June 1, 2010

A Letter To Mr. Klosterman

Dear Chuck Klosterman,

In your book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs you included, as you know, an essay entitled Toby over Moby in which you stated (as, of course, you also know),

“Contrary to what you may have heard from Henry Rollins or/and Ian MacKaye and/or anyone else who joined a band after working in an ice cream shop, you can’t really learn much about a person based on what kind of music they happen to like. As a personality test, it doesn’t work even half the time. However, there is at least one thing you can learn: the most wretched people in the world are those who tell you they like every kind of music ‘except country.’ People who say that are boorish and pretentious at the same time. All it means is that they’ve managed to figure out the most rudimentary rule of pop sociology; they know hipsters gauge the coolness of others by their espoused taste in sound, and they know that hipsters hate modern country music. And they hate it because it speaks to normal people in a tangible, rational manner.”

I will not hold such a comment against you because you were not raised in the South  unlike me and therefore have no idea what it is like to be from the South. I will still be quite a fan of yours, though you’re in no position to lose any sleep over it if I weren’t. I’m just simply going to suggest you make a quick addendum to such a line of thinking. And here’s why…

I am the kind of person who, when asked about the music I listen to, tells you exactly what I like. Because, I, unlike a shitload of other people, have invested enough time in most things musical to know what it is that really moves me. On that list, I will not include country music. Of the nonretarded people I know and actually like from the South, few as they are, none would include country music on their list of likes and might actually be the type of person to say “just about anything but country.” Most people, as you have likely figured out, fail to spend the time on music required to figure out what they really truly like. Most of that time is spent on video games and stupid, mostly animated, television shows. I try not to hold it against people. Not everyone I know and like is required to have the kind of love I do for music…the people I sleep with or actually care for are different, but I digress.

Because I know what I like, perhaps, this statement only partially applies to me, but I’d like to speak for the small minority group of misfit toys here in the Bible Belt. The south, at least the rural parts of it like where I’m from and where I live, are not very cultured and are not, by any means, very diverse. For me, going into the local Wal-mart is akin, though not nearly as severe, to a Puerto Rican going to a local Klan rally (And yes those still happen). For the most part, my tattoos and short hair get me treated like I just stepped off the mothership. Or perhaps like my ink is actually signs of leprosy. Some days I want to run screaming through the aisles, “They’re just tattoos. It’s a form of expression. They cannot rub off on you. I’m not contagious. And yes, for fuck’s sake, they did hurt.”

When you grow up in this area, you realize a few things. First, Jesus is responsible for everything. When you get a decent parking space, thank you Jesus. When you pass a mid-term, it’s not studying and hard work, it’s Jesus. Got a promotion? That Jesus is a swell guy. Not thanking jesus for everything that ever happens to you means you are one of Satan’s minions spawned forth from the center of the earth to tear down the righteous.

Two…not liking sports means you’re a queer. By sports I mean anything that requires male on male contact or fast cars. This list includes: football, ufc, nascar. Baseball is also on the list for Georgians, at least, because the Braves sometimes do pretty well and people seem to be proud of that as if they all have something to do with those wins. I suppose they chalk it up to collective prayers to Jesus. And when the braves fail…well, damn it. We weren’t praying hard enough.

Third, country music is the best music. Ever. And listening to anything else makes you a social outcast. Unless, of course, you sometimes listen to hip hop in your 4x4 because everyone who is anyone knows that shit sounds better over the purr of a hot diesel engine.

When you grow up here, as an outcast, the first thing you equate with the people you see as your oppressors is country music. Jesus comes next and sports are generally liked no matter what. It’s that first impression of country, though, that ruins it for the lot of us down here growing up as aliens in the midst of fried chicken eating Jesus freaks which is why the addendum to your statements is necessary. We learned at early ages that listening to country made you like “them” and the people who qualified as “them” were pretty fucking embarrassing when you actually took a step outside this little geographical area. You never, ever want to be comparable to the hillbilly fucks you grew up around and were harassed by no matter what.

So, come on, Chuck….give us social outcasts a break. We don’t give a fuck what hipsters like. We just don’t want to ever be compared to the group of people that makes us embarrassed about where we’re from and who made our lives a living hell when we were young.

Thanks ahead of time.

With adoration,

J.

p.s. I’d sell my soul to have a milkshake with you anytime, motherfucker.
May 31, 2010

Patriotism and Metal: An Analogy

Sludge metal has made it possible for me to explain my take on patriotism.

Ballsy statement, I know. It may even sound ludicrous, but it’s quite true. See, I listen to a sort of balanced selection of music. (Note: I did say sort of and that is essential in understanding I don’t slide Beethoven’s 5th into the cd player of my car on long trips though I’d prefer that to a travis tritt album any day…). The classics like Janis, Jimi, Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Cream and so on and Southern rock like the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Doobie Brothers, and even Skynard are what I grew up on and still has a place in my heart. Throw in some blues, a wee bit of punk, some screamo, progressive metal, and death metal, old grunge…and you’re starting to get a feel for the variety of styles I like. However, my real passion these days is sludge/doom/stoner metal. It’s a style that is low toned and heavily distorted with dirty, grungy, grinding riffs often balanced with some pretty technical guitar melodies. There are definite grunge, punk, and Southern rock influences on a good many of these bands and it all mixes in a way that makes me one happy go lucky girl.

Georgia, where I’m from and where I still live, has played its part in this scene. Baroness, Kylesa, Mastodon, the legendary Harvey Milk, and Black Tusk all originated here. It’s sort of instilled a bit of Georgia pride in me that’s never before been there. This state is often politically backward. This particular rural area has no real culture whatsoever and attempts to oppress anyone who expresses themselves outside of church, football, hunting, fishing, and NASCAR. People are often racist and closedminded. Homophobic. Retarded. They’re in your business all the time…It’s just all around pretty disgusting. Maybe living in the more urban parts would be different but the majority of this state is highly fucked up. Still, look what’s come from it….all these angsty sludge/doom/stoner metal bands that give me such an absolute sense of peace. Well, and it’s pretty to look at in most places too.

I went to Savannah recently and saw Black Tusk play for their new record release Taste the Sin. They played with a 2 piece from St. Augustine, FL called Dark Castle that was fucking amazing. The guitarist/vocalist was quite a tasty young vixen. And the headliner, Pentagram, was one of the sludge metal originals from way back in the 70s--this kind of music wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for bands like this so it was great to pay homage. I drove 5 hours up to Savannah for this show but it’s well worth it. The music, especially live, is just that good for me. And the true art and emotion of it is never captured even halfway perfectly in production so hearing it on vinyl, on cd, from digital downloads is just never the same.


So, I’m standing in front of the stage at the Jinx, the bar in Savannah where Baroness, Kylesa, and Black Tusk got their starts really. Black Tusk is setting up and I take a look around me. I’m struck by this pervasive theme of hillbilly trash glamorization that exists in this music scene. It’s all around me. In fact, there’s a kid next to me with a mullet. That, in itself, is bad enough. But that’s not all. He has the long stringy ends halfway twisted into dreads. The ends of these pseudo-dreads are held by the metal casing found around the striking parts of a cigarette lighter. He had on a “muscle” shirt but was rail thin. His cut off just above the knee blue jean shorts were tight as fuck, too. I thought my pants were tight…but I bet he had to pull his zipper up with a pair of pliers like my mom had to do with her jeans in the early 70s (you’ve all seen that part from Dazed and Confused, too, I’m sure…and if you haven’t…well, fuck….why are you even reading this?). His buddy had obviously ripped up a decent t-shirt to make his own muscle shirt and apparently, at least to this crowd, deodorant is not what the cool kids are doing. One guy had a thick as Magnum P.I.’s mustache and was wearing a sleeveless polo shirt, red and black striped, under a sleeveless jean jacket with tight jeans, boots, and a trucker hat. Sans deodorant as well. They wear suspenders with jeans 4 sizes too big, bandanas stuffed in their back pockets that look like they’ve never been used, toothpicks in their mouths, boots with shorts, studded everything though none of them are likely bikers. They have keys, a fuckload of keys they can’t possibly need for anything, handing on their belt loops from carabineers… I’m not sure what the statement is here from a group of people who want to do their own thing and hate the oppression of the typical Southerner yet wear this uniform to glorify a subculture they despise.

And much to my dismay, it isn’t just the fans that are keeping the hillbilly/meth whore look alive and well…the creators of the same music I love are right there in nouveau redneck chic garb. How disturbing.

Everyone there, just about, drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. In a tall can. That’s right. A can. Shitty, shitty beer. It’s cheap, yeah, but drinking a PBR tall because you’re making a statement or fitting into a scene that isn’t supposed to be about fitting in at all is just like voting down a solid bill in Congress just because you’re a Republican and the bill was sponsored by a Democrat. It’s probably one of the more ridiculously retarded things I’ve ever heard of.

And let’s face it….moshing is pretty fucking lame. Let’s get a few guys in front of the stage wearing no deodorant, some fat as fuck, and have them run into each other and push each other over and over again then run into as many as people around them as possible and step on their toes and hit them with sweaty, meaty fat rolls and stink up the place bad enough to make people want to vomit. Or better yet, let’s just have them run into a brick wall over and over again every time they get into a song they really like. Same difference. Only then…they’re not fucking up everyone else’s time.

So, between the uniforms, the bad taste in beer, and the moshing, the people around me were pretty fucking embarrassing.

Now, here’s where patriotism comes in (finally). I fucking love the ideals of America. Freedom of speech? Hell fucking yes. I am in love with the fact that I can say anything I please and it’s fine and dandy. I don’t have to go underground for calling the majority of Congress a big bunch of morons with ties to their party which are stronger than membership to the Bloods and Crips. Our government is pretty gangsta. I won’t be killed for my lack of religion (though here in the Bible belt, it’s pretty much social suicide to admit it). The lack of interstate warfare over a “holy” tract of land is pretty nice. I would say lack of guerilla revolutionists but we just call them domestic terrorists these days…Democracy…well, lack of a tyrant or dictator is something I am thankful for as well. I called George W. a joke, an idiot, and worse on many occasions, but unlike in other countries, I haven’t been shot or worse for doing so because he isn’t the kind of leader that Saddam Hussein was. Supposedly, he can’t cut your balls off for looking at him the wrong way. I’m proud that we have due process of law in this country or that we at least recognize that it’s something we should be entitled to… other countries throw you in prison or execute you without a trial and verdict. Pretty fucked up. And really, just thinking about the conditions I’d be forced to live in given my socioeconomic status currently if I lived in India makes me want to get up and sing the Star Spangled Banner while making red, white, and blue sugar cookies.

At the same time, I realize how fucked up things are here in so many ways. We really don’t have a clue what goes on in the government we’ve elected…not most of us. And when it really comes down to it, none of us except those who really hold the power know the real deal. The bipartisan bullshit fucks up the governmental process on the regular. This war on terrorism has drained resources and cost so many lives in an effort to control something we can’t. It’s hopeless. The underlying causes of terrorism cannot be resolved by warfare especially when the brunt of this war has occurred in a country where the perpetrators of 9/11 (which started it all) were not hiding. It was just bullshit. Our take on criminal justice is totally fucked. We have enacted this war on drugs for so many years now. A guy caught with a small amount of marijuana for personal use can and will get thrown in jail more times than not. That’s why we have the highest prison population of any country period and yet we have this huge lack of money and end up releasing all sorts of prisoners early because budget cuts have to happen somewhere. That includes violent and nonviolent offenders. If we’d just quit throwing every small time pothead in jail, we’d be able to save space for actual “bad” guys like the ones who rape kids. (if you doubt me here…go check out the case of Joseph Duncan. He was spending 20 years in jail for aggravated sexual assault of a minor. Spent 14 years in prison only. Not too long after his release, while jumping bail on a child molestation charge, he murdered a family, kidnapped two of the kids, ages 8 and 9, sexually assaulted them for 6 weeks, and ended up killing one of them before he was caught. He’s been implicated in several other child murders….how about that for fucked up? But we worry that a fucking stoner is going to be the ruin of the world and send him to prison for life on 3 strikes laws like in Florida….what a bunch of fucking horseshit). Our whole justice system is fucked really. We still have the death penalty which DOES execute innocent people (read about Todd Willingham) undermining the very idea of justice and DOES waste billions of dollars when life without parole is a cheaper and more viable option…. And, in general, the American public is largely uninformed about the issues getting their ideas and “knowledge” from people around them that also don’t have a clue about what’s really going on. These topics are discussed much like town gossip. The truth is rarely discussed because no one knows what the truth is.

So… my point--I love sludge metal. Not wearing the hillbilly attire doesn’t mean I love it any less than the retard standing next to me with the dreadlock mullet. Being embarrassed by said retard doesn’t make me love the music less. I love America and the ideas behind America but I’m often embarrassed by a lot that goes on here and the people around me. That doesn’t make me any less of a patriot and it doesn’t lessen the love I have for this place. The guy who never rises up to question what’s going on around him or who blindly adopts the ideals of one party just because he has that gangland mindset is the one who fails the patriotism test. This country was founded by revolutionaries, my friends, and I plan on staying true to that.

about me. not really.

dear you,

i don't talk about my child or being a mom. i don't talk about my garden. i won't mention my craftiness (often) or how much i save each week with coupons. if you're looking for that sort of thing, you're in the wrong place.

instead, let's abandon the tethers of domestication for a moment and remember what it's like to laugh at vulgarity and the world at large.

xo,

j

talk amongst ourselves


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