Better before…

I have gotten older. NO, that is not earth shattering news, neither is it the most original way to start a blog post. I completely get the obvious reasons of how I know I have gotten older. I can’t get up off the floor (after sitting there eating hot dogs and watching the “Squidbillies”) as quickly. I turn the volume up on the radio and television (not because I like blast it for effect) because I can’t hear the damn thing. However, there are little things that strike you out of the blue, things that are so random or so nonobvious that it strikes you deep and hard. Pop culture and technology do not cause this effect on me generally. Music,on the other hand, does affect me with an “oldness” at times. It has nothing to do with the idea of not knowing new bands or songs; I was late hearing about Justin Bieber and his supposed fever. This does not make me feel old, this makes feel like mature. Here is what makes me feel old:

I no longer know if a band has “sold out” or not. I listen to music, I listen to a lot of music. My tastes have not necessarily matured…Lady Ga Ga is on my iPod. What I no longer possess is the ability to compare a musicians’ music to what was before. This blog is the result of seeing numerous Internet boards about “sell out” bands, and even though I knew 95% of the bands being so labeled…I had no idea the bands had sold out. Korn, Fall Out Boy, and Blink 187 doesn’t make me say the following “…better before…” I have no reference point, no historical moment where I believed these band were better before…

The cherub was smoking right there in Wal-Mart; it was Van Halen’s “1984.” At the time, and at first glance, I thought it was a small child smoking. I know my mom thought it was a small child (probably would now if you showed her the album cover today). My memory is fuzzy, but I think there was some chattering from parent and church groups about this cover art. When you went in Fayetteville, Tennessee’s “old” Wal-Mart (they have a Super Wal-Mart now…they’re uptown that way today) the albums and cassettes were to the left. I can still picture that album sitting there out in the aisle…it screamed “new music! new music!”…nothing is better than new music from one of your favorite bands.

Cherub’s smoking, or the idea behind VH’s “1984” cover isn’t what had me and my fellow 8th grade head bangers talking. The presence of synthesizers is what had us chattering. Certain things causes 8th graders and 40-year-old men to have enlightened discussions about the before and after. Bands and musicians, at least popular ones, usually have a certain album, or time, where their fans decide to stay or go (or, at least, to grudgingly listen). At minimum, these musicians do something that causes a fault line among their devout. VH’s use of synthesizers is one of those fault lines.

“Jump” and its synthesizers is still a great song and I fell into the “VH is still a badass band.” It took balls to put the synthesizer on that album. Remember, New Wave was the synthesizer sound and New Wave wasn’t badass…it was cool (to some…the ones who thought the weepy androgynous sound was cool…and yes Motley Crue was androgynous too…but they were WAY badass). So, by using synthesizers on “1984,” VH attempted to expand their sound (not much…I mean they were still singing about getting nookie) and this proved their badassness. Others felt VH had sold out; they were no longer cool…those “others” are wrong by the way.

A few years later the discussion of “better before” would rear its ugly head once more in reference to VH. Damn you Sammy Hagar. I like the Red Rocker and I even have that Pepsi commercial song on my iPod, but this isn’t badass VH. This is just another sorta long-haired rock group from that grey period at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of 1990s (this grey period is titled “right before Nirvana”). VH was better before David Lee Roth left…this is true.

Another significant discussion in the “better before” arena is…Metallica was/wasn’t better before they cut their hair. Now I have never really thought about how the collective Metallica can be a Samson and lose their badassness by cutting their hair, but I know a lot of people do. If cutting or losing hair is a sign of “no longer rocking it” then I am totally not rocking it. Some of you might remember that I once had a sweet bitchin’ flow. My bangs rocked to my chin, I had that whole head jerk motion down! In one quick nod I could remove my glorious (thick) bangs from my eyes. Now I cut my hair to stubble (male pattern baldness causes you to make an important decision…be a douchebag who uses Rograine or just cut your hair). On a related point, in 1984 David Lee Roth was showing signs of male pattern baldness.

Why is it a musical sin to mature? Are we mad that musicians develop and change? Does anyone get pissed at you when you move your life in a different direction? WTF people! VH (old and new members) and Metallica are bands whose members are older than me. If they didn’t mature I think I would just pity them. Nobody likes OLD immature dudes, those type of guys are the old drunks at bars that smell bad and sport trucker ball caps (with no irony).

We are mad at these bands for maturing or changing because it reminds us that life isn’t eternal and that we, too, will mature and age. We buy their albums, we go to their concerts (and drink so much vodka that we throw up in a paper bag that was on the floor of your cousins 87 Bronco…but Bon Jovi rocked!), we worship these bands…we want to be them (I still want to be Rob Halford of Judas Priest and I do know he is gay….get over it! That dude is fuckin’ BADASS). BUT we don’t want them to change…that seems unfair. I’m aware that life isn’t fair, but bands and musicians can mature and someone is going to buy their music.

I have sold out. I work for the man. I enjoy keeping others down. I have a good job and I pay taxes. I own a home. I go to bed (to READ) at 9pm. It’s life. I am old and I have no idea how the Offspring have sold out.

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Dark Sludge, or Crap I’ve Observed

I am totally aware that I am an iconoclast. Partial self-awareness allows me to understand that I go out of my way to question authority, superstitions, beliefs, and traditions. People build them up, I bang the foundation with a ball peen hammer to test its foundation. To some it is part of my charm. Obnoxious is what others would say. I am here to pound a ball peen hammer against a few things.

Lately I have seen a couple of things that have stuck in my mental spaghetti strainer (you know…that mesh in your brain that daily crap filters through and when examined you see this dark sludge that is too big to make it through the holes). These things are insignificant and have no real meaning, unless some ignorant blogger attempts to find some meaning. Damn you ignorant bloggers!

Note: This is going to be published with little review. I am purging here. Read it as nothing more than eccentric ranting.

Fayetteville, North Carolina, is “America’s Hometown.” How do I know this? At mile marker 51 (going south) on I-95 there is a big billboard that proclaims it. It even has a pseudo-waving American flag that emphasizes Fayetteville’s Americana importance. I am assuming the Fayetteville, NC, Chamber of Commerce is behind this fancy piece of patriotism. It is not satirically, nor is it ironically patriotic. It is straight on all-you-can-eat buffet patriotism. Step up and enjoy America’s Hometown. See all that is good about America. Another assumption is that the designation of “America’s Hometown” is a good thing. I guess a town wouldn’t want to advertise this if it meant something negative. Now I am not spun up on my Fayetteville, NC, history…but I think the Roanoke colony (empty and not on a map) or Jamestown, Virginia, has better claim on the whole hometown thing. I remember seeing a similar sign in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1994. It didn’t have the pseudo-waving flag though. Lawton and Fayetteville do have a thing in common though, they are both the sites of U.S. Army bases. Maybe the whole military installation thing allows for such historically wrong proclamations.

Hall exercise walkers at my work are goofy. It is 80 degrees, the sun is shining, DC is a very walkable city with great sites, and if you use the stairs to leave and enter the building…well then you have added a stairmaster to your workout routine. The white calf length socks add to the whole visual I get when you move by with your arms pumping. There is one guy who actually wears a headband. He is definitely one of the male models in Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video. I know you are thinking that I should be glad they are exercising, and wondering why I would have issue with this display of get healthiness. I have issue because they give me dirty looks, as if my using the hallway is impeding their attempt at good living. My sneer probably doesn’t help in establishing a congenial relationship. Again…it is fucking nice outside.

I’ve become the nutty professor. When explaining to people about my work place I describe my coworkers as that college professor they had with the stacks of papers, newspaper clippings, and books. For added affect, some of my coworkers really have blazers with patches on the elbows. Here we deal with the minutia of policy, legislation, and the workings of government. You wanna know who won what election on what political platform, I can point out a colleague who can provide every detail of such campaign. My colleague can then tell you a specific section of a specific public law that politician rammed through. In the past 3 weeks I have caught myself quoting specific pieces of legislation. Also, I have a giant pile of paper, newspaper clippings, and books on my desk. Additionally, I constantly have discussions with coworkers about mundane details of unimportant stuff. For the record, I do not have a PhD. But I work as an academic and I do teach a graduate college course on bullshit.

Billy Ray Cyrus can kiss my ass. This honest and heartfelt sentiment has nothing to do with his “Achy Breaky Heart.” It has nothing to do with his 1980s/90s mullet (actually he is my favorite mulleted musician of all times). It has to do with his being the narrator of a show about military homecomings. BRC is in cahoots with the liberal and fascist news media. Every time I turn around someone is trying to show me some service member reuniting with their kids, spouse, and pets. None of this shit is any of our business. I am overjoyed about their homecoming. I intimately know the feeling of reuniting with family members and I would never allow anyone to film nor exploit it for commercial gain. BRC, the news media, and corporate America don’t give a shit about these people, they give a shit about ratings and the possibility of making money off this important event. Want a good show? Have a show where consumers get to meet the owner/president/CEO of some company that has provided crappy service or product, and then the consumer gets 3 minutes to beat the shit out of the owner/president/CEO who would be tied to a chair. I would thoroughly enjoy that show.

Important note…what does not irritate me: Dunn, NC, proclaims itself the “Dump Truck Capitol of the World.” Something about this sort of proclamation seems valid and I bet they have the data to prove it. I feel better knowing this piece of trivia.

9-11’s Tin Anniversary

Former President George W. Bush, in a National Geographic Channel interview, admits he and his administration had no strategy following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. I understand this completely. American Presidents have rarely had a coherent foreign policy strategy. President Thomas Jefferson paid a ransom to the Barbary pirates and sent in the Marines (…you should be humming the USMC hymn now “from the shores of Tripoli…”), President James Madison waffled on British attacks on U.S. shipping and which resulted in the War of 1812, and President William Clinton assumed there was a peace dividend at the end of the Cold War and deployed American troops to a bunch of shitty places (I spent 18 months of my life in one of these muddy shitholes) for no other reason than it “felt” like it was the right thing to do. American foreign policy and strategy is rarely neat and coherent. Historically, it has been disparate and uncoordinated. Blind men boxing in the dark is an accurate of American foreign policy history.

Strategist, in public, won’t admit this. In private, numerous strategist pine for the good ol’ Cold War days. George Kennan, while at the National War College, wrote (as Mr. X) and designed the most coherent U.S. foreign policy that lasted almost 50 years; Mr. X developed the U.S. containment policy of the USSR. This policy guided U.S. actions from 1947 to 1991. This is the only time the U.S. has had a strategy. You have to give W some slack, like most American Presidents, he was making the shit up as he went.

For the past ten years, I have written the following phrase more times than I can count: “September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” This phrase has been a staple in my professional writing career as a national and homeland security analyst. That phrase is a lemon I have squeezed until juice has run down my forearms and soaked my Timex Ironman watch. I am not sure how much longer I can squeeze it. I do have a prediction though; at the end of the 21st Century, 9-11 will be nothing more than a footnote.

Philip Bobbitt states that al-Qaeda is just the first of many terrorist organizations that will make the 21st Century a slow bleed of conflict. Many strategists at the beginning of the 20th Century claimed that Asia was going to be the focus of U.S. foreign policy; they were wrong. Europe dominated U.S. foreign policy. Now strategists are singing the importance of Asia again. Sorry Asia and China but I think your ship has sailed. Globalization has rendered specific regions as meaningless; the world is the focus. How in the hell does a country have a coherent foreign policy for the whole world?

In the Sunday, September 4, 2011, edition of the Washington Post there was an article about the “5 Myths About 9/11.” I won’t waste your time and comment on these myths, but I will point out that there is a whole bunch of us that make a living out of typing “9/11.” We have typed it so many times that it may have lost some of its power and symbology.

I am numb to 9/11. My emotional attachment to this date has morphed into a clinical detachment. Terrorism developed from an independence movement, into an ideological Cold War struggle, into a religious zealotry. 9/11 is a term on equal footing with the Battle for Algiers, the Red Army Factions, and Lockerbie. Events become words which eventually fade into a backdrops of our worldview without having a real distinction.

I’m not negating the importance of 9/11; I am recognizing the effect the date has had on me professionally and personally. I am playing in a charity golf tournament on September 11, 2011. When I return to work on September 12th I will probably type “the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” I will do this because I think about 9/11 every day and I haven’t a clue on what strategy to adopt. I’m just gonna continue to muddle through just like most American Presidents do.

Land Wars in Asia, Interconnectivity and Bad Tourist T-Shirts

A number of things have happened in the past two days that made me go “hmm.” I hope that sentence just made you think of C+C Music Factory and if it didn’t, go here. By the way, this will be the last music video link in this post. I seem to have gotten music video blog post link happy here lately…the madness stops here. The telling of the “hmm” moment is going to be in reverse. There are times when the story is better told in reverse (not often) but sometimes. Sometime the punch line or point isn’t the point, sometimes the point is telling the story.

NOTE: The following paragraph is a summary of something I read today in William Manchester’ A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance (I don’t know how to footnote these blogs…yet. But I feel obligated to give credit where credit is due). So, again, the following paragraph is not an original thought by me. However, the phrase “screwed the pooch” and the word “bitch” are definitely mine.

There was a chain of events, in hindsight, during the first year of President John F. Kennedy’s administration that were obviously connected. First, the Kennedy Administration (the CIA specifically) screwed the pooch at the Bay of Pigs, then Nikita Khrushchev made JFK look like a bitch in Vienna, followed by the Soviets building the infamous Wall, which, in turn, resulted in JFK deploying the U.S. Army Special Forces to Vietnam. JFK, upon deciding (W, he was a decider too) to send in the Green Berets, supposedly said “we have a problem making our power credible, and Vietnam looks like the place.”

NOTE: Everything that follows is my thoughts, but you will be able to figure that out by the incomplete sentences, thoughts, and dangling participles.

I’m not sure what Green Berets in Vietnam or Khrushchev have to do with medieval Europe because I have only read part of the introduction to Manchester’s book. I guess he will be telling me later on in the introduction. It may be one of those long views of history things where the battlefields of today are the result of yesterday’s mistakes (or some philosophical shit like that). But back to the interconnectivity of Bay of Pigs and Vietnam.

Reading this summary of events made me realize that it’s always the CIA’s fault and never let a Russian make you his bitch. I imagine the CIA in the 1960s knew how to party while rocking around the playground which was 2/3 of the planet during the Cold War, but being pushed around by the Soviets must have really, really sucked. It also made me think that when one thing happens it seems like happenstance, when two things happen you cock your head to the side like a dog hearing a silent whistle, when three things happen…well then you just have to either ignore it (because thinking about it may make your molars fall out) or you talk/blog about it.

While in London a coupe of weeks ago, I noticed a lot of fat, pasty Midwestern tourists (not to be mistaken for thin, pasty Londoners…who weren’t busy burning London) and thin, odd shoe wearing Asians sporting “I ‘Heart’ London” t-shirts. I had to type ‘Heart’ because not only can I not insert footnotes in this blog, but I don’t know how to insert symbols either. Also, if you don’t know what I mean by odd Asian shoes, go here, or think of off-brand looking sneakers your mom bought you at Wal-Mart …you know the non-Air Jordans or the Air Farce Ones.

Seeing these 1980 style t-shirts (think plain white, oversized, black block letters and a red heart…basically 1980 fashion that wasn’t neon. The 1980s was either neon or black and white. There was no grey in the 1980s) would not have seemed significant, EXCEPT…I had seen these exact same t-shirts in here in DC. The very same fat, pasty Midwestern tourists in London, in their “I ‘Heart’ London” shirts, also visit here and buy/wear “I ‘Heart’ DC” t-shirts. These “I ‘Heart’ DC” t-shirts are almost as popular as “FBI Witness Protection Program: You Don’t Know Me” t-shirts. Quick tourist fashion question: is it appropriate to wear a t-shirt that advertises your touristness and the city your touristing in…in the that city? Part of me says no, but who doesn’t want to put on a $10 t-shirt the very same day in which you bought it. I mean those shirts are clean right? They wouldn’t be covered in a thin layer of packing chemical or some shit (or be touched by a million other fat, patsy tourists)…right?

The camel that broke the straw (dromedaries are heavy creatures and break stuff when they step on them) was when I saw a neighbor wearing a “I ‘Heart’ Paris” shirt this morning. This was the C+C Music Factory moment. This was the moment I said out loud “Whoever thought of this line of shirts is one smart mofo.” I have no idea if there is one company (Chinese, I’m sure…if it’s one company, which means there may be a “I ‘Heart’ Beijing” shirt too) that makes these shirts, if this line of shirts is subcontracted, if someone saw one shirt in one city and then replicated (and so forth), or if a bunch of different t-shirt designers came up with the same idea around the Summer of 2011. This last possiblity horrifies me because it would mean that there is something morally corrupt about our culture that encourages different shirt designers, in different cities, to think these stupid-ass (is “stupid-ass” hyphenated?) shirts are the pinnacle of tourist fashion.

There has got to be some sort of inteconnectivity in all of this. There has to be some subatomic particle thread that connects this horrible tourist fashion. This was a spiritual moment of  bad fashionness. Oh, it also made me think of General (Ret.) Douglas McArthur’s supposed advice to JFK: “never fight a land war in Asia.” Which now makes me think two things…why did McArthur think he should be the only one to enjoy NOT winning a war in Asia, and I wonder if you can buy a “I ‘Heart’ Ho Chi Minh City” t-shirt?

 

Duality of Man or ‘Hos and Blow: Capitalism and Rap

The duality of man is usually described as evil versus good or emotional versus reasonable. Very smart people have written about this idea. Carl Jung talks about it, I…as the Sublimemonkey…have my own spin. It is not necessarily about two opposing innerselves battling for dominance, or the ability of a man to act in two different ways while maintaining his sanity. I think it is more about using two different approaches to achieve a single aim. ‘Hos and blow is the aim. ‘Hos and blow is both a literal and figurative aim. We do what we gotta do…I take my lessons from Ice Cube.

Ice Cube used to do this. I wanted to be Ice Cube because of this. I wanted the black jeans and ball cap. I wanted my sneakers to catch fire as I walked through a worn down and sad neighborhood in L.A. I wanted to be chased by police officers that looked like cheesy porn actors. I wanted to spit the word “gumbo” out of my mouth in a manner that made you feel like you took a 9mm slug to your chest. I wanted a posse (my buddy Kenny has agreed to be the camo wearing member of my posse…all posses have to have a camo wearing member; see this for an example).

Ice Cube now does this. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be an actor in bad comedy movies. I don’t want to be someone who makes money off other people’s bad writing and bad ideas (I compromise myself enough by living off my own bad writing and bad ideas). You do not get a posse when you act in bad movies…you may get a coke habit, but not a posse. No matter how hard you try to be a bad ass, this type of acting just makes you a sad little clown. Sad clowns are creepy and sad clowns don’t get posses. Happy clowns get posses though…happy clowns get to jump out of tiny cars with their  posse (however, don’t mistake a happy clown posse for this).

Ice Cube is all about being a dual man. One can use gangsta rap or bad comedy acting to make money. I believe, in the end, rap is a brutally honest musical genre. It states right up front what it is about. It’s commercialization beyond ironic. There is no irony to rap. It’s about getting what you want through whatever means necessary. It’s about ‘hos and blow.

If you want scantily clad ‘hos while discussing a pair of sneakers like Nelly in this video, then become a rapper. If you want to roll in your sweet baby’s arms, become a bluegrass musician like Flatt & Scruggs. This old ass video by F&S is not well disguised though, I think we know what kind of “rolling” they want to do. Seems F&S likes them some ‘hos too and makes you wonder if there really was something to the phrase “good ol’days” especially if it involves rolling with your baby. F&S’ “duality” comes in when they start singing about Jesus. Both Nelly and F&S are using their musical ability to achieve what they want. Nelly wants “two pair” of Air Force Ones and F&S want to get laid while “lying around the shack.” 

Ice Cube wants money. Ice Cube wants money so bad that he is willing to go from gangsta rapper with an awesome Jheri Curl (yes that is how it is actually spelled…Google it) to a bad actor with a tight cut. This desire for money and the willingness to commercialize himself is so blatantly American that it is almost satirical. I get it though. I get it because I want ‘hos and blow too.

For those of you wondering…yes I just used rap and bluegrass to illustrate a point. And yes it may have not made any sense…but I am sticking to my guns. ‘Hos and blow is what we all aspire for. However, I don’t want the ‘hos and blow if it results in a dead hooker in my trunk…just sayin.