Zac Could Do Better 

Former Merc Editor Julianne Shepherd Judges Zac Pennington

[Julianne Shepherd was the Mercury's first "Arts Editrix," setting the critical tone for its music section from 2000-2004, before moving to NYC. We asked her to critique her replacement, current music critic Zac Pennington.--PMUGYG]

PMUGYG: Julianne, why did you leave the Mercury?

JULIANNE: I wanted to leave while still on top. Also, I thought I could make more money training an orchestra of baby monkeys to play the accordion. I was wrong… but it turned out okay, because every time Koko and Percy smash their little cymbals together and grind their tiny organ, I'm filled with a profound sense of accomplishment.

That's beautiful. Now, about your successor, Music Editor Zac Pennington. When did you first meet him?

At a basement concert for the band Chromatics in the winter of 2001, I believe. He was wearing a suit jacket, and though the concert was sweltering, and the radiator was cranked to two-hundred-eleventy degrees Fahrenheit, he did not appear to be perspiring.

Did you find that odd?

Yes, I did find that a little odd. I mean, what kind of person doesn't sweat? I'll tell you: a vampire doesn't sweat. A banished archangel doesn't sweat. A half-elf doesn't sweat. Not sweating is a clue to a person's true identity. We all need to be aware of this phenomenon.

So you believe Pennington to be a banished archangel or a half-elf?

The jury is still out on that one, amigo. Next question.

How do you think Zac has been doing as Music Editor?

I think the little no-sweating wiseacre has been flagrantly ruining my legacy, that's what. Do you know how long it took to build a music section that is both beloved and reviled? THE ENTIRE SPAN OF GW BUSH'S FIRST TERM. And this little cherub-man waltzes in like it ain't no thing, takes over my desk, and starts running full-page pieces by Everett True on every fancy Anglo boy band with good haircuts and a cursory knowledge of a delay pedal---yet he still prattles on about " JOURNALISM" and "ETHICS" and "REPORTAGE." I mean, what is that? It's the fucking Mercury, not high tea with Maggie Thatcher, dogstar.

How did you feel when Zac was given a column after four months, and you never got a column in four years?

You know, that's an interesting question. You'd expect that to be a problem for me, wouldn't you--that Mr. "Noble Journalist" Pennington and his Dancing Quill Pen are afforded 500 words each week to address such pressing topics as "The Hate Mail I Got From Bowling for Soup Fans" and cry-cry-crying wolf over "The Death of Vinyl." And yet, I can only throw my head back and laugh. I think to myself, "Oh, Young Pennington… You are but a Baby in a Forest of Tigers! Godspeed, You Fool!" And then I turn the page to Ezra Ace Caraeff's column, which despite his grasp of grammar and fatuous tone, is a delight to read.

Beyond Zac's "flagrant ruination of your legacy" (which by the way is genius and gigantic) can you offer more specific criticisms of his handling of the Mercury's music section?

Indeed. Shortly after my leave, Zac wrote an article on a New York band called Ratatat (July 29, 2004). I myself wrote about this band in a previous edition of the Mercury (September 18, 2003), and so I cannot blame him for his interest in this duo's bombastic conflation of high rock-classicism with tech-age curiosity. However, in the final paragraph of Pennington's exploration, he called their fusion of "arena rock and hiphop" a "historical impossibility." As hirsute Buddhist Rick Rubin can tell you, that statement is a fallacy of feckless proportions. (Ummm… "Walk This Way"? "Fight for Your Right to Party"? "99 Problems"? Even the non-Rick Rubin street killa, Fabolous' "Breathe," which samples Supertramp's "Crime of the Century"?) Alas, I must be gentle with this Baby Halfling; we have all made mistakes such as these, especially early on in our careers... although if it is a "career" that Young Zac Pennington has indeed embarked upon, then I'll gamble away my pinkie finger in a game of poker.

I have to go download some mp3s now. PEACE.

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