The Vaults

Excerpts from Electric Degeneration, Degenerate Press' semi-weekly e-zine, free and ad-free. A full episode contains sections for music reviews, upcoming events, blasphemy, classifieds, and anything else we feel like saying. If you'd like to subscribe just contact us.

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So I was chatting with an old friend at a party at Fantasm, and I mentioned Degenerate Press. He's a fellow web geek and he asked about the amount of traffic Degenerate Press gets in an average month.
"I dunno, several thousand visitors."
"How many thousand?"
"I'd have to check. I don't keep track really."
"Well, if it's enough you could make some money off of it. Have you considered adult content?"
Longtime subscribers may remember Library of Erotica, a Degenerate Press spinoff of sorts, that faded away a few years back. We never did turn it into a source of income. In fact, the site was abandoned due more to the expense than the lack of interest. I enjoyed building and updating the site but between it and DP, my web expenses were something like $100/month for no return on investment. I told Charles as much.
"I've got a laptop in my room. Can you get to your traffic logs online?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Do you still have all that erotica content?"
"Yeah. Why?"
"I’ll show you."
We trek down the hall to his room and he logs on to the web and I get my traffic report and show him I'm getting about 80,000 visitors a month on
"If you turned Degenerate Press into an adult content site I could guarantee you enough members to make it worth your while. With the traffic you’re getting now you'd be making a profit."
I giggled and pretty much didn't take him seriously. Charles showed me a few other "conversion sites" he'd worked on, basically just URL's that had expired or never become profitable and he'd picked up on the cheap and renovated into adult content sites with paid membership areas. He gave me his card and we returned to the party. Somewhere in there, he and I parted ways and I didn't think about it the rest of the night, just partied on.
But in the morning I was laying in bed thinking it'd be nice to have some extra money for the &^%$ T-bird. It needs a $2,500 paint job 'cause the roof leaks and the vinyl top will have to be pulled to fix it, then replaced. SW and I are saving money to move out of Atlanta one of these days and we just can't justify pouring that kind of money into the car, as much as we love it. Then I remembered the domain is up for renewal this time every year and how much it's costing me per month (basically 'cause I'm too lazy to move it to a cheaper ISP) and how much more fun it was to run Library of Erotica than it is to run Degenerate Press. But I let Library of Erotica lapse because I was kind of working on the side as a writer for low-paying print rags and Degenerate Press was better resume filler. Besides, I'd had the DP name for a lot longer.
"And spring is a time of change..." I thought.
The longer I lay there the more I wanted to do it. I called Charles on Monday and we talked more about it.
So what the hell? Or "what the fuck" I suppose I should say - DEGENERATE PRESS IS GOING PORN.
I may archive all the old DP content somewhere for future generations but I can get my musical interests and hobbies satisfied through my work at WRFG (still working on getting a show down there, stay tuned for details.)
Speaking of staying tuned, I've been working all week on hammering out the details with Charles but it's pretty easy to make all subscribers to Electric Degeneration into members. I'll be sending out details on that next week.
Meanwhile, I've dredged out the old Library of Erotica content and gotten it updated and cleaned up (or dirtied up) and ready for prime time. The new, more degenerate Degenerate Press site goes live this weekend! Better living through porn!!
So here’s the final official Electric Degeneration, an extra long one to celebrate the end of the world as we knew it, and the dawn of a new one. Feel free to respond with both hands ‘cause after this weekend you’ll only be typing with one.

We were lounging on the deck at 97 Estoria the other day asking the Atlanta Zoo people at the neighboring table if any of them were the panda fluffer. We couldn’t get anyone to fess up but one guy did say he knew whose job it was to get the male panda off so they could artificially inseminate the female panda. But such humorous topics were not to last. Inevitably the conversation turned to Terri Shiavo.
And now Terri Shiavo’s dead, and all the world is outside looking in.
This whole Schiavo mess has been bothering me more and more, not because of the fanatics on either side, or because of the increasing coverage on every media form known to man, or because it has politicians posturing for a vocal minority when I know they're really just whipping up the ignorant masses for the next political move.
No, what bugs me is that few seem to be discussing the real issue here. I've seen Schiavo's case used in discussions of everything from right to die to the sanctity of marriage to medical malpractice to states rights vs. federalism. Everyone wants a pound of her flesh to hold aloft as a banner for their own petty cause.
I have yet to see anyone point out how the controversy surrounding this case is indicative of our lack of discussion in this country about how we want to define life - what qualifies as human life, when it begins, when and sometimes why or how, it should end. Fertilize an egg and instantly it becomes human, according to some. A brain-dead body kept breathing with modern technology is life, according to some. Unfortunately, these some people can't seem to address the issues without using the words "soul", "god," or "bible” and that kind of talk just doesn’t hold the attention of a cynical atheist like myself. I need a discussion that talks about life (and death) here and now on this planet.
On the plus side, it has made a lot of people realize the government can get too involved in our lives (or deaths) and there has been a huge demand for living wills lately and several states are considering “right to death” laws similar to those in Oregon. Simultaneously the Bush administration is working to stop them, but at least a debate is active. Too bad so many have had to suffer for so long before we got around to talking about it. Yet again our technology has far outpaced our ability to deal with it, though for once instead of it being our ability to destroy life it’s our ability to preserve it that has become a problem.
On the lighter side, degenerate BC noted, “If Schiavo was bulimic she probably doesn’t want the feeding tube reinserted!”
Sick humor, to be sure, but sometimes humor is the best medicine. If only doctors could prescribe it in lethal doses…

Speaking of humor, as I've said before, The Onion doesn't do enough political satire, but when they do…
American Torturing Jobs Increasingly Outsourced
WASHINGTON, DC—AFL-CIO vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson, representing the American Federation of Interrogation Torturers, released a statement Monday deriding the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, under which American torturing jobs are outsourced to foreign markets. "Outsourcing the task of interrogating terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia is having a crippling effect on the Americans who make a living by stripping detainees nude, shackling them to the floor, and beating the living shit out of them," Chavez-Thompson said. "And specialists within the field—corrosive-material chemists, ocular surgeons, and testicular electricians—are lucky to find any jobs at all. How are they supposed to feed their families?" Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended extraordinary rendition, saying the program will create jobs in the long run by fostering a global climate of torture tolerance.

We’ve gotten a few CD’s lately but we let them stack up while preparing for Fantasm. Now we’re digging through the heap and realizing some of this stuff has been lying around a while. Sheesh. You’d think our staff didn’t get paid enough…

First up, local band 13 Stories. I’m pretty sure they sent us a demo a while back ‘cause I remember disliking this once already. But here’s their full length LP, FunkyPopSexyHouseRap, some 2 ½ years in the making according to the accompanying press kit. You can hear the years of production built up behind this thing. Heavy on the synth pop, yet light on the content. Talented production, decent singing voices, yet white girls just shouldn’t rap, especially ones that look like they walked right out of Phipp’s Plaza and into the studio, judging from the cover photo - two white guys, two white girls, done up for their photo shoot. I only mention race here because it comes through in the music. They’re trying hard to do some groovy dance music, something like Pink’s danceable tunes, but it lacks something, something 2 ½ years couldn’t help.
I poked around The Vaults of Degenerate Press and found our previous review from June 26, 2003:

We got an EP CD from 13 Stories a long time back but we don't often
review EP's. What's the point of a 3 song demo when you can record a
full length album in the comfort of your own home these days? But
it's on the heap, so here goes.
Remember how groovy Dee-Lite sounded some 10 years ago? It was dance
music with enough layers and interesting sounds to make it actually
listenable. 13 Stories approaches that edge and might push over it
for less discerning listeners. Electronic pop dance music with fun
lyrics and nice hooks in the melodies, but still just a 3 song demo
of dance music.

So now I guess I know what the point of a 3 song demo is – it’s a lot harder to get tired of.
I’m not one of those critics that automatically discounts something because it’s got a beat and I can dance do it, Dick. Crap, I spent the last two weeks compiling a few hours of the most danceable music I own. Nor do I mind empty pop music. But there’s only so many times you can hear Pink chant “I’m coming up so you’d better get this party started” before you want the next tune to come along and wash that away with something more serious. Five tunes into 13 Stories CD you’re still waiting, hoping even.
But if you’re looking for some harmless, empty dance music for your teenage daughter’s birthday party this might fit the bill. Unfortunately she probably won’t let you put it on ‘cause she’s already got her own annoying music. Hopefully it’s better than this.

Next up, The Creeping Cruds out of Nashville sent us their CD, The Incredibly Strange People Who Stopped Living and Became The Creeping Cruds. It’s sort of psychobilly horror rock stuff with the horror part being all cartoonish B-movie vampires and zombies. It’s like a slightly more heavy metal Cramps, but without as much variation in the material they cover. The Creeping Cruds’ song titles pretty much say it all:
All Hail the Horror Host
Blood on the Banisters
I Sold My Brain
I Eat the Living
Driving Miss Zombie
The Ghosts of West Memphis
Stomp Tokyo
Blood Moon
I, Vampire
Good stuff for a cheesy haunted house party. They might be a fun band to see live, so keep an ear out for them.

Caught an advance screening of Sin City this week. For those who aren't geeks, bear with me a moment here. You need to know why the name Frank Miller is important to a lot of us. Or screw it and skip ahead three or for paragraphs, ya short-attention-span closed-minded wimp...
In the last 50 years or so there have been three gods in the comic book genre. Stan Lee, creator of, oh, half the super heroes you can name, made comic book heroes less two dimensional. No, not through the use of cutting edge 3D computer technology, but by giving them personalities, lives, things to struggle with beyond their archnemesi. R. Crumb abandoned super heroes entirely, turning his eye to society and the dark recesses of his own soul. He allowed comic books to be about less important things than good vs. evil. His heroes are not super but lonely everymen and wacky caricatures that have become icons of a generation he himself loathed. He never achieved the mainstream popularity of Stan Lee (I don't know that anyone else in comic books ever will) but in the underground scene, Crumb is The Man.
So mainstream comics chugged along, pretty much ignoring the adult themes Crumb and others put forth.
Then along comes Frank Miller. I was a comic book fan, but not a collector. I couldn't afford to dump my allowance into comics - not after I'd dumped it all into the pinball machine at the corner Magic Market. But in my teen years I picked up Daredevil for a year or two. There was something about the drawings and the story line, both dark, that really grabbed me. Not being a serious collector, I didn't bother to note who the artist was.
A few years later I noticed similar work in Batman. The name finally stuck - Frank Miller. His work with Batman and Daredevil punched a hole in the wall between teens and adults, at least in the mainstream comic genre. The Batman comics were bound together as graphic novels and reprinted in droves. You can probably still find them at Borders today, almost twenty years after their first appearance.
Then Frank turned his black ink into an art meant only for adults with his graphic novels, such as Sin City. I couldn't afford the books at the time but I picked them up in the store and the pages are still burned into my memory. Fantastic imagery, stuff mundane comic artists hadn't even tried, stuff so dark you could barely tell what was happening in some panels, often allowing your imagination to fill in the black gaps. And stories so grisly and creepy as to approach horror, and not the comic book horror of the old Weird Tales either. More like a great film noir version of the Cops TV show.
So now you know why us geeks tremble at the name Frank Miller. A few months ago I saw a trailer for a film that was not just black and white but super high contrast and blacks so black you couldn't see into them, with characters so dark they always seem to step from the shadows, and action that explodes off the screen. I turned to SW and said, "That looks a lot like a Frank Miller comic, Sin City." At the end of the trailer they brought up the title and I told SW she HAD to get me advance tickets.
So on Tuesday we hit Regal Hollywood 24 and got in line with a few hundred other geeks, freaks, dorks, losers, slackers, and other such degenerates and filed into the theater, all buzzing with anticipation. SW went along, deciding to see Sin City over Beauty Shop, the new Queen Latifa spinoff of Barbershop. I don't know why SW opted to come with me. I had figured I'd have to ask one of the other geeks I know to come with.
But I'm glad she did. She provides a non-geek perspective on a film that I wasn't sure would appeal to a mainstream audience. SW loved it, so now those of you who think my 6 paragraph intro to the movie was dull at best should consider seeing the film. It's good. Pretty damn good.
It's violent though. It's been compared to Pulp Fiction for its violence and intertwining storylines. So if you're in the mood comic book heroes in spandex, this ain't for you. But if you like film noir thrillers and a movie that does something new visually, Sin City kicks major ass.
That said, it's not perfect. Michael Madsen in the opening scenes sounds as if he's in a middle school play, his lines are read so poorly. I know he can act, he just doesn't in this particular film. Fortunately he's not featured again until the end of the film, and even then only in passing. I probably wouldn't even mention him except that he's the first impression you get and it stuck with me.
I also would've preferred less computer generated scenery and more location shots. Sure, it allows complete control of the environment so it can be drawn (or generated) to match Miller's look, but there are a few times where it doesn't quite work and the actors don't appear to be in the environment. Their shadows don't quite work or their feet don't look like they're touching the ground. Little things that probably bother only computer geeks like me. SW said she didn't even notice.
The other actors do a fine job. Mickey Rourke is fantastic, even behind a heavy prosthetic mask (that is also fantastic in itself.) Benecio Del Toro has a scene that had everyone giggling. Bruce Willis is good, Jessica Alba is pretty but dull (I would've cast someone else), and the dozen or so other cameo-like roles are all handled well.
Robert Rodriguez knows how to direct action, as he's proven in the Mariachi series and other films.
But, like with Miller's comics, it's the visuals that really stick with you. The rare use of color is punchy and is used to bring weight to certain objects or body parts or people. And Miller's trademark black is all there. It's so dark it's like looking at a photographic negative. White replaces what would be black in other films - the areas that grab your eye.
Hopefully non-geeks will go to this film. It's a fine film in itself, but it also may steer a few adults into the comic aisle where, for the last 20 years or more, people like Miller have finally brought comics out of their childhood.

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