Update on Life, International Relations and the American Boycott

This is the pre-brutal-summer look.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my real life, and since my daily experience influences my perception about music, I thought I’d give a brief summary of goings-on and announce a few changes in blog content for 2020.

It’s been one hell of a year.

Dad’s Surprise

One common characteristic my family members share is phenomenally low blood pressure. I usually clock in at about 95/61; maman 98/70 and dad averages about 105/75 (please note that the person with the highest blood pressure is a non-smoker).

So it was a great surprise when Dad went to the doctor for shoulder and back pain only to learn that his blood pressure had risen to 180/110.

The doctor was puzzled herself, as Dad had led her down the path of looking for some kind of muscular tear or tendon snap. He insisted that the pain started after he’d been doing some remodeling work and twisted his upper torso trying to align a drainpipe. Based on that lead, the doctor ordered up some x-rays but found nothing wrong with his shoulder. Because Dad had described the pain as shooting pain, the doctor wondered if Dad had just happened to schedule his doctor’s visit on the day he was planning to have a heart attack.

I could have told her that was impossible because (as I have mentioned many times before) my father is the unluckiest person in the universe. My dad would have been the first astronaut to have a heart attack, and he would have had that heart attack while orbiting the far side of the moon, out of touch with and as far away from Mission Control as you can get.

The mystery was quickly solved when the doctor looked at his back and discovered a sea of red blotches on the upper right side of his back. “Ah, vouz avez un zona,” she told him. Dad got “vous” and “avez” but hadn’t heard the word “zona,” so he asked for a translation. “You have the shingles,” she explained. The medical team hooked him up and started dripping antivirus medication to attack the shingles and painkillers to try to get his blood pressure down. Because his blood pressure wasn’t coming down fast enough for the doctors, they gave him the gift of an overnight stay in the local hospital.

Once dad had the diagnosis and was stretched out on a hospital bed, he admitted that he was in much more pain than he let on. “Imagine a spiked python wrapped around your chest—that’s what it felt like.” He only stayed one night (total bill for all charges = 145 euro), but the experience triggered thoughts of mortality, and people do get weirdly sentimental when they think they’re about to croak. In Dad’s case, he expressed a strong wish to spend his waning years in the home country—not the States (shit, he wasn’t delirious), but the Emerald Isle.

At the time, maman and were united in our response: “No fuckin’ way, dude!” Although they’ve recently loosened up a bit on same-sex marriage and abortion, Ireland is still a very Catholic place—and on my many trips to Ireland over the years, that presence has given me the creeps.

As it turned out, I wound up spending half the summer in Ireland and loved it.

Climate Change

For as long as I can remember, the weather in Nice was pleasantly predictable, the kind of temperate Mediterranean climate that avoids extremes. The climate has changed noticeably over the past three years with brutal, humid summers and torrential rains in the winter months. Last summer it was so bad I couldn’t stand it anymore and my partner and I temporarily moved our base of operations to Ireland (Skerries, to be exact).

It was rainy, foggy, drizzly, cold and gray—completely delightful. We could fuck in leather again without sweating like footballers.

The weather in Ireland is closer to the weather I grew up with in San Francisco, so that aspect of Ireland is very appealing. Although I still have serious reservations about making the move, I’m more open to the possibility now, because there are few things I loathe more than hot weather. We’re going to wait and see how the Brexit thing plays out, as it is expected to have a pretty significant impact on Ireland, depending on the fine print in the final deal.

Here’s the summer cut after going stark raving mad in the heat and humidity. The sweater should tell you that I had escaped to cold, drizzly, heavenly Ireland.

Brexit, Boycotts and the Blog

I’m almost as pissed off about Brexit as I was about Trump, but it looks like Boris, Putin and the racist rich will get their way and the UK will leave the EU.

I thought briefly of a British Boycott, but the consequences would be staggering. Though I could switch to writing reviews in French tomorrow, the demand for rock reviews in French is close to zero. No matter what their native language, countries outside of the United States are more likely to embrace multilingualism, so producing reviews in English is essential to the blog’s survival. And despite the American Boycott, my audience is still overwhelmingly American. Here are the top visitors by country:

United States 62.85%
United Kingdom 12.40%
Canada 7.13%
Australia 3.60%
France 2.90%
Germany 2.66%
Brazil 1.98%
Italy 1.93%
Netherlands 1.67%
Spain 1.47%
Argentina 1.41%

In case you’re wondering, Ireland came in at #17, probably because I refuse to review U2 records.

Although I love to write about non-Western music, my reviews that involve lyrics in languages other than English are among my least-read reviews. The bottom line is if I were to boycott both the Americans and the British, my playing field would shrink like a dick on a cold winter’s day.

And I have to admit that I’m very frustrated with the American Boycott because there is a lot of great American music I want to cover—especially jazz. So, though I had very good reasons for implementing the boycott (such as preserving my mental health), I have to admit that the reason I found the actions of Trump and the GOP so disturbing is that I didn’t want to believe it was happening. I have now come to accept that the United States government is a racist, misogynistic, authoritarian, ignorant, fake-Christian criminal enterprise and that the American people either support that enterprise or lack the will and courage to change it (to me, they’re the same thing). That shouldn’t stop me from reviewing artists who have produced great work, especially those who had to surmount endless obstacles because of the color of their skin or lack of a penis. The truth is America has always been a racist, misogynistic country, and many of the great artists from United States possessed the courage to overcome those barriers to realize their artistic visions. Those people should be honored, not boycotted, for they are the real American heroes.

So, I’m lifting the American Boycott as of January 1, 2020, and will continue to cover music from the UK (even if it fractures into something less than a united kingdom).

15 responses

  1. ARC, I am so glad that you’re lifting the boycott; I always thought that, in a way, it was a small victory for He Who Shall Not Be Believed that you stopped reviewing recordings by U.S. artists. Maybe now you can finish reviewing the albums of Phil Ochs, as I am longing to read your reviews of “In Concert”, “Greatest Hits”, “Gunfight At Carnegie Hall”, and especially the fantastic “Tape From California.” Other than “In Concert”, these albums don’t focus exclusively on the political. I learned so much about “Pleasures of the Harbor” and “Rehearsals For Retirement” from your writings, listening to both albums took on a very different dimension afterwards (and to think that the original masters for all of his A&M recordings were destroyed in the 2008 Universal Music Group warehouse fire!). The best of luck to you and your partner if you do decide to relocate to Ireland, and here’s hoping your Dad has recovered.


    1. Tape from California is on the schedule for January 23, and I’ll get to the others you mentioned eventually. I long for the moment when it feels right to review I Ain’t Marching Anymore, but I need more signs of hope in the global sense. Phil’s getting close to a coveted spot on the main menu!


      1. Update: Tape for California moved back to January 30 because I screwed around too much during the holidays.


  2. Keeping a good thought for your dad. And you. And though I can’t speak French, would be VERY interested in reading your thoughts on French rock. Just because it always feels a little… not in on the joke. So to speak.

    And you are Right and Correct that the actions of Trump and the GOP are so disturbing that no decent human could believe it was happening. You are not the only one who has now come to accept that the United States government is a racist, misogynistic, authoritarian, ignorant, fake-Christian criminal enterprise and that the American people either support that enterprise or lack the will and courage to change it (they’re the same thing).


    1. French rock is an oxymoron. There have been a couple of good tunes here and there, but even with those you get the feeling they’re not taking it seriously. The “iconic” French rocker was Johnny Hallyday, a piss-poor imitator at best and a horrid crooner later in his astonishingly successful career. I think Noir Desir had the longest run other than Hallyday; pretty thin soup there. The best French rock I’ve heard comes not from France but from Quebec: check out my review of Anik Jean’s Schizophrène.


  3. Brendan Spaulding | Reply

    I think it’s great that you’re lifting the ban, don’t let trump and the general state of America stop you from exploring jazz! Fuck him. There of course is a good selection of non-American jazz out there, *cough* ethiopiques vol 4 *cough*, but United States jazz is where it’s mostly at, and you shouldn’t let the fat ass take it away from you.

    Coming from a very very strong Irish heritage and identifying as Irish generally (I know it’s usually frowned upon by other countries to consider yourself anything but American if you’ve grown up in the United States. My argument; my mom and everyone else on my moms side of the family grew up there, good luck telling them I’m not Irish, it won’t end well) I understand the love hate relationship with country. Very pretty, most people keep to themselves which is fantastic, but I’ve always felt an odd sense of dread whenever I visit. Also identifying as an atheist never ends well, and I personally hate the overly catholic view over there, it’s almost as bad as the United States.

    Hope your dad continues to stay well, after all I’ve heard about him In your reviews I almost feel an emotional attachment to this man, almost.

    Just a recommendation, if you want the best American artists of the past decade, check out MGMT and guerilla toss. The former is a band that has consistently pushed out some of my favorite albums ever. Congratulations is a masterwork and same goes with their self titled. Although the self titled can be a tough listen, lyrically it’s fantastic and once you get used to the production you’ll notice intricate and brilliant songwriting and even start to look at the random knob twisting they do as not really random at all. Still though, start with congratulations. The latter is just a really fun band. The modern B-52’s if you ask me. Twisted crystal, GT Ultra, and their ep what would the odd do are all really fun projects with a nice energetic and off-beat edge. I’m not asking you to review them soon, or anything I suggest really, but if you want good music to listen to, check them out. Other modern music suggestions (United States or not); Courtney barnett, king gizzard and the lizard wizard, purple mountains, ween, and beck (just don’t listen to becks stuff since his album Midnite vultures, it’s mostly terrible with one exception).

    Anyways, thanks for the blog as always, might be my favorite thing on the internet. Reviewers are always better when they have personality. Even though I don’t know you and don’t know if I’d like to, at least you can write well and listen to interesting music.


    1. Thank you! Very perceptive about Ireland. I think they’re the funniest people in the world and the saddest. Joyce really captured the dichotomy in the Irish soul (as well as the hypocrisy of Irish Catholicism).

      I’m not too familar with MGMT so I’ll have to do the research. An American friend turned me onto Guerilla Toss last year with the album Twisted Crystal—the Devo comparison is apt from a musical perspective but there’s something more . . . meaty about them. I’m very intrigued but need to listen to their whole catalog before taking the leap.

      And yes, there is a lot of great jazz outside of the States, but my goal was to first establish a foundation by reviewing what I consider to be jazz essentials, and most are American. Monk and Mingus are at the top of my list right now.


      1. Brendan Spaulding

        You have a great friend there! And also don’t forget to check out king gizzard. They sound stupid but they have a lot of really fun material (especially nonagon infinity). And I now understand your American jazz sentiments. It’s weird, I mainly listen to American and British music but all the jazz I listen to is anything but. I’ll be excited to follow along with your reviews. Anyways, happy holidays!


  4. (Somewhere: one person shouting – in French – about the ~zero demand for rock reviews, in French.)


  5. “The truth is America has always been a racist, misogynistic country”

    What country hasn’t?


    1. True, but I think I actually believed in MLK’s dream and saw the US the classic beacon of hope.


  6. Christian Brahe-Pedersen | Reply

    Hello…I am new to your blog and only slightly less-new to your writing; I enjoyed your review of Bad Company so much that I had to find out more about the funny chick that wrote it and if she writes other such enjoyable stuff…hence, my landing here.

    I am glad to learn your American boycott (which I obviously missed entirely) is over but would just ask you to consider your rationale for it in the first place. If you are generalizing out of frustration, OK, I get the sentiment; however, I think there is pretty strong evidence that Americans do not simply fall into the two camps you describe (“American people either support that enterprise or lack the will and courage to change it”).

    For starters, the majority of voters chose Her and polls indicate an even larger majority loathes him. If not for the nonsensical Electoral College…but, yes, it is still shocking that so many Americans believed (and continue to believe) he is the answer. Nevertheless, there are a great many of us engaged in trying to correct the entrenched wrongs that resulted in this tragedy, as well as the rising menace of outside actors that seek to exploit our chaos. Now is not the time for the best and brightest (and wittiest?) to abandon ship, to surrender control to neofascist tyrants and the lies being used to sow distrust and division. Now is the time for anyone that actually gives a fuck to resist. Yielding the most powerful country on the planet to easily-manipulated sheeple and the powerful actors that exploit them is not an option that ends well. /steps off podium

    Anyhow, I’ve enjoyed a taste of your writing and look forward to discovering more.


    1. There’s more to the story than just Trump. I left the United States because of the non-reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy a few years before Trump’s emergence, so my deeper disgust with the States has to do with the dominant gun culture. Trump just reaffirmed my feeling that the United States had become a dangerous place for anyone not white, male and heterosexual. Current American values—as manifested in the actions of the American government—are 180 degrees away from mine. And the resistance in the USA has lacked a sense of urgency that I find appalling.

      And hey, we have our own fascist-racists in France to deal with, so I’ve just taken the fight to another venue!


  7. Stay the course .
    Live and write with
    Imagination and intellect
    In the present moment .
    Be hopeful about the future .


    1. Hope can be elusive, but I’m trying!



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