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.

As I was preparing to spend a year abroad in Germany, I agonized over one of the tips my exchange student organization had sent me. It encouraged us to photograph aspects of the United States that wouldn’t be familiar from watching American movies and television. But what came to mind for me were the homeless people I saw on every trip to Washington D.C. (More…)

Sometimes accidents of timing reveal what is no accident. The news media was preoccupied with two stories this past Monday: the letter that 47 Republican senators sent to Iranian leaders warning them that any agreement signed by the President might not outlast his term, and the outrage over footage of an Oklahoma fraternity singing a racist song that invoked lynching. (More…)

Few bands have a more problematic relation to novelty than Gang of Four. Persistently critical of postmodern capitalism’s relentless search for new sources of income, they still repudiated the nostalgia that has so often beset the modern Left, embracing electronic dance music when most of their fellow travelers looked down on anything that deviated from classic rock instrumentation. But that move looks a lot different now than it did in the early 1980s. (More…)

Ever since the midterm elections in the United States, not a day goes by without news of some new offensive by the Right on a “hard” target of the modern welfare state: labor unions, environmental protections and, most prominently, public education. To some, the pace and power of the attacks signal the dawn of a political age; to others, they simply represent another stage in the Reagan Revolution. (More…)

When I take my dad to watch the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts on Saturday mornings at the movie theater near my house, I know what to expect: slow-moving senior citizens who force the staff to bend over backwards satisfying their demands before the performance starts. That’s what made this past weekend so surprising. The same people were there, but many of them were going to see Fifty Shades of Grey instead. (More…)

Sometimes it’s easier to perceive a country’s most pressing problems when you don’t speak the language. It was August, 1986. I had only been in Germany a few weeks. All I could really say were sentences like “It is X” and “I am Y”. Understanding others was even harder. But I had already figured out that the words Obdachlosen and Asylanten were crucial for understanding the nation’s future. (More…)

When I saw the coupon in my social media feed, I just had to buy the new Sleater-Kinney album at Best Buy. It’s hard to imagine a more incongruous place to procure the return of those darlings of middle-aged — and usually white — music critics. But that’s why it felt so necessary. I needed to be reminded of the world the band had warned us about. (More…)

In some circles, Inherent Vice was the most eagerly anticipated film of last year. Its director, Paul Thomas Anderson, has long been a favorite of cinephiles, both for the excellent performances he gets from actors and his delightfully retrograde insistence on shooting to film. But tackling the work of the legendary writer Thomas Pynchon added greatly to the hype. (More…)

Germany’s fractured twentieth-century history gives racism a different meaning there than it has in the United States, Great Britain or France. The lack of an unbroken colonial legacy and the immigration to which it inevitably leads made people of African and East Asian descent relatively uncommon. Those who did settle down came primarily as guest workers or asylum seekers. And the Holocaust further complicated matters. (More…)

A few weeks ago, Facebook users began posting the Year in Review posts automatically generated by the social media company’s mysterious algorithms. While these strange collages came with a customization option, most people seemed content to post theirs as-is. As I waited for my turn, I wondered whether I could do the same. 2014 was a rough year for me and my family. (More…)

“I need more bandwidth!” After hours of being so deeply engrossed in his Minecraft dominion that he had barely acknowledged anyone else in the room, my brilliant nine-year-old nephew stomped his feet on the floor and shouted this demand at his parents, smiling but serious. To him, it was an entirely reasonable request. But I couldn’t help but regard it as a wry commentary on our cultural moment. (More…)

These are uncertain times in the US. Although the economy has been doing better, most people still seem to feel that it isn’t doing better for them. A state of half-war continues to prevail internationally. And reports of brutality by both local police forces and the CIA have many Americans wondering where their country went. (More…)