Friday, April 29, 2016

I reviewed Beyoncé's “Lemonade”, because like a Donald Trump presidency, it seems inevitable

I have only been marginally aware of the existence of Beyoncé. I knew that she was in Destiny's Child. I knew she was married to Jay-Z, whom I knew from his early 90s old-school hit “The Originators” with his first group, The Jaz. I knew she had a song about being crazy in love, which are two states I have found to be wholly incompatible. And that's about the limit of what I have known.

I was utterly content to remain in this state of relative not-giving-a-shit-ness, but then the internet reared up on its haunches this week and declared NO, CHISA, YOU ARE GOING TO CARE ABOUT BEYONCÉ NOW. And I said no, internet, it is the end of the semester and I have important things to do, and also I run a D&D group and don't have time for this, and besides which this is clearly just another thing like Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, and nobody even remembers that was a long-form video now. And the internet said YOU THINK I'LL GIVE UP ON THIS BUT WATCH WHAT I DO TO YOUR FACEBOOK FEED. And I said fine, I'll give it a look if you'll just shut the fuck up already.

The video starts with that static-to-HBO logo thing I've come to associate with many quality programs over the years (Mr. Show, Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight). Immediately we cut to a montage of scenes in a field juxtaposed against Bey kneeling on a stage while singing balladry over piano. I need to say this now: Beyoncé is a gorgeous woman. Not “gorgeous for a black woman”, which is what you'd expect from a middle-aged white guy; she is unqualified gorgeous.


I'm going to do my absolute best to not lambast this film just for the sake of it. The cinematography is amazing, but so far it seems to be WHAT THE FUCK DID BEYONCÉ JUST JUMP OFF OF A BUILDING?

I'm confused. I'm five minutes into an hour-long video and I don't understand anything I am seeing. Beyoncé is reciting poetry and swimming around a hotel room like some sort of adaption of The Little Mermaid by Sofia Coppola.

Then a characteristic reggae alarm effect sounds off in the far background and now Bey is singing in an affected Jamaican accent and walking down HOLY FUCK DID SHE JUST SMASH IN THE WINDOW OF A CAR WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

An ATV comes rushing into the scene doing a wheelie; the driver is wearing a shirt that reads: IN MEMORY OF WHEN I GAVE A FUCK. Ironic, since I am currently languishing in the memory of when I didn't.

What's worse, lookin' jealous or crazy
Jealous and crazy
Or like being walked all over lately, walked all over lately
I'd rather be crazy

Or, you know, you could try NEITHER jealous NOR crazy. So apparently this is a song about someone cheating on someone, which is a concept I find entirely foreign as a polygamist. Why people have so hard of a time simply being honest about their needs baffles the everliving fuck out of me. You want to fuck other women, say so! Work it out! Communicate! But no, people go behind each others' backs and lie about it and then we all have the nerve to wonder there's so much useless drama in our lives.

I can't tell at this point if the alleged cheater is supposed to be Jay-Z or not. Tabloids tell me it is, but art is subjective. Venetian Snares once wrote an entire album about raping and murdering children; it doesn't mean he actually did it. But let's assume it is; I dare suggest that Bey is not really that nuanced, and for evidence I submit aforementioned visuals of her Britney Spearsing parked cars.

So: Jay-Z, who has a net worth of 650 million dollars, and who is married to literally the most beautiful woman in the world (and let's be frank here, Jay-Z himself is not exactly a looker; his face is like a potato grown into the shape of Bill Cosby's stunt double), has to CHEAT? Why? For fuck's sake the man could buy his own personal Nevada whorehouse, and probably find a way to take it off his taxes as a deduction. How hard is it to say you'd like to try out more than one vagina?

Now Bey is apparently driving a monster truck down the street. I'm getting the distinct feeling she has some unresolved issues.


Back to the montage visuals and the spoken word pieces. “Why can't you see me? Everyone else can.” Yeah, that'll happen when you shove an entire album about one person down the rest of the world's throat.

Bad motherfucker
God complex

Motivate your ass
Call me Malcolm X

Uh, no, Bey. Just no. Malcolm X had an agenda, and that agenda was getting black people equal representation and respect under the law, society, and the world government. He was willing to see that agenda through with every weapon at his disposal, from his amazing mastery of oratory to his M1 Carbine rifle. You are a spoiled rich pop idol who is whining about dick. It's not even in the same fucking ballpark.

Yes, this video is visually stunning. So what? It's 2016; EVERYTHING is visually stunning. I have a fucking HD video camera on my shelf and all I ever make is stupid cooking videos every seven years. I'm sick and tired of the modern excuse that luxurious cinematography is sufficient condition for the “revolutionary” tag. Where's the goddamn substance? Where's the STORY? Christ, at least the aforementioned Rhythm Nation 1814 had something resembling a plot. This is just Bey's dream vomit thinly shellacked in a veneer of Afrocentrism. I refuse to believe that black people are stupid enough to fall for this bullshit.


Seriously, though: is this entire album going to be about cheating and how it sucks for the person being cheated on? I am already bored, and no amount of Beyoncé dancing like a robot in jittery fast-forward is going to change that.

Maybe I should call Becky With The Good Hair. She seems pretty chill.


Okay so I guess from all the red this part is about menstruation or whatever. That's cool. Or maybe it's about prostitutes in a red light district. Frankly I don't even care because that sample of Hooverphonic's “2wicky” is so goddamn blatant that I'm genuinely furious now.


Good Christ we're only halfway through this thing. How many of these weird-ass nebulous title cards are there going to be? SELF-SUFFICIENCY. TRUTHFULNESSLESS. LIKE ANGER EXCEPT MORE ANGERY. It's like a motivational video for a corporation that produces lunatics.

Now we're cutting back and forth between videos of little girls and videos of old women, of which Beyoncé is neither. I get that Beyoncé is a person with opinions and, yes, black family structures are a complex cultural thing and maybe some self-reflection is warranted and helpful there, and maybe if this video gets people thinking and talking about that it's a good thing. I also get that Beyoncé is a 450 million dollar property who is trying to push units in a world where record stores are archeological relics. It seems maladroit at best, especially when followed by a visual of Bey laying supine in a massive, empty football stadium that clearly cost a pretty penny to rent for a mere ten-second shot.


This is apparently the point where Beyoncé has decided to forgive the proverbial cheater for his actions and is working on healing the relationship. Which would be great, if not for all that nonsense in the beginning about how she didn't need him and how she'd be better off alone and how she's a strong black woman who bashes in cars and shit.

You can't have it both ways – Bey talks a good game but when it comes down to it she's falling into the same ridiculous battered black women tropes that she's apparently trying to shine a light to expose here. Mind you that's giving her the credit for having that complex of an intention in the first place, which I have seen zero evidence may be the case. Malcolm X fought for equality between the races, and if I truly want to honor his legacy, then perhaps it behooves me to consider Bey just as much of a vapid, posturing twit as all the white girl pop singers. Nobody seriously thought “Shake It Off” or “All About That Bass” were going to incite any cultural revolutions, either.


Okay. Seriously. JAY-Z IS ACTUALLY IN THIS VIDEO. What the actual fuck? Are we all being trolled here? Is this just an elaborate publicity stunt to get people to finally subscribe to Tidal? Does Jay-Z have some kind of weird public humiliation fetish? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.


This would seem to be the end of the cycle of emotional metaphors. I'm not sure what could possibly come after “resurrection” – even Actual Jesus Christ knew to stop there. That said, we're 43 minutes in, and if the average holds that means there's at least two more following this one.

Even I am not enough of a dick to criticize the Black Lives Matter parts of this section so let's just leave that be.


Huh? Hope for what? I thought we were at the end of this story – boy meets girl, boy cheats on girl, girl notes cheating is indicative of the self-destructive black cultural paradigms, girl forgives boy, repeat (probably).

I guess the hope is that this cycle will break with the next generation? Maybe so, but I can definitively tell you that it's not going to unless people start realizing that the traditional ideology we have centered around relationships is frankly bullshit. Human beings are animals. We are hard-coded to seek out as many partners for procreation as possible. Traditional morality has vilified this animal drive for purposes of social control. Modern morality needs to do something better, or at the very least try something different. It's clearly not fucking working.


Good holy Christ! ONE PINT of water to a HALF POUND of sugar? THAT'S the lemonade recipe black people use? No fucking wonder Phife Dawg died from diabetes. I live with a woman from Tennessee who grew up drinking sweet tea her whole life and that shit would make her go “slow down there, Candy Crush.”

Finally we come to the metaphor for the album title, a poetic historical tribute to the tenacity and ingenuity of an oppressed people via the vehicle of alchemy. It's not a bad motif, if a trifle obvious. But lemonade is ostensibly for people who don't have anything else to drink, and that's not entirely true. You can't make lemonade without water, and water is far better for you. Lemonade is a pleasant lie. It takes a source of perfectly good hydration and supersaturates it with artificial sweetness and tang. I can't help but think that's really what this album is – an overwrought visual onslaught that drowns any useful effects in its deluge, and again, that's giving Bey the credit that she actually intended this to be anything more than a cheap ploy for sales in the first place.

As the post-credits trap beats implore the ladies to “get in formation”, a bee appears in my room. This has become a regular occurrence as of late; a local swarm has found that the bushes outside my bedroom windows are a potent source of pollen, and a few stragglers often get left behind after the daily haul. They buzz around the windows for about half an hour, and then promptly die, and I clean their harmless corpses up after.

By sheer coincidence, Beyoncé's fans are collectively known at the Bey Hive, apparently unaware of the implication that this casts them as mindless drones fit for unceremonious sacrifice.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I reviewed U2's “Songs of Innocence”, because eh

Oh, U2; how I have loved to hate you over the decades we have been on this planet together. I'll be honest: I've never really liked you. Even in the 80s, when you were ostensibly “good”, you always seemed like a caveman throwback to me. There were all the rest of the songs on the radio – the Michael Jacksons, the Queens, the a-Has and Spandau Ballets and Dead Or Alives – and then there were U2 songs, which would come blaring out of the speakers disjointedly. You were like the one nosepicking punk-rock kid at a socialite soiree. You probably thought that was cool. I always thought you should go home and find friends your own age.

It would have been fine if you'd just left it at that, though. But no, you insisted on being included regardless of how out of place and awkward you made everything. And you kept insisting, again, and again, for decades. You're still insisting now.

And we haven't even gotten to the really heinous shit you've done yet, like nearly suing Negativland – a genuinely refreshing, forward-thinking, and TRULY REVOLUTIONARY band – entirely out of existence, then shamelessly stealing the sampling-culture ethic they pioneered for your ZooTV tour, THE SAME YEAR. No wonder Aphex Twin refused to do a remix for you. You are and have always been the antithesis of the underground, a privileged major-label invention angling desperately for an audience they neither deserve nor have anything in common with.

What better way to market such a group than actually shoving their album down consumer's throats?

Apple has opened a real Pandora's box here: millions of people now own the new U2 album whether they want it or not. Odd Future's Tyler the Creator compared the experience to waking up with herpes, which is probably being generous, because at least with herpes you got laid the night before. This is more like waking up to a subpoena. Of course, if you aren't rich enough to have an iPhone and actually want the album, acquiring it from another source will get you the usual draconian measures from the RIAA. The future is FUCKING STUPID.

How does U2 defend this invasion of digital privacy? Here's a bona fide (Bono-fied?) quote: “People who haven’t heard our music, or weren’t remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we’re in their library. And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.”

Great. Bono is literally comparing this album to SPAM. FAVORABLY.

So how does it sound?


It sounds like shit. Apple paid 100 million dollars for this? I would give you 75 cents if you included the artwork and a date with The Edge's ex-wife. Gene Simmons has gone on record lately claiming that rock music is dead; listening to this, he may be right, and that may be a good thing.


I'm going to guess that these songs were all constructed for the purpose of being included in movies starring Daniel Day Lewis. There's a mealy-mouth quality to them, a sort of weird formulaic structure that evokes something you've heard before that was also in a sort of weird formulaic structure, ad infinitum. It's like a fractal pop song, a holographic suck that when cut in half still contains the full measure of suck.

Are we so helpless against the tide? 

You tell me, asshole; you're the one who thinks he's still relevant. 


I feel I should note that I'm literally typing these reviews in real time with the album, and I finished Track 2 so quickly that I considered fast-forwarding to save time.

Oh great; just what we need, ANOTHER song about California. Fucking Red Hot Chili Peppers wasn't even remotely cool when they did this eight years ago. (Yep, Stadium Arcadium was EIGHT YEARS AGO. Feeling OLD yet?)

Whoa, oh, you know
And all I need to know is
There is no, yeah, there is no end
To love

There's no end to something, anyway. The average age of the members of U2 is 53, for the record. Who are they writing these songs for? Other pentagenarians? Teenagers? Just anyone who'll listen?



Here's something that needs to be said: this album is BORING. Danger Mouse probably got paid a lot of money to produce this rubbish, which is somehow both a tragedy and a mark of business genius. There's nothing of Danger Mouse anywhere on this album; it sounds just like any other U2 album, with nothing fresh or modern or notable. These songs could be time-traveled back to 1982 and released and no one would be the wiser.

And that's why they SUCK! You had access to Danger Mouse – the man behind The Grey Album, Gnarls Barkley, Danger Doom, countless projects and remixes – and THIS is what you ended up with? That's like having Gordon Ramsay at your house and handing him a box of Duncan Hines.


I want to stop here. This album isn't going to get any better. It's not going to excite me, it's not going to move me, it's not going to say anything U2 hasn't said a thousand times already which wasn't even all that interesting the first time. U2 keeps talking big game about remaining relevant, but really, has U2 ever been relevant? Did anyone really give a shit about Rattle and Hum? Or Boy, or Zooropa, or Pop? Their entire career has been about the fight for being recognized, a fight they lost by having it at all. Sure, a few decent tunes slipped through the cracks, but take away The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby and what do you have left? Horseshit like this:

Hold me close, hold me close and don’t let go
Hold me close like I’m someone that you might know
Hold me close the darkness just lets us see
Who we are
I’ve got your life inside of me

This probably sounds deep and emotional if you're the lead singer of Creed, or a 12-year-old girl who just discovered what boys are good for. To everyone else it just sounds goofy and embarrassing.




Oh! Something remotely sonically interesting! If the album would have started with this track, I might have been fooled into thinking that U2 was serious about their desire for relevance. There always seems to be at least one redeemable track on albums like this; for the Robin Thicke album I reviewed it was “Too Little Too Late”. It's a weirdly specific thing – it's like you can hear that there was potential there, that maybe they seriously considered doing a whole album like this, that maybe under the surface of all the carefully constructed facade there was some genuine, soulful intention to be SOMETHING, god dammit.

And then the accountants came in and said “no no no, just make another 'Angel of Harlem' and we'll call it a day.”


And just as quickly we're back to whatever. These guitars are ANGRY! Or they're trying to convince me they are, anyway, and they're not really succeeding. It's a toothless dog with a truthless bark.

I was looking for a soul that’s real
Then I ran into you 

I laughed pretty hard at this realizing that Bono almost certainly did not intend the double meaning.


Might we get TWO interesting tracks? The opening synth arpeggio, harkening back to early Kraftwerk, is certainly unexpected and a bit more fresh than is usual for U2. But then Bono actually begins to sing and ruins it all. I really would like to hear more songs like “Numb” where Bono just becomes a sort of abstract vocal
texture in the background while The Edge sneeringly proses over the beat like some sort of sarcastic cross between Ken Nordine and Lyrics Born. In fact if U2 made songs like that all the time I'd probably forgive them for a lot of the horrible shit they've done.

Not the Negativland thing, though. They are never living that one down.


It really seems like they saved all the sonically interesting tracks for the end of the album. I'll bet if you listen to this disc in reverse order it sounds way better.

Soldier, soldier
We signed our lives away
Complete surrender
The only weapon we know

UH OH, IT'S A POLITICAL SONG. Except, no it's not. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was about SOMETHING. This is just word jambalaya posing as Kony 2012. Also it's just way too upbeat for a political song. There is no such thing as political disco. The very concept of disco is antithetical to politics.


I'm not even going to poke fun at how U2 has never had anything remotely resembling “the troubles”, nor how this ham-handed reference to the Northern Ireland conflict smacks of class appropriation. Why bother? The evidence is clear: U2 believes their own bullshit. They genuinely think they are still a fresh, young, hip band with interesting things to say. There's not a trace of irony here, only delusion and denial in equal portions.

Getting old is terrifying. The world is constructed around the young, the energetic, and the creative, all of which are commodities that depreciate with time. U2 has lost their youth, and they were never that creative to start with; all they've ever really had was an astounding pool of energy. But who can keep that up at 54? Entropy takes us all; the body sags and stutters and refuses to do what it once did easily. U2 is dying, and like all Westerners they die not with peace and resolve, but with a last gasp for just one more moment of importance.

I've changed my mind. I don't hate U2. I pity them, and I understand now their drastic need for
a continued fantasy of unearned relevance. But God, I hope I die with a little more dignity.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I reviewed Robin Thicke's “Paula”, because clearly I hate myself

Call me a schadenfreude-devouring voyeur if you must, but I simply cannot get enough of the continuous fractal trainwreck that is Robin Thicke. Something about his particular combination of flagrant sexism, celebrity privilege, public martyrdom, and utter cluelessness just hits a uniquely uncomfortable sweet spot. It's like craving a peanut butter and salsa sandwich, or basking in the distinctly metallic flavor of your own blood as it drips onto your tongue after a well-deserved punch in the nose.

Thus, when I heard his latest attempt at, uh, whatever it is he does – this Paula business, this batshit attempt at reconciling with his soon-to-be-divorced wife via shameless public exhortation – sold a mere 530 copies in the UK... well, naturally I had to hear it. I have a certain penchant for doomed albums; the late Randy Savage's Be A Man, for example, on which the beloved Slim Jim-snapping pro wrestler tries his hand at hip hop. The results are so spectacularly bad as to be almost an artform in themselves, not so much a rap album as a deconstruction of the very concept of rap, the separate parts bricolaged back together like some garish audio Frankenstein monster, a tortured thing never meant for the eyes and ears of man which is probably better off given a quick mercy killing.

But I digress. We were talking about Robin Thicke! Man, do you think he got some of the ideas for how to get back with his wife from watching his dad on old episodes of Growing Pains? Like remember that one time when Mike Seaver converted to hardcore Christianity and insisted on forcing his views on the entire rest of the family and actually got their nanny fired because she posed nude for Playboy? Oh, wait, actually that was actor Kirk Cameron doing that shit in real life. My bad. The point stands, though.

Anyway: here we have Paula, Robin Thicke's very public attempt to win back the affections of his estranged spouse. For purposes of this review I will attempt to put myself in Ms. Paula Patton's shoes* and decide whether or not I would get back with my ex-hubby after listening to this desperate plea.


This opening sounds like that Aisha Duo track that comes standard with Microsoft Vista. I'm not sure if Robin's trying to go for a timeless sound here, because I'm not exactly sure what time period this is supposed to be emulating. It's sort of halfway between early Jodeci and “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”, which averaging the two together yields somewhere around “Back in Stride” by Maze with Frankie Beverly.

Oh baby I got a feeling
We ain't never gonna be friends

Yeah, that's a great way to start off your hour-long declaration of love for your soulmate. Does Robin Thicke genuinely feel that married people shouldn't be friends? Is marriage some sort of weird required punishment for him, wherein you have sex with a person you actually secretly kind of loathe because, hey, she's an actress and she's got a nice body and isn't that what this is all about? Maybe it's a celebrity thing, and they believe they have to keep their species populated by only mating with others of their kind, lest the gene pool be polluted by mongrel DNA from non-famous people.

I would like to point out at this juncture that Robin Thicke is a 37-year-old man.


lol get it he wants to get his wife back but also its a double entendre for butt sexx

I never should have raised my voice or made you feel so small
I never should have asked you to do anything at all
I should have kissed you longer
I should have held you stronger
And I'll wait for forever for you to love me again

I'm not entirely sure what's going on here, but I'm going to warrant a guess and say that what you “should” do is maybe listen to what your female counterpart has to say about what you should do, which at this juncture seems to be “fuck right off.” Also, you will totally not wait forever and I am 100% confident in calling that right now.

What's up with this slow groove ballad type thing again? Is the whole album going to be like this? Because I seem to remember this being exactly not the thing Robin Thicke does. In fact what I remember specifically as being the thing Robin Thicke does is grind against women half his age while singing about how they are literally sex objects, which, not to put too fine a point on it, may have some small thing to do with why you are now single.

Also: the video for this song is exactly what madness looks like.


As opposed to what? Being sanely crazy?

But I was in chains in the rain
Lost my soul, now you know
I’m so sorry you had to suffer my lack of self-control

We're still suffering through that currently. “In chains in the rain?” This is the best you've got? This is your soul poured out for the world to see? Because, I gotta be honest: your soul sucks. I penned dumb banal shit like this in 10th grade when I had a crush on Eileen Martin in Geometry class, but thankfully I did not have a global recording contract at the time. This song is basically Bob Dylan's “Just Like A Woman,” except with lyrics written by someone even more goofy than Bob Dylan, hard as that may be to believe.

You think by now I might’ve grown

Again, this is a 37-year-old man.


Uh, no, don't actually. Seriously. You're creeping me the fuck out.

She was born in Paris at the age of 21

Okay this is just a total failure to comprehend basic mathematics and/or pregnancy. It's so bletheringly stupid that it doesn't even make sense as a metaphor. Are you saying your wife was an infant until she was 21 years old? Are you trying to win her back with insults?

She locked the door
(I kept trying to tell you you were pushing me too far)
She locked the door
(I kept trying to warn you you were slowly breaking my heart)

The church choir here really is just too much. I'm sorry, but if you are a white man, you CANNOT use a black choir for your backing singers. You just can't. The only person who ever gets away with this is Michael McDonald and, honestly, he really shouldn't.

Baby let me in, baby I miss my best friend, yes I do

You mean your best friend who you had a feeling in the first song was never going to be your friend? Jesus Christ this is like listening to a person slowly deteriorating from Alzheimer's disease.


Here's a fun game to play: count how many times the word “I” or “me” or some similar variation is sung in a Robin Thicke song. I call it Narcissism Bingo.

This song's score: 114, not counting the title.


We're not even halfway through this mind-numbing piece of uninspired grey dreck and already I want to take a nap and throw up on myself simultaneously. This is arguably the first upbeat tune of the album, but even so it still seems sluggish, like the beat just can't seem to get out of the goddamn bed this morning and keeps hitting the snooze bar.

I had to put on headphones for this one to verify that Robin was actually saying “black daddy” in the intro. This appears to be surreptitiously missing from most of the lyrics sites that host this song. I WONDER WHY.

I’m livin’ in New York City (YEAH!)
I’m livin’ in New York
I’m livin’ in New York City (YEAH!)
In the center of the world

I think I'm beginning to see the central motif of this album: Robin Thicke genuinely believes that he is the center of the universe, and losing his wife is the first indication he has ever gotten in nearly four decades that this notion might be flawed. For an album ostensibly about his wife, he sure does spend a lot of it singing about his GOT DAMN self. Pretty much all of it, in fact.


As can herpes, and unsurprisingly, these two things are not entirely unrelated.

Oh you're way too young to dance like that
In front of a man like me baby


You know cigarettes are bad for you baby
So am I

It's official: Robin Thicke is exactly like lung cancer.

Oh the world can be a lonely place
Sometimes you need a new drug

May I suggest heroin? I really do pine for the days when rock stars would just go out and shoot up and die when they got depressed rather than subject us all to this languorous horseshit.


Personally I wouldn't use the terms “black tar” and “black daddy” on the same album, but hey, that's just me.

Yelling and screaming and smacking me
How could you do this you spoiled little rich kid (truth)
Rocking the TV, you bashing my ride up
You smashed my guitar (tell em the truth)
Chasing me around the house when you
Trying to hit me with my favorite golf club (truth)

I'm pretty okay with saying that if you actually have a favorite golf club, getting called “spoiled little rich kid” might be warranted, particularly if you are a spoiled little rich 37-year-old very-much-not-a-kid. Here we begin to delve into the dark side of the Robin-Paula story, in which she allegedly breaks all his things that he can totally afford to get new ones of the next day. Getting your ride bashed up is not a point of sympathy when that ride is a Porsche. (Also: a Porsche, seriously? What is this, an episode of Magnum P.I.? Real douchebags drive Maybachs, grandpa.)

I also do not believe for one second that Robin Thicke has ever played a guitar.

Faced down, in a puddle of shame (tell em the truth)

lol like robin thicke has ever felt anything remotely resembling shame

I was jealous of your life, jealous of your soul
Good morning manipulation and control

It's almost like he's aware of what a delusional lunatic he is and he's just riding the wave of madness and arrogance like some kind of ideological surfboard. Which I could almost forgive, if the music wasn't also total shit.



Finally, nine tracks in, we get something resembling what Robin Thicke usually does: cheesy, upbeat club tracks that culturally appropriate all black music since the dawn of recording technology (this time around: Michael Jackson's “PYT” sans vocoder). I actually kind of enjoy this song on its production merits: the frequency spread is solid, with thick low-end bass in the choruses and Nintendo-blips punctuating over Thicke's growling baritone.

Every time you walked through that door
I should've held you so long you would never ever need to ask for more

Because what every woman wants is to be smothered with attention and/or physically restrained from leaving your presence.

Every time you walked up in this house baby
Should've made you feel special and treated you right

Herein we see the crux of the problem with this album: Robin thinks that women need to be treated “special”. If women aren't whores, then they must be princesses! If they aren't plastic fuck-insects, then they are obviously magical angelic fairies! It's a strangely common mode for men who are trying to comprehend why their relationships fail, the reflexive contrarianism of extreme dichotomies, as if they are heaping weights onto one side of some weird feelings-scale to even out everything.

Of course, women aren't insects OR fairies. They are people, which means you treat them exactly the opposite of special: you treat them JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER PERSON. Contrary to popular belief, in my experience most grown women want to be neither objectified nor worshiped, but mostly just left the fuck alone to get on with their business.

Which of course means that Robin Thicke is doing the exact opposite of what he should here. But eh.


This bullshit sounds like Chubby Checkers took a shit on Britney Spears.

She be dancing on her tippy toes, her tippy toes

I be using proper English, but then I also be not sayin' shit like “black daddy”. Also: Yah Mo B There. YES I MADE TWO MICHAEL MCDONALD REFERENCES IN THE SAME POST.


There's something bad in me (something, something)
Oh, there's something bad in me (something, something)
Yeah, there's something bad, something bad
Something real real bad (something, something)
There's something b-b-b-bad in me (bad, bad, bad, bad)

I genuinely do not know how much more of this menial crap I can take. I don't even know what's going on here. It's like an unreleased Depeche Mode b-side with lyrics written by Trent Reznor and then edited by Tipper Gore. It's trying so hard to convince me that Robin Thicke is a bad man. Robin Thicke is a boring prat who thinks way more highly of himself than could ever be warranted, which pretty much puts him squarely in line with every Millennial born. (Again: THIS IS A 37-YEAR-OLD MAN.)

But bad? No. Go set your ex-wife's dog on fire and then go on a six-day whiskey-and-valium bender with Lindsey Lohan and get photographed pissing off the Eiffel Tower, and then for an encore record a duet with 2Chains titled “Black Daddies (F**kin' Thots In Da A$$).” Bad men don't write love ballads to their ex-wives. Bad men go get new ex-wives. You're just a deluded shmuck.


Oh, what I wouldn't give for the opposite of Robin Thicke right now.

All that she needed was a true friend
All she received was a troubled man
She couldn't be with someone like her dad
And I just wanted her with my drunken wrath

...what the actual fuck?

I think I'm pretty secure at this point in saying that no self-respecting human being on Earth would get back together with this maniac, and most non-self-respecting women would probably kick this bullshit to the curb as well. In a weird roundabout way Robin Thicke is revealing to us the type of woman he wants, which is someone who would actually be both dumb and emotionally vulnerable enough to be moved by this ridiculous self-aggrandizing crapshoot album. That leaves as his possibilities either Sansa Stark or Forrest Gump.




Anytime you need you a friend baby
I will be the one that you want

Robin Thicke croons morbidly over the sound of someone attacking a piano, like a robot with jackhammer fingers performing Eric Satie's “Gymnopedie.” Lyrically we have come full circle: in the beginning, Robin expressed doubt that they could ever be friends, whereas now he cannot imagine being anything else. He begs for some connection, any connection, even if it must be merely platonic and crabwise. Just don't leave him alone.

Because who is Robin Thicke when he is alone? Like the old zen parable about the tree in the forest, Robin Thicke needs someone to hear him fall. He cannot fall alone, soundlessly, in the darkness; he cannot have not mattered. There must be SOME audience, some peanut gallery to either praise him or vilify him. Any attention is better than deafening silence.

When you're broken
Where you're blind
And you need someone to show you the light
I'll be right there baby

But she's neither broken nor blind; she's doing just fine, without you. And herein lies the darkest secret of
Paula: it is not, in fact, an album Thicke is singing to his wife. It is the album he wishes she were singing to him.

And if you're ever down and out baby
I can be the one that you want
You can lean on me anytime baby
For anything you want and need

Isn't this exactly what Thicke is yearning for himself? Someone to be there for him, someone to always have his back, in the lowest times? Are these not indeed his lowest times, and has he in fact no one to fall upon?

But he does have someone: the one he told us about in the beginning. His fantasy. The perfect woman that he would have her be, if he had his druthers. The imaginary lover crooned of long ago by Atlanta Rhythm Section; the dreamweaver of Gary Wright. She will always be there in his mind, comforting him, telling him everything will be made right. Don't we all have someone like that, in our deepest recesses of imagination? Don't we all deserve that pale respite, however horrible and selfish we may be? Is Robin Thicke, after all, not human?

Everyday I will believe
It's longer than always could be
Oh it's further than the eyes can see
More real than any dream could be

Forever love
Oh it's forever love
Forever mine, forever yours
Forever love

And you know what: I believe too, you crazy fuck.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Disney Princess Leia

No. Just no.

Princess Leia has never been a "Disney" princess. From the very first shots we get of her are, we see her, in order:

1. Smuggling sensitive government military information to a known terrorist. (Edward Snowden, anyone?)

2. Shooting a stormtrooper DEAD.

3. Straight up TALKING SHIT to Darth "Makes Everyone Else In The Universe Crap Themselves" Vader. And then doing so AGAIN to Grand Moff Tarkin, who's arguably even more powerful than Vader on the Imperial hierarchy.

Then later, she takes an unprecedented amount of drugs and SHAKES THEM OFF, comes up with the strategy for the defense of Hoth's Echo Base (which works!), helps Han and Chewie fix the Falcon, poses as a bounty hunter, and STRANGLES AN INTERGALACTIC GANGSTER TO DEATH.

Leia Organa is about as Disney as the Bride from Kill Bill. She's a hardcore bitch who will GANK your ass.

Monday, July 15, 2013


The train ride was an eventful one. We'd been stalled in Alpine, Texas, left to our own devices for an hour, and sauntered over the hill to the beckoning lights; there, we found the city's annual arts festival, and like the strange refugees we were they welcomed us with open arms. We sat around the firelights drinking homemade cider wine and comparing stories from our lives. Joseph Campbell would have been proud.

The righteous girl (the blonde one who had broken up the impending race fight between a drunk hillbilly and a family of Mexicans) bought me dinner without prompting. I told her I didn't need it, that I had rationed for the trip, but she insisted I couldn't survive on Life Savers and instant coffee for another day. Then the train whistle blew, and we all ran like children to a dinner bell, back to the traveling motel that was our temporary home.

That night, in the cafe car, long after last call and the closing of the snack counter, the remainder of the cider wine flowed freely. The hippie girl, cradling her baby, confessed that she was on the run from the law and her husband, who had rightful custody of the child. She cried as she listened to the advice of the wise old Latina woman, who begged her to reconsider for the safety and well being of the baby. Everyone nodded solemnly.

Finally we came to Tucson. This was my stop; I collected my bags and said my tearful, wistful goodbyes to them all -- to the young hip-hop producer on his way to L.A. with a stolen laptop, a DVD-R full of beats and VST plugins, and a dream of fame and fortune; to the teenage girl on her way to a MENSA convention, eager to prove herself among similar geniuses; to the Dominican man who I talked with about Philip K Dick and Watchmen; to my good and honest friends, one and all, whom I cared for deeply.

Then I turned and walked away, and none of us ever spoke to each other again.


I left Facebook this week. The decision was warranted; I was becoming increasingly agitated, adversarial, foul-mouthed and inhumane whenever I used the site. Every friend's post was an excuse for me to weigh in with my usual contrarian opinions, spoiling for a debate with anyone foolish enough to take the bait. Other bad habits began to creep back into my life along with it, the door for bad behavior opened wide with invitation. I drank until I vomited and blacked out on my birthday. I spent money willy-nilly. I didn't work on my art.

I'd been noticing my slippage for months, particularly due to having made such incredible progress in the opposite direction before recently; earlier in the year I'd experimented with oxytocin, a neurochemical hormone responsible for a number of behavioral modulations, and found it quite helpful in coaxing a more compassionate, open-minded, genial version of myself to the fore. That Facebook was able to undermine this progress bothered me immensely.

For weeks, I made time in my schedule to erase my offerings on the site, going back years and deleting old content, until only a bare and present remainder of my presence there was left. No one seemed to notice, or complain; maybe in a post Graph Search world it would have been more obvious.

Then again, perhaps not. Perhaps these posts we make are only ever meant for the moment they are made in, their semi-permanency an accident of technology and commerce, half-conversations stuck in amber like mosquitoes. No one really cares what you said six months ago, or a year, or five years; particularly they don't care if you said it about things that were going on then. For illustration, 2008 was five years ago. Britney Spears has a massive neurotic meltdown; Heath Ledger overdoses; a new Indiana Jones movie opens and is heavily panned; Joe the Plumber makes his debut; Palin claims she can see Russia from her house. Nobody cares, then or now.

In any case, there were a number of people whom I felt made staying worthwhile, and for whom I'd staved off leaving as long as I felt I could. When I made my decision to go, I contacted those folks, telling them I was leaving and giving them contact information to stay in touch, should they so choose.

Out of 27 friends, I've heard from one off of Facebook since leaving. I believe I will hear from at least one more, but we regularly text message as it is, so that doesn't quite count. Leaving Facebook is leaving the train. You'll never speak again.


This is a grim realization: these connections that seem so important when they're right in front of us dissolve almost immediately as soon as they are not. Why should it be so? A friend recently suggested there may be an evolutionary reason, which sits right with me. Friends in far away tribes can't help you fight tigers; you need to bond with those that are around you in the here and now for survival. Out of sight, out of mind.

We see this in many places and forms. Spending an entire afternoon in the DMV will get you talking to whoever happens to be next to you, and before long an outside observer wouldn't know you haven't been friends for life. Stockholm Syndrome is a particularly extreme example, where captors and hostages are stuck with each other due to dire circumstances. School itself is a strange example, where one is cast in with other children of their age group arbitrarily; similar things could be said of boot camp, or of prison.

Some of the last people I'd added before leaving Facebook were classmates I knew from Milton Hershey School. Some were good friends, some were only acquaintances, and some I barely remembered at all. But they all added me, because Facebook gave them back what life took from them at graduation: a way to get back onto the train.


Which is what makes it so very sinister. Facebook, like many services before it, hijacks what was previously a useful biological process -- location bonding -- and exploits it for its own purposes; specifically, to sell advertising space. I am not near my friends in Seattle or Philadelphia; there are very few ways they can truly help me in the physical world, unless they're willing to hop on a train.

The internet is a curious beast; it emulates many of the shapes of community while offering few of the benefits. I can't say I haven't enjoyed my time in, for example, IMVU or Guild Wars; on the other hand, what has it gotten me? What can I point to on my person, in my room, in my life, that shows how meaningful those virtual interactions are? I have nothing but spent time and pretty clothing on an avatar, which can't even translate to other internet services, let alone the physical world.

Networks are not communities, and there is a dangerous precedent in equivocating the two concepts -- as dangerous as equivocating lust with love, or credit with savings.


Is the train all there is? Am I simply moving from one set of immediate focuses to another by leaving Facebook? I don't know. What I do know is that whatever train I was on was making me miserable. Maybe it has to do with reconnecting to high school friends. Back then I was certainly an awful, depressed mess; going back there on purpose can't have been the brightest idea I've had.

The first morning, waking up after deactivating my Facebook account, I felt a little lost, unsure of what to do now with my mornings. I felt like I had on those days I lived back in Nottingham, Pennsylvania, wandering through the pathways behind the state park, each day a strange and unfamiliar adventure, each moment a moment I would decide which way to go, which path to walk down as I listened to the mixtapes I'd assembled for the journey. Those were some of the most peaceful moments of my life. It's not a bad place to be, even if it's on my own.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Doctor Who Series 7 (P)reviews

After seeing the latest Doctor Who episode, “The Bells of Saint John”, and remaining fairly sick of the direction the show's been taking since Moffat decided it would be a great idea to turn it from a science fiction vehicle to a kitschy romantic comedy, I thought it would be a fun experiment to review the rest of the episodes before I even see them. Let's see how close my predictions are!

Episode 233, "The Rings of Akhaten"

The Doctor and his newest companion, Clara Oswald (whom, in her latest incarnation, is a crystalline-based Xylok named Klah-Rahs'Wahld and must be carried around in the Doctor's pocket) encounter a species of sapient frogs determined to strip-mine an innocent planet to create an army of robotic bug-zappers.

Episode 234, "Cold War"

Brrr! The Doctor and Clara (now a cavewoman from the year 20,000 BC) return to the icy planet of Telos, where the Cryons have been locked in a war with the Ice Warriors of Mars. Can the Doctor negotiate a peace before he and Clara freeze to death? Guest stars Ricky Gervais as a Lurman traveling salesman.

Episode 235, "Hide"

The Doctor and his ever-faithful companion (now an Auton duplicate who fires jammy dodgers from her hand-cannons) enter a game of galactic hide-and-seek, where the prize is the universe itself! There's just one problem: they have to find each other first, but which Auton duplicate Clara is the REAL Auton duplicate Clara?

Episode 236, "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"

It's classic Who meets new Who as the Doctor meets his eighth incarnation, played by the venerable Paul McGann, to stop an 800-year-old sentient pencil... THAT KILLS. Can they find a way to stop history being literally erased, while saving Clara (who is also the pencil)? Clive Owen guest stars as the twenty-seventh Doctor.

Episode 237, "The Crimson Horror"

This entire episode consists of the Doctor just straight up stabbing the latest Clara repeatedly for 45 minutes because he is so sick of this bullshit.

Episode 238, "Nightmare in Silver"

The Cybermen are back... except this time, they're the Daleks! A new race of CyberDaleks has taken over both factions, determined to both assimilate and destroy all of humanity simultaneously. It's a race against the clock as the Doctor frenetically babbles and dances around like a loon. Patrick Stewart guest stars as Actual Goddamn Captain Picard.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Deep Space Nine Haiku Project: Season One

1x01+02 Emissary
Cardassians leave; holy shit, a wormhole; Ben isn't linear.

1x03 Past Prologue
Duras sisters aid a Bajoran terrorist; oh, hello Garak!

1x04 A Man Alone
Odo killed a guy; oh wait, no he didn't; Philip K Dick approves.

1x05 Babel
Paralalia; fridge devolve glue method leak? Thank God there's a cure.

1x06 Captive Pursuit
I am Tosk; I live the greatest adventure. Hey, O'Brien gets it.

1x07 Q-Less
Wait, did Ben just punch Q the fuck out? Holy shit! Half-Prophet, indeed!

1x08 Dax
I really don't like Jadzia; wooden acting can't be saved by plot.

1x09 The Passenger
Also, I don't like Bashir that much; same deal, but substitute hamming.

1x10 Move Along Home
Quark is in his realm! Gambling, risk, and profit! Oh, but it's just a game.

1x11 The Nagus
The acting is great here; revealing Zek can speak at the end is tops.

1x12 Vortex
Odo gets a clue to his origins; might be the first series kills.

1x13 Battle Lines
Hey, Opaka's back! Except not, we're just writing her character out.

1x14 The Storyteller
Bashir/O'Brien friendship finds its fledgling roots; "Let's really focus!"

1x15 Progress
I secretly wish Mullibok would return and get his own spin-off.

1x16 If Wishes Were Horses
This was going to have a leprechaun in it? God damn that is racist.

1x17 The Forsaken
Oh, Lwaxana Troi; that always means a good time for the audience.

1x18 Dramatis Personae
The scene with Odo's head collapsing on itself still haunts my nightmares.

1x19 Duet
Kira gets a foe worthy of her hate (and trust). A true joy to watch.

1x20 In the Hands of the Prophets
Get ready for so many episodes where you'll be hating Kai Winn.