July 17, 2010

Baroness Versus Rush: Beards and Undescended Testicles

Not too long ago, I came across a contest on an e-zine, Chronic Youth, to win a signed Baroness concert poster. For those of you that don't know, Baroness is a sludge/doom/stoner/undefinable band from Savannah, Georgia that has been making a lot of press in the metal scene since the release of their second full album release, Blue Record. I happen to really enjoy Baroness and this particular genre of music altogether, so I jumped into reading the rules of the contest with eagerness.

Chronic Youth describes itself as a celebration of the brutal culture with much attention paid to more hardcore forms of music. I wasn't really surprised when I found the contest rules to simply say:

How to Win?

Email info@chronicyouth.com and tell us why Baroness is or isn’t better than Rush. The dude or chick with the best answer wins this motherfucker. Word.

Submit your response by July 15, 2010 and Relapse will send the poster to your house or place of business or wherever.

I was immediately intrigued by the possibilities of such an essay. I assumed at the time, wrongly, that such an answer required thought and research laid out in an essay style format, but there I go letting my tits and estrogen do my thinking for me again. However, at the time, I immediately set out to work considering the two bands, listening to songs of both, asking opinions of others and putting together my ideas. Eventually, with the help of a couple j's in my editing pocket, I ended up with the following answer:

Baroness versus Rush is an impossible debate. It’s not really an apples to oranges comparison but more like a new hybrid apple-pear combination fruit versus a red delicious apple.

In such a debate, some are assuredly going to argue for Rush because of their contributions to progressive rock and their long standing place in rock history. Both are sound arguments. We’re talking about a band which is third in line for consecutive albums reaching gold and platinum status outnumbered only by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Some will also argue for Rush because of their outstanding musical abilities especially with Neil Peart being considered one of the greatest drummers of all time. No doubt, though, after more than 3 decades of playing, these guys have continued to grow musically cementing their legendary status.

Baroness fans, on the other hand, are likely to mention the band’s unique, indefinable sound which seems to encompass elements of sludge, doom, progressive metal, blues, Southern rock, and more. Some will also point out that Baroness has created quite a presence in a relatively short amount of time, at least in the underground scene. And, they have considering their growing popularity after only releasing their first 3 song EP in 2004. With only 2 full length albums under their belt, the band has created quite a stir.

The validity of arguments on both sides is what makes this a difficult choice. Baroness versus Rush. Rush versus Baroness. This is the equivalent of a superhero debate for comic book nerds. Superman is a faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive alien and he can kick any superhero’s ass. Oh yeah? Well, Spiderman’s internal struggle was much deeper therefore making him the stronger of the two with a sense of mystery and he’s wicked cool so he’ll get laid way more than Superman and still kick his ass. Who really wins in the realm of comics and saving the day? Both have some pretty decent qualities but really, is there a right answer to the question? It’s similar here, but hardpressed for an answer, I have to go with Baroness. For me, this choice comes down to love for music on the purest of levels--Baroness moves me on levels Rush will never reach and I’d be willing to bet a lot of Baroness fans and fans of sludge, doom, stoner, progressive metal, etc are going to feel the same. (Although, it might be fun to overhear a bar conversation on who would kick who’s ass out of Allen Blickle and Neil Peart.)

Rush gets my head bobbing in time to the rhythm but Baroness reaches in deep, pulling me a little higher. Can I soar on the Wailing Wintry Wind? Perhaps. Just seconds into Tower Falls, Red Sky, Isak….hit the 31 second mark of O’Appalachia and whatever state my reality has existed in is automatically improved. I’ve seen Baroness live. Just once. It was the Blue Record release at the Jinx, the bar in Savannah in whose basement the band actually used to practice. It was an emotionally charged experience for those guys--celebrating their second album where they actually started out--and one look around me made it clear that a good number of my peers were feeling the intensity. We were all existing on a higher level than when we walked through the doors of that bar and by the time the evening was over, we had something we’d carry with us for quite a long time, etched in memory.

For my generation, Baroness wins. The lyrics are ambiguous without the preachiness, pretentiousness, or fantastical elements often found in Peart’s songs. John Baizley’s vocals rumble across our ear drums with none of Geddy Lee’s high pitched, someone’s-got-me-by-the-balls style. No one’s ever heard Baizley and mistakenly thought it was “badass for a chic to be in that band.” The musical talent of Baroness isn’t lacking and the potential to reach the technically gifted levels of Rush is evident. Baroness may not have the decades behind the legendary Canadian prog rockers or the platinum and gold album sales, but the time put in and the money made doesn’t really tell us who is better.

Simply put, Rush ain’t Baroness. Period.

The winner was announced today. I never once really considered the idea that I'd win. I was just curious how my own essay would compare to the winner's more than anything. I looked forward to a well constructed, humorous critique of the bands I would largely enjoy and be able to use to improve my own writing style when reviewing a band or music. He had this to say:

Rush raped my mom and she couldnt even feel it. Weak. Baroness wrecked her. 

So, out of this experience I learned that Chronic Youth really doesn't give a shit about music. In fact, as long as you have an unoriginal, not-even-worth-a-guffaw dick joke and have yet to exit a state of pubescent thinking requiring complex thought and lack of scatological humor, you can rule the world. Thanks guys!!! You just made my life a hell of a lot easier. Now I don't actually have to think to make it through the day.


oh and just in case any of you would like to hear what I'm talking about....here's a quick mix list. Enjoy.

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July 11, 2010

John vs John or Why I'm Destined to be a Cat Lady

In his rather hilarious compilation of essays Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman said he’d likely never be able to fully satisfy a woman, nor, in turn, would any woman be able to satisfy him. The reason? John Cusack.

“It appears that countless women born between the years of 1965 and 1978 are in love with John Cusack. I cannot fathom how he isn’t the number-one box-office star in America, because every straight girl I know would sell her soul to share a milkshake with that motherfucker. For upwardly mobile women in their twenties and thirties, John Cusack is the neo-Elvis. But here’s what none of these upwardly mobile women seem to realize: They don’t love John Cusack. They love Lloyd Dobler.”

Lloyd Dobler, of course, is the character from the 1989 classic Say Anything. But, here’s where it gets slightly  more complicated than a cutesy, humorous rant blaming John Cusack for all 30-something men’s relationship woes. It’s actually about media influences on our ideas of love and relationships. Basically, the premise is that media portrayals have fucked up any chance we have of building and maintaining normal romantic relationships because the beloved, heart-warming ideals found in movies, fairy tales, TV shows, etc are what we grow to desire. We all want fake, charmingly complicated love affairs that have no basis in the reality of actually living with someone day in and day out for any length of time. 

But are we really romantically challenged because of the media or did we create the media monster which continually commercializes this bullshit notion of love? That’s the real question. People, in general, are always looking for something easy and better--a magic cure all pill that makes you lose 20 lbs, grow perky DD breasts or a fatter bulge in your jeans (fully functional, of course), and find your dream partner all for the low, low price of $9.99 (shipping and handling charges do apply)!!! We want it all. We want it now. And we want it better than ever before with little effort or maintenance. So, can we really lay blame on the media for his or do we really have to blame ourselves? I think, at least from a personal point of view, I’m still blaming John Cusack.

It’s not John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler that has defined my unattainable fantasy guy standards, though. It’s not really John Cusack either, thought I’m sure he’s a swell guy. No, odd as it may sound, no guy can ever match Rob Gordon from the 2001 movie High Fidelity based on the novel by Nick Hornby.

Right now, you may be wondering about my sanity. This particular character, Rob, displays some pretty awful characteristics and a couple psychotic tendencies while still maintaining his mediocrity. But, then, you have to figure in that I’m certainly no Diane Court. I’ve never been a happy-go-lucky girl with everything going for me trying to find a balance between Daddy and the love of my life. Things have, as for many people, been a bit more complicated and involved a hell of a lot more heartache. I’ve never really been the sort to desire the Lloyd Doblers of the world, I guess is what I’m trying to say. 

Lloyd is charming but fairly clueless. He never really says anything with much depth through the entire movie. His only expressed interests are kickboxing and Diane. He’s only funny when he’s nervous and chattering without forethought. He’s an all around nice guy--checking on his date at parties, moving glass shards our of her path, sending her sweet notes… He’s great with kids but only because he’s still just a kid himself. He’s cute, quirky, and sweet, and I suppose for any younger girl watching this movie back in 1989 when it came out, Lloyd was quite a dreamboat. Every one of them is still waiting for a lovable, young sort-of hunk to blare “In Your Eyes” from a boombox into their bedroom windows. Lots of girls even seeing it now, over 20 years after the fact, are likely still waiting on the very same thing.

Then there’s me and other women like me (maybe).

In High Fidelity, when Rob Gordon theorized that it’s not what you like but what you like that counts, my heart swelled. Finally! Finally, someone was stating a fact I was so sure of myself. I’m guilty of wanting to know about and judging a person based on movie, music, and old cartoon likes and dislikes at the very least. If I can’t find some common ground with someone on these topics, I cannot maintain any interest whatsoever. Just as when he discusses his date with Marie de Salle and says based on said common interests, he was having the best date of his life, I have always judged dates and first conversations by the same token. Honestly, these are prioritized before religious and political beliefs.

He has a passion for music to the point of owning his own record store. My musical passion runs deep with my absolute dream job involving owning a bar to help local bands get a start (and writing on the side of course). He’s funny, witty, and a mix tape guy. If someone stood outside my window blaring a cheesy love song, I’d die with laughter and not in a good way, but put the effort in to make me a really good mix tape (burned CD, I guess, is more accurate nowadays), and I’m hooked. I’d prefer a mix tape to flowers or jewelry any day. He’s also, unlike Lloyd, a bit of an asshole. He’s angry, cynical, and sarcastic. Imaginative. Lloyd just lacks most of the fundamentals that would attract me. Rob Gordon embodies them. And, by no means, does High Fidelity portray a fairy tale romance. His relationship prevails because she’s in a position where such a change seems inconceivable and he figures he’s fairly satisfied with her so he should quit holding part of himself open for something better. They, in a lot of ways, settle for what they have.

So, Chuck Klosterman, is, at least, partially right. The media is responsible for a fraction of our dissatisfaction in relationships. I don’t think it can be said it’s all because of the media’s fake love obsession. I think sometimes there are just characters our real counterparts cannot live up to and that adds its own element.

No matter how often I talk to pursuers about my love of mix tapes, I never get one. Most of the assholes I meet are rarely as interested in music as they are video games and no one seems to get how important it is to find common ground in what you like. Who cares if you’re an upstanding, loving guy with solid morals and a good job? If you can’t sit through Fear and Loathing with me or put up with my occasional 80s marathons or days spent in bed watching old cartoons, you may as well fuck off.

I may be doomed for failure, but who really knows? Chuck Klosterman’s gotten married since he wrote that essay laying blame on John so maybe there’s hope yet. Or maybe I should just make a Rob Gordon shrine, name my dildo after him, and adopt 10 cats.

Psychopath Achievement

I read an article not too long ago about the ways in which the video game Red Dead Redemption shows how the Wild West and the game’s creators are women haters. Red Dead Redemption, if you’re clueless, is an open world game set in 1911 near the America/Mexico border in some fictional area. By open world, I mean you cover a vast expanse of game area which you can explore at will and your activities really aren’t limited at all. For instance, if you want to lasso a dog or hogtie a person you randomly come across, you can do so. If you want to tie someone to train tracks and watch the train turn them into pink mist, you can do that, too.

The basic premise of the game is that you, as the main character John Marston, used to be an outlaw. You married a former whore familiar to your outlaw gang and had a kid with her, but some crazy Federal Marshalls have basically held your wife and son captive while you track down said gang out West to turn them in. You play the game as a sell out in order to save your family. The challenge comes from no one out
West knowing you and not being willing to help a stranger. You have to prove yourself by building friendships and a reputation so you go on missions to help people out ranging from herding cattle to fighting the Mexican army alongside rebels (who you’ve already fought with the army…long story, I guess).

So, the plot sounds fairly entertaining, and in theory, the freedom should make it even more so since you aren’t restricted to linear game play like in most other games. You don’t move from level to level following a distinct set of actions. I’m sure a lot of players did find it highly amusing which is exactly why it is utterly disturbing.

I say that only after watching the game from start to end. Despite the fact that the person I watched play the game is fairly well adjusted, moral, and generally calm, I saw so many senselessly violent acts. I was truly taken aback by the capabilities of this character. Many or rather, most, video games have some element of violence. Several, in fact, are focused, seemingly, on seeing how many people you can shoot in the face, but what sets Red Dead Redemption apart from those other violent games is the fact that these are acts chosen with free will. They serve no purpose or point in the game. They don’t further your plight at all. They’re simply acts you choose as the player out of curiosity…just because you can. Hogtying people or lassoing dogs does nothing for you. Killing people by tying them up and dragging them behind your horse doesn’t either. Players still do these things, though. And most of the time, they laugh about it.

What disturbs me even more is the fact that game creators anticipated that people would want to do this. They anticipated that people would want to know what would happen if they tied a person to train tracks with a train coming along. There was curiosity about what might happen if someone randomly shot a dog and instead of doing odds and ends jobs for money, the creators had the forethought to make the character able to kill wild animals then skin them or pluck their feathers to sell for extra cash.

They created this game about a man who is pretty much a good guy despite his former criminal life. The missions in the game include saving a woman from rapists and a rebel from execution. When offered drugs and whores, he always refuses. However, the creators also understood this would never make the game popular. So, to ensure the mainstream public would go gaga over it, your character has the ability to do some really twisted, outright evil acts. It’s like in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (by the same company Rock Star Games). It’s another open world style game. In this one, your plot has nothing to do with anything redeemable but the boundaries are still pushed. Running around stealing cars and being chased by cops isn’t fucked up enough. No. The creators of this wildly popular masterpiece decided it would be neato to allow your character to pick up a hooker, have sex with her, then murder the bitch and get your money back. And, once again, the general gaming public thinks it’s pretty hilarious to do so. It’s only a game, right?

Right….but what does this really say about society as a whole?

I seem to be the only person I know who thinks these games take it too far. I think the world is filled with enough ugliness and violence without constantly adding to it. In movies, games, books, or any media source, the added violence just doesn’t seem necessary. With Red Dead Redemption, a fine line ethical mission oriented plotline--a how-far-would-you-go-for-your-family dilemma-- is totally corrupted by the overwhelmingly disturbed acts the character is allowed to perform--psychopathological actions which have much to say about both the creators and the players alike. Nothing said has a good ring to it…at least not to my ears.

This is why I lamented recently over my 5 year old already getting into games geared towards kids featuring favorites such as Scooby and Spongebob. In an almost tearful wail, I made woeful predictions for his future if this continues.

“This is killing me. He’s obsessed with games already.”

“Yes. Yes he is.”

“He’s going to be 1 of those kids who looks sick all the time from never seeing the light of day. Every weekend spent in his room attempting to triumph in the latest gamer obsession. I can’t take it. He can’t be that kid, man. I don’t want him to be that kid. Reading comics and playing RPG’s with al his lame ass friends.”

“He’ll be fine even if he does dress up in Dungeons and Dragons costumes.”

“No, he won’t. He’ll be a virgin until he’s 25.”

“Like hell he will.”

“I want him to like girls and music and go to shows and shit. Fuck. I can see it now…I’ll peer into his room and be like ‘What are you up to this weekend?’ and he’ll say ‘Going to Dragon*Con with some of my buds.’ and I’ll run from his room crying ‘oh jesus christ, son, why couldn’t you just be gay??????’

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.



talk amongst ourselves

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