Category Archives: Uncategorized

H-Environment Roundtable on Race and the Environment

This week, H-Environment published a roundtable double review of Carolyn Finney’s Black Faces, White Spaces and my Clean and White, featuring comments from Mary E. Mendoza, Kathryn Morse, Richard M. Mizelle, Jr., and Traci Brynne Voyles, and responses by both authors. The link opens the 38-page PDF.

Thanks to all of the participants for such an engaging discussion, and to editor Christopher F. Jones for organizing this ambitious double roundtable.

The World Says You’re Seen.

The World Says” is unusual. Karl Hendricks recorded albums almost always as a trio, and 2007’s The World Says is the only album by the four-piece Rock Band. On a record informed by Crazy Horse’s guitar duels, the title track stands alone as a piano and (mostly) acoustic guitar musing. Here’s the first verse:

When I showed up from Bermuda
They didn’t act surprised
When I threw myself in front of a train
They pulled me back, said “Not this time.”
And when I joined the Army
They didn’t give away my LPs
I licked the inside of a urinal
They just blessed my sneeze
If you’ve ever tried to disappear
Then you’ll know what I mean
You keep insisting you’re invisible
The world says you’re seen

Some songs show their value through sales; Billy Ray Cyrus grew wealthy from “Achy Breaky Heart” years before his daughter became a celebrity. Other songs show their value in resonance to the listener. “The World Says” is one of those songs, for me.

The summer of 2007 found me traveling to Seattle to help my Uncle John. He had gone there to see if an experimental trial could arrest his mantle cell lymphoma. John endured two years of treatments and this was his last best hope. We met with nutritionists, therapists, and doctor after doctor to get him ready for the trial, but the cancer was too advanced to let him proceed. He was gone within four weeks.

I did not find comfort in much at the time, but “The World Says” was therapeutic when I felt powerless. I am forever grateful to Karl for giving me that.

Karl died this morning. If you did not know him, his modesty and kindness belied his talents. He spent more than a quarter century as a buyer at and owner of Pittsburgh’s best record store, enhancing the musical literacy of so many of us who lived in western Pennsylvania. Karl Hendricks was as much a civic leader of Pittsburgh during that time as anyone, without even considering the music he created.

If you did not know his music, you can learn about some of the best rock music made the past quarter century and give some money to his family by purchasing his records from Bandcamp or Comedy Minus One. They are all worth it, from the cover art to the guitar playing to Karl’s lyrics.

Karl’s writing is better than anything I can provide, so please listen to him instead of me. When he sold his store last summer, I posted a list of favorite songs of his and repeat that list now as entryways into his catalog. Thanks always to Karl.

10. “Know More About Jazz.”
9. “Baseball Cards.”
8. “Underdog Park.”
7. “Naked and High on Drugs.”
6. “The Ballad of Bill Lee.”
5. “The Official Shape of Beauty.”
4. “The Mens’ Room at the Airport.”
3. “Nogales By Tuesday.”
2. “The World Says.”
1.”Dreams Ha.”
(This link is the only one on the list not to one of the Bandcamp pages. It opens a solo video Karl made in 2011. More on why it tops the list here.)

Brooklyn Book Event Sunday Afternoon: BF+DA Sustainability+Technology Book Fair

bfda-communal-spaceSunday afternoon, I’ll discuss and sign copies of Clean and White at the BF+DA Sustainability+Technology Book Fair (630 Flushing Ave., 7th floor) in Brooklyn.

Come and meet 12+ authors who have published books focused on ethical design, sustainability, technology, design and fashion and join us for two 40 minute in-depth conversations moderated by BF+DA Founder Deb Johnson.

3 pm Doors open. Book signing throughout the afternoon.
3:45-4:45 pm: Group discussion on sustainability and technology in the 21st century and where there are intersections that are leading more people to want to be part…or not.
Participating authors include:

Lynda Grose, Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change
Carl Zimring, Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States
Timo Rissanen, Zero Waste Fashion Design
Sass Brown, EcoFashion, Refashioned
Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, Smart Textiles for Designers: Inventing the Future of Fabric
Deborah Schneiderman and Alexa Griffith Winton, Textile Technology and Design: From Interior Space to Outer Space
Elizabeth Cline, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Ira Livingston, Poetics as a Theory of Everything
John Lobell, Visionary Creativity: How New Worlds Are Born
Luba Lukova, Social Justice 2008, 12 Posters by Luba Lukova
Meta Brunzema, Feminist Practices
Kate Black, Magnifeco
6 pm End of book fair.

The event is free, but please RSVP for a ticket at the link.

Brooklyn Book Event April 10: BF+DA Sustainability+Technology Book Fair

UPDATE: The two sessions have been merged into one big session featuring all of the authors. See the event link for updates and join us!

bfda-communal-spaceOn the afternoon of Sunday April 10, I’ll discuss and sign copies of Clean and White at the BF+DA Sustainability+Technology Book Fair (630 Flushing Ave., 7th floor) in Brooklyn.

Come and meet 12+ authors who have published books focused on ethical design, sustainability, technology, design and fashion and join us for two 40 minute in-depth conversations moderated by BF+DA Founder Deb Johnson.

3 pm Doors open. Book signing throughout the afternoon.
3:30 pm: Ethics + Environment featuring Lynda Grose, Carl Zimring, Timo Rissanen, Elizabeth Cline and Sass Brown
4:30 pm: Technology + Fashion + Design featuring Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, Deborah Schneiderman and Alexa Griffith Winton, John Lobell, Ira Livingston
6 pm End of book fair.

The event is free, but please RSVP for a ticket at the link.

Clean and White Available Today

My new book is officially released today. Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States is available as a hardback and as an ebook.

From NYU Press:

C&Wcover

When Joe Biden attempted to compliment Barack Obama by calling him “clean and articulate,” he unwittingly tapped into one of the most destructive racial stereotypes in American history. This book tells the history of the corrosive idea that whites are clean and those who are not white are dirty. From the age of Thomas Jefferson to the Memphis Public Workers strike of 1968 through the present day, ideas about race and waste have shaped where people have lived, where people have worked, and how American society’s wastes have been managed.
Clean and White offers a history of environmental racism in the United States focusing on constructions of race and hygiene. In the wake of the civil war, as the nation encountered emancipation, mass immigration, and the growth of an urbanized society, Americans began to conflate the ideas of race and waste. Certain immigrant groups took on waste management labor, such as Jews and scrap metal recycling, fostering connections between the socially marginalized and refuse. Ethnic “purity” was tied to pure cleanliness, and hygiene became a central aspect of white identity.
Carl A. Zimring here draws on historical evidence from statesmen, scholars, sanitarians, novelists, activists, advertisements, and the United States Census of Population to reveal changing constructions of environmental racism. The material consequences of these attitudes endured and expanded through the twentieth century, shaping waste management systems and environmental inequalities that endure into the twenty-first century. Today, the bigoted idea  that non-whites are “dirty” remains deeply ingrained in the national psyche, continuing to shape social and environmental inequalities in the age of Obama.
The book is available at these outlets:

The Best Music of 2015

Here are the  best records I heard from the past twelve months.

Toiling_Midgets_A_Smaller_LifeDoes ranking a record with tracks as old as 35 years make me decrepit? Guilty, but let me explain while A Smaller Life merits the top spot on my list. Neither reissue nor straight new release, this record makes the invisible history of San Francisco rock visible. Toiling Midgets had roots in the first wave of San Francisco punk, made one of the area’s defining albums in Sea of Unrest, then fell apart due to heroin addiction on the part of just about everyone in the band. That didn’t end their story; in 1990 they began working with Mark Eitzel as lead singer, even recording an album of thunderous, cavernous songs for Matador. That ended when Eitzel took their drummer, but Tom Mallon stepped in and original singer Ricky Williams came back. Unfortunately, Williams died after a show, but the band pressed on without a singer, playing occasional Bay Area shows and recording (though not releasing) thick waves of textured guitar parts. Every once in a while, word of a possible album would come out, but no album.

Glioblastoma killed Mallon at the beginning of 2014. With his death, I assumed the recordings would not see the light of day. A Smaller Life proves me wrong, and I am so happy to be wrong. It covers the entire span of the Midgets work, from 1980 demos through Sea of Unrest, Deadbeats, the Eitzel work, the short-lived Ricky Williams reunion, and all of those 90s and 00s recordings. This plays like a postpunk Fairport Chronicles, giving novices a great sense of what the band is about with enough new material to make old fans excited to listen repeatedly. I am grateful to Jordan Mamone and the surviving band members for making this release possible. 

Eleventh Dream Day – Works for Tomorrow (Thrill Jockey)

Eleventh_Dream_Day_Works_For_TomorrowEleventh Dream Day gets stronger with age, and adding Jim Elkington as second guitarist was a very good idea. Works for Tomorrow has a strong 1970 Muscle Shoals vibe, some of Janet Bean’s best singing, and a take on classic rock that reminds me of Steve Wynn’s late-90s records. By the way, if Steve Wynn and EDD would like to collaborate on a record akin to the one Wynn make with Come in 1996, please let me know where to send my money.

 

Necks_VertigoForty-four minutes of glorious Necks drone. Play this back to back with Mint Mile’s “Modern Day” and you’ll have a good idea of what I’d do with a radio show these days.

 

alabama-shakes-sound-and-colorI am buying what Alabama Shakes is selling. Too much Americana lacks noise or soul, but Sound & Color has plenty of both. An Alabama Shakes/Eleventh Dream Day stadium tour would be about the only event save a White Sox-Yankees playoff game to get me into Yankee Stadium.

 

Mint_Mile_In_SeasonWith Bottomless Pit finished, Tim Midyett uses a revolving cast of musicians (including Andy Cohen…and Michael Dahlquist made his way into the proceedings, going by the liner notes) to make a more meandering, more acoustic set of songs that brings early-70s Van Morrison to mind. (Think “Almost Independence Day” rather than “Jackie Wilson Said” for an approximation of the sound.) “Modern Day” makes me wish I still had my radio show so I could play it on a hot summer night and get calls asking what it was.

The Chills - Silver BulletsThe Chills are back! Well, Martin Phillips is back, with the rotation of supporting Chills slightly different than on 2004’s Stand By EP, but any personnel changes don’t appreciably change the organ-and-jangle Kiwipop with worried lyrics. Still works for me, and I hope Phillips is healthy enough to record a followup before eleven more years elapse.

 

TV_Colours_Purple_SkiesUS issue of noisy Australian punk-pop musician Brian Kill’s cacophony thanks to Jon Solomon. Most comparisons to Hüsker Dü leave me longing for Hüsker Dü rather than enjoying the record in question, but not here (though the drums are more Roland than Grant Hart).

 

 

Richard-Thompson-StillIt’s Richard Thompson, without much production fuss. If you like guitars, why wouldn’t you dive into this?

 

 

Victor_Krummenacher_Hard_To_See_TroubleKrummenacher is still better known as the singer in the Monks of Doom and bass player in Camper Van Beethoven than for his solo work. That’s unfortunate, as the records he’s made under his own name are the best recordings anyone from either band had made over the past quarter century. If Toiling Midgets are the secret history of Bay Area rock, Krummenacher’s solo work is the distillation of West Coast Americana stripped of artifice.

Tomas Fujiwara & the Hookup – After All Is Said (482 Music)

Mary Halvorson – Meltframe (Firehouse 12 Records)

People – 3xAWoman (Telegraph Harp)

Fujiwara_afterallissaidcoverMary_Halvorson_Meltframepeople~~~~~_3xawoman~_101b

Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Mary Halvorson (guitar) are the two most exciting improv musicians I hear in New York City, and they often work with the other most exciting improv musicians around (Ingrid Laubrock, Tim Berne, Tom Rainey, Michael Formanek come to mind). These three records show off different aspects of Halvorson’s work, from one element in a jazz combo (After All Is Said) to solo guitar (Meltframe) to delightfully dense pop (3XAWoman). Like Toiling Midgets and Richard Thompson, Halvorson provides fans of guitar some wonderful music to enjoy.