A documentary shows late 20th century conditions that became instrumental in 21st century politics

Some of the many fires started by Woodstock ’99 attendees on July 25, 1999. Screenshot via HBO.

Nu metal might have been a flash in the pan, historically speaking, but that flash burned its brightest at a decommissioned Air Force base on the final night of Woodstock ’99, the sequel to 1994’s sequel to 1969’s legendary celebration of peace, love, and rock n’ roll.

The much talked-about first episode of HBO’s new music documentary series Music Box is titled “Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage.” As the title suggests, it focuses on Woodstock ‘99, portraying it as a series of unmitigated disasters that…

Why critiquing US institutions is such an emotional minefield

Detail of a photo by Grey World, via Flickr. Creative Commons license 2.0.

If you grew up in the American midwest during the 80s or 90s like I did, you might have a memory of being forced to stand on risers in a choir of bored children in the auditorium of a public elementary school and sing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.” For those who did not share this cultural experience, that’s the song that goes:

I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me
And I’d gladly stand…

The year is halfway over. In no particular order, here are ten new albums that I have been enjoying during the first half of 2021.

1. Spellling – The Turning Wheel (Sacred Bones)

On her third full-length as Spellling, Oakland-based artist Chrystia Cabral summoned a 31-piece orchestra to supplement her songwriting, with striking results. (I reviewed this album in The Wire 449.)

2. MSHR Liquid Conglomerate Presence Cycle (EHSE Records)

Recorded during a 2019 residency in Portugal, the latest from multimedia artists Birch Cooper and Brenna Murphy comprises four compositions of the duo’s hand-built sonic sculptures in action. (I reviewed this album in The Wire 449, and have written more about MSHR’s work here.)

3. Felinto Futuro Antigo Perpétuo

The climate catastrophe is violence perpetrated by the wealthy on the vulnerable

The Apple Fire burns in California in 2020. Photo by Brody Hessin. Creative Commons License 4.0.

This week, parts of the Western United States and Canada reached previously unheard-of temperatures that Washington’s assistant state climatologist believes can be blamed, at least in part, on man-made climate change. Such analysis is by no means new. For more than a century now, scientists have been sounding the alarm about climate change. Even as an astonishing consensus has been building among experts in the field—more than 97% of actively publishing climate scientists believe that humans are causing global warming—their warnings have been met with well-funded propaganda masquerading…

The ‘anti-woke’ podcaster is paid well to perpetuate the status quo

Illustration by Jenica Cruz

Earlier this week, Joe Rogan was widely mocked for claiming on his podcast that the logical outcome of “woke” discourse is that “straight white men” will no longer be allowed to talk or go outside:

You can never be woke enough that’s the problem. It keeps going. It keeps going further and further and further down the line. If you get to the point where you capitulate where you agree to all these demands, it will eventually get to “straight white men are not allowed to talk.” Because it’s your privilege to express yourself when other people of color have…

A new law takes aim at content deemed to “exacerbate and inflame divisions”

On Wednesday afternoon, Idaho’s Republican governor Brad Little signed a bill into law that takes aim at what it calls “critical race theory.” Framing itself as a law to promote “dignity and nondiscrimination,” House Bill 377 makes it a crime for public educators—including at the university level—to promote the idea “that individuals, by virtue of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.”


Basecamp bosses banned politics at work over a social justice diagram

The ADL’s “Pyramid of Hate.” Image via adl.org.

Earlier this week, I wrote a response to tech company Basecamp’s decision to ban political speech in the workplace. That same evening, Casey Newton published an article for The Verge that shed some light on the events that apparently prompted this announcement. As Newton’s article explains, the political discussions taking place at Basecamp largely focused on the internal culture of the company itself — not conversations about the outside world brought into work, as many were led to believe by the company’s original statement. Newton writes,

Interviews with a half-dozen Basecamp employees over the past day paint a portrait of…

The company’s ban on social discussions forgets that workers are people

For the past several years, Chicago-based company Basecamp has positioned itself as a moral and strategic leader in the tech world. This posture has come, in no small part, from the tireless workplace culture evangelism of cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson—better known by his web handle DHH. DHH’s reputation for performatively calling out the unethical practices of other tech companies is part of the reason it came as a shock to many when, on Monday, Basecamp issued a statement outlining a series of internal changes to the company. Among other things, this statement (which has already been heavily…

How the Best Picture winner portrays the American West

Dusk at West Wind Solano Drive-In and Swap Meet, Concord, CA

One of the things I’ve missed the most during the pandemic is seeing first-run movies in the theater. However, the next best thing, I’ve discovered, is seeing first-run movies at the drive-in theater. The drive-in I’ve been going to is in Concord, California, a northeastern suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area. By day, its enormous parking lot plays host to a massive swap meet. At sundown, it becomes a drive-in theater, where patrons munch popcorn and tailgate amidst a sea of trash left behind by the day’s activities.

As much…

A survey of the prints by the greatest painter of the German Renaissance

Albrecht Dürer’s Self-Portrait at age 28. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Many details of the life of the German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer have survived into the modern era. This is because the artist kept great notes, as though he himself believed that his own life was something of great import. In addition to his paintings, the artist’s production includes some 105 intaglio prints and 346 woodcuts, making him one of the most prolific graphic artists of the first century of European printmaking. …

Emily Pothast

Artist and historian. PhD student researching religion, material culture, media, and politics. Bylines at The Wire Magazine, Art in America + more.

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