Whose Ordered Plan?




The British say this is a work of madness:

An eccentric architectural plan thought to have been drawn by George III during his period of "madness" has been discovered at the British Library.


It is part of a huge collection of papers put together by the King during his reign from 1760 to 1820.


The loose piece of paper was tucked inside a volume about the Palaces of Hanover in Germany.


The diagram of a building was drawn in ink over a pencil outline "in a rather savage way", according to experts.


Peter Barber, head of map collections at the British Library, said the drawing, scribbled on the back of an order of service from St George's Chapel in Windsor, was "not an ordered plan".

It looks like someone was working out some ideas; if this is what madness looks like, oh well.

We have to remember that this was drawn with a crude implement, dipped in ink, and probably not in the best of light. It could have been a sketch to work out some ideas or it could have been the work of someone trying to amuse themselves. It could also have not been drawn by George III at all and it could have been done by a servant or someone at his direction.

Stolen Heritage




The Elgin Marbles are back in the news for another round of handwringing and complaining.

The Greek prime minister has said the British Museum's decision to loan one of the Elgin Marbles to Russia is "an affront" to the Greek people.


Antonis Samaras added: "We Greeks are one with our history and civilisation, which cannot be broken up, loaned out, or conceded."


He said Britain's view that the marbles could not be moved was now invalid.
A depiction of the river god Ilissos will go on show in St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum.


It is due to remain on display in the Russian city until mid-January.


The work is one of a number of relics acquired [a fantastic euphemism for stolen, as usual] by Lord Elgin in Athens in the early 19th Century, now known collectively as the Elgin Marbles.


Ownership of the artefacts, once part of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple, is disputed by Greece.


It maintains that Lord Elgin removed them illegally while the country was under Turkish occupation as part of the Ottoman Empire. The items have remained in the British Museum ever since.

Yes, I think we can all agree that the old British Empire stole whatever it wanted just like everyone else. No, there really is no compelling case for not returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

I can see the reasoning behind these arguments, but if you're going to be a purist about this sort of thing, then the museums of Europe need to be emptied of everything they contain.

I remember visiting the Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe, thinking that I would see a lot of German artifacts. And you can certainly see some of that, but what you will also see are numerous artifacts looted from around the world, either "borrowed" or "acquired" the way everyone else used to do it--through war or conquest, and usually both and almost always waged with a heavy hand against anyone who dared lay claim to a cultural treasure.

Honestly, why would a museum in Baden-W├╝rttemberg feature all of those Egyptian and Greek artifacts if they hadn't already been loaded into wagons or onto horses centuries ago and stolen? If you send back the Elgin Marbles, I think you have to send back all of the pottery as well. And then and only then can we talk about the removal of human remains.

Abstract Number One December 2014




Abstract Number One for December, 2014 is a radically different piece than anything that I've done this year. I wanted to start out with something completely new, but my old habits and my old way of doing things will return eventually in this series. That's not an awful thing, I hope.

John Boyega and That Stormtrooper Outfit




Here's my first reaction to seeing John Boyega in a stormtrooper uniform on the surface of a desert planet.

Cinematically, this is a single reaction shot, designed to orient the audience/viewer to a new scene or the beginning of a scene. Boyega rises up, gives a solid reaction, and then moves in the frame to a new perspective that does not appear in the clip.

This suggests that the actor has been knocked out, incapacitated, or is recovering from being struck or disabled in some way. His shocked demeanor supports that.

The idea that he is, in fact a stormtrooper is a stretch for me because he is considered one of the "good guys." That would suggest the Boyega is wearing the uniform as a ruse and nothing more. He put on the armor in order to escape from a situation or to pass himself off as someone he is not. Where's the helmet? Removed because this is not who he is and this is not his actual uniform? Probably.

The Internet exploded with outrage; however, in keeping with the cinematic history, using a stormtrooper uniform to escape detection or deceive the real bad guys goes back to Episode Four, which, of course, begins with a crash-landing on the desert planet that has seen so much action.

I could be entirely wrong, of course, and I'll eat my words a year from now...

Fall Colors and Textures




Some of the patterns and textures found in this shot really came out in the Photoshop processing. This is amateur photography, and this is about as good as it gets for me.

Life at Fort Hood is Not Easy




The story of Specialist Ivan Lopez could be the story of a killer or a mentally ill soldier. It could even be the story of both. But this is what I've seen so far:

Spc. Ivan Lopez vented about a range of subjects on Facebook before his shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, including his outrage at Adam Lanza's mass school shooting in Connecticut.


He wrote of experiencing overpowering fear after an insurgent attack in Iraq and the hatred that consumed him after getting "robbed."


Lopez took his own .45-caliber handgun onto the sprawling post Wednesday and killed three people and wounded 16 more before taking his own life, according to authorities.


We aren't exactly certain what he meant by "robbed" and we should not downplay the fear he had while deployed to Iraq. His fear of being attacked was never dealt with and he was never properly counseled by his leadership or the medical authorities. But what people don't really understand is that life at Fort Hood for regular Army soldiers is extremely difficult. It is not a quality of life assignment. By design, it is a tough assignment to a tactical unit, and with it comes a grueling training calendar and a whole lot of time spent in motor pools and in the field.

This is the Army that people can either adapt to, and thrive in, or they don't. The unit that Lopez belonged to likely has a system. Show up unannounced, looking for a leave form, and it's entirely reasonable to be turned away. Most of the comments I've seen try to play up the angle that this was chickenshit. Nope.

The days on Fort Hood are long days. Someone who hasn't been in the real Army--and that would be me--has to adapt to a training calendar that can best be described as relentless. Due to a decade of war, the brigades stationed at Fort Hood are seasoned with experienced combat veterans but, to date, only two of them have shot up their fellow solders. One was a shitbag, never-been-anywhere Major who is facing the death penalty and the other is Lopez, a Specialist who snapped because he couldn't get a leave form when he wanted one. He carried out his own death penalty.

Then there was the female who ranted and raved to the media about how bad it was on Fort Hood. I don't have a link to the video, but if she isn't on her way out of uniform tomorrow, she will be before the month is out. But yes, it is bad on Fort Hood. It's bad in Germany--services have been cut to the bone. It is bad at Fort Stewart in Savannah, Georgia. It's bad in South Korea. It's bad in Alaska. It's bad at Fort Riley, Kansas. It's terrible at Fort Gordon, Georgia, if only because it's a base with a school and whatever else. It's bad at Fort Drum. In other words, the condition of bad is endemic to the entire Army. It is a difficult profession and it requires sacrifice and putting others before your most basic needs and desires. It breaks people.

The war didn't break either of the men who shot their fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. The low standards that allowed them to join and then remain on active duty are the reason why there was violence. Lopez should have been on his way out of the Army; Major Nidal Hasan should never have been allowed to join. Neither man should have been untreated for mental illness and both should have been on medication, in a medical unit, and transitioning to civilian life. Once in that status, their right to purchase and own firearms should have been revoked.

Raise the standards and throw these people out.

Abstract Number Three March 2014




Tim Burgess Oh No I Love You Cover




The cover for the Tim Burgess album Oh No I Love You features an attempt to spell out the title and use shapes and images in a creative way.

It's an effective cover in that it spells out what's going on--it's a solo album, and this is what a solo album is supposed to look like. It's a great example of minimalism using creative typography.

Ridiculous




Nigella Lawson's admission of using cocaine has resulted in her being barred from entry into this country. I think that this is absurd and opens up the policy behind it for ridicule.

The list of people who have admitted doing cocaine and/or worse is too long to even begin to contemplate. There is no reason whatsoever for this country to admit the likes of Eric Clapton or Keith Richards and yet, it would be unthinkable for U.S. authorities in this day and age to deny them entry to the United States.

Policies like this hit people in the arts and entertainment field pretty hard. But they are rarely applied in a fair and uniform manner. Lawson may exist in that realm between reality television and non-fiction television where a specific set of professional skills are displayed, but she does not deserve to be barred from entry just because of an admitted use of drugs.

Now, if she shows up at the border looking like she smashed a powdered doughnut into her nose and carrying an Archer amount of cocaine, yeah, you could bar her.

The Demise of the E-book Market




Now that all of the book stores are gone, you mean to tell me no one wants e-books anymore?

Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK.


He told the Oxford Literary Festival printed books would remain popular for decades, the Daily Telegraph reported.


"E-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he said.
"But every indication - certainly from America - shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."


For the first eight months of 2013, e-book sale were worth $800m in the US, down 5% on the same period the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers.

The experience of reading a book on a device, no matter how expensive it is, still doesn't rival the actual experience of reading a printed book. The e-reader might be a permanent tool used by people who have to maintain and regularly use a lot of printed material, but the occasional reader still prefers a book. It's too bad we couldn't have saved more bookstores, however.

There may come a day when the only place to buy a book is online--from Amazon. Or in an airport. Maybe, someone will come up with a good hybrid for books and music and start a business model that will work as a retail outlet.

Would We Go to War For Finland?




Even though the idea of Russia annexing or taking over Finland seems far-fetched, there are concerns over things like this:

Russian military drills near neighboring Finland have provoked concern that northern Europe may be the next focus of Moscow's seemingly renewed appetite for redrawing its borders.


Troops and jet fighters from all four military regions of Russia were deployed Sunday about 150 miles east of the Finnish border, according to the English-language newspaper Finnbay. The Russian defense ministry said in a statement that the exercises were pre-planned and that more than 50 fighter pilots took part.

Finland was part of the Russian empire for 108 years, from 1809 until Russia’s withdrawal from World War I in 1917. The Karelia region, where the war games are taking place, straddles the Finnish border and has historically been a heavily militarized zone for Moscow.

Finland is not a NATO country; that would have been too much of a Cold War provocation for the Finns and it would have been unrealistic for the NATO alliance to have expected Finland to accommodate anything in terms of a military alliance. The old Soviet empire was built with a huge buffer zone around it for a reason--to repel invasion. Their previous fights with Finland were horrific battles of attrition. The Finns, however, had to cede territory to Russia before the end of the Second World War. This history is far more relevant that a discussion of what happened after the Czar was murdered.

Russia in the modern sense has no physical fear of invasion but it does have a fear of being irrelevant. The Finns, having the euro currency, twenty years of membership in the European Union, and a cultural and linguistic difference that is very much pronounced, don't have to worry about where they fit into the fabric of Europe--they're the equivalent of a made man in the old mafia structure. If the Russians were stupid enough to invade, Europe would reach a tipping point that would require a military response. The post-World War II borders are all but sacrosanct--they have delivered stability for not quite four generations.

In short, everyone would go to war for Finland in a way that they would not go to war for Ukraine. The preservation of the euro and the need to stop a recklessly expanding Russia would trigger an all out defense of a very profitable and content status quo. That's a calculation that is easy to make. No one would allow it and no one would hesitate to do the unthinkable, and that is, go and fight Russia's land forces.

We have never been nearer to a repeat of the First World War than we were when the Balkans exploded in the early 1990s, and it is because of Russia's inability to accept the verdict of the Second World War. The Europeans and the Americans would all go to war over Finland, and they would do so because a failure to stop Russia would lead to the loss of a post-war standard of living that leads the world.

That Must Be One Hell of a Class




I realize that this is a pervasive big-time NCAA sporting problem and not just a North Carolina problem, but, wow.

The ongoing academic fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina's athletic department has been at a slow burn for months, as salacious bits of news have been unearthed by investigative journalists.


The latest piece of evidence that North Carolina (UNC) athletes were getting passing grades in their college courses with little or no work comes in the form of a "paper" on civil rights icon Rosa Parks, provided to the ESPN sports network by former UNC tutor turned whistleblower Mary Willingham.


Here's the text, in its entirety:



On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. "Let me have those front seats" said the driver. She didn't get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. "I'm going to have you arrested," said the driver. "You may do that," Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them "why do you all push us around?" The police officer replied and said "I don't know, but the law is the law and you're under arrest.



The work was the only requirement for an independent study class for which an unnamed athlete received a grade of A-minus. (And as freelance writer Bryan Graham points out via Twitter, the piece was probably plagiarised from the first page of Rosa Parks' autobiography.)

That's what we call some serious scholarship. But, to be even more fair than it is humanly possible, the current thinking is that actual knowledge of history or the Humanities is worthless; if this same kid could do math and engineering, and if he knew the table of elements, he'd be fine as far as the global economy is concerned.

My contention is that an obvious lack of ethics or ability to perform a simple function like writing a paper on a historical figure means that the kid probably isn't going to have the skills necessary to perform well in STEM classes and would never get through college-level classes that required any analysis or competence with the processing of information. No matter what anyone tells you, knowing the Humanities means you can process information and communicate in a way that is necessary in virtually all walks of life (even in football).

Someone with the North Carolina educational family should resign over this, and they should leave the education field altogether. How could you be this incompetent?

Fear of a Black Planet in the Suburbs




Chief Keef is a young fellow with a lot of money and a lifestyle that appears to be driving the wealthy people around him crazy. The article goes on to add this:

They say that in the year-plus that Chief Keef — an 18-year-old whose real name is Keith Cozart — has been a presence at the house, their quality of life has deteriorated. Fans have flocked to the address, sometimes shouting obscenities from their cars. Noisy parties and the roar of ATVs have disturbed the neighbors' peace, while open marijuana smoking has unsettled their sense of propriety.


Meanwhile, Cozart's reputed ties to Chicago street gangs have made nearby residents so nervous that they follow his social media accounts to see if trouble might be brewing.


They were particularly alarmed to see a photo Cozart posted before the nonfatal shooting this week that showed him and a companion holding guns in what appears to be the bathroom of the Northfield house.


"We all knew that something bad was going to happen at that house, but I still can't believe it is happening in my neighborhood," said one neighbor, who, like the other residents interviewed, asked that her name be withheld out of concern for retaliation.


Northfield's top officials declined to comment, citing the ongoing police investigation into the shooting, but last summer Police Chief William Lustig acknowledged the complaints stemming from the house.

In other words, this is a first world problem brought on by the fact that when you live in a place like Northfield, Illinois, you had better conform to local community standards and behave. Unless, of course, you're one of the hundreds of 18 year-olds arrested year in and year out in that same group of communities for doing exactly what the young black man is alleged to be doing (or, um, worse).


Here's everything you need to know about what happens when you drive through Northfield, Illinois. First, the demographics:


As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 5,389 people, 2,155 households, and 1,532 families residing in the village. The population density was 1,822.4 people per square mile (702.9/km²). There were 2,241 housing units at an average density of 757.9 per square mile (292.3/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 92.48% White, 0.52% African American, 0.04% Native American, 5.57% Asian, 0.43% from other races, and 0.96% from two or more races. Hispanic orLatino of any race were 1.67% of the population.

The 2010 Northfield, Illinois annual police report, detailing who gets stopped for what and why when they drive in town:



Bear in mind, the community has a population of approximately 28 African Americans (that number has probably changed a bit) and folks from that demographic were stopped 170 times in a year? Somebody does not like outsiders.

What I see when I look at this data is that each of the 28 African Americans who live in Northfield can expect to be stopped 6 times in a year (assuming they don't stop people who drive through the small community of about 5,400 people). If you're white, you can expect that you might be stopped 1.8 times a year--a pretty significant difference.

Now, that's a cursory look at data for one year--but it speaks volumes to the attitude of the police in the community. Outsiders beware.

Amateur Athletics and the Long Dead American Labor Movement




There is an important commentary on the state of relations between the young men who play college football and the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and if it feels like we're about to go back in time and talk about unions and rights and bargaining, you would be correct. We're about to take a trip back to when there actually was an American labor movement and when there actually were people who wanted to form unions in order to receive better compensation from the companies they worked for.

What's substituted is important--the university, bound by NCAA rules--is the company and the football player (and I suppose this will extend to all sports, whether they are played by males or females or both) is the employee or worker.

The worker has been exploited by the company. If this isn't reminiscent of the coal miners or the railroad workers, it will be because the exploitation of college football players rivals that of any other exploitative arrangement in American history.

Public and private universities make billions in profits from the sports played by young men and women, but, primarily, by men. They make money hand over fist. In short, they get some of the most valuable "profit" imaginable for almost exactly nothing paid to the players, also known as the workers. They do get room and board, and they do get free tuition, but those prices and those values are inflated because not every student athlete gets a scholarship and not every kid gets to compete fairly for those benefits. They can disappear with relatively no due process and if a kid destroys their body, their ability to recoup their losses is minimal at best.

The NCAA would love to continue this arrangement because they are wringing massive profits out of a constantly regenerating workforce. Every four years, a kid leaves school and is replaced by the next kid up the totem pole. There is, literally, an endless supply of free labor to exploit and the NCAA's members have tapped a seam of coal that will never run out.

And now, a handful of these young men have decided to stand up for the rights and demand some compensation for their labor. But wait! Unions are bad, unions are wrong, and unions are what communists used to defeat 'Murica.

Which is all bullshit. But it doesn't change the facts:

What you see, right there, is someone who talks about college basketball on television -- and also played college basketball when Bill Clinton was President -- being corrected by someone who played football at the University of Missouri just a few years ago. Moe, for his part, is not sure that "a union is the way to handle it" where this particular issue is concerned, which is not surprising. Most people, after more than a generation of effectively un-rebutted anti-labor noise, don't really know what unions do, but suspect that it is generally bad and broadly anti-competitive and faintly communistic.


That is why the NCAA is attempting to leverage popular distrust of unions as a way of wriggling out of the obligations created by the NLRB ruling. What that ruling found, in effect, is that college football players were effectively employees of the schools in which they're enrolled. This is because the players spend some 50 hours a week on football-related activities, are expected to conform to extraordinary restrictions such as draconian speech and conduct codes and otherwise adhere to standards that do not apply to other students.


The crux of it, which very few are eager to dispute beyond legalisms and Herculean feats of blinkered sentimentality, is that student-athletes are held to a significantly different standard than student non-athletes, to the point where they become something less like students and something more like employees who are compensated for their work with (highly contingent and incomplete) tuition reimbursement.


The mere fact that you have a college kid in 2014 saying that unions are "communistic" takes us back to the 1950s and the beginning of the assault on labor unions in this country. By the Reagan years, this rhetoric had all but crippled the powerful unions that allowed a significant number of Americans the chance to work and earn a living.






Here's what the NCAA wants to fight against:



The nascent union at Northwestern wants to be able to bargain as employees, and its goals are almost poignantly modest. Not annual salaries or performance bonuses or training table room service, but enhanced concussion protocols, a dedicated fund to help players earn their degrees and financial assistance for ex-players who suffered injuries while playing/working with the team. (As employees, they would also have rights under Illinois' worker's comp laws, although that would require a separate ruling.) This is all patently and intentionally not extreme.

Can I just say, WTF? Every single American worker ought to have their own version of these rights, especially people who actually, you know, have to sacrifice their bodies while working.




My money is on the NCAA, however. This county simply cannot tolerate the idea that the working poor have any rights. I am optimistic that we will get there as a society, but I'm concerned that the NCAA's deep pockets will reveal a legal strategy that will crush this rather "nascent" movement.





And, as with any discussion about sports and athletics, actually educating people is the last thing on anyone's minds, except now that it is a part of the idea of unionizing players and giving them some rights as far as completing the education. That one insistence legitimizes their efforts and puts the NCAA's fight against them to shame.

The Spam Bots on Twitter Finally Get Their Due




Much of what happens on social media when it comes to music is just Spam. People post music videos without commentary, endlessly, trying to garner attention or followers. They endlessly use their fake Twitter accounts to tweet and re-tweet things that are "cool" and the links bring them followers.

Why would you measure what is obviously Spam and faked in a way to increase the phony value of a fake social media account? They say that one in ten Twitter accounts are fake. An estimated 697 million people signed up for Twitter and haven't used it in months.

The real value would be to measure only the tweets of people from verified accounts. The unverified masses re-tweet garbage all day long, fruitlessly trying to find a way to wring some money out of a medium that is overflowing with phoniness.

Do you know what would add value to this? If Twitter were to wipe out fake and abandoned accounts, hey, then you might have something.

A Renoir Comes Home




I realize that "home" for a Renoir probably isn't actually Baltimore, but the museum owns the painting and thus, it is, in fact coming home. Any Renoir is worth the trip to view it in person.

Flowers in Line




Statue




Sailboats and Ferry on the Chiemsee




It's Hard Out There For a Russian Billionaire




If you're a Russian billionaire, isn't being afraid of having someone poison you a central part of your job description? How could you reasonably expect to go about your daily activities without having someone test your food in front of you and handle your mail and keep you away from beady-eyed men? Wouldn't that be exactly how you would expect to be murdered?

Any Russian billionaire worth his salt knows that being poisoned on a regular basis is probably how things are going to be until you can safely relocate yourself to practically no where on the face of the Earth.

Who is Manipulating Your Life?






I can understand the frustration that people are having with the new health care law and I can see how going after lawmakers is going to lead to defeat for some and to the election of a select group of ignorant ass clowns. Any time you fundamentally transform a system and try to protect consumers, the reaction against those changes invariably costs a politician or two their jobs.

However, Miss Sippel should take note of this fact:

Mayo Clinic spent nearly half a million on lobbying at the state Capitol last year.
According to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s website, it’s the largest amount the clinic has spent on lobbying since 2007.


Mayo spokesman Bryan Anderson said most of the lobbying money was spent on the clinic’s efforts to pass Destination Medical Center, the largest economic development project in state history.


Mayo’s lobbying paid off. The Legislature and the governor approved a $585 million funding package for public infrastructure to support Mayo Clinic’s 20-year, $6 billion expansion.


The clinic’s $480,000 expenditure puts it in 15th place on the lobbying list.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce spent the most on lobbying last year with a total of about $2 million.




Note the massive spike that occurs as soon as President Obama is elected on a promise to reform health care. Is this an accident? Do you think that the Mayo Clinic made a concerted effort to practically double their efforts to influence lawmakers out of kindness? Or do you think everything being done to destroy health care reform has the sole purpose of returning the United States to the status quo, which, if I remember correctly, was making these people money hand over damned fist?


What are you going to do in the face of such opposition? Move somewhere else? Elect someone who thinks paperwork is too hard? In Minnesota, this means that a lot of people like Shannon Savick are going to be thrown out of office. They are facing an onslaught of money to send the country back into the dark ages.





Your quality of life is being manipulated by profit-driven companies that are spending money to destroy your freedom. Or something like that. You would think there'd be a Tea Party reaction against hurting the American people, but when you've already been bought and paid for, the people standing up for working Americans have a lonely road ahead of them.

Turning Away From Television




If your TV business is shaky right now, what Jarvis Cocker is saying should wake you up to a new reality. For the first time in about three generations, people are abandoning television in droves. The entirety of the TV industry is scrambling to figure out how to move online and stay relevant and make money. The tablets are killing them, and indifference is helping everything along.

If the TV business model changes, what does that mean for artists who have relied upon television to stay relevant? If you're someone who makes music videos and tries to appeal to fans that way, your options are going to shift towards more of an online model. And, given that advertising online is dead--and revenue from hosting ads is so pitiable--how does that mean more artists will make videos?

Who is Running the Secret Service?




I mean, what the hell?

Three Secret Service agents on President Obama's Amsterdam trip were sent home after they partied so hard Saturday that one agent ended up passed out drunk in a hotel hallway.


Unlike a certain Cartagena trip, the misconduct here appears to be technical—Secret Service regulations say that agents on official trips are prohibited from drinking alcohol within 10 hours of duty. Although Obama didn't arrive in the Netherlands until Monday, the agents violated the rule drinking late Saturday night because they had a classified briefing on Sunday.


Standards are really that low, huh?





Well, these elite young agents can now find jobs elsewhere. If everything that happened in Colombia didn't wake them up to the consequences of losing their mud in public while on foreign security details, what could possibly do the trick?





I have no way of knowing if they went to Bananenbar, but it would be a shame if they didn't get to go there before being out of work and being forced to revise their resumes.

Why Are You In Grad School Anyway?






This is pretty bad, but what's even worse is how being an adjunct professor (because becoming one is one of the reasons why people go to grad school) has turned into an exercise in futility:




Nothing I can do about the size--Don't CLICK on the graphic to make it readable-it won't work

If you're going to get a graduate degree, I would think that you have a pretty good job lined up already. If not, then why bother incurring the terrible costs? To become a professor somewhere? Guess what--that's like starting a band and hoping people will pay for your music. It ain't happening.

The BBC Makes a Commitment to the Arts




This is admirable, but if you were to ask an American what has been the BBC's most successful export in terms of the arts, many might say Downton Abbey.

And, they would be wrong. Downton is a product of ITV, not the BBC.

Nevertheless, the appeal of the arts has never been greater. If you look at the quality of the television that has been produced in the United States over the last decade--True Detective, Breaking Bad, Louie, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, The Wire--the Brits have nothing to compare them with, save Sherlock and Downton (and how long will that last, given how much everyone hated Season Four?). Television programs produced for commercial gain really do much better as artistic achievements.

That's not a knock against what the BBC is trying to do--it's just a realization that if you have a great idea and if you want to do something of extremely high quality that will have a lasting cultural and artistic impact, your ass ought to be in front of an executive working for AMC, FX, HBO or Showtime--someone like that. They're going to have some deeper pockets than the BBC. It's just that simple.

Damon Albarn Wanted More Money



Damon Albarn probably wanted a lot more money than the festival organizers were willing to pay, and that's why they pulled out. What were the organizers charged with doing? Promoting the event? They did that. Everyone in Australia knew that there was going to be a Big Day Out festival and who was going to play--everyone who had an inkling of going, that is.

At the end of the day, Albarn wants the cash. When someone pulls out of a festival, is it really about promotion and logistics or is it really about the cut of the profits? Come on. It's about the money. It always is.

A Public Relations Disaster For Malaysia




You couldn't have asked for a worse reaction to the announcement from the Malaysian Government that MH-370 crashed in the South Indian Ocean:

Just before the relatives were briefed in a conference room, four emergency medical workers entered, dressed in bright orange uniforms. A bed on wheels also was pushed inside.


After some time, relatives emerged, sobbing loudly. A few pushed and shoved one another, overcome with grief. Some people were wheeled out on the bed. One group of relatives smashed a photojournalist's camera lens.


A relative rushed out of the room, screaming, "You announce this information today. ... Is it really confirmed? What's your proof? We've been waiting for 17 days. You simply tell us this! Where is the proof? It's wrong to announce the information like this!"


A Chinese grandmother staggered out of the conference room, screaming, "The Communist Party has to help me! My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on board! All three family members are gone. I am desperate!"
She sobbed and fell to her knees.


Hours after Razak's press conference, a committee representing some of families of the 154 Chinese and Taiwanese passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 sharply criticized the Malaysian government in a statement, accusing authorities of deliberate search delays and cover-ups, China's state-run CCTV reported.


"If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them," the statement said, according to CCTV.


The Malaysian Government doesn't give two shits about anyone or anything other than getting this out of the newspapers and off television. Malaysia and China have a day of reckoning coming if the families continue to receive extensive media coverage. Countries have gone to war over less, to be blunt about it. China and Malaysia are facing strained relations because of how this was handled. The national image of Malaysia is now that of a bungled, incompetent search for truth about a plane that vanished because it is a third world nation trying to exist in a first world that does not tolerate the loss of life among people affluent enough to fly on planes.





I am wondering if the Chinese government isn't playing up this disaster; the outbursts and the expressions of emotion are incidents that would extremely embarrass the Chinese government if they were directed at an airline based out of China and, as such, they would have been heavily censored. Here, the opposite is true--the censors are allowing these extreme statements against the Malaysian government.





This really has been a fiasco, and a tragic one, through and through.

Pandora's Caberet in Waterbury, Connecticut


My grandson and I were there: holla back, FOOLS!

I hasten to describe how difficult it was to visit Pandora's after my grandson Chip and I made the decision to sample Waterbury's night life. Chip is going to graduate high school this spring, barring any more academic moves against him, but he is 18 and they let him into the establishment. We did enjoy ourselves, but we did not appreciate all of that gunfire.

It seemed to detract from the table dance we had paid for because you could tell the poor young lady was nervous. I also thought she was a bit under weight as well, but when I suggested she add a few more pounds, she asked the bouncer to remove me for being rude. I offered up advice for a woman on how to put on "curvy" weight as opposed to babyfat weight, but to no avail. I have all of the science on this, and it requires eating the right amount of Doritos with cream cheese.

Chip stayed until they made everyone leave, and I still don't know how he got home. I left with a woman named Bubbles or Jennifer, depending on whether or not her lisp was acting up, and we went to Wing it On because duh.

Joy Division Closer Cover









There are a few album covers that create instant recognition and elevate a band to iconic status and Joy Division's Closer album cover does exactly that. It is the perfect example of an album of Gothic music. This is what it looks like when a band is at the top of their form and when the cover they have chosen for their album captures what is inside.

The image of mourning on the cover is from a photograph of the Appiani family tomb in theCimitero Monumentale di Staglieno in the Italian city of Genoa. Released on 18 July, 1980, just after the suicide of Ian Curtis, it was the second and last album of studio recordings; everything released since then is either a compilation or a live album.

As a marketing took, the cover image has enormous command. When applied to this flyer, advertising a live performance by Peter Hook (separate from the rest of New Order), it has an incredible appeal.




Performance poster for The Light, featuring Peter Hook.

Tree




Caring About People is More Important Than Caring About Business




I know my priorities are often out of whack, but shouldn't there be more of a focus on the recovery of the people who were actually, you know, blown to fucking pieces in Boston and their families and how they're coping with their losses?

Perhaps it is just my nutty way, but I care more about the people than I do about the bars and shops and restaurants. I know they employ people, but I think we can all agree that the ones who were actually killed and maimed and their families mean more than someone's profit margin.

G.I. Jeff




I can't wrap my brain around how amazing this is going to be:

Given that knowing is half the battle, it’s about time you received more intel aboutCommunity‘s animated episode. Airing April 3, “G.I. Jeff” pays tribute to the ’80s animated series G.I. Joe, and you can take your first peek at the Study Group reimagined as figures of action in the photos above and below: There’s Jeff (Joel McHale) as Wingman (yes, he has a backpack with wings), Annie (Alison Brie) as Tight Ship, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) as Buzzkill, and Shirley as Three Kids.


“[G.I. Joe] was something from our childhood that was very important to us and we had fond memories of it, and we thought it would be a cool way to do another animated episode,” executive producer Chris McKenna tells EW. “Like all Community episodes, it takes on a certain style. This one has a very specific story reason for it. I don’t want to give too much away, but our characters find themselves on a Wizard of Oz-type journey through the world of G.I. Joe. … There’s a mystery that Jeff in particular has to get to the bottom of.”


Will this season conclude with paintball? Will it all end in tears? Will there be an actual finale?





I'm in awe of how good this season has been.

The Dignity of Honest Labor




This is one of the most important op-ed pieces of the year so far:

Americans are mostly disconnected from the labor movement — only 6.7 percent of private sector workers are part of a union — and that means we’ve become disconnected from the idea of solidarity. Instead, we have an ill-defined feeling that we should do something for those worse off than ourselves, something that often turns into a pity-charity complex. Rebuilding the social safety net is a good start, but something more powerful would be a real understanding that we’re all in this together.


I heard that understanding in the voice of Alex Shalom, another low-wage worker who stood up for himself and his co-workers against his boss — this time, his boss at Bank of America. “I think people need to know that tellers are just cashiers with ties on,” Shalom told me, placing himself squarely in the same movement as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart workers. The perceived class difference between a bank worker in a suit and a fast-food worker in a logo baseball cap evaporates when the rent comes due, and many of us know what it’s like to do the math of monthly bills and find you’re coming up short.


We need a movement that makes us feel strong — all of us, whether we work at Burger King or Bank of America or an automobile plant or in journalism. That means not just focusing on the poverty but also the power in the voices of a group of workers on the street outside the Wendy’s where one of their colleagues was just fired for organizing. It means giving those workers and their strikes the credit for the wins when they do come. Too often, people derive something that feels like strength from remembering that someone else has it worse. But that’s temporary, and real strength comes from all of us being strong together.

Any movement which empowers working Americans to attack the bullshit used to marginalize their lives is going to have to overcome the need to remain isolated in communities designed to prevent people from gathering to talk about their issues. I would love to see a movement that used America's churches, but nobody goes to church anymore, except for maybe older Americans who have left the workforce. Could a chat room on a video game platform serve as the meeting hall of this century? How do you get people from a broad range of backgrounds in one place together so that they can see, with their own eyes, that the bank employee and the brick layer and the shelf stocker have a lot more in common than they realize?

Well, you need a world war to do that, as awful as that sounds. You need a draft, a conscription, and you need millions in uniform, held in place by necessity and warehoused like cattle so that they can rub up against, literally and figuratively, their own kind from all over. The thing that helped build this country was a pair of world wars that brought disparate members of American society together in one place for an extended period of time. They had to learn to get along. The kid from Ohio had to learn to get along with the kid from Montana and the kid from Florida. They had to live under one roof and figure out what it was that they had in common.

Works Progress Administration projects were attacked, endlessly, along with all of the other New Deal initiatives. They weren't all individually successful but they did bring dignity to labor. From that effort to destroy the New Deal was born Reaganism and a hatred for government which survives as practically the only idea the Republican Party has had, other than war, for twenty years.To these people, the only sacrifice necessary should come from the poor. It used to be, sacrifice was shared across the American political spectrum, especially during the Progressive Era and in the aftermath of the trust-smashing years. Once the robber barons were done, Americans shared in the misery of the Depression.

Their collective shared sacrifice helped the labor movement immensely. As an example, by the time he was 25 years old, my grandfather had worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which sent him up and down the State of Minnesota to work in different camps. He had been in the Army, and sent from basic training to Hawaii, and then to the South Pacific for months of war. When he was sent home, he enlisted in the army a second time and went to Europe. He had, with virtually no education, developed a worldliness that is difficult for us to imagine, all of it in the service of the country. No wonder he became dedicated to organized labor and the protection of Social Security benefits while never hating anyone who had more or less than he did. And, while always poor financially, he was connected to the idea that he had common cause with people who worked for a living.

When the wealthy in this country managed to destroy those connections in the 1980s, he was rolled over like everybody else who had organized unions in this country. He was cheated, by an early death, out of the benefits he had fought for. If he had lived, those benefits would have been drained away by now.

The issues faced by the poor are inherently American ones, and they deserve to be heard. That could be you, working hard like the folks you've spent your whole live looking down upon, and the way things are going, you'll know it before everyone else does. You'll know when you are one of them but you won't know what to do because they have conditioned everyone that any agitation against the wealthy class in this country is worse than anything imaginable. That's what is radically different today from the forty year period after the end of World War II. You dare not criticize the rich, and you better stay home and disorganized.

CBS and LinkedIn Have Quite the Deal




Not that anyone cares, but CBS News.com has seen fit to run a pair of news items--in the place where news items appear--about LinkedIn. Both are not-so-clever puff pieces.

Am I to now infer that what appears in the news feed for CBS News is marketing bullshit? I'm thinking that's what I'm supposed to believe now.

Kate Bush Sings in Public




I don't know what prompted this--declining revenue from the sale of CDs and downloads, a desire to close things out properly, or some other need, artistic or otherwise--but it does mark a fundamental change for Kate Bush to schedule a series of live concerts.

As in, holy hell, Kate Bush is going to actually get up in public and sing.

There's no doubt that she can pull it off, but a proper backing band will need to bring her into the 21st Century as far as playing live is concerned. She's going to have to put something in her ear and try to sing--can she pull it off? I would think that she could.

Now would be a good time to figure out which luminaries from British music will show up. David Gilmour should, and why not Peter Gabriel? Beyond that, someone is going to have fight for tickets.

Abstract Number Eight February 2014




This is the last in a series of abstract paintings that were completed in February. The enhanced colors and the swirl of the lines worked in my favor with this one, and it is probably the best of the bunch. I now have to figure out how to get another eight done so that I can continue the series into March and April.

Benghazi Broke Up His Marriage


If this President had set a better example about telling the truth, Johnny Weir would probably still be married.

Thanks, Obama. Your lies about Benghazi have shattered two more lives.

Rich Lowry Gets it Right




I don't think I have ever agreed with Rich Lowry (in the New York Post!) about anything, ever, but I agree with him about this:

In a feat that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago, the anti-vaccine movement has managed to breathe life into nearly vanquished childhood diseases.


It took all the ingenuity and know-how we are capable of to find safe, effective ways to dramatically diminish diseases like measles and whooping cough in the developed world; it took all the hysteria and willful ignorance we are capable of to give them a boost. A developer of the measles vaccine, Dr. Samuel Katz, says the question “is not whether we shall see a world without measles, but when.”


Not if Jenny McCarthy has anything to say about it. The former Playboy model and current co-host of “The View” is a leading light of the anti-vaccine movement. She has a boy with autism-like symptoms that she is convinced were caused by the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). You can credit her passion for her child, sympathize with her heartbreak — and still cringe at her wholly irrational cause.

Now, Lowry does not go so far as to decry the anti-intellectualism and anti-science buffoons in the conservative movement, but that's okay. The shocking thing here is that you have a conservative pundit attacking from the position of believing in science. So, about that whole climate change thing...

There Are Two Kinds of Law in the Military




Yeah, whatever:

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair — who struck a plea deal after being accused of sexually assaulting his former lover — was sentenced Thursday to pay $24,100 in fines and restitution, but not jailed or demoted.


One congresswoman called the sentence "laughable," but Sinclair was all smiles after learning his fate.

"The system worked. I've always been proud of my Army," he said outside the Fort Bragg, N.C., courthouse. "All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and my wife."


The system did NOT work because justice was never served nor was credibility given to the idea that there should be a single standard for conduct. General Sinclair's colleagues saved his ass from a felony conviction and from spending the rest of his life registered as a predatory sex offender. 





This is what happens in the Army--there is a UCMJ for the enlisted and there's one for the officers. The one that they use on the enlisted scum ruins their lives, takes their money, and trashes their future. The one used on Sinclair gives him a slap on the wrist. If he had been wearing the stripes of a Master Sergeant, he would be on his way to Leavenworth right now. This is very similar to how it is in the civilian world. Instead of money, a commission as a officer gives the holder the same advantages as someone with money to spend on a good lawyer.





His family knows what kind of a man he is. God help them if he decides to actually follow through on his threat to hug them. A violent man just got away with it. His next victim will understand this, fully and completely.

The Death of a Reprehensible Man




The death of Fred Phelps today should have gone unnoticed. He was an unremarkable man whose attempt at trolling the good people of the United States of America was simply shock marketing for a brand that was worthless. He and his religious movement existed on the fringe of American society, using the phrase "God Hates Fags" as a way of gaining attention. If Phelps and his clan had simply behaved as religious kooks without the hate messages, no one would be laughing today at his demise.

Even reprehensible and irresponsible Americans enjoy a level of freedom not found in many other countries. With his death, Phelps proves the greatness of America, even if the country is sickened by his life's work.

Abstract Number Seven February 2014




Abstract Number Six February 2014




Pink Floyd The Final Cut













This is the difficult "last" album of Pink Floyd's world-domination run. There are a handful of phases--the early, indulgent experimental albums, with and without the contribution of Syd Barrett, and then the albums released in the 1970s, which topped the charts and made everyone look like an also-ran. The Final Cut was supposed to clear the air in the band and deliver the leftovers from The Wall. It simply ended the band and failed to impress the public.

I've loved it since I first heard it and I have always regarded it as a lost treasure. It should never have been a concept album. It could have had a looser theme, and it would have been more successful as a series of songs about Thatcherism in the early 1980s. It did not have to be the primal scream from Roger Waters, but it was. And it was the only modern geopolitical commentary any major group issued during that time. The superficiality of the 1980s stands in stark contrast to the darkness at the heart of this album.

It's a shame that no one bought this album (relatively speaking, of course). It was superbly executed and played and it still has a relevance that stands out. It should have been played at Margaret Thatcher's funeral and it could very well be resurrected and played one day.

Greg Gutfeld Writes a Book About Hating




Greg Gutfeld hates people who are "cool."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's not 1977 and nobody uses that term anymore in any meaningful sense. It's an outdated term that no longer has cachet with younger people. So, what's the point of writing a book when you can't even understand the culture? Are cool people only the ones who oppose Gutfeld's conservative agenda?

Nobody likes hipsters but who's losing sleep over it? Greg Gutfeld, apparently. This is the manifestation of conservative anti-intellectualism. Knowing things means you are cool and cool is the enemy of the conservative book troll.

Godless in Vermont




God has been shunted aside in Vermont:

Once again a new Gallup Poll has reported that Vermont is the least religious state in the country, with only 22% of the people willing to call themselves "very religious." On the other side of the poll, there is Mississippi, where a whopping 61% of citizens lay claim to that self-description. But what does it really mean to be "very religious" and not just spiritual?

I don't put much stock in things like this; statistics are useful when they actually prove a point. To poll people and ask them about religion isn't exactly a scientific exploration of population characteristics. I do think that this polling is useful for determining the lifestyle choices found in an area.

Godlessness, or the absence of religion, is growing at an accelerated rate because traditional religions fail people and they are no longer the cohesive glue holding small groups together. What was critical a hundred years ago in a town of 300 people is meaningless now that the same place serves as the bedroom community for a larger city where people work and shop. Consumerism is the religion of America. The growth of a secular lifestyle means that there will be a growing number of abandoned church properties in America. Some entrepreneur should start a company that rehabilitates churches into viable properties.

No wonder then that things like Yoga and meditation are so important for people living the Vermont lifestyle. They have found the thing that centers them and being afraid of Cotton Mather's vengeful, angry God is like still owning dot matrix printer.

Preventable






This is definitely the action language of an angry investigator:

Supervisors of the gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last year noticed his erratic behavior well before the shooting but did not reveal any problems to the government, a Navy investigation has found.


“Had this information been reported, properly adjudicated and acted upon, [Aaron] Alexis’s authorization to access secure facilities and information would have been revoked,” the report said — and the shooting might have been prevented.


An official Navy investigation unveiled Tuesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon officials blamed IT contractor Hewlett-Packard and its subcontractor, The Experts, for deciding not to take any action dealing with Alexis’s deteriorating “emotional, mental or personality condition, even when they had concerns that Alexis may cause harm to others.”


Someone wants to put the subcontractor (The Experts) out of business. This may damage Hewlett-Packard's immediate plans to continue to be a top-tier government contractor, but it won't put them out of business.


Newport city police officers made a note about one of their encounters with Alexis last August, in which he complained about “some sort of microwave” being used to control him. The city police even faxed a copy of their incident report to the naval base security office with the note: “FYI on this. Just thought to pass it on to you in the event this person escalates.”


Alexis’s supervisors were aware of all this as it was taking place, according to the report, and went so far as to contact his mother about his paranoid behavior. She told the company human resources office that “this was not the first episode he had experienced,” the report said.
A spokesman for HP, Michael Thacker, told POLITICO the company had no information before the Navy Yard shooting that Alexis “posed a threat to others or had a propensity for violence.” The fault lay entirely with its former subcontractor, Thacker said.


“As the Navy investigation report confirms, The Experts was aware of significant information about Aaron Alexis that was not known to HP,” Thacker said. “Yet, The Experts made a decision to send Alexis back to work after the incident in Newport, R.I., without sharing any of this information with HP or the government. Based on what we learned about The Experts’s conduct, on Sept. 25 HP terminated its relationship with The Experts.”


At the beginning of last September, Alexis exchanged emails with the “president of Freedom from Covert Harassment and Surveillance discussing, ‘constant bombardment from some type of ELF weapon,’” the report said. The Navy uses Extremely Low Frequency radio waves to communicate with deeply submerged submarines.


Both companies could face some expensive lawsuits, however. HP is desperately trying to sever their relationship to The Experts; at one time, it probably looked good on paper to pair them up and acquire a lucrative contract. The end result of that allowed a nutcase to have access to a secure facility. The language of this report is refreshingly free of doublespeak and ambiguity. The blame is leveled and the allegations are clear--someone failed to get this man out of the intelligence community.

An "FYI" isn't much of a "CYA."





Of course, this is really an indictment of the way we handle the mentally ill and how we have failed to restrict their access to firearms. No one wants to talk about that, however. If we actually had a sensible program where people who are mentally ill are prevented from buying guns, there might be fewer shootings.

Stalinism



The elimination of Stalin's cult of personality was undertaken with somber dedication almost as soon as he was dead; it took the Georgians sixty years to remove his statue and it served as proof that disowning a favorite son was one way to stick it to the Russians. The idea was, let's keep the empire but disavow the tactics of the architect. For a Crimean woman to brandish his photo like this is absurd; she is ignorant of Ukraine's history of being starved and purged and slaughtered at the hands of Stalin's thugs in the 1930s. She is either being paid to be happy about something she understands or she is an addled Russian woman who has hated Ukrainians all her life.

Now that Stalin is back as an icon of Russian/Soviet dominance, if I were a moderately successful young person living in the Baltic nations, my ass would be halfway to America by now. If there isn't a brain drain soon, I am guessing there will be. Nations mean nothing to the new Stalin, and Putin wants his empire restored. He is dictator for life of the new Russia and it's time to demonstrate this to the peasants.

The Music Business is About Lifestyle Choices, Not Actual Music




This is a great, great article.

It details what's wrong with remembering how the music business used to be and it demonstrates how well and truly fucked actual lovers of music are in terms of being able to sustain and experience music that has traditionally been made for profit and for somewhat narrow audiences.

And do you know what illustrates this fact?

Shoegazing.

Now, as a genre of alternative rock, shoegazing is dead, right? It was killed off by Britpop and abandoned for a somewhat more engaging and interactive form of music. It led a quiet existence next to an old country cousin called Madchester and it was primarily an English movement, originating with like-minded bands who knew each other through the social structure of the London and Thames Valley scenes. These artists went to see each other play, swapped songs and pedals, talked of distortion and noise mixed with dreamy vocals and Sixties melodies, and enjoyed a brief period of cultural relevance in the early 1990s.


Well, that's the short version. The long version of the story has the idea or the concept of creating music in the shoegazing genre surviving the initial explosion and developed into a more nuanced sound adopted by literally hundreds of different bands playing and surviving in scenes throughout the world. There are Brazilian shoegaze bands and French shoegaze bands and Seattle ones, too. Many of the original players of shoegaze music broke up their bands and then reformed them; not for lucrative album deals or tours but for the joy of playing the music to a fan base that has embraced the new bands while not forgetting the old bands. It's as healthy and as supportive of a scene as you would expect and those kinds of things are rare in a music business dominated by a handful of artists that suck up all of the money and oxygen.

A critic is the bridge between the superficial understanding of a musical genre or movement and the detailed version; artists hate to be lumped in with genres, but a critic is supposed to know how to overcome the artist's reluctance to be pigeon-holed and do the pigeon-holing in a way that enlightens and informs. Nobody really does this anymore because the artist's lifestyle trumps everything that was originally interesting about their work. When we abandon the value of their work, we ride the superficial. What drives this process is the absence of an advocate for the artist. The death of the strong music label and the A&R personnel means that the artist has to interface directly with fans and critics alike. They need a middleman but that person is gone.

You see, there really aren't any thriving music labels anymore. There are a lot of smaller ones, and they do well enough, but the money that would support 20 or 30 emerging artists at a label like Arista or Sire isn't there anymore. Those bands aren't there anymore--they've morphed into something else. So, the distance between them and Green Day twenty years ago used to be the difference between this desk and that desk; between putting out four singles as opposed to two. Now, the distance between them couldn't be greater. The emerging small-label band of today has to hope for a social media miracle to get talked about. Playing great live helps, but that's expected to be a given. No one wants to know who you are unless you can explode and sell everything instantly. Being able to move a hundred paid downloads a week is akin to being handed a chance at blowing up. Odds are, you won't. But you're going to have to do it on your own. No one will work behind the scenes to help you unless you're lucky enough to have a place at one of the few music labels still operating under emergency blackout conditions.

So, yes. Music criticism is dead. I can listen to stuff, and tell you why I like it or why it's terrible and I can use all kinds of tricks to do that, but it's not going to add up to much because of the subjectivity of music and the narrow genres bands are trying to work in so that they can survive on low sales and small live gigs. Things blow up occasionally, but, more often than not, reasonably good music played well and recorded in a decent manner is going to occupy also-ran status for as long as the band members can keep it going.

And the short answer is, they can't keep it up for very long, not in an age when everyone steals music and watches the lifestyle magazines for updates on people no one expects to produce a reasonably decent follow-up to whatever blew them into relevance. The shoegazers don't care about the oversized aspect of the music business; they like their genre and they support it. They support the artists they care about and those artists are doing okay for now, but it gets harder and harder to justify the investment in money and time in a business dominated by oxygen-sucking behemoths.