Monday, November 17, 2014

Music Review: Comet 67P/C-G's New Material Uninspired, Predictable

A big, rocky sell-out

As anyone closely following the news emanating from the enormous intersection spanning the world of popular music and the realm of the scientific studies of celestial bodies well knows, 
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has just released new music, prompting an insane amount of buzz in the press. Rosetta Blog, Discovery News, Smithsonian.com, and a host of other hip, pop-culture websites are treating 67P's latest like its the greatest thing to happen to recorded music since the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper.

Unfortunately, this is a tune that all true music fans have heard before. Its the classic opus: the formerly unknown artist, the starving musician toiling in obscurity, making meaningful and creative music suddenly gets a little mainstream success and bam!, all the substance leaks out like so many ionized particles through a pseudo-atmosphere of electrically conductive plasma.

It would be unfair to say that 67P's new music is "unlistenable" or "a complete pile of steaming space-garbage", but the terms "derivative" and "uninspired" come to mind. Clearly, this is an attempt to capitalize on the sudden attention from a massive new market. We've seen this kind of thing countless times in the past when an artist suddenly explodes in, say, Japan or Europe. The comet is now clearly pandering to its new demographic: the population of Earth. Of course, the bandwagon will rush to defend the artistic integrity of 67P (thereby justifying their own shameless frontrunning) by saying "Oh, if the comet were really pandering to mankind, it wouldn't have released its music at a frequency 10,000 times below the limit of human hearing." However, such arguments are barely defensible these days, and, frankly, becoming somewhat tiresome. Mp3s vs CDs, vinyl vs cassettes, Pandora vs Spotify,  within range of the audible spectrum vs 10,000 times lower than the lowest sound detectible by the human ear... isn't the music supposed to matter more than the format in which its released?

Nevertheless, this latest effort from 67P will doubtlessly shape up to be the comet's "Nevermind", its Black Album, its "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness". The comet will surely reach the height of its popularity thanks in part to its producer/sound engineer team of the Rosetta spacecraft and the Philae Science lab, bought and paid for with the deep pockets and fat wallets of the European Space Agency. With these huge tech-dollars now funding its efforts, the comet will get a taste of the sweet, sweet nectar of an audience with the ability to interpret and enjoy sonic vibrations, and once that fame train gets a-rollin', it'll be on the fast track to mediocrity.

Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You Are Not A Music Promoter

Today I want to solve a mystery. If you are in a small-time band, you are no doubt familiar with this type of person: someone who will spam your inbox with exciting opportunities to play venues all over the place, call themselves a "promoter" or a "booking agent", and possibly have some sort of fancy company name. I'd been getting bombarded with these for a while, so for a laugh I replied to one and asked what the payment structure was for the bands at one of these venues. Here is the reply that I got in return, broken down piece by piece so that we may examine exactly what each section is saying:


A FACEBOOK INVITE IS REQUIRED FOR THIS SHOW: PLEASE CREATE A FACEBOOK INVITE FOR THIS AND ALL SHOWS WE BOOK WITH YOU -- THIS IS IS VITALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BAND TO PROMOTE THIS SHOW! PLEASE ALSO LIST THE SHOW ON ALL YOUR ONLINE SITES AND INQUIRE WITH US IF YOU WISH TO OFFER ADVANCED DISCOUNT TICKETS!
Ok, the first thing we notice here is that this paragraph is completely in troll caps. Note that the author felt the need to yell at me right from the start like I'm some kind of moron who needs to get it though my thick skull that this shit is serious. For Christ's sake, its not like I dissed Ronald Reagan in the comments section of the Fox News website, so how about we take it down a notch? That said, the request isn't really unfair at all. Sure, bands should make a facebook event to promote their shows. After all, why wouldn't you? Its free. There's nothing particularly obnoxious about that . However, stringing together a bunch of poorly worded demands in all caps lock is disrespectful and annoying. Plus, I'm pretty sure bold type is an option in most modern email sites. Moving on.

Load in: Please load in at least 1 hour before you play. There is no sound check - just a line check before your first song. Load in thru the main entrance.
Great. This means your band is guaranteed to sound like shit and nobody at the venue will care or, more likely, be able to do anything about it.  But at least you get to bring all of your shit in through the same door that all the bar regulars are simultaneously leaving through, because lets face it: they're not there to see your band. Or any band. So why does this place even have bands? But that's a question that we'll address later. On to the good stuff.

Payment: Admission is $10 at the door; $8 in advance. Bands are paid $5 a head starting with the 16th person (or $3 a head for anyone who has pre-paid for an $8 ticket), but you must draw at least 25 people to be paid. The door person will ask every attendee the name of the band they are there to see. To offer advance discount tickets to your fans, I need to set up an account for you -- contact me at xxxxxxxx@gmail.com to do so (at least 2 weeks before the show). I am not paid by the club, nor do I receive a cut of the bar, so it’s imperative that you take promotion seriously and bring people, so that I may cover all costs to the club including sound, security, door person, etc.
The mysteries here abound. Ok, let's try to unravel this payment structure math. So we get $5 per person after the 16th person, but nobody gets paid til the 25th person. So essentially, persons 17-24 are meaningless for our purposes unless persons 25+ show up. So if person 25 happens to break down on the freeway, we essentially forfeit $40 that we are supposedly owed from person 16 onward, making this a largely symbolic offer. But really, that's just the tip of the iceberg of stupidity that is this payment structure. For example, we have the option to set up some sort of account and offer discounted tickets. Great news for the fans! Except for the fact that the discount comes directly out of our share, dropping our cut from $5 to $3. So this begs the question; Why would we bother to set up an account to fuck ourselves in the ass? Why would we ever do a bunch of paperwork so that we can make less money while you make the same amount, whoever you are? In what world would someone agree to a deal like that? That has to be the stupidest...
    
Which reminds me, who the fuck are you again? What exactly is the job description of the person with whom I'm corresponding? They've just said that they are not paid by the club in any fashion, but are in fact indebted to them to cover a sound person (who does not perform sound checks), and a door person. It is imperative that I promote and bring people, so this person is not a promoter. So, they don't work for the club, and they're not a promoter, and in reality all they've done to this point has been to spam my inbox with bullshit and offer to set up an account whereby I can get cheated out of money. So what does that make them? I'm not sure exactly, but the phrase "con-artist" comes to mind...

Guestlist/Reduced Admission: We are unable to offer this due to our costs so yes your girlfriends/husbands/mothers must all pay the full cover.
God, really? My girlfriend/husband/mother can't get on a guest list because of your costs?  I've played a looot of hole-in-the-wall dives, and all of them that even remotely take themselves seriously as a music venue offer a guest list, even if it just comes out of the band's cut at the end of the night. I'm not asking for miracles here. My band is going to spend everything we make at the bar and then some, so just let my god damn girlfriend slide on the $10 because she fucking carried half of the equipment. Oh, but wait, you don't get paid by the venue, so the fact that a bunch of wild rockers are neck-deep in $3 PBRs means absolutely nothing to you. In fact, so far there's been so much pressure for me to cover your costs that I'm starting to wonder exactly is my motivation for playing this club instead of throwing a kegger in my basement, where I'll make my own guest list and put my mother on it, thanks.
Where's the beer pong, pussies??

PROMOTING THE SHOW: The audience at these shows is based solely on the draw of each band so please post this gig on your myspace page, facebook, etc. Neither the club nor I can bring a crowd to you - you must be able to draw people on your own. If you cannot, please don't play the show. The better you draw, the better the night/venue/time slot I can offer you in the future.

Finally, we end with a paragraph full of lies. "Neither the club nor I can bring a crowd to you." Well that's a bunch of bullshit. The club could, in fact, bring a crowd if they had hired a promoter instead of letting you work pro-bono to do whatever the fuck it is that you're doing, and you could maybe bring a crowd if you were, in fact, a promoter, or, to a lesser extent, put half as much effort into promoting as you did into sternly reiterating the fact that YOU ARE NOT A PROMOTER. I mean, you could at least have put up a facebook event page in that span of time. And furthermore, "The better you draw, the better the night/venue/time slot I can offer you in the future." Well, since you've so forcefully stated that you will absolutely not in any way advertise the show you're attempting to book, what the fuck does it matter what night or venue you put us in, since there is 0.0000% chance of anyone being there besides maybe a bartender and the people I personally brought? Is this supposed to be some kind of motivator? "Hey, if you can bring out 25 people to this empty shithole on a Tuesday at midnight, I'll let you bring the same 25 people to a different shithole on a Thursday at 11:30." Wow, what a deal! Am I fucking rich yet?

So what I want to know is, who exactly benefits from this business model? Obviously the bands lose out because they're getting such a bad shake. You're potentially facing a situation where you could bring out, on a weeknight, 24 of your favorite girlfriend/husband/mothers to a dive bar that they (or anyone else) would never otherwise go to, have them all pay a ridiculous $10 cover charge with NO EXCEPTIONS while they overpay for drinks all night at the bar, and you walk away with literally nothing except the equipment you had to haul and a parking ticket from the PPA. There is absolutely no scenario in which doing this is in any way more advantageous than playing in your own backyard.

But furthermore, how is this a win for the "promoter"? They have obviously agreed to work for these clubs at a risk to themselves, because they are responsible for paying the sound and door people (if their emails are to be believed). Therefore, they send these pseudo-abusive emails in which they feel they need to badger and pressure bands into selling the show before they even know if they've booked a local rock legend or a sadomasichist scat-hip-hop DJ with a Casio keyboard who cuts himself on stage. How is this a formula for success? They shove down your throat that you are responsible for covering all of their costs, and yet they are offering you nothing but an empty room far away from your house that you will lose money getting to. That is, unless you can bring 25+ people on any given weeknight in the middle of the night at the drop of a hat. And let's face it, if that's the case, you can find a better deal pretty much anywhere. So what band that is even marginally successful at drawing a crowd would ever be motivated to work with you? Probably none, so these promoters will be forever scraping the bottom of the barrel, yelling at inexperienced bands with no following to make facebook pages for their shows and bitching about all their costs.

Well you know what? Fuck your costs. When I agree to promote a show for you and draw a certain number of people, do I demand that you cover my costs? Guess what, my bass rig cost $750. That was a personal expense that I needed in order for my band to exist and bring people to the shitty bar that you don't actually work for. That was a financial risk that I took in order to be able to do my job, which, by the way, is not to be a promoter, but to rock. See how ridiculous it sounds when you spin it around like that? And we're all supposed to sit here and sweat the fact that you might take a loss when you a) neither have nor will have done any real work in putting the show together besides the arduous task of spamming pre-scripted emails, b) are offering nothing of any real value except the vague promise of a "better night/venue/timeslot" which, if it actually exists, will undoubtedly enforce the same set of draconian rules you're imposing on the shitty night/venue/timeslots, and c) knowingly took on the risk when you chose to do this. Just because you're able to shaft most bands out of their entire fanbase's admission costs doesn't mean that none of us understand how money works and that, if given the choice, you'd rather not lose it. We fuckin get it. Things are tough all over.

But finally, how is this situation a win for the club? Sure, on the one hand, instead of hiring someone to book and promote talent, they have a person whom they don't have to pay (or even really speak to) to try to get people into the door on those pesky weeknights when most people aren't trying to get sloshed. But as with everything else, you get what you pay for. Wouldn't it be better for business to take a little bit of a hit and hire someone who knows what they're doing? Wouldn't it be better to have one great show every week that can be properly advertised than five shitty shows where six people show up to each wishing that their car had caught fire on the way there because the sound sucks and everyone is pissed off and miserable?

Additionally, if you can't offer a sound check, a guest list, or even a back door through which to move equipment, maybe having live music isn't really your thing. It's ok! Not everyone should do it. Maybe you could stick to DJs, or pool tables, or having hot bartenders, or a really cool jukebox. Or, fuck, maybe have good food and drink specials, or whatever the hell bars used to do to get business before all of these con-artist fake promoters showed up trying to turn every last hole in the wall into CBGB's. If you're going to do something, do it right. And remember, its OK to say no.

Or, I don't know, have some other kind of gimmick...

Now, allow me to address some of your predictable retorts.

Hey asshole! I'm one of these promoter type people you're talking about! Bands are all like 'pay me money' and shit, but they usually suck and can't even bring out 5 people to a show! How is it my fault these people don't get paid? If they suck and can't bring anyone out, there's no money to pay! Why don't they understand that? Why do they even want to play a show to nobody?

Well, you're right. Most local bands do suck and can't bring 5 people to a show. Why do they want to play a show? The same reason you want to be a promoter. Everyone wants to be in the scene and nobody can ever come to terms with the fact that they just might not be good at certain things. So, what do you, as the sham promoter, do to filter out bands like this? You ask them what their draw is via email, to which they can tell you literally anything you want to hear in order to get the show. "You need us to bring 40 people on a Wednesday? If I say no we can't play, but if I say yes we get the show? No problem!" One could argue that a better method might be to actually fucking listen to some of the bands you book in order to gain firsthand knowledge of whether or not they suck. Or for that matter, whether or not they've bothered to record a demo. If they can't even dropbox you some rough MP3's, they probably can't self-promote a show very well.

Additionally, at least half of the time, you have the first band to sign on to the show find other bands to fill out the bill! This is absurd on so many levels. Firstly, now, beyond just not being a promoter, you're not even doing the booking! You are literally trying to get money for nothing. "You want a show? Well BOOK IT YOURSELF! I'll be there to take the money." You're one step above spray painting a water-gun and robbing people in the subway station. Have me book the show? Fuck you! Who are you, my life coach? To whom I have to pay an exorbitant fee to get "pointed in the right direction"? I don't think so, pal. You emailed me about a show, not the other way around.

Secondly, even a sham promoter should know at least three to four bands of a similar genre that would make sense on a show together. If all you do is sit around sending emails all day on your breaks from managing a PacSun, maybe you could, I don't know, email some bands yourself. Its good to know bands, since, you know, you're trying to book live music.

And because finally, if you pawn off the last remaining duty of the job you claim to be doing onto your clients, who do you think they're going to fill the show with? Their friends, dipshit. Most likely, a band with limited connections isn't going to be able to reach too far outside of their social circle to find acts that want to play with them. That's where, ideally, you would come in to use your experience to put together an event. But, since every band now on the show probably knows each other from high school, you're looking at a very limited pool of potential fans. That decreases the odds of you covering the costs that you somehow managed to accrue while doing nothing, and makes it even less likely that anyone else will get paid.

At this point you're probably thinking "But I can't afford to be picky! I have to book 30 bands a week just to make any money at all!" Well, that's that whole problem of you not actually being a promoter again. Even if you had had those urges to begin with, its obviously impossible to properly promote a show when you have one 6 out of 7 nights a week. Since doing so would be an unrealistic workload for what is doubtlessly a 2nd (at best) job for you, you leave it up to the bands, most of whom are shitty, to do themselves. You're getting exactly what you paid for, just like the bar that hired you.

Wow, for a guy who's supposed to be passionate about music, sure seems like you're obsessed with getting paid. If you're doing something you love, do we really have to hear about how you can't make all this money because of evil promoters?

Well, first of all, I can assure you that any musician around 30 years old who works full time, has commitments, bills, possibly a mortgage or a family, etc, isn't in this for the money, myself included. But there's a big difference between not being greedy and not wanting to be ripped off. The worst thing about these kind of promoters is that they appear legitimate. Now, there are actually dishonest-to-goodness hornswagglers out there who take money from bands for services and then disappear, never to be heard from again. (One day I will burn you alive, "Michael" "from" "Oceanus Tours"). I almost prefer their type though, because at least after they get you they're gone, and they don't have the audacity to pretend they are a legitimate service. These other guys are just some unnecessary middlemen who, for some reason (greed), think they are doing something worthy of payment. I'm all about fairness. If we can produce money for the venue, we deserve a fair cut, not $15 for gas money after our crowd spent $500 binge drinking at the bar after paying a cover charge. Conversely, if you did your job in putting a decent show together, you are also entitled to a fair cut. However, if you emailed me about a show, but I found the bands, I made a Facebook event, I spent money to make fliers and posters,  I made phone calls to get people in the door, and then I played the fucking show, how the fuck are you entitled to any of the profits? You didn't fucking do anything, asshole!

In conclusion, I actually think that the dive bars are still the winners. Look at it from their perspective: get someone to tell five bands they can play a show on a Tuesday night, and bam, 25 people in your bar on a Tuesday night. Who cares if nobody wants to hear their music? People who are serious about their bands, we all need to wise up. You don't need these people. For one, learn which promoters are the real deal. A good indicator is if you can actually talk to them like a person, not just a mystery address on the other end of a pre-scripted email chain. The real ones are busy, and may not respond to you right away. That's not a deal killer. But are they reasonable? Asking that you be able to draw 20 people to a given show or sell tickets is not bad business. Drafting an overly complex payment scheme that makes no sense probably is.

Another option is to not deal with promoters at all. Find a bar or a hall and book it yourself. If you're going to find bands and promote everything anyway, you might as well deal directly with the venue and work out whatever cut sounds good to you. Cut out the fucking middlemen.

And finally, spread this rant around. If you've gotten this far into the post, either you think my prose styling is the stuff of legend, or this hits close to home for you. I'm sick of these flakes, and I'm sick of their bum deals. Send this to the next fake promoter who screws you over. Send it to all your friends in bands.

Let them know that they have no place in the "doing this purely for love of the game" music circuit.





Thursday, March 21, 2013

"Revenge" of the "Nerds"

Good news everyone! Rejoice, for a time of redemption is at hand. Yes, all of you brethren who were unfortunate enough to develop a leaning toward subculture-oriented media in your days of public schooling, otherwise dubbed by your seemingly indefatigable physical superiors as nerds, geeks, dorks, freaks, queers, mouth-breathers, losers, pantywaists, wusses, pussies, pansys, faggots, quags, maynards, fergusons, Van Houtens, dinkleys, spanglers, and bitches, our time is at hand. Finally, in our post racial society, we have also fostered a culture of acceptance that has made such leaps and bounds since the time that having a copy of the novelization of Return of the Jedi was something to keep hidden from the public at all costs. No longer is there a gaping social chasm between Joe Mainstreet Football-Fan and Quincey "New-In-Box" First Edition Action Figure Collector/Elvira Enthusiast.

Proof, you say? Well, if the mainstream blockbuster success of such phenomena as The Big Bang Theory and Comic Book Men left any doubt in your mind that the sun has risen on a new age of enlightenment, look no further than this (which I came across in my Facebook feed):

not because I Googled "Hottest Nerd Girl". I swear. 



Finally... finally, people are beginning to respect those with differing opinions about what's "cool" or "attractive". How else could a contest like this come about? At long last, a cultural mecca like Philadelphia is willing to fly in the face of conventions and sponsor a beauty contest in which the individuality and uniqueness of the contestants challenges our preconcieved notions of the status quo. I mean, take "Angel" here: 





Instantly you'll note the trappings of a once-trampled underclass: the bulky, sadly broken, thick lensed glasses (doubtlessly a hold-over from parents who either couldn't afford or refused to acknowledge the need for a more stylish model), the suspenders (probably a result of the same), and the Catholic school uniform, whose solemn conformity was probably one of few similarities she shared with fellow private school students who surely looked down upon her because of her choice of books, movies, and music. 

But if you look beyond these things, you'll see subtler, more painful hints in the eyes of these nerd girls. Beyond those horned-rims, there's a sad look that says, "Yes, I understand, for I too had my Millennium Falcon broken by bullies outside of the hobby shop ten minutes after I bought it. I too was the only middle-schooler who still wore a ridiculous bicycle helmet, and I too spent the bulk of my weekends watching Star Trek with my parents while my peers were at the mall learning how to french kiss and smoke cigarettes."

Yes, the wurm has turned, as it always does. The word "nerd", once used as a derisive expletive by those who hated and wanted to kill you, can now be used as a badge of pride and honor by those who truly underwent a social trial-by-fire. But what is the prime mover for this long overdue phenomenon? What could possibly have evened the social scales and given these nerd girls the chance to flaunt their uniqueness, free of the undue criticisms of the past? The answer is so simple, we should have realized it long ago:

All they had to do was already be stripper-hot and take all of their clothes off for radio DJ's.











Thursday, January 17, 2013

Shit Like This Is Why I Don't Have The Patience To Be A Real Writer

So, this one time I submitted an idea for a piece on the new writer's section of the Cracked.com message boards. It was basically me bitching about zombie fanboys again, with the idea that I would do a list of apocalypse scenarios made famous by movies that would be scientifically way more likely to happen than a stupid zombie outbreak, backed up by whatever facts I could find with a ten minute Google search. One of the editors responded, and told me that my idea just looked like a list of apocalypse movies, and that here at Cracked.com they don't do articles that read like "here's 10 great cowboy movies, etc, etc".

 So today's top articles on cracked are:

  • 6 Deleted Backstories That Totally Change Classic Movies
  • 10 Brilliant Comedy Gems Hiding on YouTube
  • 3 Past Box Office Hits That Prove January Movies Suck
  • An Urgent Message to Guys Who Comment on Internet Videos
  • If 'Django' Was 10 Times Shorter and 100 Times More Honest, and
  • The 5 Most Badass Things Ever Done in the Name of Research
Now, I'm no mathematician, but out of today's top articles, 50% are just lists of movies/internet videos that fulfill certain criteria and 33% are commentaries on said movies/internet videos (one of which is a tounge-in-cheek synopsis of an already tounge-in-cheek Tarantino script), leaving only 17% (1) of today's top articles to tackle any subject that isn't about movies or internet videos.

So maybe I was aiming too high. Maybe instead of doing a list of apocalypse movies, I should have proposed a list of apocalypse movie YouTube mashups that would sync well with the Nyan Cat song. Because, you know, the only thing more interesting than watching YouTube mashups is reading serious critical commentary on YouTube mashups.

More Than Just Lists Of Movies... Sometimes.


     

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Movie Review

Its gotten too serious up in here lately, so please enjoy this lighthearted movie review.

I saw The Hobbit. Before I give my opinion, let me put my level of Tolkien fandom in perspective for the casual reader. I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, and I have only recently begun reading the actual books. I've finished Fellowship and Two Towers. So just so we're all on the same page, I don't have maps of Middle Earth on my wall and I don't speak Elvish. I also haven't actually read The Hobbit, Return of the King, or The Simillarion yet.

That said, I thought the movie was great! It was a little long in getting started, and there were some obligatory franchise shout-outs (for example, the scene where Elijah Wood suits back up as Frodo just to get the mail and eat an apple), but overall, I thought it was fantastic.

However, liking stuff is boring, so there are two small things about The Hobbit that I hated and am fully prepared to go on a rant about. These in no way impact my overall liking of the movie, but they are very stupid and must be addressed.

First Stupid Thing:

So in one part of the movie, Bilbo and the dwarves are crossing this rainy mountain pass (in a scene that looks identical to one in Fellowship except that the rain was snow). Some rocks start falling down on them, and one of them shouts "The legends are true! Rock Giants!"

And then, holy fucking shit, 75 foot tall monsters made of solid rock are beating the tar out of each other. And I don't mean just crashing into each other like you might expect senseless stone people to do. These guys are throwing jabs and hooks and executing sick bare-knuckle boxing combinations like they just graduated a 12 week fight camp with Manny Paquiano. So needless to say the Dwarves are scared shitless, but manage to barely escape this brutal fracas and get inside the mountain. 

And nobody ever mentions it again.  

In fact, they all just fucking go to sleep. Now, since I haven't read the original book, I don't know if this is explained somewhere, so maybe somebody can help me out. As far as movie making goes, its pretty random. There's no set up whatsoever. One minute, Dwarves are walking across a mountain, and the next minute, what could not possibly be any less than the most fucking powerful creatures in Tolkien's universe are having a title bout across an entire mountain range. Then, thanks to the comfort of a cave within a dwarf's walk of this catastrophic scenario, the danger is suddenly over without so much as anyone saying "Wow. So, how about that rock monster battle? Crazy, am I right?"  

Let's think about this. These things are as tall as mountains, throw boulders the size of Isengard, have the combat dexterity of a young Joe Frasier, and Gandalf and co. are worried about a dragon? Are you kidding me? Forget about this dragon nonsense! We need to deal with these living mountains who are God-like in power and clearly aggressive. Radagast saw a "necromancer" in the old tower? Fuck that shit! What if the rock-man royal rumble spills over into the streets of Minas Tirith? Smashed. In fact, what the hell couldn't three rock monsters who had a bad morning utterly destroy? White city of Gondor? Smash. Rivendell? Smash. Eye of Sauron? Throw a mesa at it. Fangorn forest? Lay down and roll. Sure, the Ents seemed pretty powerful before we learned they are completely outclassed on the next range over. 

Call me crazy, but I feel this situation needs to either be dealt with, or at the very least, explained. Like maybe two fuckin seconds of screen time when Gandalf comes back to save them from the goblins. 

"Yo Gandalf, that goblin shit was scary, but you should have seen this other shit we saw right before that. You would not believe it."



"Oh, you must be referring to the rock monster mash. They always do that, but for a million centuries of man they always stop by six o'clock and never leave the mountain range."


"Oh, ok. Good."

See? Problem solved. But failing that, I feel that it should make parties of both good and evil in Middle Earth somewhat uncomfortable that this kind of thing is going on. Yes, the one ring can corrupt the minds of men, but, you know... smashed. 

Second Stupid Thing:

All subterranean creatures are racially incapable of building railings.   

I would seriously like for someone to do a body count of how many deaths there are in these movies due to lack of railings. I don't remember anything in the books about the dwarves specifically leaving railings off of clearly precipitous bridges and walkways despite the fact that a strong sneeze could send someone tumbling down 4,000 feet into a river of magma, so I'm forced to assume this was an executive decision on the part of Peter Jackson. 

There's a scene in The Hobbit where they're fighting off a million goblins in Goblin Town, and the lack of railings, handholds, and crossbars is so apparent that they simply use the strategy of "just knock them off", to which the goblins were clearly unprepared despite the fact that they fucking live like this. The dwarves are no better. The glory of Erebor? No Railings. The Mines of Moria? Built with no railings. Conquered by orcs, who continue this tradition to their own peril, as we see in Fellowship. Its safe to assume that Orcs, Goblins, and Dwarves never achieved dominance on Middle Earth not because of lack of fighting capability, but because their populations were surely decimated by the gruesome results of dizzy spells, banana peel accidents, and drunken stumbling off of precarious walkways with no railings! 

And you know what? That's why the king is a human. Helm's deep? You have to fucking try to fall out of that thing. There's like a parapet every two feet. The elves are a little better than the dwarves as well, but there still some places where one wrong step means your ass is down a waterfall, like in front of Elrond's magical moon-rune E-reader. Overall, given the glory and/or complexity of these underground dwellings, it would seem like a wise investment in public works to even string some rope handholds across the most dangerous parts of your lair. The Goblin King clearly had time and resources to build a wacky cage trap and some kind of torture machine, so it follows that it wouldn't be too much to ask for a safety net here or there. Just sayin. 

Anyway, the movie was good.    
 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guns and Ammo

Is anyone else nostalgic for the days when Columbine was a freak occurrence? These days, not a month can go by without some psychotic asshole going on a killing spree, trying to one-up last month's psychotic asshole with the horror and body count of his rampage. Its getting absolutely ridiculous (not that there's anything rational about mass killing to begin with). However, the fact that these scenes are becoming more prevalent offers a definite boon to some. Let's take a look at who the winners are every time something like this happens:

The Media

The media may be the biggest winner of all when somebody goes bat-shit. After all, its a guaranteed ratings boost. The scene is familiar to all of us: a break in regular programming, aerial views of crime scenes with dozens of police cars, tearful eyewitness testimony, etc, etc. Every news network has a vested interest in horrible, horrible things happening, and yet they have so painstakingly and meticulously crafted which terrible crimes deserve our attention. Drug related shooting? Local news. Gang war? Probably not even reported. Mexican drug cartels leave 33 headless bodies on a road to mark their territory? Time Magazine page 52. White man goes crazy and shoots a bunch of people? Cue the fucking President.

Of course the media stations, like any profitable business, are just going with what works. Maybe inner-city poverty/drug-related shootings are just out of vogue right now, I don't know, but its pretty plain to see the hypocrisy, and perhaps even racism inherent in this kind of reporting. If the media was really interested in treating all gun violence equally, they would have absolutely no problem filling their 24 hour news cycle every single day by simply re-broadcasting the police blotters in the capital cities of every state in the nation. But in our society, its expected that inner-city poor people are going to shoot each other to death, while the mass-murderer stands out as the inexplicable exception; worthy of endless debate, discussion, and air time. For this, and many more reasons, urban crime just isn't profitable to the news corporations, and so they've spared no expense to create a very lucrative niche for themselves. We'll watch the events unfolding, then we'll watch the eyewitness interviews. Then (provided the psycho hasn't killed himself), we'll watch the trial, and see the endless stream of googly-eyed mugshots. Then, because trials take a while, we'll forget about it until the sentencing, and then we'll tune back in to see how that plays out. Its a cycle destined to repeat itself until it is no longer economically viable, and there's not much anyone can do about it.

Its would violate the freedom of the press to say, pass a law telling them to limit coverage of mass killings. However, would such a law cut down on copycat killings? Of course it would. You can't copy something you don't know about. Would it cut down on the paranoia in this country? Of course it would. Even though we still lead the civilized world in gun homicides, its thousands of times more likely that if you are going to die soon, it will be because you ate too many hamburgers and got heart disease, smoked yourself to death, or were texting while driving. But no, we can't tell the media to stop doing this and still consider ourselves a free country. We just have to a) hope that someone at each of the major news networks grows a soul, realizes the damage they're doing by creating icons out of these people and fights to bring it to an end, or b) (much more likely) people eventually get psycho-killer overload and stop tuning in for hours every time this happens.

Make no mistake, the media makes celebrities out of these pieces of shit on purpose, which brings us to our next winners:

Fucking Psychopaths and Their Stupid Fucking Wanna-Be Psychopath Fanboys


There is now a clear path to victory for psycho assholes. Its not reaching out to family or society for psychiatric help, because lets face it, self-reflection and improvement takes effort, and who wants to do all that? Its much easier to buy an automatic weapon, walk into a public place and try to kill as many people as you can before offing yourself. You're guaranteed to be a superstar, and even though you won't be around to enjoy it, you won't have to face any of the consequences either, because you're dead.

But just like there are legions of fans out there for serial killers (you know, the fucking losers who write to them in prison about how they "love their work"), you can be damn sure that the next dick to shoot up a college or a mall was at home, glued to the TV set when the last one happened. Its a win-win situation for these idiots; they have nothing left to live for, psychiatrists are practically unaffordable, and there's really no more spectacular way to go out. Or at least that's what we as a society have shown them.

And finally, our third winner:

Weapons Manufacturers...?


FREE PUBLICITY

Any press is good press, right? 

Actually, while was in the middle of writing this, I saw that the company that manufactures the above weapon, which was used in last week's shooting, is going under or being absorbed or something. I was set to go on about how the widespread coverage of the weapons used acts as free press for arms manufacturers, but apparently I stand corrected in this regard. I suppose in some extreme cases, like a school massacre, or an oil spill that ruins half an ocean, there can be serious consequences that actually affect a corporation's bottom line. So if your company's weapons are used to kill children in some other country, you're in the clear. Just make sure you're not on American soil.

Well, I guess that weapons manufacturers aren't always winners in these cases. But one thing that is certain is the media/social civil war of words that erupts over gun control every single fucking time this happens. And just like everything else in our culture of rapidly diminishing literacy, the same stupid circular arguments keep happening. So now I'm going to lay out my position.

Prone Position

I believe that Americans have the right to own guns. However, I also believe that this right is entirely symbolic in nature as opposed to functional. Yes, guns can be used for sporting, like target shooting or putting holes in the windshield of your uncle's old car. These things are fun, and we should have a right to do them. Guns can be used for hunting. Personally, I think hunting is bullshit, but if it makes you feel like a big man to kill something from 100 feet away with vastly superior technology for lulz, then I guess I begrudgingly accept your right to do that too.

The only other use that a gun has (besides maybe sitting on a mantlepiece to look impressive), is to kill or maim human beings. Whether it be in self defense or plotting a massacre, the fact remains that this is one of the 3 (3.5 if you count the mantlepiece) uses of a firearm. Scout leaders tell their troops that a gun is a tool, not a weapon, and yet it has no constructive purpose. Animal, man, or paper target, its purpose is to destroy. However, I maintain that we have a right as Americans to own them.

This does not mean we get a blank check. I also believe that every person who wants to own one should have to be initially certified and periodically re-certified in the safety, usage, and maintenance of firearms. After all, don't I have the right not to be accidentally shot in the face because Tommy Triggerjamm never bothered to learn where the safety was? Or because Supermale Familyprotectorman  left his .9mm in a Boscov's box at the bottom of the closet for his five year old kid to take to kindergarden? We're not a nation of plantation farmers anymore where you'd have to walk five miles to get to your third accidental shooting victim. Your actions/negligence have real world consequences for the people around you. This concept seems pretty basic to me. I've never heard anybody bitch that their God-given rights were being infringed on because they were required to pass a driving test to get a license. Its the same concept. You have control of a potentially deadly machine, you should legally need some fucking clue how to use it.

I hope to have established here that I definitely believe there is room for intelligent discourse about the gun control issue. However, the following arguments, which I see posted over and over and over and over and over again make me actually want to shoot myself:


"Banning guns won't do anything. The bad guys will get them anyway because they don't care about laws."

Are you fucking kidding me? What kind of stupid, bullshit argument is this? If making laws to keep certain weapons out of the hands of civilians "didn't do anything", how come there haven't been any attacks with RPG's? When was the last domestic massacre that was carried out with an Apache helicopter, or an unmanned fighter drone? Why aren't these psycho killers using briefcase nukes, or neutron bombs? Because they can't fucking get them. Banning weapons from civilian use makes them much more difficult to obtain, and cost prohibitive. See, that's the real key. If something is banned, the cost increases exponentially. Would people still be able to get assault weapons if they were banned? Yes. Some would. But it would be much more difficult.

I understand that crimes would still happen, I'm not a fucking idiot. But doesn't it just make some semblance of logical sense that we, as a society, should make it just a tiny bit more difficult for a guy to go to his mom's and borrow a weapon that shoots 30 rounds a second when he feels like going crazy on a whim like the Sandy Hook shooter did? Then people say "you're only punishing the law abiding citizens!" Oh really? Well keep this in mind: This fuckin guy was a "law abiding citizen" until the second he pulled the trigger. You can be a law abiding citizen and purchase an automatic, military grade rifle. You can be a law-abiding citizen as you drive into a school zone with that weapon in the trunk of your law-abiding car. In some states, you can freely brandish that weapon near said school and still be a law abiding citizen. Then, once you pull the trigger, and only then, you cease to be a law abiding citizen, but guess what... its already too late to punish you because you've already killed a dozen people, and you're just going to kill yourself anyway.

And furthermore, if you're going to use the argument that bad people will just do bad things anyway, why would we have any laws at all? You can't stop people from getting raped, so why is rape illegal? Rapists are just going to rape anyway, so why make it illegal? You can't stop kidnappers from kidnapping people or robbers from robbing, so lets just abolish all laws and the bad people will do bad things and the good people will just have to live with it. I'm sure all you "libertarians (read: anarchists) out there are cheering at this point, but for everyone else, this is where that train of logic leads. News flash: There's not many "good" people out there. That's why we built "society". It sets up consequences for people who decide they should be able to do whatever they want at the expense of others.

"Look at prohibition. That worked really well."

Shut the fuck up. I'm sure there are myriad causes why prohibition was revoked, but one big factor was the fact that you can make hooch in your fucking bathtub. If you know anybody who can build a .223 Bushmaster rifle in their garage, they're probably already employed in something much more lucrative, so good luck with that.



"We need weapons to protect us from the Government."

 Look, I'm no fan of tyranny. I know that around the world, people are terribly oppressed by cruel dictatorships. Fortunately for us, that's not here, not yet. Plenty of people love to dispute this, but let's look at the reality of the world. We have freedom of speech and the press, unlike China. Our president isn't shelling cities of civilians like in Syria.

But that doesn't mean it could never happen, and I wish that having access to high powered rifles could actually give us the security that we were forever safe from tyranny. But it doesn't, because for all your wishes, you still can't shoot down F-14 Tomcats with an M-16. You can't penetrate the armor of a tank. The fact is that our military has helicopters, airplanes, warships, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, the CIA, the FBI, JSOC, the NSA, and the dreaded Osprey.

Behold its wackiness, and tremble!


It spends more on defense each year than the next 26 countries combined. I'm sorry, but a loose affiliation of ex-moonshiners with automatic rifles isn't going to stop the US Military. The only way to defeat it would be if a large portion of the armed forces were to defect to a resistance movement, or if any such resistance were to be supplied by another superpower like China or Russia. The Mujahadeen were only able to kick out the Soviets out of Afghanistan because we provided them with $1,000,000,000 in advanced weaponry. They weren't taking out fighter jets from the back of trucks with AK-47s.


So in closing, there has to be a middle ground. We have the right to own weapons, but we should also have the ability to determine what is essential to our freedom, and what is fucking dangerous to the populace. There is always a fine line between freedom and safety, but when we can see the havoc that gun violence wreaks on this country on a monthly basis, something needs to be done.

Guns don't kill people, people do.
People with guns kill more people than people with no guns.
People with automatic rifles kill more people per minute than people with handguns, shotguns, or hunting rifles.

Its a simple question of numbers.