Tuesday, August 26, 2008
1.) Okie From Muskogee - Merle Haggard
"It started out as a joke. We wrote to be satirical originally. But then people latched onto it, and it really turned into this song that looked into the mindset of people so opposite of who and where we were."
So said Merle Haggard when asked about his biggest hit. It describes a 1960s Oklahoma town where 'traditional American values' like football, the Stars and Stripes and respect for authority still reign supreme.
Some claim this is sheer revisionism. I tend to believe Merle.
The length of Haggard's hair does not define him. Neither does his well documented drug ingestion or tail chasing.
But it might give you a hint that he's taking the piss when the first line of the song starts " We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee. We don't take no trips on LSD."
He goes on to sing "We don't make no party out of lovin'. We like holding hands and pitching woo. We don't let hair grow long and shaggy like the hippies out in San Francisco do."
Besides, Haggard saw Johnny Cash's legendary San Quentin shows while doing ten years for holding up a Bakersfield saloon. He says it turned his life around.
I once saw Judas Priest at Maple Leaf Gardens while doing three years in journalism school for reading too much Kerouac. It did fuck all for me.
Who am I to argue?
2.) Short People - Randy Newman
I was nine-years-old when the song Randy Newman's song Short People was released in 1978.
I loved that song. I recognized it -- if not as satire -- than at least a joke.
And I was short and I was ... oh yeah ... NINE-FUCKING-YEARS-OLD!
It's a minor tragedy that the greatest song writer of the last fifty years is primarily known for a novelty song.
It isn't even a slight throw-away song. At it's best, it is a vicious smack down of bigotry. At it's worst, it's a fictional diary of a mad man. Who could take "They got little hands and little eyes, And they walk around tellin' great big lies, Don't want no short people 'round here" seriously?
Anyone under 5'2" in the 1970s, I guess. Midgets, Dwarves and the like used to throw Short People parties where they would throw tiny little eggs and tiny little darts at pictures of Randy Newman. It kinda makes you want to kick tiny little Tom Cruise in his tiny little nuts.
"It was too bad that was my one big hit--a novelty record like The Chipmunks did," Newman recently told the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star. He hates the damn song now. "It was a hit that did me no good, that did me harm. A bad break."
3.) Every Breath You Take - The Police
Every Breath You Take used to be a very popular first dance wedding song.
I've not personally known anyone whose wedding song was Every Breath You Take.
Mind you, I try not to hang out with stupid people. Especially two stupid people who are about to get married.
The song is about obsession and stalking. It's creepy. It's isn't about everlasting love. It's about a sinister, controlling character whose relationship is ending.
Casual living room poll?
Barb's wedding song: Turbo Lover by Judas Priest
Brian's wedding song? Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash
Also Brian's funeral song, BTW.
4.) Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper
One might forgive the casual listener for assuming Alice Cooper had the worst intentions with Only Women Bleed.
He wrote songs about welcoming you to his nightmare. He wrote songs about necrophilia and the eventual world domination of man-eating spiders.
This was all on the same album that held Only Women Bleed.
So the song is about cutting up chicks, huh?
At least the song is about menstruation, right?
It's about our patriarchal society in which women do most of the work and get the shitty end of the stick.
Pretty sensitive for a dude with decapitaed dolls and torture equipment as on-stage props if you ask me.
Plus, Etta James covered the song in 1999.
I'll bow to Etta's judgment rather than the wankers who slap Parental Advisory labels on records, thank you.
5.) This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie
It sounds incredibly patriotic. The majesty of America on display:
"This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me."
Except Guthrie was a self-confessed socialist. He painted the phrase "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitar. He reveled in sticking it to - for lack of a better analogy - The Man.
Witness the verse that usually gets left out by people who conduct choruses of school children:
"In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?"
And here comes the beautiful, left-wing, property sharing kicker:
"There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me."
see also: Bruce Springsteen's Born In The USA.
Really, Ronald Reagan? You wanted Born In The USA for your re-election song? The first lyrics
"Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just covering up"
didn't tip you off the song wasn't as patriotic as the title suggested? Alzheimer's Disease may have kicked in by this point, but didn't you have handlers, Ronnie?
Please visit The Library of Congress for other Woody Guthrie songs of which Ronald Reagan would not have approved.
6.) The Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams was born in the fall of 1959. Therefore:
"Me and some guys from school
Had a Band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I shoulda known we'd never get far"
never happened unless he and his friends were extremely precocious hillbillies.
The song is just a sophomoric reference to mutual oral sex. Fuckin' grow up, people. Jimmy never quit, Jodi never got married
... I'll wager it was just a bet with his producer about the dirtiest song he could get on Canadian radio.
Hence the closing line "Me and my baby in ... uhh... '69".
I'll wager Mr. Adams record label deemed The Autumn of Piston Fisting slightly not subtle enough.
Despite his obvious pranksterism, Bryan Adams is still a very shitty songwriter.
7.) In-A Gadda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly
Often confused with music.
It is not.
I double-dog-dare-ya to add your own examples.
Don't be a pussy.
at 11:45 p.m.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
He's Troubled ... But I Can Save Him. Part II: Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Everywhere but Not a Drop to Drink
As a responsible adult I'm not advocating the use of Magic Mushrooms.
As a realist I'm not advocating mixing a batch of them into Campbell's (non-magic) Mushroom Soup and walking the streets of Toronto for nine hours with Slappy and Spanky (not their real names as they lead semi-respectable lives these days).
You know those times when you just have to load up on British Columbian 'shrooms just to shake the cobwebs out?
No? Then go to Hell.
Don't you dare judge me -- if you haven't done this yourself you shouldn't be reading this blog.
Back to the point. Where was I? Oh, yes ... please understand, Slappy and Spanky can never agree on anything. In fact, the only thing I can ever remember them agreeing upon was that we should ingest wood-chippy halucinogenics and wander aimlessly one Saturday afternoon. Once everyone had agreed on THAT basic concept, all unity and harmony flew out the window.
That said, I'll offer a few tips on coping with a halucinogenic walking tour of Canada's biggest city.
Once you exit the building in which you've ingested the above mushrooms, you may feel the urge to look up at the CN Tower and comment that it looks like a big wang.
This is natural.
Feel free to giggle.
No one looks twice at a Toronto street giggler.
Please refrain from lying on your back on the sidewalk, looking up, and snickering, "huh huh huh ... big Toronto wang. Heh, Wangy".
It not only disconcerts the locals ... It really hurts tourism.
As you make your way towards wherever Slappy and Spanky lead you -- be prepared. There will be some sort of Hobo Jungle. In happens in all major cities. Please do not taunt the hobos or offer them whisky that you can not provide. There but for the grace of God -- and the lack of a Conservative majority government -- go you. Don't be such a prick.
These knobs who have filled your head with bad, bad drugs, will walk down the Cherry Beach rent boy stroll. As a confirmed hetrosexualist, don't take that walk with imaginary voices jabbering in your head unless:
a.) You are REALLY secure about your masculinity
b.) You REALLY need the money
Fellas will be cruising and whistling at you.
If you're Straight? Be cool. Take it as a compliment.
If you're a Gay Prostitute? Shake that ass and get the best price you can. If you work out, wear a tank top.
When you get to the lake - take in the scenery. Watch the ships. Contemplate an indifferent Creator vs. the happy mistake of evolution.
Under no circumstances talk to children whose mothers are too negligent to notice their kid wants to hang out with three ugly stoned guys sitting on a dock. Even really fried people recognize this as bad parenting.
Besides, encountering eight-year-old kids -- while more fucked up than you have ever been in your life -- is very bad mojo. I think it says something about that in The Bible.
"Encountereth not the toddlers whilst tripping thy balls off, for it is unseemly in the eyes of God and he shall lower his head and shake it sadly, muttering that he should have given the place to the monkeys."
Don't drink Lake Ontario water and claim it's as good as city water. I don't care how thirsty you are. City water is horrible but it does lack a certain amount of feces.
When it starts to get dark, walk up the street, pool your money and hail a taxi cab. Don't care that your taxi driver is having a boxed fried chicken dinner date with his girlfriend. He works hard at a shitty job. He deserves at least that much. Tip him well.
Get dropped off at the nearest bar. Drink as much as you can but don't expect to get drunk - you're still too 'shroomed up. Ignore Slappy and Spanky arguing. Admire the beauty of the waitress in an unfamiliar nonsexual way. Then...
... try to reset
... try to relax
... try to realize you are safe for at least one more day.
... try not to do any more drugs the next morning.
at 1:40 a.m.
Friday, August 8, 2008
So much so, in fact that I've already drafted my rider.
Since we're so close, I'll let you have a peek:
This rider is attached and made part of the contract between BRIAN ELLICOTT, herein referred to as the ARTIST and _______________, herein referred to as promoter.
1. BILLING: VERY IMPORTANT
Artist shall be billed as BRIAN ELLICOTT. It shall appear as such in all advertisements, fliers, marquees etc. Artist shall receive 100% headline billing.
Advertising the ARTIST as 'former member of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD' is not acceptable. Mr. Ellicott has never been affiliated with GRAND FUNK RAILROAD or its' later incarnation, GRAND FUNK.
Promoter agrees to provide use of well-lit space, table and chairs. The ARTIST reserves the right to sell crap he has lying around his home at engagement.
3. DRESSING ROOM
Promoter agrees to provide a safe, private space for ARTIST'S use. Promoter agrees to keep all unauthorized males and ugly chicks from entering this area. A bathroom must be located somewhere in the building.
4. PROMOTER ASSUMES FULL LIABILITY FOR:
Payment of any and all costs, expenses, losses, litigation, tossed-panty clean-up and damages related to this engagement.
Promoter agrees to supply able bodied, sober security in case the stage is, for lust or outrage reasons, rushed. One guard will be required to escort ARTIST to stage. Two guards will be required to carry ARTIST from stage. In any event the ARTIST deems his security at risk the ARTIST has the right to bugger off and be paid in full.
One (1) hot meal of waffles and sausages is to be provided before show at no ($0) cost to ARTIST. Twelve (12) vending machine sandwiches and tap water are to be provided to crew. Standard buy-out is $25 US/Can/Euro 35/AUD 7000/Yen 15/GBP per person
NOTE: If local/working crew is present, promoter must provide Burger King coupons. Burger King Coupons may be confiscated by ARTIST if high.
6a. MORE HOSPITALITY
In dressing room:
One (1) bottle of chilled vodka NO PRINCE IGOR!
One (1) bottle of room temperature vodka NO PRINCE IGOR!
One (1) bottle of body temperature PRINCE IGOR vodka
One (1) bottle of local red wine
One (1) bottle of local white wine
Four (4) clean pair of underpants NO FRUIT OF THE LOOM!
One (1) hot-plate
One (1) frying pan
Four (4) slices of pre-buttered rye bread
Three (3) slices of No Name processed cheese. One (1) slice is to be cut in half.
No (0) smoke detectors
In the unlikely event ARTIST does not consume all of above it is to be distributed to local homeless community at cost to promoter.
Promoter agrees to provide and pay for hotel room or find sofa for ARTIST to crash on or about.
at 1:27 a.m.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
I was once a child,
You may find that hard to believe.
Okay, you may not. Barb once described me as "a toddler with access to liquor and weapons."
Regardless, as a tyke, my well-meaning but naive mother would drag me to church.
A Baptist church, no less.
And lo, the child was well and truly bored once he realized his Sunday School teachers wouldn't answer questions like, "How did Noah fit dinosaurs onto the Ark?" and "Who did Adam and Eve's children mate with?".
The people at the church, with a few exceptions, meant as well as my Mom. My mother, for example, would never picket an abortion clinic. She'd never fag-bash - she wouldn't even say the word 'fag' (she calls them 'funny'. It's kinda cute). She once tried to pass an ordinance to keeps kids from dancing in Price's Corners but quickly forgot her pet project once the cooking sherry wore off.
Like my mother, I'm sure most of these Baptists just wanted my soul saved. What kind of monster wouldn't want to make sure I didn't end up in a lake of fire where torment would be heaped upon torment and the wails of my fellow damned would echo ... blah ... blah ... blah. How very fucking quaint. Thanks for your interest. I actually mean that. Sorry it didn't work for y'all.
However, a few of these people were, for lack of a couple better words, Evil Douchebags.
Like the Sunday School teacher who said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "If you steal a cookie, don't repent and suddenly die -- you'll end up in Hell." What The Fuck? I loved stealing cookies at the age of nine. I lived to steal cookies. Cookie Theft was my raison d'etre. Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll (or at least hidden Playboys, Beer and Blondie's Greatest Hits) were still several months away!
That notion -- that I could be sent to Hell if I choked to death on a stolen cookie -- scared the fuck out of me! I had nightmares I can still vividly picture right now.
The worst of the lot, however, is whoever let the above comics get into my hot little hands.
Written, illustrated and published by Jack T. Chick, these little comic books - about the size of a pack of smokes - were SOLD to the sort of people who wanted to convert other people to Christianity. These books scared me more than any ten saggy-jowled stolen cookie ladies. I was convinced I'd end up in Hell on a technicality.
A little research about Jack Chick, sadly still living, shows he's a Fundamentalist Christian who hates the usual suspects: abortion, drugs, homosexuals, Rock 'n' Roll, Halloween, Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons ... and the Catholic Church.
Sadly, he hates the Catholic Church for all the wrong reasons. Chick believes many of the world's problems are deliberately caused by the Catholic Church. He credits the Catholic Church with founding Islam, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Also? Starting the Holocaust and founding Communism.
On one hand, the Catholic Church shouldn't have covered up all the altar boy molestation.
On the other hand, they gave us the Catholic school girl uniform.
I know it seems silly now, but it really did scare me insensible as a child.
Luckily, it also made me think God was kind of a prick.
So here I stand before you now, a liberal athiest with a penchant for celebrating Halloween with my homo friends, dressed as Harry Potter while drunk and listening to Black Sabbath. I played Dungeons and Dragons once -- but I never really took to it.
When Jack Chick dies - as he will soon (he was born in 1924), I will make it a personal life mission to urinate on his grave. I may host a bus tour to do so. Scarred me for life, that fucker did.
Thank you indulging my self indulgence. I just wanted to get that off my chest.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled smart aleckry.
P.S. New Paul Westerberg and Randy Newman albums were released today. And yes, the Paul Westerberg album is supposed to sound like that.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Don’t get me wrong: Charles Babbage was a very smart man.
He invented the cowcatcher.
He invented the heliograph opthalmoscope to examine the interior of the eyeball.
His liberal thoughts on the division of labour partly inspired Karl Marx to write Das Kapital.
Oh yeah ... and he almost invented the computer in the early 19th Century.
He lacked the proper tools and components – they were not yet invented – but one of his fully functional crunchin’ machines sits in the London Science Museum. In 1991, a buncha nerds following his diagrams built one capable of advanced logarithmic and trigonometric functions.
Nine years after his first schematics, Babbage also invented a printer for his machine. According to the same nerds -- and we have no reason to doubt them -- that would have worked as well.
So it may seem odd to call the grandfather of the modern computer one of history's all-time great fuck ups. It's just that his greatest claim to fame wasn't almost inventing a computer.
It was how much he really fucking hated organ grinders.
I can hear the outcry from the many, many mathemeticians who read this page.
'Go to hell - Charles Babbage was a genius!'
'Yes he was a genius -- a genius who was mocked and taunted in the streets because he really fucking hated organ grinders."
Okay ... he didn't hate just organ grinders – he hated street artists of all kinds. He calculated in the London Times that “25% of his working power had been destroyed “ by various buskers.
So Babbage took matters into his own hands. He would scream and chase these musical pests down the street. He would write letter upon letter to London newspapers. He would appeal to Parliament.
And it worked ... in theory.
Legislators passed ‘Babbage’s Act' in 1854 to outlaw the “street nuisances” that had Chuck working at 3/4 of his mental power. Unfortunately for Babbage, his Act wasn’t practical or enforceable. All it did was piss off organ grinders and the people who loved them.
According to J.A.N. Lee in his 1994 Babbage biography …
The public tormented him with an unending parade of fiddlers, Punch-and-Judys, stilt-walkers, fanatic psalmists, and tub-thumpers. Some neighbours hired musicians to play outside his windows. Others willfully annoyed him with worn-out or damaged wind instruments. Placards were hung in local shops, abusing him. During one 80-day period Babbage counted 165 nuisances. One brass band played for five hours, with only a brief intermission. Another blew a penny tin -whistle out his window toward Babbage's garden for a half an hour daily, for "many months".
Clearly, Babbage underestimated the common man’s love of grinding organs. Continues Lee:
When Babbage went out, children followed and cursed him. Adults followed, too, but at a distance. Over a hundred people once skulked behind him before he could find a constable to disperse them. Dead cats and other "offensive materials" were thrown at his house. Windows were broken. A man told him, "You deserve to have your house burnt up, and yourself in it, and I will do it for you, you old villain”.
In defense of Babbage, he may have been – and I’m no doctor – bat shit crazy. He once wrote a letter to the famed English poet Alfred Tennyson in response to his poem 'The Vision of Sin'.
"In your otherwise beautiful poem, one verse reads,
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment one is born.
... If this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill. In truth, the rate of birth is slightly in excess of that of death. I would suggest:
Every moment dies a man,
Every moment 1 1/16 is born.
Strictly speaking, the actual figure is so long I cannot get it into a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."
I suspect Babbige had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
But Babbage was beating his head against the wall about how to build this unbuildable computer -- or Difference Engine, as he called it. He heard out-of-tune penny-whistles outside his window night and day. His government grants were withdrawn because he could not produce this computer and they suspected he was, well, ... bat shit crazy.
He did the only thing a man could do:
Conclude that people suck, twice run for Parliament unsuccessfully as a Whig, become a far-right conservative and then die in 1871, embittered and mocked by street musicians. According to Lee and the London Times:
Even when he was on his deathbed, the organ-grinders ground implacably away.
In 1890, Herman Hollerith, an American inventor, independently came up with the same idea. It was much bulkier and it did far less.
But it worked and, as much as history records, Hollerith was never mocked and taunted in the streets by organ grinders, mimes or puppet shows.