COVER WARS: Whose Artfag Kung-Fu Is Stronger?


Since my work history at the local alternative weeklies has somehow become a matter of public interest, I feel obliged to set the record straight: I was NOT “shitcanned” from the PW last week. That happened TWO YEARS AGO, and really, that was a matter of them being just as tired of me as I was of them. If I can blow my own horn for a moment, only a month prior to my dismissal I had swept a couple entire categories at the Keystone state journalism awards and walked away with a buncha First Place plaques from the Society of Professional Journalists, etc. and was voted one of the top four music critics in the country by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. I only mention all this to make it clear that the quality of the work I was turning out was not the issue. In retrospect, my fall from grace stemmed from my crisis of confidence in their leadership. I began to feel used, and that the readers were being used, by people who seemed to have lost their passion and imagination for this gig a long time ago.

There were other factors at work, to be sure, and I have never pretended to be an angel so I won’t start now. I’ll be the first to admit I am often my own worst enemy. But the final nail in the coffin was the perception amongst management that I was sowing rebellion and disaffection amongst the other writers and of that much I was innocent. Rebellion and disaffection are sewn from the top down, not the bottom up. So I was made to walk the plank, they said they’d tell everyone it was my idea. And they gave me a music column as a golden parachute of sorts. Two years on, a new music editor comes on board, let’s just call him Brian. Well, we knock heads right out of the gate like a couple of last call drunks who realize there ain’t no women left in the bar so they might as well break beer bottles over each other’s heads. But then something funny happened: we got along swimmingly. Once, in a tender moment, he begrudgingly admitted, “you know, I learned how to do this from guys like you, don’t make me say that again.” Then we bumped heads again over the Lucinda column. He didn’t like the fact that I quoted at length from a review I had written of an earlier Lucinda album. I didn’t like that he called an early deadline, which I scrambled to meet, and then he didn’t bother to look at it until the next day anyway. So I told him I could never say it as well as I had said it in that earlier review, so what’s the big deal? Paper comes out on Wednesday and I open it up and in place of my column about Lucinda is a Doug Wallen remembrance of Azusa Plane. (I was so pissed I didn’t even read it, and it would be days later that I found out Jason DiEmilio had committed suicide. We were never good buddies or anything, but friends enough that the news hit me like a punch in the gut. Damn, Jason. Damn.) I email Brian and ask if he killed my column, he writes back “10:4” like we’re truckers or something. I write back, “that was a dick move, you only have one left. Use it wisely.” And then I put the Lucinda column up on Phawker. He didn’t like that. “Aw, man. I was just putting in for your kill fee, I hope it was worth it.” Every penny, I wrote back.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: I would make a TERRIBLE hostage negotiator — they would all wind up dead. Well, the same could be said of Brian. Seems I finally met someone with even more disregard than myself for the consequences of proving, to paraphrase Bon Scott, Who’s Got The Biggest Balls Of Them All! Long story short, a few snarktastic email exchanges later and, whoops, guess we won’t be needing your column anymore. Seems I threw down the gauntlet with the ‘you only have one more dick move’ ultimatum and he was calling it in. We’re going with Craig Lindsay in that space, he said. Whatever. I’ll admit I was miffed at first, but only because he pulled the plug before I had a chance. No biggie I wrote back a coupla days later, it’s time to cut the apron strings anyway.

Phawker is like tending to a sick relative — aside from sleeping and peeing, you JUST GOTTA BE THERE. And the Inquirer has been leaning on me to help fill Tom Moon’s boots. All’s well that ends, I always say. The end of something is always the beginning of something else. And I’m always looking forward to something else. Long story short, he’s coming over to party Saturday night. I think I’m gonna like this kid. But worst case scenario we can always break beer bottles over each other’s heads again. Now, as for my old, dear friend Joey Sweeney dancing on my grave, I will only say this: Let the record show that on at least three occasions when I was still on staff and the bosses were ready to shitcan HIS ass, I interceded on his behalf and asked them to give him another chance and let me talk to him, etc. Of course, over at Philebrity, no good deed goes unpunished. Well, anyway, now you know. And there is plenty more to say about alternative weeklies and their place in the shifting scheme of things, but I’ll save that for next week.

And so, on with the contest. Ladies, I don’t know what to say: I’m lookin’ at these dueling Holiday Guide covers and I’m feelin’ like you guys just weren’t feelin’ it this year. Like holiday guides are another one of those joyless perennials dreamed up by the sales department, where enormous amounts of holiday-tinged word filler must be generated to keep all those ads from slamming into each other and shattering into a million pieces. Advertisers hate that.