April 23rd, 2007

what's up?

This is Pop (Conference)

Hello, friends! I've wound up my first visit to the achingly beautiful city of Seattle, where I was a presenter at the 2007 EMP Pop Conference. During my stay in the Emerald City, I delivered an exceptionally geeky talk* as part of a panel on the Wu-Tang Clan, or, as the sign outside the venue read, "the Wu-Tan Clan". The panel was hosted by Robert Fink, who previously had delivered an outstanding presentation on James Brown's "Soul Power", and we had a fairly decent turnout despite having to go on at 9AM on a Saturday morning opposite the dean of American rock critics, Robert Christgau. I went first, which means only about 20 people saw my talk, but I would be lying if I said that was the smallest crowd I've ever gotten at a reading. hipsterdetritus went next, delivering a very good talk on the Wu's soul influences; Charles Mudede followed, and delivered what may well have been a great presentation if he'd ever gotten around to it and also if I'd understood any of it; and Steven Shaviro closed it up with a piece, delivered at a machinegun clip, on Ghostface Killah. He had some pretty insightful things to say about Ghost's voice as a unique musical instrument of the Wu. All in all, I thought our panel was pretty good -- we were the only one who focused specifically on one group, and it was pretty tight and coherent, and flowed well with the exception of my nerded-up crap.

I wasn't there long enough to do much sightseeing, but I do have a few notes, in the easy-as-pie-and-only-slightly-horribly-destructive list form we all love so well, to share with you.


- Mark Sinker: "Can an art form be meaningful if its fans don't want to read about it?"

- Mike Powell: "[North Korea] itself has an on-line store, which I am extremely wary of."

- Elena Passarello: "I read an article about 50 Cent in Forbes..."

- Sasha Frere-Jones: "You guys remember Elvis? Okay."

- Steven Shaviro: "Rhetorically, she holds her own, and in hip-hop, there's no discounting that."


- Free hotel upgrade!

- Getting to meet a bunch of writers whose work I like, and talk to them, and find out that a lot of them are really great, friendly, smart people and great conversationalists.

- Getting to meet and hang out with Davey Schmitt.

- Bookstores with three cats, Irish pubs with 32 kinds of whisky, and sushi with really fresh fish.

- Meeting Michaelangelo Matos and getting drunk at his house.

- Saying howdy to Mike McGonigal, the guy who got me my first-ever writing gig.

- Sharing a cab with Simon Reynolds, who later gave one of three terrific presentations on the "Urban Dance Squads" panel (along with the insightful Cosmo Lee and the charming Geeta Dayal) which helped fill in huge gaps in my musical knowledge.

- Talking to Peter Doyle, the Australian who did a fantastic presentation on the psychogeographic features that shaped some of Syndey's music (and who wrote this amazing book.

- Mike Powell's creepy, fascinating talk on North Korean popular music.

- Coming up with an awesome decorating idea for my new place.

- The "Countercultural Positions" panel, featuring an interesting talk by Michael J. Kramer on underground military radio stations in the Viet Nam War, Michael Daddino's hilarious presentation on the National Review's rock criticism, and Mark Clague's compelling musicological breakdown of Hendrix's performances of "The Star-Spangled Banner".

- Getting a handful of writing gigs while out of town, including at least one that I will announce here later in the week when it's official.

- Having a couple of friends call or write me to wish me luck, which makes me all choke-uppy.

- Scott Seward's fall-down funny presentation of folk influences in extreme metal.

- Having a total stranger come up to me and tell me they read my website and like my work -- stranger, I appreciate your coming out more than I can say, and I wish we'd had more of a chance to talk, but I was on my way to lunch and on a tight schedule, so please do forgive me.

- Being alternately mocked and celebrated for my love of American Idol.

- Drinking, generally.

- The "Dancing About Architecture" presentation, including funny and/or thoughtful presentations on music writing by Mark Sinker and Randall Roberts

- Jonathan Lethem's excellent keynote address, and getting to ask him a question about the Jack Kirby essay he wrote in Give My Regards to the Atom-Smashers.


- Watching people form a magic worship circle around Robert Christgau wherever he went. I mean, come on, people, I like the guy just fine and it's a goddamn shame what the Voice did to him, but it's Robert Christgau, not Jesus.

- American Airlines, generally.

- The pathetic underavailability of taxicabs in the Seattle area.

- Not getting to see Davey Schmitt's performance thanks to abovementioned cab inavailability.

- A few people and presentations that I can't really talk about because I don't wanna burn any bridges or nothin', but believe me, GEEKS, and also some fashion choices, although I am not one to talk in that regard.

- Not having enough time to get a tattoo.

- Realizing that carrying out my awesome decorating idea would be ruinously expensive.

- Grotty Frank Geary architecture at Experience Music Project that made the whole place look like it was designed by an elf with severe personality disorders.

- Being so fucking swamped for the next month or so that ever sleeping again seems like an impossible fantasy.

- Spending about 14 hours on planes and in airports yesterday and getting about 4 hours of sleep last night.

- A crazy man asking Jonathan Lethem if he thought there was a conspiracy to kill Kurt Cobain.

- My presentation.

*: Note the amusing inaccuracies in that bio: I am not a staff writer for Urb magazine, my website is not regularly updated, and my bio reads better if you don't take all the good jokes out.


I'm on little sleep and jetlag like you wouldn't believe. But still there is the Monday poll.

Poll #971745 Pop poll

What's your excuse for not going to see my presentation at the EMP Pop Conference?

I didn't know about it
I am too cheap to fly to Seattle
I hate you
There is no reason to go all the way across the country to hear you rattle on about rap music and comic books when I can get that here for free
I forgot
I am a bad person and I should suffer for my sins
I have no excuse
Other (see Comments)

Which of the following presentations I attended sound interesting to you?

"Collapsing Distance: The Love Song of the Wanna-Be, or, the Fannish Auteur" (Jonathan Lethem)
"What's the 911? Pop Music's Response to September 11th" (Sasha Frere-Jones)
"Soul Power 1971" (Robert Fink)
"That's Radical! Punk, Skateboarding and Latinos in Southern California c. 1980" (Rod Hernandez)
"6 N the Mornin: California Hip-Hop Music 1987-1992" (Daudi Abe)
"But Does It Pass the Test of Space? Why Rottem Music Writing Creates Worse History" (Mark Sinker)
"Birth of the Snark: Creem Magazine's Rock 'n' Roll News Section, 1971-1976" (Randall Roberts)
"Is Rock Criticism Part of Intellectual History?" (Devon Powers)
"Just 4 U London: Place and Race in British Dance Culture from Rave to Grime" (Simon Reynolds)
"The Mechanical Heart of Berlin Techno" (Cosmo Lee)
"Examining European Fandom of the Detroit, Chicago and New York Dance Music Mythos" (Geeta Dayal)
"The Waiting is the Hardest Part: A Fan Takes On Reclusive and Prolific Songwriters" (John Sellers)
"The Psychogeography of Sydney's Sonic Sublime" (Peter Doyle)
"Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Soul I Learned in Shaolin" (Nate Patrin)
none of those sound interesting to me

Third verse, worse than the first.

"Remembering Paradise: From Earth, Wind and Fire to the Wu-Tang Clan" (Charles Tonderai Mudede)
"Take Me Back: Ghostface's Ghosts" (Steven Shaviro)
"The Season Came to an End: Freestyle Brings Loneliness to a Crowded Dance Floor" (Maura Johnston)
"Pulling Apart the Layers: Headphones and Space-Time" (Alexa Weinstein)
"The Pyongyang Hit Parade" (Mike Powell)
"Urban Music in the Teenage Heartland" (Brian Goedde & Elena Passarello)
"The Secret History of Montana Postpunk: The Last Great Undiscovered Scene in the History of Rock and Roll" (Tom Kipp)
"The Strange Career of Dave Rabbit: Soundscapes of Underground Military Rock Radio from Viet Nam to Iraq" (Michael J. Kramer)
"Right of the Dial" The National Review Contra and Pro Sixties Rock" (Michael Daddino)
"Oh Say Can You Hear: Jimi Hendrix and the Politics of Performing the Star-Spangled Banner" (Mark Clague)
"Pastures of Plenty: Contextualizing Woody Guthrie Through the Lens of the Environment" (Carl Zimring)
"Moths, Moons and Toothless Hound Dogs: Joanna Newson's New Rural Aesthetic" (Meghan Drury Askins)
"Of Wolves & Vibrancy: A Brief Exploration of the Marriage Made in Hell Between Folk Music, Dead Cultures, Myth and Highly Technical Modern Extreme Metal" (Scott Seward)
"Freak Folk and the Analog Ethic" (Erik Davis)
No, seriously, you're making these up, right? I'd rather die than go to any of these.

Everybody knows that music criticism is an intellectual sausage party. What percentage of the Pop Conference presenters do you think were non-dudes?


Invent your own hilariously titled EMP Pop Conference title.

on a steel horse I ride

And now, another exciting edition of...TASTEFUL SAN ANTONIO

I'm going to look at a new apartment tomorrow. It's suspiciously great -- dirt cheap, front half of a very spacious duplex, and located in one of the best neighborhoods in the city -- so my guess is that it's on an Indian burial ground and right next to a horse-rendering plant that leases itself out on weekends to a bad metal band who practice solely between 11PM and 6AM. Anyway, I was looking at the realtor's ad just now, which was on the back page of the lifestyle section of today's paper. The front page of the lifestyle section featured an article profiling the Express News' favorite fat women, from Oprah Winfrey to Queen Latifah to that girl who plays Ugly Betty, and the food that inspired them. What was the name of this frankly amazing article, you ask?

"Our Favorite Gorditas".

And that, ladies and gentlemints, is TASTEFUL SAN ANTONIO.