Massimiliano Adelmo Giorgini

Mass Giorgini: Producer/Engineer (Anti-Flag, Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, etc), CoProductions include Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day), Kris Roe (of the Ataris), John Strohm (of the Lemonheads), Paul Mahern (producer of John Mellencamp, Iggy Pop), and Anjali Dutt (producer of Oasis, My Bloody Valentine). Sonic Iguana Studios founder. Screeching Weasel bass. Squirtgun bass/b. vocals, Common Rider bass/sax. Occasional contributor to Punk, Rock Sound, and Punk Planet magazines.

Friday, April 30, 2004

"Dont You Read Anything That Isn't So... Stuffy?!?"

That is what the e-mail I got yesterday asked me. I suppose that after the last two posts, with my academic publications, and the activism and and social awareness book suggestions, one could easily get the idea that I don't read books for pure enjoyment or artistic reasons.

The fact is, I easily read more novels and short stories than non-fiction books. Often the novels I like are either based in fact, or real-world situations, and help illustrate socio-political situations. But many times, they are purely set in fantastic worlds, and are full of magical elements. Often, even these stories can help illustrate philosophical or spiritual truths -- a great example of this being Aesop's Fables. In many cases, fiction speaks the truth.

Here is a list of a few of the books I have read (or re-read) so far this year (I am sure that I am leaving some out):

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
Cien Sonetos de Amor(poetry) by Pablo Neruda

Across the Wire by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nobody's Son by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
Six Kinds of Sky by Luis Alberto Urrea

Snow Angels by Stewart O'Nan

The Speed Queen by Stewart O'Nan
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Anomalies by Joey Goebel
American Skin by Don De Grazia

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Eleven Minutes by Paolo Coelho
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Academic Publications
In the past few weeks I have received two e-mails asking about my academic publications.

In the early 1990's, I did some research in the laboratory run by Dr. Richard Schweikert in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University, and in the process of data collection, came up with some analyses about the numbers I had collected. We were measuring short-term memory recall response time differences between stutterers and non-stutterers, as a means to determine the influence that the delayed oral repetition had on the overall recall rate.

I had intended to continue this research as part of a graduate school program towards an eventual doctorate in the field. However, when my father was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer, my brother and I both decided to put our studies aside and take care of our father. When he eventually passed away, I put my focus on my musical interests, and did not return to psychological research. Flav returned to his graduate work in molecular genetics, and went on to earn a Master's from Washington University of St. Louis, and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle.

In all honesty, this material makes for pretty dry reading to all except those who are fully immersed in the specialties of Mathematical or Statistical Psychology. Nonetheless, for those of you who really want to read it...

Response Time Distributions: Some Simple Effects of Factors Selectively Influencing Mental Processes (1999) by Richard Schweikert & Mass Giorgini, from the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Volume 6, Issue 2, pages 266-288.

I also co-authored another one that is not available online, but can be found in the psychology library of any major university. The link below connects to an abstract of the article from the National Library of Medicine:

Selective Influence and Response Time Cumulative Distribution Functions in Serial-Parallel Task Networks (2000) by Richard Schweikert & Mass Giorgini, from the Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Volume 44, Issue 4, Pages 504-535.

Although the majority of the historical research and active laboratory data collection took place in the early part of the decade, between the time taken to properly write the reports, submit them to the academic journals, and then finally have them appear in publication, the articles made it to print much more recently.

Monday, April 26, 2004

E-mailer with a Social Conscience

I recently received an e-mail from someone who has been keeping up with the blog. Here is what that person wrote, and my reply:

I’m a big fan of your music / productions, etc. I really enjoy reading your new blog, too. Anyway, I was wondering if you could recommend literature (titles) that may help put social crises into a clearer perspective. I’ve always been interested in activism; however, before one can contribute to a cause one has to understand the problems and WHAT MAKES THEM PROBLEMS. I’ve noticed over the years that while many punks and ‘scene-sters’ have their hearts in the right places, many of them don’t really know exactly what these issues are, and they eventually get bored and forget about them. I’d like to learn more and become socially responsible, so if you can recommend a title or two or have any advice to give, I’d appreciate it.
Thank you~ XXXXXX

First off, I appreciate the kind words, and especially the implication that what I have to say in regards to social crises has relevance to anyone other than myself. Secondly, I have to say that as much as I try to devote time and passion to being reasonably aware of the problems going on in the world, I am fully conscious that there are many very important and relevant causes with which I have only cursory familiarity, and several others of which I know absolutely nothing.

However, in order to help affect social change and do one’s part to improve the status quo, I do not think it is necessary to know everything. It certainly is good to know as much as possible about a least a few topics, and to inform oneself to a reasonable degree about as many others areas of concern as one can. What is necessary is that everyone, or at least a majority of people in democratic countries, makes their opinions known through the way they vote, behave, buy, and speak out to the people around them.

General Reading:
The books and magazines I am recommending here are decidedly left-leaning. There are two reasons for this: First, while it is easy to find middle-of-the-road, and even conservative, information in classrooms, on the average newsstand, or on television, I believe that there is serious dearth of liberal thought available in the mass media, second, my own leanings are unmistakably left of the status quo, probably best described as “socialist,” although not necessarily in the sense of any actual party affiliation that claims that name. Regardless, a balance between the following sources and more traditional ones, such as Time Magazine, The Economist, Foreign Affairs, C-SPAN, CNN, and established history and political science textbooks would most likely give the reader a better-rounded concept of the contemporary and historical sociopolitical landscape.


The Global Activist's Manual: Local Ways to Change the World by Mike Prokosch.

The Activist's Handbook: A Primer by Randy Shaw.

Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics by Margaret E. Keck, Kathryn Sikkink.

A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present by Howard Zinn.

Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (The American Empire Project) by Noam Chomsky.

Antonio Gramsci: Architect of a New Politics (Political Traditions in Foreign Policy) by Dante L. Germino.

Cultural Resistance Reader by Stephen Duncombe.

Power Politics by Arundhati Roy.


Z Magazine

Harper’s Magazine

The above books and magazines are great places to glean some intelligent liberal thought. In some cases, the arguments and angles presented are further left than I would personally venture. However, in context with the rest of the references in the list, and in addition to the more mainstream publications I mentioned earlier, I believe that one can cull enough information and philosophies regarding the current world situation (and possible improvements to it) to form educated opinions, and decide on proper courses of action for oneself.

In my own case, I have decided to support both the Amnesty International and Humane Borders organizations (links on the left side-bar) as much as I can.

Amnesty International has worked small miracles in the areas of women’s rights, religious freedom, the elimination of torture, the rights of political prisoners, and continue to focus on many other worthy issues all over the world. They are also currently at work to help prevent the deportation of illegal Haitian immigrants, many of which have not only risked their lives to escape extreme poverty, but also political imprisonment, torture, and execution.

By far the definitive book on Haiti, not only for the current political situation, but also historically, culturally, and socially, is Haiti: The Breached Citadel by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith. This edition is currently out of print, but a second, and updated edition will be published in the upcoming months.

Another significant source for insight into Haitian and Haitian-American culture are the works of Edwidge Danticat. Although formally a writer of fiction, her books draw heavily from her own cultural experiences, and extensive research into the very real and grim realities faced by the Haitian people. Excellent examples of her work are Breath, Eyes, Memory, Krik? Krak!, and her latest, The Dew Breaker, which I will be reviewing in an upcoming post.

Humane Borders focuses on preventing as many deaths as possible for the veritable flood of immigrants that walk through the desert to enter the United States from Mexico every year. The most recent estimates place the numbers at approximately 5 million people per year, and most of these people cross through highly dangerous stretches of the Arizona desert. Humane Borders runs over 30 water stations at various high-foot-traffic spots of desert along the U.S.-Mexico border, and provides over 10,000 gallons of water per year to walkers in danger of dehydration.

For more information on the perils faced by these immigrants, be sure to read The Devil’s Highway, by Luis Alberto Urrea, which I reviewed in an earlier posting. Other pertinent books include Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens by Ted Conover and Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail by Ruben Martinez.

The above is by no means a complete list of everything one can read to decide on what cause they wish to support, but it should certainly be a good start!

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Paper Storm
Luis Alberto Urrea to Workshop a Portion of My Novel-In-Progress
In the course of the last year, I have struck up a wonderful friendship with author Luis Alberto Urrea. Luis has written several excellent books, noteworthy for their insights into the U.S.-Mexican border situation, as well as for their exceptional writing. He has published not only non-fiction books, however, but also award-winning volumes of poetry, as well as novels and short stories of fiction.

Luis has introduced me to many other musicians and authors in the course of our friendship. He even granted me an interview for Punk Planet magazine, which will be published in an upcoming issue. Luis has also been very receptive to checking out several of the albums I have either produced or performed on, and authentically enjoys quite a few of them.

During the course of our communications, and my continued reading and re-reading of his works, Luis has inspired me to begin work on a novel of my own. It is a memoir, dealing mainly with events from my own childhood, and the background of my parents. The working title is The Paper Storm, and Luis has offered to help me, through critique and advice regarding structure, content, and writing.

In addition to being an accomplished writer, Luis is also a seasoned creative writing instructor, having taught at both Harvard and the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a first step in reviewing my book, I will be presenting a portion of my text to the non-fiction workshop he teaches at UIC.

For a great example of Luis Alberto Urrea's work, I would highly recommend his latest, The Devil's Highway, which I reviewed on this blog on April 9, and is now available at bookstores everywhere. Another personal favorite is his short story "Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush," for which I am currently doing a translation into Italian. This short story is available in his book Six Kinds of Sky, which also include five other great pieces.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Here is part of an article that ran in The Denver Post just a couple of months after my father first arrived in the United States. I think it makes for some entertaining reading...

Visiting Italian Scientist Finds U.S. Grad Study ‘Practical’
The Denver Post, Friday, November 23, 1962
by Barbara Haddad, Staff Writer

Aldo Giorgini of Italy made his first acquaintance with American customs in 1942 when a G.I. offered him some chewing gum. His viewpoint is being broadened considerably this year.
“I find graduate education in the United States a good deal more practical than in Italy,” Giorgini said in an interview. “The organization of examinations doesn’t cause nearly as much emotional strain.”
He said the friendliness of American professors was a pleasant surprise. “Italian teachers are dictators,” he said. “Here they are such warm and human people.”
Giorgini was a teacher himself for two years at the University of Turin, where he was assistant professor. Then he taught, studied, and did research at Milan Polytechnical University on the cooling of nuclear reactors.
Giorgini arrived at the university in Fort Collins, Colo., Sept. 30, but he already has some distinct impressions.
He finds American cooks skillful, he said. “But not when they try to make Italian food,” he said. “They should make what they know best.”
Giorgini has two hobbies: painting and music. “I don’t like to talk about ‘abstract’ or ‘objective’ art,” he said. “Any good painting is art. The labels don’t matter.” His work has been exhibited In Turin.
In music, he’s taken a recent interest in string quartets. “You have some fine American composers,” he said. “I like especially (Aaron) Copland and (William) Schuman.”
Giorgini sports a beard and mustache that he insists he grew long before Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. “I have had it six years,” he said. “I started it just for fun.”
He said Italian girls seem to like it.
And American girls? “I don’t know yet,” he said.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Screeching Weasel Website Overhaul

The Screeching Weasel website has undergone a major re-working. The site is much improved, and features several newer photos. The photo on the left is (left to right: Ben Weasel, me, John Jughead) from our Spring 2001 show at the House of Blues in Chicago.
The band is still discussing various live possibilities for the summer, but no definitive plans have been made yet. Keep posted to for the latest updates.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Paul Mahern: Punk Rock Legend
Today I received a very welcome e-mail from one of my heroes. Apparently, while web-surfing he came across this blog, and felt inspired to write to me. Coincidentally, I had been thinking about Paul Mahern in recent weeks, and had been planning to write to him. That is the second such coincidence in my life in the past few weeks.

Paul Mahern was my one biggest inspiration in becoming a punk rock producer. Paul was one of the very first producer/engineers to specialize in punk rock during the D.I.Y. punk rebirth of the early 80's. His recordings of punk bands easily stood out from most others in that he understood how the music was intended to sound. In the course of his punk rock recordings, he worked with several noteable punk bands, including Toxic Reasons, Naked Raygun, Articles of Faith, the Effigies, Sloppy Seconds, and his own band, the Zero Boys. Paul has since gone on to work with internationally acclaimed artists in other genres, including John Mellencamp, Iggy Pop, and the Blake Babies.

Although producing may be where Paul built his reputation and lasting recognition, the Zero Boys were more than just another punk band. With great hooks, and one of the best collections of musicians in the history of the genre, the Zero Boys were one of the bands that helped define and invent melodic hardcore (Sadly, today what is called melodic hardcore is a beast of another stripe entirely, but the modern genre owes more than its name alone to bands like the Zero Boys).

Paul's excellent vocals and lyrics, combined with the precision drumming of Mark Cutsinger, the speed-demon finger picking of bassist David Clough (aka Tufty), and the guitar chops of both original guitarist Terry Howe, and replacement Vess Ruhtenberg, made the Zero Boys a band that still stands the test of time. The Zero Boys' 1982 full-length debut, Vicious Circle, still sounds as aggressive and infectious today, 22 years after its release.

But the band was influential on me in more than just the musical sense. Paul's lyrics -- especially on their second album, Make it Stop, and their last, Heimlich Maneuver -- championed equality of genders and races, and the rights of the poor, while denouncing modern imperialism and questioning the exclusionary nature of our immigrantion policies. The Zero Boys were socially conscious and outspoken.

I first met Paul in 1987, when I set up a pair of reunion shows for the Zero Boys. I was 19 years old, and very nervous and excited to meet such a legendary man. He treated me with respect and kindness, and we struck up a great friendship. In 1988, he produced the self-titled album for my first band, Rattail Grenadier (Roadkill Records). Later, when I decided to begin recording, he taught me several of his techniques, and even hired me to work with him as an assistant engineer. I learned quite a bit about music production from Paul, including the fundamental importance of a good performance.

So, Paul, thanks for being there and setting an example -- in production, music, and in your advocation of human rights. I doubt I would be producing punk rock records today if it were not for you.


Sunday, April 11, 2004

Interview by Bianca Valentino of 15th Precinct

I just completed a 34-question interview conducted by Bianca Valentino of Brisbane, Australia. A few years ago, Bianca started a zine called 15th Precinct that is available widely in Australia, and in the U.S. through Interpunk. She recently won a prestigious Australian arts scholarship, and this award will help fund her ongoing writing projects, including the aforementioned zine and a book for which she is currently doing research.

In the past she has interviewed many people involved in the punk scene for many different Australian zines and newspapers, including Jesse Michaels, Mike Park, Justin Sane, Dan Sinker, Brody Dahl, Matt Skiba, to name a few. What follows are a sample of a few of the questions and answers from the interview.

Bianca :
When and where were you born, and what were you like growing up?
I was born in 1968 in Lafayette, Indiana to Italian immigrant parents. But outside of the first year I was alive, most of my early years were spent back in Italy, and I began my schooling there. When I finally did come back to the U.S., I did not speak English. My parents put me in school as soon as we returned, but not speaking the language definitely set me apart from the rest of the kids at my school.

I was the outsider. I did not fit in with the American kids. Lafayette -- at least the part of town I grew up in -- was very blue-collar, conservative, and stereotypically white-bread American. There were no other non-Anglos in my neighborhood, and to many of them, we were savage, uncivilized foreigners.

At first, this was very difficult and alienating for me, especially with the language barrier taken into consideration. But, in time, I learned the language and culture well enough to fit in like one of the locals. In the process, I realized that I had also learned so much about myself, my family, and my heritage that I was proud to be different. Maybe it is because of the emotional experience of my childhood that to this day I am so attracted to the plight of immigrants and minorities.

In fact, some of my favorite authors have gone through similar experiences; Luis Alberto Urrea was the son of a Mexican father and an American mother, and never fit in perfectly in either world, while Edwidge Danticat is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and moved to the U.S. at age twelve, not speaking any English. I am sure that this similarity in our background is part of the reason that their writing voices speak so clearly to me.

What’s something that’s happened in the past to define who you are today?
Beyond the feeling of being an outsider for much of my youth, I think that my family experience has had much to do with who I am now. My mother was from a poor working-class family in Italy. She grew up during the Second World War, and witnessed first-hand many of the atrocities of the Nazis and Fascists as they were retreating northward from the Allied advances in southern Italy. She brought me up with a markedly leftist bent. She was well educated in political science and law, and became one of the first female doctorates in criminal law in Italy. My mother, however, was also schizophrenic, and her struggle with the illness ended with her suicide when I was nine years old.

My father as well came from a working-class family, and was the first in his family to even attend high school. He was raised for most of his early years in a prison camp in North Africa. He was largely self-schooled, and only entered a conventional school system after his release from the camp, late into his high school years. But his drive to learn was quite intense. He won many scholarships, and ended up with two doctorates, one in Civil Engineering, and one in Mechanical Engineering. He was working on a third, in Physics, when he was stricken with brain cancer at 60 years of age. My father was also a noted artist, and his work has been exhibited all over the world. A few of his pieces are now a part of the Smithsonian collection in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Mass the Actor?

An independent filmmaker based in Florida contacted me a couple of months ago in regards to a film he will be shooting at the beginning of May in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. The director's name is Chris Fuller, and his film is entitled Loren Cass, and the story revolves around a small group of punk rock kids in search of what is missing from their lives. The entire film will include a punk rock soundtrack, with some of the lyrics of the songs working their way into the dialogue.

Chris asked me to act in the film in a cameo role. Based on what he told me about the film, added to my own long-time interest in movies, I accepted. A few other punk rock cameos will also be featured in the film, including Blag Dahlia of the Dwarves, Chris Bauermeister of Jawbreaker, and Chris Barrows of the Pink Lincolns.

I will post further information and updates here as I know more.

Friday, April 09, 2004

A Review of The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea earned the moniker “the Voice of the Border” through his unflinching portrayals of life in the slums of Tijuana in his books Across the Wire and By the Lake of the Sleeping Children. In his latest and best effort yet, the Devil’s Highway, he chronicles the tragic voyage of the “Yuma 14” -- the fourteen illegal Mexican immigrants who perished in the blistering heat of the Cabeza Prieta desert in an ill-fated attempt to enter the United States. The goal of these pour souls was simply to earn enough money to feed their destitute families in their remote Mexican villages.

But the Devil’s Highway is far more than just the account of what happened to these fourteen unfortunate walkers. Urrea also details the near-death experience of the surviving walkers, as well as the human smuggler who lost them in the desert. This coyote abandoned them in the baking sun after taking all of their money – in exchange for promises of water and an eventual rescue. Even in the case of the coyote, however, Urrea manages to write a heartfelt and impartial account of every player in the tragedy.

In the course of the Devil’s Highway, the stereotypes of the evil Migra are dashed when Border Patrol agents turn out to be humanitarian lifesavers, paying from their own pocket to help save walkers. The image of the opportunistic coyote is also defaced by the revelation that he is just a young man in love, making a modest wage in a very dangerous line of work.

In the final analysis, it becomes obvious that every person involved in the tragedy is exactly that – a human being. If anyone is to blame for the tragedy, we are all to blame. It is in that sense that the ultimate finger of blame has to eventually point at the U.S. and Mexican governments. Their efforts to end the dilemma could be considered laughable, if not so disastrous: from the Mexican side there are signs telling walkers not to walk, and on the U.S. side there are preventive walls and fences that discourage them from crossing where it might actually be safe to do so. In order to make the passage, the immigrants are forced to traverse a hostile desert. Yet, as Urrea so successfully demonstrates, the two countries are in truth extraordinarily codependent.

Through prose that reads like poetry, and reality that is shockingly surreal, Urrea puts the reader in middle of the arid barrenness that delineates the U.S.-Mexican border. More than only a physical divide, the border created the by heat and desiccation of the wasteland that separate the two countries is exposed to function as a symbol of all the imagined differences that separate us. With a passion that permeates every word of the story, Urrea illustrates that the only place that none of us belongs is to be lost along the Devil’s Highway. “In the desert, we are all illegal aliens.”

The Devil’s Highway is essential reading for socio-political relevance, passion, compassion, imagery, and the sheer beauty of its prose. It is also unquestionably Luis Alberto Urrea’s crowning achievement – a masterpiece.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Keep Your Eyes Peeled.

At least, that’s what I should have told her. Jessie let me know that she would clearing some of the branches, leaves, dead shrubs, and dog crap that covered almost every inch of our back yard. Of course, the thing you tend to be most wary of is the dung – since you really don’t want to step in it by accident, and then track it all over the house.

Then again, the old thorn bushes can be a detail to keep an eye on, as well. Of course, not literally... As she was picking up some loose limbs, she stepped on a loose shrub that then shot up at her face. The thorn of the branch latched into her eye lens, and peeled it back.

At first, she thought that she had just gotten some dirt in her eye, but when she went to wash it out, and looked in the mirror, she saw from her “good” eye that a piece of the lens of the other eye was literally hanging out from her eyeball. After a trip to the emergency room, an eye rinse and examination, the doctor told her that she had been lucky, and that the tear was clean enough that it should re-attach itself with no permanent damage to her vision.

Jessie is still applying disinfectant protective eye drops multiple times daily, but her vision is slowly returning to normal.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Being that this is my first post on the blog, I am still a bit unsure exactly what sorts of things I will be posting here, and with what frequency. Initially, at least, I will try to give personal updates as to what I am doing in various parts of my life, whether they be related to any of the bands with which I am involved (Squirtgun, Screeching Weasel, Common Rider), with my production work and recording studio (Sonic Iguana Studios), or with my writing (I have upcoming columns and interviews I have written or conducted that will appear in Punk Planet, PUNK, and Rock Sound).

In addition, I hope to discuss various books I have read, films I have seen, music I have heard, or even my viewpoints on various socio-political issues.

Because my take on this blog is so informal, I will also probably write about random things on occasion, such as my favorite dishes, or the latest tricks I teach my dog.

I suppose that time will tell, and a year from now I may look back and think it ridiculous that I ever started a blog.