The website Music Tomes – an interesting online journal dedicated to covering books on music – recently interviewed me on my forthcoming book, Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky).
In my new essay for the Daily Beast, I defend English Departments against the boneheaded belief that college students have no need to read narrative prose. In doing so, I also write about the techno-buffoonery and anti-intellectualism sweeping the country. The lowering cultural standards are particularly visible when major journals defend them.
As I begin the essay:
It is easy to observe the sad and sickly decline of American intellectual life, through the cultural and institutional lowering of standards, when prestigious publications promote the defense, if not the celebration, of lower standards.
Writing recently in TheNew Republic on the seemingly inevitable death of the college English department, James Pulizzi represents the shortsighted techno-boosterism and foolish progressivism that is rendering American culture increasingly superficial and frivolous.
“Within a few decades, contemporary literature departments will be largely extinct,” Pulizzi submits before predicting that “communications, composition, and media studies will take English’s place.”
Rather than expressing anxiety, or at least, worry over the impending destruction of one of the only mechanisms for introducing young Americans to a pillar of art, human history, and the Western tradition, Pulizzi credulously asks, “Why should college students read narrative prose when they get their fill of stories from television, cinema, and interactive video games?”
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once famously indicted the cultural condition of “defining deviancy down.” As standards migrate from the mountain to the basement, the formerly vulgar, indecent, and stupid becomes the norm. One can easily see how eventually thinkers like Pulizzi will delete a few words from their rhetorical question to simply ask, “Why should college students read?”
In my latest column for the Indianapolis Star, I lay out some basic facts of Palestinian suffering at Israeli hands. It is a regime of human rights violations, abuse, and violence that U.S. supports with military, financial, and diplomatic aid.
In the column, I reference the work of Gregory Harms, who is an immensely important voice of reason, clarity, and sanity on the crime of the Israeli Occupation.
In my new essay for the Daily Beast
, I profiled James Lee Burke, one of America’s greatest living writers. His new book – Wayfaring Stranger – is an epic work of historical fiction, sweeping across the 20th century to tell the story of Bonnie and Clyde, the Great Depression, World War II, the rise of commercial oil industry, and the emergence of Hollywood.
It is also Burke’s best book, and one of the best book of modern American fiction.
In my conversation with Burke, we discussed the personal origins of the book, American history and politics, and why he is sadness over the “death of traditional America” is not naïve or nostalgic.
Read it at the Daily Beast.
In my latest essay for the Federalist, I indict American feminists for their obsession with petty, frivolous issues, and their indifference in the face of real women’s suffering in America, and around the world.
One of the few insights from Karl Marx still relevant is the need for international solidarity among oppressed people. If American women truly believed they were oppressed, they would have all the more reason to zealously advocate for the liberation of their African and Asian sisters, but instead they will obliviously protest that the existence of suffering elsewhere is no reason not to focus on making improvements here, no matter how marginal those improvements seem. The defense proves hollow when American feminists refuse to even come to the aid of fellow Americans, whether they are the impoverished immigrants suffering under the cruelty of Islamic insanity, or the working-class women of the military, who too often encounter an institution more worried about public relations than justice for rape victims. In an irony invisible to the Left, American feminism has become an elitist expression of upper-class concerns. Highly educated and paid women endlessly describe their own inconveniences, while ignoring the legitimate suffering of the poor, in foreign countries and their own cities.
Read the rest at the Federalist.
After the sad death of soul legend, and rhythm and blues, funk master Bobby Womack, I immediately wrote a tribute. Not only was Womack one of my favorite singers, he was also a passionate and powerful advocate for mutual pleasure – sexual democracy – in romance.
Unlike rap and unlike rock ‘n’ roll, but very much like the tradition of soul that formed Womack in the womb of musical greatness, his sexual testimony is one of mutual pleasure. It is an expression of masculinity that gains lasting, body-aching, and spirit-raising pleasure only if the man is comfortable and confident in the assuredness of giving a woman pleasure.
Read the rest of the essay at the Daily Beast.
Bloomsbury Publishers recently announced that they will publish my book on Metallica’s self-titled record, more commonly known as The Black Album, as part of its much celebrated and acclaimed 33 1/3 series.
For the book, I have already interviewed the principal players in the making of the album, including current members of Metallica – James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Kirk Hammett, former bassist Jason Newsted, and Metallica’s former producer, Bob Rock.
The book is a must read for Metallica, metal, and hard rock fans, as I will give up close and personal details, received personally from the band, into the making of The Black Album, and I will examine the importance of Metallica’s music, along with the philosophical depth it possesses.
For more information read the official announcement at the 33 1/3 page.
In my latest essay for Splice Today, I examine the recent revelations of the media’s obsequious devotion to the Obama administration, and consider the troublesome implications for free speech, journalism, and the keeping of an informed public.
In my latest essay for the Federalist, I take a look at the controversy surrounding outed bigot Donald Sterling. Rather than indulging in the easy sanctimony of condemning a bigot who deserves condemnation, I also express fear, worry, and anger over how American society is losing its regard for the expectation of privacy, and for a culture that not only allow, but promotes and protects, free speech. We are now living under the rule of the social media mob, and it doesn’t look pretty.
In my newest essay at the Daily Beast, I expose the arrogant conceit of “data” and “explanatory” journalists, especially Ezra Klein, who believe they transcend ideology by merely reporting statistical facts. I call on the literary journalism tradition to accomplish this task, showing how Twain, Hemingway, Mailer, Didion, David Foster Wallace, Tom Wolfe, and others, demolished the delusional narcissism of conventional journalists, like Klein, many years ago.
I also show how “data journalism” is part of a larger American trend of moving everything toward the machine. Technology is the new master, and young Americans approach it on their knees, hands folded, prepare to make any sacrifice. In the essay, I make the point that a literary journalism startup is what the culture desperately needs.
Since the Daily Beast published the essay, I’ve noticed a pattern in the responses I’ve received. Most middle aged readers understand the points I’m making clearly, while young readers can’t even begin to comprehend them.
It reminds me of an experience I recently had at a Gov’t Mule show in Chicago. The crowd was about an equal mix of millennials and silver pony tailed boomers. The silvery pony tails watched the show enthusiastically, enjoying the music, closely paying attention to the musicians, and reacting with excitement. The young fans held their “smart” phones up the entire time, pathetically trying to document different parts of the performance, I assume, for sharing on social media.
There’s more to life than machines, regardless of the benefits they bring. That goes for concerts and it goes for journalism.