Archive for April, 2012
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing on April 12, 2012
In Slayer’s song Blood Red, singer Tom Araya bellows forth a challenging and powerful lyric that cuts to the core of today’s debate between a managed, centralized economy and a free market system where the “invisible hand” balances the wants and needs of the consumer against the production capabilities of the market. When he shrieks “Honest validation of unfair cheese” at the 41 second mark of the song, it is clear that he is undercutting a basic free-market premise posited by thinkers the likes of Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek. The words are enlightening and deeply meaningful, particularly for an electorate on the cusp of deciding what sort of financial decisions it plans to make as it marches forward into a new millennium.
In order to understand the meaning behind Araya’s lyric, it is first critical that we understand the meaning of “unfair cheese”. Nothing is more disappointing to a lover of cheese than when, upon returning from the supermarket, a shopper finds moldy, poorly preserved cheese in their bag. Who is supposed to ensure the consumer is safe from a flood of this “unfair cheese”? If the supermarket is left to its own devices, it might well sell all the out of date cheese it could possibly get away with. After all, as Buddy Holly said in his 1981 hit song “Who is watching the detectives?” In this case, maybe we need someone to even watch the people who are watching the detectives. Or, it is possible we may need to hire detectives to watch the detectives who are watching the detectives.
Back to the cheese thing. If it weren’t for the Better Food and Cheese Act of 1938, under the esteemed and underappreciated Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, humans would be consuming pounds upon pounds of rotting, vile cheese. The Act empowered the police to arrest and jail any store clerk found selling “unfair cheese” for a period no less than five years in prison. Higher quality cheeses began to appear. Productivity flourished. It was during this period that Gorgonzola cheese was first produced in a laboratory. It was originally meant to be used as a weapon against the Soviet Union, but later it became appreciated for its velvety texture and tangy flavor. In the preceding two hundred years, America’s cheese growers had not produced as much as a single new breed of cheese.
So, when Araya asks for “honest validation of unfair cheese”, he’s really questioning whether a purely free market can produce the quality goods needed in a modern economy. Sure, it’d be nice to believe that the market is such a perfect force that can correct itself and keep the desires of its members in line, but it’s this sort of utopian thinking that caused the Great Wall of China to fall in 1990.
We cannot simply rely on market forces to purify the market. Human nature tells us that humans, in a perfect state of nature, will do some really unnatural things. In short, only a neutral arbitrator with no stake in the outcome can possibly make decisions that protect the consumer.
Only when the positions of these regulators are depoliticized and not influenced by corporations or individuals with expensive cars will we truly see an “honest validation of unfair cheese”. Only then will children of all races and all creeds, of all nationalities and all socio-economic backgrounds, of all hair styles and all blood types be able to sit down at the table of friendship together and eat the same safe and healthy cheese. Only then will we truly be free.
Metal fans are rejoicing today as one of the most iconic fictional bands of the 1980s, Deathtöngue, is finally inducted into the Imaginary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As pioneers of imaginary metal, Deathtöngue had a lasting influence on non-reality-based musical history.
Based in Bloom County, USA, the band’s lineup featured Bill The Cat on lead tongue, Opus The Penguin on electric tuba, and that guy whose name we can never remember but we think he might have been a woodchuck or a beaver or something. Band manager Steve Dallas wrote most of their music, which included the hit singles “Snail Snot From Satan,” “Demon Drooler of the Sewer,” “Leper Lover,” and “Let’s Run Over Lionel Ritchie With A Tank.” Never afraid of controversy, the band famously one-upped Ozzy Osbourne when, live on stage, Bill The Cat bit the head off a roadie.
Deathtöngue’s innovative tongue-based sound was never successfully imitated by any other group. “They really paved the way for a lot of modern imaginary metal,” says imaginary fan Mike Wilson, of East Armpit, Alabama. “When you talk about imaginary metal in the ’80s, most people think of the well-known groups like Spinal Tap or Wyld Stallyns, but Deathtöngue was right up there too. Today, we just wouldn’t have ugly obnoxious jerks such as William Murderface [bassist for imaginary metal superstars Dethklok] if Bill The Cat hadn’t been there 25 years before, showering audiences with spittle, hate, and incoherent songs about pus-filled pimples.”
The band broke up in the late ’80s, reformed briefly as Billy And The Boingers, and broke up again after a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior from its tongue player that included reading the Bible and experimenting with politics and televangelism. Attempts to contact any surviving members of the band were unsuccessful.
The Imaginary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was built in 2009 to recognize the significant impact of imaginary music on modern society.
“No other single genre has had such a major effect,” said Hall of Fame spokesman Rufus. “In fact, a recent survey of well-known musicians showed that in 100% of cases, their very first musical experiences were in that genre. Whether we’re talking about Eric Clapton’s early performances on a tennis racket while jumping on his bed at the age of seven, or Dave Lombardo shrieking randomly while beating the sides of his highchair with a half-eaten hot dog, all had one thing in common: solid early training in pretending to be the best freakin’ musician ever.”
Rufus said there were numerous challenges in creating the Hall of Fame. “In many cases, because of the imaginary nature of the music, we do not have actual recordings that can be shown to the public,” he said. “But we find that most visitors understand these constraints. One of our most popular recent exhibits was a retrospective of the supergroup Blast Radius, formed in Wales in 1997 by 13-year-old Joey Thomas. As we all know, Blast Radius featured Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads on guitars, Keith Moon on drums, Chewbacca from Star Wars on bass, Rob Halford as backup vocalist, and Joey Thomas himself as lead vocalist.”
“While there is no surviving audio or video of Blast Radius’s performances, we were able to display the band’s logo, which was drawn by Thomas in the margins of his geography homework. It was a tremendously successful exhibit, with all visitors saying they learned a lot about Blast Radius and agreed it was one of the best imaginary bands of all time, especially after Thomas departed the band and was replaced by themselves.”
The induction of Deathtöngue will be marked by a special exhibit that will include a bottle of Bill The Cat’s verminous cocaine-laced urine, some of Steve Dallas’s hair grease, and a tuba similar to the one played by Opus. All admission fees will be donated to a charity that provides spaceship-themed wheelchairs to disabled veterans.
“The board of trustees of the Imaginary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame extend their warmest congratulations to Deathtöngue on this most excellent occasion,” said Rufus. “As a proud Imaginary-American myself, I am happy to see our nation hosting the world’s greatest repository of music that doesn’t even exist in any meaningful way but would be awesome if it did.”
Guest reporter Carrie Patrick plays both real and imaginary guitar. On the latter instrument, she was recently voted Greatest And Best-Looking Player Of All Time for the 30th consecutive year, by a panel of international experts who live in her head.
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing on April 8, 2012
So there I was, participating in that most shameful American rituals, the Easter Egg Hunt. Swarms of children knocking each other over, screeching at the tops of their lungs in the desperate hopes of laying their greedy little mitts on as many plastic eggs as they possibly can. The whole exercise functions as a wonderful metaphor for American style consumer capitalism. A bunch of wild-eyed humans released upon an uneven field with the goal of filling their baskets with as much stuff as possible. Sure, everybody gets something, but those who are bigger, stronger, faster and, most importantly, start at the front of the line tend to get more. All the while, this being a function of one of the local mega-churches, crackpot religious explanations are given for nearly everything.
“You know who really put these eggs out here, son? Jesus Christ. See, he works through us. Remember that when you are eating those Skittles,” muttered a used car salesman looking church elder with game show host hair.
It was around that moment that I realized that if I didn’t put my headphones on immediately and listen to something angry I was going to tear my shirt off and run around howling like Lon Chaney. These were the exact conditions under which I came into contact with the new Cancer Bats album “Dead Set On Living”.
I should admit up front that this hardcore punk metal hybrid thing never really did much for me. Around the time Hatebreed and Converge were coming out I was busy trying to prove to the world that I was so metal that unless it came out in Europe, was from a band that had been around since Carter was President or had been approved by at least six members of the Central Committee that I couldn’t be bothered it. It is really a shame, because I missed some pretty intense music and probably would have been easier to be around had I been a tad more open-minded.
Listening to the driving groove of the opening track “R.A.T.S” while watching a husky five-year-old girl rip an egg out of the hands of some pigtailed three year old seemed particularly fitting. The whole scene was menacing. The tone of the album helped me imagine the children turning into brain-thirsty zombies. Somehow, instead of the eggs being filled with the sugar-laced, sunshine of God’s love, they were contaminated with some CIA tested drug that morphs children into predatory beasts.
The Cancer Bats singer Liam Cormier takes some getting used to. He’s of the high pitched death wail school, which usually makes me a bit edgy. It gets better as the album goes on, particularly because he offsets it from time to time with an almost David Lee Rothian snarl. The guitars are what really what grab you. They tend to create short, punchy, memorable riffs that carry you endlessly forward and flow from a nearly bottomless pit of energy. About three listens to this record are all you need to be thirsting for it every second of the day.
Meanwhile, the kids began to get this panicked look around the time they realized the eggs were nearly gone. Something like the expression they’ll have in twenty years when they are sitting in their car waiting to get gas for three hours. I cranked the music louder steeling myself for some sort of toddler riot. I knew I could handle a few of them, but if the whole group turned on me they’d tear me to ribbons. Finally, mercifully, the eggs had all been collected and the mob was redirected with little violence towards a sea of bouncy castles in the church parking lot.
The whole experience was perplexing for me. Here I was, surrounded by all that is supposedly good and right with the world. Except every bit of it felt dirty and degrading. The only thing that seemed remotely moral to me was the driving rhythm of the music in my headphones. I sunk into a moment of genuine despair as I realized that I might never be able to reconcile my values with those of my culture. Maybe I was an alien. Maybe I was simply wired wrong. Would I ever be able to understand how people could find joy in moments like this? Then, out of nowhere, my beautiful three-year-old daughter took my hand, looked at me and smiled. And everything was okay.
For most people, having one liver removed is a torturous affair that leaves them with months of painful recovery. Yesterday afternoon, Lemmy Kilmister became the first man to ever have both livers removed at the same time. The marathon 6-hour surgery was followed by a half hour of recovery, dinner at a local bar and a 2-hour set of classic Motorhead tunes at The Rock Center, a metal club in downtown Pocatello, Idaho.
Doctors advised Lemmy to take at least three months off from performing, but his commitment to playing heavy metal was too great to hold him back. “I didn’t want to let the fans in Idaho down. After all, what do they really have to live for beyond the occasional concert?” said Lemmy this morning during his 3-hour weightlifting session.
Lemmy is no stranger to overcoming medical emergencies and soldiering on. Everyone is, of course, familiar with the time that in 1983 in Antwerp, Belgium he was mauled on stage by 15 pit bulls and continued to play his bass in spite of missing 9 fingers.
Who could forget the time the Chinese government accidentally detonated a nuclear bomb at a test facility 1,000 meters away from a Motorhead concert in Shanghai in 1988? Everyone within a radius of 12 miles was killed except Lemmy, who went on to play the entire Orgasmatron album from beginning to end to an arena filled with annihilated corpses.
However, because of Lemmy’s advanced age, going on stage after a surgery of this type may be his greatest feat.
Doctors are baffled as to how a man who has done so much damage to his body continues to exist. There were rumors as recently as 2003 that he was killed and replaced by a Lemmy-like robot, but several doctors have done independent tests to prove that he is a human. There was also rampant speculation that Lemmy has regularly been shooting the DNA of famed Russian monk Rasputin directly into his arm in the hopes of becoming indestructible, but this also has not been confirmed.
Some researchers have reasoned that it is possible that consuming the amount of Jack Daniels that he has ingested over his lifetime has actually made his body impervious to harm of any kind. Regardless of what his secret is, it is very possible that Lemmy cannot be destroyed by traditional means and will live on well into the next millennium.
Vinnie Stigma has been many things in his long and intriguing life. The enigmatic guitar player from Agnostic Front has been an actor in the hit film New York Blood, a professional stunt car driver and even the Secretary of Agriculture in the state of Oklahoma for a short time in the 90s. However, few people expected his recent career change. Stigma has become a renowned children’s author.
“You know, I was thinkin’ about how stupid kids are today with all of the hugging and sharing nonsense they get in the schools. I want to rap them upside the head with a newspaper and say ‘What’s a matter with you?’ So, I wrote this book to help them not be so freakin’ dumb. Teach’em some stuff that could make them so they don’t get their skulls smashed in everyday and whatnot,” said Stigma on the steps of his Brooklyn townhouse.
The book, which is the story of five streetwise but cuddly rabbits from Coney Island, takes place on the seedy streets of New York after dark. The rabbits are drawn to a convention of animals that takes place in the Bronx where they discuss a truce between all the other animals in the city. However, after the wise fox named Cyrus who called the meeting is gunned down, the Rabbits are pursued by the other animals who believe they killed him.
Most of the story centers on their journey back to Coney Island and their battles with rival groups of animals for survival. The climax of the book is an all out fight between the rabbits and the rats out on Coney Island Beach. Reviewers are already excited about the book, comparing his work to early Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.
“Stigma has written a beautiful parable for the ages,” remarked noted New York Times critic Dwight Garner, “he captures all of the magic and beauty that children experience when hitting another child in the head with a tire iron for the first time.”
James Wood, book reviewer for The New Yorker, was even more effusive in his praise.
“Young people today are just too soft,” wrote Wood, “this book teaches them important life skills like how to hotwire a car and how to make a Molotov cocktail. Things that our liberalized school systems have omitted from their curriculums in the name of political correctness.”
“I Thought You Were My Friend” is intended for children 3 to 7 and includes pop-up police snakes along with scratch and sniff sewers and subway cars. However, Stigma believes the book will resonate with everyone, from toddlers to adults.
“Wanting to beat and maim someone because they are in your way is a simple human characteristic,” said Stigma. “If adults don’t read this book, fine. I’ll go to their house, put my knee into their chest and read it to them. People need to understand that this book has an important and timeless message and if I have to give a beating to every single American to get the message across, that’s what I’m going to do.”