e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


Brief Review

The most admirable thing about A Cultural Dictionary of Punk, a book with many admirable qualities, is the fact that Nick Rombes wrote exactly the book he wanted to write. CDoP raises subjectivity and idiosyncrasy to zen artforms. Entries range from a few sentences to a few pages, from critique to short story to top ten list. At one point, Rombes acknowledges that readers looking for oft-repeated facts can consult Wikipedia. Instead, he professes affinity and fascination. He also interprets and contextualizes.

Entries tackle individual punk bands, songs, and/or records without pattern. Elsewhere the book includes entries on films, novels, political figures, and even headlines from key publications; some have tenuous connections to punk and some have obvious links. Rombes crafts narratives (a young boy listening to a Clash record, a first-person account of a chat with Patti Smith) that may or may not be fiction. Though quirky, genre-bending entries sound postmodern, the book as a whole is a personal and genuine statement. Rombes reveals as much about his worldview as he does about his love of punk. Somehow the book is smart, odd, engaging, provocative (see Rombes on punk's relationship to Reagan and Thatcher), and warm all at once.

I like that reading the text is like reading a list. You know, like the ten best records of the year or the novels every English major should read. Like the "list," CDoP makes readers argue about omissions. Personally, I can't believe Rombes didn't include entries on the Chipmunk Punk novelty record, Johnny Thunders (maybe the best guitar player of the punk era), and the whole Akron scene (nothing on The Waitresses forgoodnesssake). Speaking of Ohio, here's my most idiosyncratic critique of all: why no mention that Stiv Bators was born and bred in my hometown, Youngstown, that ground zero of economic troubles? Bators movements from Catholic School life in Youngstown, to Cleveland, to NYC, to L.A., to the great beyond, has always fascinated me. I'm curious as to why there's no entry on Saturday Night Live. On one hand, SNL during punk's heyday probably represented the same version of 'The 60s' that punk was rejecting. On the other, what of Belushi's obsession with the hardcore movement? If you're out there Nick, any thoughts?

I also like that kids can pick up CDoP, maybe drawn by the cool cover art, and discover enough bands, books, and films to keep them busy for years. I've loved punk rock since listening to my brothers' Clash records when I was in about second grade and despite those twenty five years of fandom, CDoP mentioned bands I never heard of (Demics, Shirkers, Skunks), so thanks for that Nick. I've got some homework to do.


Dead Weather in Columbus

On Saturday I drove down to Westerville, OH., and got a professional-grade tour of Otterbein College from my nephew Tony, a sophomore there. After an excellent dinner at Banana Leaf, a vegetarian Indian joint, Tony and I headed to the LC Pavilion to see the Dead Weather, who put on one of the better shows I've seen. DW revive the concept of the "supergroup" and poach members from bands as original and entertaining as the Kills and the Greenhornes. Of course, even from behind the drums, Jack White's the gonzo leader. DW's music, electric blues, lends itself to live performance, especially with White exciting the crowd by his very presence and singer Alison Mosshart prowling the stage and climbing on amps and generally menacing the crowd. White came out from behinds the drums to rip up a guitar during set-closing "Will There Be Enough Water," but the highlights for me were the up-tempo tracks like "Cut Like A Buffalo" where the foursome transcended "side project" and just rocked out. Hope DW proves to be more than just a one-record/one-tour experiment.

Who opened the show? Glad you asked. New Jersey's own punk outfit, the Screaming Females. I would venture to bet that most of the crowd had never heard the SF before. I would also venture to bet that the crowd was impatient for the Dead Weather when SF took the stage for their too-brief set. But somehow, the Screaming Females won the crowd over. It only took one guitar solo from band leader (the only screaming female in the group) for the audience to want more. Just like Dead Weather does fairly traditional electric blues, the Screaming Females do fairly traditional punk (aside from the solos). It's the level of mastery over the guitar that sets SF above so many others working in the genre. They kicked ass. By the time they blasted out a cover of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer," I knew I had to hear more. Happily the band was selling refreshingly inexpensive records at the door afterward. A great night, capped off by ramen noodles in Tony's dorm, followed by me returning to regularly scheduled adulthood.



Seeming dishonesty from service providers always irritates me. Part of the irritation stems from the fact that I'm rarely positive about the perceived shadiness. I just don't have the mechanical/automotive/home repair know-how to be sure.

Yesterday a fine representative from a major plumbing/sewage company paid us a visit due to very minor back-up in the basement. Now we did NOT want the minor problem to even approach the realm of a major problem, so we quickly called a pro, who went to work snaking our main line. After an hour or so, he summoned me to the basement, showed me what looked like a moderately sized stick, perhaps a foot in length. "Can you believe this?" he asks.

He goes on to act amazed at the idea that such humongous sticks would ever be in pipes and explains that old houses like mine (the home where I grew up is about four times as old, but whatev) have 3" sewage pipes as opposed to new homes which have 6" pipes which can be fitted with saws to get rid of all roots. His implication seemed to be that newer homes never have problems with sewage, which just isn't true. Anyway, he suggested sending a camera into my main line to see if the roots had damaged my pipes yet and then excavating the yard to install the preferred 6" pipes, all to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Admittedly, I know just about nothing when it comes to pipes, but that seemed sudden, excessive, and--given the price--undoable right now anyway. So I declined. "Can you just get all the roots out today?" I ask. He says he'll try.

I wander back downstairs about twenty minutes later and the guy's outside. Only his very young trainee-assistant is operating the snake at this point. "Lot of roots, eh?" I ask. An awkward attempt at conversation. (What do you say to the guy who's tending to your sewage?) "Actually, the second time through, the snake's working with no problem at all. I think you're good." The trainee shows that the snake feeds in and out with no obstruction and explains that they got the sticks and roots with no problem. Cool.

His boss comes back down and I say something like, "Looks like the second snaking took care of the problem." His sour reply: "More like the fifth snaking took care of the problem." What? Am I supposed to feel guilty that they had to run the snake through five times. I was writing a check for a couple hundred dollars (which admittedly goes to the company he works for). Plus, at the very least, he was exaggerating the gravity of my problems.



hint fiction

hint fiction (n) : a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story


Anthology Guidelines

Tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton will publish an anthology of Hint Fiction. What is Hint Fiction? It’s a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story. The thesis of the anthology is to prove that a story 25 words or less can have as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer. The anthology will include between 100 and 150 stories. We want your best work.

It’s possible to write a complete story in 25 words or less — a beginning, middle, end — but that’s not Hint Fiction.

The very best Hint Fiction stories can be read many different ways.

We want stories we can read again and again and never tire of. Stories that don’t pull any punches. Stories that make us think, that evoke some kind of emotional response.

Take a look at the winners and honorable mentions of the Hint Fiction Contest for examples.

Payment is $25 per story for World and Audio rights.

Reprints? Sure, but unless you’re one hundred percent confident in the reprint, why not try to write an original piece?

For formatting purposes, you must include a title (which actually works in your benefit, as the title helps give a better “hint” of the overall story).

Writers can only submit up to two stories, both embedded in the same e-mail. Don’t worry about a cover letter. We don’t care where you’ve been published or what graduate program you’ve attended — all author identification will be stripped by a third party so we will only see the stories and nothing but the stories.

To make everyone’s lives easier, embed the stories like this:





Your name.

Submissions will open August 1 and close at midnight Eastern time August 31. A submissions e-mail address will appear on this page on August 1 — DO NOT SUBMIT TO ANY OTHER ADDRESS BEFORE THEN.

Please note that due to the expected volume of submissions, we will be forced to respond with form letters.

Thank you, and good luck.

***For a limited time, if you link to these guidelines on your blog or Twitter, you can submit a third story. These must be posted between July 1 and August 15. Include the link at the end of your e-mail. If you don’t include a link, the third story will be deleted unread.***



Today I biked to the coffeeshop and spent most of the day writing. Pretty normal. But it occurred to me riding home how much will change this year at work. Directing our service learning program means that mentoring is likely to be a big part of week-to-week life. Helping the new class of faculty fellows make plans. Working with our Vista Volunteer and my student fellow (both former students of mine). I hope to hone my listening skills, the best way I can think of to be of service.

Finished today the book review that I kept putting off during the Great Migraine of 09 and emailed it off. Tomorrow, back to the Fulbright Grant, which is almost complete (two more days of work perhaps). Then, back to the two articles that were supposed to be the big summer writing projects. Not too late, I keep saying, but August is going to mean loads of time on campus to plan for the service learning work this Fall. Not to mention planning for class. I have one section of first-year comp (service learning section) and my honors class on working-class cultures and rhetorics--the latter significantly changed since last time I taught it.

On the non-work front, Nicole and I are seeing the new Harry Potter film tonight. This weekend once again there is free live music in downtown Detroit, including Yo La Tengo (maybe the best live act around). Next week Lew comes to Michigan for a visit that's going to include hiking and taking in a Tigers game. Following week, down to Columbus to see the Dead Weather with my nephew. August means to weekend trips too: one to the Stratford Festival in Ontario and one down to Paint Valley Jamboree in southern Ohio. Not many movies I'm excited to see after tonight. Maybe Bruno. Definitely The Fan.


feeling normal

After six or seven weeks of up-and-down migraine, I've been lucky enough to have a good week. Aside from some mild, residual aches, I have felt pretty good for the past seven days. Feeling like an old man starts to get kind of tiresome, so I've been happy to re-introduce normal, healthy, reasonably youthful things back into my life.

Last Saturday, Nicole and I headed downtown to see the Gories reunion show at the Majestic Theater. The show was billed as "sold out," and approaching the venue, there was a palpable "wow, a Majestic show sold out?!" vibe. Sure enough, we got inside and it was wall-to-wall. A raised area off to the left caught our attention and we staked out some good spots. Opportunity to lean against the wall. Decent view of stage (drum riser somewhat obstructed). Close. We speculated that the area was some kind of pseudo-VIP area.

As expected, the Gories put on a wang dang doodle, unearthing many of the great tracks from their three late-80s/early 90s records (missing was my favorite of theirs, "There But for the Grace of God Go I" but I won't complain). "Nitroglycerine." Show opener "Hey Hey We're the Gories." "Thunderbird ESQ." We stood next to Meg White for much of the show and I almost asked her to take a picture with us but couldn't bring myself to bug her mid-show (she was clearly down with the tunes).

Continuing with the downtown theme, my parents visited my sister and I in the motor city and we all took my nieces and nephews down to ride the people mover, stroll the new Riverwalk (very nice), and eat in Greektown. Nice to do the tourist thing every now and again. Riverwalk...highly recommended. Lovely view of the water and Windsor. Lots of folks out and about. Lunch in Greektown was a chance to re-introduce notorious migraine trigger cheese into my diet. Still taking it easy on all the triggers, but I'm happy to report: no side effects.

Last night, Nicole and I headed down to City Fest, formerly known as Tastefest. Always nice to walk the New Center Area and lots of good, though overpriced food, and listen to free live music. Last summer you couldn't get anywhere near the George Clinton show, so we ended up rocking out to SSM. This year, we listened to part of the Handsome Furs' set. I hadn't heard their stuff before but liked their fuzzy and electronic (yet melodic) sounds. Shout out to Ann Delisi's Essential Music show, who hosted its facebook fans in a swanky tent near the main stage and provided good eats. EM is an outstanding show and what with free shrimp last night, my admiration has only grown.

Oh yeah, and back to work too. I'm on deadline for a book review essay, have a big stack of papers to grade, and need to submit my Summer I grades in a few days. Time to get to it.