fine. But some people do care, and some people don't want to give their money to a band that does that. Some people don't want to support a band that is made up of closet fratboy sexual predators. And it's good to know that while you might enjoy the aggressive music coupled with grrrl-positive lyrics of that DIY band the singer is quite possibly a rapist, and yeah maybe you don't want to support that. And maybe if one of your friends was thinking about going to one of their shows you'd like her to know that the singer is a sleazy fucker.
Or maybe it doesn't matter to you, and you hear these things and you just don't care, or you hear some of these things and you care about some of them, but don't really care if some kids who were sxe at 16 no longer are at 23, but you still like the music or you don't really care if so an so's band now has a upc symbol on it, but yeah someone else does because the the former instance it's the message that is more important, and well you feel cheated to find out they weren't true till death like they said they would be, or in the latter that you really think the economics of DIY is more important than the possibility of getting bigger distribution through a chain store. Or whatever the reason would be.
Or maybe you are like me and don't want to support an artist who threatens people you know because they didn't like the artist's work. And maybe you think that even people who you're not friends with should also have the opportunity to know that you should engage this person's work at at their own risk. Or maybe you might want to know that this artist was in the Klu Klux Klan, or was a pedophile, an Anti-Semite, or a proto-Nazi? Or maybe you think that people should be aware of an artists stance on a topic you care about, say gay marriage, and that knowing the author is an outspoken opponent to the issue, and that you're money would be going to someone who you view as your opponent and knowing that your money could be used to support issues you don't agree with through the artist might make you decide not to make a particular purchase, or seek out a way to engage the particular work of art in a manner where no money is changing hands.
Or maybe you hear that the artist was one of these things and it will make you want to seek out their work that much more. Maybe I want to give my money to a homophobic artist who creates space operas, and until now I just couldn't figure who to give it to.
Yes, the actions of the artist might not have anything to do with the work of art. Yes, very despicable people have created works of brilliance and beauty. No, the actions of an artist shouldn't be cause to censor a work of art, but the actions of the artist are relevant. And especially in the context of commercial transaction you are not just buying the access to a work of art, but you are also financially supporting someone who is a living, breathing, doing, acting creature and it is your right to not support artists whose actions you find reprehensible.
What you find reprehensible is of course up to you. You should have the right to make up your own mind though, and if you so feel inclined support or not support someone because of what they believe and do as much as for the quality of art they create.
Limiting information is censorship. It's not hyperbole. If someone has the right to implement censorship or not is another issue, but just because they have the right or it is their infrastructure doesn't make it any less a form of censorship. (less)
Once again I'm a confused about what constitutes an award winning Science Fiction novel.
The jacket copy and a couple of reviews that...moreOnce again I'm a confused about what constitutes an award winning Science Fiction novel.
The jacket copy and a couple of reviews that I noticed mention the interesting linguistic aspect of the novel. The copy gives a lighthearted assurance that it's not as difficult as, say, Clockwork Orange.
No mention is given of that book by Joyce.
Now you might be one of those people who claim love for that book. Personally, I gave it about fifteen pages and then ran a quick effort to satisfaction ratio in my head and realized that it wasn't worth the effort on my part. This makes me an awful awful person. Or it just makes me a person who realizes his own limitations. Is aware of his own mortality, and just doesn't feel the need anymore to check off certain books from some list like notches on the literary bedpost.
Instead I'll just kill my reading time with things like this. Which, require fairly little effort and give me close to zero satisfaction.
Yeah, I'm not consistent.
For those of you who find the linguistic antics of someone like Burgess or Joyce to be too much, let me possibly recommend something from the Avant-Garde school of linguistic wordplay popularized by Bil Keane and at the heart of this book. You may be familiar with this kind of groundbreaking work, but if you are not let me give you a few examples:
Imagine a society whose language was formed by Billy, Dolly and Jeffy having mis-heard and then gotten their own version of words replaced with the real words.
In keeping with the Keanesean influence on this work, I made my own crude attempt to break down the story through another of Bil's literary devices. The dotted line.
Don't worry if you can't read the words in this picture, you can't really read them on the original either. But the one says six-legged animal. Because animals have six legs in this book. And the other says, In the Butt, because a hawt teenage girl likes it in the butt so they don't get pregnant in this book.
It may come as no surprise by the title that there are some biblical themes in the book.
I found the book to be kind of repetitive and boring. There are only so many times I wanted to hear about what an undemonstrative dick the main character was. There were some interesting themes in the book, but they weren't handled in a way that made them seem fresh or interesting. I think this book with a little bit of tweaking might have made a fine YA novel. Instead it's an award winning adult SF novel, and once again in my head it seems like having some moral issues and a bit of creepy sexual innuendo equals award.
Better than Robert Sawyer though.
Oh, yeah I'm supposed to mention that I got this book for free, from either Netgalley, the publisher, author or through some other way that I get books to read before they are published. Apparently it's a federal law to mention this (for reals?) and not just a cheap reason to float the shit out of my reviews. I haven't been given any monies, nor have I been coerced in anyway to write the review you just read. Huzzah! (less)
The title of Praying Drunk: Stories is a little misleading. While it is a collection of short stories, they could have just as easily been chapters in...moreThe title of Praying Drunk: Stories is a little misleading. While it is a collection of short stories, they could have just as easily been chapters in a novel.
A warning at the start of the book tells the reader to read the book in order. Not to jump around. It's definitely good advice.
All of the stories are interconnected with one another. They either involve characters who pop up in other stories, follow the same characters through different times of their lives, or in some cases tell the same basic story in an earlier story but from a slightly different view.
Q: Why do you often tell the same story two or three different ways?
A: It's not done with me yet, I forgot something important, or I hadn't learned it yet.
Q: You still believe in something as old-fashioned as meaning-making?
A: Maybe the biggest fiction I want to create is that it all matters. It matters so much. It matters and matters.
At the center of these stories are a few key incidents. A meeting with a bully. A suicide. A broken marriage. While other things happen in the stories and other events take center stage, it's these few incidents being juggled around the background that make up much of the cohesion of this collection, or novel if you want to think of the title as a complete statement, rather than a title and a genre descriptor following it.
Maybe because it is the way that I choose to write, in the way that I probably should just keep a journal, or a blog or try to peddle my shit somewhere else and not just put in the in the guise of a review when I'm really just talking endlessly of myself, but I get the repetition of the same stories. I get in the first "Q & A" story, quoted from above, the need to return over and over and over again to the same ideas, and in an infuriating way I do this in almost all of conversations, too. I won't let things die, they have to be revived over and over again, they need to be looked at once again in light of this one thing I had forgotten, mistakes get noted and corrected and then worked on again. Better time might be spent using the time I waste on these repetitions trying to just fix up the original, make it read better and say what I want to say instead of just starting over once again. Once again with all the grammatical errors still in place. The wrong words typed and missed by some stupid browser spell-checker. To crush the defensive shell that wraps itself around all these utterances.
If I haven't lost you yet, good.
These stories may or may not be exorcising of the author's own past. One of the characters is named Kyle Minor, and there are those two "Q & A" stories where it appears that the author is speaking directly to us, but those aren't exactly crystal clear that it is the author we are hearing or a character who is the author. This isn't exactly ground-breaking stuff, but it's not done in a gimmicky manner, and it helps in creating the cohesion between the parts and the whole.
If I had to give one or two criticisms of the book I'd point to the Haiti stories. The first one feels a little out of place in the collection up until that point. The second one feels like it belongs, but I found the length of it to be a bit off-putting. It's quite a bit longer than all the other stories, and while it does involve peripherally a character from earlier stories, it's main focus is on people who don't quite fit into the folded over quality of the other stories. This wouldn't feel so jarring if the story wasn't almost sixty pages long, or 27.9% of the book. Because this isn't a novel it's not that big of a deal, it's not like a whole new character and story are being tacked on towards the end of a novel your invested in, and you're given this new character and story when all you really want to know is what the fuck happened to the characters and stories I've been engaged in, but it is still a little weird feeling.
If I didn't come out and say it above, I enjoyed this quite a bit. It felt similar to Ron Currie Jr's Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, and it should be enjoyable to people who like George Saunders and that sort of short-story writer.(less)