Saturday, October 26, 2013

How NOT To Turn 45 (or How I Got Old In Three Weeks)

Aging is something I never really thought about very much until the past six or so months. Before that, I was one of those people that believed numbers are numbers and how you feel and perceive the world says more about you than an age. To some degree, I'll hold that as true, but we have to face reality. Being in your 40's basically means you are probably at the half way point and more than likely, you are past it. That can be a startling reality when you let it seep in and you start taking stock of who you were at 30 and who you are in your mid-40's. 

I guess I should have seen the train wreck that has been my last month or so coming. I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past year I started saying my age was 45 when I was asked. I didn't turn 45 until recently. Why was I doing this? I didn't make a conscious effort to do it. I just started saying it. It didn't bother me at all to do so. Maybe my mind was preparing me.....taking care of me, well aware that I have an underlying fear of growing older and furthermore, death. I have been brave in the face of what I thought was catastrophe with death imminent, but that only served to mask my internal thoughts about how and when I may kick the bucket and how lonely that moment may feel. 

Anyway, this isn't about death, it's about aging and how to deal with it. Forty-five. No going back. There are things that I can't really do anymore to my satisfaction. That depresses me. There are things I should have done, even as late as 5 years ago, that I have not done. That depresses me. I see a road in front of me paved with an attitude that has me playing out the string. Hell, if I live to be 70, that's another 25 years of waiting. Holy fuck!! 25 years and I'll be 70!! When did this happen? Nobody told me when I peaked, but they sure don't have to tell me I'm on the way down the slide. 

In some ways, I am who I want to be. In many ways, I'm not. In the past month I have taken stock of most of the things related to my life. From something as simple as the books I read to things as complex as my marriage and relationships with my extended family. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not throwing a pity party. I just can't help but feel this 45 thing strongly. I have a lot going on for me, and I know it. Great wife. Great kids. Great friends. A nice job. A healthier relationship with my extended family. I have a fairly comfortable life. So why the roller coaster emotionally? If you know, throw me a life line! The things I have been enjoying most for the past few years, I have backed away from, as if I were being over indulgent in my own happiness or satisfaction. I've felt "in my own head" a lot more and not really wanting to share with anyone. Perhaps the death of my grandfather has thrown a monkey wrench into my psyche. My link to my beloved grandma is now gone. That portion of my life is forever gone. Did I somehow equate my grandparents being alive to my being "young" with most of my life in front of me? The closest connection to her is gone. I've had three consecutive nights of dreams where my grandpa was present. What's that all about? Is it just another part of what is dogging me? Is there something I am missing that has me so withdrawn? I don't know. Do other people go through this? When will these odd feelings pack up their shit and move on? 

I know, I's just a damn number. It just seems like an awfully scary number for me. I sort of have to accept that I can never be the same person I was, even if I wanted to. That ability slipped away when I wasn't looking. Didn't even bother to leave a note!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Replacements, GWAR, Public Enemy & Riot Fest!

I now have the Replacements Chicago performance in my rear view mirror by three weeks. My perspective of the show isn't much different than it was three hours afterwards. I have only been to a couple of music festivals, but I have to hand it to Riot Fest; it was a really great event. Entertainment everywhere. Music, carnival rides, street performers, affordable grub, and a nice even for people watching. Above all though, I enjoyed the music. 

I got to see a lot of bands play, and while I liked Blondie, the Violent Femmes, Joan Jett, and others, the stars of the weekend for me were GWAR, Public Enemy and of course, the Replacements. Perhaps GWAR and Public Enemy hit me so hard because I had not seen them before and wasn't really sure what to expect, but they delivered. 

On Friday night, Chris and I had decided that we would go over and see GWAR. We had both heard from friends that they were a crazy act and not to be missed. I guess I didn't quite understand what I was getting ready to see, but right from the get go, the music didn't agree with me, but the theatrics did. I'm not much into heavy metal and GWAR brings the thunder. Loud guitars, screaming lyrics and a relentless drive. To each his own....I'm not knocking it. The stage show was a different matter. I love some insanity on stage and that's just what GWAR brought. This is a family blog, so I really can't go into much detail. Yeah, it was THAT crazy. Lots of "blood" and "semen" and "semen and blood". Lots of entrails being ripped out. The rape of a priest. A zombie Jesus. A few people left and I'm guessing that they had no idea what they were in for. I will post a You Tube link to some video of their act, because I just can't do it justice with the written word. I'm not that strong of a writer! If I had to try to pin the show down to one word, it would be "HILARIOUS"! I couldn't stop laughing. Back in my Christian days I would have been appalled....offended....angry. But, without that prevailing worldview to sort through any longer, I was able to laugh at some of the ridiculous depictions that took place. I wouldn't go out of my way to see this band, nor would I buy their music, but they sure know how to put on a show!

Public Enemy was another act I wanted to be sure to catch while in Chicago. Not so much because I'm a big fan, but because I appreciate their place in both musical and popular culture. Not quite the kick in the balls that NWA provided at their peak, but they were (and still are) artists that highlight social injustice and provide lyrics that promote human unity and "fighting the power" when the power needs to be fought. My friend Greg had turned me on to them in college and again, while I'm not a big fan, I really did have an appreciation for what they did. Chuck D, Professor Griff and the rest of the band came on and immediately the crowd reacted positively. It wasn't until Flavor Flav hit the stage that things went to the next level. The guy is a show unto himself and he clearly loves the "love". When he wasn't pimping every single social media/internet site that you could find the word "flavor" on, he was doing his thing as the best "hype man" in the game. He's got some solid skills though and even sat behind the drum kit and kicked some ass too. Chris and I were right in the middle of the crowd, fist pumping and feeling the love. The DJ was superb as was the musicianship. A genuine highlight of the weekend for me. A really fun time.

The reason I was at Riot Fest at all was The Replacements. Sure, I love all sorts of music, but there is no way I travel 5 hours and spend what I spent to see anyone else. This is MY band and the chance to see Paul and Tommy share the stage again was something I wasn't going to pass on. Sure, they could continue to tour and come to Louisville, but that's far from a sure thing and again, no way I'm missing a "life opportunity". It was rainy on that much anticipated Sunday, so Chris and I lounged at the hotel for most of the day. As I explained in my previous post, we had a charmed experience getting to Humboldt Park. Got a nice spot just across the street for an easy $20. The rain relented and we went in and surveyed the damage from the weather. LOTS of mud, lots of muddy people. That did nothing to dampen my spirits. We hit the tents and grabbed some t-shirts and waited. We wanted to see the Pixies, but to get a prime time spot for the 'Mats, I let Chris lead the way and we gave up on watching Black Francis. We watched AFI and started moving through the crowd. When that show was over, we fought against the tide and made it damn near to the stage. A tremendous spot to see my musical heroes! 

During the hour long wait, we were packed in like sardines. That's not a situation I'm always comfortable in, but with all the fans surrounding me talking about this anticipated show, it made it much easier to tolerate. I spoke with quite a few people half my age. Florida, New York, Boston....people from all over had gathered to see this reunion. We swapped stories about the songs we loved, which albums were our tip top favorites and discussed why this bands legacy had endured. A legacy that is strong, with deep roots, but has stayed mostly outside the mainstream. The Replacements have had a huge influence on a lot of bands through the 90's up to today. That influence has been expressed in the press quite often since Paul and Tommy dusted off the Replacements name. They are an important part of the alternative movement. They helped build the foundation for bands like Green Day, Nirvana, the Goo Goo Dolls and so many others that hit it big with a sound that wasn't always polished. Raw and real was a sound that many music fans wanted coming off the prefabricated, over synthesized sounds of the 1980's. 

Back to Chicago. Twenty two years ago, the Replacements played a July 4th show at Grant Park (in Chicago) and stopped touring and recording together. Now, here I was, on the cusp of watching them return. I was a bit anxious, not exactly knowing what to expect. Sure, I had heard the Toronto performance a couple of weeks earlier, but this was Chicago! This is a city that had embraced the Replacements in their "Heyday" and was ready to do so again with a crowd of tens of thousand packed around the stage.

As soon as Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson made their appearance along with new Replacements Dave Minehan and Josh Freese, the outside world was forgotten. Even though I would ordinarily be out of my element in the middle of the chaos, right up front by the stage, I totally got into it. The crowd up front was truly like an ocean, you had to move with the ebb and flow or you would go down and that wouldn't be a good thing. "Takin' A Ride", "I'm In Trouble", "Favorite Thing".....these tunes opened the show and were played with fervor and passion. By the time they go to "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" there was no doubting that they could still pull the passion out of themselves to do these songs (now at or over 30 years old) without a hint of nostalgia. Paul noticed the digital clock (the festival had hard times for the bands to go on and be done) in front of him and picked it up to examine. Clock, we don't need no stinkin' clock. I shouted "Fuck that clock!!" and the guys next to me picked up on it and suddenly there was a contingent chanting "FUCK THAT CLOCK, FUCK THAT CLOCK!!!". Paul pulled the clock up and threw off the back of the stage. "You got your way. I'm an old hand at this. A music professional."

I felt like I was right where I should be, having a great time, absorbing the music and the energy of the crowd. For 25 songs time, age, work, the grind of day to day life went away. It was all about the music and seeing a band that I loved play the songs that meant something to me. Those songs and so many others that the Replacements played over the years are a part of who I am. Musically, my life is pretty much complete. I've seen Roger Waters and Paul McCartney, but I can't see Waylon and I can't see the Beatles, the Beastie Boys, or The Band, so the MUST SEE has been done. It was not anti-climactic at all for me. The performance was kick ass and I enjoyed myself as much as I ever have at a music show. I was home. They wound up the show with songs that couldn't have been any more perfect to send the crowd home with; "Hold My Life" and "IOU". A great experience that I'll never forget.   

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cabs, Trains, & Rickshaws: A Tale of Transportation

Well, I've been free floating (falling?) for a couple of weeks and really missed a great opportunity to put my thoughts on seeing Chicago, The Replacements, and Riot Fest for the first time into the written word. I will attempt to do that later, but I'm certain I will miss some stuff I would have liked to included. Maybe if Chris reads this, he will be able to throw in some shit and I'll just edit and add. It's a work in progress! For now, I want to write about going to and from Humboldt Park. 

Chicago is one big city and when you stretch it out to include the "burbs", it's tremendous and, for someone like me, almost overwhelming. It seems as though it takes forever to get around. For my tastes, I'll just settle on Louisville as being about the right size for me. Chris and I went up to Chicago by car and really were flying by the seat of our pants on how to get to and from Humboldt Park, where Riot Fest was being held. We finally settled on taking the train. Fairly inexpensive, but for the uninitiated, a bit confusing....sort of like the subway in Boston. After you get your bearings and study the map, it's not too difficult to figure out where you need to go. 

We got off the train along with a bunch of kids that were also headed to Riot Fest. Not knowing where the hell we were, we just decided to follow them. Whether it was to hell or Riot Fest, they held our lives in their sense of direction. It was a couple of miles to the Park and every step felt like it. We were in a largely Hispanic neighborhood that seemed nice enough, but I don't think the kids we were following were tuned into the fact that they need to chill their asses out. Walking in a neighborhood that isn't your own should pull some respect out of you. Well, it wasn't THAT bad, but singing, jumping around, being loud, drinking right on the street.....apparently that was a bit much for some locals. Chris and I overheard a native say that they (Hispanics in the neighborhood) would be locked up if they acted like that, but implied since the kids were white, they were just fine. And yeah, the guy was probably right. 

We got to the park and it was pretty damn awesome. Rides, games, "fair" type food at reasonable prices, swag tents, and sound stages. Street performers wandered around, and despite the volume of people, I don't remember seeing even one uniformed police officer. On top of that, I didn't see any altercations. The entire weekend was peaceful and pretty much douche bag free! That was welcome, because any time I go to see music in Louisville, there is always a contingency of douche bags that are not there for the music, but to be seen and to generally engage in douchebaggery. I guess people took the words on the bottom of the Riot Fest poster seriously.

After the music ended on Friday night, we knew damn sure we didn't want to take the 2 + mile trek back the way we came. So, we saw a dude with a rickshaw bike and we caught a $20 ride to the train station. We went through a pretty rough neighborhood, almost like something out of a movie. It made me appreciate that I was removed from the poverty and hopelessness that seemed to prevail. Took the train back and I have to make this observation; does anyone on a public transportation train have a good time? Having to spend nearly 45 minutes on a that train made me feel like I wanted it to jump the rails and slam into a pillar. 

The next day we drove.....or rather, Chris drove. I thought we were going to be a couple of miles from the park and just catch a cab. We found a parking garage and then found a bus that we could take to the park. Little did I know we were about 8 or 10 miles from the park and that distance of a ride on a bus in a city that averages 8 stop lights every 100 yards made for a  LONG trip. It was about an hour getting to our destination and if I thought the train was ripe with depression, the bus was worse. Stare at the floor, at the ceiling, read the advertisements, look out the window at traffic, check your phone for a message that isn't coming. Wash, rinse, repeat....about 10 times. 

All was right when he hit the park though! Great music, great food, and what seemed to be to me about 50,000 people! Once again, no trouble, just people of all ages (from babies to those in their golden years) listening to music and sharing laughs. After we had exhausted ourselves, we took a cab back to the car. The dude that picked us up assured us that Chicago was easy to learn, but this Serbian immigrant pulled a fast one on us. He went up and down side streets, got lost and even went all the way into a dead end. Which is where Chris thought our lives would probably end. Finally, he got us to our destination. We got our asses back to the hotel, hit the peace pipe and watched some Larry David. 

On Sunday, the day that I had been waiting on for most of my adult life, Chicago saw rain falling all day long. We decided to stay at the hotel until closer to "Replacements" time. We decided to try to place ourselves close to the park. We went to Humboldt and for about 30 of so minutes of riding around we thought we were screwed and would have to head miles away and take a cab. As we were leaving there was a dude just standing in an orange vest and Chris pulled up and asked if he knew where there was any parking. Well, it turned out he had one spot left. It was right across from the park. Incredible. $20....right there at the park, when it seemed there was no parking at all. It simply reaffirmed my faith that there isn't a god. If there was, the chances that Chris and I would have gotten that spot would be just about zero, especially after seeing GWAR and laughing our asses off through that performance. And that is for another blog. 

Yeah, I know....not much substance. Just felt like writing. My next effort will focus on the music and how I felt about seeing The Replacements....finally. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bands and Reunions: When Is A Band Not A Band?

Bob, Tommy, Chris, and Paul; The Replacements

Sunday, August 25th will mark the return of my all-time favorite band, The Replacements. Or will it? Over the years, I have heard people say that there are no reunions without the original members of a band. Recently, I have been hearing the rumblings that Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson getting together is not The Replacements. I guess I understand that stance, but if you start saying that a missing member of a band negates that bands existence, then there are a lot of bands, past and present, that should hang it up or feel like they have been living a lie. 

Are the Rolling Stones not the Rolling Stones because Brian Jones died in 1969? If not, then they have been pulling the wool over our eyes for decades, but it sure does sound like the Stones when I hear "It's Only Rock N Roll" or "Some Girls". Wilco is down to only having Jeff Tweedy and John Stirrat as band members that were there from the start. Are they no longer Wilco? 

Perhaps defining what makes a band who they are would help. For me, the creative elements have to be there and the stage presence has to be in the mix. If the main creative forces of a band are there, along with the personality I have a tough time throwing the towel in. I think Wilco is Wilco and will be as long as Jeff Tweedy is there. I think the Stones are the Stones unless Mick, Keith or Charlie hit the bricks. The Who is the Who so long as Townsend and Daltrey are there (apologies to the great Keith Moon, but he left way too soon). Led Zeppelin could still be Led Zeppelin so long as Page and Plant are involved. As with those bands (and as a hardcore fan), I don't have any problem with Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson calling themselves The Replacements. They were the main creative forces every step of the way. Tommy embodied the attitude, even after they booted his brother Bob, and Paul steered them artistically. It's their band and their band is The Replacements. Sure, it'd be sweet to see Chris Mars and Bob Stinson with them, but Bob is dead and Chris is a painter. Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley? Well, if you are against reunions that don't include original members, those guys are out. Well, they are out anyhow as Foley is dead and Slim suffered a major stroke. If you could accept them as The Replacements, then why have a problem with a couple of great musicians (drummer Josh Freese, and guitarist David Minehan) that have backed Paul in the past coming on board as members? 

I will say this in defense of those who cry foul over reunions; there are definitely times where a band isn't really a band anymore, no matter what they call themselves and even saying that I'm sure someone will be able to refute me and I'm not saying that they would be out of line. For instance, take a band like Journey. Journey without Steve Perry rings false. He and Neal Schon were the faces of the band. Are they REALLY Journey if one of them isn't around? Pink Floyd? That is another band that I just can't call by their name (despite going to see them without Waters....sue me). When Roger Waters left, I just don't see how they could go on using the name Pink Floyd. It'd be like the Beatles without John Lennon. In my opinion, the Beach Boys are not the Beach Boys without Brian Wilson. Queen without Freddie Mercury? Come on, really? I can't imagine the Beastie Boys touring without Adam Yauch and still claiming to be THAT band. 

Unless I meet an untimely demise, I will be in Chicago to see The Replacements in a few weeks. Yep, I'll be seeing The Replacements and I'll be damned happy to be there!

This will do, but I really wish Saturday Night Live had not pulled their "Bastards of Young" performance from You Tube. Tremendous and kick ass.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

The News Media & Mental Manipulation

It's been more than two months since I have taken my hiatus. I don't know how many people even read this blog, but if you do, thanks. I've dropped out of Facebook and tried to listen to some opinions and such on Internet message boards, read on some alternative sites, and often times, I interjected my thoughts into the process. I have discovered a few things that have me disgusted and have even damaged my "soul" a little bit. Well, here goes. Hope I'm not all over the place with this. 

I'm no fan of the mainstream television/radio media. FOX, MSNBC, CNN and that ilk have really dumbed us down. It's one thing to talk about the shit that passes for television, but the news media in particular has really been manipulating mass opinion and pitting one set of Americans against another. This latest travesty of reporting the "news", which involved the Martin/Zimmerman case is sickening. Incorrect leaked information led to preconceived notions just days after the incident and speculation replaced a rational look at the facts at hand. I'm not going to get into the case, because frankly, what can I add to the madness? The media pushed people into camps and in the circles I followed, it was largely political. Conservatives were more likely to side with the killer. Liberals were more likely to side with the dead kid. That's odd. And I believe it was due to the news that people are seeking out. We now seek out news that fits our ideology. Think about that for a minute. That should be a MAJOR problem. The news should be about truth, and not care about ideology. 

The media is a money making construct as it is today. Mass marketing. Commercialism. Ratings. That's what drives the news now. Twenty-five dead Indian kids barely caught a blimp on the radar. What was important? The cover of Rolling Stone magazine. You are being manipulated and you probably don't realize it. Hell, you may even embrace it. If you follow a certain news organization because of political slant, you are a part of the problem. Turn that shit off. News isn't supposed to have a political slant. Here's a tip; Chris Matthews, Bill O'Reilly, Anderson Cooper, and Sean Hannity are not news reporters. They are news analysts with political leanings and they host news analysis programs. They can be political because of the opinion driven format. They don't have to be accurate, they just have to have an opinion. Stop watching that shit. Find an alternative, or at the least, piece your news from as many sources as possible. 

I told a friend today that 9/11 has probably not only changed our nation in terms of security, but it also damaged our psyche. The mass media fed that too. They reported "breaking news" about additional terrorism for several years afterwards that mostly turned out to be nothing. They had constant updates on the "terror level". What an absurd concept that was put right in our faces at every turn for months on end. They fed the fear and we believed it. Hell, we were scared and someone making you even more scared isn't going to lead you to free thought or rational analysis of what is going on. We pined for protection and the government started stepping all over our basic freedoms, and worse than that, started killing people in other countries while we cheered. We didn't think about the reality of what was happening. We were scared. Some of us recovered and came to our senses. The fear melted away and we got to see the rest of the country and how it had changed without the "bogeyman" goggles on. Sadly, much of the rest of the nation has used that fear to dig themselves a hole. They have become distrustful of their fellow man. They have started feeling like the best policy is to shoot first and ask questions later. We have become so wrapped up in fear that we can't even agree that health care/food/water on a civilized (ha!) planet should be a basic human right. How crazy is that? 

I started this blog as an outlet for myself to write some amusing shit, but it can be tough to feel funny when I see how much we have changed and realizing that my kids have to grow up in this and will be fighting it (or joining it?) their whole lives. What chance do we have as a nation when we are teaching our kids how to become fearful and distrustful of anything on the other side of the front door? We are rolling over to the big money and powerful interests. We are scared. It's time to stop the manipulation. It's time to free your mind to some new ideas. It's time to look at the world and at other human beings as real people and not characters on a TV show that we can easily divide into friend or foe. All of this is put in front of you and you still can't even take pause to think about whether it's true can you? You have been trained to ignore and belittle the rantings of people who don't look and think like you do. 

I've read some really ugly shit from people lately. It's damaging my hope for the future of the country and more importantly, the planet. Is it too much to ask that we think about other people as living human beings? People who love and are loved? We are to the point of many Americans believing there isn't any reason to be concerned that a kid has died. Not just talking about Trayvon Martin. I'm talking about any kid. We have a lot of mean and hurtful people in this country, and the trouble is, they think they are the ones that are compassionate and care about the general welfare of others. I don't know what to think about that other than to be disgusted and to feel damaged. 

Jack Torrence (The Shining): "See, it's Okay. He saw it on the television."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freddy Closes His Mind For Repairs

I started writing this blog in August of 2009. Seems like a short time in many ways, but I feel like it's been 1,000 years. I've really become a different person. In the 4 years I've been maintaining this, there have been plenty of changes and many of them I've documented along the way. I always kept you "in the loop" about what was happening with me and how I was seeing the world. I've been over the top. I've been subdued. I've been sarcastic. I've been (at least I hope so) funny. But above all that, I have been honest. 

I'm on my third job in that time frame. That's after being at a job for a stable 16 years. I stopped taking prescription medicine. I've started taking "non-prescription" medicine at times. I went from feeling underwhelmed by adult life, to embracing the moment as often as I could (and then going back to the old way). I stopped idolizing grown men chasing balls (yeah, I laughed too) and started idolizing the universe. I stopped following a religion. I started searching for god, or at least the concept of what god could be. Not limiting myself to the rules of a book, what could god be? If there was a god, it must be vastly beyond our comprehension, not caring and not caring if we care. I stopped merely loving my family and started to try and experience my family. To be a part of it. 

I now realize, even through the eyes of a "history of slight mental illness" (my nod to Breakfast Club fans), that my happiness has nothing to do with anyone other than myself. But even realizing it and still not being able to put that truth into action is a curious way to react to a fact you know about yourself. 

I should be more grateful to be alive. Maybe I'm not even grateful enough for the life I've lived, which I've never put an abundance of care into, at least not on my own behalf. My life is sharing a second with the rest of you in the eternal vastness of time that has passed and time that will be. One of my favorite topics to talk about, you didn't ask?  Well, that's easy; would anything exist if there wasn't a life to exist in it? Not sure why I wrote that....well, OK....I am VERY SURE of why I wrote that, but here nor there....just thought it would be nice to share one of my favorite topics; existence.

For four years some of you, at least a few of which I'm certain, have been able to lay your eyes and ears on my favorite stuff. Movies and music mostly. They have become my passion after stopping the athletic portion of my life. I love to share how I feel about a movie or a band. It's (music/film) art to me. I have a great appreciation for what it must take to be a working professional musician, actor, comedian, etc. I hope I've turned some people on to some new stuff. Come on, I gave you The Monkees!!!! THE MONKEES!!!! Who else can make you reconsider how you feel about The Monkees? Nobody. N-O Body.

Regrets? I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.I did what I had to do, and saw it through without exemption. I did it my way. :-) In four years time I've written, not to benefit you or anyone else, but to feed my ego. To give it nourishment, like each of us do every day. I wrote because I enjoyed expressing myself, so don't misunderstand, but I do realize that I enjoyed the bit of the "fame" it brought. And by fame, I mean any time someone tells someone else how good they are because of something they have done. I wrote to get you to tell me "good job!" Just like you do at your job or with people you admire or when you talk about an accomplishment to others. We all want a little validation and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It was much easier to get when I was younger. It came through being a wise ass and making people smile, or it came through hitting a baseball. Now, I have to be a wise ass among a sea of wise asses on the internet. Everyone clawing at mattering. Putting fucking cat pictures on Facebook, like this one;

It's a gawdammed disgrace. That's what it is. We wanna be happy, so we let it pass. We let it evolve into us and some of us let it become who we are and our validation. Our ego. Not our true selves. Not who we were born to be, but were knocked off track by adults downloading all their shortcomings and insecurities, hopes and fears into our little impressionable heads. We got hardwired by this brainwashing and the culture. We become a part of that machine and pass the same things down to our children. 

Well, with that ray of sunshine I am putting the blog on SLEEP mode. Reading some of the stuff above should let you know that this is just a part of the things that I've been living for the past four years. I no longer care if anyone knows what I think (oh, yeah?), unless it's in a discussion. In a discussion I get feedback and can learn something new to think about. I've grown a bit bored of expressing (talking about?) myself and I'm ready to exchange ideas or probably more likely, to simply think about things and make some decisions and settle on the world. 

For all of what I have just written, oops, I did it again. My ego has a full tummy and needs a nap.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cell Phones: I Hate 'Em

I just hate a cell phone. I recognize they are a necessity in today's world of hustle and bustle, but they seem like such an impossibly arrogant and self-serving tool of rudeness. Yes, I have a cell phone, and it's come in handy many times. I'm not going to begrudge anyone for having a cell phone, but there are certain aspects of it, apart from the obvious good things about them, that rub me wrong. 

I'll start by saying that it's smart to have one. You never know when you may meet an emergency and the phone will come in handy for calling the police, firefighters, an ambulance or someone to help when your car breaks down. I think it's great for kids to have access to them when they are out and about, especially teenagers. People with jobs that involve traveling all the time also benefit from them. So, it's not as though I don't "get" what good they can do, it's all the other junk that overwhelms my feelings. 

Walking around with an earpiece and talking loudly is rude. You are out in public, not in your house, turn down your voice please. Others, often times, can't see you have a microchip hanging out of your ear and they answer the phone user with an "excuse me" and the phone person gives them that disgusted look and points at their ear. Well, piss off. Stop walking around like you are talking to yourself and maybe you won't get bothered you douche bag. 

There is also nothing like holding a conversation with someone in person and then a phone rings. Gotta answer it. Serve the master! Don't let it go to voice mail, nooooo.....too damn important for that. Nothing says "I don't give a shit about what you are saying." more than answering a phone call in the middle of a conversation with a person sitting across from you. "Oh, sorry, I WAS gonna listen, but I'd rather talk to this person. You may sit until I'm finished."

And for crying out loud, turn down the friggin' ring tone. Not everyone thinks it's hysterical to hear "Baby Got Back" every time someone calls your dumb ass to ask where you are or let you know that Krogers has a buy 1 get 1 free deal on asparagus flavored Ramen noodles. 

I just think the over use of the cell phone has made us less social in situations that imply being social and has shut us off from interaction with others out in public. Sorry, as much as I don't really LIKE people in general, we are social creatures that often times have to deal with one another. Here's an example of what I'm talking about; don't talk on the damn phone when someone is taking your order at a restaurant. It's rude and I hope you get a tumor. Furthermore, how about NOT calling someone when you are ordering. It's all about you, I know, but the person you are talking to and the waiter/waitress/counter person are trying to get on with their lives you inconsiderate pud. I'm not talking out my ass here, I know people who do that and I've been a victim. Call me and then immediately put me on hold or start talking to someone else? I'm hanging up. 

In closing, I just wanted to bitch. So, there it is. Finally (patting myself on the back), someone is speaking for those of us who are not on the phone 24/7, acting like a prick. 

Oh...yes!!!! Found this after writing and Darryl Rhoades nails it! He rips cell phones and then an audience member starts using theirs during the show. Can't make that shit up!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Neil DeGrasse Tyson: An Astrophysicist Of The People

Usually, my posts involve music, movies, and things that interest me about the human condition. Over the past few years, I've really grown to love learning about science and the universe. Quantum theory is a lot of fun to learn about, but at a certain point, there is a lack of connection because I'm not capable of understanding some of the mathematics that are behind the theories. So, I have turned my attention more towards the universe and how interesting it is in all its vastness, glory, and mystery. 

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has inspired me to expand my mind on our origins in the same way that Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris challenged me to expand my mind to conceptualize what life could be like without a deity. It's one thing to hear that "there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on the entire planet Earth" and it's another to have someone explain what that means in a practical way. It's all so vast that we sometimes get arrogant about our place in the universe. We can feel as though we are separate from the cosmos, and special in regards to it. Nothing could be further from the truth, because we are a part of the universe. That is inspiring to me, not depressing. Some folks push past the realization that we are OF the universe by ignoring knowledge and filling the gaps in understanding with a god. I do find that a bit depressing. At the edge of understanding, you will find god. But that only lasts until we finally do understand. Through the centuries, Galileo, Newton and others were content to reach the edge of their capacity for understanding and left it to a god from there. Then others came along and added on to what was known and once again, god was pushed further down the line to a new edge. Not to debate the existence of god, that's something I don't have an answer for, but I do know that it's simple and shallow to just assume what we don't understand has to be given over to a god or gods. 

Tyson loves to talk about how much a part of the universe we are. That's inspiring to me. To know that all of this that surrounds us, is, indeed, us! It's like when I finally figured out that people in Iraq, Russia, China, Africa and everywhere else on earth are me. They are the same as me, they just live somewhere else. They are not separate from me, they are my cousins that share a common place in the cosmos. The most common elements (that are not inert, like helium) in the universe (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon) are exactly the same as the most common elements in the human body. Is this an accident? No, because we are the universe. We are star dust. We have been exchanging atoms with the universe since life began on this planet. The atoms in us right now were in something else before us and something else before that and so on. That's fascinating and inspirational. In that way, we truly are immortal. We've always been here in some capacity. For billions of years....all that we are now has existed and will continue to. 

Back to Tyson though. This guy is one of about 6,000 astrophysicists on the planet and he is the only one that has really struck a chord with the mainstream popularity wise. He speaks in an excited tone and offers up the universe in a way that is interesting and full of possibility. He isn't dry and doesn't drone on with huge words and abstract language that is beyond the common persons understanding. I can't recommend him enough to those who are truly interested in grasping the universe outside of the usual dumbed down notion of the cosmos and our place in it. His take on the existence of life in the universe is interesting and exciting in that the vastness of the cosmos implies that life is bountiful and just because we have not seen evidence of it in the VERY, VERY small area we have explored and reached out to makes it no less likely. He says we only really understand about 4% of what there is to know about life, our universes origin, matter, energy and so forth and that leaves a lot of room for exploration and discovery for what is likely to be hundreds of years. Or, with the development and exponential increase in computer power, perhaps it's just decades away when we will have a really firm grasp on how the universe works. Hell, it's likely that there are many universes, especially when you start listening to Tyson talk about the theories of dark matter and dark energy and how empty space is anything but empty! 

So, if you dig this sort of thing, but can't deal with the dry wit of Carl Sagan, the often beyond comprehension language of Susskind or Hawkins, or the long winded, sometimes dull explanations of Brian Greene (all of whom I like, but don't hold a candle to what Tyson brings to the table in the way of communication) then give Neil DeGrasse Tyson a shot at needling your mind and moving you towards a greater understanding of the universe and what it means to be a member of all that exists! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shooter Jennings: Treading His Own Ground

There is always a danger in being the son or daughter of a legendary figure. Hank Williams Jr. is a country music icon, but he didn't build his fame until he stepped out of his father's shadows and started doing things his own way. Early in his career he just covered his father and lived off the name. Waylon Jennings shadow looms large in country music. He is an icon and broke a lot of ground in Nashville that country artists to this day should still  thank him for. The toughest situation Shooter Jennings could have put himself in would have been to go into country music and try to live off his dad's legacy, but he didn't. He did an about face and ran towards hard rock, playing music that was closer to Metallica and Guns N Roses than anything his father ever did. He left Nashville and went to LA, where he would have to learn the music business away from his father's considerable influence. He formed a hard rock band called Starrgun, recorded a pretty solid record that was never formally released, and was even asked to front Velvet Revolver. 

He left that behind though, as he decided to return to his roots and pursue his music along the lines of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, with a bit of the old country twang mixed in. What resulted was a record contract and a first album, "Put The O Back In Country" that yielded a hit (Fourth of July) and got some notoriety from critics. After that, he continued the hard country sound and released "Electric Rodeo" which saw him make significant progress as a song writer, with several really great songs that will be classics for him years down the road. His third album, "The Wolf", didn't fare very well and from my perspective and just lacked the hardcore authenticity of his first two recordings. 

In my opinion, his album called "Black Ribbons" entrenched him as a serious artist with something to say. It is an eclectic mix of progressive, southern, and hard rock with some country splashed on it. It's a concept album that attacks the nature of our government and society as we move towards living in a country with less privacy, less individuality, and less concern about our culture. It was an eye opening experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone that is a fan of progressive rock and has a penchant for exploring the darker side of power through conspiracy type entities such as the NWO and Illuminati. 

Next came "Family Man", the first album with his new record label and once again, Shooter showed growth lyrically, but also in the arrangements of the music. He really has found a way to melt country and rock together without it coming off as contrived. He has the chops. He has developed an integrity through his music that comes with having to go on the road and not getting support from hit radio. He rips Nashville and the music machine at every opportunity and can do so with gravitas. He knows what he's talking about. He knows what his father went through and he damn sure isn't done beating that drum. "Family Man" is about Shooter. His personality. His outlook. His ties to his family, past and present. 

Which brings me to the actual album I want to write about, but have now spend hundreds of words getting to. I'm not sure if anyone will hang with me any longer, but so be it. Shooter's latest record is called "The Other Life" and it is peppered with references to his father, country musics past (what's new, he name drops quite a bit, but it never seems out of place), and his world view. 

"The Other Life" kicks off with a very Pink Floyd-ish sounding "Flying Saucer Song". The song drifts along until it hits a keyboard groove with bongos echoing in the background, which leads to a decidedly southern rock tinged tune where he laments the loss of his heroes (A Hard Lesson To Learn). The third song is maybe the weakest of the album, but that's not to say it's bad. Any song that takes a shot at Jimmy Swaggart while boasting about chugging whiskey and being a "nighttime rambler" is tailor made to be on a Shooter album. From here the album takes off and I'd say it damn near hits greatness, in my estimation. He and Patty Griffin team up to perform "Wild & Lonesome", a throwback tune that is a bit reminiscent of George Jones and Tammy Wynette.....heavier on the Jones though. 

The next song is "Outlaw You" and it just abuses the city boy cowboy, black hat wearing, boot scootin' frauds that have overwhelmed modern country music radio. The music sounds tailor made to be a hit, but the words guarantee it won't be played on any mainstream radio station. He reminds the listener that country music at its core is very American and rebellious, by recalling the tribulation that his father went through in trying to wrestle control from the labels and give it to the artist. 

Next up is a really nice piano ballad called "The Other Life" which will be the last of the soft side from Shooter on the album. A great "whiskey drinkin'" song which is belted out with a world weary sadness. From here we move on to "The Low Road" where Shooter throws some reality at you. It's nice to try to smile and take the hide road, but now and again, you gotta smash someone in the mouth with a "Skeletor" lunchbox and take the low road to deal with life and its' problems. "Mama, It's Just My Medicine" is a  really kick ass tune that has country layered beneath some strong guitar and synth work. If the original Lynyrd Skynyrd were still making albums today, I'd like to think that this song would be their sound. 

"The Outsider" should be a hit. In another dimension maybe it is. It's pure country without any trickery musically and lyrically, Shooter creates an anthem for those who don't want to conform to an ideal of what they should be. It's a song for those who like to make their way through life on their terms and won't apologize for doing so. The album ends with two sort of weird tunes. "15 Million Light Years" is a duet with Black Oak Arkansas' Jim Dandy. It's very distinctive song and their voices play off of each other well and it has a "end of times", dark feel to it. The song expresses concern over the direction of humanity, but it also offers a glimmer of hope that we'll get our shit together....maybe today, maybe tomorrow....or maybe it's 15 million light years away.

The final tune is likely to be the most hard hit by mainstream critics and first time listeners. In less capable hands, "The Gunslinger" would come off as contrived. Instead, it sucks you in with Shooter's cadence and flow. In many ways this is a rap song. It's full of braggadocio and pointed lyrics, but really does come through as authentic. It's a song that I'm guessing Kid Rock will hear and say "Dammit, I wish that was mine". Shooter puts the world of music on notice with this one. Just leave him alone to do what he does. Don't start no shit and there won't be any shit. Musically, it starts out slow and develops into a crescendo of guitars before giving way to a smoky saxophone and synthesizers, which pull the listener in and carries you through to the end of the album. The album is book ended and let's the listener know that it's an experience, not just a collection of songs thrown together. A very satisfying experience that seems to gain my appreciation a little more with each listen.

I have had this album on non-stop since buying it on Monday night. In my opinion, it's his best work and he truly touches on so many different types of music and subject matter that it's simply not possible to catch every reference, nod, wink, cloaked riff, and gut shot. It delivers all of that. It's the best new album (not just a collection of tunes, this one is cohesive) I have heard in quite some time. Shooter is making his way, and not on the coattails of his father. In fact, I think he has Waylon in his pocket and he pulls out that card when he feels necessary, but he is his own man, making his own kind of music. It's hard to pin down. It's hard to categorize. It's just music. Really good music. 

I'm with you Shooter. Keep bringing the goods! 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"New" Replacements Music!!

Alright anyone who knows me very well at all knows that I'm fanatical about the Replacements. They were (are?) a rock band from Minneapolis that had their hey day back in the mid-80's. They were influential on quite a few alternative, alt-country, and grunge bands that would begin to emerge around 1990 or so. I don't need to go into their past, I've probably done that enough already in other articles. All you need to know is that I love this band. 

Last year, Slim Dunlap, who was a guitarist for the last incarnation of the band (replacing the beautiful mess Bob Stinson) had a stroke. A bad one. Being a struggling musician doesn't always afford a person with access to great health insurance (does being anything give you that access though?) and his long hospital stay put his family in a major league financial bind. So, his friends and fans swooped in to lend a hand. 

People donated via Pay Pal and that was great, but the real big money help would come in the form of an effort by musicians who had a genuine interest in helping a good man out who was down. Musicians like Steve Earle, Joe Henry, Lucinda Williams, The Minus 5, Tommy Keene, Jakob Dylan, Lucero, The Jayhawks and many others recorded some of Slim's songs and they will be pressed into vinyl 45's and sold at auction on EBay. Following the auctions, they will be released in a more commercial form. 

That's not the end of the story though. The story continues with Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson coming together to record a few songs to release on a limited edition EP. That EP included a song submitted by former Replacements drummer Chis Mars (who is also a fantastic and successful artist) and by virtue of having three of the four original band members on the EP, it was easy and non legacy threatening to slap the Replacements name on it. Mars also released a song called "When I Fall Down" (in my opinion it's among his best work as a solo musician) that he made available on the 'net with proceeds going to the Slim fund. 

The EP is called "Songs For Slim". I don't really want to review it. It's not as if this is a comeback album in any traditional sense. They knew their loyal fans would want some fresh Replacements music and it was a great thing to do for a friend in need. How good it is really shouldn't matter. Personally, I was instantly drawn to "I'm Not Sayin'" which is a cover of a great Gordon Lightfoot song. Of course, they rock it up, but it's very much a Replacements tune. It has the lyrical twists of a typical Westerberg song and a supped up tempo that was a big part of the Replacements "sound". There is a really solid version of "Lost Highway" which was made famous by Hank Williams, and a fun, loose cover of Slim's "Busted Up". "Everything's Coming Up Roses" (which was Ethel Merman's signature tune) taken from the Broadway musical "Gypsy" in 1959, is on the EP as well and gets the Replacements tongue in cheek, "we'll try anything once" treatment. The other song was submitted by Chris Mars and it's a cover of Slim's "Radio Hook". Chris throws a little juice into the song and steers it away from the ever so slightly psychedelic direction that Slim recorded it with. 

It's not "vintage" Replacements by any stretch. They can't reproduce that. Most of us can't find the inspiration or motivation in us that we had when we were teenagers or in our early 20's. Trying to duplicate that would basically reduce them to caricatures and if there is anything that Paul Westerberg probably would like to avoid, it's turning the Replacements into a critical dart board.

I'm more than happy with the effort and I'm likely in the majority of Replacements fans with that feeling. It's good to know that these guys have matured and grown enough to be comfortable settling back into old roles, even if for a short time to help out a friend. It may not seem that way in regards to Chris Mars, but I have to think that would be inaccurate to believe. Mars helped out and even made it in to do some backing vocals when Stinson and Westerberg got together to record a couple of songs for their retrospective disc a few years ago. He also provided the artwork for the "Songs For Slim" EP and apparently may do so for each 45 record that is released, although I'm not positive on that.

The Replacements members all have their places in life now and I'm just happy they saw fit to help out their friend and in doing so, gave me a few new songs to enjoy. By the way, the fans who purchased the Special Limited Edition EP deserve a pat on the back. 250 records raised over $100,000 to help with Slim's medical bills and home care. That's awesome! Now, the EP is being sold on Amazon and through other vendors and even more money can be raised to help out Slim. I've met Slim and got to spend some time listening to him talk about music at an in-store he did in Louisville when he toured with Son Volt. I even got to go on stage (in a drunken stupor) and "play" his guitar at the BBC. Why did I get to do that? Because, I can't play a lick and that's what he wanted! 

Slim Dunlap

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Pope Quit? Good.

So the pope quit? You know, usually, I'd rip him for almost anything, including quitting, especially when it hasn't been done for 600 years. I still might, my post isn't over, but I am willing to cut him a break for one little reason; sometimes, you gotta know when to let it go. 

How many 142 year old drivers do we have on the road holding up traffic? How many ancient folk are in front of you at the ATM and they can't quite remember their PIN number, even though it's probably their birth date. Some of them still use coins. Nothing is more annoying than a person who uses coins. Especially if they are in front of you. I haven't used a coin for a purchase since a Pepsi was .50!

Sometimes you gotta know when to quit and if he felt like he couldn't hold up his end of the bargain by doing his World Tour and all that bit,well, good for him. He's like Andrew Dice Clay and Richard Nixon, he knew when to hang 'em up. 

I don't want to imply that I'm giving him a free pass on being a guy that covered up child abuse, but he's out, so that's that. If there is indeed a Bible god, Ratzinger better hope he's saved up a few "Hail Mary's", because he might need 'em. I'm sure Christopher Hitchens is smiling up at him right now. Maybe the next pope will be a stand up guy that cares more about the human being than protecting the church. At least I hope so. 

Good bye Ratz, I'll catch you in the line to hell. I hear it's a sell out! 

Oh, why not! Here's a couple for the road!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Times They Are A Changin'........again?

I'll be damned if I have not started feeling an old feeling again. Back a few years ago, I went through some abrupt changes personally. Changed the way I thought about people, dumped my religion (not necessarily the concept of god.....because well, I don't know shit), stopped drinking (to get drunk), started taking illegal drugs (all natural), stopped caring who thought what about me, and started trying to be a bit more personal and open with my immediate family (as I still struggle with those outside of my house...but I want to do better, so I will.....eventually). I stopped taking medication and decided to start accepting some responsibility for being alive. I think it has served me well. I've been through it ALL on this blog before, but it never hurts to give a bit of background when writing one of these things. You know....for those uninitiated to the philosophical inconsistency of the person known as Freddy. 

Time is winding down folks. For all of us. Accept it. Embrace it. Deal with it. Every second that passes is one less. We are on the clock. 

"This is game time, champ. You’re in. You’re in, playing, right now, and the clock is ticking."
Johnny B. Truant

I've known this for awhile, but sometimes, reading it in someone else's words makes a helluva difference. Words that are blunt and real and resonate with me. I have to shake this shit up! I've wanted for a very long time to take a crack at doing 5 minutes of stand up, just to see if I could get through it, be funny, and then see how I felt about it afterwards. What has stopped me? Me. And why would I do that? There isn't a union I have to join. I don't have to take out a student loan and get a degree. I don't have to ask mom and dad for permission. I have stopped myself by not working towards doing something that I really want to do. Out of fear. Fear of others judging me. Laughing at me (for the wrong reasons). Thinking me strange. Well, you know what? Fuck what anyone else thinks. I'll know if I should ever do it again by just doing it once, won't I? Maybe I won't like it, but that doesn't mean I should deny myself. Do I want to be dying and have someone ask "If you could do one thing that you didn't do in life, what would it be?" To have an answer for that sucks. Think about it for a second. If that question is asked and you don't have an answer like "build a rocket and fly to the moon", then you have wasted some time, my friends. 

I feel a shift in my mind lately. I don't know exactly why or where it's going to take me, but I'm about ready to get off the roller coaster. I'm about ready to do more writing and honing my skills. 

I have a damn near perfect occupation that allows me not to feel trapped (other than about a 6 week period during the spring) by "the man". I make enough to hold up my end of the bargain at home and have the freedom to live my life free of the demands of a person or company that believes they own me 24/7. 

My time is drawing to a close and I'm gonna do me. After all, it's really all I have, isn't it? 

I'mma keep it cool, and I'mma do me
It is what it is and that's how it's gon' be
Until I get there
Until I get there
And yeah I got flaws, I know I'm not perfect
But all ups and downs, will soon be worth it
When I get there
When I get there

"Til I Get There"
Lupe Fiasco

Friday, February 1, 2013

One Week The Beatles. The Next The Monkees. What Gives?

Let me begin by saying that as a younger person I was really into the Monkees. Originally, they were a little before my time. I was born in 1968 and that was right when they were finishing up their run of popularity and success. They had a hit show for two years and had several chart topping albums, actually outselling the Beatles in 1967. My "turn on" came with Saturday morning reruns and catching them on occasion on the local UHF channel of variety known in Louisville as WDRB-41. I liked the songs and loved the zany, slap stick humor. Lots of winks, nods, and nonsense. I'm sure growing up on that humor along with Sunday morning Abbot & Costello, late night Monty Python, as well as The Three Stooges and Laurel & Hardy shaped my personality in many ways. 

Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith

In the mid-1980's the Monkees enjoyed an MTV fueled comeback (they won the final version of Friday Night Video Fights over Bon Jovi) and I got a little interested again and bought the newly issued "Greatest Hits" and enjoyed them again for a short while. They never really entered, in any serious manner, my mind as a musical group that demanded any sort of respect. They had some hits and had a funny TV show. Other than that, I simply didn't consider them "valid". This despite their having won two Emmy's, selling 65 million records, and at one point holding the #1 record simultaneously in the USA and Britain (a rare feat). 

Yes, that is Peter Tork with George Harrison. He played banjo on a Harrison album.

Through the process of "Album Night", to which I've spoken of before, I had the pleasure of rediscovering them and truly learning about the nature of The Monkees. I never realized how much respect they garnered from serious musicians such as Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, Glenn Campbell and others. I didn't realize (but should have) the influence their music had on the people who make music that are close in age to me. Paul Westerberg, Michael Stipe, Bono, and even Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols were Monkees fans. I won't dwell on the topic of why they have always been the butt of rock n' roll jokes, but writing about them without setting things straight would pull the rug of credibility out from under the gushing I am going to do over their film "Head". 

John Lennon and Michael Nesmith hanging out at the Sgt. Pepper sessions.

The Monkees were manufactured in Hollywood. No doubt. They were thrust upon the public and into fame through a television show, not playing bars and paying their dues. I can see where this would cause resentment among those who did and didn't chart as well as the Monkees. The Monkees were NOT Milli Vanilli. They were no lip syncing hit makers. They sang. They wrote songs. Yes, they played instruments. They did less playing on their first couple of albums, but eventually won creative rights to make their own album their way (after ditching Don Kirshner) and produced "Headquarters", in which they played all instruments with the exception of bass on a couple of tracks and the french horn. They were legit after the fact. That is, in my opinion, their best collection of songs and it's featured in the book "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die". In other words, if you must discount them, do so because of who they really were, not for what they were not. If the Monkees were not a valid rock band because they were "Made On TV", what does that make any American Idol success story? You know, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, The Byrds, and MANY other artists didn't play instruments on every track either. They used session players at times also, just like the Monkees. The prevailing opinion among a lot of music people is that they belong in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame and I happen to agree with that based on what I've learned about them. 

I watched the film "Head" twice this past week and just got the blu-ray version in the mail today along with other "counter culture" type films like "Easy Rider" and "The Last Picture Show" as a part of the really nice BBS Collection from Criterion. Admittedly, I was under the influence of "frodis" during both viewings and that's sort of the point. It was directed by Monkee co-creator Bob Rafelson and written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson after a long frodis session with the Monkees and Harry Dean Stanton. The psychedelic tone is prevalent through most of the film. 

The film is one long stream of consciousness that directly connects beginning and end. The movie deconstructs the Monkees image and exposes how they act and react as caricatures. They played heightened, unrealistic versions of themselves for the TV show and were never allowed to show their humanity. They were not supposed to be thinkers who had something to say about the time in which they lived. They were not supposed to show emotions like confusion or anger. They were not supposed to be apathetic about what was happening around them (although if you watch closely, you can see it all over Tork and Nesmith at various times in their TV shows). "Head" changed that and with the help of Nicholson and Rafelson, the Monkees image was torn off and you got a glimpse of them as human beings. It's not quite as obvious in doing that as say Pink Floyd's "The Wall", but it's there. Yes, there are people underneath the "star" exterior. The film works in that way, but it also bears repeated viewings because of the other messages and subtext that is running throughout the film about commercialism, the nature of reality, self-awareness, war, idolization, and political grandstanding. Yes, the Monkees seemed to really "have something to say" as their title song suggests. The movie doesn't knock you over the head with its messages (it gets most heavy in the subject of warfare), but it throws them at you. If it sticks, think about it. If not, move along with the film. One thing leads to another and that "another" usually leads you back to the "one thing". Such is life. If you watch it, the ending is a bit confusing, but know that what I just wrote in the last two sentences sort of help you understand. 

I am certain that you don't have to be high or tripping to enjoy the film, but it's made with a psychedelic mindset and I feel that the most value is probably procured from having your mind a bit more open and askew when taking it in. Context also helps. This is a movie that captures a unique time in American history and is best seen threw the time period. It's not a linear film with a preconceived plot line and it doesn't shoot for character development. You should know the characters going in. There are some really great songs on it too. I'll link up a couple from You Tube at the end of this. If you take a notion to watch it, look for appearances from Rafelson, Nicholson, Annette Funnicello, Dennis Hopper, Sonny Liston, and Frank Zappa among others. 

I guess to close this up, I'll just say that I am sorry that I misunderstood the Monkees and underestimated their influence. Were they a "great" band? No, not in my opinion. Were they are really important band? No, not really. But they were entertaining and fun. Their music fit the era and some of it was actually a little deeper than given credit for. Take in "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (co-written by Carole King), "Randy Scouse Git" (written by Micky Dolenz), "Daddy's Song" (written by the great Harry Nilsson), and "Last Train To Clarksville" (Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart). Those songs deal with conformity, abandonment, war, and the anti-septic nature of suburbia. The Monkees were a piece of rock history that was ahead of its time. Developing music and video into a non-variety show setting, and doing so without having come together organically. A lot has happened to mimic what they did, especially in the past 25 to 30 years. The influence of the Monkees phenomenon continues to impact music and television today. 

This song is "Randy Scouse Git". It has a biting chorus and has a Mama Cass and Beatles mention in it! Note that Nesmith is not featured individually in the video. He is in full "I don't give a shit mode". Really great song!!!

This is "Circle Sky" from the movie "Head". Yep, they are playing their instruments.....see! 

The "Porpoise Song", which begins and ends the film "Head". Cameron Crowe uses this song in "Vanilla Sky".