Thursday, May 23, 2002

Congress gave the FDA the gift of conflict of interest as it expanded the "user fee program" with little fanfare, as a rider on the bioterrorism bill.

The drug and biotechnology industries pay about $160 million yearly in user fees to the FDA, but that sum would jump to $260 million yearly in 2007 under the proposed expansion. The new money would not only allow the agency to hire more staff but also to upgrade its technology and improve management at FDA headquarters. In return, the FDA would commit to maintaining its speedier pace for new drug reviews and to more quickly move applications for new uses of older drugs. In addition, it would begin pilot programs to further speed review of certain fast-track drugs.

Meanwhile, Salomon Smith Barney committed to the same structural changes that Merrill Lynch announced earlier this week, in an effort to make their research analysts separate from their investment bankers. The two brokerages have more in common than that: SSB has been subpoenaed by the same NY Attorney General whose investigation and threat of criminal charges caused Merrill to make those changes. A juicy summary of ML's crimes and concessions.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

Lester Bangs died 20 years ago. He was a rock critic guy. If you're like me (if you're like my age, or were at least in 1987) then maybe you heard of him for the first time at the end of side 2 (they had sides back then!) of REM's Document album, immediately preceded by "Lenny Bruce and...". Or if you were less obsessed with the mumbly boys from Athens than I (who still recall planning for the day in August, I think, when the new album would come out and buying it on cassette at Plan 9 Music, but I digress like a madman or a big dog), then you didn't hear of Mr Bangs 'til the video for "It's the End of the World as We Know It" came out. Or else you're older, were listening to Iggy, Lou Reed & the Velvets before Lester hisself was, you've gone through 4 iterations of love/hate for Bangs, you're tired of it, and you think I'm an idiot for not being hipper sooner, and you hate me. Or you're younger, you're only aware of Lester Bangs because he shows up in a recent film, and I think you're an idiot and I hate you.

Anyway, it was right about '87 that time that Psychotic Reactions and CarBuretor Dung was published collecting for the first time Lester's wild & wide writings from years writing for Rolling Stone, Creem & Village Voice. The book is startling, loud and contradictory as the letter fuck. It's full of drugs too, which is kinda how Lester died, besides having the flu. It was in 1992 that Bruce Sterling dis-interred Lester for a post-autopsal blind marriage by short fiction with San Francisco cartoonist Dori Seda who expired in a startlingly similar manner and likewise with plenty of potential in the bank.

A few years back Bangs' essay on Elvis' expiration was stapled into the front of a picturebook on the King's early years; Lester likens EP's latter-day rep to that of The Pentagon, "a giant armored institution nobody knows anything about except that its power is legendary", and then calls him the "perfect cultural expression" of the Nixon years, and thsu opines that "we might all do better to think about waving good-bye with one upraised finger". There really is no other voice like his. [pauper's hint: rip off amazon--yeh, that's right I even linked to 'em when I said it!--and read his entire intro on the sample pages they provide without buying the damn thing. Don't worry, there are legions buying it for the subject and not the author, very much in spite of LB in fact].

Here's a great restrospective article on Lester, which includes some curves I'd never heard before. Of course I haven't [yet] read the book on him. And wait, there's more...


[gone fer so long and then back with this...]

mash it up! mash it up!

[...] But, suddenly, the recording changes course when, instead of the gravelly voice of Kurt Cobain, the smooth R&B harmonies of a Destiny's Child hit appear on top of the grunge music. As the recording moves on, it is clear that the song is neither fish nor fowl; it is a crossbreed that neither band ever intended, or even dreamed of.

[ snip ]

Songs like this one, which combine different hits without adding any original music, may represent the first significant new musical genre to be lifted out of the underground, developed and then spread, mostly via the Web. The songs, called mash-ups or bootlegs, typically match the rhythm, melody and underlying spirit of the instrumentals of one song with the a cappella vocals of another. And the more odd the pairing the better.

I'll call 'em mad versions as a tip of the chapeau to the old Jamaican sound system scene, where versions were releases of new vocals over the same rhythm track, which happened very frequently (albeit with the originator's knowing the rules of the game--but then none of them xpected to be millionaires, in some countries as a musician you can expect to be employed, but not rich. Kinda like teachers in America. doh!).