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The lush Fiagdon Valley in North Ossetia hides the tip of one of the most peculiar icebergs to emerge from post-Soviet Russia. A small medallion portrait of Stalin, solid as granite, clings for dear life to a stunning cliff-face – the work of an Ossetian artist, Daurbek Tsagayev in the late 1970s. The North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz has seen a new Stalin monument unveiled as recently as 2009. These are only two examples. (More…)

All of Killing Joke’s LPs have been meditations on the apocalypse. Throughout their thirty-three year career, and with every release, singer and frontman Jaz Coleman has prophesied the end of the world. Ominously titled MMXII (that’s “2012” for those of you who are Roman numeral-challenged) the original lineup of Killing Joke has delivered another sonic missive squarely in this fiery, millenarian tradition. (More…)

No London neighborhood is as synonymous with reggae as Brixton. Immortalized in countless songs (“Guns of Brixton“, “Electric Avenue“) for outsiders, the borough’s musical identity is inseparable from popular music of the late 1970s and early eighties. Residents of San Francisco will find it comparable to the Haight Ashbury area’s identification with 1960s bands like The Grateful Dead, and the Jefferson Airplane. (More…)

He wasn’t fast enough. Just as he was lowering himself into his seat, someone else slid underneath him, to claim it. Why the guy didn’t end up landing on his competitor’s lap remains a mystery. He must have had good reflexes. Just as quickly, he bounced up into the aisle, glaring at the man who beat him to it. (More…)

J Street’s third annual conference featured a very wide range of speakers over three days, some inspiring, some evoking despair. Perhaps ironically, the best aspect for me was one that raised hope not so much for change in the United States, where J Street does its work, but in Israel. (More…)

“Can eight people from different worlds in the same city really define what it means to be British in 2012?” That bit of hokum sets the scene for Make Bradford British, a two-episode reality TV series recently aired on Channel 4 that shows that when it comes to mediating racial and cultural conflict, there’s still room for sweet but superficial fluff. (More…)

It’s been like a dream come true. Since the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, 400 million citizens of Schengen-area states have been able to travel largely ID-free, inside the area’s borders. Though subject to periodic controls (such as those imposed in 2011 by France and Denmark) their elimination has also been a boon to refugees, who frequently have to travel to several countries before being granted asylum. (More…)

Poison Idea, like Black Flag and MDC, are one of the big guns of American hardcore. Founded in Portland, Oregon in 1980, proof of Poison Idea’s importance can be found in the fact that by 1986 they were calling themselves the Kings of Punk (the title of their 1986 LP) — and no one argued. (More…)

Tucson is waist deep in a Sonoran June, but nobody’s getting wet. The bridges span riverbeds without rivers, their surface clotted with plants that struggle to remember moisture. The heat works its way deeper and deeper into the psyche. Even in the luxury of air-conditioned spaces, the body senses its relentless onslaught. Yet inside this Volkswagen speeding down Oracle Road, life is beautiful. (More…)

Burzum as a grafitti tag. What could be more inevitable? A one-man black metal project, led by an unrepentant neo-Nazi and murderer, implacably opposed to modern European (multi)culture – an irresistable signifier of transgression for those who feel drawn to write on walls. If you’re going to deface a wall, let it be with a symbol of uncompromising hate. (More…)

Nathan Englander’s new collection of short stories normalizes bad politics. The author’s inability to engage with critical difficulties within American Jewish and Israeli culture leaves key stories littered with futile symbolism. It’s too simple to suggest that Englander lacks courage. (More…)

One of my favorite bloggers, Emily Hauser, has a really good post about why the settlements remain an important issue. I say these nice things so that Emily won’t get mad at me when I disagree with her. Why? Because it is no longer accurate to just say that “the settlements are the problem.” The issue is that the settlements have succeeded in destroying a viable Palestine in the West Bank. (More…)