Thursday, September 22, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
You know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it.
We'll be accepting tweets and things as well. Cause we're interactive like that.
@art_butcher on the Twittering.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Hello again. I feel like I'm getting worse at this, but I also know that this past year at work was beyond bonkers, so I'll just play that card and see what happens.
Earlier this week, we went to see Dick Dale, the King of Surf Guitar. If you don't know his music, you already do. It's that fast-moving, oddly twangy song that was used as the main theme for Pulp Fiction. It's called Miserlou. I learned a few things. Here you go...
1. Surf Guitar might just be one of the primary roots of thrash metal. Guitar Player called Dick Dale the "Father of Heavy Metal," but I think they had the wrong reasons. They were talking about how he used to blow up amplifier after amplifier, which is pretty metal. But, I think there are better reasons. The superhuman pick hand work. The pedal tones on the low strings. The weird scales. The god forsaken volume. The way the songs are a huge puzzle of individual riffs. Go and listen to the intro of Pantera's Cowboys from Hell. Or anything Metallica did before they went to pot. Or Marty Friedman's work with Megadeth. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that a whole lot of that is because of surf guitar. Thrash came out of LA and the Bay Area. A pinch of surf guitar, a half cup of SoCal punk, two pounds of the NWOBHM, and you're on your way to thrash. Pretty awesome to hear live.
2. There is nothing more tragic than a hipster dropping an entire tallboy of PBR.
3. I am all for volume when it comes to rock n roll music. In fact, the more the better. Go see a Slayer show. It's very much a function of the volume at which the stuff is played. And they're definitely not alone. Ask Motorhead. Or Dick Dale. The guy rolled into the Hi-Tone with 4 12" speakers and an old Fender head and rattled my innards worse than a half dozen Marshall stacks. It was profound. And, to tell you the truth, it's mostly the reverb that does it. I felt parts of myself vibrating that I'm not sure I feel comfortable talking about. There was a point where I actually thought I might be disintegrating from within. Awesome.
4. Laramie Dean, the opener, is a bad bad man. He can play like hell and is exactly the kind of endearing gas station jacket-wearing, Brylcreemed, awkward with a microphone nostalgist that everyone should love. And, if that's not enough, he was gracious enough to shout out a local great when he saw him in the audience.
5. Shows at the Hi-Tone are fun, if only because everyone shows up. I saw 60 year old dudes in aloha shirts next to tatted-up rockabilly women next to a kid with a Misfit shirt. It was the same kind of crowd as at the Social D show I saw in Nashville a few weeks ago. The kind of crowd that reassures your faith in humanity to get along with itself. The kind of crowd that proves that good music is perhaps the most universal universal.
6. There is nothing more hilarious than a hipster falling off of a chair whilst trying to seduce a dude with a slew of poorly-balanced dance moves. Thankfully she wasn't hurt, and my wife was the one who saw the entire sequence, but it's hard to explain just how hilarious it was. Yell of hipster. Crash of chair. Thud of beer hitting the ground. Woosh of air as hundreds of heads turn to what just happened. Me laughing so hard I thought I was going to pee. I'm probably going to hell for laughing at other peoples' misfortunes, but this one was well worth it.
Happy trails. I'll try to get it together and be more productive.
PS: It's true. Ghost's Opus Eponymous is a really great album. If you like Priest and Sabbath, this will flip all of your switches.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Allow me to apologize in advance if any element hereforth is in anyway obscene or offensive to any of you, but I have been wronged.
Some barbarian degenerate stole a small plastic trash can from out behind my apartment. There is already vindication in this, so I am sure that the universe does not need to be righted. Nonetheless I remain concerned. And infuriated.
This small plastic trash can which, until some point today, lived next to the back door. For those of you that just laughed at the words "back door," that's fine. I did too. But back on track.
This small plastic trash can was where we used to drop the bags of freshly-scooped cat turds before we took them to the garbage. This is less grotesque than it sounds. Well, it's cat turds, so it's already grotesque. But the day's scoopings go into a bag, which goes into a bigger bag in the small plastic trash can. This unknown turdosity is my only solace in this entire event, a slight vindication.
Either way, some barbarian degenerate has stolen my small plastic trash can!
Filth flarn filth cat dog hot ants angry bat cut rip and murder hives this is what i have to do to not use all the words i learned as a kid in new jersey and then the ones that i learned from my italian friends and my german friends and my french family.
Listen to me people. There is an agreement. We are all supposed to be members of a civilization. One of the implicit agreements that all members of a civilization make is to keep up their end of the bargain. The bargain that says "I will not act like a barbarian degenerate."
Seriously, if one person steals another person's small plastic trash can, it's essentially Armageddon. Barbarism must not exist if civilization is to be.
I realize that this may not be terribly meaningful to many of you, but I cannot abide this degree of carelessness towards the possessions of others.
Half of you people, according to the polls at least, are Republicans. This certainly violates a law, and you guys are supposed to be really offended by people who break the law.
And you Democrats over there with your ennui, don't act like you wouldn't spill coffee on your New Yorker if you learned that you had been personally affronted with robbery.
And all of you Christians out there should be angry because this violates at least one of the Commandments. Not the first, about Godness, or the second, about guns, but one of the other ones. Violated.
And, if what I hear on the TV is right, then half of the rest of the world is waiting to find the person who stole my small plastic trash can and either put them in a hellhole of a prison or kill them outright for it.
So, I think I have something that can bring us all together as a people.
As a civilization.
Quit stealing other people's small plastic trash cans.
Once we get that right, we can step it up a bit.
And sorry for being away so long. It's been really nutty around here.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
These are questions that were brought up, in a broader way, at the recent CAA conference, so I don't want to make it sound as if this is my idea entirely. But those became remarkably present to me recently, so hopefully this is a different variety of question.
I was recently brought to a greater, more directly seen, understanding of artists with physiological difference of the optical variety.
We already know that we are all embodied. And that the linkages between the material physiological perceptive self and the immaterial intellectual self are rather difficult to explain.
But where I'm really caught up here is that we have, as of late, in our more linguistically politically conscious existence, always spoken of "visual impairment" or "the visually impaired."
This seems to me to hierarchize the physiologies of vision. That there is some 20/20 perfectly centered binocular pinnacle and everyone else--us glasses wearers, the cross-eyed, the albino, the wall-eyed, etc.--are visual at a lesser degree of quality.
Notwithstanding the castes that such belief creates, the more interesting, and I think far more important, question is what one does with this valuative (given its mathematical usage, this may not be the right word here) language when applied to visual artists? Perhaps I need to widen this to include all varieties of artists, but I am, for the moment, concerned solely with visual artists.
Does their different physiology of vision offer them an entirely different process of inputting, processing, and outputting art?
Perhaps is this difference parallel?
How, then, do we overcome these essential differences so as to be able to speak collectively about art?
I can't even believe I just said "essential differences." I feel like I just killed 100,000 people.
But, if it's physiological and we are each of our own physiology, how can this not be a question of at least one difference of essence?
I just hit a wall. I'm so confused. Please help.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Man, I'm telling you, I'm in crisis. I've been trying hard as hell to get into Death Magnetic, the most recent Metallica album. I'm failing.
I've loved Metallica for what may actually be two decades now. I came to them a bit late, being that I was 7 when Kill 'Em All dropped, and I don't think my parents were too interested in me getting into that before 2nd grade. But I do have quite vivid memories of coming upon ...And Justice for All, courtesy of my childhood pal Larry, who was listening to it at our friend Anthony's house. On a Walkman. Awesome. I subsequently came upon the rest of their work and fell immediately in love. I was a grumpy teenager who had just decided to learn how to play bass, which turned into a grumpy teenager who was learning to play guitar, and the Hetfield-Hammett-Burton axis of evil is about as much as you can ask for in the way of inspiration. Hell, I think I got into Mozart because of Master of Puppets, so don't try to tell me that metal will do nothing but turn me into a Satan worshipper. I actually ended up at Notre Dame, and I didn't even combust.
But Death Magnetic is a problem. There are elements of it that I like. The band is better than it's been in many a moon and their writing is closer to the classic material that I prefer. And I really like Robert Trujillo, who I thought was a beast in Suicidal Tendencies. There's a lot to like on this album, but it keeps underwhelming. And, then this morning I had a thought.
Rick Rubin and whoever engineered that sucker really dropped the ball. The sound of the thing stinks. It's not as beefy and full as it should be. Beyond some intermittent moments of lightweight playing, the whole album seems like someone stole all of their gear and rented them a bunch of stuff from some diet metal band. It's not chunky enough. And thundering, pummeling, propulsive chunk is what Metallica is all about. At least in my mind. And it sounds digital, which is a large, steaming bunch of BS. Everyone knows that the right way to get a good metal sound is to overdrive the crap out of a wall of tube amps. Tubes, as you all know, are analog, as are hands and guitars. Putting them into ProTools and compressing them down to digital files is like putting a whale in a fishbowl. Someone call Fleming.
In other music news, I have been reading Motley Crue's autobio The Dirt. If you were alive in the 80s and/or care about metal, you should read this. It's amazing. And the Crue deserve a lot more credit than they may get. I defy all of you to watch their Carnival of Sins DVD and then tell me that they don't still kick ass.
I've found a new metal band worth a bit of your time, and they're local. Memphis-based Sacrum. Check 'em out. Nice stuff. Powerful, agile stuff. Check it out.
Also, to bring things full circle, for those of you guitar nerds like me, the new Guitar World print edition has a ranking of the 100 best Metallica songs, as they see it. Now, I have plenty to pick about, but I'm happy as a clam to see that Creeping Death made the top of their list. It's a personal favorite of mine, the first Metallica song I learned how to play, and perhaps the best way to convince Christians that heavy metal and the Bible aren't mutually exclusive.
There has got to be something wrong with me. This won't make no damn sense, but I keep thinking about Ben Roethlisberger and Jesus. Stick with me for a second and I promise this will become even less lucid.
See, this is not really my fault. For the past three weeks, I haven't done anything but teach Art History and watch football. That's not exactly true. I also listened to a boatload of metal and broke the cat of a fully unsavory habit of leaving thank you notes next to the litter box.
But, I've been teaching this semester's crop of first years all about the Renaissance, which involves massive doses of Catholic Jesus art. Old World Jesus. Not that new fangled post-pilgrim stuff that we pass around like a bowl of popcorn stateside. Go ahead, born agains, feel free to damn me, but I've got a Notre Dame degree, infallibility, and Lou Holtz on my side. Bring it.
Anyway, before I slander/libel/blaspheme another dozen denominations, back to the point.
I, like every red-blooded, God-fearing, beef-eating, beer-drinking, gas-guzzling, democracy-bringing American watched the Super Bowl yesterday. I don't give a damn what anyone says, that was a hell of a game. Quietly great. Lots of good downfield blocking and a whole bunch of fun stuff happening away from the ball that I've begun to really appreciate.
And--spoiler alert--the Steelers lost, which somehow made a lot of sense to me in a cosmic, this is the way things go in an Old Testament sort of way. This is where Roethlisberger comes into play. As I'm sure you all know, number 7 has had some problems letting Little Ben do the thinking for Big Ben. No charges were pressed, but the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, suspended him for a bunch of games and Ben was subsequently dragged across the coals by the media and everyone else.
Rightfully so. Sexual harassment and assault are among the most offensive and repulsive crimes going, up there with human trafficking, stealing the White House, and enjoying Metallica after Cliff died. So I'm with you when you want to hate Ben.
But I'm not with you when you refuse to allow Ben the right to do his penance and carry on with his life. Same way I did when people tried to keep persecuting Michael Vick after he left prison. I've said it before that America has double-jeopardy laws and Jesus has forgiveness. We all suffer when we cannot move on and allow a person to better themselves and earn a place in society. This is why we should stop putting people in prison and start having them fill in potholes, teach people to read, and garden for the elderly.
So, when Roethlisberger started throwing interceptions, one of them a fantastically fun pick-6, I began to wonder if this was his final act of contrition. This is a guy who won two Super Bowls in his first four seasons and certainly deserves to be considered among the elite QBs in the league. Stat heads and Peyton fans can kiss my grits. I'll take a rings over numbers any day. So, for him to have a tragic evening in front of the entire world must have been gutting. Forget what they're saying about Mendenhall's fumble, Ben's wayward throws were the primary reason the Steelers lost. Say it with me kids: ball control.
Given the epic, public, and immortal devastation of losing a Super Bowl, in conjunction with his season-long drubbing, I believe that we may never see Ben in such a compromised position again. I'm not trying to excuse his prior, horrible behaviors, but I think it hypocritical and cruel of us to carry on with airs of moral rectitude whilst wishing ill on someone we don't actually know and demanding of them a perpetual state of agonized penance. I just don't think that's what Jesus would do.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Jesus has given me a sign.
The cast of Jersey Shore is going to Italy for Season 4. Read it here.
Now, this is probably career suicide, but I want to be their cultural guide.
Allow me to offer my credentials:
- PhD/MA/BA in Art History, with a specialization in Italian art, Modern and Baroque
- I speak Italian.
- I have lived in Italy for about three years total.
- I was born in New Brunswick, NJ 08901. That's halfway between 8A and 9 for those keeping score, and it means that I speak Jersey Shore.
Now, I understand that TV shows are organized years in advance, but I would like to volunteer my services.
If anyone works at MTV or knows someone who works at MTV. Tell them to holler at me.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I was in the car today listening to Social Distortion. Their self-titled 1990 album, which is awesome. By the way, you can stream their new album online, and for every 100,000 listeners amazon is going to drop it's price by a buck. That's cool.
Anyway, I was listening away, happy as a clam, and during the third song "Story of My Life," and all of a sudden my brain went: "Carl Perkins." Actually, it came out in the voice of the guy from Mystery Train, which made it all a bit hilarious. What if that's my inner voice? This got me to thinking. I may have another link in my mental map of music history. But I can't really work it out, so I'm appealing for help. I'm gonna ask someone I know who is smart about this and will report back.
Anyway, and this is probably not new news, but I was thinking about how the Carl Perkins line of early r&b/rock clearly flows to California and manifests in bands like Social D. And then I was thinking about the wider culture of what I'm going to call California punk, mainly because I don't know enough of it to have a more appropriate or specific term. But I'm talking about everything from Social D to The Descendents to The Dead Kennedys. Maybe this should extend outward to bands like Black Flag, too.
I'm thinking mostly thematically in relation to the songs, rather than musically, but I still stand by my idea that Social D sounds like Carl Perkins. Anyway, then I was thinking about how important California punk was to metal in the mid-80s. Anybody who's ever seen Jeff Hanneman's guitar will know what I mean.
So now I'm trying to figure out exactly how the cow we get from Sun Studios in Memphis to Reign in Blood. And this is all I've got, so any help is welcome.
I just made up another word, which I can do because I'm an art historian. I have a few going.
Relaxicate. v. to relax to the point where you think you're on vacation.
Geometricize. v. to make geometric, as happens to form in a Cubist composition
Thurp. n. a thought burp, a distant cousin of the vurp.
I just got new glasses today. The doctor said that these will make me see 20-15. I'm worried because, so far, 20-20 is more my speed. This is a little intense so far. It also doesn't help that these have bigger lenses, which means that I can see more better in my peripheral vision. Try that. Try to see more of your peripheral field of vision. Then watch what happens to the walls, floors, and ceilings of the room you're in. It's a little intense.
I'm also afraid that these new spectacles might make me look like a hipster. If you see me and think I'm a hipster, please accept this preemptive apology. I'm not a hipster. I'm a metalhead nerd.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Actually, I'm not, but I wanted to be sure you were paying attention.
I like Christmas, second only to my birthday. I like any holiday where I get stuff for doing nothing, but I think we should rename it and just call it either Jesusmas, for the people who actually care about Jesus, or Capitalistmas, for the rest.
But, I have a new tactic for Christmas, which I started this year. I don't care about it anymore. That is, I don't care about what I get.
I'm an only child, so Christmas was all about me when I was a kid. Parents, beware, it creates really absurdist behavior. Everything that arrives is greeted with "Is that for me?" When the Wife gets me something, and makes the mistake of telling me about it before Christmas, I follow her around asking what it is. It's bad.
So, naturally, I used to, up until this year, make really elaborate lists of what I wanted. I even forced it upon the Wife's family, who took it like the sports that they are and made hay with my idiotic methods.
Then, this year, as I was assembling my list, I realized that there wasn't a single thing on it I couldn't live without. I didn't need any of it. It was all just excess stuff that I, like the good American citizen I am, already have too much of. So I emotionally divested. Told everyone that I didn't care what they got me and that they should spend as little as possible. Or, alternatively, do nothing at all, or give the money to a charity, or something that would be a better use of the energy and lucre.
And then I scored huge this year. Talk about a Christmas miracle. Art, books, shirts, socks, all sorts of football stuff, an arsenal of awesome cufflinks, glow in the dark shoelaces, a headlamp that lights up two colors, some really sweet pens just when my pen had died. It just kept getting better. It was nuts.
So, from here on out, I'm not even gonna get concerned.
Kids, the best way to get exactly what you want for Christmas is to not care at all what you get.
Yes, it's true. I'm not as consistent at this as, say, Peyton Manning's forehead is at being huge. But, much to my shockification, I have noticed that people are still reading this even when I am not writing. So I thought I'd get to some achievement and actually write something.
And, since I've just finished the brain-melting, boredom-inducing, tree-killing experience of assembling my advancement packet, I've got some reason for taking a break from the real labor. For those of you outside of the weird world of academia, advancement is when someone changes rank. Assistant Professor is the first rank, then Associate, then Full. For all you college kids and English people out there that have no idea what our titles mean. What you have to do for this advancement thing is work your ass off for about six years and then make a giant binder with all of the things you've done inside of it. Then a committee (presumably) reads it all and decides if you're any good at it. If you are, you are advanced. If you aren't, you're (presumably) supposed to lose your job. But my institution of higher learning believes in advanced complexity, so our system works a little different. Either way, if you have access to the art history gods, ask them to favor me. I like my job.
I also like beets, which is the first thing that I think I should address today. Consider it an appendix to The Duran Diet, or whatever I called that craziness I tried to pass off as a health plan. By some odd coincidence, I've been eating a bunch of beets this break. Had some with the family at Jesusmas, then we decided to make some at home, then we had some at some friends of ours's house. That's the New Jersey possessive for all you grammar nerds. First of all, beets are awesome colors. There's even yellow beets, which are less common that the purple-red ones that we all know. Both are amazing and, to boot, both can be used to dye clothes, which is why you have to be careful when you eat them. At any rate, I've done some research, the veracity of which I refuse to verify, and it turns out that beets are both anti-inflammatory and detoxifying, which means that they will cure more than one property of a mean hangover. That's a plus, right? And, in a recent study from Italy, which, after all, started the Renaissance and is thus totally credible in all things scientific, beets may actually be better for your eyes than carrots. Of course, they're harder to feed to horses, so you've got to pick your battles. But, hell with the horses cause beets are also known to lessen tumor cell growth. That's bad, meaning good. Go beets. Also, in case you are wondering, the leaves are awesome to eat. You can do to them the same thing you do to greens and they're just as tasty. Or, look here for other ideas. And the best thing about beets is that their scientific name is Beta vulgaris, which means that they're especially healthy for New Jersey people like me.
In heavy metal news, I think I need to quit bitching about how metal has been a total pile since Vulgar Display of Power. As I'm sure you all do, I've been scouring the interwebs for those awesome Best of... lists so as to learn about things that I never hear about, or only hear about a decade after they happen. Most recent example being why it took me so damn long to get a copy of Dio's Holy Diver. More like holy shit. That's a great album. And who knew a guy named Vivian could play metal like that. Awesome.
Anyway, I've come upon some really great stuff recently that I think you need to know about. Intronaut's Valley of Smoke is sweet. Really smart, proggy, but heavy. Imagine sort of if Helmet and Rush made a baby while listening to Call of Ktulu or Orion and you're sort of in the area. The interwebxperts say that they are the inheritors to what Isis was up to. They're worth your time as well. Oddly, it's the clean stuff that I find the most compelling. If you're into the epic, classical vein of metal, Agalloch might be up your alley. It's really not the heaviest stuff in the world, so you should go back to High on Fire if you want to get pounded (Check this out. Best metal track I've heard in forever. Shout out to Stephen Deusner for hipping me to them.). But it's really awesome nonetheless. Has great momentum and texture, and is way more interesting IMHO than what a band like Opeth is doing. No offense to Opeth, they're just not my thing.
OK, last two. Tryptikon's new album Eparistera Daimones is what I'm listening to right now. Actually, I'm listening to that High on Fire video cause it rules, but I'm going right back to Tryptikon. Listening to a video? What the cow? Welcome to our post-media state. But, this Tryptikon stuff is great. It's a Tom Warrior project, so that's got lots of cred. Nice and sludgy, heavy as an anvil with gout, and doused in all the right kinds of Satan. Seriously, kids, if you're afraid of the devil, steer clear of this. And, last but not least, there is this awesome band I just came across called Christian Mistress. Best name ever, number one, but you'll also get crazy on this if you're into NWOBHM stuff. You should also listen to the Nachtmystium stuff that I've mentioned before. And we should all reconsider the greatness of Slayer's Hell Awaits.
A moment of silence for the Eagles.
So, now that I'm only half invested in the NFL playoffs (I'm wacco for Flacco!), I can reflect on 10 things I've learned from this year in pigskin.
- Rex Ryan is still the funniest man in football. He and Belichick should go on the road as a comedy team. Belichick is hilarious when he's trying to ignore Rex. Hi-larious!
- I was right about Michael Vick. Don't even start talking to me about dogs. I've already addressed that, and I'm talking about football. He was great this year. And, in the greatest maneuver in my brief career as a Fantasy Football GM, picking up Vick put me Sly Stallone over the top in my league and I went from worst to first in a single year. Yep, that's right, what I learned this year is that I freaking rule at Fantasy Football. Going for a repeat next year.
- Congratulations Kansas City. You actually have a team. Todd Haley needs a haircut bad, but the man can coach. Speaking of haircuts, I'm comfortable enough in my excess manliness to say that I think Tom Brady's haircut is cool. With that helmet on, it's awesomely retro. Reminds me of the 70s, when football was supermega.
- Chad Ochocinco, who I really do think is great, needs to shut up and play some ball. His production and his mouth exist in inverse proportion. Let's just say that the former needs more attention.
- This Tim Tebow thing is great. I know lots of people want to hate, and I too am glad that damn scripture-on-the-eye-black crap is over with, but I want to see if this guy can last. He's improving, has the aura of something exciting, and I'm learning a lot about throwing motions, too. Let's all support this for a while and see what happens. I'm not buying no damn jersey, and I'm certainly not expecting much, but I think this is interesting.
- WHY THE HELL IS DON CORYELL NOT ON THE HALL OF FAME BALLOT?
- On that note, my vote, entirely emotional is: The Bus, Cris Carter, Andre Reed, Ed Sabol, Richard Dent, and Prime. I don't actually even know how many votes I get.
- I love what Jerry Jones is doing with the Cowboys. By which I mean I love that they suck.
- Keeping Tom Coughlin is brilliant and should be commended. That kind of patience and recognition of the fickle and accidental nature of the league is why the Mara family is as esteemed as it is. My Philly friends are going to kill me on this one. Speaking of such things, Bud Adams made the right choice.
- The people at the NFL Network need to check their game. Jerry Rice is an indisputable #1, but Otto Graham not holding the top position? 4 AAFC Championships, 3 NFL Championships, 5 Pro Bowls, 105-17-4 record in an 11 year career in which he appeared in 11 championship games, winning 8? C'mon son!
One last addition to The Duran Diet. Sierra Mist Natural is great stuff. I decided that getting high fructose corn syrup out of my diet would be worth my time. It's hard, that crap is in everything. But I saw a commercial for Sierra Mist Natural, with natural sugar, like Mexican Cokes, and decided to try it. It's awesome. All it is is lemon-lime flavored fizzy sugar water. What's not to like? And, after drinking it for a while, you begin to realize that regular American corn lobby Coke makes your teeth feel hairy. It's nasty.
And, because I'm an edumacator, I need to recommend a great series of books. If you haven't already heard of the 33 1/3 series, you better get with it. Each one is about a single album, and they're unbelievably good. I'd read the ones about Slayer's Reign in Blood and Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's Facing Future, both of which are freaking amazing albums. And the books are just as good. And then I got two more for Christmas, Led Zeppelin IV and The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. Finished the first. It ruled. And their blog is totally awesome, too.
Ok, that's it for now. I hope this gets my momentum back. Thanks for being patient. And for reading.
Friday, November 12, 2010
From the left hand of Titian's Venus of Urbino to Mel Ramos's Val Veeta, painting and sex have had a wonderful history together. The Freudians have described the paintbrush as a proxy phallus, and art historians have argued that Rubens painted his women as he did because there was a certain masturbatory pleasure embedded in the application of layer upon layer of paint. Hell, even Susan Sontag argues that what we all need is an erotics of art. And if Sontag says it, you know it's got to be worth thinking about.
For this reason, I am utterly compelled to point you all in the direction of a painter I know, Alla Bartoshchuk. Now, Jerry Saltz says that I should offer the following disclaimer: I know Alla, she was one of the students at the Memphis College of Art, where I teach, and I own some of her work. So, if you want to judge me and claim that my criticism is corrupt, that's fine. I don't care because good painting speaks for itself. I am simply the messenger.
At any rate, the painting that greets you at the beginning of this post is one of her most recent works, which she just posted today, Fertility, 2010. I would like to extoll its virtues for a moment or two.
Firstly, pomegranates are just plain pornographic, second only perhaps to figs. And the role that they played in the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto simply elaborates the tense sexuality embedded in the history of this one fruit. Moreover, Pluto's plight, where he was unloved by women and had to take his, ahem, wife by force speaks volumes to the danger inherent in such iconography. The devil's deal, if you will. Pluto was, after all, the Lord of the Underworld.
Looking at art is an act of forceful possession. Optical, yes, but if Laura Mulvey teaches us anything, it's that all looking is an act of possession, often of an explicitly sexual kind. And that the subject of this painting is a young woman, the eternal cipher of fecundity and seduction, I can't help but think that we're looking at one apotheosis of Mulvey's construct of gendered taking.
Now, watch the juices drip for a second. Look closely. Luxuriate in them. Don't be afraid. Looking at art is already a quasi-sexual, optically masturbatory act that we are all complicit in, whether we want it or not. Nobody's going to judge you. And if they do, they're hypocrites. This is the same reason why Wayne Thiebaud's cakes are so infinitely wonderful. The fusion of subject matter and viewing pleasure, the way that whichever neuron is responsible for the pleasure of looking is that same neuron that governs the pleasure of a sugar high, or any kind of arousal.
Now, doesn't that juice look like blood? There's a sinister side to all of this, a threatening side. Women dripping with blood generally calls upon one of two situations. Violence or menstruation. Or, if you're a Freudian, both. The good Doctor tells us that all men are roving the earth in mortal fear of having their own personal Bobbitt experience. Vaginas are nothing more than absent penises, and the first sight of this absence is the most terrifying realization any young male might have, doubly frightening when blood issues from the wound. That's why we used to make the women go live in tents outside of the city for that one dangerous week of the month. This woman, with those drips running down her arm, simultaneously pure paint, and pure menace, looks as if she's just come from the kill. That pomegranate drips like the severed head of Medusa, which only complicates the gendered danger in play. And then she offers it to you, as if to ask that you too participate in this vampiric ritual. Oh, dear.
So here we are, caught in between. The pleasures of paint. The violence of emasculation. The nubile, stolen daughter of the goddess of crops. The God of blackened death. The pleasure of looking at beauty. And the puritanical guilt of lingering too long.
As a painting, it's nearly perfect. It's both beautiful and terrifying. And that it's both simultaneously only redoubles its potency. What more can you want?
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I've really been sucking at this recently.
But I have an excuse. I've been totally busy at work. And, since this doesn't pay yet, all I've got is an apology.
If it makes you feel any better, though, I've given two conference papers, went to see my parents for my Dad's 70th birthday, joined a search committee at work, and managed to be accepted to participate in a forthcoming issue of Aspect, with my friend Anne. So, I feel pretty productive, except here.
Anyway, I was in class today teaching about Mesoamerican art and, as it always happens, I was trying to explain human sacrifice to my students. Now, I'm not advocating human sacrifice, but I don't see why it's so confusing to people. So, in my crap way of being an academic, I tried to explain to them that it was just like Highlander, where cutting off someone's head gets you their powers. But, instead of a parking garage, you need to be at the top of a temple and pull out someone's still-beating heart.
Pretty simple, really. The difficult part was when I realized that most of my student didn't know about Highlander. They were talking about some movie called The Prophecy, which I've never seen, so we broke even.
So, in an attempt to make sense of each other, one of my students suggested that I make some lists of things that I think they, and by extension everyone, ought to know about for me to make sense to them. I thought that was a pretty good idea, mostly because I think the stuff I like is pretty good. Please be aware that these lists are partial and subjective. Here goes...
Ten Books I've Read That I've Learned the Most From, or Had the Most Fun Reading:
- Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum--Helped me make sense of Postmodernism. And proved that being a conspiracy freak is really fun.
- E.L. Konigsworth From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--Turned me into an Art Historian.
- Dr. Seuss The Lorax & The Butter Battle Book--Taught me that we should care about the planet. And that war is stupid.
- God The Bible--My parents tried to raise me Catholic. Go Irish. The Bible taught me the difference between what Jesus says and what religion says. And it's really helpful if you're into art. And the Psalms and the Book of the Apocalypse may be the most amazing imagery I've ever read.
- Pearl S. Buck The Good Earth--Quite simply the most magnificent novel I've ever read. Stunning in scope. I don't care if you think I'm a wuss, I get weepy every time O-Lan dies.
- Paul Zimmerman The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football--Mandatory.
- Confucius The Analects--Proves that efficiency is the best way to write. And that you need to act right if you want your civilization to work.
- Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching--I'm not really one for poetry or religion, but this is one of the better examples of each that I can imagine.
- Gene Colan's work in the Tomb of Dracula series--If you like things with fangs, this is where you go after you're done reading Stoker.
- Leon Battista Alberti On Painting--It begins here. And everything else is explainable through or in relation to this.
Ten (or more) Albums I Can't Stop Listening To:
- Social Distortion Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell--Badass songwriting 101.
- Brian Eno Music for Airports--You want sound? You want calm? You want beautiful modulations? Ding. Ding. Ding.
- Metallica Master of Puppets (3b. Ride the Lightening)--As perfect as the first 2 Godfather movies. May not be as fundamental as Sabbath, but I would argue more pivotal.
- The Beatles Rubber Soul (4b. Revolver)--IMHO, the best albums by the best rock band ever.
- Lush Split--Can't explain it, but everything about this album strikes me as amazing. Saw them at Lollapalooza and haven't looked back.
- Ice Cube AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted--This is why Hip Hop is serious social critique. People who say otherwise are ignorant. Of this album.
- Slayer Seasons in the Abyss--If rock and roll is cocaine, this is absolutely the best freebase you can imagine. Loudest band I have ever seen live. Just fantastic.
- Outkast Aquemini--People who think Hip Hop is stupid or uninventive need to shut up and buy this album.
- Arcangelo Corelli 12 Concerti Grossi--I tried to convince my wife that this should be our wedding music. She didn't buy it, but I still think it's that good.
- Eric Satie 3 Gymnopedies--Imagine a small child trying to learn the piano. Imagine that that child is an unadulterated musical genius. This is the best I can describe this.
- Wu-Tang Clan Enter the 36 Chambers--It's true. You best protect your neck.
Ten Essays You Should Read to Be a Good Art Historian
- Susan Sontag "Against Interpretation"--Looking at art is best as an erotic experience.
- Giorgio Vasari "Life of Michelangelo"--This is the cornerstone of everything that is right and wrong with modern art writing.
- Rosalind Krauss "Sculpture in the Expanded Field"--Think about what art is. Now think that it's the opposite. And consider that those might be linked. Or, just read this.
- Clement Greenberg "Modernist Painting"--So filled with problems that it might actually be flawless. If you want to think about the last few centuries of painting, start here.
- Clement Greenberg "Avant-Garde and Kitsch"--Anyone ever tell you that something isn't art? Anyone ever tell you that visual culture is BS? This essay will put all of that in perspective.
- Clement Greenberg "Can Taste Be Objective?"--The answer is no. Except that it might be yes. Even though I know it's not.
- Umberto Eco "How to Write an Introduction to an Art Catalog"--Art Critics beware. The rug is being pulled out from underneath us.
- Roland Barthes "The Death of the Author"--Attention artists. This is why we like you better dead. Just kidding. We love you. But we don't care about what you think your work is about as much as we used to. This is one of the reasons why.
- Theodor Adorno "Commitment"--If your art isn't about anything, your art isn't about anything.
- Walter Benjamin "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"--Sometimes somebody figures it all out at the beginning. This is one of those essays that helps explain everything from photography to DJ Shadow.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
One of the other things that we have here in spades is good radio.
Check out the following.
WEGR-FM 102.7 classic rock
WKQK-FM 94.1 funk soul r&b
WEVL-FM 89.9 hawaiian slack key guitar the best rock show ever is on friday evenings susan does a show with louisiana music there is apparently a metal show on sundays that i keep forgetting to listen to because i listen to enough metal already and they do all sorts of things that you have and have not heard all of which is of extraordinarily high quality
WKNO-FM 91.1 is our NPR/classical
I'm not kidding. If you skip around between those four stations, you don't ever run out of something to listen to.
I'm trying to read Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (for the second time.)
I'm not that far into it, but am having a really hard time figuring out what's going on.
I have two possible explanations:
1. I'm a Yankee.
2. Dave Mustaine's autobiography, which I just finished, actually was that good.
Can anyone offer a few pointers on what I'm supposed to be getting out of this?
Maybe I need to go to Oxford first. I just added Dexter McCluster to my fantasy team, which I'm hoping is a start.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I just got finished listening to Back in Black. The song, not the whole album. I'd forgotten how slow Angus plays that solo. It's pretty awesome. Sometimes I forget how heavy slow can be. That's why the first Sabbath album is so great. Sludge. Angus is playing the blues, which is why we shouldn't ever forget that metal is the child of the blues.
That's also why there are certain moments of greatness in some of the stuff that came out of Florida.
Al, when you read this, I want to hear your take on Florida metal.
Chuck Shuldiner RIP
Photograph: Erwin Olaf. Used without permission, but respect.
Zep just came on the radio. I love it when the universe throws a perfect pass.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
"No, no, I’m a lowbrow. I read that material, more out of obligation than enjoyment. For enjoyment, for me, it’s a beer and the football game."
"Oh, yes. But I don't distinguish between being laughed with and laughed at. I'll take either."
"Hey, Bartlett. Suck it."
I'm not the most inventive person in the world, but every once in a while I really convince myself that I have a good idea, one that will make me such a pile of cash that even Scrooge McDuck will want to come over for a swim.
These are my top two, which I submit to the interwebosphere in that hopes that I am not bamboozled by some parasitic capitalist bastard looking for an idea to exploit for its potential for the generation of filthy lucre. By which I mean if you steal this idea I'm going to sue the crap out of you like your name was Mark Zuckerberg. (Me getting sued for picking a fight with the FaceSpace? Unlike.)
1. The "You're Welcome" card. Everyone knows that we are a species governed by social grace and obligatory obligation. It's what separates us from the monkeys at the zoo doing a Nolan Ryan with their aftermath. But, did you ever give a gift that was so awesome that whosoever was the recipient immediately sent a Thank You card? And, since you were their friend, you thought "Hey, man, no dilemma." "No sweat." or "Of course I bought you a thoughtful gift. We're pals."? Hence the "You're Welcome" card. Easy peasy. Just fire back an Adrian Duran Industries patented "You're Welcome" card. No obligation to thank me. But, since you've gone through the social motions of saying thanks, I, by the transitive property of expectation, am supposed to brush off the gratitude in a very self-deprecating Max Weber Protestant work ethic sort of way. Hence the "You're Welcome" card.
2. The no splash urinal. This is sort of gross, but every one of you with a phallus will understand. Sometimes, just hypothetically, because none of us have ever done this because we're all professionals here, you find yourself about three pints into the night with a bladder suited for two. What then, you ask? Naturally, as the Aussies say, you're busting for the dunny and end up with a stream to strum about as loud as a Kerry King riff. And, since porcelain is neither absorptive nor textured, there is the inevitable threat of backsplash. Gross, isn't it? So, some ceramics engineer (and I'm thinking about that building at my alma mater the illustrious University of Delaware) should create a way to divert the inevitable physics of the equation away from unsuspecting pant legs or bare, flip-flopped feet. Sort of like those fancy suits the speed skaters wear. You can kill two birds with one stone. Relief and dryness. Like a chaise-lounge in the desert. It's just a question of changing the mold, I would presume. But, since I'm an Art Historian and not a materials engineer, I'm just going to throw this up for grabs. Especially since the shuttle program is being shut down and someone somewhere has been spending their career perfecting heat-resistant reentry tiles and probably needs something to do.
The other one that I think might be worth mentioning, Genius Idea 2.5 if you will (even if you won't), is the temperature regulator on those amazing Xlerator hand dryers. Explain to me why it doesn't make sense that you should be able to make cold air shoot out of those things. Nothing is less enjoyable than a blast of hot air during the summer. Cold air would be great. You could dry your hands and air condition simultaneously.
That's what I'm talking about. Innovation, people. It's what makes America great.
Ask Bill Gates.
Or P.T. Barnum.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I am sick and tired of people bitching and moaning about Memphis.
This city is great. Sure, we're apparently violent and sedentary, but we've got lots of things going on. Here are my Top 5. There are more, but I'm starting to fall asleep.
1. Music. Where else in the world, in a period of just a few years can you see, among others, James Brown, Booker T and the MGs, Government Mule, Chicago, KRS-ONE, Blackalicious, Exodus, Megadeth, Testament, Amy LaVere, the Cowboy Junkies, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 38 Special, Lord T & Eloise, High on Fire, and Nachtmystium? And I haven't even been trying that hard. I just recently missed Blondie and Nancy Wilson, simply because I was being lazy. Try and beat that. And when you can't, I'll meet you at Wild Bill's. Oh, wait a minute. You don't have Graceland, do you? Or Sun Studios, where they sort of invented rock and roll? Or Beale Street, where WC Handy sort of invented the Blues? Do your local Hip Hop legends have an Oscar? No? Then shut up, hater.
2. Fried food and BBQ. I don't give a damn what any of you other states say. I've eaten 'cue in Texas, North Cackalack, and Kansas City. Ours is better. And if you find a better fried chicken joint than Gus's, I'll buy. And then I'll take you out for some meatloaf, mac and cheese, greens, cornbread, and sweet tea. Maybe my friends will give us a ride in their 'lac, like we did this Sunday. Don't sweat the technique.
3. We've got all the stuff you have, but easier. Ballet, opera, symphony, I just saw that Wicked is playing here and, even better, so is 9 to 5. There's a brand new theater three blocks from my house, just a bit past the local brew pub, the southeastern Italian restaurant, the Cajun place, the movie theatre, the place where I get my haircut, and a fairly good massage spa. How far, you ask. Less than 10 minutes on foot. Beat that.
4. Sports. Sure, the Grizzlies suck and the Calipari era was crooked as a bent stick, but we got hoops all day. And two semipro football teams. And the Memphis Redbirds, who have swept three PCL AAA championship series. And roller derby. And those people who joust in the park on Sundays. And, the cherry on top of all of this is the Liberty Bowl, one of America's most beautiful football stadia. Google it. Never before have I seen such a beautiful, graceful profile of a football stadium. And I went to Notre Dame, so that's saying a lot. Blasphemy even. Hell, there's probably a jai alai team here that I just haven't heard of yet.
5. Memphis is cheap as a mother. For less than $100 more than we paid in Philly for a studio apartment with crap carpet and a view of a parking lot, we've now got a sunlit, 1920s-era three bedroom place literally across the street from a park, in which there is a museum, a bandshell which has free concerts during the summer, and the zoo. And I can walk five minutes from my house and get a Peroni on tap in a glass as big as my forearm for about $4. And the guys working there know us all by name, give out hugs if we've been away for more than a week, and will turn the tv on whatever game we want to watch. Best $4 ever.
So, if you don't like it here, go somewhere else. I ain't got time for your whining.
Not yet, maybe, but who says I can't dream big? If he can watch all the games and say things that get him on tv, why the hell can't I? All that separates the two of us is a big ass contract with Sports Illustrated, a half-time show, and millions of readers. Well, that and his connections, but I don't care. I watch just as much football as he does and see things with two eyes just the same.
So, here's my version.
1. Soft corners suck. Notre Dame, I'm talking to you. Press. I always vote that getting burned is more acceptable if the guy beats you fair and square. If you get jerked just waiting for the guy to run into your five yard cushion, you're a schmuck.
2. I hereby retract all bad things I've said recently about Vince Young. Until he screws up. But I was really impressed with ol' Vince's poise and presence in the pocket, like a 6' 5" wocket. Nice distribution, none of the typically stupid decisions he tends to make late in the game on third-and-longs. By the way, where the cow is Kenny Britt? One more week of this, and I'm dropping you off my fantasy team, sucker.
3. Albert Haynesworth is a punk. If you gave me that much money, I'd shut my fat face and play whatever position I was told. 4-3. 3-4. Get on the field and quit making grumpy face. If Tennessee spends a single cent or draft pick on this jackass, I'm going to drive to Nashville and give Bud Adams a piece of my mind. He's a overgrown, lazy whiner. And if you've got an issue with that, Fat Albert, bring it. I'll bet you $100 million that you'll kick my can, but I'll put in more effort. Sucker.
4. If Mark Sanchez throws one more check down, I'm so not going to the prom with him.
5. Those Philly throwback uniforms are the coolest. Best. Helmets. Ever. And Michael Vick just turned into the greatest moral dilemma this side of trading McNabb.
6. Speaking of which, nicely done #5. Don't hate. Congratulate.
7. Don't even talk to me about the Jets not being that great. Sure, their offense was dull as dishwater, but that defense gives me tingles where they don't belong. Did anyone else see that eight man blitz? That's what I'm talking about. All in, gentlemen. Sure, defense alone won't win championships, but it sure is a good start. It's only Week 1. If the Sanchize can get his act together, there's still much to be seen.
8. I'm not comfortable with the increasing use of the word "violent" to describe football. I'm not so naive to think that it isn't a violent game, but we need to reconsider. Football is also a game of finesse, whether it's the footwork of a pulling tackle or the touch of a ball dropped in between double coverage. It's just that I can't figure out how violence is a virtue. I love watching Ray Lewis drop some unsuspecting back as much as the next guy, but violence isn't the thing we should be concentrating on. Sure, F=MA, but what the hell ever happened to technique?
9. Legadu Naanee is a name you need to learn, and not just because it's fun to say. He's the newest member of my fantasy roster, mainly because I can't justifiably fantasize about Andre Johnson actually having a good week next week after all of that coverage.
10. Speaking of which, every player on the Chargers and Chiefs should be heralded far and wide. That MNF game in a downpour is one of the best things I've seen in a while. And I saw Slayer just over a month ago. I've never been to a game at Arrowhead, but those Chiefs fans look like a great bunch. I haven't seen that much red since May Day. Love it.
11. Dexter McCluster should never be allowed to rap again. His Cellular South commercial stinks more than a cow pie. That being said, at least someone is addressing all of these idiots who are texting and driving. Memphis, I'm talking to you. Guy driving past my apartment today, I'm talking to you.
12. Randy Moss needs to shut up and play ball. He's as bad as Haynesworth, just less expensive. If he doesn't quit this crap by the time I get famous, I'm not voting for him to go to Canton.
Baker's Dozen: That Calvin Johnson no catch call is malarkey. Especially because it cost them the game. And would someone please keep Matthew Stafford intact? He's getting paid too much to get broken like that again, for the third time. Speaking of which, Bob Sanders gets hurt so often that I actually can't remember if I think he's any good or not. Shame.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Well, I'm still waiting to hear from Rich Eisen and the people at NFL Network, so I thought I'd give them a reason to not forget about me.
And, since I'm sure you are all tuned in to the NFL, here are a few things you might consider as things progress.
- Tim Tebow isn't going to suck. Overall. There will be times when he really sucks. Or gets himself damn near killed. But he's going to do some pretty slick things as well. He might lose them a game or two, but he'll break even with the other stuff he does. Kyle Orton, by the way, needs some damn respect. I'm not saying he's Joe Montana, but his stats are fully respectable.
- The NFC West is crap. The Cardinals are looking such a mess at Quarterback that even Derek Anderson is starting to look good. The Seahawks are just as dull and will have the inevitable new coach growing pains. Nobody's fault, but it'll just happen. That leaves us with the 49ers, who at least have a group of compelling personalities, and the Rams, who are at the point of pathos. I'm intrigued as to what Sam Bradford is capable of, cause I've seen him look pretty solid at certain points.
- Vince Young can't ever seem to look to me the number of years he's been in the league. Somehow Vince has managed to slip into the slow-developing category or something that keeps him from being a total bust. I know Bud likes him, but look at what's happening to Matt Leinart. Other than his rookie year, Vince isn't really blowing anyone away. I hope he finally has a huge breakout year this year.
- LaDanian Tomlinson has been looking good. I wonder if there will be some crow eaten somewhere in southern California.
- Joe Flacco. You better recognize.
- The Eagles remind me of the Memphis Grizzlies. Young. Lots of really highly drafted talent. Maybe going to come together sometime soon here? Sure would be great if it were this year.
- The NFC South bores me.
- Brian Urlacher should just retire if he gets a bad injury again. Nobody's going to forget that he's one hell of a linebacker. Chicago certainly won't. Speaking of which, which one of these Bears WRs is going to surprise all of us?
- I don't really want the Bengals to win the Super Bowl, but I certainly will be taping whatever the hell Ochocinco and T.O. will be talking about. I really couldn't care less about the Bengals, cause I really just want to see the Ravens win that Division in perpetuity, but this lineup is really powerful. They certainly have the talent. And I want to see what happens when those two meet the President.
- I'm tired of Peyton Manning. I get it. He's great. He throws a million passes to a million guys who catch them all. He wins lots of games every year. He moves his arms around a lot at the line of scrimmage cause he understands football better than all of us. He's boring. His only redeeming quality is that he's hilarious in commercials. I'm tired of all of this talk about him and best quarterback ever. No. Way. You ask me, we need to talk about rings. Best quarterback ever? There's three possibilities. My vote is for Otto Graham. Look him up. If you didn't think of him first, you probably said Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw. Except for all of you that said Troy Aikman. The first two would have made my top three, and I hate the Cowboys. I was just telling my students today in class that they needed to be more critical of greatness. I reminded them that Peyton has exactly as many rings as his brother. And one fewer trip to Disney World. So, enough with the Peyton Manning already. Blah blah blah.
- What the hell is going to happen to the Raiders this year? Seriously. Does anyone know?
- Mark Sanchez is, unfortunately, becoming less interesting. But The Jets keep getting more and more fun to watch.
There you go. A dozen. I'm tired now. Let the games begin.
You should listen to Nachtmystium's CD Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1.
I've only just gotten it (from my Wife, who gives the best presents ever) and haven't really had enough time to digest all of the lyrics, so I'm not going to hold your hand when you go and turn Satanic. You're grown. That's on you.
But, if you like really heavy, smart, forward-thinking metal, I'd give this one a shot.
Lucky for me, they're playing in Memphis on the 27th at the Hi-Tone.
We might have a problem. And, if they form a committee to help figure this one out, I hereby nominate me.
See, the Catholic Church is in it pretty deep. I don't know how deep in the grand scheme of things, but deeper than in a while. Numbers were down even before this madness over the priests started. And all this new wave Jesusism is drawing people in other directions. And I certainly wouldn't disagree with someone who said that the current Pope is less cuddly than the previous who, while one formidable footballer, might not have been super progressive.
And I'm not wishing the end of the Catholic Church, if only for Notre Dame Football reasons.
But here's the rub. What the cow in the manger next to the baby Jesus are we going to do with all that art?
Let's just, for the sake of me being a paranoiac on the level of a two thousand year old religion coming crashing down to the ground sort of way, say that La Chiesa cade, eventually all the Catholics will go where all the Catholics go and there will be a whole lot of buildings with a whole load of art in them.
How are we going to take care of that stuff? Presumably someone in the Vatican should form a commission to consider the issue.
I volunteer to be on it.
Image: Time Magazine. Photo: Jodi Bieber.
I'm in a moral quandry.
I've talked to a few people about this and it came out awkward no matter how I tried to put it, so forgive me when I say something absolutely unbelievable.
I think I've found a loophole that might make human trafficking justifiable. See. That sounds insane. Seeing it written down is even worse.
Anyway, I was reading a Time magazine article in a magazine I picked up in some airport at some point towards the end of this summer. It reported on an Afghan woman who, in some insane form of what was claimed as justice, had her nose and ears cut off by her husband as a punishment for running away from him.
And somewhere else, where I cannot remember, I read about women who were being sold into marriage. And for prostitution and who knows what other horrific things.
So, let's just say that I was someone with some extra cash. Why should I not snatch up these cruelly unfortunate people and bring them somewhere safe and help them get set up on another path? We adopt kids for those reasons all the time. Why can't other people catch the same break?
Yes, I realize that it's a mess to participate in, let alone condone, the buying and selling of humans, but what happens when it's done for the sake of betterment?
Friday, August 13, 2010
I'm going to say it out loud, and not just cause I was recently in England. The traditional English Fried Breakfast is the best breakfast in the universe.
And I say this with absolute deference to the German muesli + yoghurt + fruit meisterstuck, which I also duly love and recommend for the days following the English Fried Breakfast.
But, before I start someone humming the Dambreakers theme, let's get back to the point.
The English Fried Breakfast is two eggs, a fried tomato, baked beans, fried mushrooms, and, in the pig eaters' version two rashers of bacon and two sausages. For poofs like me who don't dig on swine, you get those amazing hash browns in the shape of a triangle things, which I've inserted above for your viewing perversion. The best I've had is at the Hackney City Farm, where I believe all the food you eat comes from within about 50 feet. People who think British cuisine is bad are ignorant.
Magictastic. Rule Britannia. Britannia rule my plate.
(Graffiti in Faenza, Italy)
Full disclosure: I was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in the Fall of 1976 and left for college in the Fall of 1994.
This means one thing exactly: heavy metal was and continues to be my destiny. If Megaforce Records, WSOU, and the Rte. 1 Flea Market mean anything within this strange universe of ours, it will offer some credence to my words. Put it like this, I was the nerdy kid on the track team, building sets for the drama club (Alchemists, stand up) with the Testament and Obituary tapes in my walkman. One of my bands stole chord changes from Metallica when we needed a bridge for a song. On another occasion, our drummer and I declared that playing Aerosmith songs wasn't metal enough. I'm not saying that I'm the most metal dude in the world (see below), but I think I have some critical experience to let you know what I just saw last night.
Earlier this year I had enough sense to go see the Megadeth 20th Anniversary Rust in Peace tour when it came to Memphis. Exodus, Testament, Megadeth. Testament played the entirety of The Legacy. Megadeth played the entirety of Rust in Peace.
With all due respect to that flawless night, and to the true greatness of Exodus, last night's second date of the American Carnage Tour (tix here) was arguably the greatest concert I've ever seen.
And this includes sublime shows by KRS-ONE, Phish, the Philadelphia Opera, and a pair of the early Lollapaloozas.
A pestilence on all of you who skipped their show. Testament is the unfortunate victim of the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer & Anthrax). My suspicion is that this is geographism. Testament, like Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer are from the Bay Area, so you can't have all four from the same place. Admittedly, they started out a bit later and could very easily be seen as a second wave after the Big Four, but this is no explanation away from their fantastic career, innovative writing, and absolutely gigantic stage show.
And, with all due respect to Ozzy and Ronnie James Dio (RIP), I will always argue that Chuck Billy is the greatest metal singer ever. Maybe he isn't Giotto, but he's definitely Michelangelo. Firstly, he must be at least 8'10"--at least that's what he looks like towering from the stage. And, moreover, his voice ranges from subtly melodic to a bellowing growl that sounds like the gates of hell opening. I may be wrong, but I think it was John Tardy, the singer from Obituary, who said that Chuck was the most important metal singer ever because he was the first to demonstrate the vast range within metal singing. The guy from Fear Factory, who I do in fact like quite a bit, owes a lot Chuck. All respect due. The rest of the band is equally amazing. Alex Skolnick is my favorite guitar player ever (except, maybe, for Dimebag) and living proof, like Chuck, of the virtuosity within metal (though he should fiddle with his volume knob a bit less). Don't believe me? Check his jazz cred. Eric Peterson is metal's most underestimated rhythm guitarist and no slouch at lead either, and Greg Christian is just fantastic--everything you want in a metal dude, and perhaps the most thundering bass player this side of Geezer. Both are blue chippers. And Paul Bostaph, though I regret never having seen the band with Louie, is a titan. There were points where I was quite fearful for my heart rhythms, which is just what a metal drummer should induce.
Their set was about 45 minutes of new and old, all as good as the rest, and an absolute pummeling. As is often the woe of openers, the sound was a bit imperfect, but everyone was clear and audible nonetheless, prowling the stage and absolutely putting on a master class of what happens when five boundless talents work together for decades perfecting their craft. For the life of me, I don't understand why these guys don't get more credit. If metal was a basketball team, they'd be one of my starters.
Megadeth? If I have to explain why they are on par with or superior to every metal band since Sabbath, I'm going to ask you to stop reading now. And, pound for pound, to my tastes, I think Rust in Peace is one of the best metal albums ever. See, Dave's whiny paranoia is a font of intelligent writing and constantly compelling material. Sure, he's got an ego the size of Montana and probably could stand to be less of a grump in interviews, but the guy makes a good point. Heavy Metal, born of the industrial wastelands of Northern England filtered through the demise of the promise of 1968 and incubated in the pessimism of 1970s America and the Reagan/Bush debacle, owes it to itself and us all to be smarter than its critics. Metal, despite all of Tipper Gore's rantings and ravings, offers a remarkably acute view of the societal ills we've faced over the past four decades and should be given credit for its insight. Megadeth is sort of like the Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky of the genre. And Rust in Peace is the dissertation we should all have at hand.
To put it lightly, Megadeth is the F1 car of metal. A highly tuned, laser-precise machine that exceeds even our most wild visions of possibility. I listened as hard as I could last night, from the center point of the GA floor leaning against the soundboard barrier, and I don't think I heard more than one or two flubs. Chris Broderick deserves tons of props. Despite what might be one of the schlockiest guitar ad poses ever, the guy is a master. If we could photoshop Marty's head onto his, I'm not sure anyone would notice that the old samurai isn't with the band anymore. The guy shreds. Makes you want to put down your own guitar and cry. David Ellefson is maybe third in line after Geezer and Cliff in the metal pantheon (JPJ fans, I'm not counting Zep as metal here), and somehow looks like the nicest guy in the world. Actually, I think Chuck Billy, Ellefson, and Tom Araya all look like unbelievably nice guys. I sort of wish we could all have tea one day. Seriously. Call me. And Shawn Drover, who I don't mean to make sound like a footnote, is spectacular on the kit. I remember thinking to myself what a horrible task it must have been to sit on the Menza stool. My next thought was, damn, Drover's really as good as anyone could ask for at any point.
At any rate, the show was great, a perfect 10 with a bonus plan and a kiss goodnight. Launched directly into Rust and put the pedal to the floor the whole time. I've never been decapitated, but I know that they used to take the just-severed head and show it to the crowd and the body. That's about as close as I can get to the sensation one has after hearing these guys just plain burn it down. To boot, they followed up with a set of other material. I'm not really big on Headcrusher or A Tout Le Monde, but neither is necessarily a drop-off of momentum, and Symphony still holds up after 18 years. To say that Peace Sells should be the new American national anthem might get me thrown in Guantanamo, but I'm hoping Dave finds it in his heart to bail me out when that happens. Megadeth is what happens when masterpieces are allowed to age properly. Sure, there were hiccups and growing pains, but we're talking about Rembrandt level stuff here. Proof that the cream will always rise to the top and a stern lesson that any artist in any medium should be certain that what they are doing is good before they even begin to do it.
Slayer? Excuse me and pardon my French, FUCKIN SLAYER! I'm going to go on record now and probably be accused of blasphemy for it, but I think Seasons in the Abyss is a better album than Reign in Blood. I think the writing is more interesting, the lyrics more diverse and mature, the production is better, and, frankly, I think it hits harder. Maybe not faster, maybe not quite the shock (only because by then we'd heard Reign in Blood), but better overall.
And, though this might make me sound like a nostalgic, I think the old material (Reign, Seasons, South of Heaven) is superior to the new stuff. True, I don't know the new stuff as well, but it seems oddly coy to me, as if they're aiming, rather than just swinging with power. But, listen, Slayer is undeniable. Listening to them is one of the world's great adrenaline rushes and their power is unparalleled. Sort of like a buzzsaw, road-grader, energy drink, cayenne, gunpowder smoothie IV. Great stuff.
Now, Mom, before you get concerned that I'm listening to devil music, let me make the following argument. Yes, I am. But so was Robert Johnson when he went down to the crossroads to learn the blues (And, for the record, I've been there too. No devil, though.) or Elvis when he shook his hips below those tv cameras. Or Wagner. Or Stravinsky. Diabolus in musica, friends, do the research.
I'm not saying that they're not terrifying. Kerry King is the single scariest human I've ever laid eyes on. And Jeff Hanneman looks like someone who would rather not be near you. (Watch this amazingness.) But, frankly, they're probably the two nicest guys around and are certainly the Jordan-Pippen of this metal universe. Well, if either of those guys was super scary and made a guitar sound like it was an instrument of damnation. The only other person I've seen strangle a guitar to this kind of sonic effect was Stevie Ray Vaughan. In comparison, even Hendrix looks like he's got the thing under control. Oh, and Tom Araya is flawless and Dave Lombardo is the gold standard for metal drumming. The gold standard.
Slayer's music is fantastic. Brutally direct and relentlessly fast (proof that metal and punk are siblings, not cousins), masterfully technical and really quite groovy. Seriously, the stuff makes me want to dance. Not mosh, dance. It's beautifully syncopated stuff, for which Tom Araya deserves a ton of credit. And, before we return to the satan accusation stupidity, go read the lyrics. Sure, there's plenty of the demons/satan/blood and gore stuff, but that's one of the metal food groups. There's also loads of reflection on militarism, gun violence, human psychology, and the complexities of religion. Dig it, kids, Slayer is sociology, plain and true. Oh, and their live show is a malestrom. Thank you, sirs, may I have another?
Anyway, best show ever, no exaggeration. And not just for fanboy reasons. There is something deeply satisfying to watch three bands age gracefully and skillfully. People who said that metal was a stupid, childish outburst were and continue to be wrong. These are grown men whose virtuosity continues to impress and grow, pillars of their genre and masters of their craft. It's endlessly reassuring to know that there are bands that still respect the album as an art form, and even more gratifying to see them maintain the album as a standard of performance. And, like other masterpieces, it's wonderful to know that you can return to great works again and again and derive just as much pleasure as from the original revelation and continue to find new nuances and points of fascination. That's what great art is and what great art is for.
On other fun notes, I was heartened by how great the pit was, how everyone helped each other out and up, kept each other from being trampled, and acted so intensely civil in what is actually a rather dangerous thing to do. I was also happy to see how many friends seemed to be reuniting, giving daps to everyone around, and, yes, giving out hugs.
Metal is a culture that we must defend with our words and our acts. If last night was any sign, we're in good stead. Let's help keep it that way.
Oh, and I caught a shoe that came flying way up in the air from out of the pit. The people next to me gave me looks that will stay with me forever.
Peace, love, and metal forever.
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