Winter 2012

Winter 2012

It’s been months, has it?  Well, I guess it has, and while I feel guilty for having let this splendid forum remain blank all this time (and for months before that using it for little more than posting installments of Spy Rock Memories), I have actually been fairly busy.

In fact, when I complained to a good friend who often acts as an unpaid adviser that I was feeling overwhelmed with all the responsibilities and challenges – not to mention deadlines – staring me in the face, he said, “Hang on a minute, isn’t all of this stuff exactly what you’ve been saying you wanted to do for the past several years?”

Which, of course, was completely true, so that was enough to stop me complaining, at least to other people (I can still occasionally be heard muttering to myself, but then I’ve been doing that for years, regardless of whether things were awesome or abysmal).

However, as of late it almost feels like everything is coming up Livermore (with a couple exceptions that are too inconsequential and/or hopeless to bother mentioning here). First off, though I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, it’s now official: Spy Rock Memories is coming out as a book, in both printed and digital form.  The precise publication date hasn’t been set yet, but it looks to be sometime this spring, and once the book is out, I expect to be setting out for several months of traveling to various bookshops and cultural centers around this great land to promote it.  No definite schedules yet, but I especially look forward to visiting as many towns as possible around the Emerald Triangle and in Northern California.  Anyone who has suggestions for bookstores or other worthwhile venues is welcome to get in touch.

Almost simultaneously, the songs of my old band, the Lookouts, almost all of which have been out of print for 20 years or more, are being reissued, on a double LP as well as digitally.  One of the records will be the original Spy Rock Road, which we released in 1989, and the other will contain our 7″ and compilation tracks, which adds up to another 13 songs.  Tentative title for the package is Spy Rock Road and Other Stories.  We’ve been urged to re-unite for a show or two to help properly launch the record, but as usual, our drummer finds himself very busy with his new band (the one he joined in 1990), so the likelihood of that happening any time soon remains in doubt.

Cover to the original Spy Rock Road album; the re-release will contain a second record and 13 additional songs.

Right about the time the decision was reached to bring the written and musical versions of Spy Rock to the world at large, I received a call from Billie Joe Armstrong, who asked if I’d be interested in putting together a compilation of my favorite punk rock and pop-punk bands for his Adeline Records label, and though my initial reaction was, “Oh no, how am I supposed to find time to do that, too?” it was too exciting an offer to refuse, so I said yes, and it turned out – thanks to modern technology, much of which didn’t exist when I was last putting out records – that within a couple months I had not only rounded up 16 outstanding bands, but also got them into the studio, and bingo, just like that, we have a compilation: The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore.  Old-timers among you will of course recognize the allusion to the 1988 Lookout Records classic compilation, The Thing That Ate Floyd.

Patrick Hynes artwork for the new compilation.

Hoping to remain true to that spirit, I recruited my old Lookout Records (and Potatomen bandmate) Patrick Hynes to do the cover artwork, and while it’s true we recycled the concept from an old issue of Lookout magazine, I think it came out fantastic, and am looking forward any day now to see the back cover, which is likely to be equally amazing.  Release date is also sometime this spring; in fact we’re shooting for early April right now.  I’ve posted the names of the bands elsewhere, but what the heck, I might as well do it again: Dear Landlord, Mixtapes, Lipstick Homicide, Dopamines, House Boat, Vacation, The Max Levine Ensemble, Emily’s Army, Mean Jeans, The Hextalls, Weekend Dads, City Mouse, Be My Doppelganger, Night Birds, The Copyrights, The Visitors.  Quite a list, wouldn’t you agree?  Unless, of course, you don’t follow this particular style of music, in which case you’re probably reading off the names with a glassy-eyed stare as you wonder what if anything it all means.

Had a bad dream this morning just before I woke up – well, maybe not a *bad* dream, but definitely a disturbing one.  For some reason I was driving through Mexico and while attempting to back out of a parking lot, inadvertently knocked another car over the edge of a small cliff.  Yeah, surprised me, too, because I barely touched it.  But instead of stopping to deal with the situation, I panicked and took off, and the rest of the dream consisted of a series of buses and bus stations (don’t know what happened to my car) where whichever way I traveled, it was the wrong way, and the authorities were inexorably closing in on me to lock me away in a Mexican jail cell for the rest of my natural, etc.  Thankfully I woke up before things got any worse, but it was still troubling.  I don’t often have dreams like that anymore, although when I was young I had them all the time.  Hopefully this means I have mended my ways since then, or at least have less of a guilty conscience.  And just in case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t, as far as I can remember, committed any crimes in Mexico in recent memory, and I think we could safely extend “recent memory” to include “ever.”

That digression aside, one of the worst aspects of not keeping up with the blog these last few months is my having neglected innumerable opportunities to comment on what has taken shape as the most ludicrous and pathetic political campaign in my memory, and is only likely to get worse.  When I was a kid I was inordinately fascinated by the Roman Empire, what went wrong with it, and what we could learn from its demise to prevent America from stumbling down a similar path.  If you read Gibbon – which I did, albeit only partially – one thing that strikes you is that in Rome’s latter days it was afflicted with a succession of ever more corrupt, weak-minded and idiotic emperors.  There were other parallels to our present-day situation – squandering the imperial treasury on futile and pointless colonial wars, the wholesale abdication of responsibility on the part of both the ruling class and the general citizenry, the substitution of cults and mysticism for reason and discipline – but given the clown show of candidates the Republicans have managed to come up with, and given that it’s far from unthinkable that one of them will become president, precipitously declining standards in public life just might be our biggest single threat at this point.

I recognize that many people – myself included – are disappointed in Obama, feel that he has been too sympathetic toward the corporate class and too willing to compromise with the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party (is it fair, though, to call it a fringe anymore, now that there’s little left to the Republican Party but a lunatic fringe?), but even seen in the worst possible light, Obama remains a rational, intelligent person who adheres to at least some basic principles (we don’t have to agree with those principles to recognize that they are in fact principles).  So it bewilders me when many of my friends and fellow left-of-center types are ready not only to abandon Obama, but to work actively against him.  As I said, I understand and share your disappointment, but I can’t conceive of a single scenario under which our lot would be improved by replacing him with someone almost infinitely worse.  It was a similar logic that gave us George Bush in 2000: because Al Gore was insufficiently progressive for many of us, we instead allowed one of the most disastrous presidents in history to be installed, and I believe the jury is still out on whether the country will ever recover from the damage Bush and his cronies did to it.

You’d think the fact that every single Republican candidate this year is more extreme than Bush – not to mention, in the case of most of them, more intellectually and morally deficient – would give people pause before they take any action to increase the chances of one of them getting into office, but you would in fact be wrong.  There are those, of course – I know, because at times in the past I’ve been one of them – who cling to the belief that things need to get worse in order to prompt the full-fledged revolution that we need, but this thinking ignores both history – most revolutions take place when things are already beginning to get better, not when they are plummeting toward their worst – and common sense. The USA is not – the admirable efforts of Occupy Wall Street notwithstanding – in a pre-revolutionary situation.  It is more likely to be in danger of imminent collapse.

Perhaps I’m getting a bit carried away?  I spent most of my younger years in fear of an apocalypse that never arrived, and it’s perhaps a bitter irony that just when I had reached a state of tenuous accommodation – i.e., accepted the supposedly more “grown-up” notion that most of the time things were neither as awful nor as outstanding as they appeared – that the actual end times might be arriving.

Not everywhere, of course: many parts of the world, including some that I’ve visited this past year, seem to be doing just fine, and doing so by following policies that are precisely the opposite of those being advocated by Republican extremists and too easily acceded to by Democratic moderates.  But enough of that: we’ll survive – or not – and life will go on – or not – and hopefully you’ll all be sufficiently untouched by the impending havoc that you can still afford to buy my upcoming book and records.  Personally I’m debating whether to stop paying attention to politics altogether.  It’s childish and irresponsible, I know, but I get so wound up and agitated whenever I watch these people lying on a prodigious scale and/or giving vent to paranoid flights of fantasy.  The chances that my opinions, no matter how vociferously expressed, will have any impact on the political climate or its outcome are slim, and I’ve also got a couple more books to write (subject matter to be revealed in the upcoming months) before I get too terribly much older.

On the mostly plus side: it’s the middle of winter and we’ve had a spate of shirtsleeve and light jacket weather more appropriate to March or even April than January.  I only put it on the “mostly” plus side because it makes it very hard to stay indoors and do the massive amounts of work I seem to have signed up for.  Happy New Year, everybody, and let’s hope it’s not nearly as long before we meet again!



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