Category: Essays

  • I Dream a Parade: On Joe Strummer

    I Dream a Parade: On Joe Strummer

    There was a time when all I wanted to write about was the Clash. This, among people of my age group, is not exactly unique. I was twenty when Joe Strummer died, and, having already been raised on the legends of what the Clash meant – for punk, for music, for radical culture, for the world really – I was naturally devastated. Call it my first genuine parasocial relationship, insofar as any parasocial relationship can be “genuine.”

  • I Wanna Be Nostalgic

    I Wanna Be Nostalgic

    It’s 1994. I’m twelve years old, and music is – to my parents’ bewilderment – suddenly the only thing I care about. I’m searching out anything harsh, dissonant, and confrontational, and the louder it is the louder I want it to be. Of course there was plenty of Nirvana given that Cobain had just died, Green Day was just breaking out and exposing my sheltered suburban world to the sounds of the East Bay punk scene. But I was also trying to dig deeper into the sounds that had chewed away at the edges of the mainstream for years. Violent Femmes. The Pixies. Dead Milkmen.

  • Time and Space, Music and Crisis

    Time and Space, Music and Crisis

    Nobody needs to be reminded that we find ourselves in a bit of a state, an impasse, a roadblock in front of our ability to imagine a future better than one of climate catastrophe, and the socialized sadism of far right. Positing that what is missing from our discussions of revolutionary strategy and vision is consideration not for the theoretical, but the aesthetic, the creative, is bound to furrow a few brows. This isn’t because the argument indulges in fantasy, but because it demands of us that we take a more probing view at the fundamentals of daily life and the role that aesthetics and creativity might play in them.

  • All We Want is More Time

    All We Want is More Time

    For the second time in less than a year, a major, headline-grabbing strike has been averted. Not with the employers giving in to the unions’ demands. No, that would be too sensical, too much of a break with the cruel absurdity of our moment.

  • Lighthouse Realty Associates

    Lighthouse Realty Associates

    Los Angeles is a city that should not exist. No desert was meant to hold an urban hub of this size. It is a non-location, a place that that manages to weirdly persist due to simple inertia over sustainability. The wildfires that grow in size and intensity every season, ever-encroaching into La-La Land, are not only general reminders of a planet that will soon be too warm to sustain civilization; they feel like deep time retching up a virus contracted long ago. That it is also where the United States manufactures its ego, its own version of cultural relevance, is only too appropriate, as the 2018 burning of Malibu makes so very clear.

  • The Point of Aimless Wandering

    The Point of Aimless Wandering

    At first, I was unsure what to think of this book. The last (and so far only other) book from Andy Merrifield I’ve read has been Magical Marxism. I thoroughly enjoyed it, at times loved it, and at others disagreed with it to the point of flinging it across a room.

  • Why Won’t You Die?

    Why Won’t You Die?

    He has survived. This braying, sniveling coward whose vindictive petulance has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people, has survived. Of course we always knew he was going to. He has access to the best treatment imaginable – round-the-clock care, experimental drugs, even a hospital room that looked more like a suite at the Waldorf. A few caveats aside – “not out of the woods yet,” his shortness of breath – Donald Trump has survived Covid-19.

  • Liberal Democracy Is a Spectacle

    Liberal Democracy Is a Spectacle

    In the vast warehouse of insufferable chestnuts that comprises popular American political wisdom, few are more cloying and useless than “democracy is not a spectator sport.” Not just for its thick-headed, football coach motivation-speech optimism, but because, by point of fact, American democracy has always been a spectator sport. It has always feared the mob, always relied on passivity to get its business done, and – if you’ll indulge another stupid sports metaphor – has always viewed the voting public as an inert crowd watching while the real action happens on the field.

  • A Hell Within Hell

    California’s fire season is back. It seems to arrive earlier and earlier every year, and becomes fiercer, more destructive, more indifferent to the fact that there are cities and towns in its way. There are currently more than 560 burning throughout the state, most of which have only appeared in the past week or so. Most are concentrated in the north and central parts, but southern California isn’t exactly being spared. A large handful of blazes are scattered throughout Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. They are smaller, but that is always relative.

  • The Necessity of History, the Tragedy of Aesthetics

    When we tear down statues, it is an attempt to alter the trajectory of history. Not history as just “what has happened,” which we can never change as much as reinterpret. No, this is history as a great unfolding, as something that is taking place and will take place on one route or another depending on what is done in this moment. You can hear it in the reactions of the right. In their barely contained apoplexy, their cries of “you can’t erase history,” they are, however unwittingly, announcing that there is consequence to how that history is experienced in the here and now.