Sunday, May 09, 2004

It isn't everyday that your humble blogmeister and his BLACK TO COMM fanzine come under heavy attack from a variety of quarters, but hey, I know and you know that such things as "criticism" come with the proverbial territory. After all, like it or not, but I've been in the fanzine/underground rock limelight (more or less) for quite a long time, and taking arrows from the Indians is just one of the things a person like myself EXPECTS these days...heck, as any regular reader would know, I've flung more'n a few of those arrows myself, so WHADDYA EXPECT???? In all, when it comes to criticism whether it be an honest appraisal or crazed smear job, all I gotta say is a strong and! However, I am also a firm believer in the right to self-defense, sticking up for yourself in the face of everything from kangaroo courts to schoolyard bullies, and given the charges brought against me by not only the "" site run by Australian David Lang but Jay Hinman's "" (sorry, but I'm having tremendous trouble linking these sites up for you so I guess you'll have to do the typing yourself!), I figure that I better do some defending on my part and better do it FAST! I know that part of me says that I shouldn't bother, that these "critiques" are just a couple guys' opinions and regular blog-readers will take them for what they're worth (and besides, such hit-and-runs can often work to the victim's benefit, especially when the offending party's nothing but a bona fide JERK!), but that's exactly the kind of attitude that has led to centuries of misinformation about people, groups, beliefs etc. so it's probably best to stop the disease of slander and character assassination before it spreads to the point where irreparable damage to one's work and even reputation (as if mine's ever been top-notch!) has been done.

Today I'm going to concentrate on the first part of the defense which I don't think is going to lead to any acquittal of sorts (for going against the tide of youth-hipster chic elitism has ALWAYS resulted in a quick "trial" and painful execution!), but I thought I'd better go on record and STATE MY CASE rather'n let it slide and have people think I'm automatically guilty because I totally avoided the matter. And what better place to begin than with the case of David Lang who more or less STARTED the whole shebang! Now, I should tell you that Lang's a man whose tastes in music mirror those of the typical BLACK TO COMM reader at least in some respects, and when he first approached me to say what a wowzer he thought the mag was, I actually got the impression that I had another rabid, life-long supporter on my side. My initial assessment of Lang did change a tiny bit when, shortly after our "meeting," I got a scathing email from him which listed a litany of beyond-redemption crimes against humanity that I as well as Simply Saucer guitarist and occasional contributor Edgar Breau had committed! Y'know, not ONLY my own anti-gay, anti-woman etc. supposed screeds I have rattled off over the years, but Breau's opinions stated in an article entitled "The Homophobic Myth" not-so-surprising offended the man's sense of propriety...won't go into details but you can check out Lang's 5/4/2004 blog for at least an inkling of where his ire's coming from. (As for me, I actually laughed out loud reading his letter and I remember Don Fellman also cracking up when I told him about it, he begging for me to actually PRINT the thing which I thought was perhaps out of the question if only for the sake of taste!) Funny enough, it seemed that one of the things about BLACK TO COMM that REALLY got Lang all hot and bothered was my continual praise of CLASSIC TV SHOWS from the fifties and sixties! Like, he in no way could fathom how I could champion such beneath-contempt television fare, especially that along the lines of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, and to make matters even more hilarious Lang actually stated that the only reason I liked these programs was because "the liberals hate them." In Lang's mind, I was only making a typical knee-jerk reactionary comment in singing their praises because in NO WAY could he understand how ANYBODY could not only write about but actually sit down and ENJOY such "base" and anti-intellectual programming! (And I hate to say it, but here is where our hero takes on a critical position not anywhere near the likes of a Lester Bangs or Richard Meltzer, but something more akin to a Pauline Kael or Gene Shalit!) Lang did reveal to me that one of his favorite television shows is THE SIMPSONS, so I guess that maybe it IS all a matter of taste!

Anyway, things were all nice and sunshine-y between us after that...after all, why let a little bitta differences tear our rock & roll friendship apart anyway? Everything had been going along swimmingly enough afterwards (in fact, Lang even wanted to interview me for the PERFECT SOUND FOREVER web magazine although I declined, not only because I am such a poor interview subject as a few fifteen-year-old attempts have proven, but I'd like to keep a GOOD PORTION of my personal, private life just that, figuring that maybe the ultra-elusive Steve Ditko had the right idea letting his art, his stories and philosophy speak for him more than a simple interview ever could), and if I had been told by someone that there would ever be a storm brewing 'tween the two of us I woulda thought the bearer of such tidings your typical screwball. Hey, Lang's a guy who, true, wasn't exactly on the same wavelength as I, but did anything like that REALLY matter when it came to rockism?

In fact, I was at first happy, maybe even OVERJOYED when Lang told me he was going to review the latest issue of BLACK TO COMM on his own blog. I thought this was great, because although the most press this mag receives might not necessarily result in outright sales, it may still make a good impression on the hoi polloi which does help out in the long run. Of course I wasn't expecting a 100% gosharootie writeup given Lang's personal views, but I was more or less thinking Lang would whip up something along the lines of an even-handed review, like the kind I get from such talented and taste-oozing scribes as Eddie Flowers, who more or less wrote that "yeah, there's a lotta that cranky, half-baked rightwing yuck in here, but there's plenty of good rock & roll and so forth..." spending the other 99% of the piece on the music that undoubtedly settles well in said reviewer's stomach.

So imagine my surprise when I actually linked onto Lang's blog and found not a review similar to the one I just described, but something akin to a down and outright SMEAR! Yes, nothing at all from what I would expect from someone who I thought was a supportive fan of the 'zine, but a misleading, inflammatory twist on the facts that, once you get down to it, almost equals the extremely damaging "build up then knock down" ploy used by Gerard Cosloy and Patrick Amory on me and my mag in the late eighties! Lang, if this is, as you've said, a "mid-level slagging," I'd hate to see what you'd do on full-throttle!

There are too many things in not only Lang's 5/4 blog but his 5/7 clarification to comment on but I will give it the old college try. The factual errors are many...for one thing, in no way could you even consider J. D. King "a huge anti-liberal of the Stigliano/Ayn Rand variety"; sure, King isn't exactly a Democratic Party cheerleader, but in no way could you call him (in his words a strong Second Ammendment Traditionalist Catholic) a follower of the athiestic Rand. (However, King did tell me about the time he ran into Steve Ditko at the CRACKED magazine offices where he, Ditko and Mort Todd exchanged a few anti-communist remarks!) In fact, I find it downright hilarious that Lang would even lump ME in with Rand, since I'm a guy who, although I think Rand was more right than she was wrong, KNOWS that this was by a very slim margin. You certainly couldn't compare me to the members of Rand's inner circle that hung on their goddess' every wish and command, listening to the music SHE liked and dressing the way SHE thought men should! But then again, although Lang claims credence to maybe some of the Rand philosophy he did SHUDDER when I told him that one of the best things the woman ever did was testify in front of the HUAC in regards to the inaccuracy-filled pro-Soviet film SONG OF RUSSIA! The individualist Lang, when responding to my email, actually had the audacity to state that the so-called communist "witch hunts" of the 40s/50s were "a dark chapter" in American History! (I guess they get PBS programming in Australia along with the local stuff.) Some Randite, eh?

In his review, Lang calls me (in boldface even!) "a very hung up individual." It's his opinion and he can have it, though the picture he generally paints of me is that of some mama's boy shut-in without any social life who not only shuns going to live rock shows but spends all of his free time listening to all the "cool" records and comic books his poor li'l ol' wallet can stand to buy. I guess you could say that, if you want to distort things even worse than a funhouse mirror. Between bringing home the bacon and working out at the gym maybe I do lead a quiet existence mainly because I don't have the time (or dough) for a "varied" lifestyle and hey, I live in Sharon Pennsylvania, which never was a city known for any sorta hot nightlife at least in the past few decades. As for nearby Youngstown Ohio, I guess that's OK if you want to spend your evenings wallowing in clubs where you can hear local bands taking their watered-down cues from OTHER bands who were diluted to begin with! (My apologies to those bands who ARE original and vibrant, if there are any in Youngstown, that is!) I mean, I have BETTER things to do than to suffer through all of those lame "alternative" acts I unfortunately chanced upon during the eighties, and frankly I doubt that the local situation has gotten much better since those days! And as for "spending every spare cent on music and comic books," well, I do save as much as I can only to have it eaten up by the cost of putting out an issue of my mag, but it only SEEMS like I spend all my money on goodies because it does take a few years to release one of these behemoths, and hey, I can buy a lotta good stuff in that span of time (not forgetting the superfine promotional wonders from such stellar labels as Slippytown and Norton {plug, plug!})! Believe me, I DON'T spend my shekels on every shard of recorded splatter or comic excursion that I want to hear or read before I clock out of this life...I wish I had the moolah to do so, but in no way could I afford buying everything that my li'l old heart desires on the pittance I get!

I could go on about this extraneous stuff...the YOUR FLESH/FORCED EXPOSURE comment etc., but that's not the point of this rebuttal. The main meat of it is that Dave Lang painted a broad, unflattering picture of me and my fanzine (though he seems to deny it and still wants to be pals, but with friends like Lang who needs enemies?) and, as I said, I want to SPEAK OUT ON MY BEHALF rather than have the world think I'm AGREEING with Lang's assessments by keeping my mouth shut. Of course the biggest slams against me and the magazine are the triple-threat bastions of offensiveness these days...RACISM, SEXISM and HOMOPHOBIA! Readers of Lang's 5/7 blog will note that he did back down from the racism charge of which I am glad, because that was the most damning of all three counts, but even then he has to once again bring up my alleged wrong-doings perhaps in order to tell his lumpen blog audience that "I'M SORRY, BUT YOU SEE, I HAD A GOOD REASON TO SAY WHAT I DID!!!" (Really, I haven't seen this much knife twisting since I graduated from high school!). So in order to clarify myself---first off, I'm a man who thinks that "affirmative action" is not only racist in itself (to minorities, that is) but totally condescending. After all, giving a member of a minority preferential treatment whether it be in regards to college admissions or the workplace just reeks of that sick-white-liberal mentality that actually believes everything will be hunky dory if we make things look nice and inclusive and hand-in-hand by changing the color makeup and smashing the "good old boy" system of old as if creating an illusion that the machine is well-oiled and running takes precedence over the machine actually being in working order! I mean, I'm all for giving people chances in life, but not major passes just for who they are! After all, maybe a black guy deserves a job because he's a good worker and not so's the workplace will look more diversified (as if that really means anything concrete!). It's a snooty attitude at best, usually put forward by those same enlightened types who will be at a party, see a black man and walk up to him uttering the utmost inanities such as "That James Earl Jones is such a great actor!" or "I feel for you people!" while everyone else in the room shudders! (I will make one correction on a statement of mine that appeared in I believe issue the course of a Dave Marsh book review I yammered something along the lines about how frustrated I was that I couldn't get the kind of employment I desired because of affirmative action. I do rue having ever said that, beause once I get down to it, what really has been my problem was not AA but my own limitations and drawbacks so taking my anger out on something that probably had nothing to do with my situation was indeed out of line.)

And as far as my slag on "black power," my objection to it is that the main perpetrators of the sixties and seventies black movements (and many of their present heirs) were/are notorious conmen who ultimately proved themselves detremental to their various causes (and the people who were supposed to benefit from all this) with their combination Marxist politics and mafia-styled shakedowns. If you want, try searching out some of David Horowitz's pieces on the subject for some really eye-opening revelations about things happening not only then but now, but nobody can deny that a crook, no matter what his intentions may be or who is constituents are, is still a crook.

And one final thing on the racism racists listen to free jazz? Or Funkadelic? Or Malcolm Mooney? Like H. L. Mencken once said, people who laughed at AMOS 'N' ANDY weren't racists (we're talking we know more blacks than the NAACP would dare admit laughed as well), it was the ones who scorned the show and its subject matter who were the true bigots. "We do not hate people we laugh at and with, " as he said, and for the most part a rabid racist would hate the music of what he considers a lesser race (there are exceptions to the case, but that's for another day and time).

As far as "sexism" goes, I guess that all depends on how you describe the term. Most modern-day feminists seem to have a broad, cover-all definition which not only would include views held by me but many hallowed institutions and philosophies which have done more good than harm these past two millenia, and if so, I guess that's my tough luck! I'm not a guy who thinks that women shouldn't work, and I'm positive that many families out there in the real world need that extra income, but then again I know that families are more stable and brimming with mentally-healthier kids when mom stays home with 'em. (If this was the case in your family and you turned out angry and bitter, you have my condolences!) I also know that men are men and women are women, and the continual blurring of the two and mind-napping of children extolling them to BELIEVE that there are no differences has done way more damage to life in general than had the Visigoths ransacked the entire world! Give a boy a toy doll and he'll play with it like a tommy gun! (Or in my case play barber with my sister's Chatty Baby doll!) Give a girl a toy truck and she'll probably stick it in a crib! A few decades of social engineering isn't going to change eons of sexual roles, and I doubt it ever will despite all of the angry women yammering about on TV!

And as for "homophobia"...the way that not only Lang but Hinman describe the mag would lead the uninitiated to believe that BLACK TO COMM #25 is a 162-page anti-gay tract written by some steaming swastika-touting loonybin who's probably a closet fag himself!!! 's funny, because other than a buncha comments sprinkled here and there, the only real soapboxing against the current pro-gay situation that appears in the current BTC is just a SMALL segment of the opening schpiel where I rant on about "the fagification of America" (no apologies to Revilo Oliver!), and that was a rather mild, in fact partly tongue-in-cheek (no, not THAT!) editorial that said that yeah, there are gays and SO WHAT, but what's really griping me is that it seems that nowadays gays (and similar hanger on types) want you to march in unquestioning lockstep and accept their views and needs and submit to their whims and desires even if your own values tell you otherwise. Really, I wrote some WAY STRONGER things about gays in past issues, mostly as an admittedly kneejerk reaction to the violent and disgraceful actions of many in the activist gay world (remember ACT UP and QUEER NATION, whose questionable activities ultimately left both organizations in total disarray?), and yeah those days are strictly nineties news, but the way you see gaydom being mainstreamed all over the place and the massive gay stampede trampling the entire landscape (usually brought upon by high court rulings and, oh, I guess the rest of us just have to live with it!) and in light of a media attitude that basically says GAYS CAN DO NO WRONG, what exactly is so offensive about a little ribbing here and there? It's certainly milder than the wanton attacks on traditionalism that are so in vogue these days! (Lang, if you still read the mag, tell me...what is the ratio of gay remarks to anything else appearing in my pages...0.1% or less???) And you know what, I'm sure there are a lotta gays out there who agree with me!

Anyway, I think I pretty much defended myself against Lang. You, dear reader, shall be the judge and even jury! And Dave, don't fret about me ragging on you in the magazine because, frankly, you aren't worth it. You're not a stick in the mud big city hack like Anastasia Pantsios (who just happened to be a sore spot of old that I over-mentioned this issue because of something on the internet that dredged up old memories!), nor are you as beneath-contempt as Gerard Cosloy and Patrick Amory who crafted their evil drag-him-down plot at a time when I was just beginning to go places with my, er, writing career. You're not even this shall-remain-nameless guitarist of reknown who used to swear allegiance to the BLACK TO COMM credo, call me up to gab about music for hours on end and contribute some fine pieces that lent to the quality of the magazine, only to drop me like a hot potato when some fame arrived and eventually slag both me and my magazine in an on-line interview. To be frank about it, you're just a guy who has your opinions and they cost about as much as it takes to dial up your blog to have a looksee. Nothing special here. I'll admit that I was frothing at the mouth especially at your charge of racism, and your more or less backing down from that (while sticking in those aforementined derogatory comments, natch!) did rectify things at least 33%, and hey, one good thing that came out of this mess is that I finally got the impetus to start up this blog in order to save any shard of "respectability" I may have had so maybe I even have you to thank for it! But still, it ain't gonna be like things used to be. If anything, what I've learned from all this is that you really can't tell who your "friends" are, and that, once again, I'm gonna hafta be more aware the next time somebody shakes my hand...while aiming a dagger at my back!