Archive for September, 2006

The Day Metallica Died

September 28th, 2006 at 11:06 pm by Mark
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     By 1986, I was a huge Metallica fan.  I had all three albums, a bunch of imports and an impressive number of bootlegs that “don’t exist” — outside of someone’s degrading collection of cassette tapes, stuffed, caseless, into a shoebox and long forgotten under a bed or at the bottom of a closet that’s never opened until guests arrive.
     And it was on this day, twenty years ago, that a friend of a friend called me to tell me that Metallica’s legendary bass player, Cliff Burton, had been killed in a bus accident the day before.

     If you’re not familiar with Metallica save their more recent albums like St. Anger, you’d do well to give the old stuff a listen.  To illustrate what sort of influence Cliff Burton was on the band, it’d be a good idea to grab the 1981 compilation album, “Metal Massacre,” which features a terrifyingly poor version of “Hit the Lights” with original bass player, Ron McGovney, and original guitarrist, Lloyd Grant. Grant was replaced early in 1982 by Dave Mustaine (of Megadeth fame). In 1983, however, Dave — who seemed to pay more attention to alcohol and drugs than music — was ousted as Kirk Hammett (from the thrash metal band Exodus) joined the crew . 

     Quiet, classically trained and immensely capable, Cliff brought an edginess and raw nerve to the band.  Influences like Motorhead and the Misfits are very apparent on their first release album, “Kill ’em All” from 1983.  Being “the major rager on the four string motherf#&$er,” — a quote delivered by Hetfield at an early stage show — Cliff grandstands his bass guitar talents on the track, Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth).

     Cliff was quick to realize that this was a group who could define the shape of things to come.  As a visionary, he noted that each of the members were talented in their own right: Kirk Hammett was an impressive and established guitarrist and songwriter, Lars Ulrich was an exceptional drummer, and the vocalist of the band, James Hetfield, was a burgeoning poet.
     Under his leadership, Metallica veered slightly off of their Thrash Metal path to release “Ride the Lightning” in 1984.  This marked the beginning of Metallica’s signature accoustic guitar intros (the Segovia-influenced intro to Fight Fire with Fire), and melodic intrumentals (the brilliantly arranged Call of Ktulu, titled owing to Cliff’s love of H.P. Lovecraft).
     Power Metal was born.

     Building on that success and using a similar formula, the 1986 release of “Master of Puppets” catapulted the band into Billboard’s top fifty.  This was no minor achievement, considering Metallica had gone completely without the radio airplay granted other artists in the Billboard list.

     Tragically, Cliff was killed during the Damage, Inc. World Tour (named from of the last track from Puppets album, a track clearly showing Cliff’s bass talents) with Ozzy Osbourne.  While in Sweden for the tour, their bus hit some ice, and he died in the ensuing malady (being thrown from the bus window, crushed, and crushed again during the attempted rescue effort).

     Shortly after, the slot was filled by Jason Newsted of Flotsam & Jetsam.  Although an accomplished bass player, Newsted couldn’t fill the shoes of Cliff.  Unfortunately for him, the band would never let him forget it, either.
     “Garage Days Re-Revisited” was released in 1987, followed by “…And Justice For All” in 1988, and featured some of the last riffs from Cliff.
     While Garage Days — featuring covers of bands like Diamond Head, Misfits and Killing Joke — was a suitable ode to the influences of Cliff Burton through the prior years, Justice fell notably short.  The band released their first Top 40 Single, One, and the rest is the more recent history of an altogether different band.

     Without Cliff in the role of mentor, there was no one to temper the paranoia of James Hetfield, nor the ego of Lars Ulrich.  Instead of the Metallica we all knew and loved, their self-titled album, also known as the Black Album, spawned multiple Top 40 hits.  As the once iconic Metal legends became more mainstream and less distinguishable from other Metal bands, it was unsurprising to see them touring with popular glam rock band, Guns ‘n’ Roses, in the early 1990’s.
     The downward spiral continued through the mid-to-late 90’s with the releases of Load and Reload, which spawned a new wave of marketing the like of which had not been seen since the Kiss campaigns in the 1970’s.  From action figures to zippos, Metallica’s mainstream popularity put them on equal footing with “bubble gum” artists such as New Kids on the Block and Britney Spears.
     With Lars at the helm, the mainstream, sold-out Metallica became a figurehead in the Recording Industry Association’s fight against the then-reveolutionary music sharing application, Napster.  In multiple interviews, Ulrich’s egomaniacal viewpoints — especially his contention that content providers should be legally liable for anything that happens on their network instead of the user who is abusing the service — turned many fans away.  The battle came to a head with Lars standing before a Senate Judiciary Committee in July of 2000, standing up for Intellectual Property and Copyright Laws during the RIAA’s bid to have Congress put more teeth into the Digital Millennium Act (DMCA).  Fortunately, Camp Chaos was there to lambast the RIAA and poke fun at the entire situation.

     Now with their fifth bass player, Robert Trujillo (a great guy, BTW — met him plenty of times), they’ve decided they’re not going to split like they had intended, but will probably release another bad album in the near future.  Of course, this won’t be any fault of Trujillo — the man who’s played Bluegrass, Classical, Funk and Metal with the ease of a concert Bassist — but it’s inevitable, given Metallica’s radical shift into mainstream “teeny-bopper” Metal.

     It’s unfortunate, really.  Cliff Burton was responsible for so much of what was great about the early Metallica.  Besides taking Cliff’s life, the tragic accident also took with it the power and creativity that made Metallica stand out from the crowd.

     Rest in Peace, Cliff Burton (10-Feb-1962 to 27-Sep-1986).

     And R.I.P Metallica (Oct-1981 – 27-Sep-1986).

Penn & Teller on Conspiracy Theorists

September 24th, 2006 at 7:04 pm by Mark
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     Penn & Teller’s television show, “Bullshit!“, really covers a lot of material with little more than simple logic.  This particular episode, from 9-May-2005, carries with it the same type and amount of raw disbelief and vitriol that I’ve ranted when discussing 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists, right down to the choice of nouns and adjectives.
     People can say foul language, name-calling and violence never solve anything, but in certain situations, they certainly make you feel better. Besides — why should I show restraint to people who none? The Golden Rule does apply.
     If you agree, watch it, because it has all of those things.  If you don’t, then … well … don’t watch it.

     Someone told me recently, “Calling them idiots and dumbasses doesn’t do anyone any good! You catch more flies with honey!”

     I’m sorry, but, why should I have to catch flies here?

     In the immortal words of Penn Gillette, “Are 49.3% of us just f$&*ing crazy?”

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Revisiting Bad Headlines

September 24th, 2006 at 6:27 pm by Mark
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     The other day, Anton (from LR2) and I were talking about stupid headlines.  He says, “I saw a great one the other day…”

Women Have More Orgasms During Lesbian Sex than Men

     Once I stopped laughing, I responded with, “Yeah, I can see that.  Once most guys get it over with, they turn off the video.”  I mean, I certainly can’t think of any men who engage in Lesbian sex (I mean, past the occasional ménage à trois, which apparently doesn’t count as “lesbian”), but then, it’s a big world … so who knows?

     Unlike the last Media headline I loved, “Jets May Be Vulnerable to On-board Bombs,” I don’t have any screenshots or cut & pastes of the headline.  
     The original article, however, was real, and could be easily found from multiple sources ynder the titles, “Lesbians Have More Orgasms” and “Variety is the Spice of Sex Life.”

     AP, Reuters and miscellaneous others often change these sorts of absurd ambiguitues soon after they’re discovered.  However, it’s a good thing for us a lot of that many people under Media outlets’ employ aren’t proactive in doing it beforehand. 
     It gives us the occasional opportunity for a comical comeback!

     If ya find any good ones, send them to us!  If we find them equally amusing, we’ll post them and give you a link and a credit.


September 22nd, 2006 at 12:43 pm by Mark
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     Back in July, Swanky had his meticulously planned First Annual Luau at his place.  Sure, maybe it’s a little presumptuous, thinking that it’s gonna be an Annual event, but it was truly a great party.
     A *lot* of people showed up (sixty-plus) to eat and drink heavily, and everyone played nice together.  Where else but Swanky’s Annual Luau are you gonna get sixty people together and not end up with a fight, hurt feelings or annoyance?  (Note the hint, Swanky)

     The next day after cleaning up the yard — kudos to the conscientious crowd who knew how to decently dispose of their debris — the DogCats were extremely affectionate.
     Now, if you’re not familiar with the DogCats, they’re a couple of rather large Maine Coon Cats who play fetch, stand up, chase cars, attack strangers who come into yard and Rottweilers being walked by their owners.  Just imagine your average German Shepherd with needle-sharp teeth and razor claws, and that’s pretty much their overall demeanor.
     After a nice session of fetch with the branches in the yard, the younger of the two decided to take a rest from which little could stir him.  Swanky threw a branch on him.  The younger younger DogCat flinched, bit it a couple of times, and laid back down.
     This, of course, prompted Swanky, Ms. Swanky and I to start throwing more on him.


     Of course, the fun didn’t stop there.  He just laid there while we added more and more.


     “Oh, man, this is great!  It’s Catmouflage!” I said as I piled a few more on.
     The laughter brought the elder DogCat closer to observe the situation.


     If I didn’t didn’t mention it before, yeah, the DogCats can talk, too.  I think his exact words were, “Umm… what the Hell are you people doing?  Umm … You realize you three are idiots, right?”

     Of course, he went to check on his younger sibling, who appeared to be quite “dead” at the time….


     …however, his concern was met with a sharp tag on the nose by his little brother’s outstretched paw.

     We continued, but the very last branch, much larger than the rest, was enough for him.


     One flip, and he walked right out.


     And that was that.

     Note to PETA and the SPCA: No DogCats were harmed during this excercise.  Neither were any sheep or rams.  Please do not attempt with normal cats.

     Good times, good times…

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Five Years After

September 11th, 2006 at 3:35 pm by Mark
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     Sometimes a picture’s worth a thousand words.
     Other times, they’re worth ten thousand.  I’ll try not to write them all down.

     Throughout my travels, I actually have very few pictures, let alone pictures of me.  That’s why this one is so special to me.  It was taken 28-Dec-2000.

 Mark Steel in front of the WTC

     Nine months later, those beautiful landmarks were gone.  I was in a foreign country having abuse and saliva hurled at me by random morons with their, “Fucking yanks got what you deserved!” and other such slanders.
     Mind you, “screaming” is considered a violent act there, and they had a tendency to make examples of non-citizens, so I had to either take the abuse or take my chances beating on some of them.
     Door number two was easier, knowing that I could go home and shave my hair and beard, and they’d be too stupid to know it was me if they saw me again.

     Contrary to popular belief, the 9/11 attacks took little to pull off.  That’s the one thing the public doesn’t like to hear.
     It wasn’t the work of a brilliant, criminal mastermind with an endless supply of money.  All it took was a few idiots with the nerve and will to actually do it.
     I was out there, and I know first hand that there are a lot of idiots in the world, with the will to do it.  Fortunately, few of them have the nerve, but the possibility has always been there, and continues to be there.

     “There was no problem before this stupid President!  We could travel anywhere under the last one!”
     Even through the 90’s, foreign travel was discouraged to “ALL COUNTRIES, DUE TO HIGH POSSIBILITY OF ANTI-AMERICAN ACTIVITIES.”  These notices were in every Post Office and Airport in the country.  Surely I’m not the only one who noticed them.
     But certainly, after 9/11, it got worse.  Half the world saw America as weak, saw that retribution could be had for whatever made-up reasons we needed it, and apparently, all it took was a few plane tickets and some box cutters.

     “We shouldn’t be in Iraq since it had nothing to do with 9/11!”
     We unhinged Afghanistan because there were camps training armies of Jihaadists.  These things are all over the Middle East, as well.
     Regardless of whether or not Iraq had anything to do with it, two facts remain.  First, it was an unsecure country with  tons of munitions.  Second, a stabilized Iraq dead in the middle of a Jihaadist region is a perfectly good thing.
     For Iraqis who are fed up with Totalitarian control, isn’t it nice to see them on television now wearing Levis and playing soccer instead of being terrorized by a leader who has had no qualms about killing them by the hundreds of thousands?
     And for Jihaadists … Iraq is a poison pill where the majority of them will face the front, and die for their cause, without killing as many innocent civillians as they have for last thirty years.

     “You’re more likely get killed by lightning than killed by a terrorist!”
     Maybe that’s true.  But maybe it’s only true of now, post-9/11, because we certainly didn’t think it would happen on 10-Sep-2001, now did we?
     Realistically, the NOAA & NWS agree that there were 3684 reported deaths by lightning between 1959 and 2004.  2997 people died (not including the hijackers) on that single day, 11-Sep-2001.
     Given those statistics, is it really fair, comparing nearly fifty years to a single day?
     Regardless of how we may dislike the new “security” measures at airports, they usually don’t inconvenience us terribly.  Sure, we’ve hit a few bumps lately, but we’ll get through it.

     Without the politics to add fuel to these arguments, they all fall apart.  We can sit here, as citizens, getting a tenth of the story at best, and try to second guess, analyze, and make all these stupid connections to find a single person responsible for the mess.
     Thoughts like that will almost never represent the truth.

     We should remember what life was like, realisticly, before 9/11.  We should remember the day.  We should remember those who died for no reason.  And we should never forget.
     Maybe when we all start doing that, we’ll begin to see some improvement.

9/11 Memorial

Firefighter Memorial

Thanks, Mia, for the last two pictures