Saturday, June 30, 2012

When You're Strange

No doubt by now you've heard -- perhaps even formed an opinion -- on the great changing of the guard of our institutionalized morning fluff, the rotation of one moderately attractive, reasonably intelligent, and mostly ambitious middle-aged woman of little consequence, for another of the same. Yes, let's do spend a week or two wond'ring aloud who should be awarded seven or eight figures a year to warm up the bozos in the square for Gettin' Yer Lunchtime Swerve On With Hoda 'n' Kathie Lee, it's not like there's anything else going on.

But that's not the weird part. This is the weird part:
Ordinarily, you'd assume this was the usual spambot jabber, more or less randomly organized word-pixels roughly approximating a relevant sentence. But spambots are selling something, and neither of these idiots (who, by the repeated use of the phrase "downright creepy", appear to actually be the same idiot) have any active links or pitches. So, you know, what the hell?

Not necessarily another sign of the Decline O' Western Civ or anything, just really peculiar, that this guy felt the need to adopt two separate personae, to take two different (and frankly, rather stalker-y) poses on a completely meaningless subject.

And of course, I felt the need to weigh in on the meta-aspect of it, raising said meta by yet another order of magnitude. Who says America causes cancer?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Random Appreciation

Right now, and for quite some time, Louis C.K. is and has been the funniest bastard on the teevee, hands down. Catch the show before he figures it out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Electile Dysfunction, Reverse Galt's Gulch Version

What if the 99% pulled up stakes, left for the emerging economies -- where the bloody jobs are at, mind you -- and left it for Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers and the rest of that lot? They're buying the election anyway, so maybe just getting the hell out, and letting them sell shit to each other, would just resolve the problem all the way around.

They already own everything anyway, and more is never enough, and they won't stop until they have it all, and all those icky poor people learn their damned place. So what's our place -- here, taking shit from these soulless humps for the rest of our lives, hoping for a scrap from the table from Obama and his sold-out friends, or escaping to Brazil, Costa Rica, Slovenia, somewhere with, ahem, a slightly lower disparity of income, affordable health care, a political system not completely in thrall to the Scrooge McDuck class of endless money-grubbing and people-collecting? Is that too much to ask? Why yes, yes it is.

No doubt most of us will still go and vote between Team Horseshit and Team Cowshit, if only to maintain the pretense that it still counts, that it won't get lost in the shuffle of pelf and stupidity, that it doesn't smell to high heaven.

But deep down we know the truth. We'll go back to the Sands and give Shelly Adelson more of our credit-card advances, and guzzle more ten-dollar Red-Bull-and-vodkas to try to forget that Lucy always, always yanks that football. When it comes to voting to pick our own pockets and cut our own throats, nobody does it better than us.

Random Appreciation

Back in the waning days of hair metal, the unfairly maligned Mr. Big had a #1 radio/MTV hit with the beans-and-weenies campfire love song To Be With You, and getting swept up in the commensurate "power ballad" publicity crapola. They had lesser success with a couple of similar type girlie songs, while the music industry, in its infinite wisdom, completely ignored the fact that they were a bona-fide rock band -- easily equivalent with the then-resurgent Aerosmith -- with world-class musicians.

Paul Gilbert has since put his quirky good humor to good use, re-doing TBWY with his touring band in a variety of heavy-rock stylings. This one here uses Van Halen's Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love as a template. Awesome.

Random Appreciation

Grilled Shrimp and Bacon Club Sandwich from The Cheesecake Factory. Very bad for you, but holy crap is it good. (Pro tip: split it into two meals over two days. This thing is huge. If I, at 6'2" and 225# can split it, chances are so can most of you.)

I swear, after a couple bites I wasn't sure if I should eat it....or fuck it. (That might have caused a bit of a scene, but it would have made a terrific YouTube upload.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Droit de Seigneur

What do you suppose the total number of in-depth pieces is that Taibbi (since no one else at that level or above in the corporate mediasphere is going to bother) will have to write demonstrating that Wall Street is a pure grift, a scam, a racket wrapped in a scheme and smothered in deliberately obfuscatory jargon, before anyone will do anything meaningful about it? Forget guillotines on Wall Street; can't even get the SEC to do its job, nor enforce penalties with any real bite.

A drugged-out moron kid robbing a liquor store of $300 with a toy gun will do at least 10 in the state pen, easily. But the biggest banks collude to rob small towns all across America, looting their already depleted economies and leaving them destitute for the next generation or so, hell, they barely get a stern talking-to. In fact, it's just taken as a matter of faith that this financial alchemy is practiced by a divine claque of "job creators", even as they have destroyed the economy with the fury of a Dresden firebombing, and created nothing but pain and debt for the peons, and greater cashflow for themselves.

It's never puzzling why they do it, the mystery is why we continue to put up with it. What sort of ongoing desitution, or catastrophic catalyzing event, will it ultimately take for any reaction, much less and equal and opposite one?

Teachable Moment

Apparently we're all supposed to have learned something from the Sandusky verdict. (And hey, didn't that turn around with a quickness? Guess the jury went into their room, the foreman looked around and said, "Okay, we're done here. Any questions?")

There's nothing new here. What happened at Penn State is what happened at archdioceses around the world, what happens in the armed forces, the government, greedy corporations -- evil human beings protected from the consequences of their crimes by other evil human beings, people either too invested in the trappings of their institution, or cowed by authoritah, to simply do the obvious right thing.

So yeah, Sandusky's a bastard, and I wouldn't be surprised if he offs himself before heading off to the big house, unless he really just wants to be passed around the cell block like a chew toy. But Paterno was a bastard as well, and he got off easy, and every Penn State fan who was more concerned about the fucking program and Joe Pa's rep than the kids Sandusky systematically abused, they can go straight to hell.

The (in)actions of assistant Mike McQueary are perhaps the most perplexing of all. Maybe some of us are just cut from a different cloth, but if you walked in on an old man butt-fucking a fourth-grader in a college shower, would you break it up, maybe pound the old perv's face into the tile a few times for good measure, and call the cops, or would you slink away and call your dad for advice? Jesus Tapdancing Christ, McQueary (a 6'5" former college athlete who could easily have handled Sandusky) actually chose the latter option. He gets to live with that, but so does the poor kid Sandusky was abusing.

Sandusky's nauseating conduct is not remotely what's most interesting about this case; what should have been the captivating aspect is the absolute nature of power corrupting, of otherwise presumably decent people doing indecent things -- that is to say, nothing at all -- when confronted with vile deeds.

Stockholm syndrome ain't just for hostages, folks.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crock of Ages

It's not generally in my nature to review things I haven't experienced firsthand; it seems kinda chickenshit. In the case of Rock of Ages, I'll make a small exception, given the non-stop promos and availability of reviews. It features actors I tend to like. The subject matter is something that I am intimately acquainted with, insofar as I occasionally would travel downstate back in that day and hit the infamous Sunset Strip clubs where hair metal got its start (and finish, for that matter).

I hate to disappoint the folks who just wanted to see something that sounds and smells like a hopelessly sanitized, Disneyfied version of the real thing. But it was really all about the coke and blowjobs. The notion that it was all just a bunch of nancy boys who poofed their hair, threw on some mascara, pouted their lips like Punky Meadows, listened to Don't Stop Believin' until their eardrums bled, and waited around for Metallica to come along and grow them all a set of denim balls, is just nuts. Don't take my word for it, go back and watch Decline of Western Civilization II (minus the Ozzy stuff). Some people took this shit seriously.

Believe me, I was an average-looking guy with average game growing up in a cow-town, and more often than not I wasn't even in a band, and every weekend was still like fucking Woodstock. (And no, none of us had to dress up like Poison or Motley Cure, or even Def Leppard.) The only way not to get laid and/or fucked up was to not leave the house. Anyone who actually lived through this period of time knows this; any film to make an honest attempt to communicate the reality would be borderline porn.

I get that it's a musical, looking at the "lighter" side of the scene. But I guess what I'm wondering is, who were they trying to go after with that approach? Maybe if they had figured that part of it out, it would have done better. This is the problem with nostalgia in general -- it's always attempting to reclaim a past that never actually occurred.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pot Meets Kettle, Learns Nothing

From the latest issue of No Shit, Sherlock magazine, we find that serial monogamist and professional powdered-donut storage unit Newt Gingrich has stopped licking the mystery residue from his fingers just long enough to commiserate with a barnful of angry rubes:

Former U.S. House Speaker and one-time presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, spoke to a crowd of over 500 Republican supporters at a GOP Convention today in Missoula.


In his nearly 30 minute speech, Gingrich did not beat around the bush when it came to his feelings about our Commander in Chief. He bashed President Barack Obama calling him a “dreamer-in-chief,” in reference to Obama’s proposed Dream Act.

Awesome. This asshole spent six months jabbering about putting mining colonies on the fuckin' moon, and he's got the stones to beat on poor ol' Obammy for trying to resolve some immigration issues occuring down here on planet Earth.

We're long past the point of bothering to figure out whether these peckerwoods are stupid, insane, or just ornery (or all of the above). What they are is indifferent to facts, and to what they were just saying five minutes ago. What we should be trying to figure out is why so many of our fella 'murkins are so pig-fucking obtuse that they intend to vote for this cognitive dissonance. Pure spite and pants-pooping stupidity triumph over common sense yet again!

And hey, Newt turns (um) 69 today. Party on, Garth!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Asshole Monologues

Good to see that America's homegrown Taliban are still rolling strong. When will these uppity broads learn that gubmint buildings are not acceptable venues for spouting anatomically correct terms? Sheesh. Next time, Rep. Brown will know better, and use "pooter" or "vajayjay". Penises, should the need, um, arise to refer to them, should be called "tallywackers" or "beaver cleavers".

This part was just priceless:

Democratic Rep. Barb Byrum was also blocked from addressing the Republican-controlled legislature Thursday.

The House forbid Byrum from introducing her amendment to the abortion bill, which would have banned men from getting a vasectomy unless they could provide proof that it was a medical emergency.

"If we truly want to make sure children are born, we would regulate vasectomies," Byrum said Thursday.

Brown and Byrum were both silenced from speaking on the legislature’s final day of session before its summer break.

That sounds about right. Of course these abortion bills are about nothing so much as controlling women's reproductive rights, while leaving men's untouched. Seems fair.

Not sure what these people are aiming for in the long run -- an almost comically oppressive Saudi-style Assbackwards-stan, where women aren't allowed to drive or vote, rape victims instead of their attackers are punished, and hamburgers eat people; or a Handmaid's Tale dystopia.

Considering that 99% of these stupid bills are proposed and passed by liver-spotted pervs who couldn't get laid at Mardi Gras with a truckload of beads and 55-gallon drums of Red Bull and Grey Goose, and their dried-up sob sister enablers, either scenario is manifestly possible.

Yes, folks, your modern Republican party -- taking you back to the 1870s, one bill at a time.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Rules of the Game

Reiteration #2,543,678 of the operational differences between your nominal "liberals" and "conservatives": A card-carrying jackass like Ted Nugent can go on teevee and radio shows (and on tour with his little traveling music extravaganza) hither and yon and spout bumptious, potentially violent rhetoric about Obama, or mouth off about banging Hitlery Clinton with an AR-15 right before launching into Wang Dang Sweet Poontang, and if anyone has the nerve to get butt-hurt about it, well, you just don't like free speech, podna.

But a couple of putatively "liberal" writers mention the use of a prosthetic Dubya head in a split-second exterior shot in Game of Thrones, and boy howdy, they just cannot fall all over themselves enough to apologize and genuflect abjectly.

I mean, it's pathetic, and it just never stops with these people. This is why I(and many people, I believe) have never been fully comfortable with identifying with "liberals" and "liberalism". Conservatives are perfectly comfortable with mocking a decorated veteran at their national political convention, in support of a couple of draft dodgers, and liberals just go, "Gosh, that's mean."

By the same token, these are the folks who were all excited about thrice-bankrupted terminal asshole Donald Trump running for president -- even though it was a transparent publicity stunt for his worthless show, even though his sole talent is slapping his name on shit.
And now they're excited about Buzz Killington, because he's Not Obama. Even though he became a hectomillionaire by gutting American companies and sending American jobs overseas (or eliminating them outright), even though his foreign policy apparently boils down to "Ask Bibi", even though he lives the rolling-in-pelf, high-on-the-hog lifestyle that in another time and place brought guillotines into city squares.

It's not about Obama or Romney, nor even about any discernible practical difference in their "vision" or intent. It's about the vestiges of the political system being finally killed off by Citizens United, how a misbegotten ruling by a bunch of activist judges made it a fait accompli for rentier capitalists with far more money than conscience to just throw impossible amounts of money at whoever is more pliable, more complaisant.

It does matter who wins, in the sense that Obama and his party, on the rare occasions when they're on their game, manage to infrequently stand athwart some of the more rapacious maneuvers of their GOP counterparts. Though really, watching Corker, DeMint, Johanns, and Crapo take turns fellating Jamie Dimon for his latest massive fuck-up was nothing if not entertaining, and by "entertaining" I mean nauseating.

Not that I can't picture Chuck Schumer or DiFi doing the same thing. But nothing represents the fix we're in quite so concisely as watching U.S. Senators, even the mouth-breathing dipshits Republican voters routinely install, genuflect so shamelessly to a major factor in the ongoing economic crisis, who just "lost" somewhere between $2-7bn.

But it all begins -- and ends -- with the ability and desire to fight, and fight hard and dirty if necessary. Reasonable people can disagree over how "dirty" they're willing to get, but one thing's for sure -- you never get anywhere by constantly apologizing for every stupid little thing to people who routinely tell you to go fuck yourself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Five-Minute Music Reviews

Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth Van Halen has lived out the VH1 Behind the Music litany -- riding the proverbial gravy train with biscuit wheels into the mid-'90s, the band's increasingly polished output with Sammy Hagar derailed amidst a pool of bad blood and grunge takeover of the airwaves. The misbegotten follow-up with Gary Cherone, VHIII, is I think one of the most completely misunderstood albums of that era. It's not a question of it being "good" or "bad" -- it's actually better than it gets credit for. The problem is that it got so far afield from what fans expected from Van Halen, there was just no walking it back. It was basically their attempt at a Pink Floyd/post-Gabriel Genesis prog album.

Cut to the second decade of the 21st century, to find the inimitable David Lee Roth back in the fold 27 years later, and pedigreed scion Wolfgang Van Halen taking the place of Michael Anthony, who of course is backing Hagar and Joe Satriani in Chickenfoot. Got all that? Great, because despite the soap opera nonsense, despite the fact that almost half the songs on ADKT are comprised from demos from the first two albums back in '79, despite DLR's voice not being nearly what it useta be, it all somehow works. Wolfie throws some nifty bass lines throughout (not that Anthony was ever going to cause Billy Sheehan to lose any sleep), but has his work cut out for him in backing Uncle Dave (for what his bass lines might have lacked in virtuosity, Anthony was easily the best backing vocalist of any metal band of the '80s).

Tracks such as She's the Woman and Blood and Fire instantly evoke classic VH, and Stay Frosty is great fun, a total throwback to Ice Cream Man. Out of the collection, the oddly-titled and -arranged Honeybabysweetiedoll might be the most quintessentially old-school VH track here, a throbbing, menacing groove superimposed with feedback sound effects and nonsensical fuck-chatter from Roth. And Eddie sounds great on every track, weaving trademark lines and patterns all over the place, conjuring up the early '80 fire. There's at least enough here to warrant a follow-up, hopefully with fresher material and more input from the new kid.

Prong - Carved Into Stone Prong is one of those '80s metal bands that lost out hard in the Metallica craze of the time, and have still not gotten their due. Classic albums like Prove You Wrong and Beg to Differ stand toe-to-toe with Master of Puppets, and have held up at least as well as anything from that era. (Another overlooked gem from the time: Corrosion of Conformity's Blind.)

For fans of straight-up, in-your-face metal with a slight NYC punk edge, Carved Into Stone delivers right from the start. Eternal Heat punches and moshes from start to finish, as strong an opening statement as I've heard in the past several years. On the second track, Keep On Living in Pain, when Tommy Victor scowls, "For what I do this every day, without potential for success," you can't help but wonder about the whims of luck and chance, and remind yourself of the turds that other, bigger bands of the genre (please, no names!) have crapped out over the last 10-15 years.

But what's done is done, and I shit you not, people -- if you're a fan of this kind of music, this is the real deal. I have not had an album grab me by the balls like this in front-to-back, all-killer-no-filler style since Clutch's Blast Tyrant. Great, heavy, catchy songs, incisive lyrics, excellent vocals (no screaming or death growling), tons of energy and anger. It would be unfair to all three bands to compare this with the Ramones or Motorhead at the top of their respective games, but that's about as close as I can get for the uninitiated. Go. Get it now.

OSI - Fire Make Thunder While OSI is the brainchild of prog-rock alumni, Fates Warning's Jim Matheos and Dream Theater's Kevin Moore, they sound nothing like either of those bands. There must be some sort of boutique name for this kind of music; it's not "post-rock" like Russian Circles or Pelican, and it's not "djent" like Scale the Summit or Animals as Leaders (though all of those are excellent, prodigiously talented bands).

The best descriptor I can come up with for OSI is maybe "post-prog", or "anti-prog". Arrangements are frequently extended, but the sound is completely different. Drums are ridonkulously gated, vocals are filtered and "atmospheric" almost to the point of electronica, melodies are unconventional and certainly not sing-song. Choruses are practically unrecogniable as such.

But it all works, and works well. There are standout tracks throughout, but the closer, Invisible Men, merits particular notice, great melodies, nicely developed, almost poignant in parts. Check it out, and then go get OSI's previous album, Blood.

Anthrax - Worship Music Of the self-styled "Big Four" thrash bands (which, again, in a rational world, Prong would be a part of), Anthrax has had perhaps the roughest go of it, with their back-and-forthing on lead singers, finally coming back to the guy they got famous with in the '80s, Joey Belladonna.

While John Bush was a more technically accomplished vocalist, Belladonna had always been a fan favorite, and on Worship Music he actually sounds better than ever. From the Z-Rock single The Devil You Know to the Walking Dead homage (Scott Ian had a zombie role in the most recent season) Fight 'em ('til You Can't), Belladonna weaves his tales of modern angst with verve and urgency. Charlie Benante, always an elite metal drummer, pulls off some really nice flourishes on Fight 'em, and throughout. This album, which came out last fall, is a nice return to form for Ian and crew. There should have been at least four radio singles.

Rush - Clockwork Angels Rush is one of those bands people either love or hate (I happen to reside in the former category, though the fandom has been long diffused by a myriad of influences), and the long-anticipated Clockwork Angels, which dropped today, will change few minds. It is being billed as a "concept album", but forget that -- either the songs work, or they don't.

And for the most part, the songs work well. The first two tracks, Caravan and BU2B, were released late in 2010, while the rest of the album was being composed and produced, and the band played them on the Time Machine tour last year. Both are solid additions to the Rush canon, the latter with many pointed references to Neil Peart's, shall we say, questing atheism.

This has been the band's calling card and its curse, the cerebral nature of their lyrics and arrangements sometimes overshadowing the ability to just connect with a simple, visceral riff, a sonic punch to the gut. Not this time; Clockwork Angels abounds with terrific songwriting and old-school riffing. The most recent single, Headlong Flight, is a nice surprise, as a permuted, updated Bastille Day riff, with little stylized bits and pieces from the band's extensive catalog, yet a nice standalone piece all the same. Introspective pieces such as The Wreckers and Wish Them Well provide color and contrast, and make the entire album seem almost a valedictory, a summation of an imposing body of work.

Rush famously are one of the top-selling rock bands of all time, have the adulation of fans and musicians alike, and have influenced scores of bands, yet still have not been inducted into the increasingly humorous Rock and Roll Hall of Lame. (And at this point, I think I speak for most fans when I say that when the day does come, the boys should have the balls to tell them to go fuck themselves, they shoulda come knocking fifteen or twenty years ago.) And as all three band members are approaching 60 years of age, we're not likely to get many future studio recordings. Clockwork Angels stands up to repeated listenings, and overall is one of the band's strongest outings since the holy grail that was Moving Pictures.

Fair To Midland - Arrows & Anchors I must have listened to this at least fifty times since its release last July, and I'm not sick of it, not in the least. Melodically inventive, harmonically engaging, rhythmically pummeling, and lyrically weird, this thing hits on all cylinders.

They could have left out a couple of the "palate cleanser" instrumentals, but the actual songs are a lot of fun all the way through. Extra props to the Beatles-meets-Metallica corporate-bashing mashup Rikki Tikki Tavi. The epic closer, The Greener Grass, encapsulates the strengths of the band, capping the festivities with a practically triumphant chorus melody, juxtaposed with the oddness of the lyric, "Hey! Where did you go? I promise I will kill you right now!". Top that, Bieber-ella!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Raising Arizona

You can't help but appreciate when life imitates art. This is precisely whence comes the saying that stupid people shouldn't breed.