Why I’m Proud to be an American


 

At a time when it would be easy to feel shame and embarrassment about the state of my country, I’m actually feeling quite optimistic.

Sure, our President is a giant sack of shit who has somehow managed to appear semi-sentient and he and his team have somehow found time in their busy schedule coordinating policy with the Russians to convince 38 percent of Americans that he’s doing a good job.

And the Speaker of the House isn’t any better.

It’s easy to find doomsayers and Chicken Littles on the internet. It’s easy to predict a dystopian future. It’s easy to sit back and bemoan how things are only getting worse.

Do you wanna know what I say?

 

 

 

 

FUCK THAT!

I’ve always found adversity to be the strongest motivator. And the challenges we face are just other names for goals we already wanted to accomplish, but now have the burning desire to see through.

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if (we) last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”

Will it be hard? Yes. Will there be suffering? Yes. Will we persevere? Most definitely.

But millions of Americans have already proven they’re up to the challenge, and that is what makes me proud.

 

“Why stand on a silent platform? Fight the war, fuck the norm.”

Don’t Have To Live Like A Refugee


 

Damn, we’re only a week into the Trump presidency and I already wish I lived in an alternate reality; just like Trump supporters do.

A few months ago I was talking to a Canadian follower, Mike Ladano, in the comment section of “Icky Trump” and we got on the topic of the refugee crisis.

Do people worry about something bad happening? I asked him.

Oh yeah people are uneasy. Heck I’m uneasy! It’s naive to think ISIS will not use this tragedy to their advantage. It’s also naive to assume every country will be able to screen out all the bad people. But it’s a humanitarian crisis and people are split. A lot of “not our problem” vs. “Canada is the kind of country that helps.” A lot of “not worth the risk” vs. “we have to try to help”. And each side points to headlines around the world to make their points. 

This sentiment basically sums up how I feel about the issue. It would be naive of me to think that a few bad apples won’t make there way in with the rest of the bunch, but I’m not heartless enough to support turning away tens of thousand of people fleeing war, oppression and destruction. I’d like to think that America is the kind of country that would help; but sadly, I’ve been proven wrong.

I have a daughter and of course I worry about her, but the addition of Syrian refugees isn’t going to change that. I live in a community filled with people who think they need to own fully automatic AR-15s and whatever other type of high capacity weapons they can get their hands on because it’s their right to defend themselves against the tyranny of the federal government.

No, I’m not worried about refugees.

16265621_1435604136481766_5452606032854278941_nAnd the crazy thing about this: It’s not all based on a sense of righteousness or wanting to do the right thing. I honestly don’t think that bombing the shit out of Daesh is the way to defeat radical Islamic terrorism. Sure, we have enough nukes to kill every living thing on the planet seven times over, so we have the firepower to turn everything from Turkey to Iran into a glow-in-the-dark parking lot, but is that the answer?

When we send a drone strike to Yemen or Somalia or Sudan and kill a terrorist is that the end of the story? What about the terrorists’ friends? Or wife? Or brothers? Or children? These are people who will say “America killed my friend, my husband, my brother or my father. Is drone warfare eliminating terrorists or breeding them? If we send in a bomb to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi how long to you think it would take before he is replaced? It took him eleven years after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, but with Assad on the ropes and the region in chaos, it won’t take long for someone else to rise to power.

And will they be any better?

I don’t want to come off like some sort of world-peace, patchouli-smelling hippie, but I don’t think war is helping anything at this point in history. I know Saddam Hussein was not a good guy. I know that Bashar al-Assad is not a good guy. I know that the terrorists getting hit by drone missiles are not good people. And yes, I know Donald Trump is doing what he thinks it right. The point that I’d like to make is I don’t agree with him.

We could send 325 million Americans to Mesopotamia each armed with 20 million bullets and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. You can’t kill an ideology with a bullet. I think Trump is making it a lot easier for people who want to hate America to feel justified in that feeling. I know his rise to power has made me question my patriotism. How can I love a country that allows something like this to happen? A country that causes chaos in a part of the world then turns its back on those affected?

od6I’m not an expert on the subject, but didn’t I hear once that the best breeding ground for terrorists is refugee camps? If we want to stamp out radical Islamic terrorism shouldn’t we be welcoming people fleeing and showing them that we’re the good guys? Shouldn’t we be treating these people the way we want to be treated? Didn’t someone important once say ‘as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me‘?

The truth is that we can’t show Syrian refugees we’re the good guys because we’re not the good guys. I want to believe that there is hope (and I do see some), but it’s getting hard to believe. Calling America a Christian nation is an alternative fact.

I keep telling myself I’m doing some good from behind this computer. That I’m working and bettering myself and giving to charity and raising a caring, levelheaded daughter all that is enough. But I don’t really think it is. What I’d really like to do is sell all my possessions, join up with the UN, or Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services or the Peace Corp or just fly to Turkey and see what I can do. I don’t know much about carpentry, nursing, medicine, peacekeeping or soldiering, but I’m a fast learner.

But I know that doing that wouldn’t be enough either.

The Best (Or Worst) Description of a Band Ever


Life of AgonyAs a writer I’m interested in the written word. I’ve been an avid reader since I was young. I read Stephen King’s The Stand while I was still in grammar school. I remember wanting to be an archaeologist at one point, but that dream fell by the wayside pretty quickly and I started writing. I’ve been writing most of my life, whether in a journal, a short story or this blog. Even if I never make any money from it, I’m not lying when I say I’m a writer.

I’m hypersensitive to the way words go together as well as punctuation. One of my biggest pet peeves is using punctuation correctly. If you use an exclamation point in a text with me I assume you’re excited. If you end the message with an ellipsis I assume you have more to say. I don’t mean to be a Grammar Nazi, but I feel it’s essential to use the tools you have to communicate effectively, especially when using a medium where you cannot use voice inflection and body language. So that’s why IT’S VERY important to CORRectly Use punctuation and GRAMMAR to convey intentions!!!!

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” So whenever I come upon a really great way of describing something it gives me the greatest feeling in the world. I’ve noticed a few people like the “Smoke on the Water Principle (SWP).” I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to notice that, but I managed to give it a simple, clever name that’s memorable (much like the main riff to “Smoke on the Water”).

I’ve also coined terms that haven’t really stuck like “Mask Metal” (the sub-genre of heavy metal where the masks are more important than the music (Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Lordi)). I was also really proud of the term “slut pop,” but I managed to piss at least one person off with that. That describes music like Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus where a girl’s figure and risque behavior is more important than the music. I can’t remember if I didn’t consider that the term would be offensive or if I considered it and just didn’t care.

Type O NegativeIt’s always fun to try to perfectly describe a band’s sound. It’s a challenge I engage in on a near weekly basis. I remember a long time ago I was having a few beers and listening to some tunes with a friend and we put on Life of Agony. Have you ever listened to Life of Agony? Wikipedia describes them as an alternative metal band. I’ve also heard them described as New York hardcore, but neither of these descriptions really hits the nail on the head.

We were trying to come up with a great description for Life of Agony. I wanted to compare them to Soundgarden. This probably has something to do with the video for “This Time” and the singer’s haircut. Yes, both bands were popular in the early-to-mid nineties, but the similarities end there. LoA has more of a stripped down punk vibe while Soundgarden were a Zepplinesque riff machine.

We kept brainstorming, but nothing was quite right. Then we got it. I can’t remember which one of us said it, but we found the perfect sentence to describe this band.

“Life of Agony sounds like Type O Negative would if they didn’t suck.”

That sent both of us into laughing fits and hysterics. Not only does it perfectly sum up the sound of the band, but it’s also hilarious. It’s important to note that both of us are fans of Type O Negative. I really enjoy Type O Negative. But lets face it they are a little goofy. However, if you take away the goth, the keyboards, the enormous penis, the song about hair dye and insert the original drummer: you get Life of Agony.

 

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)


 

leonard-cohenI feel really bad about the death of Leonard Cohen. Not just because we’ve lost one of the most original artists to ever grace popular music or because his style, words or voice will never be duplicated, but because I had the idea to write this post a few days before his death. It may have been because I recently watched the 30 Rock episode where Alec Baldwin gets the idea to prerecord a celebrity studded special honoring the victims of a yet-to-have-happened tragedy. Or it may have something to do with a preoccupation with the morbid.

Either way, my bad. I really feel like I jinxed us with this one.

I’m 98.537% sure that the first time I heard the name Leonard Cohen was in the Nirvana song “Pennyroyal Tea.” But it didn’t really interest me a whole helluva lot. It didn’t have the same interesting backstory as “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” or the violent torture in Mayberry of “Floyd the Barber.” So really it was just a name in a Nirvana song. Nothing any more special than Alvin Tostig or Levon.

But then I read a Guitar World interview with Lou Reed. I can’t remember the exact context of what they were talking about, but Reed said something along the lines of “Leonard Cohen had one of the greatest opening lines ever: ‘Give me crack and anal sex.'” The interviewer corrected him in saying that’s actually the beginning of the second verse to “The Future” and then Reed pointed out that a line like that will really get your attention.

Well, it sure managed to get mine. But this was in the late nineties, long before Spotify, YouTube or the Play Store. I knew that there was this song with a really fucked up line in it, but I had no idea where to find it. Would they carry something like that at the library in Amish country? I didn’t think so.

So that brings us back to me being a rather morbid individual. In high school I didn’t participate in many after school activities. Like any clinically depressed teenager I would get off the bus, smoke some pot, watch a movie a movie and usually fall asleep. One day something went wrong and I managed to stay awake until the end credits of one of my favorite flicks, Natural Born Killers. (I’m surprised that movie isn’t a cult classic along the lines of Fight Club or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. You’d think for a society that relishes vilifying the media as much as ours it would be a modern classic.) Anyway, the movie ended and the credits started to roll. I hear a nice organ riff and some clean guitar under a gravelly voice. And then I hear the line “Give me crack and anal sex.”

So my discovery of Leonard Cohen was more of a result of Lou Reed and Oliver Stone than Kurt Cobain, but I made it there eventually. I remember it worried the shit out of my mom when I bought a copy of The Future. I suppose it would worry any parent if their child took as much interest as I did in the movie Natural Born Killers, but give me a break; it’s a great flick.

leonard cohenOf course, I didn’t hear his biggest hit until a few years later. I want to say it was 2007 and I was seeing a girl who took me down to the Baptist Church on the South Side of town. I usually prefer organ music during a worship service, but this church had a contemporary band and something about that song really stood out. Maybe it was the fact that it just doesn’t seem like a song you’d hear in church. Sure, the chorus has a great melody of “Hallelujah,” but if you look at the verses… is it really a christian song.

And maybe that’s the most beautiful thing about Leonard Cohen. His songs are filled with beautiful instrumentation and some of the most poetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, but most of the time I have no idea what exactly he was trying to say.

 

Loneliness is not a phase…


 

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but I have a bit of a problem with depression. To be fair it has gotten better over the years, but it’s still always there. And occasionally it tends to flare up.

I suppose you may wonder what this has to do with a music blog. Well, this disease has gone a long way toward shaping my tastes in music. Even though I don’t listen to either artist now as much as I did during my high school years I still consider Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails to be my favorite groups. I’ve come across a lot of bands that I like just as much or maybe more since graduation, but I’ll always have a place in my heart for those two. Listening to them really saved my life and helped me to realize that I wasn’t the only one dealing with these demons.

And I still haven’t found anything that can make feel better when I’m down than Dirt, The Downward Spiral or Jar of Flies. Although I’ve found quite a few songs that help; The Descendents’ “Cool To Be You,” Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water” and Tom Waits’ “Train Song.”

I’ve never written at length about this for a number of reasons. For one, I’m not looking for pity. I’m a grown man; I don’t need pity. I need anti-depressants. Which is another reason I don’t often speak about it. It’s rather embarrassing to admit you need a drug to make you feel normal. I’ve heard a lot of people say they got on meds and didn’t feel like themselves anymore. For me it’s the exact opposite. I tried to get off of them earlier this year only to realize how much I need them. And it’s not just a mental thing. I mean, it is a mental disorder, but without that in my system I have trouble sleeping, near constant stomach pain, lethargy and loss of appetite. I also get this weird feeling I imagine would be like sticking my finger in the light socket.

Robin Williams Depression QuoteSo if someone says they’re depressed, sure it’s a good thing to try to cheer them up; but remember you might as well be trying to cure the flu.

So why say anything about it now? Because I’m feeling depressed. I’ve been listening to AIC and NIN. I’m thinking about putting on The Wall. I guess I hope that sharing will help it to go away. Maybe if I put it out there in the open it will lose it’s power over me. I doubt it, but it’s worth a shot.

I’ve seen a lot of posts on this subject and a lot of them are very good. But no one ever really hit the nail on the head for me.

For me, depression is like a cancer. It’s not poisoning my blood or eating away at my lungs, but it’s polluting my soul. It prevents me from being the me I want to be and forces me to sit alone in the dark wishing I could just feel differently.

I want to say it’s like a tumor growing inside me. But that’s not right. It’s more like one of the Xenomorphs from the Alien movies. I can almost feel it moving and growing in my stomach like it’s just waiting to burst out of my chest.

Some people are have strange phobias. People are scared of all sorts of weird shit; snakes, spiders, Muslims or the boogeyman under the bed. But for me, the boogeyman is alive and well inside my head.

I hope maybe I’ve written something that might make some of you understand mental illness better. And if I’ve written something that you can relate to I hope you’re seeking help and will get better. Aside from being somewhat embarrassing, depression is a royal pain in the ass.

But you know what’s funny? Loneliness has been with me for so long that I bet if it were to go away… I would miss it.

The Problem with the Media


 

One of the things that annoys me most is hearing people bitch about “The Media.” It seems to be the most buzz worthy thing to bitch about. Your favorite politician down in the polls? Blame the media. People don’t share your political views? Blame the media. Donald Trump about to take over your country? Blame the media.

That’s not to say that the media is picture perfect and there’s nothing wrong with it, but getting mad at news outlets for sensationalizing trivial events and promoting popular topics is kind of like getting mad at a fish for swimming. It’s just how news works. It’s what made William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch millionaires. Get used to it.

There’s a reason they say “if it bleeds it lead.” Let’s face it, it’s interesting when people die. The media is not in the business of telling us what we need to know, it’s in the business of telling us what we want to know. If you’d like to change this start clicking on news stories about local elections and charities instead of plane crashes and the Kardashians.

I think many people get confused and forget that media is a business. These outlets exist in order to make money. The news isn’t an art form. It’s not some altruistic endeavor to educate the population as to what’s happening in the world and inform them of basic facts. The news is a product, like computer chips and tampons. The news is all these things and more available for only $19.95*

Sure, there are problems with the media. Most news outlet are owned by very few companies, but that sort of concentration of power occurs in nearly every area of American society and no one seems to care.

Also, many news outlets are extremely biased. This isn’t much of a problem as it’s usually pretty obvious. I recommend checking out several venues to get a full picture. I usually read stuff from Fox News and CNN just so I can see how both sides are spinning a story. I also like to check out news from other countries like Canada’s National Post, Germany’s Der Spiegel and Israel’s Haaretz. And with Twitter allowing me to follow feeds from all of these sources it isn’t difficult to get a well rounded picture.

And remember: Opinions are not facts. No respectable media outlet lies. They just twist facts enough to support their outlooks. You do it too. You’re doing it right now while you’re agreeing/disagreeing with me. It’s impossible for journalists to be completely unbiased as they are also human beings with opinions of their own.

Now go back to bitching about the weather.

The only journalist I trust

The only journalist I trust

 

*I stole this from The Dead Milkmen who said the same thing about Blues music on “The Blues Song” from 1995’s Stoney’s Extra Stout (Pig).

The Best Band?


supergroups!

Now that I’ve completed my “Best Drummers/Bassists/Guitarists/Singers” project let me tell you why I dislike the “pick 4 musicians to form your dream super group” game.

If I take the top spots from all of the lists I’ve come up with over the past month what you’d have is a band with Dave Grohl on drums, No bass player, Dave Gilmore on Guitar and Leonard Cohen singing.

The point I wanted to make there is that just because a musician is great in a certain band doesn’t mean they will be great in any band.

I gave Grohl props for being versatile and playing with many different groups, but could you imagine him jamming with Dave Gilmore? I’m not sure that heavy punk hitting would mesh well with the classic rock stylings of Pink Floyd. And then to throw Cohen in there… well now we’re just talking about a disaster. (Although I do have to admit it sounds interesting).

diamond Dave and Sammy HagarIt’s strange the how different bands can sound with the inclusion/exclusion of just one member. Would Nevermind have been such a hit if Nirvana hadn’t replaced Chad Channing with Dave Grohl? Van Halen and Van Hagar are literally two completely different bands despite being 3/4 the same. So are Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.

And what the hell happened to Korn? They were a pretty rocking heavy metal group and then they lost their guitarist and drummer and all of the sudden they’re like a techno thing.

While most musicians do pretty well in most groups it’s still pretty interesting to think of how they’d interact. the question isn’t “which 4 musicians would be the best,” so much as it’s “what would these 4 musician sound like together?”

I wish there was an antonym for the term supergroup. I know it’s meant to convey anytime a few musicians who are already successful get together, but there should be a term that we use when they get together and it’s really awful. Like chickenfootgroup.

 

More Stupid Lists:

The Best Singers

The Best Guitarists

The Best Bassists

The Best Drummers