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andee's world: March 2005

andee's world

Hello and welcome to my blog. This space will be devoted to opinions, observations, lists, articles and whatever else I feel like posting. Subjects will include music, human nature, politics, life in NYC, etc. If I paste someone else's writing up here, it is because the author said something way better than I ever could. By the way, I don't claim to be a particularly smart guy; I'm just a musician with some opinions. If you disagree with me, that's cool -- but then, you're probably wrong.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Pop Culture = Poison?


American pop culture has reached its absolute nadir in the last few years -- this is something we all know. I don't think anyone would argue that there's ever been a greater proliferation of grade-Z entertainment polluting our lives than right now. You know what I'm talking about: reality TV. Clear Channel radio. Vin Diesel films. Lip-synching teenage girls who sell bazillions of records.

But my question is, are you resisting it or are you accepting it?

The way I deal is simple -- I don't allow the stuff into my life. If I do, it just brings me down. So I don't listen to commercial radio, don't have cable tv, have never watched American Idol. I can't tell you Ashlee Simpson's hair color. Watching MTV or listening to K-Rock isn't just depressing; I feel like it's truly bad for me -- like eating a bucket of KFC. It makes me feel sick and slimy afterwards.

And I need to make a quick note here -- I know that there's some great stuff on cable tv (especially HBO -- Ali G, Six Feet Under, etc) and I know that, while spinning the dial of mainstream radio, you may get lucky enough in your travels to bump into some Queens of the Stone Age or The Mars Volta. But these are exceptions, unfortunately.

Now this is my problem -- it isn't just inbred dummies who lap at the low trough of modern mainstream entertainment. It's smart people, too -- folks who know better. And this bothers me. There are alot of discerning, intelligent people I know who willfully indulge in things like The Swan and Good Charlotte. Of course, they know it's crap, and perhaps they see it as a guilty pleasure, or an exercise in kitsch...

But I really think that, no matter how smart you are, consuming bad art will make you dumber. Once you accept something that is mediocre, you have become ever so slightly more mediocre yourself. You are unwittingly lowering your standards with each hour you spend watching VH-1's latest "We Love the 80's" show or reading Us magazine.

There's a very acceptable level of "okay-ness" in the entertainment world now, and that's because we have gotten used to a lower standard of quality. Okay seems great compared to awful, so nowadays we get excited about stuff that's just average. Britney Spears' music has always been 100% manufactured, soulless, phony baloney junk, but now along comes Ashlee Simpson, who's somehow even more manufactured, more phony and less talented -- and next to her, Britney looks comparatively credible! You see what I mean? We're getting tricked!

My point is, don't let the bastards wear you down. Don't buy something just because the media keeps trying to sell it to you. The next time you find yourself settling down to watch an episode of The Anna Nicole Smith Show, stop. Turn off the tube and read some Mark Twain. Listen to Coltrane, or the B-52's. Feed your mind and soul with good music, sincere art, well-written books and inspiring movies. I'm not talking about being snobbish here -- I'm just saying, rather than eating a Twinkie, eat an apple. Because it's good for you.

You could be running on high-grade fuel but instead you're pouring sugar into your gas tank. Now, why are you doing that to yourself?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ayn Rant

About five years ago, I read Ayn Rand's monumental novel "The Fountainhead," and it changed my life. I was immediately inspired by Rand's philosophy and dug into her work a bit deeper.

When I got to "Atlas Shrugged," however, I was terribly disappointed. "The Fountainhead" won me over by telling a fantastic story with great, unforgettable characters and I was enamored with her "art-is-sacred-and-should-never-be-compromised" ethos.

But with "Atlas Shrugged," Rand clobbers us with her philosophy for more than a thousand painfully unedited pages, which not only ruins the story, but it insults the reader. The book is incredibly heavy-handed and boring, but it made me think enough to start questioning her philosophy.

For those of you who are not familiar with Rand's "triumph-of-the-ego" credo, I will let you discover it on your own if you care. But to those of you who are familiar -- am I wrong in saying that her worldview is too simplistic to work in real life? And am I wrong to take issue with the implicit (and sometimes explicit) sense of anti-altruism that courses through her work?

Life isn't as black and white as Rand paints it, and we don't all start out on equal footing in this world. Some of us are born to face a lifetime of incredible disadvantages and some of us simply are not. And sometimes folks just get sidelined by plain old bad luck. Those of us who are still lucky enough to be relatively fortunate in life SHOULD HELP THEM. Would Ayn Rand have donated money to the tsunami victims this year?

I gotta go with the Bible on this one: "you will be judged by how you treat the least among you."

Or Donne: "no man is an island."

Howard Roark is still my hero, but as far as Rand's philosophy goes, I take what I need from it and move on.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sayings That Need to be Destroyed, part 4

If you know me well, you are painfully, uncomfortably aware that I have a raging pet peeve about stupid expressions -- sayings that get absorbed into pop culture and are then repeated endlessly by unimaginative dullards who think they're being cute and clever.

There's nothing worse than listening to a person who can't communicate without stitching together a bunch of tired cliches -- my blood boils when I hear some insipid Paris Hilton type whose entire vernacular consists of trendy expressions that will have no meaning in ten years, padded out with a slew of "like"s and "you know"s.

Perhaps some examples would be helpful. Here are a few from years past:

1. "you go, girl!"
2. "it's all good"
3. talk to the hand"


4. "don't go there"

Are ya with me now?

I will allow that some of these American colloquialisms may have been fun and witty at some point -- like, maybe the first time they were uttered. But they're not funny or clever anymore, and they need to be destroyed.

Here are a few cutesy expressions that have been sticking in my craw for the last few years and are now way past their expiration date:

1. "You Rock!"

Ok, people. You gotta stop saying this. It is not funny or ironic to tell the waitress that she "rocks" because she brought the ketchup. She's a waitress, and she's working hard. And she probably wants to smack you.

2. "Rockstar"

This one gets used alot in a "we partied like rockstars!" kind of way. And then you've got your "RockStar Energy Drink" crap, which is apparently Gatorade for hipsters. But lately I've been hearing "rockstar" used as a generic term of praise. Check out the director's commentary on the "Dawn of the Dead" dvd (the 2004 remake, not the original). It's a great movie but the commentary is tough to stomach -- any time he refers to someone who was involved with the production of the film, director Zack Snyder commends his work by calling the guy a "rockstar." Whenever an actor appears on the screen for the first time, Snyder exclaims "rockstar!"

Oh, shut up, Zack. A rock star is someone who plays loud music, has an obscene amount of money, a terrible drug problem and Kate Moss on his arm; the gaffer who worked on your indie film set for sub-union scale wages is a great guy, but he's not a "rockstar" -- he can't even pay his heating bill. And he probably wants to smack you.

3. "All About..."

As in, "I'm all about goin' out with my girls on the weekends!" or "it's all about the beer" (I think that one's from a commercial) or "I'm sooo, like, NOT all about animal cruelty."

Do I need to tell you how moronic this sounds? I'll tellya what you're all about -- you're all about being lazy and repeating things you've heard other people say a billion times. And I want to smack you.

4. "Shits and Giggles"

I can't even begin to describe how awful this expression is. It sounds like some lunatic with an incontinence problem. I guarantee you, if you think about those words for half a second, you won't ever say them again.

5. "Bring It"

Ok, I brought it. Now I'm going to shove it up your ass.


People, don't be afraid to speak clearly and use your own words. Think before you open your mouth! Our speech is getting worse and worse all the time, thanks in part to mindless drones who relentlessly parrot phrases and expressions they hear every day. Don't be one of them! Let's make the world a better place!

By the way, if you think I'm nuts, keep your ears open for the next week or so. Listen to others, and to yourself. And you'll hear them...SAYINGS THAT NEED TO BE DESTROYED!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Death to the MTA

Well, the MTA are bending us over for the second time in two years. Lube up, New Yorkers -- it's another fare hike!

While we reach into our pockets to shell out even more of our hard-earned dollars for the suits at the MTA, let us pause and reflect on the last fare hike, which went into effect just two years ago, in 2003. The price for a single ride was jacked up from $1.50 to $2 -- the largest absolute increase ever for a single fare. This hike was supposedly instituted to fix a budget deficit in the MTA.

However, the numbers didn't add up and it was quickly discovered that the MTA were actually hiding half a billion of their dollars from public view in order to create the illusion of a deficit. They created a phony reason for sucking more money out of our wallets. And even after this disgusting and unforgivable deception was brought to light, ya know what the slimeballs at the MTA did? They raised the fare anyway! A big F-you to New Yorkers, a big ch-ching! for the MTA.

And weren't we all terribly surprised to find that, after the fare increase, subway service actually got worse? That's right, longer delays, more service interruptions, and, if you live in Brooklyn, even worse than that. My favorite is when they shut down the L train entirely for weekends at a time, completely cutting off the flow of commuters and consumers between Manhattan and Williamsburg.

If you work or live in Williamsburg or Greenpoint, this is beyond disruptive -- it's a slap in the face. If you're a business owner, it's devastating. Bars and restaurants in this part of Brooklyn who depend on incoming weekend traffic from Manhattan and elsewhere to pay their bills are basically screwed. And the rest of us can't get to or from Manhattan without either following a labrynthian alternate route which entails multiple transfers, bus rides and the JMZ subway line (which, to add insult to injury, always has service disruptions on the weekends) or taking cabs back and forth across the bridge (and who has money for that?).

As of a couple weeks ago, the weekly Metrocard now costs $24, which is seven dollars higher than it was two years ago. Who gets hit hardest by this? Working people. Rich folks don't use public transportation, we all know that. So, once again, let the poor folks carry the financial burden of lining the pockets of those at the top. Sounds alot like Bush's tax system, doesn't it?

So I wonder what the extra money will buy us? Gee, maybe we'll get, for the first time ever, a decent subway line servicing the east side of Manhattan? Or perhaps a train that connects the various sections of Brooklyn, so that we won't have to take ridiculously long and circuitous routes through Manhattan just to get from Williamsburg to Park Slope anymore?

I'm not holding my breath. As I write this, the MTA is about to shut down the L train between 8th Avenue and Broadway Junction for the whole weekend. I have a feeling we're gonna be paying more for much less, again.

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