Knocked out on Good Friday and doing Vicks 44's with Schlitz chasers, I channel surfed and caught bits and pieces of a few Jesus movies: King of Kings, Jesus of Nazareth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and La Vida de Neustro Senor Jesucristo. This last one was made in Spanish, which was pretty funny when you consider that it's a proven fact - ask any fundamentalist wacko and they'll tell you - that Jesus spoke King James English. I didn't worry about understanding the dialogue, I just turned down the volume and listened to Chris Whitley's Living with the Law (appropriate because we should "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Mark 12:14)
In fact, I didn't listen to the sound in any of these movies, except for The Last Temptation of Christ. Didn't need to: one of the good/bad things (take yer pick) about being raised Lutheran is that the Bible kinda gets imprinted into your brain. So I would yell over the music "let he who is without sin among you throw the first stone!", "forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do!" and "truly I say unto you..." (this last one was sort of a default when I couldn't place the quote.) In all the movies, Jesus was blonde. I smiled through my cough syrup haze, content in the knowledge that God is made in my image.
April is National Poetry Month, so I say take the plunge and head to yer local library or bookstore. Recommended are the following collections: The Dig by Lynn Emanuel, Among the Dog Eaters by Adrian C. Louis, and Meadowlands by Louise Gluck.
And here's a poem by Paula "The Bomb" Belmont...
'everybody stick it to the man!'
my ex, the revolutionary
alone in the apartment
two-thirds of a twelve-pack
empty on the kitchen counter
'everybody stick it to the man!'
I've said it before and I'll say it again - management guru: a good gig if you can get it. Grab some hoary clichés like "the customer is always right," "change is inevitable," "pay attention to the nickels and dimes, and the dollars will follow," and "don't sweat the small stuff," (hey those last two contradict each other: guess it isn't so easy thinking outside the box!); come up with some buzzwords like "team," "quality," "change," and "improvement." Mix all this stuff together into some gimmicky slogan of a program, declare yourself a "management consultant," write a book, and some corporations will gladly throw money your way.
Tom Peters was on Minnesota Public Radio the other day peddling some of his gems. Without provocation from any caller, he railed against public schools, who are "doing a lousy job at teaching a culture of innovation." In other words, kids are still learning reading, writing, and arithmetic instead of reading Peters' books and learning how to be a corporate drone absorbing empty buzzwords and not getting a decent raise because being "empowered" is psychological income.
It is, after all, more important to learn about continuous improvement than it is about Abraham Lincoln. Kids need to get desensitized to the fact that after shareholder-impressing layoffs they'll be doing the work of two people (because there "isn't enough money in the budget" for additional help) and when they fall behind, their boss will tell them that they need to "sharpen their saw," and figure out a way to get things done more effectively. After all, Lincoln may have wished "malice towards none, with charity for all" in his second inaugural address, but that was before those pesky labor movement freaks started wanting weekends off and health insurance and all those other extravagances.
Someone called in and raised concerns about the way corporations lay off workers and then the same workers can reapply for their jobs at grossly reduced wages. Peters sniffed that these things are "inevitable," because the shareholders have a right to a return on their investment. Ah yes, the American Way: protecting the rights of the almighty shareholder.
The last caller dared compare Peters' vision of the future to Milo Minderbinder's syndicate in Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Peters gave the reference an obligatory chuckle, then proceeded to get miffed and spewed some "economy has never been better" rhetoric.
I think one reason Tommy got pissed at this reference was because Milo's syndicate made a profit by letting the Germans know when American planes were going to bomb a certain bridge. He had a cost-plus-six-percent agreement and made an extra thousand dollars for each American plane shot down. After someone complained about how wrong this was, Milo stated that "... the Germans are also members in good standing of the syndicate, and it's my job to protect their rights as shareholders."
Inspired by VH1's 100 Greatest Whatevers...
I'm sick of all these Greats and Honorables and Legends. Sick to death. Don't people get the point? That many times rock 'n' roll has no point beyond the moment? That it just IS? That when a crowd at a game begins chanting NA NA NA NA HEYYYYYYY GOOOOODBYE ... that that moment is more rock 'n' roll than some fossil like Sting or Eric Clapton being "genuine" and "sincere" and "deep" while the throngs stare in awe? That the moment when you jump around in your room playing air guitar is as important as Woodstock? That those times when you sing along with that stoopidly catchy song on the car radio - despite how much you think you hate it - are as important as any Hall of Fame induction or the Grammys?
There was a time quite a while back when mentally Friday nights were one slow fading crash. The X-Files and then some quiet discs and maybe a couple of pages of a book before nodding off. After forty-plus hours of processing, being part of a process, and optimizing your part of the cold equation of efficiency; your eyes, ears, and mind just wanted rest. Shut it all off. In the war against euphoria, you were a quiet sad sack supporter of the bad guys.
But lately ... lately, Friday nights are becoming a fast favorite. Something about being in the bar as the band plays on, soaking it all in, surveying, enjoying, and then you realize: I could do this all over again tomorrow night if I wanted do.
No one danced, which was odd. Maybe the lack of tap beer had something to do with it. The pitchers of beer vs. the acceleration of loosening of inhibitions equation is a definite study for later. At some point though, the band - the Rank Strangers - went into a song with definite hip-hop beats. Some kid strolled onto the floor - cig hanging out of his mouth, backwards baseball hat on - busting hip-hop dance moves. Then, not to be outdone, another kid hit the floor - sporting baggy jeans, a faded Star Wars tee-shirt, green skull cap, and one of those leather jackets that Al Pacino seems to wear in almost every one of his movies. He started dancing lowdown on the floor, breakdancing. (Do they still call it that?) Spinning on his hands, and then moving into a position to do those kicks like you see those Russian guys with the furry hats do.
The Rank Strangers paused for a long, uncomfortable break between songs to survey the crowd. The singer lit a cigarette, smirking. The guitarist waited for confrontation. The bass player tried not to crack up. The youngsters at the front table yelled "punk rock!" The guitarist yelled back, grinning, "punk rock?? who said that?"
I smiled also. You see, there was a time when seeing the Strangers would end up creeping me out. They'd be playing, there'd be a good vibe in the room, and then they'd start bitching at the crowd. Geez, are these guys sensitive or what? I'd think.
This time, no. Cocky as hell, they stood on stage, daring the crowd to do something. A preemptive pause, I guess. Cool as hell, too.
James Hetfield was at the bar. I had noticed him earlier, while Joel and I were in the back shooting the shit during the opening band's set. James Hetfield? you say. Well, it sure looked like him. Same haircut, goatee, black jeans, black shirt. Later on, during the Strangers' set, Joel pointed him out yelling "Hetfield's here!" Yeah right, I said, just as I did when Joel claimed he saw Slash in the Uptown Bar six years ago. As soon as I said this, Joel and I looked at each other in that strange deja vu way.
You see, it really was Slash at the Uptown then, and I had doubted it. We ended up talking to him (and Duff too!), he even tried to get Joel to give him his flannel shirt (Joel wanted Slash's leather jacket in return, the deal fell through more so because he - Slash - was bombed out of his gourd than because of the terms of the trade.) For some reason - too short, I guess - we decided this guy wasn't Hetfield. And there's a huge part of me that hates my skeptical side, the doubter that denied me my chance of buying James Hetfield a beer in St. Paul, Minnesota. Next time will be different, I swear.
"Favorite hobby?" "Avoiding people." "That's not so much a hobby for you as a pastime." "What's the difference?"
I've decided to start busting myself for liking Music That I'm Supposed to Like and instead start paying attention to stuff that sounds good (and the later type of music is not capitalized, because it isn't something necessarily Big or Noteworthy) instead of worrying about credibility, cool, being genuine, heroes, art, making statements, roots, etc.
Like I've been thinking about my first-ever favorite song, a song that was truly mine, that I liked because it sounded good to me; as opposed to someone telling me it was good (examples of those would be my folks pointing me towards "Ring of Fire" while my older siblings steered me to a song by Paul Revere and the Raiders which name slips my mind) or I felt I was obliged to like it. My first such song was the Jackson Five's "ABC", which was available as a free cardboard forty-five that Mom cut out off the back of an Alpha Bits box and taped to an Eddie Arnold record. I listened to it all the time, and all through my youth the sound of it on the radio brought a quick turn up on the volume knob. I listened to it about a dozen times while writing this - the insistent beat, fuzz guitar, singalong nature, call-and-response vocals ... (sigh) - it still could easily be my favorite song ever. Years after my cereal box exposure to the J5, I watched as a teenager when the Jacksons blew everyone away at the Motown 25th anniversary party. The next day at school a few of us raved about it while the Rushheads (favorite words about their band: "they're so technological") laughed. But just as when I was a tyke and people pushed the Osmonds instead of the J5, I ignored them as best I could.
Okay, Music That I'm Supposed to Like ... case numero uno in point: Neil Young. I love much of his work, he has written tons of great songs, but I gotta get this off my chest: I saw him in concert in '96 and basically the whole show was three songs - "Cortez the Killer", "Like a Hurricane", and "Down By the River." Each song was like thirty-five minutes long, with about ninety seconds of singing the verses and choruses and the rest was guitar solos and (ish) jams. I know I was supposed to like it - CRAZY HORSE! JAMMING! NEIL UNLEASHED! HIS BANDMATES ARE HIS SPIRITUAL BROTHERS!! - but (especially so after having one of those aquariums of beer at Gluek's before the show) I just wanted to take a nap or at least hear some songs. True, it was sweet to have better seats than Kevin McHale (who was seated just a few feet behind us), but the memory of the show scared me away from seeing Year of the Horse (and when I told my main man Def Jeff Johnson one day on the bus that I didn't want to see the movie because I "can't handle all those guitar solos" he refused to talk to me for a whole minute) a year later. Dammit: Neil needs an editor. And dammit number two: no matter what anyone tells you, Black Sabbath were the godfathers of grunge.
Reason #14 why I haven't seen Titanic: I see a big boatful of rich people going down, I probably start cheering.
Rumors abound that I am to be the next to appear in the Gap Easyfit Jeans commercials. Supposedly I am supposed to be reading my stuff while surrounded by white light. Rest assured that these rumors are untrue, because my motto remains: no sellout. Besides easy and relaxed-fit jeans would look ridiculous on me. I remain a straight-leg jean guy.
As America eats more and more (and what the hell is the big deal on food? ... everyone talks about it like it's as important as sleep, beer, or television ... it seems people whine like puppies if they have to eat a meal an hour late ... maybe I'm just being oversensitive because the clothing stores stock is geared to all the fat-asses of the world ...) and exercises less and less, I will end up becoming one of the few still wearing straight-leg jeans and everyone will mock me just like in junior high when I was the first to convert to straight-leg from the flared look. Or maybe these tubby jean fashions will go the route of Zubaz, ya never know.
In the latest issue of Poets and Writers, novelist Russell Banks had some worthwhile advice for writers going through their apprenticeship. I wasn't sure whether I should listen to Russell or not: he looks oh-so-literary on the cover of the magazine (white hair, beard, suitcoat, serious.) Although I (most of the time, I think) come off as literate, I don't feel too literary. To be fair to myself, I did stop at the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center in Sauk Centre, Minnesota once (to look around and study the exhibits, too - not just to use the bathroom like I usually do) and I know where Metallica got their "For Whom the Bells Toll" from, but overall I guess I'm low-to-middlebrow.
So anyway, Banks' advice is: "(get) a mentor, peers, and a way to stay out of the economy for a few years." I decided it's good advice...
· Mentor - I would gladly be taken under the wing by a mentor. Her/his advice would certainly be better than the (mostly unsolicited) advice I get from people, which almost always consists of "you should send your stuff to Rolling Stone," which makes me cringe as I imagine myself writing four-and-five star reviews (at gunpoint, probably, or drugged) for Eagles and Billy Joel albums. Although I'm an admittedly shallow person, I'm the freakin' Grand Canyon when compared to Rolling Stone and its entertainment fluff. If I aspire to write for any magazine, it's Mad , which is a hell of a lot more subversive, relevant, and funnier than Rolling Stone.
· Peers - This one's tough as I was recently told that "...in the world of self-absorbed, half-assed zines that are merely a tool for directing the editors' self-loathing outward to the world, you are without peer..." Hey it's not my fault that no one can keep up!
· Out of the economy - At my temp job, I recently got assigned to an office (with a door!) on an empty corner of the floor. Only five or six people walk by all day long. I can actually pick up AM stations over here, so all day long it's Radio K and KFAN. My best score in Minesweeper - expert level - is 296 seconds. Kinda out of the economy and kinda close to the coffee machine - it probably ain't what Banks meant, but it truly ain't that bad.
Back in the early eighties during my high school daze, my most hated bands were: 1) Journey, 2) REO Speedwagon, 3) Styx, 4) Foreigner, and 5) any band that sounded like bands one through four. You'd be amazed at how many bands fit into #5's category: I'm still traumatized enough to say that I remember Survivor (sub-Journey) and Sheriff (sub-Styx.)
The knock on these bands was not only their whiny vocals, glossy guitars, and empty songs; they also sounded remarkably alike in their lameness. Most of the kids dug these bands, because "they rock and do some good mellow stuff too." The term "corporate rock" was applied to these bands. (Many years later, I found out that term came to apply to all Big Label Artists, or at least BLA's who "didn't pay their dues." The logic of the purists is really convoluted, I get a headache trying to sort it out. Like Kurt Cobain's "Corporate Magazines Still Suck" shirt on the cover of Rolling Stone. I pointed out that if KC was such an adamant purist, he shouldn't of even agreed to be in the magazine - not to mention on its cover. It took Pearl Jam to pull that move. Heresy, I know, but it so happens that I'm right.) Anyway, a favorite joke to play on our classmates was to tell them that Toto was touring, and then watch the rumor spread. Another in-joke was the theory that these bands were interchangeable, hence the name "REO Journeywagon."
Now it's fifteen years later and things are remarkably similar. (Meet the new boss...) And I'm slapping myself on the back for coming up with the name "Matchbox Pipe Blind."
This issue dedicated to the lady who gave me an extended dirty look in the MGM Liquor Warehouse parking lot because I pulled in blasting LL Cool J out of my car radio. Hey - you took half the fun out of my beer run! Relaaaaaaaaaaaax.
Everything written by me, except where noted.
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