Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mourning in America

Today, I weep for our country, the place of my birth, my home.

american-flag-distress-signal_rt1

Read Full Post »

It’s That Time Again

Ah yes, fall. Pumpkins. Halloween. Leaf peeping. And what else?

It’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination season!

This year, they’re looking at 15 possibilities. They’ve put them up for a vote on their website. Well, your votes don’t actually count, but it’s fun anyway. You can vote here if you like.

Here are my own picks for entry into the class of 2016.

The Cars

2016 Rock Hall Nominee The Cars

The Cars (rockhall.com)

The Cars are the last of the important 80’s acts to be nominated for the Hall.  Unlike other Rock Hall acts that happened to exist in the 80’s (like REM and U2), The Cars embraced and epitomized the style of rock & roll during that decade. That decade was perhaps the most over-the-top decade in music, with advancements in synthesizers and stylized production, loud and obnoxious fashions, and (most especially) the heyday of music videos with the creation of MTV, and The Cars dominated all those facets.

Unlike most of the stereotypical 80’s acts, The Cars were extremely prolific. During that decade, they produced. The last, Door to Door, was pretty weak, but the rest were strong, resulting in hits such as “Bye Bye Love”, “Candy-O”, “Magic”, and, of course, “Good Times Roll.” The Cars were no “one hit wonders”, they took that 80’s sound and made a solid career from it.

They also set a truly high bar for music video production. Like it or not, music videos are as much part of rock-and-roll as Elvis’ swinging hips, and few acts were more important to that facet of rock music than The Cars. Their videos were legendary and led to an awful lot of copycats.

Every decade deserves its representative in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and there’s no better group to represent the 80’s than The Cars.

Cheap Trick

2016 Rock Hall Nominee Cheap Trick Nominee Bio Page

Cheap Trick (rockhall.com)

So this pick is controversial, but fuck it. I’m picking Cheap Trick for one and only one reason: At Budakon. This is one of the most influential rock albums of all time. It’s definitely a Top 20 just the game-changing nature of that one piece of vinyl. Cheap Trick may not have been the most talented band of that era, and they certainly did not create arena rock, but they absolutely perfected it and turned it into a genre all by itself. The story of At Budakon is amazing (check out The History Rat for more), and it set Cheap Trick on the road to success.

Normally, I’d say artists should only go into the Hall if they have a body of work to support it. But At Budakon had such a monstrous impact on rock & roll, Cheap Trick deserves to be in the Hall because of it.

Deep Purple

2016 Rock Hall Nominee Deep Purple Nominee Bio Page

Deep Purple (rockhall.com)

Probably the biggest travesty of Rock Hall nominations to date: Deep Purple has not yet  been inducted. How can you not include Deep Purple in an institution called the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Good lord, bands who came after them, who owe them everything, are in the Hall before they are. Metallica, Van Halen, AC/DC, all owe a lot of their sound to Deep Purple. Personally, I would have put them in before Black Sabbath (they just couldn’t beat Ozzy Osbourne’s personal publicist).

Janet Jackson

2016 Rock Hall Nominee Janet Jackson Nominee Bio Page

Janet Jackson (rockhall.com)

I have to admit something terrible. When I see a female nominee, I find myself thinking “is this deserved, or is it a token nomination?” There is a tremendous, cultural effort out there to make sure women get recognized for their achievements, and that’s all terrific, but sometimes it seems like a woman has been nominated just because they couldn’t find another woman who fit that category.

When it comes to Janet, that idea is absolute bullshit. Janet is beautiful, super talented, a great singer, and constantly knocked it out of the park no matter what genre she attempted. She definitely “rocked it” far more than her “royal” brother ever did.  In terms of sheer talent, she easily dominates over her contemporaries, even 2008 Inductee Madonna. Janet Jackson absolutely deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

N.W.A.

2016 Rock Hall Nominee NWA

N.W.A. (rockhall.com)

For those of you who say “rap ain’t rock”, get over yourselves.

Rock & roll is rock & roll because of one, key element: rebellion. Rock is full of rebellion, from James Brown’s stage antics to Jimmi Hendrix’ guitar style to Bob Marley’s protest songs all the way through to Nirvana and beyond. It’s rebelling against authority, and conservatism, and oppression, and whatever. It’s what rock is! And it’s what rap is! So rap = rock, it’s that simple.

There’s no better symbol for rebellion as N.W.A., quite literally the voice of an entire generation of the disenfranchised. They hit the scene with a bang, and deserve to be put in the Hall because of it.

The Rest

Unlike prior years, where I had trouble limiting my choices to five, this was pretty easy. The other bands just don’t pass muster for induction into the Hall (in my opinion).

Chic

Ugh, no more disco. I accepted the Bee Gees because they defined the genre, and you can’t deny Saturday Night Fever was a monster. But think about “rock = rebellion”: how does disco speak to rebellion? Bleagh, it was weak, and trite, and pointless. No more disco in the Hall, please.

Chicago

I always found Chicago to be more pretentious than interesting. Steely Dan (inducted 2001) was also pretentious, but at least their music was interesting.

The J.B.’s

The J.B.’s — initially James Brown’s backing band — are simply in the wrong category. Great artists, fantastic sound, they just belong in the waaaay underused Sidemen category. I’d love to see the Rock Hall revitalize that category and start putting folks like the J.B.’s in it, with all the honorifics they deserve.

Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan feels like a cynical pick. I’m sure someone sat in the corporate offices and thought “we need another woman in there”. I don’t have anything particular against Chaka Khan, she’s just not a rock artist. Of course, there are plenty of inducted artists who aren’t “rock artists”, but that doesn’t mean we should put more in there.

Los Lobos

Los Lobos is a fine band, but I’m not convinced that they’ve been that influential. They had a couple hits, they did bring in some Latin sounds into contemporary rock, but I don’t see too many modern bands paying tribute to “that Los Lobos sound”.

Nine Inch Nails

I friggin’ love Nine Inch Nails, the founders of Industrial Rock. These were guys who wrote hard, played hard, performed hard, and rocked hard. Nine Inch Nails was creative and unique and made a sound that was truly their own. They may not be as well-remembered as Nirvana or Pearl Jam, but they absolutely belong in the strata of great 90’s bands, and deserve to be in the Hall. But not quite yet. Deep Purple should be in first.

The Smiths

I never knew The Smiths, I never listened to The Smiths, I don’t know anything about The Smiths. It’s odd: I came of age in the 80’s, lived through the decade, and thought I heard it all, but I never heard of them. I’m dead serious. People like to talk about how “influential” they are, but, well, I guess I have to take their word for it. But that doesn’t mean I have to pick them.

The Spinners

This is another act that I have absolutely nothing against. I guess I don’t see that they added anything that any of the other inducted R&B vocal groups (The Temptations, The Miracles, The Impressions, so many more) already added. I think inductees should stand out in the field, and not simply be a member of a field that is great.

Yes

First, I am a big Yes fan. I love their music, and listen to it all the time. But … I don’t think they fit in the Hall. They have some very talented musicians, to be sure, but I think there’s a far better representative of “progressive rock” out there. More on that in a bit.

Steve Miller

OK, here it comes. Here comes my #1 bitch about rock & roll in general. You’ve heard me gripe about disco, and about pretentiousness, and about pop. But nothing, and I mean nothing, has been more damaging, more contradictory to the true spirit of Rock & Roll than the two words I’m about to type.

Corporate Rock.

Corporate rock almost killed the genre. When we talk about 90’s grunge, we talk about rebellion. And what was 90’s grunge rebelling against (I mean, besides boy bands)? Corporate rock. The same, bland crap that all “classic rock” stations played, over and over again, ad nauseum. Horrid, wretched, uninteresting. Songwriting by committee, assembled in some stuffy boardroom. That’s what corporate rock is.

Who are these horrid purveyors of corporate rock? A list of the bland and uninteresting: Bad Company. Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Foreigner. Post-Gabriel Genesis. Bob Seger.

And Steve Miller.

I listened to Steve Miller when he was big. Some of his stuff (like “The Joker”), is pretty cool. But overall? Where’s the rebellion? Where’s the edge? Where’s the creativity? I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it, I can’t click that checkmark next to his name. I’d rather pick all the disco in the world …

Who’s Missing?

I think the nominating committee has still missed two Hall-worthy possibilities. I’d love to see these guys nominated in coming years.

J. Geils Band

J Geils (AllMusic.com)

The J. Geils Band (AllMusic.com)

I love the J. Geils Band. J. Geils returned rock to it’s garage-band roots. A great live act, honest and raw, they were brilliant. Their intense live shows didn’t necessarily translate to the studio, but they still had solid songs like “Give It To Me”, “Detroit Breakdown”, and “Whammer Jammer”,  I’d love to see them in the Hall. They would blow the roof off the Waldorf-Astoria during the induction ceremony.

King Crimson

King Crimson

King Crimson (AllMusic.com)

Earlier, I gave Yes a hard time. This is why: King Crimson is, by far, the better band. In terms of sheer musical talent, there has never been a better group of individuals assembled. They are the best of progressive rock, and their “tendrils” (members of the band throughout the years) impacted musical acts all across music. Pink Floyd, Yes, Alice Cooper, REM, Nine Inch Nails, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Genesis, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, David Bowie: all these acts were influenced by past members of King Crimson. King Crimson is the Kevin Bacon of rock & roll: you’d be hard-pressed to find any act that’s more than a few links away from King Crimson. I’d love to see them get their due in the Hall.

And Finally …

If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction committee doesn’t put Rick Rubin into the Hall as a non-performer this year, it’ll be a travesty. This guy saved music, and I don’t mean that lightly. He created Def Jam and brought hip-hop to the mainstream. He put Public Enemy on the charts. He launched the Beastie Boys’ career. He introduced Run-DMC to Aerosmith.He produced The Cult’s Electric. He produced the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s monstrous Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He worked with inductees Tom Petty, Donovan, Mick Jagger, and more. He produced Jay Z’s “99 Problems”.

He produced Johnny Cash’s American Recordings, one of the greatest albums ever, for chrissakes!

Here’s an article Forbes Magazine did on Rick a couple of years ago. If anyone deserves to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it’s Rick Rubin. That’s the online poll I’d love to see: how many rock artists would agree with putting Rick Rubin into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer? He’s the Ahmet Ertegun of our age.

————–

What do you think? Do you like my picks, or am I full of crap? Who would you like to see in the Hall?

Read Full Post »

Liberty, Authority, and Madness

I do not want to be writing about this. It’s two days before Christmas. I do not want to write about this. But I can’t shake it out of my mind. It’s consuming me in an unhealthy way. The only way through it is to go through it, so I guess I need to write about it. Then maybe I can relax. Which might be impossible.

An infinite number of curses upon cop-killer Ismaaiyl Brinsley. God dammit.

Having a cause in this media-saturated age, interwoven as it is with high-speed social networking, and choked to death with pundits whose jobs are not to inform, but to inflame, is immensely frustrating. It is so easy for events to go out of control, so easy to divide people down ideological lines, so easy to replace discourse with patriotic sloganeering, and so easy to drive total crackpots to commit insane acts of violence.

This Ismaaiyl Brinsley character ruined everything. God dammit.

Look, there are serious issues with law enforcement, and the lousy laws that enable them. Yes, I know, it’s #NotAllCops. It’s also #NotAllCities (or towns or counties or whatever). A  fair criticism of this post can be applied to the generalization that “there are serious issues with law enforcement in this country”, but I tend to think that problems in this country are the problems of this country. Like it or not, we are all in this together, and if we have flaws in our Constitution, in court rulings concerning the Constitution, or in the execution of laws under our Constitution, anywhere in the country, it violates all our fundamental rights. Cleveland today, Shelbyville tomorrow. These things are a real problem for all of us.

A lot of people will disagree with me, many quite vehemently. Many, if not most, Americans love their police departments and the cops who serve in them. I understand completely: these men & women take great risks and do very dangerous jobs and have to deal with the worst of society on a daily basis. I, on the other hand, drive a desk. There’s no way I can understand what it’s like to do a job where every knock on a door can end in a bullet to the gut. The most I have to worry about is carpal tunnel syndrome. I get that, I really do.

But here’s the problem, and it’s a fundamental one: people in authority are the biggest threat to our liberty.

Let’s go back to my lame, doughy life. I do computer work for a living. How much of a threat am I to your God-given rights? Well, I could learn how to write viruses and manipulate social media to crack your bank account passwords. That would be a pretty harsh violation. I could stalk you, or threaten you, or send a lot of pizza deliveries to your house. I could do worse. And all that would be bad.

But in the end, I have no power, no authority. Eventually I would be caught, and I would be tried, and I would be sentenced. The laws are meant to keep me from doing those nasty, nasty things.

When you look at the lowest of society, those who most often clash with law enforcement, they have even less power to violate your liberties. Yes, there is crime in these areas. Yes, the crime there is nasty. All that is true. But these folks have far less power, far less authority, than even I do (I can at least afford a really good lawyer).

Now let’s take authority figures. Police officers. FBI officers. DEA officers. The NSA. Even Congress (or state legislatures, or other lawmakers), through the laws that empower those law-enforcement officers. Depending on your level of conspiracy-belief, you can toss in various corporations and high-power donors who fund those lawmakers’ candidacies. What can these people do to your civil rights?

A lot. An incalculable amount, actually. They are the ones who have the authority to do so. So I’ll say it again: authority figures are the Number One threat to your fundamental civil rights. If you doubt this, read the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson is basically calling out the King of England for using authority to violate fundamental rights. He’s not calling out pirates or brigands or thieves, he’s calling out the King, Parliament, and British law enforcement.

This is why it is vital that we treat any overreach by any law enforcement officer or agency with the gravest seriousness and to the fullest extent of the law. They are both our protectors and our greatest risk to liberty. Yet recent cases concerning police overreach — most egregiously the Eric Garner case in NYC and the Dontre Hamilton case in Milwaukee — suggest it is not taken seriously (shooting 14 times in self defense? Would you get away with that?). There is enough going on, enough cases being reported in all sorts of jurisdictions, that there is definitely something wrong happening. And we have to take it all seriously.

Unfortunately, many protestors and their allies, missed the real point, and muddied the message. The real message isn’t “there are bad cops”; it’s the cultures, systems, and laws that are in place that suggest that we do not take overreach seriously.  They made it all about “bad cops”. That was the message that got through. It was a whole “us vs. them” message, a message whose only possible result would be inflaming the situation.

Which led to that asshole Ismaaiyl Brinsley ruining everything. God dammit.

Now we’ll never get it fixed. Brinsley screwed it all up. He brutally murdered two police officers for no damned reason whatsoever, and in doing so, he’s ruined any chance of fixing it.

When you have a cause, especially one you are the minority, you have to keep the moral highground at any cost. I had seriously thought that this cause — the cause of implementing better law enforcement practices and better systems of checks-and-balances — had that moral high ground, even in spite of the Ferguson looters. Other protests all across the country were fairly peaceful, even in NYC. It looked hopeful, maybe this would be noticed and lawmakers would be emboldened to work against the entrenched systems to get real change done.

But now, that moral highground is lost. Lost because some batshit crazy asshat decided shooting cops was a good thing.

Without the moral highground, the cause is lost. People will reflexively, and jingoistically, forever link “reforming police” with “murderous looters”. All the Facebookers will post all their memes and motivational posters full of pithy little slogans. Everyone will be peer-pressured into keeping silent about the real problem and keep silent they will. Lawmakers will pick up on all of this, and do nothing (or perhaps make it even worse).

The cause is lost. I hope liberty doesn’t suffer.

Read Full Post »

Here are a few things I’m thankful for:

  • I’m thankful that I’ve had a pretty lucky run on this Earth so far.
  • I’m thankful that I was born with certain advantages that made it easier.
  • I’m thankful that I’m a fairly smart guy. I inherited that from my mom’s side of the family. I also got my snark from that side of the tree as well, and because my snark provides me with infinite enjoyment, I’m very thankful for it.
  • I’m thankful that I don’t mind working hard. I inherited that from my father’s side. My father is a hardworking man, and my grandfather fed his family through the Great Depression by working his ass off, either in employment or by foraging for their very survival. When in doubt, work hard. It usually clears things up.
  • I’m also thankful I was born with another advantage, something that put me to the top of many lists, and made my life easier than so many others, for I was born a white man.
  • I’m thankful that I can walk into an office, a law firm, a bank, or a grocery store without being prejudged because of the color of my skin.
  • I’m thankful that, if I run out of something crucial for me or my family, I can walk into a convenience store at 11:30 PM without having my intentions questioned. At worst, people think I’m just a dumbass, whereas others who may enter such a store late at night are instantly believed to be criminal until proven otherwise.
  • I’m thankful that I’ll only be pulled over or questioned by law enforcement if I truly do something wrong or suspicious. Others can be pulled over simply for having a non-preferred skin tone.
  • I’m thankful that if I do get too drunk, or too angry, or too belligerent in public, or even to a cop, I can probably get a fair break and a decent defense. I probably wouldn’t get shot outright.
  • I’m thankful I can succeed or fail based on my own strengths & weaknesses, of both talent and character. Others have the deck stacked so hard against them, they have to exhort a Herculean effort simply to earn a comfortable living.
  • I’m thankful I was born a guy, and I don’t have to deal with some utterly bullshit glass ceiling that restricts either my salary or my advancement opportunities.
  • I’m thankful that, in my youth, I could go to dates or parties without worrying if the other person in the room was going to drug me & invite their friends to rape me.
  • I don’t even have to do unnatural things to my hair simply to fit in. Boy is that a big deal.

There is no greater blessing than to be able to go through life and succeed or fail based on one’s own talents, skills, actions, and character. Unfortunately, there are far too many people in this free country who have to do all of that while being hamstrung by the prejudices, indifferences, and intolerances this land has carried for over 300 years.

If you want to share the blessings you have received, work to make this country a better place. Race, color, creed, or gender should never be used to make anyone’s life harder.

Unfortunately, that’s simply not the truth in America today.

Peace.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »