The Return of the the Clientele


IT'S something I never expected: Another tour by the spooky, chiming English folk-rock band The Clientele, who sort of broke up a few years ago. For a handful of reasons -- the 25th anniversary of the band's label (Merge), the reissue of their first LP, some new songs -- the Clientele made a small U.S. tour, which on Saturday came through the club I still think of as Spaceland. (It's now called … [Read more...]

What is the Ivy League For?


SOMETIMES a writer is attacked so widely and vigorously I can tell he's right. That's the case with William Deresiewicz's New Republic essay about the fallacy of elite college education, and  Ivy League schools in particular. I don't mean I agree with every word of his piece, and I know the Ivy League only from a distance. (For what it's worth, my upcoming book is on Yale University … [Read more...]

Celebrating the Power of SLAKE

We Dropped A Bomb

HERE at CultureCrash, we're longtime fans of the Los Angeles literary magazine Slake, which put out four smart, handsome, forceful issues full of art, fiction, memoir and poetry. Editors Joe Donnelly and Lauria Ochoa -- both formerly of the LA Weekly -- did something not easy to pull off in sprawling LA: They galvanized a community around the written word. (And threw great parties.) So while … [Read more...]

How Do Writers Make Their Living?


AFTER a long period in which authors and other scribes shied away from going public with their finances -- perhaps not wanting to seem like they were "in it for the money" -- the economics of the literary life have become more transparent lately. This is partly, I suspect, because of the greater concern for economics that arrived with the Great Recession (including the emphasis on income … [Read more...]

The Joys of Record Collecting


IN these digital days of downloads and streaming, it seems like a truly ancient pastime to seek out old chunks of vinyl. Two new books get into the motivation and culture of collectors who amass 78s and 33s. I've not read either, but this New York Times review makes me want to check them out. It also reminds me how lucky I was to come of age at the tail end of the era where one could hunt … [Read more...]

Jazz and Classical Musicians vs. Streaming


WE'RE starting to hear a lot from musicians about how music streaming destroys their ability to make a living. So far, it's been harder to find out how it's affecting jazz and classical music. I tried to get into the subject with a new story for Salon. I speak to a number of musicians (including pianist Jason Moran) and observers, including an insightful woman from the Future of Music … [Read more...]

Will Amazon Crush Publishing?


RECENTLY I've written a bit about Amazon and other giant tech companies and how they have begun  to crush the world of culture, and the people who make it, while the Department of Justice and other regulatory agencies sleep. These are longstanding  concerns of mine, as a journalist who writes about music and the arts, as well as the author of the forthcoming book Culture Crash, which tries to take … [Read more...]

What Are Humans Good For?


WELL, folks, it's gotten to the point where we've gotta ask this question. With various kinds of automation and AI replacing human labels even at the most cerebral and professional level -- it's not just bank tellers any more -- we've got to ask, What can humans do that a computer or algorithm can't? A new Slate story notes that both the Associated Press and the LA Times are automated some of … [Read more...]

More Bad New For Authors


BOOKS and publishing seems to be coming to terms with creative destruction these days much as musicians began to a few years back. The latest batch of bad news comes from the UK, in which a survey shows that authors have lost significant financial ground over the last eight years and make, on median, about 11 pounds, below Britain's equivalent of the poverty rate. Here's The Guardian: According … [Read more...]

Tom Perrotta’s “The Leftovers”


RECENTLY I spoke to the author of the novel HBO has adapted into a Sunday-night series. Both the novel and the show concern a small town from which a small but significant number of people have mysteriously vanished; most of the storytelling concern the way people deal in various -- and variously conflicting ways -- with the loss. And as you may've picked up, if you've seen the show, the series … [Read more...]