Monday, February 28, 2011

Only The Strong - Midnight Oil

Let's go back to 1994. I'd completed my hellacious first year of college. I was reeling from my first sexual experiences with a man, subsequently falling HARD for him, and freaking out about what it all meant. (Of course, I was in no space to talk to anyone about it.) I was in the midst of a terrible existential (no, really) crisis. The conclusion I came to from not knowing the purpose of education, and knowing that I had devoted my entire life to education scared me to death. Add in an uplifting class on the resistance to Nazism, with special emphasis on the Warsaw ghetto. Add in a class on Russian literature, heavy on the gulag experience. Also add in a severely mind-warping tutorial on Nietzsche. I was so fucked in the brain by the time my first year was done.

The only thing that saved me was my weekly radio shows, wherein I'd escape and play music only for me, me, me, and scream at the powers that be for two hours, 1984-style. So at summer camp that year, where I rocked the pool and the lake as the aquatics director, I began plotting my second year. It would be, again, all about me, me, me, but this time, it'd be 100% of the time, and not just those two hours a week. I'd live life exactly as I wanted, and if anyone got hurt in the process, fuck 'em. (As it turns out, I'm generally restrained enough that this particular mindset ended up hurting only one person, and it was in the service of ending a relationship that shoulda never begun in the first place.) I needed some major inspiration, so I went wild on the music.

My malaise that fall was blown away in a testosteronic gale of noise and punk: the Ramones, Wire, the Sex Pistols, the Descendents, Minor Threat, Sonic Youth, and the Dead Kennedys, to name a few. (SO shoulda gotten Helmet, too...alas, that was not to be for a good 13 more years.) And the following spring, I picked up the long-overdue 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 from Midnight Oil.

Midnight Oil has always been one of my favorite bands. I can't think of another band that's so forthright, intelligent, consistent, and filled with warlike righteous rage. And on this album, packed with powerful calls to action and personal statements, "Only The Strong" is one of their fieriest.

The lead singer, Peter Garrett, is a wild, menacing presence, a nearly 7 foot tall behemoth of a man, with a shiny bald pate, intense eagle eyes, and some of the most spastic dance moves ever attempted onstage. The entire album is worth it just to hear Garrett snarl, "Speak to me, speak to me. I'm at the edge of myself...I'm DYYYING to talk." And on each chorus, his singing goes from righteous declamation to furious anger to shredded, bloody vocal cords. Truly awesome and somewhat frightening; singing this wild and unhinged is seldom heard outside of Minor Threat or the Pixies. And likewise, the guitars swoop and careen barely in tune, sounding like metal being warped out of shape. Drums hammer out a martial beat with pinpoint accuracy, interspersed with machine-gun breaks and breathless moments of silence.

It's weird to say this, but the album version is the most intense version I've yet heard...the live versions aren't quite up there. Regardless, to say this song is an adrenaline rush doesn't go nearly far enough. Put on your headphones and listen to "Only The Strong" at full volume. If you don't feel punch-drunk and cleansed by the end of this one, you must be on some sort of narcotic. You want to live at the edge of life, at the edge of yourself, push boundaries, rebel against powers that be, and take what is rightfully yours? Here's the beginning of your soundtrack.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The pin sighs into the eye!

Random thoughts, just 'cause I can...

  • First, from the Glee department. Of course. Mr. Man wanted to watch it tonight. He told me he knew I wanted to watch it, so I should just give in. (I was planning on watching the Onion News and Portlandia instead.) Well, I heard it was the Bieber episode, so my enthusiasm was suitably anemic. And my disinterest, tinged with disgust, at the phenomenon of Bieber is unchanged. Give 'im about eight years. Then check in with me.
    Otherwise, I have two lovers, and I'm ashamed. First up: Lauren. Good God, she is a force of all that is good and snarky and standoffish in this world. Holding Puck (sexiest guy on there, by FAR...oh, wait, check that...there's Karofsky...and we're taking his shitty attitude out of the equation) at arm's length, teasing and toying with him and blueballing him is just priceless. But the best part? She actually sang "I Know What Boys Like" as her "anthem." God bless her. She's now my favorite.
    Second? Santana. Bitch is on a rampage. Evil incarnate. Sue should either be proud or afraid Santana's gonna take over. And considering how fucking sappy Sue got tonight...well, meh.
  • Favorite new word: noob. Just realized today it stood for "newbie," but really, the greatness of this word just transcends. I mean, just say it. Noob. It's so absurd. Nothing can touch it...not nerd, dork, geek, dweeb, Zappa, nothing. Well, except maybe SNUH (for all you Simpsons fans).
  • My credit card company just offered me 5 songs on iTunes for free. And I didn't really think it was all that big a deal. But let's break this down. Even back in the day, CDs that were as little as 5 songs (and I'm thinking Pink Floyd and their epics that could stretch for over 20 minutes sometimes) went for $13-$15. Factor in inflation, and yeah...that's one hella good deal. I'd be stupid to pass it up.
  • Travels over the first 3 months of the year: Tucson, Portland, and Dallas. Not bad. And it had BETTER not snow in Dallas like it did last year! (Yeah. Welcome to Dallas. First day of spring, and 3 inches on the ground.)
  • Angry Birds. Stay away. Stay the FUCK away if you value your life. It sucks the free time out of your life more effectively than any Hindu god could.

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Heaven is a place...a place where nothing...nothing ever happens."

Yeah. In so many ways, heaven = nothing.

Life's pretty damned good when you can escape somewhere to do nothing at all. Sleep. Eat. Read. Hike. (Some...not too much.) Play the pee-ya-nuh to your heart's content. And ruminate on life.

Only issue with this one was the weather. Left Denver when it was -17. All thrilled and such to be leaving and heading down to the warmth of Tucson. Except I landed in Tucson and it was 25. Yeah. Record low temperatures for three days, people. Sunny, to be sure...I mean, it is Tucson, right? But lows of 18 do not compute in the land of saguaros, prickly pears and agave. It is February, after all, so I don't expect it to be shorts weather all the time. Still...gaaah.

Otherwise, food was great, company was great, it was wonderful to sleep and take naps whenever the hell I wanted, and eventually it did get above 70 for a few days. Oh, and did I mention the silence? 23 hours a day of it. Enough to drive many people crazy, but to me, that's just balm to the soul. Actually, silence = no talking. It didn't keep me from hooking up the tunes or yes, playing the piano (which I hadn't done any of since...well, since last time I was there, lo these 4 years ago.) Both with headphones, so as not to disturb anyone else.

While I was there, I got to decompress for a few days, then take a look at my life, see where I needed to go next, then make plans for the future. Exciting stuff. Really. It's just when you get back home and are sideswiped regularly by...well, real life, you realize how difficult it is to stick to said plans. But worth it.