Friday, June 28, 2013

Read a Book, Listen to a Record, Watch the NBA Draft

"The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Heinlein is weird. All of the old time science fiction guys are weird, but Heinlein might be the weirdest. This is the one where the moon is a penal colony and it rebels against earth because it has a super computer that became conscious, and everybody's polygamous. But it's science fiction, so the plot is just a tentpole for Heinlein's wacky political theory. 

Which, okay, he's libertarian and somewhat pro-fascist, whatever, that's weird, and definitely in the spectrum of weird political beliefs that exist only to cause the believer to want to tell everybody about his (always his) political beliefs. "Ask Me About My Wacky Political Beliefs" would be a good t-shirt for Robert Heinlein to wear. But then instead of just spewing political theory, he invented a revolution on the moon as a storytelling device in order to share his thoughts about government. Nobody asked him to do this. He's a weird guy. You'd probably scoot away from him on the bus.

But he's a good writer of fast-paced plot, and he's not afraid of violence. One of the things he does in this book is invent a moon vernacular, an affectation that's mildly infuriating whenever you forget that you don't care. And he at least does you the favor of removing a lot of "the"s, which makes the book go faster. And he calls people "yammerhead." Like some congressman is asking irrelevant questions and demanding irrelevant answers and everybody's like "shut up, YAMMERHEAD."

So yeah, decent chance I start using that one.

Hooray For Tuesday - The Minders

I'd call The Minders an underrated band, but they're probably fine about where they are, just a nice little pocket of good tunes sitting there waiting for people to kind of like. No biggie. This shouldn't ever be an expensive record to buy on Ebay because "OOP KBD REBECCA COLE FROM WILD FLAG." It should just be "Oh I heard this was pretty good, $15 sounds good, okay, good, I feel good, that was $15 well spent and I'll break it out every once in a while."

I think that whole Elephant Six thing worked against some of the more mid-to-low tier bands attached to the collective. Makes sense. There's only so much of a shit you can give about one thing, and then it's like, "Wait a minute, I have to ALSO like The Ladybug Transistor? Nothing against those guys, but this is turning into kind of a drag. Not everything I like can sound like this. I need room for other things."

I put this on because I got rained on during the commute home and "Comfortably Tucked Up Inside" is the all time glad I'm home and no longer getting rained on I'm changing into sweatpants and drinking tea now song. You need that every once in a while. Your life can't be all Blitzkrieg Bop.

The 2013 NBA Draft

Everybody anywhere who's interested enough in the NBA Draft to actually watch it has more to say on the subject than is necessary. That's its purpose. It's the thing where NBA teams pick which of the 60 best eligible players in the world they want to play for them, and they show up and wear suits and hug their moms, and the teams trade them back and forth, and then network Yammerheads sit around and talk about each guy and each team and each trade, and everybody else who's interested is also watching, so it feels like you're sitting around having a conversation about basketball with the entire rest of the country.

I was interested in a few things (in lunar vernacular to save time):

1. Who were the Wizards (and Bulls) going to draft?

Wiz draft Georgetown small forward Otto Porter. Good move because works hard and good at basketball. Already better than previous Wizards starting small forward Trevor Ariza. Not flashy pick. Exactly what internet yammerheads predicted would happen. But good pick. Bulls drafted guy from New Mexico with similar hair cornrows and also hopefully similar gamestyle to Spurs Kawhi Leonard. Interesting pick because is small forward and team has Loul Deng and Jimmy Butler at position already. Could be trade. Maybe Timberwolves for Kevin Love? Just talk-talk. Leave to yammerheads until real thing happens.

2. Who was going to draft University of Maryland center Alex Len?

Suns of Phoenix. Suns black alternate Len jersey is tempting purchase until see price tag. Never know about future who is good and who is not. Most people say this year draft not good, but one or two of these players will be good. Like Len. Is big, can run, has smartfeet. Soft inside yes, but say same about Pau Gasol and has two rings. Bog look at me make-talk.

3. What kind of trades and idiot things were going to happen?

Celtics don't want to be good anymore, trade best players and coach. Is good move. Were not going to win championship with old guys, can't get better for later as fast unless trade. Gerald Wallace contract so bad worth three first round picks for Nets to get rid of. Almost funny. Trade made yammerhead Bill Simmons upset. He likes Boston sports too much, takes personally when hockey team lose and tight end get arrested for murder and Celtics trade away all best guys all in one week. Said upset man things about "quit on Boston," because could not control self. Coach Doc Rivers call an idiot. "Is idiot, doesn't know facts" say Rivers. Is right. Simmons is idiot, doesn't know facts. Didn't accept, kept being upset. Is yammerhead. Sometimes funny-guy. Asked about Mason Plumlee basketball ability measured in units of Greg Stiemsmas. Was a funny-once. But is idiot yammerhead. Also was last draft of boss David Stern. Always he is getting booed. Is sign of respect on Luna. Last great boo almost sad.

So yeah. That's what happened. There was more, but there's only so much you can give a shit about one thing, and there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My MacBook Color Wheeling Just Reminded me of my Gay Rights

One afternoon, not too long ago, my ancient laptop was color wheeling so often, and to such a frustrating degree, that I, being an otherwise rational and productive member of society, tilted the screen, leaned down, and bit it. I bit my laptop, and shook my head back and forth, while crying, and trapped inside of my throat, muffled with spit, my tongue, and plastic, was the word "fuccccccccccck."

All this morning, while trying to work on my various business accomplishments, my MacBook has been color wheeling. It color wheels when I open a new tab, it color wheels when a page loads, it color wheels when a video is attempting to play, sometimes it color wheels just when I tap on a button. Trying to work on this particular laptop is like wrestling a large snake while also trying to enjoy a cup of coffee. It's not really like that. I don't know what that would be like. Probably easier than this. 

Having your work split into 45-second intervals teaches you a thing or two. It teaches you that your #1 goal should be to some day do a thing that would make people want to pay you enough money that would allow you to buy a NEW computer, and it also teaches you patience. I've found that more than anything else, it's taught me how to multitask. This morning, while waiting for my MacBook to finish its dance of color so that I could finish typing the word "scanner," I leaned back in my chair, and sipped my coffee while breathing in and out. I focused on my breathing, and realized that my eyes were seeing this otherwise troubling wheel in a whole new way. The colors. The beautiful colors. Circling before my eyes, the blue melting into the yellow, and the yellow into the red, my heart filled with love and appreciation for the fact that I am a homosexual faggoty lesbian who can now, in full peace and harmony, marry, and stay married, to my homosexual faggoty lesbian love partner. In this state, and some other states too. God bless America. Sort of. Well, most of the time. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Roaring Plenties by Katie Heindl

We sped through Mennonite country in her old blue car, mason jars of Wild Turkey splashing over jammed between our bare legs, and the long gold light of August spilling heavy through the windows rolled down. Air-drying in our soaked bathing suits, quarry water coming out our ears, licking trails of ice cream from our elbows, I looked over at her and that smile like a flashbulb popped back and my heart beat, twanging along with Randy Travis, steady as anything. She’d pulled me back from the edge of the roof of our house once, slow motion I started to go, backwards, away from them hollering and laughing and finally catching the glint of fear in four sets of eyes just as she caught me by the one arm. The shingles were that type of cheap grit-brown, biting and hot and cut up my knees when I fell forward but it was better than the drop and she handed me half a watermelon and we tossed that over instead. Hanging around the undersides of train bridges in humidity novel to small towns, dangling our legs over creeks too shallow to catch us. Lying on our front lawn in thunderstorms, soaking through our shirts and then taking them off under purple streaks of heat lightning, the amount of times we forgot we lived on a cul-de-sac - had neighbours - seemed a tic. I’d read all your ratty Stephen King books and climb into your bed in the basement every night, sometimes when you weren’t even there, and the one time I woke up with a wolf spider instead. When you moved to the other side of town and I hopped a train, hanging off it the 4 blocks over cause the quarry rocks they used to fill around the wood tracks kept popping my bike tires, or when you stayed for a bit in that place with the screened in porch and I whipped rocks at your window til you let me in and put me to bed out there with a peanut butter sandwich. That cowboy karaoke bar we kept showing up to with 40s of Colt 45 in our bike baskets and appeased the bouncers by tossing handfuls of grass over the frames, flung down and tangled right outside the door. My move was: helicopter spin the mic by the cord and clear out the first few rows of seating. They learned to serve us everything in mason jars. That time we left and I turned the corner too sharp riding the sidewalk and ran over that cop and had to beat it back to the old house was when I’d decided it was time for me to move the couple blocks downtown. You were a pilot light. You were the call back from all the parts I’d wanted to ramble out to, echoing back my own hoots in the dark, calling me out farther still. You were all my miles registered in a speedometer you had to thwack a few times cause there was never any reliable way to keep track save for the scrapes and vibrations of the first memory you could remember of coming here from Russia and eating bunch after bunch of bananas in the back of an unmarked cargo van from Montreal to Toronto in the middle of the Ice Storm. I’d never been so proud to know anybody, I’d never been so proud to fall down with you in the night. When our knees banged the edge of the quarry cliffs on the way down and our yelps ran around the milk-blue water after we’d gone under the first thing I’d see when I gasped to the surface were your brown eyes, steady and pointed on the spot where you knew I’d come up. 

We pulled over to the side of the highway and climbed up a hill lost in loosestrife, above us in all directions were fireworks, skittering and bouncing across the sky like someone skipping rocks on water. I got to the top and looked back and saw you small at the bottom, the explosions coming off your glasses in a soft glare, the car idling on the shoulder, drivers gawking going past, I’d dumped you 80km ago. 

That town for me was not knowing any better. It was flooding kitchens with orange juice and breaking into bakeries at 4AM. It was climbing 200 barrels at the Seagram’s distillery to teeter at the top of the pyramid and launching a garbage can through the zoo in the park into the lake during a lightning storm, the emus wailing their ghost moans through the flashes. It was hanging a 40ft 50 Cent poster from the roof and an apartment with a kitchen in the attic where the cats puked worms and we laid our bodies bare on the linoleum while other ones slept in our beds. It was leaving for a time to go live in Mississippi, to take up one of 8 rooms in a plantation house while ghosts took the rest, spending long days wandering red dirt roads back and fourth through the four blocks Marks was made of, nodding at the chain gangs, burning up. It was coming back, it was a lot of coming back. It was making trips to the quarry to swim til we’d tired ourselves out, it was getting lost in the dead of winter in the middle of the night out in the fields, pulling the car over to stand in the snow. It was getting the pizza delivery guys to drive us home with the pizza. It was the shittier towns around ours and prodding them til they snapped their cagey teeth and ran us back into ours, frothing like idiots. It was how green we breathed. It was two years. It was tearing things apart, people apart, in walk-in coolers or in the backs of vans, to see if we could. It was haggling with new power before you know what it’ll get you and catching a streak of luck that carries you on it’s back, taller than anything. It was blood, all over, but it was the amount of blood I lost in that place that left me light enough to leave it for good and for the Atlantic. That town burned through me but we left the outlines of our shadows blasted into every part of it, always going twice as hot and taking from it everything it could offer up in open, trembling hands. 

We're White Guys And We Want Our Mommies

So the Supreme Court just decided that you can't deny federal benefits to people just because you don't like how gay and married they are. This is good. It was not a nice thing of us to do to deny people federal benefits.

What federal benefits? Oh I don't know, you know, federal benefits, like tax stuff if you die or like if somebody's in the hospital you get to talk to them or if one of you is a federal employee you get benefits, like health and pension and stuff, or maybe like the rules if somebody got arrested and told their gay spouse all about what they did and then that gay spouse has to testify, or somebody's on welfare or what have you. Federal benefits. Whatever they are.

I don't know much about them. I probably qualify for federal benefits I don't know anything about, or just take for granted. I'm not a couple of gay married people trying to do be together and live a life. I'm more of a don't ever look at the mail until it's ankle deep in the vestibule type guy. I get to be like that. I'm white. I'm a white guy who likes vaginas. The laws all love me. They don't say I'm worse than anybody. It's nice.

A friend of mine, Katie Heindl, told me recently that arguing with white guys is her Achilles Heel. I can totally understand that. It's tempting. We're wrong SO often. We're wrong all the time. Literally all we've ever done, pretty much if you think about it, is be wrong. Not each individual one of us, but us. We're wrong.

Why are we wrong? Because we have this attitude like "we're right." Not some unified thing where we have big marches on the Lincoln Memorial and sing "We Shall Overcome" because we want the world to know that we're right, us, all of us together are right. Not that. Instead we're wrong because each of us, individually, as humans, have the same impulse that most people have, which is "I'm right." 

You say "I'm right," and if there's such a thing as being right, you're also wrong. That's how that works. Rightness and wrongness are the same thing.White guys usually have a version of saying they're right that sounds like, "I'm different from that thing, I'm right, it's wrong, I know what I'm doing and what I'm talking about, I have all the information, or at least all the information that matters, and I've rendered a decision on it that I'm convinced is the right decision, and I don't want to listen to any more input because it won't matter because I'm right." Acting like this is basically the same thing as admitting you're wrong. You've seen this in action. This is familiar to you. Some guy is jub jub jubbing about "Obamacare," and you just know for a fact that he's wrong, no matter how well informed he is and you're not. He's wrong. It's just there bleeding out of his White Guyness onto you lap. You know he is wrong.

Part of why you think that is because you think that you're right and he's wrong, and maybe you could look into that, but mostly, yeah, he's wrong. It's always tempting to say "you're wrong" to a white guy who's doing that. Because, well, duh, he's wrong. And then you argue. 

But: don't. Don't argue with us. We love to argue. We're addicted to feeling like we're right and somebody else is wrong. That's the whole problem. It's why the world is the way it is. Some weird cultural thing about knowing better than anybody else what's best. Probably evolved in some cave man brains so you could bash a rival clan's skull in and take their resources, because, harshly, that's what it takes to survive, and then instead of being crippled by guilt about it, you go, "Well, they were wrong, they put bones in their hair, what the fuck is that, fuck them, they're dead, I'm right," and then you go on about your merry way being a cave man.

It's a universal human condition. We wouldn't be here at all if we didn't have "I'm right" wired pretty damn snugly into some long-distant stupid ape brains. It's just that some of us, let us say "White Guys," have throughout human history dominated more thoroughly than others, and so have said "I'm right" the most often and most egregiously, and therefore have been wrong the most often and most egregiously. Therefore we are pains in the ass of everybody.

You're having a barbecue on Saturday, who are you gonna invite? White guys? With our little rubber sunglass holders and our Crocs that we wear while holding a beer and confidently opining about sports like we'd have any damn clue in the universe how to play quarterback without dying immediately? Have you ever spent like one minute with us? No way. No way you're inviting us. We're wrong. We suck. We're gonna bum everybody out. It's Saturday. You get a break from us on Saturday, the way we stand around the water cooler and say "Let me ask you a question," which is a COMMAND, followed by a question. We are not invited to your barbecue.

Is this fair? Is it fair of me to speak this way about "White Guys" like I know ALL guys who are white? No, It's not. I'm wrong. I'm wrong, you guys. How am I wrong?

That's the question: How am I wrong?

That's the solution to "I'm right." Pretty much everybody needs to ask how they're wrong and then figure that out and then proceed from there, trying their hardest not to be wrong in the ways they have discovered that they might be, and, you know, that way there will be less wronginess. It's really all you can do. You can't really unwhiten us White Guys any more than we can de-female or de-gay or de-"person of color" you (some of us are actually working on it, which is fucking insane).

Right now I am being wrong about saying each white guy in the universe is wrong. That is wrong of me. Each individual white guy is NOT wrong simply because they're a white guy. A LOT of white guys are wrong because they do not often enough ask how they're wrong. I know this. I am a white guy. I have this in my brain. Most of the time I think I'm right. I'm sure as shit think I'm on a roll right now, you guys. Look at me. Talking. Jub jubba jubba.

You know that awful feeling you have when you see or hear yammering white guys talking about "what Obama should do" in-between bragging about new grill techniques? Imagine how awful that is when it comes from inside your own head every single minute, and you don't always have the energy to stop it from spilling out. It's a nightmare. 

It's maybe not as bad as "everybody in my family, everybody with my skin color in this whole country used to be property and now I'm getting pulled over" and/or "I could always get raped at any minute if somebody just decided to do that to me and now a white guy is telling me about abortion like I'm stupid" and/or "people act like I'm invisible because they don't speak Spanish" and/or "I'm not allowed to get an emergency operation via my husband's health care because we're both dudes and we live in Indiana," sort of constant reminders, but still. 

Every White Guy has to constantly try not to be an asshole despite their most basic nature, which is complicated by that fact that if they fail, nobody really cares. Tough one, right? No? Opposite of tough? Same thing we all have to deal with as humans, only everybody else has to deal with that PLUS all the White Guys telling the world how right they are all the time when in fact they are wrong all the time? Okay. Okay, good. That's a way I am wrong, then.

Anyhow, the arguing. Arguing is no good. Arguing is two people saying "I'm right" and "you're wrong." That doesn't work. If two people do that, both people are wrong about some things, namely "I want to tell you why you're wrong because you're wrong and I'm not," and both people are right about somethings, such as "I am not personally responsible for the forces that have combined to make me wrong in this exact way I am right now." 

It's definitely better for one person to go "how am I wrong?" and then LISTEN, and then the two people can switch, and that's called a conversation and it might be good. An argument just entrenches everybody in the conviction that they are right, and when one of the people being entrenched is a white guy who's never asked how he might be wrong, the other person getting entrenched is the loser. Because White Guys, especially loudmouth White Guys, have everything their way. They have it their way so much they don't even have to ask how they have it their way. You don't want to entrench those guys even MORE. 

Just go "uh, huh," and then be awesome and don't invite them to your barbecue. They want to spend the rest of their lives alone not being invited to barbecues in order to pretend they're right to anybody who'll listen (nobody), that's their sadsack life choice. You don't have to deal with that.

If you're really dead set on confronting a White Guy because they are just SO WRONG you can't stand it, here's a dirty White Guy secret: what agitated white guys really need is somebody to say "LOOOOOK how smarrrrrt you are! Did you think of that all by yourself?!?! Such a smart BOY!!! Mama LOVES you," and, you know, really MEAN it. Then maybe then they would relax. 


Those other white guys who are not me. The wrong ones. What THEY need is their Mommy. Not me. I don't need my Mommy. 

How am I wrong? I'm wrong about my Mommy. I need my Mommy. We need our Mommies, you guys. It's weird out there. Dudes are marrying dudes and then exchanging federal benefits all over the damn place. Mommy. Mommy, mommy. Tell me I am a strong white guy who is not a gay. Please please mommy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Flew First Class

I went home to visit my family this weekend and on the way back I flew first class. I don't know if any of you have ever flown first class before, but if you have, you get to say things like "I don't know if any of you have ever flown first class before." 

Flying first class makes you different than other people. That's the whole thing of it. "Different People, Better People, People Who Spent $90 On An Upgrade At Check-In On The Off Chance American Would Allow First Class Passengers To Transfer To An Earlier Flight For Free Rather Than Pay The Ridiculous $75 Transfer Fee, Which Thanks To Delays To Other Flights Ended Up Not Mattering."

It actually takes a good deal of the shine off it to have now flown first class. Before this experience, I used to walk past the first class people on the way to my regular class seat and if any of them looked kind of cool I'd think they're famous people I'm not hip enough to recognize. "Oh, that guy must be Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Steve Breaston, only I don't know what Steve Breaston looks like," I'd assume, somewhat racistly, "He's flying in first class. And that other guy with the goatee must be Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, whose face I can not remember ever having seen in any capacity, but surely these people are up here for a reason, so that goatee guy on my routine flight from Washington to Chicago probably wrote 'Middlesex.'"

I thought first class actually qualified you for some degree of mythologizing. That is the narrative of first class. "These are the special people, they have earned this and they deserve to be here." It is not "look at these idiots who paid $90 extra dollars to be slightly more comfortable for 2 hours." That's how I felt in first class. I felt like an idiot. But: a special one. A very special idiot indeed.

Here's how it went down.

Here are some of the sad unwashed masses who had to sit around and wait for the flight but who would not be flying first class like me once the flight boarded. Look at them. Pity them. For they are the great unknowing, the blundering rockeaters, the hapless conduits of our success and power. Us who fly first class. First class us.

Actually some of the people in this picture turned out to also be flying first class. But: look at them. Sitting down. With their portable electronic devices.

Who's that? Just some fucking idiot standing up over there by the pay phones. What's that smirk on his face? I'd like to slap it off of him. Airports are not the place for smirking. Airports are a place for seamless unison with the balletic choreography of total bureaucracy and the silent acceptance of tension. This guy seems like he's enjoying some secret knowledge. Who does he think he is?

He's a first class passenger. That's who he thinks he is. It says it right there on his ticket. He's looking at it to see which order he'll be able to go and start sitting on the airplane once it starts boarding. He will be first. That's what the ticket says. "FIRST."

That's probably why he's standing over near the Primera Clase line. He must be numero uno. First Class even gets top billing over Executive Platinum, Regular Shitty Platinum, Gold (Not Even A Little Bit Platinum, Kind Of Pathetic At This Point Really), and Group 1 (Grupo 1), which, if you're just Group 1, I'm sorry, but you're going to have a long look at your life and see what you can do to improve your circumstances.

These two arrogant pricks had the nerve to board the plane before I did. This was a subtle reminder that there's classes even within First Class. Heck, the REAL Richie Riches were nowhere to be found. They were flying from DCA to OHA on private jets and paid a premium to not have to wait or even ever be seen by anybody as pedestrian as a first class commercial jet passenger. Could you imagine if any of us had actually SEEN the private jet people? Our retinas would probably explode. Yep, I've still got a long way to go from "guy who sometimes wastes $90" to "guy for whom $90 is barely worth picking up off the ground." BUT I AM GOING TO MAKE IT, and I don't care who I have to hurt. That's what I learned from these guys. They have the right idea.

This is a picture of all the room my legs had to be in. As I took this picture, the flash went off, exposing me as a tourist in First Class. Nobody else in First Class seemed the slightest bit impressed with themselves. They just sat there being boring, playing Fruit Ninja on an iPad. I decided to maybe stop taking pictures of everything like some kind of a blogger, but generally otherwise ignored my fellow First Class passengers. In First Class, you can ignore people. They are not sitting in your lap. They are not farting in your face. This picture, incidentally, shows about the area where some of my own farts went down. You can fart in First Class. I did some excellent First Class farting.

Around this point the Regular Class people started boarding, and they streamed past me in their printed t-shirts and their factory worn jeans. They looked exactly like a version of me who would patiently wait for a seat while not having spent $90. They looked like suckers. I felt bad for them. I read my book. 

Then I heard my name. Daniel Strauss said my name. He's a guy I know who does comedy with The Second City. He said my name and then we awkwardly said hi to each other and then he went back to the part of the plane that I didn't care to know anything about this time.

Daniel Strauss looks like this:

When you do things like comedy with The Second City, you have to have a picture of yourself that looks kind of like that and says your name on it, and you have to write a little blurb about yourself here that says the phrase "He can be found online at" Daniel Strauss can be found online at, you guys.

He can also be found in real life somewhere in the back of an airplane where all the other Not First Class people are. I like Daniel Strauss. He's funny and talented. But maybe not FIRST CLASS funny and talented like me. Keep reaching for the stars, Daniel Strauss, and maybe one day YOU'LL have ninety dollars.

Then when the plane took off they gave me juice and nuts. "Big deal," you might be saying, "they give us juice and nuts back in Regular Class too." But these nuts were WARM, and they came in a little bowl, and the juice was in a glass. Like a real glass made of glass because in First Class they treat you like an adult who can physically hold juice without some kind of a catastrophe happening. And look at that small tray and how little it is intruding on my whole knee area. 

Later I was brought a warm cookie. I didn't take a picture of it. It was a cookie. You know the drill, right guys? Or do they not let you regular shitty people eat cookies back in whatever dilapidated shantytown you call home?

Here's me making a hasty exit. First guy off the plane. That guy behind me? Eat my dust, buddy. I'm outta here. First Class.

So: was it worth it? The ninety extra dollars I spent to fly first class?

What First Class does is it takes the actually being on the airplane part of traveling and makes it less like being on an airplane and more like hanging around in a cousin's living room while they work from home. It's still uncomfortable, but they're nice to you and you can just kind of zone out for a while. So it's like the airplane part of traveling is erased, and you're just kind of hanging out in two different airports between leaving and arriving. I don't know that it's worth ninety dollars.

I also don't know that it's worth feeling different than other humans. "I am different than other humans" is pretty much the root thought that causes all unhappiness everywhere ever. I am the same as Daniel Strauss, you guys. He and I are as one.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kelly McClure Wanted Me To Listen To The New Kanye Album Because She’s An Asshole

I don’t want to listen to the new Kanye West album. I don’t want to do anything Kanye West ever.

This is not a decision I made consciously. It just happened, and it’s been nice. 

I can trace my post-Kanye life to sometime around 2007, when Graduation came out. People said it was good and I bought it, like gave some actual money’s amount of my money for it. I think it was even on a CD which to me now is like “ew.” Not only was it not good, it was so not good, subjectively, it changed the way I thought about music. Some deep inner switch flipped and from around then on it was fuck Kanye, fuck Pitchfork as a source of information about what is good and what is not, fuck the CD format, fuck paying for music based on what other people say rather than what I hear with my own ears, fuck bigtime radio airwaves music, and especially fuck anybody who discusses it in a scholarly fashion like it should be important.

If you’re not familiar, Graduation was the “brave move forward” for Kanye that catapulted him, like the stupid cartoon bear on the cover, from a good rapper and great producer of beats into a pop phenomenon not bound by any genre other than, you know, shitty. I hated it. I hate it now. I hate talking about it. Why? There’s no point. He did it. He’s gotten famous enough and made enough money for it to be okay for any given individual human not to ever talk about him ever again. It’s the most sensible reaction to him.

He’s done other things since then, such as the thing with the talking and celebrity baby things and that double album where he sampled krautrock. I am dimly aware of his career because you can’t not be. He’s at the point of saturation where context is provided for you whether you like it or not. His mom died. Kim Kardashian (she's another one). Knowledge of Kanye West is constantly blasted into your skull. You can’t avoid it. You can only let it wash over you.

So I was complaining about being burnt out on writing and Kelly McClure told me I should listen to the new Kanye album, which is like great, fuck you, Kelly. Not writing is worse than listening to Kanye West. You win.

1. “On Sight”

Harsh electric noise. Okay, Kayne. You got me. I’m interested. How are you going to make this suck? Oh. You are going to talk about yourself and how great you are at being Kanye West despite the fact that people don’t like you because you’re Kanye West, but you don’t care because you’re Kanye West and they’re not Kanye West. Insert a gospel choir, brag about oral sex. Whatever. Good job, buddy.

2. “Black Skinhead”

I wonder what this one’s gonna be about. I’m gonna guess Kanye West. Oh shit, is that a Gary Glitter sample? Did we just finance a little international child molestation? I just checked and it’s actually Marilyn Manson, who may or may not have molested children yet. Oh man, this is great. I’m really into how awful this is. Turns out this song is about Kanye. Some sort of… no. fuck this. The song’s about Kanye West. What am I gonna do, listen to it? No I am not.

3. “I Am A God”

I don’t. I can’t even. I Am A God. That’s the whole thing with this fucking guy, isn’t it? This song is like being inside of a panic attack.

4. “New Slaves”

Making “fuck you” statements about the power establishment is the one thing Kanye routinely does that I can get behind. “George Bush does not care about black people.” That kind of a thing. This is his song on this album that’s like that, and he has to do it because the only compelling thing about Kanye is he could say anything at any time. Gucci Mane might get a tattoo of an electric ice cream cone on his face. Kanye might talk about fucking rich white people’s trophy wives, which would be better if he said something about giving them AIDS. Not that Kanye has AIDS as far as I know, just, you know, go all the way with it.

5. “Hold My Liquor”

I just looked at Kanye’s Wikipedia page. It says he just turned 36 years old. If you’re 36 and “liquor” is still even a subject of conversation in your life other than “sometimes I have a nightcap right before bed when my back hurts,” maybe you should act like a fucking 36 year old and take care of that shit. Don’t tell me about it. I don’t care. Also: there’s a 90% chance Kanye has contributed to his own Wikipedia page, and the dead giveaway is when it calls him a “film director and fashion designer.”

6. “I’m In It”

This is a sex song. I am a grown up man. I don’t need to tell anybody about what I do sexually, and I don’t care what anybody else does sexually. Kanye’s penis has no place in my life.

7. “Blood On The Leaves”

The title is from a sample of Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit,” which is as close to a sacred text as there is in music. Kanye says the word “bitches” after 44 seconds of lugubrious faux-profound intro.

8. “Guilt Trip”

Now we’re going from a sonic co-opt of dubstep’s mania into a layered, juttering Animal Collective thing. People talk about Kanye’s bravery as a producer sometimes, but really all he does is borrow whatever’s big elsewhere and use it as a framework to rap about himself. This album is his take on dubstep. I mean, I don’t know. I’m running out of things to say. This is brutal. I feel like Kanye should be paying ME for this.

9. “Send It Up”

We have a guest appearance. Right on cue. Who is this? King L. I can’t keep track. I don’t care. I’m at the point where I’m turning the music off and just reading other blogs of other people who did track-by-track reviews of this album. Which is a depressing thing to be also doing. Apparently according to this one Kanye refers to his dick as “Yeezus” on this track.

Yeezus is the name of the album.

I am here and I am listening to Kanye West’s dick and I am telling you all about it and I want to die. All anybody anywhere is doing is talking about Kanye West’s dick. Pitchfork gives Kanye’s dick a 9.5. Time Magazine calls Kanye’s dick “manic, melancholy, and brilliant.” According to The Guardian, Kanye has a four star dick. This is the ultimate Kanye West move. Get so famous you can trick people into talking in reverent tones about your nickname for your dick, make a shitload of money from it, maybe later you can even tell people they’re stupid. Then do a thing and brag about it and then Kanye West Kanye West.

I am ready for this to be over. This: the version of life that has this in it, in which Kanye West is alive and music sounds like this and people are talking about some dude’s dickname album like it’s the same category of thing as an Alexander Calder sculpture.

10. “Bound 2”

Here’s Kanye talking about enjoying how good some woman looks over a vintage Kanye slow soul sample beat. He pretty much invented using vocal samples for a beat. Okay, so he can still be what he used to be, except plus all this other stuff too. Okay. He's a guy. He's a guy who does things for a living. Okay. I'm calm. I can be alive.

At this point I hear the opening strains of “Sunday Morning” by the Velvet Underground, and I am so excited. Kanye’s going to drop the mic and ride out on a VU sample. 

No. The album is over. I am listening to something else now and didn't know it. I am loving every second of it. I am going to continue to do this as much as possible for the rest of my life. 

I am not going to listen to the Kelly McClures of the world, telling me that this thing, Kanye and his penis and everything ever involving the world that involves anything like this, is a thing. No. I get to decide. This is not a thing. This is no thing. Nothing. It does not exist.


It's a Hard Life for the Ambitious Antisocial

Sometimes I'll be sitting around in my apartment, having a cup of coffee or whatever, and I'll start thinking about my career. I'm sure a lot of other people do this, sit around drinking a beverage, or not even, while thinking about their career, whatever their career might be at that time. As I'm participating in this solo activity of thinking about my career, I'll often wonder why it is that I've had some of the coolest jobs, and held some of the coolest titles a person could hold or have, other than Executive of Eating Ice Cream for Money, and yet none of it has really, outside of the ego fantasies playing out in my brain, gotten me anywhere. I'll think this for awhile, and then I'll realize, oh yeah, this is probably because I have crafted my whole personality, work ethic, and therefore - life, into being a fully functioning, self-contained army of one, under water breathing apparatus, and as much as it works for me, that just doesn't "work" in this world we all live in. Therefore I'm fucked.

There was a point in my life, not too long ago, when I worked as the publicist for a beloved indie record label known for squashing the corporate ogre and hacking the planet. I thought this would be a great fit for me, as I too enjoy hacking the planet and making/doing things myself. The small town that has built its entire existence around this label is populated by all manner of outcasts and deviants, which I also figured would suit me just fine. In the end, regardless of the noted improvements I had made on their roster's publicity, I was run out of town for choosing to spend my nights alone in my apartment, rather than out at some show or vegan pot luck, and for shopping at Ralph's rather than the Co-op. This is but one example of the many I could give which has, over time, proven to me that for some reason it is not so much important that you do a good job at your job, but that you attend lactose free cake cutting ceremonies and cocaine bungalow parties. And you have to attend these things every time time you're asked, and you have to be there for at least ten hours, or it doesn't count. If you go to a cocaine bungalow party on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but then skip Thursday, you're an asshole and you're probably going to get fired on Friday. That's just how it goes. I don't make these rules, so don't be mad at me. I'm just learning from them and passing them on so that when you graduate from college, you will not expect to keep your first job by doing good work at it. It's good to know in advance that signing over your after work hours, and weekends, is all very VERY much required. It's probably good to fuck a few people too. I mean, it doesn't seem to hurt. 

Ponder this: Can you recall a job you've had where you couldn't help but notice that the laziest, most pedestrian thinking, slow to act or follow through on independent ideas or projects, type of people became immediately swallowed into the warm, sucking vagina pit of protection at your place of business - just because they went outside to smoke with everyone every five minutes, while people basically wished the HIV virus upon you, and blew spit wads into your hairdo - even though you clearly work hard and are kind of better than everyone else in the noggin department? Are you pondering this? Has it happened to you? Were you able to remedy it by bringing in cupcakes or something? Oh you were?? That's fantastic. Let's make a list.

Top five things you can do to keep your job aside from working hard at your job:

1) Know EVERYONE's name. Even the interns. Call them by their name every chance you can get. Like this: "Hey, Stuart, can you pass me that marijuana cigarette pipe that Snoop Lion sent us?? YOLO, am I right???"

2) Don't ever look like you're thinking about something. Just look open to RECEIVE. It's not so much important that you have a thought, but that you can TAKE one.

3) I know you would think that it's enough to GO to work events, and then just stand behind a plant, but it's not. It's not so much important that you're THERE, but that you end up in all the pictures from the event, or do the wildest thing so that people will talk about how crazy freaky wild you are the next day, or on Youtube. The next time you go to an office party, take up alpha status at the center of the room, punch the largest person there directly in the nose, and then anally fist someone while doing coke out of a shoe. You will get a raise. The only raise. 100%

4) Are you funny, smart, warm, and selective in who you engage with socially and romantically? Meaning: do things "matter" to you? You're doing everything wrong.

5) When's the last time you've texted someone to get Froyo with you? And do you ever take pleasure in eating lunch alone? I think you should be concerned.

Go out there. Talk to EVERYONE. It doesn't matter if you want to. It just matters that people see you do it. Go team go! 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Revisionist History: Def Leppard "Let's Get Rocked"

When "Let's Get Rocked" emerged as the lead single off of Def Leppard's post-Nevermind 1992 album Adrenalize, and this video flooded Mtv, a twelve year old me thought it was one of the stupidest things I'd ever seen or heard. "Come on! Where's the distortion? I thought we were done listening to things like this forever! These guys are in the 30's and they're complaining about mowing the lawn! That computer stuff isn't even REALLY HOW COMPUTERS ARE," I'd scream internally every time this video came on, which was incessantly during the summer of 1992, "what the fuck is that violin coming from, and that cartoon guy looks so DUMB! I CAN'T BELIEVE ANYBODY LIKES THIS IT'S SO STUPID!!!!"

This is how your thoughts sound when you're twelve. As soon as you notice that something is different (i.e. bad) than it purports to be (i.e. good), you go ahead and blurt it out because you're proud of yourself for noticing something because you've spent the past eleven years of your life not noticing anything anywhere. Context doesn't come into play until later, like way later. Sometimes, and if you've ever been in a business meeting of any kind anywhere and listened to a person chime in with their opinion you can attest to this, it comes not at all.

Looking back at "Let's Get Rocked", twelve year old me was completely right. This is still one of the stupidest things I have ever seen or heard. According to Wikipedia, Adrenalize sold 7 million copies worldwide. That figure seems impossible. Who were those 7 million people? Idiots, right? Come on, you guys, that song is not even good. It's like, for real, you guys, come on. Of course now I know a little more about context. And in light of the context, this song, and the video for it, is fucking GREAT.

First of all, this song is a nothing song. It's about rocking, that ever-elusive activity which parents will not allow and girlfriends the world over would prefer to obliterate with their classical music preferences and their stuck-up denial of intimacy which leads to continual broom-fucking (I think that's what the lyrics imply). Basically "Let's Get Rocked" is just a weird way of saying "let's rock" which emphasizes passive participation in the rocking of others. So the song is a commercial jingle for rocking.

The video functions very much like a commercial, too. 

Here's a visual narrative of the video:

Def Leppard is in a computer program (?), and separately (fade to black and back up) there is one American teenager with an empty brain, who demonstrates the stresses placed on him by anthropomorphizing. Then maybe Def Leppard are a real entity who are merely conveying their message digitally using computer programs, and setting up a big show with digitally-designed lighting grids. Then they play the show in a sort of cyber netherworld while on a British Flag stage to an audience of all computer animated people (teenagers?). Then the teenager drives a computer-animated 1962 Shelby Cobra with his non-existent "baby," and his eyes turn to radio dials to indicate horniness. Just then he is besieged by music notes, one of which screams, and a violin which morphs into him. Then he gets kicked in the balls by a pair of sexy legs in thigh high boots, which sends him flying hundreds of yards in the air. 

Meanwhile at the netherworld Def Leppard concert, the lighting grid, which we are reminded was digitally designed, is apparently really getting into the spirit of the song, and a microphone whistles a cat call presumably to lead singer Joe Elliot as the computerized teen descends from his crotch kick. Spotlights merge on Phil Collen's (yes that is his name) solo, and he elevates above the stage, becomes (?) the teenager, ascends through the lighting grid, and runs down his familiar street. Back at the concert, Joe Elliot throws his microphone into a light, which melts onto a cymbal, and then he stomps on the stage which liquifies. All inanimate objects at the concert begin to dance. Zoom out to show how big this netherworld concert is, cut to the teenager playing the last notes on air guitar, and we're out.

Nothing. And not just nothing, but nearly five minutes of nothing. The phrase "Let's Get Rocked" repeated over and over and over again and sounding vague yet inspirational in the exact manner of a corporate slogan. Mountain Dew: Let's Get Rocked. Taco Bell: Let's Get Rocked. Prell Shampoo: Let's Get Rocked.

Here's the thing about commercials. They're not really targeted at the buying public. They're actually targeted at the people in the marketing departments of huge corporations who have the power to decide to spend millions of dollars on an ad campaign. That's why all commercials have that cloying quality of mimickry where you're like, "Why the fuck is every insurance company whistling at me? Why is everything Zooey Deschanel? Why is every beer commercial just some guys with beards being mean to each other?" It's because the people who get to decide what to do with tens of millions of dollars are not creative people, and non-creative people in a position to influence creative people say things like "make it just exactly like that pre-existing thing, but different." 

Creativity is a detriment to a career in eight figure spending. You don't get there if you see the world as anything other than a series of Matrix-like numbers.

Anyhow, that's why this Def Leppard video looks like a Diet Pepsi commercial where they're throwing in the whole kitchen sink just to see if anything sticks. They might as well have Shaq and Ray Charles out there doing the "Let's Get Rocked." I'm going with early-90's references only.

All of this sounds negative, so why did I previously say this thing is "GREAT"? 

First, because rock and roll should be stupid, and this is supremely stupid. One of the worst things about "grunge" is it reintroduced the idea of "having something to say" into rock music. I would rather subject myself to five or six repeat listens of "Let's Get Rocked" and its vapid corporate-lackey message than sit through one song of Pearl Jam telling me to think about how a troubled childhood can lead to violence and if so who are the real victims etc. etc. and boo hoo hoo. 

Second, it is rock music. I mean, there used to be such a thing as a hit that sounded like this. I looked up the charts for the month this single came out, and leading the way was "Save The Best For Last" by Vanessa Williams. "Sometimes the sun goes round the moon," you know, that song. Even if that's actually a better song than "Let's Get Rocked" (it is), having a hit rock single is and has always been a good thing. If for no other reason, for the future of rock. Think about the children, you guys.

Third, seven million people bought this album. That is astonishing. Like they knew it was going to be this, and then they were like "yeah, I'd pay money for that," and then they DID. Seven million people worth of alive human beings. That is crazy. What makes that great is that this song and accompanying video are dripping with desperation. They're trying everything. They're saying nothing. They're wearing spandex in 1992 and playing music that sounds like that, and it could not more obviously be a sadly irrelevant and empty shill job. But: it WORKED. Def Leppard and bigtime rock and roll get one last cash in. In their 30's no less. It's like something out of a movie where the old broken down guys get it together for one last big pyrrhic victory.

Sure, sales figures are a weak argument for cultural relevance. And yes, the song and accompanying video for "Let's Get Rocked" are embarrassing. But we are talking about Def Leppard here, and that is and always has been a dumb band. In retrospect it's impressive that a song this embarrassing is the band's last classic single rather than the effective end of their career as a non-nostalgia-based creative entity. 

They waited until their next album to do that. With "Slang." 

Only click on that link if you will enjoy laughing at how much Def Leppard sounds like a less good Jesus Jones. Or: if you enjoy laughing at the existence of such a thing as a "less good Jesus Jones."

So that's the full reappraisal over twenty years later of a song I hated with a passion when I was twelve. I don't hate it anymore. I think it's awesome. Both "ha ha ha that's awesome" awesome and real awesome. 

We'll keep in touch. I want to see if I have a similar reaction to Extreme's "Get The Funk Out" and Van Halen's "Poundcake."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Low Somehow Manages To Bore Low Fans

There’s been some furious internet byte-flinging about a show Low (that band named Low) played at a festival in Minneapolis this weekend. What they did is they played a single 27 minute song in blown-out drone fashion and then called it a day. Some of the people who paid money to go to this show were pissed off by this. I find that odd.

These people knew they were going to see that band Low, right? I’m not saying that like “Low always pulls crazy stunts like this.” I’m saying that like “how do you get all charged up for a band and then get all upset about a band failing to deliver when that band is Low?”

Were these festival-goers all experiencing depressive episodes? How can you possibly be disappointed by a Low concert? I thought the whole point of that band’s existence was to be the music of choice for people who are already in the throes of maximum disappointment. How do you even know the difference between a great Low show and a boring one? Aren’t they the same thing? If you want to go to see Low badly enough to actually go to see Low, they could punch you in the stomach and leave you in a ditch to die of internal bleeding and it would still count as a victory that you were capable of leaving the house.

I mean, I’m not all that familiar with the band. Do they have a hit single now? Some ironic thing they did that really took off on them in a bad way, like “Shiny Happy People” or “Tubthumping?” All I know about Low is that I had a roommate who was super into them once and that period of my life was hazy and ill-defined and probably would have felt a lot like the bottom of something if I could remember any of it. Anger was not an emotion I was experiencing a lot of back then. Anger is an emotion for motivated people who aren’t stewing in their own juices. Low and anger do not mix. That’s why it’s so strange that anybody could be pissed off about a thing they did.

These people expected Bruce Springsteen? Three hours of foot-stomping music with more enthusiasm than seems humanly possible? An extended “Tenth Avenue Freezout” transitioning seamlessly into an extended “The E Street Shuffle”? From Low? The band named “Low?” Don’t they know that band? They paid money to see them.

Oh, and also these people paid money to see Dan Deacon and also The Metrics and also Bob Mould and also Silversun Pickups. So these people are upset about 20% of their ticket price not living up to expectations. I don’t know how much those tickets cost, but if they were expensive enough for somebody to be pissed about getting stiffed for 20%, then they were too expensive for anybody to complain about. “Yeah, I paid $50,000 for my ticket, but I feel like I only got $40,000 worth of show” is a maybe valid complaint until it’s like why are you spending $50,000 on tickets to a Low plus other guy plus other guy plus other band plus other band concert.

And yeah, if it’s a regular not-Low band and they do a pretentious 27 minute drone-a-thon, the appropriate response is to roll your eyes and not like that band anymore. Unless it’s like a good pretentious 27 minute drone-a-thon, in which case you roll your eyes and like that band a little more than you used to. If the band in question is Low, I don’t know what you do about it when they pull an "art" move like that. Probably sigh so deeply you go into a coma.

It seems like I might be shitting on Low, here. I don’t mean to. I mean, yeah, but not more than usual. Not in particular. A band has a right to say “fuck you, we’re not what you want us to be, we’re this” to anybody who paid any price ever. And you deal with the consequences. In this case the consequences is extremely cool people like me are talking about you for maybe the first time in their lives. So, yeah, go for it. Good move, guys.