Author: Charlie Bertsch
Charlie Bertsch lives in Tucson, Arizona. A founding editor and regular contributor to one of the world's first online magazines, Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, his work has appeared in numerous publications since including The Oxford American, Punk Planet, Phoenix New Times, Cleveland Scene, Tucson Sentinel, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Making my way through the vastness of my local Costco, trying to avoid the urge to buy large quantities of things for which I have small need, I was surprised to catch a glimpse of huge plastic barrels of flour out of the corner of my eye.

“Wait,” I thought, “Didn’t I just see a row of flour sacks two aisles back?” As I turned my head to ponder this riddle, I saw that the flour was grouped next to huge containers of dried strawberries and, a little farther to the right, such staples as powdered milk and eggs. (More…)

As I was finishing a Hawaiian plate lunch with my daughter and her mother in Encinitas, they announced that they were going to do some “girl” shopping on the main drag. I said I’d come along. But then I was overcome by a familiar urge. (More…)

I still see a lot of these Ron Paul bumper-stickers on the highway. Introduced prior to the 2008 Presidential election in the United States, they were the most visible manifestation of the grassroots support that garnered him huge campaign contributions in spite of the fact that he never came close to winning the Republican nomination. (More…)

When my mother’s worsening health recently made it necessary for my parents to relocate from the Washington D.C. area, where they had lived for over three decades, to be near me in Tucson, Arizona, I volunteered to drive both their cars across the country. (More…)

The day before the official release of the Fleet Foxes’ sophomore album Helplessness Blues, I was intently listening to NPR’s label-sanctioned stream when my twelve-year-old daughter broke in: “I really like this.” (More…)

This poster is currently plastered on roadside rest areas throughout the state of Texas, which is big enough to enclose a good deal of Europe and therefore an object of dread for many long-distance drivers. (More…)

Turkey broke the mold. Whether Germans were questioning the right of Turkish migrants to become citizens, Americans were attacking its leadership’s positions on Israel, or Syrians were complaining that Ankara manages to preserve favored status despite its policies towards the Kurds, Turkey is shorthand for , “Yes, but. . .”, a way for practitioners of Realpolitik both to define a “state of exception”, and assert its value. (More…)

“Lippy Kids”, the strongest track on Elbow’s latest album Build a Rocket Boys!, takes a while to build up momentum and even longer to ease to a close. Over the sparest possible piano figure, a single note played over and over, simultaneously insistent and muted, a series of tasteful accents is gradually added and then subtracted. Only the carefully spaced intrusion of Guy Garvey’s evocative voice imparts the weight of a full-fledged song. Even then, the music sounds like it’s about to evaporate, making the six-minute running time something of a miracle. (More…)

Considering that the San Francisco Bay Area has one of the world’s densest concentrations of Ph.D.s, it shouldn’t be surprising that retailers appeal to the superior knowledge of the customer base they wish to cultivate. In the end, this approach is no different than marketing medicine for male erectile dysfunction to the men who watch sports on television. (More…)

Ryu Murakami’s Popular Hits of the Showa Era, just released in English translation, has a plot that is both straightforward and surreal. Six single men in their twenties, all social outcasts touched by madness, band together to form a karaoke club. Six single women in their thirties, similarly cut off from society but much less demented, do the same. When one of the men randomly assaults and murders one of the women, a grisly chain reaction ensues, turning these outwardly unassuming ensembles into de facto gangs worthy of the American inner city.
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Although studded with moments of hectic musical convergence, Kutmah’s The New Error is bookended by passages in which propulsion takes a back seat. On the opening track, a string motif of Middle Eastern provenance twines amid meandering piano chords as Doom articulates a dream of irony-free positivity. Yet the hiss and crackle that suffuse the proceedings keep them at a distance. (More…)

When a German producer receives support from the Goethe Institute to collect field recordings in Africa and forcefully rework them into cutting-edge electronica, difficult questions are bound to come up. Are the musicians he documented being exploited, whether financially or culturally? (More…)