Batshit Insane Vol. 5: Straight Outta Compton

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Anyone that knows this record doesn’t need me to explain why I included it.  However, I see this as a great comedy record.  Like many comedies it takes horrible realities to such extremes that it exposes truth, while at the same time making you laugh at the absurdity.  Lets take the famous, or infamous, song Fuck tha Police:

You’d rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
Beat tha police outta shape
And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape

Those four lines both expose truth and take violence to a comedic extreme at the same time.  It’s the fact that many white people would rather see black males in prison than driving around in a Mercedes Benz.  And then in the next two lines Ice Cube is bragging about beating a cop to death with maniacal glee.  So it is truth hidden in the guise of absurdity.  (And unfortunately this song still seems relevant to our daily headlines.)

For all of this records violence and insanity, I have a hard time taking it too seriously removed decades from its release.  Ice Cube is in children’s movies and Dr. Dre is a respected CEO.  I think of it along the lines of something like George Carlin’s Life is Worth Losing, where he talks about some of darkest subjects ever and twists them until they become funny.  But while Carlin is making you laugh, he is again making you see truths that evade us in everyday conversation.  (It’s not as smart as Carlin is, but then no one really is.)  Unfortunately many of the groups that were influenced by this seemed to lack NWA’s knowing sense of humor.  For all this records absurd violence and gritty reality, there is the sense that they are having fun.  And it is precisely that fun that makes this record fire on all cylinders for me.  They’ve driven straight over the edge, and are having a laugh in free fall.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Batshit Insane Vol. 1: Lulu

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I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.  Entry #1:

Lulu – Lou Reed and Metallica – Maybe the most insane recording of all time.  So many people hate this record, but I love love love it with my whole being.  I don’t love it because people hate it, but because it seems like someone going as far out on a limb as they possibly could.  Lou Reed was apparently already suffering from the sickness that would eventually kill him.  Did he go out by reflecting on an extraordinary life or by begging forgiveness for past sins?  No, he went further out into the storm than he had ever gone before.  He was a warrior poet that went out into the jungle, that the rest of the village feared, and brought back strange truths.  This record is poetic, vulgar, bizarre, and heavy as fuck.  Based somewhat on the “Lulu” plays of the German dramatist Frank Wedekind, it deals with murder, Jack the Ripper, sadomasochistic sex, and a femme fetal.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg!  On the single The View Reed sings:

I want to see your suicide
I want to see you give it up
Your life of reason
I wanna see you in a coffin, your soul shaking
I want to have you doubting
Every meaning you’ve amassed

When I hear this album I can’t help but mentally be in Berlin’s Teirgarten on a dark and rainy day.  Yet, in case you think that this is just shock for shock value, the album ends with the incredibly poignant and heartbreaking Junior Dad, which casts multiple layers of meaning over the prior proceedings.  The song features, from the breakdown on out, lyrics that are some of my favorite lyrics of all time, lyrics that never cease to move me.  Even if you have no desire to check out this record, check out that song.  A poetic tour de force that shows that Reed was, on his last song on his last record, still a poet of incredible insight and depth.

Sunny, a monkey then to monkey
I will teach you meanness, fear and blindness
No social redeeming kindness
Or oh, state of grace

Would you pull me up
Would you drop the mental bullet
Would you pull me by the arm up
Would you still kiss my lips

Hiccup, the dream is over
Get the coffee, turn the lights on
Say hello to junior dad
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad
Psychic savagery
The greatest disappointment
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad

The New 10 Commandments

Recently there was a contest where people were asked to rewrite the 10 Commandments according to humanist principles.  This was done on behalf of those in the Atheist movement.  Ideas were sent in to Atheist Mind Humanist Heart’s website.  There were 13 judges that picked out of the replies that were sent in.

First I should state that I am agnostic, not an atheist.  I believe that no one knows what happens after we die and that doubt is the most humble way to face this question.  There are times when I feel the modern atheist movement becomes too dogmatic.  It seems like they are often no less rigid in their beliefs than certain religious people.  The world is too full of mystery in my opinion, to completely deny the spiritual side of one’s nature.

I was ready to believe this was just another publicity stunt to draw attention to another group that thinks that they have a lock on the truth in this life.  However, when I actually read the list that was picked, I’d be hard pressed to disagree with it:

  • Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
  • Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
  • The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
  • Every person has the right to control over their body.
  • God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
  • Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
  • Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
  • We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
  • There is no one right way to live.
  • Leave the world a better place than you found it.

These aren’t really commandments so much as they are suggestions on a way to live a better life.  I think it is a pretty good list of suggestions.  I have recently met some very spiritual Christians that are absolutely the epitome of kind and good hearted people.  I think the key, and the one that will cause the most people to flip out, is that it doesn’t say that you can’t be good or live a meaningful life with God, but that it is not necessary.  I also know many people that are agnostic or atheist that are also giant hearted.  I think the main idea to take away is to temper whatever you believe with doubt.

But I can’t help having a little fun with those who believe the original 10 Commandments are the only way to get to heaven and that all those that don’t believe will burn in eternal hellfire:

11 Unbelievable Weapons That Only America And Its Closest Allies Have

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, ‘You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done. – George Carlin

I’ve always loved George Carlin.  The title of his book Napalm and Silly Putty comes from his amusement in the duality of man. People have not only invented something that can burn the skin off someone, but also created something used to copy the Sunday comics.

With that idea I give you this article from Business Insider about:

11 Unbelievable Weapons That Only America And Its Closest Allies Have

We’ve got some really creative sociopaths in this country!

Football, Loss, Manipulation, and Absurdity

I am in New Orleans tonight.  We have the night off.  I watched my Philadelphia Eagles get beat.  The stabbing of friends and strangers was debated mentally.  The thing is, I know that football is a game and that it is silly to get emotionally involved in it, but old habits die hard.  George Carlin said something along the lines, pointing out the absurdity of football, in that there is nothing better than watching 300 pound millionaires beat the shit out of each other.

I know some people prefer college, because the game is more “pure”, but I prefer the opposite.  I love the military jet flyovers, the fireworks, the surgically enhanced cheerleaders, the absurdity and spectacle of it all.  If you are going to get emotionally involved in something absurd, why go halfway in?

I am able to get into it and hold the thought in my mind at the same time that it is a completely ridiculous spectacle that has no real bearing on my life.  Modern life constantly forces you to hold two opposing opinions at the same time.

I mentioned this a long time ago on my blog, but while watching and paying attention to sports we must be aware of manipulation.  I don’t just mean the commercials or the half assed patriotism at the beginning or halftime of games.  (Taking your hat off before a sporting event does not make you a patriot.  There’s not much commitment in that is there?)  Let me give you an example.  One of the ways that Rupert Murdoch pushed his conservative agenda through his papers was that he would always include a really big sports section.  White working class males would then buy his papers.  He would then make sure that those papers would include his political propaganda.  He was using sports as a way in to people’s lives and thoughts.  If you want to read more about this read Michael Wolff’s The Man Who Owns the News.

Anyway, that’s enough thinking for now, back to stewing over my loss…

Random Thoughts Before Departure and Weekend Picks

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I am heading out for Houston today to play the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Tx.  You can check out details and other dates at http://www.shinyribs.org.

Because of this posting will probably be light today, although I am hoping I will have time between my soundcheck and gig to get something up.  After this I am off for three days and will hopefully get to work on here with a little more regularity.  I feel like I have gone through the looking glass today!  

Some random thoughts:  Against all intelligence and reason I would like to satiate my bloodlust with Expendables 3 at some point, which comes out today.  I grew up on 80’s action movies and they are definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. (Well, they would be if I felt guilty.)  I was just watching 2 a couple weeks ago and the body count in the first few minutes alone was ridiculous, all while the main characters cracked jokes and one-liners.  

The new Sinead O’Connor album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, is excellent, and I hope to write a full review at some point, even if it falls slightly short of her masterpiece How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?.  

I have been listening again to the George Carlin concert Life is Worth Losing.  He somehow manages to take suicide, murder, and all forms of human depravity, completely hilarious.  I have trouble deciding if that or It’s Bad For Ya is my favorite Carlin concert.  He is one of the few people that got braver and bolder as he got older.  He never mellowed out or stopped searching.  See if you can YouTube “extreme human behavior”.  The part about Roman torture is especially funny.  

I am still listening to the new Morrissey album World Peace is None of Your Business nonstop.  If you haven’t gotten it yet, do, and get the version with the bonus tracks.  The bonus tracks are all absolutely fantastic.  Art-Hounds has been in my car stereo every day.  Look up the lyrics if you need a laugh.  

I’ve read more of the Hampton Sides book In the Kingdom of Ice.  I’m still not far enough in to write a review or to decide where it places in his work, but it is another fascinating well told story.  One of the best history writers working today.  

Well that’s all folks…I need to hit the highway…

In the future when all’s well…

Jeff

 

 

Comedy is Tragedy Plus Time

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…constitutes a veritable goldmine for a psychologist – provided he is wise enough to understand that the horrible can not only be ludicrous but outright funny.  -  Hannah Arendt

This quote is from her Eichmann in Jerusalem.   I purposely removed it from its context, because I believe this statement to be true on many fronts.  As Steve Allen once said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.”  I was listening to the George Carlin special last night Life is Worth Losing.  In it he has you laughing at suicide, mass murder, and the “pyramid of the hopeless”.   There is a great deal of absurdity in the human condition.  Comedy allows us to talk about things we otherwise might shy away from.