Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Price of Art

According to the PewResearchCenter, support for public libraries banning books is at its lowest levels in 20 years.  Amazingly, this lowest level of support represents 46% of Americans.  That is, nearly half of all Americans supposedly support public libraries banning books they deem as containing “dangerous ideas”.

For obvious reasons, I don’t support the banning of books.  This is, in part, because the reasons various books have been banned in the past strike me as entirely insane.  One of my favorite examples of the craziness of would-be book banners comes from April 2003 in the fine city of Cedarville, Arkansas, when a judge overturned a school-system rule that required children to have parental permission to check out or read Harry Potter books.  The reason?  Angie Haney heard herself a series of anti-Harry Potter sermons at the local church, and realized that these books were not based on fiction.  She really believed that.  Thankfully, thoughtful parents and reasonable judges were the order of the day in Arkansas, and children were once more allowed to read  children’s books at their own discretion.

This special kind of crazy is far too common.  The first Harry Potter book was released in the United States in 1998.  Regardless, from 1990-2000, “Potter” was among the most frequently challenged books in the US.  Most of this is absurd religiosity: Harry Potter is a book involving wizards and witches.  Therefore, it promotes witchcraft, which is evil.  Therefore, it’s up to the Army of Jesus to fight it with every breath.   This book does not present fantasy, of overcoming odds, of relationships, and friendships, and making the most of your abilities, of parental love.  Oh no, it does not.

Other books have gotten similar treatments.  James Joyce’s Dubliners was banned for a time because of the violence in “Counterparts”, which baffled Joyce.  If anything, he thought, shouldn’t the book get banned for the masturbation depicted in “An Encounter”?  Naturally, the short-sighted people who decide to ban books hadn’t noticed the scene.

There are some who believe that allowing books that contain violence, sex, drug use, or, ahem, witchcraft, do, in fact, promote them.  The belief that Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is not merely a “study in vice”, but it is also a lesson in the same.  Even if this is true, that’s all the better, I say.  People want to ban things because they find them dangerous.  We find a book dangerous because we don’t understand it, and our lack of understanding makes something provocative into something threatening.

There is a First Amendment argument to be made here, though I am less qualified to write it than most of the other Curious Mechanism writers.  It would seem to me, though, that Freedom of Speech is rendered irrelevant if there exists no freedom to read or listen.  The right to intake, to absorb stimulus that may be considered horrific, offensive, or dangerous is a critical aspect of the right to output whatever you want. 

There is an element of responsibility present here that should not be ignored.  There are a lot of very intelligent people who can see the similarity in the danger that eminates from Harry Potter (one of the soul, I suppose?) and that which is contained in a book on building a bomb (a danger of the body, obviously).  Information, however, is not dangerous on its own.  While I can type “How To Make a Pipe Bomb” into any search engine I like and get a variety of informative results, I know that it is illegal, stupid, and physically dangerous to go and build one.  Even if I am so brazen, I’m not vile enough to want to blow someone or something up with it–there are plenty of empty fields for that kind of heinous idiocy.  Likewise, I may have pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and have already spent what may be considered too much time wondering what that title means, and yet, I am as certain today as I have ever been that, in fact, goblins do not exist, nor can I Apparate, as much as I’d like to cut down on my daily commute.  I am entertained by information–I enjoy learning, and I enjoy story-telling immensely, but I understand that while they may impact my life in some way, I place the value on what I intake, and I alone. 

Ignorance, it would seem, begets itself.  The ignorant are afraid of what they do not know, and so they seek to destroy it, or hide it, so that neither they, nor anyone else, may ever know it.  If art has any value, as the Curious Mechanism certainly believes it does, boundaries must be pushed back and broken down.  Passages or entireties of books may offend, but it’s up to the reader to choose to continue reading them.  I may have little interest in certain types of literature, but this doesn’t discredit their invaluable contribution.  If art advances our culture, our society, then it is our responsibility to allow it to grow.

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Do They All Die? 9: Once

dtat.jpgFyodor Dostoevsky once wrote, if my memory serves me, in his story White Nights, that all a man really needs in his life are moments. Dostoevsky may have just said “a moment”, but the point he makes is this: the most important things–the only important things–in life, are those brief, fleeting times of perfect joy. Those moments can carry a man.

John Carney’s film, Once, is a movie about such a moment. It takes place over the course of about a week, with your basic “Irishmen in Dublin meets adorable Czech immigrant and they both learn to make wonderful music together”. There is a lot of time spent in the film’s hour and forty minutes on the music. Glen Hansard, whose dayjob is singing lead for The Frames, a band I have never heard before, plays the male protagonist. Markéta Irglová, who is only 19 and thus, probably doesn’t have a dayjob, plays his female counterpart.

Hansard is a street musician and vacuum cleaner repairmen. Irglova is a Czech immigrant, and mother, with a broken vacuum cleaner. And she happens to be a big fan of Hansard’s, and a fairly accomplished pianist. On a whim, he fixes her vacuum and they play some music together, and, it would seem, their stylings jive nicely. There’s no real conflict here–the characters all get along and no one dies and the music is wonderful and all that. Drama isn’t really the point here. Neither is the film a comedy, though it has enough humor, I suppose. It is largely a vehicle for the songs, which are good in that Cat Power/Iron and Wine/Damiens (Jurado and Rice), empassioned folksy music kind of way.  Ya know, it’s earnest.

Likewise, I suppose, is the rest of the movie.  These two people may have nothing else in common outside of music.  Neither lives in a perfect world, but the movie isn’t about Life as Fucking Pain or the misery of bad relationships or death or poverty, or anything like that.  It merely reminds us that, sometimes, everything will come together for one, ephemeral moment of unadulterated happiness.

A marvelous, joy of a film.   Recommended for anyone in need of a reminder of the value of things that don’t last.

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Especially You, Hedonism Bot! 3: Festina Peche

hedonism_bot.jpgI had not, before this summer, even heard of a Berliner Weisse.  Mrs Thursday and I, however, found ourselves hungry in downtown Philadelphia a few weeks ago, and upon electing to go to the excellent Nodding Head Pub, I found myself drinking my first BW–their Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse.  Shortly thereafter, I came across Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche which, as described my my local beer guru, Matt Guyer, is “Berliner-Weisse, with a little bit of a peach flavor”. 

For the uninitiated, a Berliner-Weisse is a light, cloudy, wheat beer that is (surprise, surprise), brewed mainly in and around Berlin, Germany.  It is, generally very low in alcohol content–many beers are around 3% alcohol, and possesses a sort of mouth puckering sour taste.  The degree of tart will very from beer to beer, obviously. 

Dogfish Head, the Delaware purveyors of “extreme” beer, have this to say about their creation:

A refreshing neo-BerlinerWeisse fermented with honest-to-goodness peaches to (get this!) 4.5% abv! Because extreme beers don’t have to be extremely boozy!

I can’t help but wonder how Dogfish Head defines “extreme beer” if Berliner Weisse is included in the category.  According to Wikipedia, the style is several hundred years old.  Regardless, they’ve made a fine product here.

The 4.5% ABV in their BW is definitely higher than the standard, but it’s lower than most of their other beers, and most craft beers in general.  The beer smells tart enough to be called sour, but the taste mellows out in the mouth.  The peach comes through on the back of the tongue.  The finished product definitely resembles lemonade more closely than Yuengling, but not nearly so sweet.  With its light body, and fairly modest alcohol content, as well as its lovely tart flavor, this is about as good as a summer beer as you can find. 

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Where You See Lions: An Introduction

kenya.jpgHabari!

Why wouldn’t a person choose to spend nine weeks of their life without electricity, without running water, 7200 miles from home, living with a polygamist family who speak Kiluhya outside in their remote home in the village Shibuli, an hour’s travel from the closest “major” Kenyan city, Kakamega? I will seek to answer these questions as I uproot my life in the coming weeks to move to Shibuli and work at the Uzima Youth Foundation.

Contributing to the foundations already impressive programs, I will start a theater program for children who have been orphaned or affected by HIV/AIDS in the community. Do I know what I’m doing? Probably not. But it should be an interesting experience to say the least.

Additionally, I will be learning Swahili as I stay there. Although, when I return to the US, there will be a good chance I will have only mastered two phrases: Hapana (No) and Sielewi (I don’t understand).

I will try to update Where You See Lions (WYSL) as often as I can. However, my internet access will be limited due to the lack of electricity, so I may not be able to post from Kenya with my usual, ahem, clockwork regularity. It happens. Nevertheless, I will update as often as I can find opportunity.

In the meantime, enjoy your running water. Enjoy your lights at night. I will be typing by battery powered lamp.

Tutaonana (Goodbye).

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Filed under Travel, Where You See Lions

Self-Help 4: The Rockstar

The wait is over!

Introduction

Here it is, the how-to guide to becoming a rockstar. Surprisingly enough, being a rockstar has significantly more subtleties than being either a pirate or a ninja, so pay close attention you Slash/Steven Tyler/Gene Simmons wannabe’s.

The reason that it’s so much more difficult to fully engulf oneself into the rockstar mentality/lifestyle/degree of awesome is simple, there is just so much more known about it. Living in our time we know very little of what ninjas are/were really like (except for being totally awesome all the time), only what we read in books. Similarly, we can only read about what pirates really did (except for that one amazing news article that came about 15 months ago that highlighted real life pirates off the coast of Africa who raid Cruise Ships…yeah I remember it, yeah I’m a tool, get off me.) Anyway, rockstars are all around us, they permeate our lives and are easily identifiable, and like it that way. Part of being a rockstar is having everyone know that you are a rockstar and that you have no qualms about being absurd, wreaking havoc on your body, and fighting the proverbial “man” in some abstract fashion that your followers blindly accept but have no real understanding of. And as always, just so Mr. Thursday isn’t legally liable for you trying to pull a John Bonham and drinking 55 shots of whiskey before noon (yes, I will be name dropping all over the post, if you disagree with any of my decisions…well screw you, I’m not getting paid for this, and I can write whatever I want), here is our disclaimer:

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DISCLAIMER

Mr. Thursday (including, but not limited to, all the writers, support staff, office assistants, secretaries, janitors, Facebook friends, lunchtime gossip crew, multilingual translators, and people named Enrico) is not responsible or liable for any bodily harm inflicted upon the self, or others, coming as a result, whether direct or indirect, of any blatantly thoughtless acts, no matter how awesome, performed by the reader. Mr. Thursday denies that any of the following information is adequate justification to neglect personal health or hygiene in pursuit of rockstar status. After consulting our liability insurance lawyers, Mr. Thursday would also like to say that suicide notes blaming the government should be drafted and notarized before any attempts at becoming a rockstar. Should they be necessary, they are a good way to fight against the man, and should they not be necessary…well if you adhere to the following steps, they’ll be necessary.

Mr. Thursday recommends that before practicing on actual instruments, one should play the air guitar and air drums first to get acquainted with the instrument. It worked for Wyld Stallyns. Mr. Thursday cannot be held liable for any hearing defects that occur as a result of either incredibly loud music, or incredibly loud complaints by friends/family/neighbors/cops/animals/extraterrestrials. Mr. Thursday is not liable for any damage done to any cars forced to park in the street to make room for band equipment in the garage.

Mr. Thursday denies the efficaciousness of science and western medicine and only uses acupuncture. Mr. Thursday affirms that whiskey and beer are men’s drinks and fruity drinks are for womenfolk, womenfolk may drink a man’s drink, but the opposite crossover is frowned upon, heavily, there is very little room for exception to this. Mr. Thursday reluctantly denies that robots have been sent back in time to pose as humans, but finds artificial intelligence a very compelling excuse for Paris Hilton. Mr. Thursday denies that the Phillies will post their 10,000th loss this season, we firmly believes in miracles. Mr. Thursday denies that Pearl Jam is as good as they are credited as being, they’re talented, but we don’t see them as musical visionaries or deities or any other such nonsense. Mr. Thursday denies that the last Rage Against The Machine album ever happened, it has been placed in a box with Rocky V, SARS, Chaka Khan, and mini discs. Mr. Thursday would like to take credit for the destruction of the Berlin Wall, but cannot because he had absolutely nothing to do with it.

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Marble? Betelgeuse? Anatomy of a Rock Star.

You need to make sure not to allow yourself to be misled, there are a lot of people out there who want you to think they are rockstars. But real rockstardom is attained by the elite few who are able to willingly sacrifice their health, their bodies, their minds, and their sanity for their craft. Rockstars can be identified by not only their appearance, but what you hear about them. Rockstars do absurd and crazy things, not because they want you to know that they do crazy and absurd things, but because they just wanna know what it feels like. Quite the opposite of the controlled, focused, disciplined lifestyle of the ninja, rockstars rarely think about things before they do them, they are characterized by their lack of control, even in situations where what’s appropriate seems blatantly obvious, and they view discipline as a sign of “selling out to the man”. Many people in the news/tabloids/on the internet do wacky shit so people will hear about it and be impressed, real rockstars don’t give two shits to the wind what you think of them, they do what they want because they want, not because of what some nobody in squaresville might say or do in response to it.

This is not to imply that all rockstars are self-mutilating idiots. There are some who use their star power to do good, i.e. Bono, but they do it for the reasons above. People like Bono do what they do, not because they want you to think they’re awesome people and kind and generous and “wow he’s a real humanitarian”. They do it because they think that’s what should be done. Damn you if you disagree, this is what I wanna do and I’m gonna do it. The idea is not that they all act like miscreants and don’t care, it’s rather that their actions reflect solely their own desires and any exterior influence is minimal or negated. This also doesn’t mean to imply that all rockstars are outrageous. Sure, a lot of them do outrageous things, but that isn’t a necessary criteria for rockstardom. Guys like Steve Tyler rarely get interviewed for being over the top, but have a solid history of being rockstars through their attitude and lifestyle, some rockstars are just more extreme in their actions than others.

So without further adieu, Mr. Thursday presents the steps to rockstardom:

1:INSPIRATION

All rockstars at some point in their careers talk about their inspirations, these are the people they credit with instilling in them a desire to become a rockstar. In addition to the bands/music you like, there are certain movies you can watch for inspiration and certain you should stay away from. For example The Doors starring Val Kilmer and Jim Morrison (Yes, Val Kilmer, if I get one comment posted about this I will strike it out and change it) is a good film to watch to gauge what a rockstar should be. Watching Jack Black in School of Rock is a great way to find out what you SHOULDN’T DO. Here is a list of suggested movies Mr. Thursday thinks will aid you should you need help in discerning how a good rockstar icon will appear:

The Doors – Val kilmer as Jim Morrison
The Wall – Pink Floyd being…well…Pink Floyd
Rock Star – show love to Marky Mark
Detroit Rock City – Kiss.
Spinal Tap – this movie goes to 11
Almost Famous – I AM A GOLDEN GOD

Movies you should NOT watch:

School of Rock/the Pic of Destiny – Jack Black is the anti-rockstar
Hard Rock Zombies – take our word on this one
Stuck in the Suburbs – don’t ask, just know that this movie has some terrrrrrible rock icons.

I’m confident if you check out this list even marginally, you’ll get the gist of what we’re talking about here. Even if it is just as a foundation.

2. HAIR

Long, flowing, ragged, nothing says rock like an 80’s Hairband. But this isn’t completely necessary. Although lots of rockers through the ages have donned outrageous hair styles (and lets face it, they’re a lot more fun to watch than close cropped performers), artists like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel have never had hair that could’ve been put into a pony tail, yet anyone who questions the status of either of these men is a fool and has no place among the intelligent readers of the Curious Mechanism. So in conclusion, to be safe, let that mop grow and if you can make it wavy, that’s a plus. Look at Jimmy Page, Steve Perry, Slash, and the list could go on forever. Long hair wasn’t around at the beginning of rock, the Beatles didn’t sport it until they got really into drug use, and the Stones still have relatively average haircuts, thus it can NEVER be considered an essential criteria, it just helps a lot. Most rockstars view their hair as a badge of pride. They think it gives them character and separates them from the mundane, the average, and the boring. Can’t really argue with that, some of them are just plain incomprehensible. Best to make sure that your hair is an offshoot of your persona, don’t ever let your hair dictate who you are.

3.CLOTHING

This section is gonna be shorter, because it’s the man that makes the clothes, not vice versa. You just need to remember, dear reader, that your clothing has to match your attitude. If you wanna wear tight leather pants with a cheetah print, you better have the ‘tude to back them up. In general, rockstars and leather have always had a fond relationship. But rockstars have worn bellbottoms, they’ve worn skinny jeans, they’ve worn suits, they’ve come close to wearing nothing at all, they’ve been seen casual on stage, they’ve been seen dressed like a circus was in town that morning and they went wardrobe shopping. Just make sure that whatever you decide to wear, it reflects your attitude. Leather says “up for anything”, casual says “whatever man, I’m chillin”, a suit says “damn, i look good”, bellbottoms and loose flowing shirts say “you’ve GOTTA try this punch”. Act accordingly. Some rockstars take clothing to an extreme. Elton John wears a flamboyant pair of sunglasses every concert he puts on. Some bands always dress in white. Johnny Cash wore black. Kiss and Gwar have entire outfits and costumes that they wear on stage (and need we remind you what the village people dressed like?). While for the most part, this is kinda cool, it has to be done right. If done wrong, it will sink your career before it even takes off. You have to do this from the very beginning, you can’t pick up a costume motif after you become popular, it doesn’t work, and you can’t change one if you have one. So if you’re dead set on this, pick something that’s never been done before. Mr. Thursday’s suggestion: perform every concert and show you put on in a garbage bag dress. people will be certainly talk about it, and free publicity is always helpful.

4. LIFESTYLE

This is the hardest part of being a rockstar to wrap your head around, mostly because up till now, anyone can do it. Anyone can grow out their hair, watch a few movies about totally awesome rockstars, and wear leather pants and a tight shirt. This is where you’ve gotta separate yourself from the masses. Because only a handful of people actually have what it takes to unwittingly live their lives as rockstars. Some quick role models:

Keith Richards – the quintessential rockstar, is rumored to have snorted a line a cocaine mixed with the ashes of his father. Been playing music for 40+ years, done more drugs than Colombia exports in an entire year. Amazing musician, loves to party, loves his job, wouldn’t consider anything else, ever.
Billy Joel – completely different sound than Keith Richard but same mentality. Been performing for decades. Been in alcohol rehab more times than Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson. Married a woman younger than his daughter. Amazing musician, loves to party, loves his job.
Paul McCartney – Similar musically to Richards and Joel in different stages of his life. Like Richards, one of the pioneers of rock music, been performing for decades. Mr. Thursday will confess a degree of ignorance into the drug history of McCartney, however, it is assumed that he’s been known to partake in a little narcotic euphoria at some point in his life. Known affinity for booze. Not afraid to put the ex in her place. Amazing musician, loves to party, loves his job.

Are you getting the trend here?

To own this lifestyle, to really assimilate it into your persona, you cannot be normal. Allowing, of course, that no tangible or quantifiable definition of “normal” can ever be made or drafted, normal – for our intents and purposes – means commonplace. You shouldn’t be common, you should be unique, and not in that “my mommy says I’m special” kinda way. People should stare at you, even if it’s just your picture, they should be able to despise you and secretly envy you. Your lack of regard for the rules or conventions should be legendary, bite the head off a bat once in a while, snort a line of coke laced with ashes of a relative, try to drink an entire handle of alcohol before noon, write albums that sync up with old movies, do whatever you want to do without inhibition. Everybody has the urge to be spectacular (and spectacular is not always a positive thing, it merely means deviating from the ordinary), but most people are too insecure and afraid to be extraordinary. Rockstars have no fear, they will get up on stage and dry hump a speaker wearing leather pants and a velvet top hat and nothing else, clearly fear is not an option, whether its a natural aversion to fear or a chemically induced inhibitionless state, which brings us to the next bullet point.

5. ALCOHOL AND DRUGS

Alcohol and drugs do not a rockstar make, but they sure help. I will probably never endorse drug usage, and i will constantly endorse alcohol usage (responsibly) but the two of them mixed together are a pretty common combination for the heavily musically inclined. IF I were to ever espouse drug usage it would be for the sake of being a rockstar, but not all rockstars should take the same drugs, I find this to be self-evident. Different positions in the band require different effects to bring out their rockstar side. Guitarists, for example, often prefer drugs like acid, LSD, or other hallucinogens which bring out their creative side. Drummers, on the other hand, prefer drugs like meth, which amplifies the power they get from beating their drums. And singers/frontmen prefer the uppers like cocaine, because they enjoy running all over stage sweating like pigs, talking a mile a minute, and never getting tired.

BE VERY CAREFUL WHILE EXPERIMENTING WITH NARCOTICS, many of the greats died before their time because of their love of the drug culture. I won’t start naming because I won’t be able to stop. You don’t wanna be put into a category with those people. As wonderful as their music was, and is, it is never cool to die young.

6. ONSTAGE ANTICS

We’ve all heard about (and I’ve even previously mentioned) Ozzie biting the head off a bat onstage, Rage Against the Machine starting a riot against their own event security, more riots being started by The Who, Mick Jagger so coked out he actually appears to be on both sides of the stage at once because hes running back and forth so much, countless singers diving into the crowd, spraying water (or something liquid) onto the front rows, or making faces like they’re rapidly approaching an orgasm while singing. A rockstar wants the spotlight, he/she really wants you to focus on them, their bread and butter is the excitement of the crowd. When you are up on stage, you are an icon, a giant, a God. You’ve gotta attract people’s attention like a wounded gazelle attracts lions on the Serengeti, and then you’ve gotta hold it like zombie’s watching fireworks (Mr. Thursday assumes that everyone reading his blog is familiar with sky flowers). You want people to be so into what you’re doing that they don’t even notice they’ve loosened their bladder and urinated on those unfortunate enough to be standing closeby.

Nowadays, there are also those screens and monitors that keep the ever-decreasing attention span of America’s youth focused on all the lights and colors on the stage. While sometimes these are interesting, it is the opinion of Mr. Thursday that these should be done away with. As with baseball, Mr. Thursday is a rock n’ roll purist. Keep the attention on the band, not on technology. Ozzie bit the head off a bat just so you’d watch, there was no cgi involved. Mr. Thursday’s suggestion: always have no less than 8 giant iguanas walking around on stage, they’re slow enough that they can’t all run away fast so you won’t need to constantly refill the stage with them, and it’s just wacky enough to keep people guessing what’s gonna happen next, ESPECIALLY if you’re wearing a garbage bag dress.

7. THE BALLAD

You need to have at least one song, acoustic, that shows your softer, more sensitive side. Of course this is just a ploy to get the ladies, but they don’t know that, so viola! ladies will be lining up to get a chance to see your sweet side, intimately. This will be your put-your-lighter-in-the-air song. The one that defies the genre. It doesn’t have to be a soft rock lullaby, Zeppelin did it with stairway, you can still rock out in your soft song, but a good bit of it has to be melodic and not thrashing, pleasant but not boring, intricate yet subtle, possibly even in major chords yet still sympathetic. Even if it’s a song that in no way reflects your musical career, it will be one of the more remembered. Think of it like this: rockstars…are like onions…they have layers, the only difference is that onions make you cry when you cut them, rockstars make you cry when they pull their limos over and leave you in the middle of the desert for not performing lewd sexual acts. Simple, no?

P.S. anytime someone asks you about the ballad, always answer the same way…
“Yeah, I wrote that when I was going through a really rough time in my life…” SAY NOTHING ELSE. People will eat it up, you haven’t said anything but they’ll assume you were contemplating suicide and on the verge of overdosing or jumping off a tall building, everyone sensationalizes rockstars, use that to your advantage.

8. ROADIES

Pay them in tickets and pork rinds.

9.METHOD OF TRANSPORTATION

Legends are born on the bus. Only take the plane if absolutely necessary. Get a bus or take the train.

The last two points I’m going to address represent such finesse that many wannabes cannot handle them with the grace/poise/ and sheer brilliance required to pull them off. They are delicate matters, and must be addressed appropriately, for fear of mass ridicule – the death of the rock star. Think of attention as your life force, you can only survive while people pay attention to you. Now be careful not to confuse this idea with the fact that you don’t really care what people think of you, you do what you want. But what you want should keep the public interested in you. These last two things you need to perfect will certainly keep you in the public eye, but poor execution of them will make sure that its a burning inferno of attention for a short burst, then you are forgotten for eternity. I am, of course, speaking of the band break up, and the solo album.

10. THE BREAK UP

ALL BANDS WILL BREAK UP, whether it be to differences, death, loss of interest, going away to college, inability to pay the bills, or moving on with life. The Rolling Stones will break up, Aerosmith will break up, Pearl Jam will break up. The Beatles are gone, The Who has passed, and Led Zeppelin is no more. This is a musical eventuality, and preparation is key. A lot of band break-ups are spontaneous, which is why you should know and rehearse what you are going to say when it happens. You need to be in control of the situation. There is a formula here, stay with me:

You’re sitting on the top of the world, ladies are lining up to jump into the sack with you, concerts are sold out all over the world, your first album just hit double platinum. Everyone is drinking dom and snorting yay, the critics love you, you “blend emotion and passion into melodic minors and energetic majors while not betraying the voice of the people who give you your fame. You are truly prophetic in your lyrics and musically beyond your time”. Nothing could get better, your video debuted at #1 on TRL and Jessica Biel just left a message on your cell phone to give her a call back as soon as you can. Life is good. Your tour ends. You relax with the nice big fat bonus check your label gave you for the hard work you’ve been doing having sex with 6 girls at a time, doing lots of narcotics, and doing a 2 hour concert every 3 days for 2 months.

A few months pass and a new band is rising into stardom, sonic death monkey (or whatever you choose to call your band, the name of the band doesn’t really have a TON to do with the making of the rockstar, so it isn’t addressed here) is starting to fade in the public eye. The video is off TRL, Jessica Biel is shagging JT again, the album sales have plateaued and are slipping, the singles aren’t receiving as much radio time. This was inevitable, the passage of time brings new talent. So the label calls you and says it’s time to get back in the studio and come up with album #2, sure to be a hit. A few months later it’s finished and you’re back on top. The critics think you’re “a refreshing oasis in a desert of talentless dribble. A true homage to musical creativity and genius”. Biel is back on speed dial and Carson Daly (does he still do TRL, I feel like he doesn’t but I’ll take a chance here) is singing your praises again.

But the fleeting fame fades again and sure enough new albums come out, monopolize radio time and you’re back on the list of bands to play once the new stuff gets too saturated. So you make a 3rd album, a 4th, a 5th. By now the critics have turned on you, “sonic death monkey seems to have boiled their talent on a spoon and injected it into their arm instead of their hearts and heads. This stagnant, boring album combines all the musical talent of a giraffe and a chainsaw. All their songs sound the same, a once fresh and vibrant band is now struggling to keep up in a genre that is leaving them in the dust, they should do the music community a favor and stop producing albums.” Jess changed her number, Carson tries to make jokes about your band’s poor album sales but fails miserably. The label is pissed off cuz you couldn’t deliver. And now is your chance. As the public starts to forget about this piss poor album you’ve created you seize the moment. While the band is all complaining and grumbling, trying to figure out what happened with the album you start shouting “You’re all holding me back! I’ve surpassed all of you! I’m being suffocated by your mediocrity!” This gives you the upper hand, because you left them. It wasn’t mutual, it wasn’t for the best. It was you who claimed superiority, and that will come in handy later. It is now their incompetence that sunk the band, not your inability. This leads directly into the solo album.

11. THE SOLO ALBUM

If your solo album doesn’t sell, kiss your ass goodbye. You’ll always be an asshat who ditched his band when things got rough and couldn’t cut it on his own. But if you can pull it off, you’ll get the credit for the good albums, you won’t get blamed for the bad ones, the people will adore you again, and you can remain a rock icon. The risk is worth the reward, and you don’t think things through, remember? In this album at least a couple songs have to be significantly different than those played by the band. Some can be similar, but try to establish yourself as superior in anyway you can. Talk incessantly in interviews about how rejuvenated you feel, how fresh and excited you are to be back in action and all that nonsense, the critics will eat it up. Hopefully you’ve saved enough money to buy some critics love and affection (unlikely since you’re a rockstar and haven’t thought that far ahead). So you have to sweet talk the critics a little bit, suck up, and win their love. A good album wouldn’t hurt you either. But if you can pull off the solo album, you will be set. You can tour with other bands, or by yourself, you can invite others to be featured on your album, the horizon is the limit. Just don’t overdose on heroin before you’re 35.

So here it is ladies and gents, this is your guide to becoming a rockstar. It had to be a bit more exhaustive but it is a sure-fire way to get in that hall of fame.

Oh, one last piece of advice, don’t ever take lessons…you know…to learn how to actually play your instrument or sing. Real rockstars don’t need no instructions to know how to rock.

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Do They All Die?: “The Elephant Man”

dtat.jpgTC is cracking the whip now that he’s decided to blog again. This is all well and good except back at the ranch, my mother is also cracking the whip. From when my eyes open at 8:00 AM, there are a thousand things to do and none of them feature me at a computer writing about a movie (it goes without saying that none of these thousand things are me sitting at a television watching said movie). So I’ve been conforming to my mother’s demands all day and now I yield to TC’s. I was born free and am everywhere in chains.  [Edit. Note: For all his whining, young Master Andrew has, in fact, skipped the last three of his “weekly” columns with barely a peep from me.]

As is so often the case, Rousseau has provided us with a handy transition to this week’s film: David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980). After the break, we’ll talk about David Lynch and the Industrial Revolution.

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Especially You, Hedonism Bot! Don De Dieu.

hedonism_bot.jpgOur first forays into Good Beer were through Mama and Papa Thursday. Mama drinks mostly wine, but enjoys an occasional Amstel Light. Pops enjoys Miller Genuine Draft, though before that there was, I believe, George Killian’s Irish Red, and before that, Moosehead. One day–I don’t recall if it a birthday, or holiday, or anniversary, Pops brought home a case of Chimay Grand Reserve, more commonly known as Chimay Blue. He informed his children that this was the World’s Greatest Beer. In response to why he did not drink it often, he said that this beer runs about 4-5 times the price of his usual cases. It’s a special occasion brew.

Regardless, we took this information to heart, and years later, when drinking at a pub in Boston one afternoon, noticed that, low and behold, there sits Chimay Blue. For seven American dollars. For an 11 ounce bottle. Whatever–barkeep, pour me this lovely brew!I loved it. And thus started a serious interest in other forms of Ben Franklin’s favorite beverage. I spend as much money on beer as your average functioning drunk, but I drink one or two beers a couple of times a week. I enjoy my brews.

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