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Henry Rollins - here's a discussion that could go many ways
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Marcus Forealius



Joined: 31 Jan 2005
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As someone I held in fairly high regard as a teenager, I've grown increasingly disappointed with Rollins over the years.

These absurd rants of his, and the way he confronted the people in the record store just continue to damage the nostalgia I've held onto. I will just rise above it and appreciate the musical doors that Black Flag opened for me, though.
Post Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:51 pm
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the mean
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What amazing here, is that no matter what Rollins does, he will not sully the Black Flag legacy as much as Greg Ginn has.
Post Tue Dec 14, 2010 10:42 pm
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FranktheP



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Just read today that Rollins once produced an album by Charles Manson back in his Black Flag/SST days. They did not put it out due to death threats that they received about it. 5 test pressings exist with Rollins having two of them.
Post Sat Dec 18, 2010 1:06 pm
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Plum Puddin'



Joined: 26 May 2008
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FranktheP wrote:
Just read today that Rollins once produced an album by Charles Manson back in his Black Flag/SST days. They did not put it out due to death threats that they received about it. 5 test pressings exist with Rollins having two of them.


Post Sat Dec 18, 2010 6:22 pm
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
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I read a lot of the Henry Rollins tour/travel diaries, having started with audiobook copies of Black Coffee Blues in 2000 or so. I knew him more from appearances on/around 120 Minutes than anything else, had never heard Black Flag or owned a Rollins album.

My impression of the man is that he is someone who was never really at ease with the idea of celebrity or fame, came up in a musical subculture where audiences had an extremely proprietary attitude about the bands they supported, and still cares deeply about those roots even though he and his peers have chafed heavily under the expectations that came out of the scene. In his writing he mostly comes off as a humble guy who feels awed and blessed by the experiences he's had by working on the road for nearly 3 decades, but he also comes off as a person who takes the world and himself too seriously, carries around a lot of anger, has an extremely hard time trusting people or assuming good faith in strangers, has never really fully come to grips with his friend Joe Cole's murder, has probably struggled with depression off and on throughout his entire life, and frequently retreats into faux-ironic self-deprecation as a way of confronting a lot of this.

I guess I think "painfully earnest" is the phrase I'm looking for. It's who Rollins is by default, and I think that when circumstances pull him out of that mode, his gut instinct is to make it ugly and awkward for everyone. "You're not going to take me seriously, so I'm not going to play your little game either."

The eggs getting thrown at him in this thread are mostly his just desserts for committing the Fallacy of Serious Business on camera at more than one point in his life, but at the same time I have a hard time getting on board with anything being said about him here. There's a lot of truth in that dude's writing and a lot to be admired about his lifestyle and his worldview. Not to say that he's a saint, or that he should be beyond ridicule, or anything like that: just that he's made a concerted effort in his life to be serious and forthright, and to expand his personal boundaries. He's also chosen to do all of this in a fairly public way.

Stepping over the line into embarrassing cliche is just a basic occupational hazard for a guy like that. I guess I just feel like participating in the lulz when it happens would be setting the bar way too low; this thread actually reminds me a little bit of all the times Trav would randomly decide to call out Jared Paul, and also of what it might have been like to spend a day in Taylor Mali's shoes in the years immediately following the release of SlamNation. I have generally stayed out of the juggalo threads here for a similar reason.

Look at you, carin' about stuff! Haha, what a tool!
Post Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:22 am
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Mark in Minnesota



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Also: I think I believe that Charles Manson thing. I've been reading Get in the Van on Kindle and one of the Black Flag flyers in it reminded me of Manson immediately earlier tonight, before I'd read the last couple pages of this thread.

Post Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:29 am
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TurnpikeGates



Joined: 30 Jun 2003
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Mark in Minnesota wrote:


Look at you, carin' about stuff! Haha, what a tool!


This is the conclusion I might come to if I hadn't actually read the entire thread. Being earnest and going out of your way to jump down the throats of a group of basically harmless hipsters are two different things.
Maybe some people are clowning dude for his heart-on-sleeve, but I'm a direct product of the subculture with that "proprietary attitude" (not a bad encapsulation of that part of the punk ethos, btw), and I'm criticizing him, not for caring too much, but for being hopelessly paranoid, and misdirected in his anger. Not to mention the way he uses that woman as a faux-political armor for his insecurities. Lame.

Honestly, I never got too into Black Flag, or Rollins, and I'm not judging his entire output-- but those couple videos there document a foolishly self-serious guy.
Post Sun Dec 19, 2010 3:40 am
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GrantherBirdly
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Not sure this is germane to the topic at hand (as I haven't read the whole thread), but Dave Eggers drops some knowledge on the topic of selling out in this interview with the Harvard Advocate.

Here is the initial question:

There is talk afoot in the land, Dave, that McSweeney's, content-wise, no longer differs much from smart journals like Conjunctions or Epoch.
Even from The New Yorker, for that matter. Which is not to imply that, were The Harvard Advocate to receive a story from George Saunders, we would put our street cred above our commitment to excellence, a commitment from which we have not wavered in over 130 years of excellence. But still: are you concerned that you're not publishing as many unknowns as you had been? And killed pieces? Are you taking any steps-are there any steps to be taken-to keep shit real?




Here is his response:


First, a primer: When I got your questions, I was provoked. You expressed many of the feelings I used to have, when I was in high school and college, about some of the people I admired at the time, people who at some point disappointed me in some way, or made moves I could not understand. So I took a few passages from your questions - those pertaining to or hinting at "selling out" - and I used them as a launching pad for a rant I've wanted to write for a while now, and more so than ever since my own book has become successful. And the rant was timely, because shortly after getting your questions, I was scheduled to speak at Yale, and so, assuming that their minds might be in a similar spot as yours, I read this, the below, to them, in slightly less polished form. The rant is directed to myself, age 20, as much as it is to you, so remember that if you ever want to take much offense.

----

You actually asked me the question: "Are you taking any steps to keep shit real?" I want you always to look back on this time as being a time when those words came out of your mouth.

Now, there was a time when such a question - albeit probably without the colloquial spin - would have originated from my own brain. Since I was thirteen, sitting in my orange-carpeted bedroom in ostensibly cutting-edge Lake Forest, Illinois, subscribing to the Village Voice and reading the earliest issues of Spin, I thought I had my ear to the railroad tracks of avant garde America. (Laurie Anderson, for example, had grown up only miles away!) I was always monitoring, with the most sensitive and well-calibrated apparatus, the degree of selloutitude exemplified by any given artist - musical, visual, theatrical, whatever. I was vigilant and merciless and knew it was my job to be so.

I bought R.E.M.'s first EP, Chronic Town, when it came out and thought I had found God. I loved Murmur, Reckoning, but then watched, with greater and greater dismay, as this obscure little band's audience grew, grew beyond obsessed people like myself, grew to encompass casual fans, people who had heard a song on the radio and picked up Green and listened for the hits. Old people liked them, and stupid people, and my moron neighbor who had sex with truck drivers. I wanted these phony R.E.M.-lovers dead.

But it was the band's fault, too. They played on Letterman. They switched record labels. Even their album covers seemed progressively more commercial. And when everyone I knew began liking them, I stopped. Had they changed, had their commitment to making art with integrity changed? I didn't care, because for me, any sort of popularity had an inverse relationship with what you term the keeping 'real' of 'shit.' When the Smiths became slightly popular they were sellouts. Bob Dylan appeared on MTV and of course was a sellout. Recently, just at dinner tonight, after a huge, sold-out reading by David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell (both sellouts), I was sitting next to an acquaintance, a very smart acquaintance married to the singer-songwriter of a very well-known band. I mentioned that I had seen the Flaming Lips the night before. She rolled her eyes. "Oh I really liked them on 90210," she sneered, assuming that this would put me and the band in our respective places.

However.

Was she aware that The Flaming Lips had composed an album requiring the simultaneous playing of four separate discs, on four separate CD players? Was she aware that the band had once, for a show at Lincoln Center, handed out to audience members something like 100 portable tape players, with 100 different tapes, and had them all played at the same time, creating a symphonic sort of effect, one which completely devastated everyone in attendance? I went on and on to her about the band's accomplishments, their experiments. Was she convinced that they were more than their one appearance with Jason Priestly? She was.

Now, at that concert the night before, Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, had himself addressed this issue, and to great effect. After playing much of their new album, the band paused and he spoke to the audience. I will paraphrase what he said:

"Hi. Well, some people get all bitter when some song of theirs gets popular, and they refuse to play it. But we're not like that. We're happy that people like this song. So here it goes."

Then they played the song. (You know the song.) "She Don't Use Jelly" is the song, and it is a silly song, and it was their most popular song. But to highlight their enthusiasm for playing the song, the band released, from the stage and from the balconies, about 200 balloons. (Some of the balloons, it should be noted, were released by two grown men in bunny suits.) Then while playing the song, Wayne sang with a puppet on his hand, who also sang into the microphone. It was fun. It was good.

But was it a sellout? Probably. By some standards, yes. Can a good band play their hit song? Should we hate them for this? Probably, probably. First 90210, now they go playing the song every stupid night. Everyone knows that 90210 is not cutting edge, and that a cutting edge alternarock band should not appear on such a show. That rule is clearly stated in the obligatory engrained computer-chip sellout manual that we were all given when we hit adolescence.

But this sellout manual serves only the lazy and small. Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us - a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed - as he or she should be - with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day - it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend - and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories.

Through largely received wisdom, we rule out Tom Waits's new album because it's the same old same old, and we save $15. U2 has lost it, Radiohead is too popular. Country music is bad, Puff Daddy is bad, the last Wallace book was bad because that one reviewer said so. We decide that TV is bad unless it's the Sopranos. We liked Rick Moody and Jonathan Lethem and Jeffrey Eugenides until they allowed their books to become movies. And on and on. The point is that we do this and to a certain extent we must do this. We must create categories, and to an extent, hierarchies.

But you know what is easiest of all? When we dismiss.

Oh how gloriously comforting, to be able to write someone off. Thus, in the overcrowded pantheon of alternarock bands, at a certain juncture, it became necessary for a certain brand of person to write off The Flaming Lips, despite the fact that everyone knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their music was superb and groundbreaking and real. We could write them off because they shared a few minutes with Jason Priestley and that terrifying Tori Spelling person. Or we could write them off because too many magazines have talked about them. Or because it looked like the bassist was wearing too much gel in his hair.

One less thing to think about. Now, how to kill off the rest of our heroes, to better make room for new ones?

We liked Guided by Voices until they let Ric Ocasek produce their latest album, and everyone knows Ocasek is a sellout, having written those mushy Cars songs in the late 80s, and then - gasp! - produced Weezer's album, and of course Weezer's no good, because that Sweater song was on the radio, right, and dorky teenage girls were singing it and we cannot have that and so Weezer is bad and Ocasek is bad and Guided by Voices are bad, even if Spike Jonze did direct that one Weezer video, and we like Spike Jonze, don't we?

Oh. No. We don't. We don't like him anymore because he's married to Sofia Coppola, and she is not cool. Not cool. So bad in Godfather 3, such nepotism. So let's check off Spike Jonze - leaving room in our brains for… who??

It's exhausting.

The only thing worse than this sort of activity is when people, students and teachers alike, run around college campuses calling each other racists and anti-Semites. It's born of boredom, lassitude. Too cowardly to address problems of substance where such problems actually are, we claw at those close to us. We point to our neighbor, in the khakis and sweater, and cry foul. It's ridiculous. We find enemies among our peers because we know them better, and their proximity and familiarity means we don't have to get off the couch to dismantle them.

And now, I am also a sellout. Here are my sins, many of which you may know about already:

First, I was a sellout because Might magazine took ads.
Then I was a sellout because our pages were color, and not stapled together at the Kinko's.
Then I was a sellout because I went to work for Esquire.
Now I'm a sellout because my book has sold many copies.
And because I have done many interviews.
And because I have let people take my picture.
And because my goddamn picture has been in just about every fucking magazine and newspaper printed in America.

And now, as far as McSweeney's is concerned, The Advocate interviewer wants to know if we're losing also our edge, if the magazine is selling out, hitting the mainstream, if we're still committed to publishing unknowns, and pieces killed by other magazines.

And the fact is, I don't give a fuck. When we did the last issue, this was my thought process: I saw a box. So I decided we'd do a box. We were given stories by some of our favorite writers - George Saunders, Rick Moody (who is uncool, uncool!), Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, others - and so we published them. Did I wonder if people would think we were selling out, that we were not fulfilling the mission they had assumed we had committed ourselves to?

No. I did not. Nor will I ever. We just don't care. We care about doing what we want to do creatively. We want to be interested in it. We want it to challenge us. We want it to be difficult. We want to reinvent the stupid thing every time. Would I ever think, before I did something, of how those with sellout monitors would respond to this or that move? I would not. The second I sense a thought like that trickling into my brain, I will put my head under the tires of a bus.

You want to know how big a sellout I am?

A few months ago I wrote an article for Time magazine and was paid $12,000 for it I am about to write something, 1,000 words, 3 pages or so, for something called Forbes ASAP, and for that I will be paid $6,000 For two years, until five months ago, I was on the payroll of ESPN magazine, as a consultant and sometime contributor. I was paid handsomely for doing very little. Same with my stint at Esquire. One year I spent there, with little to no duties. I wore khakis every day. Another Might editor and I, for almost a year, contributed to Details magazine, under pseudonyms, and were paid $2000 each for what never amounted to more than 10 minutes work - honestly never more than that. People from Hollywood want to make my book into a movie, and I am probably going to let them do so, and they will likely pay me a great deal of money for the privilege.

Do I care about this money? I do. Will I keep this money? Very little of it. Within the year I will have given away almost a million dollars to about 100 charities and individuals, benefiting everything from hospice care to an artist who makes sculptures from Burger King bags. And the rest will be going into publishing books through McSweeney's. Would I have been able to publish McSweeney's if I had not worked at Esquire? Probably not. Where is the $6000 from Forbes going? To a guy named Joe Polevy, who wants to write a book about the effects of radiator noise on children in New England.

Now, what if I were keeping all the money? What if I were buying property in St. Kitt's or blew it all on live-in prostitutes? What if, for example, I was, a few nights ago, sitting at a table in SoHo with a bunch of Hollywood slash celebrity acquaintances, one of whom I went to high school with, and one of whom was Puff Daddy? Would that make me a sellout? Would that mean I was a force of evil?

What if a few nights before that I was at the home of Julian Schnabel, at a party featuring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, and at which Schnabel said we should get together to talk about him possibly directing my movie? And what if I said sure, let's?

Would all that make me a sellout? Would I be uncool? Would it have been more cool to not go to this party, or to not have written that book, or done that interview, or to have refused millions from Hollywood?

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it's corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I'll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no's you've said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one's life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one's collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit 'real' except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It's fashion, and I don't like fashion, because fashion does not matter.

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips's new album is ravishing and I've listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who's up and who's down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things. I say yes when my high school friend tells me to come out because he's hanging with Puffy. A real story, that. I say yes when Hollywood says they'll give me enough money to publish a hundred different books, or send twenty kids through college. Saying no is so fucking boring.

And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally.
Post Sun Dec 19, 2010 9:46 am
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 2019
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
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TurnpikeGates wrote:
Mark in Minnesota wrote:


Look at you, carin' about stuff! Haha, what a tool!


I'm criticizing him ... for being hopelessly paranoid, and misdirected in his anger. Not to mention the way he uses that woman as a faux-political armor for his insecurities. Lame.

... those couple videos there document a foolishly self-serious guy.


And I'm saying you might as well spend your time making fun of Juggalos who are fat, trashy, and ridiculous. The defects of character you're faulting Rollins for having are all a direct outcome of having taken the personal and professional direction he's chosen to take.

As an IT professional, I pretty much constantly rail on my peers to focus their optimization and debugging attention on the "good path" -- on what's going on during a transaction (be it a simple one like filesystem I/O or a relatively complex one like check-out of a localized/internationalized shopping cart on a multitenant e-commerce site) when that transaction is still driving toward your desired outcome. The only optimization that we need to care about for things that have dropped onto the "bad path" is a property called "fail fast". Once you've realized you have to abandon the good path for the bad one, the important thing is to abandon it quickly and completely. This isn't just about not wasting excessive amounts of engineering on stuff that only happens along the bad path, it's also about preserving the integrity of the transactions happening along the good path, and focusing your engineering efforts on keeping those transactions valuable and performant.

Rollins reminds me of that design ethic in a lot of ways: First, the stuff he's doing when he's on his good path is pretty cool and enriching to know about. Second, the stuff he's doing when he's decided to move off onto the bad path is incredibly ugly and awkward. Third, when he moves onto the bad path he does it with a specific kind of finality.

Everything he's being criticized for here is stuff that's happened after he's already been given cause to believe he's left the good path.

His time with that nice lady in that cool record store was designed to talk about, what, exactly? Definitely not his notoriety with young people in the record store; probably to document a conversation he wanted to have with that nice lady about the kinds of music he likes to play on his radio show, or the kinds of music other people in his professional subculture have turned him onto on the road over the years. Once he got off that good path, he was off it. I don't want to spent a lot of time talking about what the bad path looked like.

His interview with that kid from Michigan? The kid's first lead-off question was a question that (at least according to Get in the Van) was often prelude to a lot of accusations about selling out, abandoning the scene that made them popular, etc. Rollins was focused, in interviews, on getting people to come out to the shows. When interviews went in a direction where it was clear that the interviewer was not interested in getting people out to the shows, he was off the good path. I don't want to give a lot of time to dissecting what happened next.

Presumably Rollins had consented to being interviewed by Nardwuar for a similar reason: To promote shows he was doing in Canada. Once it became apparent that he wasn't talking to someone who wasn't interested letting the interview be steered in that direction, he was on the bad path. You know what I'm gonna say.

...

Engineer friends of mine would probably look at this analogy and tell me that fail-fast doesn't mean you can't also try to be fault tolerant. It's a fair criticism; maybe Henry Rollins does lose his shit too quickly when he's confronted with the suspicion that he is being unfairly made fun of. But even though it's a fair criticism, it doesn't really affect my thinking on these situations. People see that a musician or writer I like is in town to do a signing; or they go to music shows with me, and see the rapper hanging out afterward talking to his fans. These people are surprised when I don't want to participate, meet these people whose music and writing I like. I'm the same way about reading their press interviews sometimes, or about watching candid footage of them on the Internet. I'm cautious about these things because I don't necessarily want to damage the mystique I have built up around these people. I'm afraid that coming to know the man, even a little bit, will make me see his art differently.

Which is really my point, I guess. None of the things he's being criticized for here really reflect that much on what he's about, professionally speaking; just on how he behaves when he gets dragged out of that context. Being fascinated by that seems a lot like watching porno and being really excited and interested when a boom mic briefly dangles into the shot.
Post Sun Dec 19, 2010 10:59 am
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TurnpikeGates



Joined: 30 Jun 2003
Posts: 517
Location: Bay Area
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Mark in Minnesota wrote:
TurnpikeGates wrote:
Mark in Minnesota wrote:


Look at you, carin' about stuff! Haha, what a tool!


I'm criticizing him ... for being hopelessly paranoid, and misdirected in his anger. Not to mention the way he uses that woman as a faux-political armor for his insecurities. Lame.

... those couple videos there document a foolishly self-serious guy.


And I'm saying you might as well spend your time making fun of Juggalos who are fat, trashy, and ridiculous. The defects of character you're faulting Rollins for having are all a direct outcome of having taken the personal and professional direction he's chosen to take.

As an IT professional, I pretty much constantly rail on my peers to focus their optimization and debugging attention on the "good path" -- on what's going on during a transaction (be it a simple one like filesystem I/O or a relatively complex one like check-out of a localized/internationalized shopping cart on a multitenant e-commerce site) when that transaction is still driving toward your desired outcome. The only optimization that we need to care about for things that have dropped onto the "bad path" is a property called "fail fast". Once you've realized you have to abandon the good path for the bad one, the important thing is to abandon it quickly and completely. This isn't just about not wasting excessive amounts of engineering on stuff that only happens along the bad path, it's also about preserving the integrity of the transactions happening along the good path, and focusing your engineering efforts on keeping those transactions valuable and performant.

Rollins reminds me of that design ethic in a lot of ways: First, the stuff he's doing when he's on his good path is pretty cool and enriching to know about. Second, the stuff he's doing when he's decided to move off onto the bad path is incredibly ugly and awkward. Third, when he moves onto the bad path he does it with a specific kind of finality.

Everything he's being criticized for here is stuff that's happened after he's already been given cause to believe he's left the good path.

His time with that nice lady in that cool record store was designed to talk about, what, exactly? Definitely not his notoriety with young people in the record store; probably to document a conversation he wanted to have with that nice lady about the kinds of music he likes to play on his radio show, or the kinds of music other people in his professional subculture have turned him onto on the road over the years. Once he got off that good path, he was off it. I don't want to spent a lot of time talking about what the bad path looked like.

His interview with that kid from Michigan? The kid's first lead-off question was a question that (at least according to Get in the Van) was often prelude to a lot of accusations about selling out, abandoning the scene that made them popular, etc. Rollins was focused, in interviews, on getting people to come out to the shows. When interviews went in a direction where it was clear that the interviewer was not interested in getting people out to the shows, he was off the good path. I don't want to give a lot of time to dissecting what happened next.

Presumably Rollins had consented to being interviewed by Nardwuar for a similar reason: To promote shows he was doing in Canada. Once it became apparent that he wasn't talking to someone who wasn't interested letting the interview be steered in that direction, he was on the bad path. You know what I'm gonna say.

...

Engineer friends of mine would probably look at this analogy and tell me that fail-fast doesn't mean you can't also try to be fault tolerant. It's a fair criticism; maybe Henry Rollins does lose his shit too quickly when he's confronted with the suspicion that he is being unfairly made fun of. But even though it's a fair criticism, it doesn't really affect my thinking on these situations. People see that a musician or writer I like is in town to do a signing; or they go to music shows with me, and see the rapper hanging out afterward talking to his fans. These people are surprised when I don't want to participate, meet these people whose music and writing I like. I'm the same way about reading their press interviews sometimes, or about watching candid footage of them on the Internet. I'm cautious about these things because I don't necessarily want to damage the mystique I have built up around these people. I'm afraid that coming to know the man, even a little bit, will make me see his art differently.

Which is really my point, I guess. None of the things he's being criticized for here really reflect that much on what he's about, professionally speaking; just on how he behaves when he gets dragged out of that context. Being fascinated by that seems a lot like watching porno and being really excited and interested when a boom mic briefly dangles into the shot.


You spend a lot of time talking about why it doesn't matter whether he was being a dick or not, but no time discussing whether, in fact, he was being a dick or not.

That's all this is about. It's kind of the opening question of this thread.

Look at this footage. Is this someone being a dick?

My answer: yes.

Responding, "It doesn't matter whether he's being a dick," or "He's only being a dick because..." can be an interesting tangent to the question at hand. But it doesn't go any way toward the answer.

The "fail fast" analogy is a pretty good one, and it probably explains the behavior. Dude commits, immediately. He doesn't want to spend any time trying to understand a situation that he has already determined is bad news.

Honestly, just like you, most of in the thread probably don't really give a shit about Henry's personal life. However, trying to preserve the mystique is a conscious decision, and one many people have no interest in. There's the "art-in-itself" and there's art in its human context. Some people want one or the other, and some people want both.

It seems like your ultimate conclusion is "Should we really sit around discussing a bunch of celebrity gossip?" Well, no. But here we are.
Post Sun Dec 19, 2010 5:48 pm
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Buddy Peace



Joined: 21 Jul 2002
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FranktheP wrote:
Just read today that Rollins once produced an album by Charles Manson back in his Black Flag/SST days. They did not put it out due to death threats that they received about it. 5 test pressings exist with Rollins having two of them.


I rock doubles of that shit.
Post Mon Dec 20, 2010 7:01 am
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the mean
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To continue on a tangent - a friend of mine just released a new Charles Manson album:

http://www.magicbulletrecords.com/site/discography/mbl138/
Post Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:28 am
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Sage Francis
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Buddy Peace wrote:
FranktheP wrote:
Just read today that Rollins once produced an album by Charles Manson back in his Black Flag/SST days. They did not put it out due to death threats that they received about it. 5 test pressings exist with Rollins having two of them.


I rock doubles of that shit.


trill
Post Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:05 am
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Mark in Minnesota



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TurnpikeGates wrote:
It seems like your ultimate conclusion is "Should we really sit around discussing a bunch of celebrity gossip?" Well, no. But here we are.


I think my conclusion is more nuanced than that. Of course from time to time we're going to engage in conversations like this; I'm not even really saying that we shouldn't -- just that when we do, we should try to reserve our contempt for people who are behaving in a way that reinforces an otherwise contemptible character, or in a way that contradicts an otherwise admirable one.

This is a scenario where the behavior we want to knock is a direct outgrowth of a worldview that we otherwise admire for its positive outcomes. In my mind these are the flaws we ought make a specific effort to at least dismiss, if not forgive entirely. The Henry Rollins that was more cavalier and thick-skinned about this kind of stuff wouldn't write the way he writes, or see the world the way he sees it.
Post Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:17 pm
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Dr Sagacious



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Mark in Minnesota wrote:
TurnpikeGates wrote:
Mark in Minnesota wrote:


Look at you, carin' about stuff! Haha, what a tool!


I'm criticizing him ... for being hopelessly paranoid, and misdirected in his anger. Not to mention the way he uses that woman as a faux-political armor for his insecurities. Lame.

... those couple videos there document a foolishly self-serious guy.


And I'm saying you might as well spend your time making fun of Juggalos who are fat, trashy, and ridiculous. The defects of character you're faulting Rollins for having are all a direct outcome of having taken the personal and professional direction he's chosen to take.

As an IT professional, I pretty much constantly rail on my peers to focus their optimization and debugging attention on the "good path" -- on what's going on during a transaction (be it a simple one like filesystem I/O or a relatively complex one like check-out of a localized/internationalized shopping cart on a multitenant e-commerce site) when that transaction is still driving toward your desired outcome. The only optimization that we need to care about for things that have dropped onto the "bad path" is a property called "fail fast". Once you've realized you have to abandon the good path for the bad one, the important thing is to abandon it quickly and completely. This isn't just about not wasting excessive amounts of engineering on stuff that only happens along the bad path, it's also about preserving the integrity of the transactions happening along the good path, and focusing your engineering efforts on keeping those transactions valuable and performant.

Rollins reminds me of that design ethic in a lot of ways: First, the stuff he's doing when he's on his good path is pretty cool and enriching to know about. Second, the stuff he's doing when he's decided to move off onto the bad path is incredibly ugly and awkward. Third, when he moves onto the bad path he does it with a specific kind of finality.

Everything he's being criticized for here is stuff that's happened after he's already been given cause to believe he's left the good path.

His time with that nice lady in that cool record store was designed to talk about, what, exactly? Definitely not his notoriety with young people in the record store; probably to document a conversation he wanted to have with that nice lady about the kinds of music he likes to play on his radio show, or the kinds of music other people in his professional subculture have turned him onto on the road over the years. Once he got off that good path, he was off it. I don't want to spent a lot of time talking about what the bad path looked like.

His interview with that kid from Michigan? The kid's first lead-off question was a question that (at least according to Get in the Van) was often prelude to a lot of accusations about selling out, abandoning the scene that made them popular, etc. Rollins was focused, in interviews, on getting people to come out to the shows. When interviews went in a direction where it was clear that the interviewer was not interested in getting people out to the shows, he was off the good path. I don't want to give a lot of time to dissecting what happened next.

Presumably Rollins had consented to being interviewed by Nardwuar for a similar reason: To promote shows he was doing in Canada. Once it became apparent that he wasn't talking to someone who wasn't interested letting the interview be steered in that direction, he was on the bad path. You know what I'm gonna say.

...

Engineer friends of mine would probably look at this analogy and tell me that fail-fast doesn't mean you can't also try to be fault tolerant. It's a fair criticism; maybe Henry Rollins does lose his shit too quickly when he's confronted with the suspicion that he is being unfairly made fun of. But even though it's a fair criticism, it doesn't really affect my thinking on these situations. People see that a musician or writer I like is in town to do a signing; or they go to music shows with me, and see the rapper hanging out afterward talking to his fans. These people are surprised when I don't want to participate, meet these people whose music and writing I like. I'm the same way about reading their press interviews sometimes, or about watching candid footage of them on the Internet. I'm cautious about these things because I don't necessarily want to damage the mystique I have built up around these people. I'm afraid that coming to know the man, even a little bit, will make me see his art differently.

Which is really my point, I guess. None of the things he's being criticized for here really reflect that much on what he's about, professionally speaking; just on how he behaves when he gets dragged out of that context. Being fascinated by that seems a lot like watching porno and being really excited and interested when a boom mic briefly dangles into the shot.


I think if you substitute every mention of Rollins with Kanye West, you can still land on the same conclusion. I have absolutely no fucking care what Rollins says outside of his art, I don't want to get to know him, nor will I ever want to. Same thing with Mel Gibson; a lot of his movies are quality (albeit, not masterpieces), but obviously he's a terrible person. There is a line you need to draw, of course, when it comes to extremities. And it's not to say that Mel Gibson shouldn't be punished for hitting his spouse or flying off the handle at people too many times, but I don't think his art should be dismissed because of it.

I don't like any of Rollins music, so it's quite easy for me to dismiss the guy as a whole. But, lately, I've been growing tired of biting at flaws that I would make up or would hear but not fully understand. The departure from that "Independent-Only" mentality is most assuredly due to me making music, and realizing how hard it can be.

Art's a bitch, man.
Post Tue Dec 21, 2010 2:15 am
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