February 27, 2008

Religious Revival, or Why I Don't Drink With Jesus

So, earlier this evening, I had to attend a religious ritual of sorts. It was nothing I was particularly committed to, or even felt all that strongly about. But family and friends wanted my presence there, and I try to seldom refuse the wishes of the decent people in my life.

I'm still a damned stubborn old mule when it comes to such things, but I can play polite when I need to. I can sit in the presence of other people's lords and saviors, and keep my mouth shut while others prattle on about all the sub-spiritual mistakes that people can make. I can even nod when asked a question and have even been known to respond positively when asked to do so. You want an amen, I'll give you an amen. Don't question the sincerity behind those two syllables and we'll be just fine.

I'm not here to attack religion, that would be wrong. If Molly May needs her Sunday sweat in a low-rent cathedral with uncomfortable pews and a bald man in white clothes, smelling of sandalwood, just so she can feel better about drinking too much and neglecting her kids, Then I say "Fuck it, let her have it." If you're story is less dramatic and you religious leader's aromatic qualities are in the lavender sector, well you've got my vote there too.

But I have no use for it. I have yet to meet a god, or a read a book that inspires any degree of loyalty in me. I'll openly admit, that if Jesus and Buddha and the rest of the Rat Pack descended from whatever cherubic popsicle stand they've been hiding in, I'd probably have no problem in knocking back a few drinks and some handfuls of corn nuts with them. Hell, I might even like the bastards. But lengthy books and long-winded speeches spilling from the mouths of people who have access to the same information as I do simply won't inspire any kind of reverence in yours truly.

And no, not knowing any of the members of the Super Best Friends isn't what keeps me out of the holy places. Truth be told, it's a minor road bump, the equivalent of walking into a spiderweb when in your basement. I don't do religion because, well....I just don't trust the universe, that's all.

The universe has been an unpredictable minefield for me, and if there is truly a ethereal force out there that governs it, well then it has a lot to answer for. And while I don't expect my existence to be white bread, simple as pie, no flow easy, the fact of the matter is that I've been handed some shit and asked to eat it. I feel that nature has given me a jigsaw puzzle that doesn't actually have any matching pieces. And that bothers me, because I don't think I'm all that bad a chap. Slightly insane maybe. Stubborn most definitely. But, I'm not a complete waste of time and effort.

And I'm not just whining because life is hard. It's supposed to be hard, that's what I've heard. Other people have it hard. Many have it harder than I do, seems to be how the game is played Who am I to question the rules. My big issue is that I keep getting mixed messages from the universe. Contradicting statements that keep me quite confused. For example, I survived being hit by a car. I've survived nearly blowing my own head off as a curious young scamp with his daddy's rifle. I've survived almost being crushed by a dump truck. I've survived being sucked into a whirlpool and nearly drowned. These were all narrow misses people. Close calls that only panned out because of a few well made decisions and quick acting at the last second. A history like that leads me to think I'm either charmed, or the Highlander.

So, I try to do right with my time. I avoid killing, stay away from dangerous drugs, and the wacky people who use them. Go to college, get a degree. Become an upstanding member of society with very few, very minor indiscretions. The Leave It To Beaver ticket to success.
And yet, simple rewards, like having a good job, seem to constantly elude me. I'm as translucent to the world of business and commerce as plexiglass is to an acid junkie. Despite being educated, willing, and capable, I have been unable to move up past "peon" for any industry. If this is the work of an omnipotent being, they're either very cruel, or very drunk.

What I've heard from man is that I am held back from comfort and security because I don't pray enough. The power of prayer is what I need to enrich my life. Never mind that I don't murder people, am nice to animals, and make it a point to never lie, cheat, steal, or be an over excessive bastard. These things are minor details when compared to the few choice words needed to appease the deity of my choice. Frankly, I'm old, I'm tired, and if the heavens are putting such a high premium on my need for prayer over the crap I actually do right, well then I just don't need it.

So, I wander through the universe lost and confused. Fists up, eyes open, constantly alert. Any success is my doing, and any failures are the end result of me being a dumbass. I work at what I make, and I fight for whatever I can get. I'll play nice with cool people and verbally destroy the idiots. All the while, surviving as best I can. If any ethereal force is governing me, then their not going to get the credit they deserve. Of course, reviewing the bang up job they've done so far, maybe I'm giving them too much credit by not acknowledging them.

Religious ceremony ends, and I walk out the door. I smell like smoke, my knees hurt, and I am no richer for the experience. The only advantage being that said friends and family felt better for doing it, and I want them to have all the good vibes they can get. And when asked to bow the head and make good with the praying, I respectfully did so, and mentally dropped the same prayer I recite in every church, before every lord, every time I'm asked to do this:

"Look, I don't put much stock in you,
And I get the feeling you don't put much stock in me.
But whatever, I'm not complaining.
If you're really up there, you're probably pretty busy.
So, I won't make a big deal, since I'm not expecting much out of this.
If I wake up tomorrow and life is suddenly better, then great.
But I won't be all that surprised when my back hurts and my cereal is mushy either.
So, here's the deal,
If you wanna improve things for me, then great.
But I really don't need it and am more than prepared to kick my way through it alone.
So, if you want to make the best use of your efforts,
Skip me and help out these people around me.
They need you a hell of a lot more than I do."


February 26, 2008

The Fall Of The Wolf

A person could easily define their life and ideals with the value system set forth in the Jungle Book. Whether you favor the tried and true paper and ink, or prefer the sugar-coated Disney version, enrichment will be at hand. Good life lessons await you, whether it's living your life with only the purest essentials, or making those necessary stands against ardent foes. You can't go wrong with those fine levels of morality.

One that comes to mind today is the fall of the wolf. To witness the mighty head of the pack stumble in an effort to catch his prey. The ultimate metaphor for falling from grace. No longer fit to lead. No longer strong in the eyes of your kin. Stripped of dignity and self pride, simply because age shanked you from the back.

We've all seen it happen, though few ever want to admit it. Watched our heroes and role models slip and stumble as we journey closer to loss, liver spots, and death. Seen that those attitudes and decisions that once appeared so powerful truly do have their consequences. That maybe, they're not as smart as you thought, or not as open minded. That maybe they're a bit more scared then you ever considered. Or the good jollies that come from the realization that they have simply become stubborn old people.

Some are inclined to defend the actions of their idols. To stand beside them through thick and thin. Those folks make an honest, heartfelt effort to try and wrap their noodles around the decisions of their heroes. And I have no contempt for these people, for I too love a bit of bliss. But, I am a realist, and I know how the game goes down. It starts as blind affinity, but sooner or later, enough of who you are conflicts with who your heroes are turning into. Reality sets in, and you realize that your idols are not perfect.

This is the natural way of things, the circle of life. Those that meet your expectations of greatness must eventually fall on their faces. It's not a slap on their faces, mind you. Simply the result of getting older and making the decisions that benefit your life. Who you marry, what you do, and all those wacky little things to push you on one side of the invisible line. As you become the person you need to be, the act of looking back at those poor fallen souls who contributed to your greatness is almost a rite of maturity.

One would think you could look back upon them with a sense of graciousness and comfort. Take stock of your life and be glad they were apart of it in some small way. But, it never seems to work out that way does it? Instead, you're left with an empty sad feeling. You made it to the top of your mountain, and there you stand all alone. No one to stand at your side, throw a muscle-bound arm over your shoulder and say, "We made it. Good job kid." I'm certainly not perfect, few are, but as I get closer to that peak, I almost feel as if I have no one to encourage me those last few steps. It's a bit lonely.

Are there ways to keep your heroes from ever tumbling? Sure there is. They could die.

Yup, death is a foolproof maker of heroic legend. It's the equivalent of sticking them in amber and admiring them for years to come. You've studied who they are, taken in their whole history, and can sleep soundly knowing that nothing about them should ever change.

Naturally, this comes with it's own type of loneliness. Plus, the idea of wishing death to my role models seems cruel and heartless. No, perhaps it's better to let nature do what it must. To let the wolf fall, so to speak. Just remember, they need your support as much as you needed theirs. Despite the fact that you two are parting ways, they're still decent people. Assuming of course they're not out committing murder, doing damage or raping kittens, they still can be respectable. Hell, it's possible they might take a life lesson or two from you someday. Give you that chance to push them up their own mountains. Head of the pack, it could be you.

Just watch your step.

Boogie In Vegas

From birth to now, I’ve avoided the City of Sin. Movies and television had already set a crippled vision into my mind. A greasy picture full of corruption and weakness, all things I had plenty of in my life, thank you very much.

Well, this weekend it was time to see the beast firsthand. The opportunity was handed to me on a rusty weather-beaten platter, and I had the guts to say, “Why the hell not?” One must always leave the safety of the nests we create for ourselves, and take a few steps through the fiery pits of our time. It keeps the brain fresh and the noodle limber, not to mention the potential of actually enjoying one’s self. Yes, such quests must be taken, and I was not one to shy away from a quest.

I entered town tired, sticky and flush with high expectations. I mean, hell, a place with the reputation of such scum and sulk sets the bar pretty high you know? I fully expected and was fully prepared to sip martini’s with pimps, partake in the primitive barbarism of self mutilation, and have the budding breasts of young, perky adolescents barrage me from all sides.

Walking out of that experience, I can say that with the exception of the aforementioned pimps and cocktails (perfect gentlemen all of them, but there are rules of conduct when interacting with the public, and I for one would never argue with the bylaws of a union,) my expectations were met quite well.

Desperation people. It’s the word of the day and without it, Vegas would be a pimple on an outdated road map sitting in some gas station out in that bloodthirsty desert. To look into the eyes of any patron of the strip, is to see a level of darkness and depravity never thought possible. Deep breaths taking in air filled with sweat, smoke, and overcooked chicken. Eyes glazed over, never leaving the comfort of the machine. Three eyes, one arm, and no potential of anything more than empty cups, watered-down drinks, and wallets. It would all be handed over by nights end, without so much as a raised fist. Umbilical tethers link these poor fools to their slots these days. Vegas has gone digital people. The modern gambler no longer wanders into his favorite haunt with pockets loaded with change. No sir, one can move all that money onto a card, graciously given away by the establishment, to rid you of that wanton feeling of your pockets becoming progressively lighter. There is zero need to ever leave the reel twister you’ve bonded with.

At the tables, the desperation has it’s own reflection. Wearing a very stylish red vest and a similar glazed-over look, the dealers were far from the chirpy and polite thespians of finance I had expected. No, they all had a look to them. A look that almost warned anyone at the table to walk away, go back to their hotels, and read a book. I swear I saw one of them mouth the words “I used to be you once. And tomorrow, I’ll probably be you again,” to an overenthusiastic socialite. I suppose when you’ve seen the weak hope of making it big broken so many times, you get kind of numb to it.

Decent folks surrounded me. Dressed in their interpretations of their finest duds, I met a mall food court’s worth of social diversity. Vegas knows no prejudice. Be it hick, hippie, yuppie, skank, tourist, parent, gang-banger or stockbroker. Young and old alike. They all congregate together, strangers sharing elevators and swapping war stories of lost rent and pawned watches. The loser’s language is one everyone speaks. And make no delusions about it, losing is where the fun is. If you drop the coin, you’ve lost. Some subscribe to a higher power and fight the temptations of nice cars and extra dimes in their pocket. They pursue stiff drink, tender females, and overpriced crap. Doesn’t matter a bit if betting odds or ogling flesh drive your ticket. Vegas always wins.

I would wander the strip late, waiting to see casualties. Those broken and beaten souls who gave it their all, and lost. The unfortunate who started with a car, a hotel, and a bank account, and will be spending tomorrow scouring the local help wanted ads. To my shock, I never saw it happen. Not once. No broken men or women with head in hands sobbing uncontrollably. No drunk, inconsolable souls screaming into the night about how they threw it all away. All night I saw the same sort of peppy folks wandering the streets. Young girls decked in long high heels that were making their feet ache. The mothers of those young girls a few blocks down packed into tight dresses that made their cleavage look like a bomb shelter, drinking large and looking for some lonely chap to bed down with. Happy male bonding rituals of sharp attire, several drinks, and the tender notion that they are indeed “high rollers.” Rock bottom didn’t exist here. You could never hit the floor, just dig yourself in deeper.

And did Vegas break me? Assuredly. Not at the tables though, I am not one who buys into the notion of becoming successful on the principles of divine intervention. What’s life without work after all? Still, I find myself a little more unsettled as I return to my nest. It’s a strange and weird place, as I doubt anyone would argue. And a dreaming sort like myself has no business being there. So I return to my nest. A little blacker for the experience. Lust and intrigue fill my mind a bit more than they used to. The possibility of hitting the jackpot passes through the brain as a possibility. It’s slowly eating away at my ambition and common sense. But, here in the security of my little home-built womb, I suppose that will pass with time. Sickly cravings tend to fuzz out when they lack in sensory fuel. And I imagine the bearings of sanity will find their way back home soon enough

And in the end, this will not be my last trip to Vegas. This kind of thing cannot be discarded like a trip to the world’s largest ball of twine, after all. It takes more than one sitting to digest a meal like this, and the willing stomach of iron and fearlessness. Darkness and weakness like this are uncommon in the world, and to find it all in once place is intriguing to say the least. It’s altogether possible, that I may one day find myself being maternally fed by one of those godforsaken machines. Who knows?

Until we meet again Vegas.

February 20, 2008

The Big Guns Of The U.S.

Today, the fathers of these lands, the conquers of this country fired a big missile at one of the archaic floating beer cans we've so diligently polluted the cosmos with. The reasoning being that said beer can might fall from the sky and damage somebody's yard, or something to that effect. The only solution this man's government could come up with was to fire several megatons of scrap heaven-bound. And if good Christian prayers were answered and a team of mathematicians locked in a basement were able to get their arithmetic correct, a big kaboom should ensue.

This is not some script with Bruce Willis on the wish-list, nor is it a bad way to spend two hours watching TNT. This is news people. The real dilly. Those that take your taxes and rape your daughters are shooting mindlessly into the sky like a scene out of Oklahoma!

I'm not sure what committee put their stamp of approval on this, but it's not their loyalties I'm interested in. It's ours. We let this happen. We knew our leaders were corrupt, knew they were plenty capable and hideously inept enough to buy into a stunt like this. And still,
we let them do it. The biggest force in this land, bigger than any army or police force, the common citizen, sat back and let the man shoot bombs into space.

And I can deal with the notion that this may have been unavoidable. Had this country sat in a big circle and sung "Kumbaya" for days end, The Big Cheese and his merry moles would've probably shot off the damn thing anyways. So, I can deal with a lack of protests, fury and fear, and the second coming of the revolution.

What concerns me is that few questioned this. They watched that weapon fly and didn't stop to wonder, "What in god's name are we doing this for anyways?"

Did it occur to anyone that launching flying dynamite into orbit might be a bad idea? That the possibility of missing might be more problematic than anything that could've possibly fallen down on it's own? Or how about considering how every other civilized country on this land (and probably some of the primitive ones) might take to look at us like a bunch of drunk cowboys? I know people realize that we've pretty much pissed our chums over at the UN off in the past few years. Our American rebellious streak as finally started to get old, and all the other continents are started to ask, "So, when are you gonna grow up and take some responsibility?" Our response was to shoot a gigantic tool of destruction at a moving target just to see if we could hit it. Mature. Real mature.

I think we all need to look at this as a defining moment. A moment where people can all agree our government clearly isn't considering who it governs. If this military hip-shot was truly because bad toxic goo sitting in this thing had a small chance of landing on someone, then why wasn't this resolved before? is our military and our space program truly that ignorant of what it's satellites are doing? Have our G-men truly succumbed to the roll of the parents of a teenager? They can wiretap my phone but stay oblivious to the nesting patterns of a satellite?

Most likely, there were other reasons. Reasons we weren't trusted to know. Dark secrets or bruised egos, maybe a combo of both. Who knows? Not me, and probably not you.

But we do know this: We've been let down. Those who would claim to lead us honorably and with wisdom have acted the fool. Run amok with our moneys to build bigger booms which were used in the futile pursuits of the wily and macho. We've seen it all with our own eyes.

What we do with this information remains to be seen. But in the darkest parts of my grit and frustration, I do hope that it's got you considering who governs you. I, on the other hand, am hiding my brown ass in the basement.

February 10, 2008

Riding The Fence

I had to ride the fence today. Sit on the fine line between what was right and was wrong. I reckon everybody's had to be there at one time or another. Had to be handed a decision that challenged where you hung your flag. Good decisions with bad implications, or doing something bad for the common good, there's nothing uncommon about riding the fence.

I've had a pretty easy time with those decisions in my years. My sense of wrong and right is pretty basic and straightforward. I've never followed the bible or anyone else's books, ignored the laws that made no sense, and stuck to a basic set of rules. I do my best not to cause hurt on other people, try to judge based on the circumstance instead of the letter, and try to exist as honorably as possible.

But on a day like today, even the most basic of rules doesn't seem to have any applicable path. There is no clear-cut right or wrong. Not on a day like today, where I had to drive my brother to jail.

In black and white, it was the right thing to do. He was clearly in the wrong, made bad mistakes that hurt other people. His crimes were sizable, and they needed to be atoned for. No man's law or god could dispute that.

But he is family. Perhaps not family whom I'm close to in any way, or have bonded with in any significant fashion, but family nonetheless. And what little I know about family tells me that we're supposed to look out for each other. And yet, here I was, driving him to his fate. Almost like I had sentenced him myself. It didn't matter that this was his decision, and that me driving him was a gesture of compassion, I felt like the traitor here.

My instincts wanted me to pass the police station, and drive down to the Greyhound. Hand him all the cash in my pocket and wish him well. Hope to god that he'd find a way to make it out there alone. Sure, it was against the law and very much the wrong thing to do, but it seemed like a much better insurance policy on his survival than what I was doing.

Bob Seger's "Turn The Page" came over the speakers. I was four blocks from the police station. My right foot was cramping from trying to control the throttle on the vehicle. Didn't want to drive too fast, might get the kid there too quick. Didn't want to drive too slow and have the world thinking I was having second thoughts. Damned if I didn't feel like I was the one throwing him into lockdown.

Needless to say, I completed the trip to the police station, and turned in my brother. Now that it's over and done with, I don't feel any better about it. I didn't commit the crimes, I didn't rat him out, and I didn't force him into the truck. Still, I feel like the outcome rests on me. I guess in a way, it does. For if I had sat back and let the universe take over, any number of other things may have taken place. Matters may have gotten better. Most likely, they would've only been made worse.

In the end, I did what was right. And in the end, I feel like dirt about having to do it.

February 8, 2008

The Results Of Mexican Food After 10pm

Last night, I had a dream that I was sitting in a bar with Glenn Danzig and Christopher Walken. From the corner of the room, a band dressed in shadows played swing renditions of Jeff Buckley and Nick Cave songs. The music filled the scene as the three of us drank Merlot and discussed cartoons.

I have no idea what it all means, but I have never been in a better mood.

February 7, 2008

The Art Of Selling Out

I had one of "those days" at work. You know, the type of day where you find a nice quiet place to pace back and forth for a few minutes before you actually have to deal with anybody. The type of day where violent depictions of torture and flames fill every single thought you have. Yep, I had one of "those days."

And while I don't mean to compete with any of your bad days that you may have had, I dare say that my day might have actually been a little bit worse than yours. And not because I have a more stressful position than you, or that I work with any more particularity bitchy people than you. No, I make this claim on the basis that my work has recently started to pump music from "Sesame Street" into every corner of the building.

"Rubber Ducky," "Fuzzy And Blue," and "I Love Trash," all there, all the time. And there is place from which you can escape it. I went to the bathroom.........there it was. I took a break......there it was. I went to scream in a stairwell.............lo and behold, there it was. In my face, constantly repeating.

Whilst I managed to force most of those songs into my subconscious and slowly drive myself mad, there was one song that stood out to me.

It was the duet between Kermit and R.E.M, doing a Muppetized version of "Shiny Happy People," redubbed "Fuzzy Happy Monsters" and acting as some sort of Muppet revolutionary warcry or something.

And I had to laugh. I absolutely had to. Because I was completely convinced that the guys in R.E.M actually lost sleep over this. I could actually see a sleepless Michael Stipe staring at his ceiling and saying to himself, "I did a song with the Muppets, no one will ever take me seriously again."

And then a thought hit me. A thought hard enough to make me shudder. "My god," I said to myself, "is it possible that one day I might have to sell out like that?"

It's a terrifying notion, to say the least, because the BGO and R.E.M kind of play in the same park. Not that I'm comparing my material to a refined band like R.E.M, but I know that if music sales kick up, I'll be sharing shelf space with them at Wal-Mart. And despite all the rebellious overtones, the intense research of jazz and blues, and my penchant for singing about weird shit, I would still be seated in the same musical section, a few racks down.

That kicks up the chances that I may be approached to have my work re-written to apply to hand puppets. I'm not even sure what I'd say to that. Yeah, I get a kick out of kids, and want to support anything that makes them more interested in the world around them, but at the same time I kind of want to protect my work.

"But," I again said to myself, "I sing about stalkers, moochers, and necrophiliacs. Surely they'd figure I 'm a little too unorthodox for children's programming." Well, considering the recent popularity of a little thing called Kidz Bop (Check out Vol. 9 for an absolutely painful rendition of "Feel Good Inc.") I would say nothing is safe anymore. With a bit more popularity, it's very possible that I would eventually become munchkin-fodder.

So, what do I do? I don't want to avoid fame if it comes a'knocking. Fame would guarantee financial security, and the ability to keep making noise whenever I feel like it. But, it can come with a cost. And having to lose sleep because a bunch of numb grownups figured out a way to make my work palpable for kids might be that cost.

I guess all I can do is fight it as much as possible. In the end though, I guess every artist with a good following has to sell his soul a little bit. There may very well be a day where a choir composed of cartoon characters and adolescents are performing one of my songs and singing, "She talks to the devil in backwards speech and spends her time trying to curse me."

Actually, that might be kind of cool

February 4, 2008

Half Asleep And Volatile

I am exhausted today. Fuzzy headed, corpsified, shouldn't be driving, but had to anyways because I had commitments, drifting into oncoming traffic and don't care, exhausted. I'm running on the most minimum levels of sleep and have faded in and out of consciousness all day.

And why am I so damn tired you might ask? Because I'm an idiot, that's why. I'm death-bed fatigued because I had to stay up and watch Resident Evil: Extinction, a movie that I knew would suck, but decided to watch anyways, because....I'm an idiot.

An hour and a half of plot holes, bad acting and stupid people. An hour and a half I'll never get back again. I'm beyond mere regret. Regret would've been feeling like I didn't do enough with my precious time. No, I'm feeling cheated. Like the makers of the film walked up behind me, and literally ripped 90 minutes away from me, then ran away laughing into the night.

And much as I would love to rip and tear this movie to shreds with my tuckered out, vengeful words. Or as much as I would like to buy a plane ticket to Hollywood and crowbar the knees of everyone associated with this film, I shall not. Nope, I'm gonna be good. Because despite how much I hate this film, I'm able to see that it's mediocrity is actually part of a much larger trend.

Yes my friends, I am talking about the trilogy. The modern day threesome that has become relatively popular as of late. I remember a few years back, that the third installment of a film series was something to be celebrated. It said to the world, "I made two things that were decent enough to make another one." And that's a pretty damn cool thing right? I mean, how often does a person get a third chance?

But today, the contemporary trilogy means something far worse. Now it says to the world, "I'm wrapping this shit up as quickly as I can, so I can forget I was ever involved in it." Don't believe me? Consider some of the more recent series to reach the threes:

X Men
Pirates Of The Caribbean
The Matrix
....and the aforementioned, Resident Evil

Now try and remember that sour taste you got in your mouth at the conclusion of el numero tres. Consider that feeling of disappointment after the credits. That sense of feeling robbed. Now, remember that feeling of seeing the first installment a few months later and thinking to yourself, "Why the hell did they make two more of these?" Admit it, you've all been there.

It's infuriating to reach that realization isn't it? You remember all the warm fuzzies you got from the first film, and then have to wrestle with the fact that those feelings are now diluted into pathetic semi-sappy endings.

And I know why these people do it. Hey, the first movie was pretty popular, well it makes good sense to make a follow-up. Of course, the sequel is never as good. Characters get weakened, the climaxes get more extreme, but not so extreme so there's room for a third, and the audience walks away going, "eh."

What I don't understand is why when someone puts money on the table for a third film, why the parties involved say, "I'll do it, but I won't like it." The animosity for having to make another movie in a series just leeches off the screen. The actors don't care. They read their fucking lines like Ben Stein smoking meth. When anything emotional happens, they kind of talk to the camera like a mother talks to her newborn. "Awww, dere dere. It's okay that a suppowting chawacter was pointwesswy kiwwed."

That's another thing about these trilogies, the writers just love to kill people off. Every chance they get. It's almost like they sit in rooms with the actor's face shots and say, "Wow, he's survived through the incidents of two films and is a fairly likable supporting character.....let's kill him!" And I know they're thinking in their fucking noodle heads that it's going to elicit a few "Aww's" out of us fools who paid money to see this dribble, but it doesn't work. Most of the time, we just sit there scratching our heads. Y'see, killing of characters has to be meaningful, but you guys just kind of rush the job, and now you've got an audience that's afraid to look away from the screen to sip a beverage, because there's a high chance that when they look back....someone will be dead.

And my favorite thing of all is the modern trilogy ending. Usually you end the movie with the ultra extreme feel-goods. Oh no, not any more. Now, there are so many story holes and plot fuck-ups in these things, that the only way you can end it is to throw something together and say, "Yeah, that's good enough." And for the rest of us, we walk out of that theater or get off our couches saying, "That was a happy ending.....wasn't it?"

I am so sickened by this. You would figure if you've made a name for yourself with a good product, you'd be smart enough to say, "I can't do another film as good as the first, so I'm not going to try." Yeah, you might miss out on all that box-office coin, but at least your reputation would be spared. Remember all those pats on the back you got for making such a good first outing? Never gonna happen again. Because people will never get over how bad the last one was. It was the most recent thing put in our heads guys, we won't forget it. And now, you have to deal with the knowledge that when you apply for your next job, movie, whatever, you'll have to say, "Well I made Blahblahblah the movie," and they'll retort with, "Yeah, but you also made Blahblahblah 2 and three. Get the fuck out of here." And nobody will ever take you as seriously again. I know I sure as hell won't.

Think about it............I'm going to bed!

February 3, 2008

Socially Un-Aware

I've been in the studio lately, trying to play musical catch up from my little incident in December. Slowly but surely I managed to get all the instrument tracks, save one song that needs to be redone, complete.

One song in particular had been a royal pain in the ass. It started as trying to cop the Motown feel, and ended up sounding half-baked, no matter what I did. My vocal performance wallowed in mediocrity, despite the fact that I selected some time-tested melodies to run with.

And the lyrics? Oh, the lyrics were a damned disaster. Probably the biggest pile of crap in the whole project. I was feeling good about things when I penned them to paper, because it took me about half an hour to lay down the whole song. That'll show me.

Y'see, here was the problem, the song originally started off being titled "Face Value," and was supposed to be about how people judge others based solely on appearance. The song morphed into "Strange Face," which was the same concept, but a bit more all-encompassing. Y'see the original lyrics focused primarily on race, and I felt that the words needed to be broadened to include sex, preference, and social groups. Y'know, who doesn't have issues with being judged by how they choose to look right?

Now, with new instrumentation, and the need for new vocal melodies, it's guaranteed that the song will become something else entirely, and that the whole "Face" thing will disappear completely. And that will mean that the second BGO album will, most likely, not have a single song that brings awareness to any social causes. Considering that "Fuzzy Jank" only had one song that remotely qualified as being radical, I'm starting to think that I may not be the kind of person who can deliver the revolution unto the masses. I just can't seem to make anything that would run with the leftists, liberals, anarchists, rebels, progressives or good old-fashioned rabble-rousers. I don't ally to causes all that easily, or used my words to move culturally-defined mountains, or anything like that. And judging from my latest epiphany, I probably never will. I just can't get past how biting social commentary can be so whiny.

And no, I'm not saying social commentary is inherently whiny. Just when I do it.

Chuck D can speak about all the wrongs in the world and everyone's guaranteed to go "Oh fuck yeah! Down with the man!" But when I start getting up in arms, it almost always comes out like "Waaah, why don't you like me?" I just can't bring the kind of intelligent fury to my lyrics that's necessary when you're hitting the big button items like racism, poverty, or the politicians you love to hate. When it comes to those topics, you have to balance intellect and fury. If you just yell and scream about all that's wrong, it sounds too much like bitching. But if you're too intelligent with the words, nobody can understand you enough to get riled up. It's a double-edged blade people. And I have to admit that I probably don't have the skill to wield it.

Maybe it's because I invest too much time in listening and thinking. Not meaning to say that other revolutionaries don't listen and think, just that I tend to overdo it. I spend a lot of time watching the bad people of the world, than challenging them to arm-wrestle. Kind of perched in the tree cougar-like, waiting for them to screw up in some large way. Sometimes they do, and I get to pounce recklessly. Sometimes they're smart enough to cover their own asses, and I remain in my tree feeling very frustrated.

Of course, there's also my battle ethic. I like to wage my wars person to person, select my enemies one at a time and deal with them thusly. Truth be told, it's a lot harder to fight racism than it is to get into it with a person who is racist. When dealing with the individual, you can challenge the stereotype, discuss the perspectives, and drop a bit of education on the side. That person can either walk away being a bit more open-minded and knowledgeable about race relations, or they can walk away knowing never to screw with the person they just talked to. Either way, it's a solid win for the home team. Now, if I applied that strategy to racism as a whole, well it'd be the equivalent of mouthing off to the Klu Klux Klan, armed with nothing but a BB gun. My dedication to the cause would be solid, but short-lived.

Basic warfare people. If you wanna make a good stand, don't put the army before the solider with a gun pointed at you. Keep things in perspective. Don't let the numbers bog you down. And make no doubt of it, they can bog you down. Anyone in the revolution business knows that the odds are stacked against you from the outset. Keeping that data on the noodle is a quick way to burn out and end up drunk in a dark room watching "I Love Lucy" reruns.

Of course, that could be what comes with dedication to a cause, I don't know. Perhaps I really am a lame-duck revolutionary. I'm completely unwilling to don shirts and inscribe myself with tattoos so I can scream about injustice. And despite being completely underwhelmed with the people in charge of this nation, I have precious little interest in raising fist-to-sky over their bigger, more obvious fuck-ups. My battles are usually private, soft spoken, and free of war cries. Definitely lacking in adrenaline and sex appeal, I must confess.

As such, my music remains revolution-free. Happy compositions with sad endings. No politic-tinged fury, or even a chirpy "We shall prevail" to be found. It is a little depressing to realize that. I'm definitely an advocate for change. Less hungry people, less excuses to drop explosives on each other, artists with heart and soul getting more attention than artists with good producers and big boobs. I dream about that sort of thing regularly. Wouldn't mind it a bit if I was able to contribute to any of that. It just seems so unlikely that I'll be able to, that's all.

But, who knows? Hell, John Lennon was able to make a few changes just by sleeping in with his wife. I guess anything is possible.

February 2, 2008

Random Conversations With My Mechanic

It's funny the kind of people you encounter.

I was over at the auto shop yesterday, getting a little work done on my loyal steed, when I got drawn into a conversation with one of the mechanics there. He was an old school sort of gent, graying hair, wrinkles setting in, that sort of thing. Y'know, very golden years.

Naturally, the conversation gravitated towards music. And we started swapping info on good tunes in the bluegrass, old country, and blues fare. None too surprising.

And then he asked me a question that blew my mind. He said, and I quote:

"You have picked up the new Radiohead album right?"

I was stunned. Here was a seasoned old-timer, arthritis in his hands, who seconds ago was talking about Hank Williams Sr. Now, we're discussing Radiohead. It probably took me a full two seconds for me to regain my composure and shamefully admit, "No, I haven't even heard it yet." He then proceeded to tell me about a few modern bands that were actually shining stars in the current sea of blah. By the time the conversation ended, and my vehicle keys were handed to me, I was a much wiser person.

After thinking about it for a spell, I decided I really shouldn't be too surprised about how that conversation turned out. The musical borders we have maintained for decades now are starting to crumble all over the place. The nature of music is changing so much that record labels are losing sweat trying to slap genres on each new sound that comes about. Artists who have that interesting new sound have a helluva lot easier time peddling their wares these days. And fans care less about all of it, as long as it sounds good.

Personally, I thank the iPod. And I don't mean to discredit the internet, social networks, or illegal downloading sites, for they all have their parts. But, I think the iPod definitely changed how people interact with their tunes.

Walk with me, back into time a few years ago, when CD's were all the rage. Remember the difficulty in picking albums when you were going somewhere? If you wanted to go for portability, the most you could carry was about 25 CD's. You could kick it up to the hundred's if you bought one of those Trapper Keeper deals, but Then you'd have something the heft and size of an encyclopedia to lug around. Most folks I knew tended to keep it light.

The pressure was on to pick the "right" albums too, because you knew that people would be digging through your stash. And if there was anything contrasting between a CD you own and the clique of your association, you'd never hear the end of it. The razzing would be tremendous if you were an all-black wearing metal guy who happened to have brought along a Lionel Richie CD for the trip (yes, very much a personal experience.) Music was very much socially defining, and people selected their albums accordingly.

But, in this day and age, everyone is packing around the same (or equivalent) device, that's smaller than any CD player, and has tons of memory. Now, it's altogether possible for an individual to carry their entire musical collection. And that, believe it or not, changes the social politic of music.

Now, choosing a CD by Journey for a three day trip doesn't seem nearly as shocking as simply having it on the ol' iPod, along with everything else you listen to. Now the folks who view your tunes get a grander picture of your musical tastes. A single album suddenly doesn't have nearly the impact on your social bearings from your mates, as where that album fits into the ratio of cool shit you own.

Couple that with the fact that you can now buy albums anonymously, and you have free reign over everything sonic. Y'know how the music stores do it, segregating every album into a handful of well known genres. Remember how silly you used to feel, wanting that Johnny Cash CD, and having to stand in that "Country section" in the corner? Hunting for that vintage Cash meant having to look the likes of Tim McGraw and Charley Pride in the eye. Not always a comfortable situation to be in. Nowadays, buy it online, and the next time folks see it is when they flip through your iPod and compare the ratios.

Granted, this isn't a super good setup for the music stores, but it's good for the fans. Loving music means taking an interest in everything music has to offer now. More folks are exploring the roots of their favorite artists, and taking chances on some new sounds. metal guys can dig on a little country, hip-hop cats are paying some homage to the original jazz cats, blah blah blah. It's good stuff. Being musically hip doesn't mean conforming to a section at Wal-Mart, but exploring some shit nobody's ever heard of.

So I invite everyone, to talk tunes with me, or whomever you know. Doesn't matter if it's as old school as you can get, or some band from the 80's with big hair. Good stuff is good stuff, so embrace it, and spread the word around whenever you can.