Music and Popular Culture

Chris Cornell dead: the ghosts of Grunge welcome another genius into the fellowship

Nothing speaks to Grunge’s legacy of hopelessness more than the growing body count.

Chris Cornell: 1964-2017

I heard the news today, oh boy: Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell is dead at 52. According to the BBC it’s being investigated as a suicide.

I won’t bother trying to explain his legacy beyond stating the obvious: Cornell was a brilliant talent whose creative vision was central to defining the sound of a generation.

What I will do, though, is offer a lament for the doomed soul of Grunge.

I admit, up front, that I was never a huge fan of the genre. Continue reading

John Oliver’s beatdown of DaVita reminds us: Richard Nixon was an American liberal icon

Noam Chomsky, of all people, has called Tricky Dick “America’s last liberal president.” Sadly, he couldn’t have been more right.

Way back in 2008 I said this:

If he were a candidate in the 2008 presidential election, Richard M. Nixon would be more progressive than either the Republican or Democratic nominees.

What a ludicrous thing to say, right? I mean, Nixon was as twisted and corrupt as any president in US history. Hunter Thompson said “Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning.” He got caught with said pants down in l’affaire Watergate and had to resign. He’s the reason anything remotely scandalous has to have a name ending in “-gate.”

Worst. President. Ever. A fixer of the first order. All of which attached, by association, to the Republican Party, making his name synonymous with the rank evil of the American conservative polity.

That he was congenitally shady is unarguable, but the conservative part probably isn’t fair at all. Continue reading

Rode hard and put up wet: #ArtSunday

Form vs function at the Denver Art Museum

I encountered this slightly worse-for-wear old scooter down at the Denver Art Museum yesterday. The DAM’s wonderful North Building, designed by Gio Ponti and James Sudler Associates, rises in the background.

There are two versions of this shot here – a high-structure black and white that’s processed for maximum drama and color take that’s a bit more “realistic.”

Scooter on the Denver Arts Museum Plaza - black & white

Scooter on the Denver Arts Museum Plaza – black & white

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Four ways to tell if “Carolina style” barbecue is authentic

Short version: it isn’t. There’s no such thing as “Carolina style” barbecue.

The Chopped Plate from Mr. BBQ, the best barbecue restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC

The Chopped Plate from Mr. BBQ, the best barbecue restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC

I grew up in North Carolina, about 25 minutes from Lexington, the Barbecue Capital of the World. I suppose I sort of took this remarkable food for granted when I was younger. We’d go to Country Kitchen down at Gumtree Rd and Highway 52 when I was a kid and there was just nothing better in life than a chopped sandwich with a side of hush puppies. Later on, as I moved around, I’d frequent Mr. BBQ, Hill’s, Stratford BBQ and Pig Pickin’s in Winston-Salem. When I ventured down toward Lexington there were all kinds of options. For a while I favored Speedy’s, then Hog City came along and rocked the world. Through it all, of course, there was the old No. 1, Lexington BBQ, down on Highway 64, which Southern Living has justly called the best barbecue in the South. Even regular restaurants would often have barbecue on the menu. Continue reading

The democratization of photography: S&R Honors George Eastman

Our lives are full of Kodak moments, even now.

The New York Times estimates there will be 1.3 trillion photos taken this year. Granted, the signal:noise ratio is low. A vast majority of these images will be captured with mobile phones of varying quality. Most will be selfies and casual users curating the moments of their lives, and if you want to insert the word “banal” in that description somewhere I won’t argue. I learned not long after buying my first camera that there’s a big difference between doing photography and merely taking pictures.

All that said, 1.3 trillion – that’s a huge number, and it must be acknowledged that digital technology has exerted a democratizing force on creativity. New tools have provided those who can’t afford an expensive DSLR with a means to capture, process and interpret their worlds in remarkably inventive ways.
If you can afford a nice digital camera, as well as increasingly accessible top-end digital editing tools (I use Lightroom, Photoshop and several of the functions in the Nik suite), the options are, for all practical purposes, infinite. Continue reading

Saturday Video Roundup: this week in 3MS

I have invited everyone to investigate 3rd Millennium Sound on Spotify and Facebook, and I’ll reinvite you now.

The project is zipping along wonderfully – I have discovered dozens of artists I didn’t know in the last few weeks and some have become instant favorites.

For today’s SVR, here are some selections we added this past week. Up first, some very cool ’80s inspired neo-apocalyptica from Gunship.

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Is Trump right about “fake news”?

Yes and no. Let’s look at the cases of CNN, the New York Times and the Denver Post.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett

President Donald is big on labeling things “fake news.” While his definition of the term amounts to “reporting that disagrees with me or calls me out on my many lies,” the truth is that, for reasons Donald wouldn’t be able to grasp, America actually does have a serious news credibility issue. “Fake news” isn’t new, and it does represent a toxic blight at the core of our republic.

I, for one, am hellishly unforgiving when news agencies lie to me, and it happens more than it should. Continue reading

Above the madding crowd: a brief note on the artistic process

I posted a different version of this shot a few days ago. I loved the explosion of color but it lacked focus. The eye wanted to look everywhere at once, which can be confusing and tiring. This one has been cropped and I pulled the light in tighter around the upper left third – note that purple bloom standing higher than the rest? – for greater impact. Sometimes I wonder if any work of art is ever absolutely, positively finished…

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Pedophilia and our sexualized media: is naïveté a good thing or a bad thing?

The Mr. C case has me wondering if widespread familiarity with sexual themes and content makes today’s youth more or less susceptible to pedophiles.

Part 2 of a series.

UPDATE: As explained in the update to part 1, Mr. C is Thomas Tilman Cridlebaugh, a longtime teacher and coach at Wallburg and Ledford Jr. High Schools in Davidson County, NC.

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Yesterday I reflected on the conflict I’m facing in light of the revelation that one of the most important influences in my life, a junior high teacher and coach, had been convicted of sexually abusing several minor students. In closing, I wondered how close I came to being one of those victims.

I was a naïve, deeply religious boy. Prosecutors said Mr. C’s dirty jokes and “locker room talk” were “grooming” behavior designed to figure out who might be amenable to his advances. Continue reading

My mentor, the pedophile [UPDATED]

What do we do when those who meant so much to us are found guilty of the worst of crimes? There, but for the grace of God, go I…

Thomas CridlebaughPart 1 of a series.

Many of us, if we were lucky, had people in our lives when we were young who shaped us, molded us – important, vitally influential characters without whom we would be less than we are. Teachers, coaches, perhaps church leaders, family friends or relatives – we learn values from these figures that we never unlearn, and we can feel their presence, if we concentrate, decades later, in both our most pivotal and banal moments.

Can you name the five most influential people in the history of your life? I can, sort of. There’s about a ten-way tie for fifth, but the first four are my grandparents, my former teacher and now S&R colleague Jim Booth, and a junior high coach and teacher I’ll call Mr. C. This post is about him, and it’s one I have dreaded writing because I really have no idea what to do with my feelings.

Like a lot of kids in their early teens, I had no idea who I was. Continue reading

Visa review makes clear: Trump doesn’t think Americans are capable of greatness

Time to nominate a Handicapper General.

Here’s President Donald’s plan to make America #1: ban the competition.

Trump to order review of visa program to encourage hiring Americans

President Donald Trump on Tuesday will order federal agencies to look at tightening a temporary visa program used to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the United States, as he tries to carry out his campaign pledges to put “America First.” Continue reading

Scholars & Rogues marks its 10th anniversary

A brief history of S&R: It’s been a great decade. We hope you’ll stick around for another 10 years.

On April 16, 2007, a few of us (mostly immigrants from The 5th Estate on LiveJournal) opened shop at ScholarsAndRogues.com. I suppose we hoped for a doorbusting response, as hordes of people, starving for our unique brand of irreverent wisdom, metaphorically trampled us with pageviews.

That initial team included myself, co-founder Mike Sheehan, Brian Angliss, Jim Booth, Denny Wilkins, Gavin Chait, Rori Black, Robert Silvey and Martin Bosworth. Robert retired, Martin left to start his own site (and then tragically died), Mike doesn’t write much anymore but he’s skulking around here somewhere and I’ve been trying to lure Rori back for years but she’s having none of it.

Along the way we picked up more stragglers, and hopefully you’ve had occasion to enjoy their insight into the contemporary condition as well. Continue reading

Varner outs Zeke: the outrage is reaffirming

A gay man’s assault on a transgender fellow player was stunning. The response by the tribe, the host, the audience, and most importantly the target, gives a little hope to those of us losing faith in our fellow humans.

On last night’s episode of Survivor, Jeff Varner, who was fighting for his life in the game, turned to fellow contestant Zeke Smith during tribal council and asked him, “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?” It was like someone had dropped a bomb on the place. Ten seconds of staggered silence gave way to a deluge of outrage against Varner, with members of the tribe shouting over each other in a moment unlike anything in Survivor history. It was a beatdown of unprecedented proportions and it was richly deserved. A Google search for [zeke smith jeff varner] is currently returning ~82,000 results – stories, tweets, videos, you name it, so feel free to sample for yourself the public response.

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The only way to defeat Trump and his supporters

It’s about tribalism. You cannot work with Trumpists. Period. You must defeat them and then fix the problems that handed them control.

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. – Jonathan Swift

Since the moment of Campaign 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump actually had a chance, a lot of people have done a lot of thinking and pontificating and punditofying and writing and hand-wringing about the reasons for his viability. On one end of the spectrum: Donald gave the drooling, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, ignorant, anti-intellectual, hillbillies a cynical, smirking, dog-whistling charlatan they could line up behind. On the other, we’ve had all manner of thoughtful, complex analyses about how economic anxiety (and utter despair) fueled the rise of a non-partisan populist backlash against a political establishment that has spent decades betraying those it represents.

Both versions are compelling because each was built on a measure of observable truth. Continue reading