Month of October, 2010

The Inside Job, The Last Newspaper, the authoritative account

Saturday night I went to see The Inside Job, upon the recommendation of my economics professor. "It makes us look pretty, pretty bad," she said. I didn't realize that depth of how bad it made "us" look, us meaning Columbia University, whose business school dean, Glenn Hubbard, gets so ruffled on being asked uncomfortable questions about the deep layers of conflicted interest that criss-cross the finance network (business and econ deans/consultants to finance companies/political advisees or appointess/finance board members) that he says, "You have three more minutes. Give it your best shot."

And believe me, the director Charles Ferguson does just that. It's a seering account of the incredible, glib way in which the nation's finance sector operates, and how the "too big to fail" institutions have both the country and the world by the balls. One thing particularly interesting (if not shocking) was the total lack of diversity on screen—at one point, and interviewee takes pains to say "and believe me, this is a man's game." I was happy to see that Ferguson treats the sex workers associated with the finance sector with respect, interviewing Kristin Davis, (dubbed 'the Manhattan madam'), about the ways in which finance men billed corporate accounting for services, careful to locate the unethical behavior in the billing and cases of infidelity, rather than the act itself. Related to this was Eliot Spitzer, of course, talking about how sex scandals could bring down the whole financial industry, but there's "gentlemen's agreement" not to use such information... to which he laughs and gives the thousand yard stare. It all mounts into a portrait of an industry run on lies, corruption, and illegality in all layers, from drug use to prostitution to bribery, to systematically falsifying credit ratings to betting against one's own clients - all of it existing on a plain of greed and ego.

The same day I went to the New Museum to check out The Last Newspaper, an exhibit on the historical and contemporary meaning of that beloved anacronism. Mostly because I heard from Jace Clayton that each week a different section of a traditional newspaper will be created in house—he's doing the music section. On the train home I finished re-reading Free Culture (anticipating the dip into diss writing pool) and just had a deeply cynical laugh about the idea of the RIAA sueing fans throughout the 2000s for trading music, taking the life savings of teenagers, while bankers stole hundreds of billions of dollars, and not one has been seriously punished. Mostly just thought about the scale of the finance industry against such terribly tangible industries as newsprint, about the death of making "things" and the era of making "ideas" or, in the case of the finance industry, "dreams" (as the film says) or "speculation" or "risk" or...lies. And how, as we move away from things to ideas/dreams/risk, fewer and fewer people participate in the work, and fewer profit.

One of the conceits of the Last Newspaper exhibit (which is, by no coincidence, above the exhibit called "Free," a hectic jumble of new media, sculpture, and painting on the subject of participatory digital media networks) was that readers are more critical and unconvinced by the authority of mainstream media. And today I just started rereading Convergence Culture, which has a rather fascinating chapter about Survivor "spoiler" fandom and how online communities designate authority. What I came away thinking about the last few days is the shifting credentials for authority, the end of the paper as the place of authority, and the shifting places audiences go to find authority. Charles Ferguson started his own production company because no one was making films about the subjects he cared about, but he's a multi-millionare. The Last Newspaper makes news about China's censorship practices and posts it up on walls in public around New York City, as is the practice in China itself. As an art project, a fleeting engagement. How do we, as citizens, synthesize all these disperate voices, evaluate the credentials, find points of dialog. How do learn how to ask questions that make our dean's squirm, and learn how to be impolite enough to expect them to answer, to really answer, for the mess they made? That was the job of the journalist. Maybe not anymore.

On this, the 21st birthday of Pretty Hate Machine

I am pleased to announce that my 33 1/3,

Nine Inch Nails Pretty Hate Machine,

will be released in March 2011.


The 33 1/3 Blog posted a book excerpt here.

For the time, basic book info is here.

Soon, a full website.


If you would like to be informed about launch events/readings/special editions of the book,

please sign up for the mailing list: iamaprettyhatemachine at


Thank you for your patience and understanding.  

Pretty Hate Machine book cover


(Pre-order from Powell's. There's no kickback,

but please support independent bookstores) 


Press for BMW 2010

Best Music Writing 2010 will be out 11/9/10, but the praise is already rolling in. I'll post links here as they come to me.


BMW2010 Review at USA Today (Pop Candy blog)

"But my personal favorite? That would have to be "The Fighter: The Life & Times of Merle Haggard ." In the lengthy and beautifully written piece, Rolling Stone writer Jason Fine gets up close and personal with the music legend to learn what drives him to perform after all these years and how he crafted his memorable tunes for the working man. It's almost worth purchasing the book for this article alone."

[This piece is a perfect example of the art of the profile. The longest non-charticle piece we've published under my term as editor, it reads like water, and the cranky, defiant spirit of Haggard becomes indelible. I've recognized his manner in many since reading and editing this.]


BMW2010 Review at by Greg Boyd (Oct 15, 2010)

"The biggest difference between this year's model and previous volumes of the series however, is that the entries this year represent the broadest, most diverse collection of music criticism offered up to date. There really is something here for just about everybody — whether your tastes run towards indie-rock, country and hip-hop or to more obscure corners of the music spectrum like regional Mexican music, the Louisiana gumbo of BeauSoleil, or even classical and opera."

 [One of the great things Ann said to me while doing the book this year was "I want to represent the conversation we're had about pop music in 2009." I agree that this is one of the strengths of the book: a broad range of stylistic approaches, musical topics, and author points of view.]

Best Music Writing 2010 Table of Contents

At long last, here is the table of contents for the 2010 edition of Best Music Writing, guest edited by Ann Powers.

Best Music Writing 2010

Cover of Best Music Writing 2010

MICHELLE TEA * The Gossip Takes Paris * The Believer

GREG TATE * Michael Jackson: The Man in Our Mirror * The Village Voice

JASON KING * Michael Jackson: An Appreciation of His Talent * Passed the Curve

SASHA FRERE-JONES * Living on the Radio: The-Dream is Everywhere * The New Yorker

CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN * Twitter & The Death of Rock Criticism * The 140 Characters Conference, New York City, June 17, 2009

ERIKA VILLANI * On “Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys—Empire State of Mind * The Singles Jukebox

MAURA JOHNSTON * Kanye West: Back to Reality? * Idolator

HUA HSU * The End of White America? * The Atlantic

ROBERT CHRISTGAU * Paisley’s Progress * Barnes & Noble Review

JOSH KUN * Mexican Bands Hear Success Calling * The New York Times

GEOFFREY HIMES * BeauSoleil: Beau Brothers * OffBeat

RANDALL ROBERTS * On the Road to Burma: Globetrotting with Ozomatli, Unlikely U.S. Diplomats * LA Weekly

JESSICA HOPPER * The Passion of David Bazan * Chicago Reader

NITSUH ABEBE * The Decade in Indie * Pitchfork

TIMOTHY QUIRK * My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement * Too Much Joy

EVIE NAGY * Biscuits and Jam With a Side of Mud * Billboard

PHILIP S. BRYANT * Stompin’ at The Grand Terrace: Excerpts from a Jazz Memoir in Verse * Utne Reader


BARRY WALTERS * The Revolution Will Be Harmonized * Out

AARON LEITKO * The Orange Line Revolution * Washington City Paper

EUGENE HOLLEY, JR. * One on One with Maria Schneider * PMP: The Annual Magazine of the Philadelphia Music Project

MARK SWED * Conducting 101 * Los Angeles Times

LOLA OGUNNAIKE * Drake: Rookie of the Year * Vibe

PHILLIP MLYNAR * 50 Cent: One Dethroned King Out to Reclaim His Crown * Hip Hop Connection

GREG PRATT * Regret, Divorce, Compromise * Monday Magazine

JASON FINE * The Fighter: The Life and Times of Merle Haggard * Rolling Stone

CHRIS WILLMAN * A Very Dylan Christmas * New York Magazine

NIKKI DARLING * Appropriate for Destruction * Live from the Penis Gallery

JON CARAMANICA * Help from His Friends: The Return of a Fallen Idol * The New York Times

RAQUEL CEPEDA * Another Love TKO: Teens Grapple with Rihanna vs. Chris Brown * The Village Voice

SEAN NELSON * Let’s (Not) Get It On * The Stranger

MARY GAITSKILL * Lady Gaga in Hell * Ryeberg Curated Video

CHRIS ESTEY * Phil Ochs Greatest Hits * Get Well

TAVIA NYONG’O * Adam’s Return * Bully Bloggers

ALEX ROSS * Voice of the Century: Celebrating Marian Anderson * The New Yorker

JODY ROSEN * Vanishing Act: In Search of Eva Tanguay, the First Rock Star * Slate


Pre-order at Powell's (that's an earlier, beach-themed version of the cover)

For a review copy or press questions:

Kate Kazeniac Burke / Associate Director of Publicity

Kate.Burke at PerseusBooks dot com


For series questions, email Daphne Carr

musicwriting at gmail dot com