If you live in Pittsburgh, I'm sure you know the story by now. Charlie Deitch, the editor of the City Paper, and Rob Rogers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial cartoonist, were both fired from their jobs on May 15th and June 14th respectively. They both lost their jobs for upholding their more liberal/leftist/progressive ideals and causes, the same ones that these publications supported for many years.

Deitch was fired for continuing to criticize Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican representative from Butler. Metcalfe has described himself as "a Tea Partier before it was cool". He has done many reprehensible acts. In 2015, Metcalfe invited a white supremacist, Robert Vandervoort, the head of ProEnglish, to speak before a hearing to make English the official language in Pennsylvania. Metcalfe defended his actions by proclaiming, “a white nationalist … is a lot different than a white supremacist”. Great. Last year, in 2017, Metcalfe lashed out at a colleague, Matt Bradford, for touching his arm briefly during a state government committee meeting about a land-use bill. Metcalfe reacted to the touch by saying, “look, I'm a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don't like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time.” Everyone certainly has autonomy over their own body, but this oddly homophobic rant was irrelevant of the situation at hand. This event came after Metcalfe's attempts to pass a state law to define marriage as solely between a man and woman. In 2013, he even called for the impeachment of Bruce Hanes, an official in Montgomery County who was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Metcalfe has been the representative in Pennsylvania's 12th district since 1999.

Deitch described Metcalfe as "unfit for office" and a "blatant obstructionist". This came soon after Metcalfe unleashed a Facebook tantrum about "lying homosexuals" and how he won't even bother with any Democratic legislation that passes his door. I can't say that I disagree with Mr. Deitch's opinion on Metcalfe. After doing some reading on the representative, I can say that he's no friend of mine either.
Deitch was the editor of the Pittsburgh City Paper since 2014 and had been with them in other roles since 2005 before he was fired last month. This termination happened only 13 days after his piece about Metcalfe's obstructionist tendencies and a week after he was told to stop writing about the representative. The general manager of the paper said that Deitch's negative coverage of Metcalfe damaged ties with parent company, The Butler Eagle, a newspaper in Metcalfe's area of representation, Butler County. The paper is certainly allowed to fire him for these reasons; it's not against the law. Deitch was replaced by sportswriter Rob Rossi. This is Pittsburgh, home to champion sports teams such as The Steelers, but it's odd to have a sportswriter as the editor of an alternative paper.

Similarly, Rob Rogers, the famous political cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, also lost his job. His firing on June 14th came after 19 of his cartoons were killed for being left-leaning and anti-Trump, focusing on recent political events such as the separation of children from their families at the border.

The Post-Gazette fired Rogers because he "has become too angry for his health or for his own good," said publisher John Block. Block wants to appease right-leaning readers who have moved to the Post-Gazette after the competing Tribune-Review switched to an all-digital format. Block also merged the Toledo Blade and Post-Gazette's editorial departments, as both are managed by his company Block Communications, putting Keith Burris in charge of both papers. Keith Burris is certainly right-leaning, admitting this himself, though he has described his goal as making the paper "independent". Burris certainly has the right to fire Rogers even if I don't like it, though there's also room to ask, "wasn't he just doing his job?" Most importantly though, it's telling to see the shift in the paper's goals and audience.

These two terminations of longtime staff members, even Pulitzer Prize-winning in the case of Rob Rogers, showcase the visible shift under President Trump. Are the papers afraid of criticism from the despot? If nothing else they're trying to tap into the new "alt-right", logic-without-care, pragmatism-without-love, the-now-without-the-why. President Trump has brought out the worst in us as a nation. We've seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes brought on by the President's careless use of language. We've seen, of course, Nazis marching in the streets and increased border control measures to the point of absurdity and child abuse, the latter of which was pondered briefly before. Just yesterday, the United States even withdrew from the UN's Human Rights Council on charges that the council accepts countries that have poor human rights laws and frequently, hypocritically in their eyes, criticizes Israel. This withdrawing was after the UN accused the US of violating human rights law. Though the Human Rights Council is certainly deserving of criticism, the act of withdrawing right now is also fishy and ponders, "what's next?"

I don't know what to think about "what's next" to be honest. Any number of things could happen next, but I am sure that more explicitly racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic nonsense will occur. I'm sure we'll see some Nazis run for office next year, despite protest from both major parties and the unlikelihood of victory. I'm sure we will continue to see police shooting black people, such as what just happened yesterday to Antwon Rose. I don't want these things to continue, and I know that you don't either.

We always need to ensure that there is a local voice for more progressive politics. It seems that the Post-Gazette and the City Paper have turned to appeasement to avoid criticism and to ensure their profits are intact. Their profits seem pretty down, to be honest. So let them go. Seriously, just let them go. There is a new independent media company turning up in Pittsburgh that I'm interested in. Before you get any ideas, no, this is not a sponsored blog post. Anyway, check out the Kickstarter for The Pittsburgh Current, a new alt-weekly and proposed counter to what remains of the City Paper. The Pittsburgh Current is being set up by Charlie Deitch himself. I'm somewhat worried that the name may hurt the publication's reach, as it's hard to search on Google (it doesn't even show up on the first page by just searching the name), but we'll see what will happen. Here is the current site, and there are future plans to turn this into an actual printed publication to rival the aforementioned City Paper. The website is pretty basic now, but this is just the first few days. I myself have very little funds at the moment (you can help with that here), but I intend to support the Pittsburgh Current in any way I can. And, to Mr. Deitch, if you are reading this and need a musick reporter, don't be shy ;-).

I got a message to the Skull Valley page last week about a new album that just got released, Bagger by Bagger. Sam Casale is the sole member of Bagger, a weird name that is appealing to me in a way. He used to be a vocalist in a hardcore punk band, but Bagger is a lo-fi/dream pop/bedroom pop project.

The cover art is strange. It has a nihilistic tone and a strange character that reminds me of a badger. The simplicity of the sun in the background seems intentional, and I don't mind the figure in the front. The colors are extremely bright and jarring, and I don't like the plain text in the bottom right, the holes in the image (where it is transparent or white on the edges or near the linework), the blurriness, or the black border.

The first track on Bagger is "Stii Cine Esti (You Know Who You Are)". It's okay. I like the production, the deep drone dreams that encapsulate the track. The guitar work is pretty typical for this kind of stuff, clearly sprouting from the Dream Academy, Cocteau Twins, and the like. I don't like the lyrics at all. They are also along those same lines, a downer rainfall grey wash forever, and the lyrics seem to be describing a failed relationship. It's just not that interesting and like pointing fingers, y'know? "Next" has a cool start, almost like Your Friend, and then it goes into an interesting yet awkward noir, trip-hop sound. The lyrics continue down the same path as before, unfortunately. It seems like the narrator is blaming someone he hurt for not keeping him away, and I really don't think that's too great. Of course, I'm just looking at this through the lyrical window that I have. "Study Break (Intermission)" is an awesome instrumental trip-hop piece. I love the dissonance, the flute, the start and stop of the beats, and the jazz instrumentation. There's some great sampling on here.

The second side begins with "Trust". It's a return to the sound from that first track on the first side, airy synths and vocals both. I have to mention that I don't like the vocals much at all, and the production is particularly lo-fi here. The vocals sound awkward, especially some of the backing vocals. I kind of like the backing vocals for being so odd, though they make the song over-the-top in a campy and humorous way; unfortunately, I assume that is unintentional. The instrumentation is really basic, quiet, droning guitar and clear drums. The vocals are another downer about the same stuff. "What I Say vs. What I actually Mean" is very self-gratifying and accusatory, spoken-word like Henry Rollins with some big words. It's very, very melodramatic. The instrumentation is like a ballad. It's too much, and I really don't like it. I like that the final track "Galactus (Nothing Left to Give)" uses a pop culture metaphor. It seems to be wishing the other party well after the failed relationship that has permeated this release. It still seems somewhat entitled to me, and I find the lyrics to be convoluted at times. I think it's often better to use simpler words than flowery language.

Bagger's self-titled EP leaves a lot to be desired. It's a release that arrogantly wallows in grief in an unfortunately familiar way in the current musick culture. While I do enjoy droning guitars and the like, this was too much of a downer. Bagger lacks tension overall. Films, fiction, musick, any type of story pretty much needs tension; without it, there's nothing to build or let go. It's just swimming in circles.

It is nice to see a variety of sounds here; they don't work perfectly together, but they aren't completely alien to one another either. I didn't expect the trip-hop elements at all, and that instrumental one was my favorite of these tracks. It was strong, confident, and powerful, something that I wish the rest of the album had. There's a lot wrong with this album, and unfortunately, I cannot recommend it. Perhaps the next Bagger release will be better. Bagger gets a Bad.

Back at the start of May, I reviewed Three Sisters by The Corn People. While I was initially drawn in by the album's meta-story and strange amateurish, it ultimately ended up unsatisfactory for me. I felt like the songs were too shapeless and the effects too garish and out of control to be used as often as they word. Well, a few weeks ago I got a message from The Corn People themselves about a new album that would appear in the month of June, highlighting a mutated form of Blue Corn People who live in New Mexico. Let's take a look at The (Blue) Corn People.

First off, the album cover to The (Blue) Corn People is very simple, and it's not bad. I like the basic corn pattern repeated. I don't like the digital look to it. If there was more texture, it might be a great cover. I'm glad to see a more simple geometric and abstract design though compared with last time. I do think it needs a little more, like text or some kind of border, but this is a step in the right direction.

"There's a Blue Kernal in Town" is the first sprout, opening with a wall of sound and something that might be physical movement. A cool wobbly synth comes in, continuing somewhat haphazardly at times, along with the standard rock array, before more shuffling and clicks closes it out. The following track is "Rail Runner to Santa Fe", which has a fun carnival sound, reminding me of something from a Sonic the Hedgehog game. The synth sounds almost like a monster crying out to the void during a fierce battle in Tokyo while the J.S.D.F. looks on. I really like the cymbal sounds. "Where the Water Cuts Through" opens with a standard drum beat and a goofy bassline. The synth is pretty nice, and I like the whistling sounds. I really liked the sort of solo near the end. The song sounds like a video game track again for sure. "Lost in Los Alamos" is pretty chaotic at first, but the song takes some really interesting turns with fuzz and bubbling sounds. This could be a really cool rap beat. The major instruments are a little too shrill, and the track is too unfocused to be really great on its own.

"Machining Plutonium" starts really strong with a straightforward drum track and some simple synths. It loses a little focus soon, as it goes off the rhythm, though things come together towards the end. "Tumblr-Snapper" is a pretty weird track with like airplane sounds and slower lounge-style drums. The synths soar up into the contrails behind the jets. "Ba! Ba! Ba!" has some congas or something and a call and response instrumental before going into something that might be played in a pyramid level in a video game. I wish the track didn't just go ahead with new parts every ten seconds; I think it's important for a song to repeat various phrases, hence a verse and chorus. "1947" is really interesting with dramatic drums and whirling winds. The synth is kind of like an alien or a Halloween decoration and, again, very high-pitched. Afterwards, we have "Boots" with a sort of B-52s vocal in the background directing boots marching, somewhat militarily. The vocals are an instrument on their own, akin to Liliput or Pittsburgh's legendary Cardboards. It even has a similar sense of humor to the latter. And this song does have more of a traditional pop song structure. This is my favorite track on the album, and it really shows what The Corn People are capable of.

The last third of the album begins with "Radioactively Radio Active". The title reminds me of Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity. I like the drumbeat and the waves of static in the background. It's a cool production that has more shape and grit than many of the early tracks. "The Atomic Crows" is another exciting track that goes by fast. Like a fast clock, the gears grind to the pulsing beat and staccato synths. The energy makes this another favorite for sure. "Fermi-Pasta-Ulam-Tsingou" is a weird sound collage of watery wetness and slippery synths burbling in a mouth of some space giant. The radar goes off a few times, bringing us the sappy "I Love You, Trinity". "I Love You, Trinity" is a very happy, upbeat, and pastel song. It's something like a cross between Strawberry Switchblade and a puzzle game on the Super Famicom. I assume it is a pining to trinity corn or the three sisters of agriculture that the previous album was named after. This was one of the best songs, saved for last.

The (Blue) Corn People falters in some areas, but it does what it needs to. It shows many sides, many shades of kernal beyond just the titular blue. While it has the wild, freeform synth adventures from before, The (Blue) Corn People also brings pop songs like the closer, "I Love You, Trinity" and the more experimental "Boots". I was getting pretty critical of the album for a second before that track really brought me around. It's got a real cleverness that you don't often see, and it's quite a catchy track. Blended together with the odd space soundscapes, weird sound effects, and goofy circus songs, this album has a lot going for it. The "off" songs give a bit of an edge, a sure strangeness, a willingness to try and fail. And the "on" songs, like "Boots" and the closing track, give this an element of pop mastery. The (Blue) Corn People receives a Good. I hope to see how this stalk continues to grow.

My friends BBGuns played in downtown in Market Square on Saturday, June 9th. It was part of Deutschtown Goes Downtown, an extended part of the Deutschtown Music Festival that is happening next month. They'll be playing the festival as well with other bands and artists such as Soda Club, Sluggs, Midge Cricket, The Weird Paul Rock Band, The Full Counts, Jack Stauber, Nox Boys, Hearken, Dumplings, and my band - Sorry I'm Dead.

I got to Market Square just in time to see BBGuns. There was a decent crowd down there as they were finishing their first song. Downtown was busy all over because of the Arts Festival and Pride happening nearby at the same time. I had driven through their earlier in the day; that was not a good idea. I liked the atmosphere of all of the people together though.

BBGuns sounded so solid on stage. They performed excellently despite the lack of onstage monitors. I enjoyed hearing the tracks, newer and older, that they performed over the course of an hour, as the sun went down overhead. With all the skyscrapers overhead, shining brightly, it reminded me of those shots from Carsickness' legendary gig downtown back before I was born. I figured something like that would never happen in this modern day when big business owns so much of our world.

The crowd definitely enjoyed the set as well, some of them family members of BBGuns. It was cool to see some kids down there having a good time and people just passing by glancing at the stage. I hope this happens again more often. Market Square is such a huge area that's perfect for something like this.

As I said earlier, BBGuns will also be playing the Deutschtown Music Festival on July 14th on the HughShows Stage at 9pm. My own band, Sorry I'm Dead, will be playing that same evening at 5pm at YMR Club. You can check out the main schedule here. I hope to see some of you there.

I've been out for a bit. Sorry about that. I've been applying to every job I can find, delivering food for UberEats, signing up for food stamps and medical assistance, trying to program apps and get other code stuff on GitHub, remastering and uploading World Belt Records stuff to Spotify and Amazon and iTunes and other streaming/download places, and just being with my wonderful partner. I had some issues last month with getting an artist for the Artist Special, but I have someone for this month and have some extra stuff planned for missing the one in May.

Anyway, here is a new Outside In(fluence) featuring Cruz de Navajas from Mexico City. The band was here in Pittsburgh the other day on the 4th. I wanted to go, but I wasn't feeling too good. I listened to the band a bit before the show, and I thought that the musick was grea. Unfortunately, I can't understand the lyrics, because I don't speak Spanish. Here's a review of everything else from Dominación.

Boy, this is a spooky album cover. I don't know if the title, Dominación, is referring to BDSM or a reference to social oppression or enslavement or the like. The title is small and stark. The image is a chalk white ghostly thing like the gothic works of Henry Fuseli and reminiscent of the covers of albums by Bauhaus or Joy Division. This is a very good cover indeed.

The first track on Dominación is "Depuración" (Debugging). This track has really poppy drums in the way that they sound like pops more than pop musick. It's easier to just say they are bright. The track overall is fast and high on the treble. It has a wild electric sound with a lot going on in the background, clustered chaos. Next is "Escalavas" (Slaves). There's a lot of reverb here, the echoes of drainage tunnels and strange regions of the universe where light fears to venture. The musick is furious and travels with the maximum velocity straightforward beyond. There's an almost watery sound at times to the instrumentation. "Ciudad 40" (City 40) follows with the vocalist sounding a bit like Siouxsie Sioux here. I really like the bouncy bass. There's a really cool guitar part in the middle, all rush and whirlwind, and the drums really pound it at the end. It reminds me of "Paris Skies" by Big Electric Cat, though a lot of this album does. "Las Personas son Bestias" (People Are Beasts) is the last track on this side. The synth is amazing on this track, like a dying musick box with an eerie fullness. The vocals fuse into that deep void too as the guitar buzzes over the top.

"Imperialismo" (Imperialism) starts side two. It's got a dance beat, but the rest of the track is still pretty downtempo. The vocals are really loooooong, the echoes trailing into those same spaces as before. "Parásitos" (Parasites) has more dense instrumentation with wild harmonics bouncing off of the angles of the night's polygons. The guitar bursts like a searing flame all over the song. I couldn't find a translation for the title of the next song, "Suna". This song is quite a trip; it's way different than the others, with less echo spaciness and more start and stop punkiness. It's also the only track on the album under 3 minutes. This song really reminds me of the band Parálisis Permanente from Spain. The final track, "SPK" comes through a small tornado and a burbling bass. The synths sound so harmonic and hollow, which is awesome. This last song really blows the sound way out and ends with a whirring moan.

I really enjoyed Dominación, and I'm not talking about BDSM. The album is a punchy space-channeling speed-thru that leaves one cold and out of sorts. I wish I knew enough Spanish to understand the lyrics, as they seem like they have something. The vocals are good, though a little over-the-top. I feel the same about the instruments too. There are some awesome sounds, especially the strange angular little jabs that come out of left field. I like all the layers to the songs as well. It's a bit loud overall, though. It's a bit samey too, though I don't know if I could say that if I knew the language. My issues with Dominación are pretty small, so this album by Cruz de Navajas gets a Good.

If you really liked this review or other reviews I've done, please support my work here on Ko-fi. Any amount helps for real. I'll be back again this week coming up as I get back into the swing of things. See you soon.

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