Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I wrote this a few weeks ago and forgot to post it. Here it is, in posted form.

"You can't choose your circumstances," she said, "but you can choose how you react to them."

That's sort of paraphrasing, but she said it in response to my tirade about how the bad guys stay on top, God doesn't really help and wah wah wah I have to fix my van again. It's really changed my outlook, and lo and behold, there is a silver lining if you don't get pissy and forget to look for it. And as it turns out, I've got a goal to look work toward and tons of opportunities to make it happen.

So there.



If you view Some Kind of Monster, A Year in the Life of Metallica, and Cliff 'Em All in that order, and it's a little bit like watching the Star Wars saga in the order of episodes IV-VI and then III-I, focusing on Darth Vader, except if episodes I, II and III weren't frustratingly lame.

Read the following and that comparison will make more sense.*

Watching the Metallica docs in reverse order gives you the following portraits:

Some Kind of Monster: Metallica in 2002-03, when they've pissed off each other, pissed on their fans and saddled with the hassles of making their worst album. Worse, they unintentionally portray themselves as the sort of out-of-touch rockstars on which their collective 20-year-old selves would levy withering and palpably demoralizing contempt. By the time you watch Cliff 'Em All, you'll wish for the power to travel time for no other reason than to journey back to 1983, kidnap Cliff Burton and whisk him forward twenty years to whip Lars' ass while he's watching his Basquiat get auctioned for $3 million at Christie's. To wit:
they have a "fan appreciation day," as if they are the fucking Oakland A's. Lars sells art while sipping champagne. James goes to rehab, and cuts their days short so for family time. I can’t necessarily fault him for this, and frankly, it is nice to see him come to grips with what is really important to himself. On the other hand, you kinda wish they’d just hung it up. I bought their “comeback” album, and while it’s pretty good, I wouldn’t say that it’s necessary—in fact, what it inspired me to do is listen to Kill ‘Em All a lot more, and consider that …And Justice For All is a good album after all. So you see a band losing its way and sort of finding it, but not really. If that doesn’t sound tragic enough, SKOM also features plenty of shots of Bob Rock, their longtime (since the black album) Canadian producer and human diaperwipe/ballsucking music industry cliché. With his layered Jennifer-Aniston-bob, pirate earrings and mid-life crisis paunch, he looks like an old lesbian. But way worse than both of those elements are the therapy sessions. To the tune of $40K a month, the band talks about their feelings with a Cosby-sweater-wearing psychologist whose last name is Towle, which probably rhymes with "coal" but which I will forever pronounce like the thing you wipe your hands on after you use the toilet.** Hearing James Hetfield say he's "not comfortable" with something is like hearing a baby talk about the death of an ancient civilization. It's mind-boggling and amazing in a really unsettling way.

A Year in the Life of Metallica: Metallica in 1991-92, when they are recording their berzillion-selling self-titled album (if you are unfamiliar with this album--and how has your stay on the Moon been, by the way--it's the one with "Enter Sandman" on it, which you've probably heard as bumper music between turnovers at an NBA game) with--guess who--Bob Rock. Here, his hair is longer but just as lame (it's ponytailed, for starters) and his name-dropping is alternately astonishing (D.O.A! The Subhumans! How did that happen?!) and embarrassingly believable (Loverboy, Motley Crue). Metallica are at the top of their game and on the cusp of going from enviably rich and successful to rich and successful on a Croesian level. The second half (or tape, if you got this when it was released way back when on VHS) is the supporting tour, where they still seem to be all about the fans and all about hanging around in towels backstage after concerts, which is at least as weird and surprising as it sounds. But if you were a teenager in the early '90s, you'll probably remember exactly how you felt the first time you saw the video for "Unforgiven," or "Sad But True": that these guys were totally badass and didn't take shit from anyone, and that in a past life, James Hetfield might have slain Conan the Barbarian. In other words, this is Metallica at the height of their power. Say what you want about the Black Album, but they were totally at their peak. And then the next fourteen years with Bob Rock happened. With the exception of the videos for "Whiskey in the Jar" and* "St. Anger," I can't think of a single Metallica moment that was even on the same continent as awesome.**
Year in the Life gives you a good indication of the kind of douchebag Lars would become a decade later. He holds up recording sessions with long showers. He whips around Hollywood in a Porsche. He pokes holes in his snare heads when he gets mad. In other words, he’s kind of a real prick. Way worse, but also way more interesting, is when the band hassle sJason Newsted, deceased bassist Cliff Burton’s replacement. In SKOM, he’s been fired/quit and is sorta bitter-but-not-really about it, and he kind of mentions how he was always picked on in the band, never welcome, blah blah blah. When you see the band throwing pies at him and making what appear to be good-naturedly snippy remarks, it’s obvious that there wasn’t a lot of good nature in them at all.

Metallica in 1981-84, when they had Dave Mustaine for a little while and Cliff Burton for a little while longer. Apart from a show in a smallish club opening for a band called Raven, there is little indication that even in their nascence, Metallica were ever a small band. Young band, sure, but never a small band. James and Kirk play flying Vs (until the Master of Puppets era, when Kirk switched to cheesy Jacksons and James to some kind of ESP modeled after Gibson Explorers), James has yet to sling his axe down by his knees, and you get a inkling about what the band would have become had Cliff survived their tragic bus accident in 1986. They’re confident, they have tour buses, but they’re not assholes. No one drives a Porsche. They seem to subsist on Coors Light and Grolsch and while they’re kinda sloppy, they’re lean and hungry to conquer the world. Dave Mustaine looks weird playing with them, and you’re glad he got booted. And Cliff Burton. Jesus God, he is amazing. When wanky bassists wax poetic about Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke and Jaco, if they neglect to mention Cliff Burton, they’re betraying their ignorance. Watching him play in the band makes you think about the hole left with his untimely demise, and while Metallica might not have gotten to be the “biggest metal band in the world,” they would probably have remained one of the best. While Cliffemall is kind of a scrapbook with not enough Cliff Burton, it’s still a must see if you’ve seen SKOM, because you realize that James and Lars were not always a couple of dickweeds fractured by fame and haunted by the ghost of a great friend and amazing bassist.



I recently watched Get Thrashed, about the birth of thrash metal, and it has plenty more of the Metallica of eld, plus plenty of Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. Oh, and a bunch of other bands that might not have been as good, but were at least as crazy. I remember some older dudes in high school who cut school on a Friday to go to an Exodus show in San Francisco, and the following Monday, they looked as if they had had a transcendental experience. Apparently, it really was that gnarly, and the documentary confirms what those guys were talking about.

* Maybe.

**No, I don't pronounce "Towle" as "pants." Or "hair."
***Okay, I thought of one. Robert Trujillo is at least a better bass player and suitable replacement for Jason Newsted, and at best, he is a serviceable replacement for Cliff Burton.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fuck yeah.

Dear Red States...

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and
we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon , Washington ,
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We
believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to
the people of the new country of New California .

To sum up briefly: You get Texas , Oklahoma and all the slave states.

We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.
We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.
We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You
get Alabama .
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states
pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the
Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a
bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war,
and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If
you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids
they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and
they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's
coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq , and hope that the WMDs
turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent
of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple
and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of
America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state
dinners), 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech
industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods,
sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Cal,
Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88
percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care
costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the
tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern
Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh,
Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite , thank you. Additionally, 38 percent
of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a
whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the
death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a
theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent
of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals then
we lefties.

By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt
weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace out,

Blue States

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What does pay it forward mean, anyway?

Seriously, some please explain it to me.

Last night, I paid a musician money out of my own pocket because she did her best to promoter her performance, she drew the most people and she was nowhere near meeting our overhead requirements for bands to get paid. Why else did I pay her? Well, for starters, she had to take off work in order to play her slot, and as such, she now has her budget compromised. And I've been in situations where Darth Vato brings a certain amount of people and then gets paid a fraction of what our draw merited, and I know how much that blows.

But here's the thing:

Because I paid her (and one of the other bands, who came from out of town), I basically ended up working for free last night.

Never mind that I will probably have to buy an alternator this week.

Never mind that I am trying save money.

Never mind that I will probably have to buy a new car.

I guess that makes me a nice guy, right--a paladin among promoters. A guy who puts himself in someone else's shoes, who puts other people first, even if it means personal inconvenience. Someone who really cares.

Well, that would all be true if I had opened my wallet with a kind heart. But I didn't. I wanted to say, "Yeah, it sucks not getting paid when you did your part to get people in the door. It sucks to get put on a difficult bill. Sometimes it sucks to be a musician. You know what you should do? BE SOMETHING ELSE." I wanted to tell her that you either have a solid back up plan or you learn to eat shit if you want to make your living from making art. I wanted to tell her tough fucking luck.

But I didn't. I didn't tell her any of those things, and she was grateful and thanked me and I appreciated it, and I felt like a total jerk for having those feelings. At the same time, I felt like a chump, because why does she get paid and I don't? I am supposed to collect 10% from the door, yet somehow, I ended up paying 5%. She made $30 for strumming a guitar for 50 minutes. I made zero for standing behind a bar for 5 hours.

And after being mad about feeling like a chump, I felt bad for getting mad. So what if I lost $50 last night--I have other avenues of income, soI don't need that extra money. And sometimes it sucks to be a bartender or a promoter or an astronaut or whatever and not make any money. You know what I should do?


I'm trying man, I'm trying.


That's how this weekend has been.

On Friday evening, I fell asleep watching Darkon, a documentary about people who deal with the doldrums of regular life by dressing up as fantasy characters and whacking each other with padded swords. At 1:30 am I woke up. I guess it didn't matter--I'm still without wheels, so it's not like I could've gone out anyway. I'll walk 3 miles to the bar for work, but I just can't bring myself to do it for fun. I ended up doing some "artwork." Pretty crappy, but whatever. At least I'm drawing again.

Today (or yesterday, if you want to get technical), I slept in until 11 or so, and I walked to the Texaco to drop off my keys so the van could get looked at again. On Monday, I had the shop look at it. "It needs a new battery," said Ruben the mechanic. "We can't get it until Friday." I asked if I could just go get a battery and change it out myself, and he said that would be fine. So that's what I did. And the battery solved the problem of the van not starting. Unfortunately, upon starting, the engine basically screamed, denoting another, more serious problem. It was so loud, I couldn't walk in front of the engine to see if anything looked abnormal, like if there was something stuck in it like a cat or a demon or some bullshit. Since there weren't any guts or whatever demons have inside of them leaking onto the pavement, , there is obviously some kind of mechanical baloney going on. My dad suggested it's the starter, and then he suggested it might mean the alternator needs new bearings. Both of these sound like reasonable diagnoses, especially since I know exactly fuck-all (look! Britishness!) about cars, though through these three vans, I have learned about what a few dire noises mean.

Anyway, after that walk, I walked some more to Blockbuster to return Forgetting Sarah Marshall and then to Tom Thumb to get shampoo. While I was there, I picked up a corn dog and some fried potato wedges. Then I walked home, stopping at WalGreens for a redbull and instead buying a box of crackers and an US Weekly because the cover sought to convince me that Jenny McCarthy cured her son of austism. I know that magazine is for 30-something women and all, but when someone claims to do the impossible and makes the claim in the pages of the magazine, I feel compelled to buy said publication whether it's The Economist or People or fuck, even Highlights. If Highlights had an article where Goofus and Gallant built an electric car or did something more amazing than washing their hands before dinner, I would have no choice but to buy it. Of course, now I have an unread US Weekly on my counter. I also do not have any shampoo, as I totally forgot to buy it. Potato wedges are nothing if not distracting. They are also nothing if not delicious.

Following my mostly unsuccessful shopping trip, I had a couple beers in the sun with my friend and colleague Danielle, who has been nice enough to haul me to and from work for the past couple weeks on account of my lack of transportation. I owe her big time; I had to take a cab on Friday, and while the cabdriver B.O. was free, the ride wasn't--a trip to work cost $17.25, which really meant $20 because I am a softy. If you don't believe me, just ask the bands who played tonight at the Moon; despite not even making our overhead, they still got $25 per band. Out of my pocket. I'm about to stop booking the bar because I am now losing money--because it was slow and I felt bad for the bands not making any cash, I basically worked for free tonight. I joke occasionally about being a recreational bartender, but tonight it wasn't all that funny. Recreational bartending is a blast provided you make a net profit. Oh well. Live and don't learn.

It is now 5:15, and I guess I'm tired enought to lie in bed and wait for the sun to come up. Hopefully Sunday will stretch itself out.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Borrowing from Galatians 6:7 for my own, self-pitying purposes.

"Do not be deceived; God is not mocked."

But I sure am!

The joke is getting funnier by the minute.