Cult of LiveJournal

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Here’s my bitch for today: the cult of livejournal versus actual writing. I am so fucking sick of reading journals in which some neato trendy person writes a “story” of a thousand words about their day or whatever, and they get 80 responses that are like “You are such a great writer! I can’t wait until you write a book and you become all rich and famous and quit your job at Starbucks. And I like your hair!” When I read this shit, it makes me want to go steal a signpost, sharpen one edge with my Dremel, and then jump off of a chair and skewer the bitch through my head, because I realize all is lost in the world, and I don’t even know why I fucking bother to write. A few things to point out to these sorts of people though. The first is that WRITERS DON’T GET RICH AND FAMOUS, YOU DOUCHEBAG. Some writers make some money, but we’re not talking about boy band levels of money or anything, and we’re not talking about the kind of fame where you’re touring from Borders to Borders in a huge bus like a Motley Crue video. With a few exceptions, most writers either work a day job, or fuck someone with a day job. Second, if you have never tried to write a book and you’re still toying around with journal entries, that’s like saying “I can run to the corner, maybe someday I will run the Boston Marathon.” Yeah, maybe you will, but not unless you run ten miles a day for the next year, and dicking around on livejournal to make your cam-buddies happy is not running ten miles. And of course, all of you are saying, “oh, Jon’s just jealous because nobody reads his journal.” No. The reason this pisses me off is the same as back in the dot-com days when someone would say “oh, this guy has a really neat web page on geocities, and it’s got an animated flame icon and everything. He must know a lot about computers. Maybe he should start a company.” No, maybe he should go FUCK HIMSELF.

I saw Dawn of the Dead last night, finally. I was feeling really fucked up all day because I switched blood pressure medicines because my endocrinologist, who we will call Dr. Mengele, decided to change to another kind, probably so Eli Lilly would make one of his boat payments or something. Anyway, all week, my mouth had been bothering me, like a cavity was coming in and I was eating too much sugar or something, until it got worse and worse and my whole mouth felt like it was ON FIRE. I didn’t link this to the new medicine for a few days, and though I was probably just getting yet another dental-related tragedy that would ultimately require me giving several thousand dollars to a dentist and/or going into the hills and shooting myself in the face. The burning felt like I was eating a tube of ben gay every few minutes (which I guess is better than eating a tube of gay cock every few minutes) and then I would either drink a lot of water or eat something and it would go away, but just for a few minutes, until I broke open about 12 benadryl capsules and snorted a line of that shit off a mirror and then passed out. But one night, while in this “drink water / lay down / curse mankind / get up” cycle, I went to google and put in “burning mouth” and luckily this is not the name of some fag festival in the desert, and I got the bright idea to put in “burning mouth lisinopril” and found a ton of web pages that told why I was fucked. So I stopped taking it entirely, and the burning is just about gone, but I went completely sideways as my circulatory system tried to figure out what the fuck was going on, and my brain acted accordingly. Which meant it was a perfect time to go see a movie.

I was skeptical about this new Dawn of the Dead, because I thought it might be some melanonin-enhanced travesty, with a bunch of thug rappas dressed in horror makeup and baggy jeans going “We be muthafuckin’ zombies! Brains, dog!” But all I can say about this movie was that it was absolutely, positively perfect. The only one single thing that I would’ve changed was that when they shot the Burt Reynolds zombie in the head, I would’ve made his toupee fly off in a different direction or something. There were real, old-school zombies everywhere, but some of the fast-cut or “how the fuck did they do that” imagery, like when they are backing up a truck full-speed and ramming into zombies like Babe Ruth hitting overripe cantaloupes with a lead pipe. There were plenty of guns, lots of headshots with full-on detail of exploding craniums, and other innovative zombie killings, like sticks through heads and whatnot. All of the chicks were hot, there was some good terror and drama, and the plot didn’t go retarded in the end.

One of my major complaints, however, is when people compare this to 28 Days Later, and say that 28… is a better movie. This is bullshit, and I will tell you why. 28 Days Later, although innovative and interesting, ultimately sucked. The ending completely blew, and it’s because it was a British movie, and as everyone knows, the British are a bunch of fags. The zombie movie is ultimately an American invention, and is a social construct showing the workingman against government, against society’s ills, and the whole thing relies on a perfect combination of these things. The British are a bunch of wankers and their society is the perfect mixture for some kind of movie like Love Actually or Bridget Jones or something. While Danny Boyle and company did manage to use some newer, more innovative film tricks with the fast cuts and speedy zombies that pulled me in, by the second act, they created some horrible commentary on the English working class that I really didn’t give a fuck about. And the third act is mostly a “oh look, the military is so bad” piece, which is probably why all of the no war losers in the US liked it so much. But the war part is vital to the formula, and you need the national guard there shooting zombies in the head for the metaphor to work, and that is why the British will never make a good horror zombie bloodbath movie, and should just stick to making stuff like Coldplay albums.

The other complaint I have about reviews is that, as someone mentioned on IMDB, a dearth of reviewers have equated Dawn of the Dead to a giant NRA wankfest. This is simply retarded. There are a few reasons why there were so many guns in the movie. One is that there are fewer and fewer guns in movies these days because in order to have guns, you have to have people die, and that might push you up to an R rating instead of the coveted PG-13, and that costs you money, and movies are released by whores and suckers of Satan’s cock that only care about money. So it’s getting rarer that you see an R-rated horror or action film (like The Punisher) that shows all-out gun-based violence. There’s also probably some Hollywood based activist group that lobbies the big studios to put less guns in movies, which figures. Also, in 28 Days there were no guns because they were in London, not Wisconsin. Also they wanted to keep the guns to the military folk to prop up the lame premise of the failed third act. Finally, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH A ZOMBIE, PUT IT IN A TIME OUT? You shoot them in the fucking head. That is the one lesson that we should all learn from this movie: SHOOT THEM IN THE FUCKING HEAD. This also works with vampires, werewolves, aliens, carjackers, terrorists, and Jesus freaks. (Note that shooting them in the head doesn’t always work if you are on the Peter Jackson zombie theory with Dead Alive. Your best defense there is to never go to New Zealand or Australia.)

Another minor observation is that it’s interesting how people will now buy the mass terror in these sorts of movies. I mean, if me and Ray were watching a zombie movie ten years ago, we would duly note, “man, there’s no way all those people would just drop all their shit and run out of their house and run away like that. I bet everyone would stay behind and take some shit or something.” Well, after 9/11 and being one of those people that ran like fuck up Broadway and didn’t take something, it’s a much easier sell for them to set up this sort of disaster. It used to be that zombie movies used to spend a lot of time ramping up the whole “it’s spreading and we don’t know what it is, maybe we should sit here and do nothing” angle, but Dawn of the Dead pretty much blew through it by the opening credits, and I applaud them.

That’s about it. I was vaguely thinking of going to see Kill Bill this afternoon, but I don’t really want to pay $10.50 to watch Quentin Tarantino massage his prostate for two hours, so I guess I’ll stay home and watch TV instead.

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Lifestyle brands

I overheard a conversation at lunch the other day in which one of the assistants, someone a dozen years my senior, explaimed in an excited voice that she was going to a VAN HALEN concert. She said it in this sort of way that a sadly ironic person says “LET’S PARTY, YEAH!” in a very amateur-night-out sort of sense, like when Will Ferell playing some PTA soccer dad would say “We’re going to the Pottery Barn! It’s gonna rock!” After she left the room, I wondered aloud, “Who the FUCK even listens to Van Halen anymore?” And apparently nobody knew, because I was the only one at the table who even knew that Sammy Hagar had rejoined the group and that they hit the road again. When I thought about it, these guys have been off the map for at least five years now; I remember reading a story about the whole Hagar/Cherone/Roth switcheroo in some horrendous entertainment magazine when I was getting my hair cut in Seattle, and it’s strange to think that was five years ago, but it was.

I remember in Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City where he talks about metal bands that are lifestyle bands, and I agree with him, especially since Van Halen fits that bill. I remember a time in maybe junior high, when a Van Halen poster meant you were a badass, a Van Halen t-shirt evoked this image of total parties and insane times. I think the first Van Halen I ever really heard was 1984 which had a picture of an angel smoking on the cover, and I remember when I got it at the Concord Mall and my friend Jim Manges told me I shouldn’t show it to his mom because she thought it was Satanism. (To be fair, she thought everything was Satanism.) But I always envisioned Van Halen fans as being like the bikers at Altamont that kicked the shit out of the kids, the kind of people that played a lot of pool in dingy bars and rode Harleys and had chicks in bikinis around them all the time, and drank Jack Daniels straight out of bottles like it was iced tea. I listened to that album a lot, and it was cool music, but not exactly as heavy duty as I depicted. I mean, it even had a synthesizer intro track, and everyone knew back in 1984 that only fags played synthesizer, right? But I knew somehow that all of those OLDER Van Halen albums were totally hardcore, even though I never heard a note of them.

Well, Van Halen made a huge transformation when Diamond Dave left and they brought Sammy Hagar onboard. I wasn’t one of those people that called them Van Hagar and hated Sammy and said they were a bunch of pussies, but that album 5150 was probably closer to an Asia album than a Megadeth album. I mean, I liked it, and I listened to it, but the dream was over as far as VH being a party band. I mean, wearing one of their T-shirts could get your ass kicked.

But, I guess somewhere in the bowels of Long Island, people still think Van Halen is “heavy”. I don’t know. This is one of those things like people thinking that the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a lot of blood in it, or swearing their friend had a Boba Fett with a working rocket pack dart. It’s like an urban legend of music, a perpetuated myth that took off on its own. And to give credit where credit is due, it’s probably all David Lee Roth’s fault. If you read his book (and who know what stories are true and what ones are bullshit) he talks a lot about crazy stuff on the road, pranks he pulled and women he bedded and stunts they tried. Because of his crazy interviews and stealth marketing, Van Halen became a festival of debauchery, long before the days when music videos and Courtney Love antics did this to bands.

So I went back and listened to a lot of this older Van Halen, that I thought must be the magic key to loose chicks and wild times back when I was in the 8th grade. Guess what? It’s all pretty tame. I mean, “Unchained” is probably the hardest rocking of that era, and stuff like “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” are classic AOR staples, but so is the entire Boston catalog, and you hear all of them in elevator music these days. But the you’ve got stuff like “Ice Cream Man” and stuff, so I don’t know.

I was going to go on with this, but I’m bored and it’s late and I don’t really care.

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Review: The Punisher

Movie Review: The Punisher

I hate people. I mean, I hate them a lot. It’s not that I only hate people who bring strollers on escalators or bring screaming kids to R-rated movies or stand in the middle of the god damned sidewalk and don’t move or pretend to be rapper gangsta wannabes and yell at each other at the tops of their lungs on the train so the whole car can hear about their bitches and how they’re going to become the next big gangsta rapper. I mean, I hate all of those people, but I also hate everyone. I hate people so much that I would see absolutely nothing wrong if some political official would give me diplomatic immunity, an extensive armory, unlimited ammunition, and full blessing to simply shoot dead anyone in my path I saw fit. In fact, at a time when the NYPD is looking at over $100 million dollars in cost cutting measures, I’m almost certain that if they gave me about a half million a year and blanket immunity, I could cut crime more than any after-school basketball program, simply based on my pure hatred for everyone. (Actually, one of my first experiments would be to start an after-school basketball program and kill everyone that shows up.)

Because of this, I decided I wasn’t going to go to any movies this year unless I was forced to. But then my favorite comic-book antihero was brought to the screen, and it looked like it would not suck, as pretty much every other movie about comic book heroes has. So I fought the crowds and idiots to the theater, got a ticket, and luckily got that one handicapped seat that’s front and center with no other seats around it so some dumb fuckhead wouldn’t show up ten minutes into the movie, kicking my shins and dumping popcorn everywhere and sit his sweaty, fat, unshowered ass right next to me.

The Punisher is, for those who don’t know, a character that appeared in Amazing Spiderman. Like pretty much everything that Stan Lee and his employees has ever done, The Punisher was wholly and completely ripped off from somebody else, in this case from Don Pendleton and the Mack Bolan series of books. Basically, the story is that a guy is a big-shot special forces, secret ops soldier who has his whole family killed by the mafia, and he avenges their deaths by going totally fucking medieval on the enemy with about twenty of every weapon known to man. Marvel beat the story to death and put all kinds of weird spins on it, but in the most basic sense, this guy Frank Castle is a normal human with no radioactive spider bites or radioactive gamma ray poisoning or radioactive ballsac creme or whatever else caused guys to grow third eyes or fire vision or any other powers which normally cause you to drop out of academics or a blue-collar career and consider superhero crimefighting as a day job.

Director Jonathan Hensleigh took his damn sweet time reeling out how much Frank loves his wife (played by the very porkable Samantha Mathis, who I last saw in American Psycho) and then destroying them. I was actually getting pretty bored during this part, but Hensleigh had to really build up that sappy emotional crap so Castle would have a good reason to finally go apeshit. And just to hedge any bets, he made sure to have every living relative on both sides of Frank’s family at a vacation dinner when the bad guys show up with guns.

The nemesis in the movie is Howard Saint, a mobster type played by John Travolta, who loses his son at the start of the film and decides to take it out on Frank Castle by erasing his entire family tree. This film confirms without a shadow of a doubt that John Travolta simply cannot act. At one point in his career (before he made Battlefield: Earth) Travolta earned $20,000,000 a picture, so it seems a bit odd that he’s working on a $33,000,000 action flick that’s not an artistic endeavor or an overt advertisement for Scientology. Anyway, he’s here, and he’s basically reading shit off of cards like he did in Broken Arrow, Face/Off, or Swordfish. But he’s always wearing a nice suit. And if you’ve been jerking it to Mulholland Drive, Laura Harring plays his wife. Unfortunately, her role does not require her to jump on a trampoline topless for fifteen minutes, so I would say her abilities as an actress were underutilized.

The film picks up when Castle starts his one-man war against Saint’s crime syndicate, and it had enough machine gun fire, explosions, knife fights, violence, and hand-to-hand combat to score almost an 8 on the Konrath 10-point scale of ultra-violence. Some of it was a bit hokey, like the fact that Claymore mines don’t explode like a high-explosive charge as pictured in a key scene (they shoot ball bearings in an arc from the front plate.) However, I was able to overlook this because of cool scenes like when he super-armed his house by hiding grenades and pistols under sinks and drawers, or when he decks out an old GTO with a full-on race engine and straight duals, plus shuttered armor plating on the windows and more hidden pistols inside. The movie is practically an instruction manual for going apeshit and making your house a fortified compound, but most of us who have been reading the comic for decades knew all this shit already.

And of course, Rebecca Romijn plays Frank Castle’s neighbor in his dumpy studio apartment. As you notice, I do not use the hyphenated S-word at the end of her name, because just a few days ago, she has split from the no-talent, phone commercial jerkoff. I don’t know the terms of her divorce, but I’m hoping it’s because she got that copy of Rumored to Exist I sent her, and she’s on her way over to my apartment right now to bear my children. I have to admit that I can’t speak much for her acting in this film, because every time she was on-screen, I was distracted with the lingering image of her in Victoria’s Secret french-cut panties, high heels, and nothing else, scrubbing my kitchen floor with sponge as I walk in the door after a long day of writing fiction and cashing checks from the large number of book sales our celebrity marriage has produced. “Oh honey, I’m so glad you’re home!” she says, throwing down the cleaning equipment. “I missed you so much while you were gone producing the best writing known in the world,” she says, throwing her arms around me. “I haven’t had sex with you in hours. Do you want to go to the bedroom, or can you just savagely fuck me from behind and pull my hair while I cook you dinner?” And so on.

The movie pulled in the wrong crowd for me, though, and what ultimately bugged me was the fact that people are so fucking stupid. The movie is about a guy who did RIGHT, who was a law enforcement official, and who was wronged by EVIL. And he ultimately decides that he must go above the law to avenge the death of his family. And when the voiceover of The Punisher in the final battle says something like “when laws don’t go far enough, sometimes you have to take things in your own hands,” and all of the fucked up whigger idiots in the audience are yelling “Hell yeah G!” The contradiction is that to most of these people The Punisher is a hero and what they want to be, because they live above the law in that they smoke a lot of pot and drink too much and steal car stereos to supply their cocaine habits. What I see as wrong is that these are the kind of people who I would kill if I was The Punisher. It’s simply inexcusable that this point was explained to the audience in the simplest form possible, yet everyone in the audience but me simply did not get it, and after this weekend, you will see dorks wearing Punisher skull shirts everywhere, acting like a bad-ass. Now, I haven’t gone all wacky and armed myself to the teeth, and to be serious, I haven’t decided to go out and kill people vigilante-style, because I have nothing to avenge. The fact that the dumb high school dropouts in my neighborhood spend all of their time smoking pot directly under my bedroom window and listening to bass-heavy violent rap on their shitty jambox is bad, but it’s not bad enough (yet) for me to start wiring up Claymore mines. To me, the punishment is that in twenty years, they’re going to be the fat men in undershirts walking around this neighborhood with nine kids and no money and still working a job unloading trucks even with a bad back that they can’t get fixed because they have no health insurance, and they will ultimately die in the same apartment they were born in. That might not be as spectacular as shoving a big-ass Rambo knife through someone’s heart, but it takes a lot less effort on my part, and I won’t end up in prison.

Anyway, good movie. Not great, but worth watching.

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Being the bad guy in the piracy argument

Why do I always have to be the bad guy?

I mean, why is the opinion that is in my head, the way I want to think, the thing that I believe is right, why is it always the most unpopular view out there? Why is it every time I do anything that has to do with my own personal convictions, an entire army of people has to attack me and call me an idiot and try to tell me their way is not only better, but it’s the only way, and I would be a faggot and a communist to think otherwise?

The latest one that has been bugging me more and more is that people get on my case because I buy music. No, they are not my neighbors, who may have to listen to my music in the background at odd hours sometimes. I mean, people act as if I’m some sort of retard because I actually pay money for music rather than steal it online.

There’s a “war” going on, if you ask people who are hip to this whole thing about it, about how those cock-suckers at the RIAA and the big-whigs in these huge record companies are out to fuck over music fans and stop them from their god-given right to download music off the internet. Go to some place like slashdot.org and you’ll find thousands of computophiles bitching about how the government wants to make file sharing a felony, and the RIAA wants to invade their homes, and Sony and BMG want to put RFID tags on everything and invade their privacy. Entire web sites are dedicated to the fight to somehow defeat these corporate giants and change it so everything is free and there are no copyrights and the fascist Digital Millenium Copyright Act is gone forever.

These people are, for reasons I will outline in a moment, fucking retards. Copying music is stealing, plain and simple. And maybe stealing one Britney Spears song is different than stealing a Brinks truck filled with gold bars, but it is stealing. It isn’t a right. It isn’t a given. Someone made a product intended for sale, and you took it without making a purchase. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOUR RATIONALE IS. You are stealing.

Here’s a quick list of many of the lame excuses I generally hear when people try to justify their theft:

It only costs record companies like ten cents to make a CD and they are like twenty bucks in the store – It might cost record companies ten cents to PRESS a CD. But then it has to get shipped from the pressing plant to the store, and maybe get warehoused in between, and the store gets their cut, and probably some distributor also gets a cut in there. And before that CD is ever made, the band had to actually record it in a studio that cost thousands of dollars a day, with a producer that cost just as much and a whole band of engineers and mixers and everyone else that also didn’t work for free. Add to that the fact that the cost of recording a CD is tiny compared to the cost of a PR team that will do all of the marketing work like sending out thousands of copies to get reviewed, send stuff to radio stations, put out press kits, run ads in magazines, put stuff on billboards or sides of busses or in record stores or whatever else, and also you’ve got some photographers to pay for the glossy photos you are sending out, and a designer for the album cover, maybe some cover art, more photos for the back and inside of the jacket, and so on. All of this adds up to more than a dime per CD. And the record company is taking a risk by putting out a CD. They are fronting all of this money with the hope that the CD will eventually sell and they will make a profit. They get a big cut of the $15.99 or $18.99 you might pay for a CD. The band gets a cut, too. But anyway, all of this adds up to a lot, and it isn’t free. So how does this justify taking the song for free?

But all bands lose money on CDs. They never see a dime. – Some bands don’t. Steve Albini wrote an excellent article about this a few years ago, and it basically comes down to what kind of contract you sign, and how much of the record company’s money you spend to make money. If you’re a new band and you jump into bed with a major label and sign everything thrust in front of your face, you’ll find yourself in a giant studio with a bunch of new gear and on tour with a really neat bus, but you will have borrowed so much of the record company’s money to do this, that the only way you can make any money on your album sales is if you are the next Nirvana.

This isn’t good, but it’s not representative of every single artist out there. I’m sure Britney Spears has recouped her initial outlay on her last few albums. I’m sure the Elvis Presley estate gets the occasional check from BMG. There are bands that make money and are profitable on record sales, and the fact that some aren’t doesn’t mean that it’s ethical to steal their music from their record label. It’s not legal to steal a repossessed car just because its owner could not manage their money, no matter how evil the bank they borrowed from might be.

Yeah, well record companies are still evil. – Banks are evil, and you can’t use that as your defense if you rob one. The New York Stock Exchange is filled with companies that take from the poor and give to the rich. I’m sure if you found a way to tap into their computer and start taking stuff, you’d probably end up with the footprint of an FBI agent’s boot in the middle of your forehead in short order. Stealing is stealing. Record companies are a business. They make a product. They intend to sell that product. If nobody ever bought that product, they would go out of business. If everybody stole that product, they would not be in business, and these bands would be in their garages or working at Olive Garden or something, and you’d never hear them. The fact that you like (insert band) is because they got signed to a label that fronted the money for them to go nationwide and end up with records in the store and songs on the radio. If the record companies didn’t do that, they would still be a bar band in Wisconsin or something. And if bands could exist on a nationwide basis without a record label, they would. If record labels do nothing but rip off bands, why do so many musicians break their ass trying to get on a record label?

But bands make all of their money touring. – Maybe. A lot of bands lose money touring, and hope the tour spurs record sales. To quote another good article from MRR, this one about Green Day’s tour after signing to a major label:

Another interesting major label fact: the tour that Green Day was on had been fabulously successful. Nearly every show sold out, a thousand or more fans at each one. And how much did Green Day make on tour? Less than nothing. In fact they lost money, a lot of it. Not because anything went wrong; in fact they expected to lose money going into it. That’s the way Warner Brothers does things: tours are seen more as a way of promoting the record. By contrast, on their last couple of independent tours, playing less shows and to smaller audiences. Green Day made a lot of money.

Of course, when they were on Lookout and doing their own tours, all of their total album sales were a fraction of the sales on each album they did with Warner Brothers, which eventually brought in way more money than driving around in there own van, plus it made them a regular MTV staple and a nationwide mainstream sensation.

Don’t forget, of course, that the record company sponsors these tour, so any money made on the road is paying off that debt. And if bands make so much money touring, why do they get corporate sponsors? Another thing is that it used to be the case that bands made a lot of short-term cash on the road by selling t-shirts and merchandise. One thing that has fucked that as of late is that contracts with venues sometimes require the house to take a percentage, usually at the highway robbery level, of merchandise sales. That’s why it costs like $38 to get a shirt at a concert now. The other thing is that t-shirt sales are now sometimes farmed out to another company, that pays an advance and has you sign a giant contract which usually sets you up for making little money in the long run. Anyway, some artists make money touring, some don’t.

I also find it disconcerting that when people tell me bands make all of their money touring so it’s okay to download the music for free, when I ask the person if they have ever paid money to see the band in question, the answer is always no. So if you don’t pay money to have the CD and you don’t pay to see the band, how exactly do you support the music?

Downloading music helps album sales. – It might. But it doesn’t if nobody ever buys albums anyway. I have to admit that when I was a kid, I used to tape albums from friends. But if it was an album I liked, I would buy it. I think some people do that now, and I can almost overlook this, because the people in question are putting their money into CD sales, and that’s good. But the thing I don’t like is that it should be up to the artist to decide whether or not to allow this kind of previewing. Some endorse it, and will put one or two MP3s online, and then hope you will buy the full album based on those songs. I like that approach a lot; Metal Blade used to do this, and I downloaded MP3s of a few bands and then immediately bought the CDs based on what I heard, so it worked. But the important difference is that they decided to do this, and it was a trial; it was not stealing. Bands should be able to choose when to do this, or when to do something like release an out-of-print album or live show for free. It’s their decision.

But everyone else does. – I heard everyone else was taking sand and pounding it in their ass. Check it out.

I’m tired of bitching about this, and I’m sure every single person who reads this will disagree with me. I guess I love music, and I love to have entire CDs with artwork and every track and a nice little case that I can put on a shelf and keep. I don’t want to have to hunt for the two loose tracks that aren’t online, or get something that was sampled at the wrong rate, or have to hunt around to find out who played bass on what track, or anything else. All of the musicians I like to hear are people that work hard and deserve to be rewarded for their labor. If I were a musician, maybe I would put a bunch of my stuff online just so people would check it out, but I wouldn’t want to wake up one day and find that the product of my labor that I hoped would sell in stores is being handed around for free.

I know a lot of people only have a casual relationship with music, and only occasionally listen to that one hit single that the one guy did that was on the radio, and then move to the next trend a week later. I know if you’re a person like that, you might not care, in the same way that I do not care who personally manufactured the tub of margarine in my refrigerator. But it saddens me to think that people who actually consider themselves fans of music would short-change the people who actually produce this art, and then justify it with some half-baked theories about the first amendment or big business whatever. All I can say is, people should support the artists that they love, or own up to the fact that theft is not an inalienable right, but just theft.

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Dream Theater bootlegs

I bought some CDs today and got a few more in the mail, and that brings the total in my collection up to 900. I think the goal is to get to 1000, but I don’t know if that’s doable by the end of the year or not. I’m buying CDs at a much more rapid rate these days, but I’m sure things will slow down as I get toward the end of the year. There’s also the issue that I am out of room for the damn things.

Five of the CDs that arrived in the mail today were from a company making these offical bootlegs of Dream Theater stuff. I guess a couple of the guys in the band got together with some small record company or something and somehow got permission from the record company to do small runs of each of the titles. I do not entirely know who is really responsible on the business end, and I felt a little scared sending a credit card to this unknown business, but they came through, and the products are pretty incredible, with real CDs and color booklets and lots of liner notes and everything. They have six titles, and I bought three of them. One is a collection of old demo tapes before the band was Dream Theater; one is a 2-CD live show from ’98 (when I saw them in Seattle); and one is the making of the album of Scenes From a Memory.

I listened to the demos, and they really brought back some strange memories for me. I never heard these tracks before – they came from when the drummer, bassist, and guitarrist first got together at Berklee school of music and started laying down stuff into their portastudio. And that reminds me a lot of when I used to hang out with Derik and Jamie and they got a portastudio and started recording all of this crazy shit, prog-rock stuff that they put together after listening to the first Dream Theater album a thousand times, plus way too much Rush, Marillion, Yes, Steve Vai, and so on. In fact, these demos include a version of the Rush instrumental “YYZ”, which reminds me of the thousands of times I sat next to Derik’s drum kit as he tore through the song. I have many fond memories of listening to Derik, Jamie, and both of them together work through all sorts of songs and arrangements, some written by other artists and some brand new, but all getting better and better with each jam and each mix. Unfortunately, I don’t have the pleasure of sitting down to a finished product by these two, as they eventually went their own ways without ever making a CD or tape.

The other CD I am listening to now is the making of SFAM, and it’s a very strange one. I first heard this album the weekend it came out (I think), which was when I drove to Cincinnati for my uncle John’s funeral. The whole trip out, my stay at a strange little hotel near some college campus (and, coincidentally, a stone’s throw from where me and Ray drove in 1993 to see Unleashed and Cannibal Corpse) is another long story I may have told elsewhere. And then I spent a few hours in Bloomington on Halloween. Then on the 13-hour trip back to New York, I was going nuts from boredom, and stopped in some little Pennsylvania town where they had a strip mall. The place was absolutely vacant, and reminded me of the days when me and Karena used to go to the mall in her hometown of Longview, Washington; there were about a dozen stores and a Target and Red Lobster all congealed together, maybe with a two-screen movie theater, and the inside of the place pretty much housed like three or four old people waiting to die, and nothing else. So I went into this mall and went to a Sam Goody or Musicland or whatever they are (I think they are all owned by the same company) and found a Jerky Boys tape that I knew would entertain me for about 20 minutes of the remaining 8 hours, and then I saw A NEW DREAM THEATER ALBUM! I got it and rushed the car to listen to it and see if it was as cool as the last one.

It turned out it was much cooler. Someone in Metal Curse (and I forget who, but it wasn’t Ray. King Foley? Jack Botus? Not sure.) said there are only two concept albums out there, Rush’s 2112 and Queensryche’s Operation:Mindcrime, and everything else sucks shit. He is partially correct, but wrong on two counts: first, 2112 wasn’t a concept album, it had a full-side song that was conceptual, but the B-side contained 5 regular-sized songs; second, this then-new Dream Theater album was a concept album better than either of those put together! I could not believe the total perfection, power, precision, and depth this 80-some minutes of music could lay down. The story, which is complicated to tell, is about the 1928 murder of a woman that haunts a modern-day man’s dreams. He goes to a hypnotherapist who helps him peel back the layers of the onion and find out about the conspiracy behind the woman’s death. Instead of being one song, there are a dozen tracks, some of them clocking in at over ten minutes each, some of them serving more as short introductions and bits for the story. Prior to this album, DT spent a couple of discs stripping back their sound, playing pieces that might get the occasional spin on an AOR station or that could make a good video, with the guys in stupid leather costumes probably, that might get played on some European metal show. It’s almost as if they said “fuck this!” to all of that and decided to completely Zappa out and pour as much black ink onto the music staff as possible to build these incredibly fast and complex rhythms. But it’s not all just a shredfest either; they make it all emotional and build strong songs where it’s needed for the story.

Anyway, I listened to the tape a half-dozen times straight through, then bought the CD, bounced it to an MD, and listened to the whole concept album at least once a day for probably six months straight. I still pop it in every once in a while and I’ve got every note memorized. It’s on a DVD and a live album of theirs, so I hear it there too. And now, it’s truly strange to hear this CD of them writing the songs in the studio, changing around riffs, fucking up and then swapping things around. Jordan Rudess replaced their previous keyboard player on the album; the old guy, Derek Sherinian, was more of a hard rock fag, and wanted to be some big rock star, so they fired him. Rudess is more of a classically trained guy, and you can tell the other guys feed off of his ability in the studio to put down good lines and structure. These guys worked together in the side project Liquid Tension Experiment, which is an equally project that involves the guitar, drums, and keys of Dream Theater with the bass and Chapman stick of Peter Gabriel and King Crimson’s Tony Levin.

Anyway, it is hilarious to listen to this studio work – sometimes they slow down a line, go back over it, then speed it up until it works again. I have every microsecond of this album so memorized, when I hear it performed differently, it’s very noticeable. Some of the stuff is interesting, though. There are occasional guitar licks and even some saxophone lines that were recorded but dropped from the final mix. And then there are just strange placeholders, like when vocalist James LaBrie doesn’t hold a long note in a scratch track and and does an almost yodeling song, or when the writing track for “The Dance of Eternity” breaks into an impromptu (but very kick-ass) version of “Foxy Lady” by Hendrix. It’s all very good stuff.

I thought my eBay auction was over, but it’s on PST, so I still have almost three hours. It’s up to $61, but I hope someone snipes out the thing and pushes it up to a hundred or something. Okay, time to go play the Simpsons game.

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Satanic conspiracy, eBay

Friday night. Listening to Chick Corea, waiting for a damn eBay auction to end. It’s my auction, selling off the sidekick, and I am hoping someone will jump in and double the price in the next ten minutes, but nothing has happened yet. And it isn’t Chick Corea, but rather Chick Corea Elektric Band II, with Paint the World, which sounds similar to the older Elektric band who fueled so much of my writing on stuff like Summer Rain and I would like to use this album to get in the mood to write some new stuff, but it isn’t entirely working.

FUCK my auction is going for another ten minutes and a DAY. I can’t read a calendar.

Does anyone out there use RSS? I am thinking about making my index program also spit out RSS, but before I spend any amount of time working on this, I need to know that at least more than one person will actually use it. I think if I did this, there would be an RSS file that would contain the dates that I updated, and then you could pull those in if you had some kind of RSS client. It would be nice if I could then put this thing on livejournal and syndicate it, but I don’t have a paid account, so I don’t have the points.

I had the day off today, and spent all morning asleep. I read this book about Mike Warnke (finished it last night at 2 or 3AM) – he is this evangelical comedian and speaker who became famous in the seventies for giving these talks about how he got all high and into drugs and drinking and women and all of that in the sixties, got into Satanism and became a high priest and grew his hair down to his ass and looked like Marilyn Manson and cut off peoples fingers and drank blood and held high masses and all of that, and then went to Nam and killed gooks and got shot 19 times and saw people get killed and so on, and then returned and got all Jesus and became a minister. You know the story – you’ve heard it a million times if you turn on the Jesus channel. Well, the difference with him is IT WAS ALL BULLSHIT. Big surprise, he was making up all of that, and was just a pencil-necked geek back then and he made it all up. This Christian magazine called Cornerstone basically researched it all out, called up witnesses, went through records, and proved in a very systematic and detailed way that most of the stuff he talked about was pure fiction. They published an article about this in ’92 and it derailed him, but he’s still around. He just threw up more smoke about being all sorry for “exaggerating” and please forgive him blah blah. What a bunch of bullshit. He was one of the prime reasons for the whole Satanic ritual abuse bullshit going on in the Eighties. He gladly appeared on all of those Oprah and Geraldo shows about the Satanic “conspiracy”, along with a bunch of other “experts” who were largely named experts by other people with bullshit credentials.

Anyway, the book ended with an unlikely chapter wherein the two writers (who were Christian, just not actively ripping people off like Warnke) went for a dinner with Anton LaVey, head of the Church of Satan. It was a strange meeting of the minds, not unlike seeing Richard Nixon and Elvis shaking hands. It was more like seeing Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro in the same room. But it’s strange because LaVay (who confirmed that Warnke was full of shit and that he never met him, let alone knew about his 1500-person coven in southern California, which is probably like three times bigger than the Church of Satan was) had some similarities. At the least, LaVey spent a lot of time inventing his own past, from his own name to his stories of working for the city police to being head organist of the opera to his tales of riches, which were debunked when he later filed for bankruptcy. I have to admire LaVey’s philosophy in the sense that he seemed well-read and wrote a bible that made some sense in the basic tenets of man’s needs, or at least more sense than any modern interpretation of the Christian bible. But LaVey was a sixties marketer in a vastly expanding world. While the Christian evangelists had their hands in every pocket trying to save America’s children from the evils of Satan on every cable channel and shopping mall promenade out there, they rapidly turned people away from any sort of sixties love-fest that LaVey originally harnessed for his “live for yourself” humanist version of Satanism. If he would have hired a prodigy that would have attacked the record labels and internet and book stores like Christians did, we’d all be at a black mass right now instead of messing with our computers.

Bleah.

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