Archive for July, 2013

Battlestar Galactica – the Complete Epic Series

Saturday, July 27th, 2013


Battlestar Galactica – the Complete Epic Series – I remember this series so well from when I was a kid! I was only eight years old when Star Wars came out, nine years old when Battlestar Galactica followed it on TV; now that I have an 11-year-old of my own I am enjoying watching this series with him. It is less challenging than the newer versions of Battlestar Galactica (quite a lot of sex and death in that – maybe something for when he’s 16 or so), and we both enjoy the hammy acting, although for different reasons. The words “frak” and “felgercarb” have definitely entered our vocabulary, not to mention talk of cubits, yahrons, centons, microns, etc.

Watching the series can be a bit dull because the development seems a bit slow at times, the action tame, and the battle/starship/fighter scenes recycled (you’re always happy to finally see a new one). But there’s no doubt that it was a good high-budget series, with all sorts of great gear, huge sets, and wild Colonial Warrior uniforms (love those brown suede jackets!). Also some of the most beautiful women in TV at that time.

The opening episodes are great because they have the sumptuous Jane Seymour in it (wow!!). She makes the stunning Maren Jansen look dull in comparison (Maren gets phased out of the series in favour of Cassiopia, as well as new arrival Sheba, played by the nasty, but nice-looking Ann Lockhart). I also love the tooth-gnashing, snickering villainy of Baltar, and the series definitely loses momentum when they stop fighting Cylons and encounter flaky villains like the Western Alliance, or run up against wacky desert warriors. There’s also a shift in the goofy opening dialogue and the opening credits, “There are those who believe that life here… began out there!!”

The opening episode is a stunning three-part story that shows the destruction of the colonies and the creation of the rag-tag fleet; it’s laced together with one of the better episodes, which shows the Hotel California-like pleasure pit that’s secretly a vampire/Cylon kidnap/hunting hole. Yuck!! “Lost Planet Of the Gods” is a two-parter that shows the Warriors fighting both cylons and a virus! “The Lost Warrior” is a wacky “cowboy sci-fi” tale, with Apollo landing on a Westworld that is being terrified by a malfunctioning Cylon called “Red Eye” aiding a group of caricatured goons in terrorising the innocent towns folk. Yeah!! “The Long Patrol” has our heroes encountering a new world of human villains with their weird prison system, and a young Irish thief who’s fleeing them to find a new home for his family. Interesting. “Gun on Ice Planet Zero”, a two-parter, has that cool dramatic title that you just love, and includes a cool commando squad assembled by Apollo and Starbuck (who else) to take out the ice planet death ray, while dealing with dangerous prison-ship demolition experts, and also funky ice clones. “The Magnificent Warriors”
“The Young Lords” is a weird little adventure that includes a nasty gang of kids.
“The Living Legend” is probably the best Battlestar Galactica story – it features a manic Lloyd Bridges as the legendary commander Cain, and introduces his lovely daughter Sheba, and the minor character Bojay (love that nickname). Cain butts heads with Adama by introducing a daring plan to attack a Cylon outpost and a cylon base that comes with the risk of temporarily endangering the rag-tag fleet. The story is a brilliant example of strategy, with a very cool little ending. “Fire In Space” is one of those “natural disaster” stories, of the type that were so popular in the 1970s (The Towering Inferno, etc), with the crew battling flames. “War Of The Gods”, a two-parter, shows the crew of the Galactica pitted against the mysterious Count, a Satanic figure, who no one really knows how to deal with. “The Man With Nine Lives” is also a great little episode that brings in Fred Astaire (!!!) as a man who pretends to be Starbuck’s father… who then is Starbuck’s father!! He’s also a dastardly Han Solo-like character who tricks everybody, including the creepy Borellian Nomens – guys with seriously ridged brows and a deadly code of ethics. Very very very weird! “Murder On The Rising Star” is a pretty cool episode that shows the aftermath of a Triad game gone wrong, with Starbuck nearly found guilty of murder – until Apollo figures out how to clear his friend’s name. Interesting stuff going on there. Very nice indeed (although we’re never really sure why the murderer needed to frame Starbuck, rather than someone else). “Greetings From Earth” is a two-parter that shows the Galacticans intercepting a space ship with humans in suspended animation, and the strange proceedings that carry on from there, including the Galacticans following the humans to their farm world, some silly politics, a battle, and the entrance of the ruthless Eastern Alliance fascists. “Baltar’s Escape” is an interesting one – it shows Baltar, the Borellian Nomens and our fascist friends from the Eastern Alliance helping each other to escape the Galactica. “Experiment In Terra” is a weird one, with Apollo being turned to white and sent on a ghost mission. Strange. “Take The Celestra” is a silly story about a devious co-pilot rebelling against his commander; bad acting and mustache-twirling aplenty here. “The Hand Of God”, the final episode in this one-season series, is a cool one, showing a return of the Cylons, Starbuck and Apollo’s adventure infiltrating a Cylon base ship, and more nuttiness, including the first kisses between Apollo and Sheba. What a man!! And let’s not forget that ironic transmission that they receive!!!

The packaging is pretty cool – there’s a nice six-DVD foldout set, with a cool little booklet that’s full of pictures of the series’ cheezier moments, great pictures of Starbuck and Apollo in all their feathered-hair glory, with episode details as well as single pages devoted to important cast members, as well as a nice schematic o the Galactica herself, the Vipers, and the Cylon Raiders. The outer shell resembles a Cylon helmet. Damn cool!!

Bonus features are fairly generous, although I’m not so impressed with the “deleted scenes”, which are mainly outtakes of scenes where the actors screwed up their lines. No big deal at all.

But there are quite a few featurettes: producer Glen A Larson talking about the series’ creation, composer Stu Phillips talking about the intense score to the series, how the Cylons operated, how the daggit operated, a photo gallery and an interactive game; there’s also commentary on the pilot show with Apollo, Starbuck and Boomer.

Among the earlier, shorter pieces, the first one is Glen A Larson talking about his fascination with Egypt, pyramids, Erich von Däniken’s Chariots Of The Gods, and all sorts of trippy thoughts about what connects our various races of ancestor civilisations, which he observes developed in isolation of each other. “What if ‘Heaven’ is the name of a planet?” This sort of trippy plot development emerges in several non-Cylon episodes (and alongside cowboy episodes, like the one with Red-Eye). Drew liberally from mythologies, and mentions how in one of the episodes the Satanic character was revealed to have cloven hooves. Thoughts about evolution, and how perhaps our own job some day – if we do a good job in this life – is to run some planet somewhere. The music director talks about how he made themes for all of the characters, including Boxey, and how themes were repeated, allowing him to do his job week-after-week without imploding. “Inside Battlestar Galactica” shows three short videos: working the cylons, working the daggits, and a photo gallery. The first one talks about the Cylons, and how the mirrored armor looked cool, but it was heavy, it reflected the cameras, visibility for those wearing the armour was poor, one guy nearly drowned when he went under water with the heavy gear on, and how the limited visibility (and top-heaviness) meant that a lot of cylons would take a dive and crash around (sometimes topping each other like dominoes – there are several great shots of this). At one point, they ran out of money for new Cylon suits, which may explain why there were so few shots of Cylons in later episodes, as the first round had been destroyed during filming – they were cannibalising parts later on. For the daggit series they showed live shots with the chimp sounds coming out of the daggit. Noah Hathaway talks with fondness for the chimp, Evie, who we see in just one shot without her helmet on. Awwww… There are plenty of cool pics, including 42 of the cast, 24 of the artwork, and 50 of the original models. The disc also includes a trailer for the upcoming remake series, and for the video game.

On the last disc, finally, we get a longer documentary called “Remembering Battlestar Galactica.” It runs through interviews with many of the cast members, including Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict and Noah Hathaway, and we get to see how old they are now, and how their careers have faded (outside of Noah Hathaway on The Neverending Story, and Dirk Benedict on The A-Team, I don’t think any of them ever worked again). It’s a shame for Richard Hatch, because we all rooted for him as Apollo – as square as his character was, he certainly was one cool-lookin’ dude.

In the documentary, we learn that 60-70 million viewers checked out the pilot movie for Battlestar Galactica. That’s a lot!! The crew describes the pressure that they were under going from pilot to mini-series to full series at the drop of a hat, and how they often hardly had their lines (or re-writes) before they were on camera! Wow!! It must have been a crazy year, no wonder it was not re-newed.

We get to see some of the jokes they played with each other on-set – like one with a viper going backwards for one of Starbuck’s scenes!! There are shots of Starbuck’s original shirtless love scene with Cassiopea. For the Triad scenes, the guys actually got to play the cryptic outer space game, a pure exhibition of male Colonial Warrior sexuality. The cast talked of Lorne Greene telling the most off-colour jokes. We learn/see that shots existed of the Imperious Leader (and lizard), but they were never used. Noah Hathaway talks about how they gave him beer on set (uncool, actually), and both he and Richard Hatch talks about falling in love with Jane Seymour… awwww!!! Can’t fault them there, though – who among us hasn’t ever fallen love with Jane Seymour?

Killing Yourself To Live, by Chuck Klosterman

Saturday, July 27th, 2013



Killing Yourself To Live, by Chuck Klosterman – I’ve read most of Chuck Klosterman’s books, and have enjoyed many long passages of his stuff, typically in his essays; I think he loses the drift in his longer works (which typically feel patched-together, as this one does), and his novels are terrible. I would use three words to describe him: Heavy mental diarist.

And in this book he’s definitely all three! This is reinforced in the way he outlays his unconventional theories on music, his method of describing his arcane (yet not-too-detailled) knowledge and analysis of music, and in his aloof comments about his life. Yay, Chuck!! Killing Yourself To Live is ostensibly about Klosterman’s trip around the USA to visit the sites of rock ‘n’ roll deaths for a series of articles in Spin magazine and takes its title from a song by Black Sabbath, a band he never mentions throughout the book (although he does mention them regularly in his other books); the title is important because it’s about living and dying, and the impact of death (be it accidental or deliberate). Unfortunately, despite the interesting premise, the book is less about the rock ‘n’ roll sites he visits and more about what was going on in his personal life at the time. This makes the book thoroughly self-centered, and somewhat dishonest since the rock ‘n’ roll title implies that rock ‘n’ roll will be taking place but it’s actually meant to be taken more at face value (ie Black Sabbath has little do to with the book, while the act of “killing yourself” does). Of course, I now realise that this was actually an assumption of mine, and that rock ‘n’ roll was actually not promised, neither in the description nor the title itself. So if anyone reads this expecting rock ‘n’ roll, beware – there’s hardly any in this book (he does fluff out the page count a bit with a long tacked-on chapter on KISS and another one on Radiohead). And this reminds me of the sub-title for the book: “85% of a true story”. I guess this means that the book is 85% honest, which is probably a good rule of thumb for anything Klosterman writes – his facts are 85% accurate, his analysis is 85% relevant, this book is 85% about Chuck Klosterman and 15% about other topics, his autobiography is 85% truth, 15% fiction…

Chuck is enamoured with three women, two of whom he has had some sort of relationship with, and from time to time he meets new girls he’s attracted to. He meets strange people in the countryside, he thinks about his life, the thinks about music (especially KISS and Radiohead), he meets old friends in North Dakota and other places, and he takes us along for the ride. Klosterman continues the strangely conversational habit he used in Fargo Rock City of starting paragraphs off with the word “ANYWAY”, and brings up quirky new stylistic devices, like putting the dictionary definition for the word “foreshadow” into the book (I think it’s meant to be ominous). Not sure why, maybe he was 85% sure it would be a good idea.

There’s a fair amount of hip writing, and he has a funny passage about doing cocaine in a Manhattan night club, and the ensuing discussion of the difference between cocaine people and marijuana people. In some cases, random strangers and strippers are involved. Every now and then he says things that are actually pretty funny, like when he talks about living in a town that had a Dyke Avenue, and how he used to drink “Boone’s Farm wine with seven alcoholic slackers who were somehow even lazier than me.” He also has an interesting description of “American Pie”:

I’ve noticed that nobody changes the station when “American Pie” comes on; they always listen to the whole thing and sing along with the chorus. However, almost no one listens to “Stairway To Heaven” all the way through. We need some sociology grad students to look into this.

Klosterman regularly displays what an irrational hipster weirdo he is:

My best friend, Mr Pancake, always wants me to visit him in Arizona so that he can show me the Grand Canyon, but I know I’ll never go. I mean, I’d love to see Mr Pancake, but I have no desire to see the physical manifestation of erosion. The Grand Canyon is just an attractive accident; it has no inherent meaning. I’d be far more impressed if a collection of civil engineers used dynamite and laser beams to construct a perfect replication of the Grand Canyon on a one-to-one scale; that would show mankind’s potential to master nature. That would speak to man’s desire to overcome five million years of adversity.

Don’t that just beat it all – “the physical manifestation of erosion” “has no inherent meaning.” Of course, a good editor would have removed the “a physical manifestation of” stuff, since no reader would think that Chuck was talking about figurative erosion in a discussion of the Grand Canyon. Amazing that he’d prefer to see an artificial Grand Canyon than a real one, and that he’s macho enough to talk about “mankind’s potential to master nature”.

He’s still doing that annoying thing of calling horses “equines”. Huh? At another point he probes his importance by rambling about potential scenarios (his future wife is kidnapped, but the authorities don’t buy his story because “whenever I try to be ironic, people think Im’m serious – but every time I’m actually right about something, everyone assumes I’m crazy”), hypothisizing that “satellites purposefully give incorrect information to [GPS] operating systems within the District of Columbia, as such information could be used by lazy terrorists who intend to blow up the White House without the assistance of conventional road maps?” Wow, where did that come from? He also engages in conjecture about his early demise, such as when he imagines the chain of events following a hypothetical collapse in a remote location while jogging, or just the stuff that there’s no way he could know or understand if it were to actually happen:

I don’ want to die, but I certainly adore the idea of being dead. I know it’s pathetic to enjoy the notion of your friends calling each other to discuss your untimely demise, but I love it. Maybe Spin would dedicate an issue to me. Maybe they would run a one-page obituary, which would be written by either Alex or senior editor Jon Dolan. Maybe they’d each get to write blurbs about me; this would be fascinating because they both have unique blurbing styles. Jon would likely compare me to some dead genius I’ve never even heard of (possibly Joseph Mitchell). Alex would quote especially poignant Thin Lizzy lyrics (probably something from the second verse of “The Rocker”). I hope the blurbs are not too somber, though; I hope they stress that I had a great life and that I was already ready to die w hen I turned 27. No need to be maudlin about this. My death is no tragedy. I’ve climbed every mountain, really.

He then proceeds to quote Beck’s “Loser.” He wants it, even though he couldn’t enjoy it. Wow. But he’s right about one thing – it is pathetic. Why didn’t the editor catch this? And isn’t the term “blurbing styles” a bit precious? I know that it’s meant to be funny (the bit about dead geniuses he’s never even heard of who are actually Joseph Mitchell actually is kind of funny in a stoopid kind of way, but I can’t laugh at this. I’m sure that the staff of Spin were in hysterics when it was published, if they didn’t know about it ages before it was published, which makes me wonder why I’m reading stuff written for the benefit of a very small group of people.

His passage describing Radiohead’s Kid A being strangely prescient of the September 11th World Trade Centre attacks is interesting, and probably well thought-through, but he loses me when he says things like “Kid A ends: ‘I will see you in the next life.’ And maybe you will, and maybe you won’t. It’s always 50-50.” A coin toss is always 50-50, how is “seeing someone in the next life” a similar proposition? Sounds deep, but really it’s just specious. He then goes on to say “A genius can be a genius by trying to be a genius; a visionary can only have a vision by accident.” Wow – this is a genius thing to say; but wait – does that mean that Klosterman is trying? Or is this a vision he received? I wish he’d tell us, but he’d rather be cryptic (and I’d rather be sarcastic). Infuriating!!

More cruelty towards the dead:

If there was ever a band doomed to die by the side of the road, it was the Allman Brothers. And I don’t say this because of how they lived or because they deserved to be punished for unnamed sins; I say this because they only thing I know about the Allman Brothers Band is that they seem to die a lot. Still, they did record ‘Whipping Post,’ a song title that is ironically yelled at indie-rock concerts almost as often as ‘Free Bird.’ This counts for something.

This seems to be 85% un-edited – can you count the errors? He says “the only thing I know about the Allman Brothers Band is that they seem to die a lot”, then proceeds to name one of their songs. Oops. I also don’t believe him when he says that “‘Whipping Post,’ is ironically yelled at indie-rock concerts almost as often as “‘Free Bird,’” I believe that there’s 0% truth there, but since the anecdote comes from his experience we really need to take his word for it (and that’s mistake number one).

And so I also I have to wonder about his description of John Daniel Mote, the 21-year-old son of the owner of Mote Farms in Mississippi, where Lynyrd Skynyrd’s airplane crashed, and that Mote “punctuates every one of his sentences with the phrase ‘Please don’t quote me in your magazine’” – if Mote didn’t say that, then it’s a lie, if he did say that then Klosterman is being a horrible asshole because he quotes him saying he doesn’t want to be quoted. What did John Daniel Mote do to Klosterman to piss him off? Warn him about poison snakes? This time Klosterman may actually be telling the truth, since there is a Mote Farms in Mississippi (although the URL he gives for their website,, is wrong – it’s, which means that he’s only a jerk-off this time and not a liar.

Of course, Klosterman doesn’t make it to the spot where the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crashed (and an altar is erected) in the dark – he chickens out (“I turn around, and the cottonmouth snakes gimme three steps toward the door,” ha ha, he meaninglessly paraphrases Skynyrd lyrics) That is, if he even went to the Mote Farm at all.

Klosterman builds a smart list of rock ‘n’ roll casualties that nobody ever talks about but probably should, then lists at the top Marc Bolan, whose death is not something people are quiet about (what universe does Klosterman inhabit?), Nico and Randy Rhoads (!!!!), while also listing genuinely obscure deaths such as the two guys from Badfinger, and two guys from Patto, a band I’d never heard of until then.

He makes the mistake of saying that Randy Rhoads died in a single engine plane piloted by the coke-fueled tour cook – wasn’t it the bus driver? Oops…

He re-treads his cruel “his death was the best thing that ever happened to him, career-wise” argument he mined in Fargo Rock City:

“Once could argue that both [Elvis Presley and Jeff Buckley] significantly benefited from dying: Presley’s career was collapsing when he died in 1977, so dying ended that slide and – in all likelihood – kept his legacy from becoming a sad joke (it is virtually impossible to imagine a ‘noble’ 70-year-old Elvis, had Presley somehow managed to live into the present). Meanwhile, Buckley’s death is precisely what made him into a star; he was a well-regarded – but relatively unfamous – avant-garde rock musician until he drowned on May 29th, 1997. Almost immediately, he became a messianic figure (and his album Grace instantly evolved from “slightly better than good” to “totally classic”).

Ouch… painful to read (picking on Presley and Buckley is something new – in the last book he gave Randy Rhoads the same treatment). “I walked around Graceland this morning, and it kind of made me embarrassed to be American.” More funny stuff, ha ha ha… or is it just naive?

Nonetheless, I like how he describes Eric Clapton: “he’s a talented, boring guitar player, and he’s a workmanlike, boring vocalist. He also has an abhorrent (and, I suppose, boring) neck beard.” But then he also says meaningless things like “He’s been inducted [into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame] on four separate occasions if you count the 2004 inclusion of Traffic, a group he was not a member of and has no significant connection with beyond the fact that they suck in the same generalized manner.” Why quip irrelevantly by stretching reality to count Traffic as Clapton’s fourth time… it doesn’t make sense… it’s not even bizarrely funny!

Oh yeah, he also has strange meta-fictional conversations with his girlfriends, some of them quite lengthy. How accurate are they? Are these women cringing as they read the words? It seems like an abuse of power to me, actually. I wonder how pissed off these women are that people all over the world are reading inaccurate depictions of them that even Klosterman admits are only 85% true (the real percentage is probably a lot lower – Klosterman’s unlikely to be honest about something like that, or too lazy to come up with a more accurate tally, but it’s interesting that he broaches the subject).

But these conversations do produce funny passages, such as one about the Eric Clapton-George Harrison-Patty Boyd love triangle:

“”The reason ‘Layla’ is moving has nothing to do with the fact that Eric Clapton should – or shouldn’t – be able to sleep with Pattie Boyd because he’s almost as cool as George Harrison. Having an attractive girlfriend is not supposed to be the reward for being cool.”

Then, ha ha, he quotes her as saying “That makes me think you’re either a moron or a guy who’s trying way too hard to create a persona for himself.” Hilarious!! I’d say he’s both, since he’s describing in his book someone (probably inaccurately) talking about something that’s on his own mind. And why should we care about this micro analysis of Chuck Klosterman supposedly coming from the mouth of another person, when the words are 100% controlled by the author, who is Klosterman himself? I sense a conflict of interest here. Fiction.

But, I must admit, it gets interesting when this hypothetical conversation in Klosterman’s head involves all three of his girlfriends (the stud), who have probably never met each other. Nutty. “You’re conflating unlike idioms in the hope that they will accidentally take on symbolic meaning.” I know that this is the idea behind the title of the book itself (where living comes from dying), but do real people talk like that?

Occasional a phrase comes out that seems completely poetically original, but even then he sabotages the imagery in the subsequent descriptor: “Friday morning in Missoula, and the sky glows electric Gray. The air on my tongue feels like smoke, but in a good way (it’s like the taste bacon leaves in your mouth after you’ve sucked on the fat).” Ewww!!!

As with all autobiography, be it true or fictional, we are informed of all sorts of things about CK that we really wish he didn’t tell us. “Generally, I am not a goal-oriented person. I tend to be more task-oriented, and I can only do one task at a time (I can’t read two books at once, for example, nor can I eat french fries while driving; for these reasons, I would never actively pursue a menage a trois).” Ewww!!!

Other times it’s just tryin’ too hard:

Flipping back and forth on the car radio between an “’80s Retro Weekend” and an über-conversational classic-rock station, I heard the following three songs in sequence: “Mr Roboto”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and a popular ballad from the defunct hair-metal band Extreme.
Well, that settles it: Styx and Stones may break my bones, but “More Than Words” will never hurt me.

Once again, I don’t believe that he actually heard those three songs on the radio, then and made notes and a joke about it, before slipping it clumsily and incongruously into his book. I also don’t believe that this is an interesting and important observation, nor is it poignant as a matter of coincidence. But Chuck (or his editor) things it belongs, and that it should even be emphasised – he has the paragraph in its own section, making it a propos of nothing.

He writes bonkers stuff like “I’ve never had a bad drug experience. Actually, that’s not true; I’ve had two bad experiences.” Why does he write he’s never had one, then correct himself? Where’s the editor here? Oh, I get it – it’s for effect!!

Of course, he also stubbornly insists on doing things that people tell him not to do (and reporting on them, even though they’re irrelevant):

“Chuck, please don’t write a book about women you used to be in love with.”
“Why not?”
“Because that’s exploitive. And narcissistic. And a bit desperat, because it makes you seem like someone who can’t let go of the past.”
“But that’s actually true,” I say. “I can’t let go of the past. I can’t fall out of love with any of these women. I can only exist in the past and in the future.”
“I know, I know. We’ve talked about this before. But who wants to read another book about some death-obsessed drug addict who listens to Fleetwood Mac and lionizes the women who used to drive him crazy? It strikes me as dubious. You’re going to become the male Elizabeth Wurtzel.”
“Jesus Christ, Lucy. You’ve really got it in for that bitch.”
“I just want to go on record as saying that the idea of writing such a book is dubious.”
“But if I don’t write the book, there will be no record of this entire conversation. Your disdain can only be voiced if I do the opposite of what you suggest.”
“Well, fine, ” she says. “Just don’t complain to me when all those idiot blogers write things like, ‘Ultimately, the author should have listened to his friend Lucy Chance.’ Because you know that will happen.”
“True,” I say.
“I’m just trying to be the voice of reason,” Lucy says. “I don’t understand why you would want to produce a nonfiction book that will be unfavorable compared to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.”
“Well perhaps if I specifically mention that possibility, it won’t happen.”

Yes, all very meta indeed. So now I have to either resist the temptation to do what these people predict bloggers will do, like write “Ultimately, the author should have listened to his friend Lucy Chance,” or compare his book to Hornby’s (which I can’t because neither book is any good); so now I don’t know whether to shit or go blind.

Somewhere near the middle of the book is another interesting passage that’s quite illustrative. “The voices [of my girlfriends] inside my head never make me want to kill my mother. However, they sometimes make me want to kill myself.” As of this writing, Chuck Klosterman is still alive.

Interestingly, there are two pages of “Praise for Killing Yourself To Live“, some of the points made by some of the endorsers are interesting:

“I read it Then read it again. Chuck Klosterman is a fucking genius.” NOW Magazine (Toronto)

“Thank God Chuck lives the life he does and writes the way he writes about it. It’s not just autobiogrpahy; it’s a vital form of truth, and he’s the real thing.” Douglas Coupland

“I can’t think of a more sheerly likable writer than Chuck Klosterman and his old-fashioned, all-American voice: big-hearted and direct, bright and unironic, optimistic and amiable, self-deprecating and reassuring – with a captivating lack of fuss or pretension. He’s also genuinely funny and I pretty much agree with everything he says.” Bret Easton Ellis

Quite a coup to get Coupland and Ellis to provide endorsements, although it looks like he’s fooled Coupland (“truth” is the wrong word to use in the context of this book), and I wonder if Ellis has even read the book (does he agree with Klosterman on Ozzy’s cook, or any the other half-baked ideas he’s come up with?). Also, this doesn’t seem to be the kind of book you’d want to read twice, unless maybe there was a detail about Chuck Klosterman’s love life you missed the first time around.

Funnily enough, five pages before the end of the book, Klosterman gets it: “As I walk back to my car… it occurs to me that I am not a serious person, and that I do not have any understanding of death, and that I am looking for nothing.” And this is the reason you don’t need to read this book.

ANYWAY… I still think you shouldn’t read this book, unless you want to know 85% too much about Chuck Klosterman.

Metroland, by Julian Barnes

Saturday, July 27th, 2013



Metroland, by Julian Barnes – While this is the first book that Julian Barnes published, way back in 1980, it is also definitely the dullest of the three of his that I’ve read (none of which I really enjoyed very much). No wonder – it won the Somerset Mahgham Prize! I still wonder why people I know who like reading much more than I do adore Barnes. Maybe they are reading it for different words than I am?

Sliced into three distinct parts, this slight book (it could have easily been edited down to one or two very good short stories) covers a short period in the author’s (it is surely autobiographical, as first novels are wont to be) early life, his first overseas foray, along with the more recent post-marriage and post-baby phase. Great.

So the narrator Christopher plays innocent French word games with his tri-cultural partner in crime Toni (a Polish Jew born in the UK) in British museums in the first act; in the second he matures, bedding a French girl in a brief, cryptic romance, while in the third part he comes full circle, enduring a casual crisis with his wife, whom he met at the same time.

Sounds exhausting, but there’s no need for concern – it’s all very irrelevant. There’s a brief moment when the tale gets interesting, which could have made one of the two short stories this novel had in it: that moment occurs when our hero realises with relief that he’s a cuckold, confirming at the same time our theory that he’s a loser – but it’s really quite brief. Great.


Werewolves of Montpellier, by Jason

Saturday, July 27th, 2013


Werewolves of Montpellier, by Jason – What a fun book! It has only a few pictures, barely any text, and only a single, slight plot point – one of our nutty anthropomorphic characters (which The Stranger describes as the “dog-faced descendants of Charlie Chaplin”) hangs out in Paris and dresses as a werewolf so that he can be a better cat burglar (?!?!); things get complicated when real werewolves enter the picture. Well all right!!!

But this is only a very small part of the story – all else is about hanging around, playing chess, going to parties and having wry encounters with others, reading, sleeping, shaving, sketching, and roaming the Montpellier rooftops. Great stuff. Only half of the boxes (or fewer) have word balloons. Awesome!

Awesome weekend

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Had a great weekend. On Saturday Zen went out for a trial for the Maris Stella Secondary School softball team in Kallang. There were four other boys, and he did well overall – it was interesting for him to see how other kids train, and to go through exercises with kids who were not the Coconuts. Hopefully he will be selected, we find out in August (ditto for the School Of The Arts, where he auditioned for both the Music programme, and the Theatre programme). Great! After that, we at a wonderful shrimp noodle dish, and then took a top seat in a double decker through south Singapore to Vivo City. We walked through the mall, then over the boardwalk to Sentosa, where we watched The Addams Family at the Festive Grand Theatre. It was a lot of fun! In the evening, we went back home, had a simple dinner and chilled out.

On Sunday played a lot of guitar, wrote a new song, “September Death” (both music and lyrics) and watched a guitar instruction DVD with Naoko and Zen.

Here is also a before-and-after pic of Zen’s naval models (Yubari, Kiso and Illustrious). Cool!

Zen trying out for the Maris Stella softball team

Zen trying out for the Maris Stella softball team

Hey hey, it's the Gay World Hotel!

Hey hey, it

bus view of Bugis

bus view of Bugis

cialis generic canada

bus view with Naoko

Sign in need of repair

Sign in need of repair

The Addams Family on stage

The Addams Family on stage

Zen's battleships - before

Zen’s battleships – before

Zen's battleships - after

Zen’s battleships – after

Battleship gallery

Battleship gallery

My Big Bad Rocky page

Sunday, July 21st, 2013


Rocky – I finally showed Zen Rocky for the first time; for Naoko and I it wasn’t the first time, but there were so many scenes we’d forgotten it was like seeing it for the first time. Wow!!

The opening fight takes place under the eyes of Jesus, the story unfolds slowly and we get a sense of what kind of guy Stallone’s Rocky is – somber, not so smart, with a heart of gold. He’s also hard to understand, and a lot of the films dialogue is buried in murk – we only really get to understand what anyone’s saying when Apollo Creed comes into the picture, with his “be a thinker, not a stinker” appeal to kids to put their energy into study and not sports (and Creed himself seems to be a bit of an academic/bookworm – we see him reading, we never see him training… quite the opposite to Rocky himself). One significant scene shows a Creed associate watching a TV interview of Ricky slugging the beef, a look of concern crossing his face; he calls Creed to come over and have a look, but Creed’s not interested – he thinks the fight with Rocky is going to be a walk in the park and he’s more interested in business matters – a near-fatal, arrogant mistake. There’s also no big music until 80 minutes into this 120 minute movie, and that’s when we hear first a big 70s funk them, and finally the gigantic themes that we have for so many decades associated with triumph – THE ROCKY THEME!!! Love it all.

The movie is full of great dialogue:

Marie: Hey Rocky – screw you, creep-o.

Apollo Creed: Apollo Creed versus the eye-talian stallion. Sounds like a goddamn monster movie.

Adrienne: Hey, it’s Thanksgiving.
Rocky: To you. But to me it’s Thursday.

Mickey: Like the Bible says, you ain’t gonna get a second shot.

Mickey: Women weaken legs.

Mickey (to Rocky): Eat lightning and crap thunder.

Great famous scenes, like when Rocky puts the five raw eggs into the big cup and drinks them right down – gulp! The running and training scenes and the big triumphant climb up the steps. Rocky’s entire courtship of Adrian, and the turkey-out-the-window scene that moves it forward. Mickey confronting Rocky in his apartment, talking about the 1923 fight with passion and despair, Rocky’s rage to the empty room and his reconciliation with Mickey. Pauly’s rage at Adrian, Adrian’s rage at Pauly. Apollo Creed giving his energy to the crowd with his showmanship while Rocky watches, bemused and a bit disgusted. Creed’s muscles are amazing and compact – Carl Weathers in his prime!! The fight is only 10 minutes at the end of the movie, and is supposed to cover a full 15 rounds, but what insanity, what madness, especially that first devastating punch, the punishment, the lancing of the bloated eyebrow, and the ultimate finale, with the “ADRIAN!!!! ADRIAN!!!!” Wow… what a movie!!!

This edition comes with plenty of extras:
- a commentary track (which my system played through the sub-woofer, which meant I couldn’t understand anything). There was a cool 12-minute video collection of 8mm films made by director John Avildsen that shows Stallone training with Carl Weathers, silently. Interesting test case, and Avildsen talks about using the 8mm to experiment and save the actors embarrassment, a blueprint, a sketchpad, try out lenses, angles, lighting, and to show Sly how heavy he was. There was a lot of rehearsal time for the fight scenes. They learned from a fighting script that Sly wrote out for them, had six weeks of prep, the entire film had a short schedule and budget of $900,000. Wanted a soundtrack like Beethoven’s 6th, which they’d play during the 8mm screenings. The 8mm clips showed a body guide, they did all the cringing early so that there’d be no cringing when the dailies came in. Sly and Carl Weathers are shown with their swollen-face make-up.
- an 8-minute tribute to Burgess Meredith, which talks about how he had been making films since the 1930s, and his performance exceeded all of Sly’s expectations, with a great voice. Burt Young reminisced how they got nominated together. Carl Weathers describes the meeting in Rocky’s apartment. Lee Grant went out with Meredith to an Indian guru show, talks about their escape speeding down the highway (not sure why this is included). Burgess Meredith, 1907-1997. Only Sly’s face is seen, all others are off-screen narrating.
- tribute to James Crabe for 3 minutes, mainly the director talking about his talents as a cinematographer on their 12 movies together, starting (ironically) with Save The Tiger. Opening scene in grim club shows Jimmy’s genius – shades and darkness. Always finding solutions to tricky camera problems. Was nominated for his work in The Formula, not Rocky. 1931-1989.
- a teaser trailer and trailers for Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV and Rocky V. Great! Cheezy announcing like “You can compare him to Nicholson, DeNiro and Brando. But he is Rocky!!” “His name is Sylvester Stallone, but you will always remember him as Rocky!”
- three original TV spots, two of 30 seconds, one of 60 seconds
- a commentary of 28 minutes with Sylvester, recounting how he went to Hollywood and was trying to make it, rented a small room, from which he could open the window and close the door without leaving his bed. Wrote and wrote. Was with Butkus his dog. Saw Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner, the Bayonne Bleeder, who knocked Ali down. This put him into a writing frenzy, and three days later he had a script, 10% of which remained after the rewrites produced the final script. The original screenplay was very dark, with an anti-hero who throws the fight, Mickey is angry and racist. Rocky doesn’t want to be part of that world any more. Too angry and unrepentant. Stallone got a break at a casting call when he mentioned he’s a writer. “Come back later.” The studio liked the script, but didn’t want Stallone in it – Ryan O’Neill, maybe, or Burt Reynolds. “My $40 car had just blown up, so I was taking the bus to work.” Lots of injuries during the production, knuckles flattened out punching beef – beef is hard! Stallone’s dad is bell ringer, brother doo-wop singer. Talia Shire was one of the last choices for Adrian. Sly describes characters and motivations to the film, back stories. They had wanted to use Ken Norton for the Apollo Creed role, but lucked out with Carl Weathers. “Mr Avildsen, I could do better if I had a real actor reading with me,” he said. “Carl, that’s Rocky, the writer and star.” “Well, maybe he’ll get better.” Nice – that’s the attitude we want for this movie! Stallone talks about his dog Butkus’ “train flatulence.” Recounts the original ending for Rocky, where he’s looking for Adrian finds her backstage, gives her a light hug, picks up a flag, they fade into the distance. Describes the process of deciding the final freeze frame.



Rocky II – The sequel to the great film doesn’t live up to the original (it can’t), but is still pretty good – nice dialogue, great performances, wonderful chemistry, even if it does at times feel a bit patched together and the plot is a bit too hook-driven. Of course, there’s nothing mistaking the fact that the first one hour and 45 minutes only exists to bring us the final 15 minutes of the Rock Balboa vs Apollo Creed title fight… but what a final 15 minutes!!!

The film has a rushed-together feel to it, with lots of filler – the first five minutes are a replay of the final five minutes of the first Rocky movie (as if anyone needs a reminder!!), and then there’s a long ambulance-driving sequence as the credits roll, and later some crazy scenes from the hospital, with an enraged, testosterone-driven Apollo Creed ready to carry on the fight right there from his wheelchair! Rock is relaxed and charming about it, talking from a face that’s nothing more than clobbered, raw meat, from which emerge highly refined lines of great dialogue in an impromptu press conference:

What were you thinking as you went into the last round, Rocky?
That I should have stayed in school.
Rocky, do you have brain damage?
I don’t see any.

There’s a great “did you give me your best?” scene in the hospital, and then it’s back to life – marriage, showing off, throwing around money, the money starts to run out, then there’s the reputation. The injured eye is a problem, but after a while it isn’t. Taunts and threats and treaties and training ensue. The film picks up the tiger imagery – the snow tiger at the zoo when Rocky proposes to Adrian, his tiger jacket; it also props up the religious imagery – Rocky’s prominent necklace cross, praying before the fight (twice), getting the priest to bless his fight, getting married in an Italian ceremony in the church. Scenes with bad jokes, like the “condominium – I never use them” joke give the feeling that there’s plenty of filler here. With his impulse shopping and bad driving (and lying about it), we see a side of Rocky we couldn’t see in the first film, when he never ever had any money. Bad commercials and comic relief as Rocky dresses up in proto-Rambo gear that’s maybe more mock Fred Flintstone.

Another area where the second film is different is in its music – they had seven times the budget, and some of that clearly went into music – there’s great new music in the first half, as well as the second (the first film had practically no music in the first half). I know that this is only a story, but it’s still pretty weird to think that he actually named his turtles Cuff and Link!

Great chicken chasing scene with Mickey – the film really amounts to a bit of charm, some drama, and a touch of actual fighting. At weigh-in, we learn that Rocky is 205 pounds, Apollo Creed 225 pounds. “Undefeated anywhere in the world.” This time around we see Apollo Creed’s wife/girlfriend, cementing that part of his relationship (even though we don’t see her again). The fight plays around with cinematography a bit, including slow motion scenes, culminating in those scenes, where he thanks everybody (God included) … except his wife!

A flawed but fun film!



Rocky III – I had to watch this one last, because it wasn’t available in Singapore! Luckily, Amazon had it, ha ha… The film doesn’t disappoint, as it has all of the trademark Rock items – hamming-it-up comedic scenes (the nutty endorsements), training sequences, a passionate speech by Paulie-the-loser, a motivational speech by Adrian, a recap of the final moments of the previous film, crustiness from Mickey, personal tragedy, irony (Apollo’s “it’s too bad we gotta get old” comment), fall-and-recovery, and that indomitable Rocky spirit. It’s also got music, both good and bad. And great dialogue:

- You’re just a jealous, lazy bum.

- You ever fought a dinosaur?
- No, not lately.

- What does this guy eat for breakfast?
- 202 pounds.
- Huh?
- [announcer] And weighing in at 202 pounds… the heavyweight champion of the world… Rocky Balboa!

- You’re going to wear your anatomy on the outside. Nobody does this much for charity.
- Bob Hope does.
- That’s true

- The ultimate man… versus the ultimate meatball.

- [Rocky Jr] What happened to Goldilocks?
- [Paulie] Bot busted for trespassin’, 30 days in the cooler.
- [Rocky] Nice, Paulie!

- Can he swim?
- With a name like Rock?

- There is no tomorrow.

One of the things that’s missing is the run-up-the-stairs sequence, but they cover that off with the unveiling of the Rocky statue on the same steps.

The Hulk Hogan cameo if hammy, but fun.

Nice film, even it it’s not as good as the previous ones.



Rocky IV – The movie starts with good times, Rocky and Apollo getting in the ring to spar, with some famous last words from Apollo: “You know, Rocky, it’s too bad we gotta get old.” The early part of the film is goofy, with Pauly gagging around with a pet robot; not too long, though, as we see the entrance of Drago, who quickly gets his bout with Apollo. Great scene of a bewildered Drago in the ring in Las Vegas, James Brown in full American glory, Apollo entering the ring in full bombast, Rocky mugging for the camera, looking dopey. The crowd booing Drago. Paulie’s “I’m the un-silent majority!” The movie is dark, very dark. “You can’t win.”

Unfortunately, the music in this film is especially bad, but with all the new junk there’s a big play on the past – we get another montage from past films, with lots of emphasis on Mickey and the importance of values. “Doin’ that one more round when you don’t think you can is the most important thing in life.” Rocky and Adrian have one of their many emotional speeches, this one on the stairs:

Adrian: You’ve seen him, you know how strong he is. You can’t win!!
Rocky: Adrian, Adrian… always tells the truth. Maybe I can’t win. Maybe the only thing I can do is take everything he’s got. But to beat me, he’s gonna have to kill me. And to kill me, he’s gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he’s got to be willing to die as well. I don’t know if he’s ready to do that.

Then we get the famous training montage, with very little humour at all, just majesty as Rocky conquers nature, in contrast with Drago who conquers science and machines. Paulie gives a great speech as Rocky and Adrian are heading out to the ring:

Paulie: Rocko, I know you’re kinda busy just now, but I wanna tell a something I never told ya before. I know that sometimes I act stupid and say stupid things, but you kept me around when other people would have said ‘drop that bum’. You gave me respect; y’know, it’s hard for me to say these kind of things, because that ain’t my way, but if I could just stop being myself and step out and be someone else, I’d wanna be you. You’re all heart, Rock!
[kiss on cheek]
Rocky Thanks, Paulie.
Paulie: Now blast this guy’s teeth out!!
Rocky: I’ll try.

Rocky in the ring – “I see three of him out there.” “Hit the one in the middle.” Later, cracks appear in Drago’s invulnerability, “He’s a man”, they realise. For Drago, it’s the opposite: “He’s not human. It’s like hitting an iron plate.” Drago begins to bleed from below both eyes, and then things begin to go bad for him. Ouch!! At the end, Drago shows his ambition and his selfishness, and Rocky gives his great “Everybody can change” speech. Nice!



Rocky V – Starts off with a naked Stallone in the shower, the only time in the whole film we’ll see any of Rocky’s famous physique (this film is in many ways different – there’s no big title bout at the end – but it also falls back to the tried and true as they go back to their old neighbourhood after losing all of their millions and wander the tough, brawling streets of the first two movies). Rocky faces a nasty press conference and deals with an aggressive fight promoter George Washington Duke (full on the Rocky tradition of giving guys tough names – hey, who gave that man a mic?!?), then we see him briefly in his own home, before he loses everything. Wow! Rocky has a cool interaction with his son (Stallone’s real-life son Sage Stallone), with his drawing of his French teacher Madame Dupont. Nice speech about his raccoon eyes, and how seeing his son was like seeing himself born again (sad to reflect that Sage himself died in 2012, and Stallone lost his first son – while Sage did a great job in Rocky V, Stallone cast another as his son in Rocky Balboa in 2008, a sign that things were not right). “Every day you learn something new and every day I forget something new. Listen, we’re in this thing together.”

As he’s moving out, he finds his old enforcer clothes (gloves, hat), and he slips casually back to his old self as a local neighborhood guy, Adrian takes up her old job in the pet shop (and wears her old glasses)… only Rocky Jr needs to fend for himself again on the mean streets (which he does eventually). Flashback to Mickey’s cufflinks speech, angel on his shoulder, living and dying, “heart, not muscle” speech. Crazy taunting from outrageous promoter George Washington Duke, “do you like reaching in your pocket and only feeling your leg?” Drama!!!!

The screenwriters also has a clear a penchant for giving his characters totally silly names, and the prize fighter Tommy Gunn is no exception (he’s even called “the Machine” Gunn as a ring nickname – how original!!). Rocky’s early speech to Tommy about fighting is embarrassing, he really sounds like an old fighter who’s beginning to lose his marbles (I’m sure that’s completely intentional, of course). Rocky and Adrian shout and cry at each other in a series of dramatic speeches. In a return to the original, Rocky gets the priest’s blessing from the window, they recreate the opening scene of the face of Jesus looking down upon the boxers (nice touch – it could be cheezy, but it works well).

But it all falls apart, and soon Tommy Gunn tells Rocky “It’s my way or the highway,” from behind the wheel of his sports car (pure cheese, which shows what a piece of work he is). Great hostile post-title fight scene. Pretty soon, we see George Washington Duke (with his awesomely huge glasses), and realise that his plan has actually come together – it was to play up to Tommy’s ego and eventually to draw Rocky out to take on a neophyte champion. They have a beautiful street brawl, and it’s heartbreaking to see Rocky finally coming to terms with what a scumbag Gunn is. Great tripping action and all sorts of yucky nonsense. The denouement is beautiful too: “You’re going to love Picasso.” “Yeah? Well, I love almost everybody.” Unfortunately, the movie ends with a lame and unforgettable Elton John ballad (never thought I’d be sentimental for Survivor – thanks, Elton, for not coming through), but by now nobody cares – Rocky has won the day!!



Rocky Balboa – “Time goes by too fast.” A film of many small episodes, it’s like a collection of short stories that characterise most of the Rocky films, and the little stories that make up the life of Rocky Balboa, the people in his life, and the working class city of Philadelphia. In the opening scenes, we see Cuff and Link, Rocky’s turtles, Adrian has died of cancer (“It was woman’s cancer.” “She was a great girl.” “The best.”) We see Rocky interacting with the neighborhood people, and perhaps Stallone is wishing for this kind of a simple life (he seemed to have a great time filming it, as we see from the documentary footage on the DVD). Lots of great idiot savant wisdom from Paulie. “If you live some place long enough, you are that place.”

And so… we take a tour of the shattered parts of that place, including the destroyed ice rink. Rocky Jr is now an investment banker (shades of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street?), and a potential new romance with Little Marie (the “screw you, creep-o” girl from the first Rocky film), and Rocky trying to become friends with her son, Step; they get a dog, call it Punchy, and young Step features less and less in the story (a short story that ran its course?). Interactions with Rocky Jr are painful – he’s a selfish ass, and not up to much in life. What does he get from avoiding his father? This all leads to a dramatic confrontation speech and more actifying:

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are – it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me and nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now if you know how much you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not point the finger saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody; cowards to that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that.

The reunion stuff is not as convincing as it was in Rocky V (and even then it wasn’t very convincing). But the story of Rocky is not really about the dominance of these minor characters, it’s about the majesty of Rocky the icon – the other characters hardly matter. Even the champ (played by real-life light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver!) he fights is uninteresting, bathed in glaring light (the whole movie is shot in ugly halogen light). The drama of getting there is more interesting, and this included a battle with the boxing association about his license:

It’s your right to listen to your gut, it ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be what you wanna be and do what you wanna do. The older I get the more things I gotta leave behind. That’s life. The only thing I’m asking you guys to leave on the table is what’s right!

Of course, there’s still a training sequence, and this time Rocky gags when he tries to drink the raw eggs. Oh well! Of course, when he’s ready to fight, Rocky comes out with Sinatra’s “High Hopes” as his theme song, totally anticlimactic to the champ’s gangsta rap theme. Sheesh!! Mike Tyson has a cool cameo – Mike!! Dixon hurts his hand on Rocky’s head making the intra-generational battle more realistic. The film ends, and it’s the end of an era. Stallone somehow managed to catch the mood of the times and slip this one in – an era with no deserving champion, a real champion of a bygone era stands a chance to fight the reigning champ to a standstill. Everything’s good, the sport gets a nudge, the Rocky fanatics get their fix, the champ gets some publicity, everybody’s happy. You just have Stallone putting his heart into the film like always, and that’s what we want to see. Paulie even gets a nice speech:

It takes guts climbing in that ring when yo know you’re gonna take a beating. You’re gonna do alright, Rocko.
How do you know all that?
The stuff in the basement


The film has eight deleted and alternate scenes, including one alternate ending – In one Paulie paints a picture of a dog that has been shot between the eyes, and we hear him complaining about 31 years in the plant, while Rocky is asked to wear a hairnet in the meat locker (!!!); Rocky gagging on the raw eggs, cleaning Paulie’s room; alternate scene to meeting Little Marie in the bar; awkward scene with Step – “I was teachin’ myself to be uncomfortable; I thought it might come in handy.” “Mothers should be goof-proof.” Paulie crying in the alley when he was fired; sparring to opera music; alternate ending where Rocky gets the decision. Goofy boxing scenes where the guys are smirking.

The set also comes with a “making-of” documentary that goes through the various motivations for Sly to make this film, and what got it going. It was the story – “the last thing to age is the heart.” The script was finished in 2005, and then it went forward. “You haven’t peaked yet?” “I still got some stuff in the basement.” Scene with John F Street, the mayor of Philadelphia. The extra features also shows full virtual battle (not very interesting), as well as the work that went into rendering this stuff (more interesting). Nice stuff!!

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Thursday, July 18th, 2013


Fargo Rock City, by Chuck Klosterman – This book about eighties heavy metal was practically written for me. Wow! Metal! High school! Awkward teen geekiness! Nothing to do and nowhere to go on a Saturday night! Budding writer!

I loved the first 20 pages, it described my world of that time perfectly, even if I wasn’t into more than 50% of the bands mentioned – I couldn’t believe it!! It starts with Motley Crue, dwells on Def Leppard and Vinnie Vincent’s Invasion and Van Halen and Bon Jovi and Warrant and Cinderella and especially Skid Row, and eventually kinda stops at the Bullet Boys (which not even Klosterman can defend).

The last 10 pages were a pretty good denouement too, in their deconstruction of Queensryche.

The pages in between, though, are problematic.

Structurally, the book is set up very well, with short chapters that are about the length of a long-ish newspaper article (in other words, short enough for the author to write at one sitting, and also short enough for a distracted reader to finish in a brief sitting). They are all titled after significant dates in glam rock history that chart its rise and eventual fall: “October 26, 1983 – the worldwide release of Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil” is chapter 1, “March 24th, 1984 – Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ holds off ‘Karma Chameleon’” is Chapter 2, and there are also chapters titled “’99 Luftbaloons [SIC]‘ for a fifth consecutive week to remain America’s No. 1 single”, “October 15, 1988 – Heavy metal’s finest hour: the three best-selling records on the planet are Bon Jovi’s New Jersey, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, and Def Leppard’s Hysteria”, etc. The best title is probably “October 10, 1987 – Whitesnake’s “‘Here I Go Again’ is America’s No 1 single, ousting Whitney Houston’s ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’”. The chapters cover issues such as the presence of metal on MTV, the nature of heavy metal videos, interpreting heavy metal through video, absorbing heavy metal in rural America, the under-estimation of sales and chart positioning of heavy metal albums in the pre-SoundScan days when sales were rough guesses by executives (and therefore the presence of significant anti-metal discrimination), the influence of older bands on glam, random lists of great metal albums (with Kosterman-ish descriptions of their contents and significance… to him), an analysis of Guns N’ Roses pretentious trilogy of videos from Use Your Illusion, any many other worthy topics. Klosterman keeps his personal anecdotes to a relative minimum, but at one point goes on at length about a trip he took with his debating team where conversations about Lita Ford featured prominently. Thankfully, he hardly writes about sports, a topic that will permeate his later writings (and one that I care not a jot for – but read through anyway).

To spice things up, Klosterman puts in a chapter about alcohol and drinking, which is refreshing, in a way, by being quite a fair bit less pretentious than the rest of the book, if not a bit sad. “I am drinking each shot [of cheap tequila] over my kitchen sink, just in case I vomit.” This is the chapter that he didn’t want his mom to read, but at least it seems fairly honest.

At least the book starts off very well (despite mentioning Stryper twice within the first five pages), and it naturally it jumps straight into Chuck’s gods, Motley Crue. Well, they’re his gods, but maybe the boys were even mightier than gods in Klosterman’s impressionable teen eyes. “Compared to Nikki and Vince, Zeus was a total poseur.” But even a fanboy like Klosterman can’t deny that this story doesn’t have a happy ending and he is quick to jump to the ending:

Sadly, the Crue proved to be ephemeral, coke-addled deities. Rock critics spent an entire decade waiting for heavy metal to crash like a lead zeppelin, and – seemingly seconds after Kurt Cobain wore a dress on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball – they all got their shovels and began pouring dirt on the graves of Faster Pussycat, Winger, Tesla, Kix, and every other band that experimented with spandex, hairspray and flash pots. Metal had always been a little stupid; now it wasn’t even cool. This was the end. Yngwie Malmsteen, we hardly knew ye.

Some of the points he makes are pretty interesting, if a bit cagey.

For reasons no one will ever understand, Van Halen took the majority of their influences from Grand Funk Railroad. This is not to say that Grand Funk wasn’t a decent group; it merely means they didn’t seem to influence anybody else. And – apparently – this is too bad, because there are about a kajillion horrible bands who claim they were influenced by Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. Maybe Grand Funk Railrosd knew something everyone else missed.

We are left to assume that Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut was the first speed metal album ever recorded (that is, if “we” are “a bunch of idiots”).

He makes funny comments about Def Leppard, and how they lost their way with their fourth album Hysteria (their follow-up to Pyromania, which Klosterman rightly describes as “one of the cornerstones of the genre”). Unfortunately, Hysteria was an album that was just a bit too popular with girls, and took something away from the guys.

When girls named Danielle who wore Esprit tank tops sudenly embodied the Def Leppard lifestyle, it clearly indicated that Def Leppard no longer represented the people who had comprised the core audience for (first album) On Through The Night. As a shooting guard on our high school bsketball team, I recall travelling to an away game and listening to our vapid cheerleaders sing at the front of the bus; they were singing ‘Armageddon It’ and ‘Love Bites.’ That alone was indisputable proof that Hysteria sucked.

Klosterman often gets his perspective on things just about right. “[1981] was the year John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan, and I wasn’t surprised at all (in fact, it seemed to me that presidential assassinations didn’t happen nearly as often as one would expect).” Other comments seem just about right (but we can’t really know because we weren’t in the same space he was at the time): “the first two Poison records were the sonic equivalent to the best masturbation imaginable.” He also gets great quotes from guys like Gene Simmons that sort of put things into interesting new perspectives: “You don’t want a large female audience. If you depend on women to buy your records, you end up going the way of New Kids on the Block. Female audiences tend to be unfaithful.” Maybe this is what happened to Def Leppard. Interestingly, he gets the same quote out of Lemmy (“I’ve never seen anyone become a better guitar player by dying than Randy Rhoads. Nobody ever talked about him when he was alive, but suddenly everyone started saying he’s some kind of genius. He was a nice guy and a very good guitarist, but he wasn’t a Hendrix or a Clapton or anything like that.”) in 1998 that the producers of the Lemmy documentary got, showing just how long Lemmy’s been repeating that particular line about Rhoads (Klosterman eventually has something to say about Rhoads, and it’s not pretty – more on that later).

Klosterman includes a hilarious quote from Dokken percussionist Mick Brown:

Drinking is my profession. Drums are just a hjobby. I have to admit that I’m a pretty bad influence on a lot of people. The girls who hang around me will take a couple of days off from their jobs, and then find out they’ve been fired when they return to work. And they get really torn up. I go, ‘Listen, if you can’t handle it, then don’t hang around me. I don’t want to ruin your life just for having a good time.’ I’m a party professional. I stay in on New Year’s Eve because all the amateurs are out.

Klosterman likes to effect a similar sass about himself: “I like to drink, and I like to rock. You think I”m an idiot? Fine. You don’t have to come over.”

He makes dangerous statements that may actually be good criticism:

It’s very common to see an album panned because “there’s not much beyond the single.” I don’t think that kind of logic matters. For example, “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba has proven to be a more important album than Bob Dylan’s Grammy Award winning Time Out Of Mind, simply because Chumbawamba’s disc offered one great song that defined the moment of its popularity. I don’t think there’s any question about which of those two LPs will be more fun to find in a jukebox twenty years from now.

Not sure why he’s comparing a single to an album, but I guess there’s something there nonetheless.

He has a great description of a Slayer show where he saw people enter crazed states where they punched random strangers in the face (usually with the opening chord of “Raining Blood”).

Slayer would be Spinal Tap if they possessed even an ounce of irony, but – as it is – they are [SIC] most serious band that ever lived. The result is absolutely punishing. Slayer is kind of like a guy who walks up to you in a bar and says he’s going to rape your wife, burn down your house, shoot all your friends, cover your kids with acid, and then slowly starve you to death while rats nibble at your emaciated flesh. Now, if this hypothetical guy is merely a drunken goofball, that kind of complex depravity seems hilarious (almost endearing). But if he’s the one guy on earth willing (and able) to do all those things, you’d suddenly realize you’re talking to the craziest, most sinister motherfucker who ever lived. Slayer is that one guy.

I get the rest of it, but not “endearing”. Oh well.

As a part-time humorist, he also occasionally he hits the mark with weird, non-sequitar stuff:

Here’s a list of what types of girls the premier metal groups liked (or at least seemed to like)…

GUNS N’ ROSES: Bixesual models; submissive women; girls who would buy them booze.
MOTLE CRUE: Stippers; women who have sex in public (particularly elevators); lesbians.
DEF LEPPARD: Femal vampires only.
W.A.S.P.: Magician’s assistants; women with rape fantasies; lower primates.
BANG TANGO: Faster Pussycat rejects.
BON JOVI: The girl next door.
VINNIE VINCENT INVASION: The dominatrix next door.
SLAUGHTER: Girls who couldn’t make the cut as Bon Jovi groupies.
WINGER: Whoever Bon Jovie groupies used to baby-sit.
KISS: Any girl who wasn’t dead.
IRON MAIDEN: Dead Girls.
METALLICA: None of the above.

As for the rest of the book, it is full of plenty of bummers, including more sarcastic remarks about Canada (like when he say that Motley Crue’s “Looks That Kill” video “is probably the most ridiculous video ever made, unless you count videos made in Canada”). You get similar comments in Klosterman’s other books – it makes you wonder if he only makes comments about Canada because it’s such an easy cheap shot (everybody else does it), or maybe because it is in fact the only country he’s been to outside the US (I don’t recall him mentioning trips to the UK or France or Japan – he did go to Seattle once, though).

Klosterman fills a lot of space with cruel comments about death, and this is how he goes about describing Led Zeppelin’s mephistopholean world when he notes that John Paul Jones was “the only Zepster who was never penalized by Satan’s power; the other three were all struck by evil (John Bonham choked on his own vomit, Robert Plant tragically lost his son Karac, and Page would go on to collaborate with David Coverdale).”

He makes similar comments about the death of Razzle, the drummer of Hanoi Rocks:

At the time, the event did not seem like a tragedy. Before the death of Razzle, I had never even heard of Hanoi Rocks. Hardly anyone had; I’m sure the untimely death of their drummer was the greatest thing that ever happened to their commercial viability. My main concern was that Vince was okay – that is to say, okay enough to finish the new record.

Again, what’s an “untimely death”? Is that the opposite of a “timely death”. Creepy. And there’s more of the same in his next book, Killing Yourself To Live (when he’s not talking about himself).

He is also incredibly insensitive to Randy Rhoads, who he says “gets a little extra credit for having died in a plane creash. Nonbreathing people get all the breaks. CLear, the easiest way to become ‘great’ is to get ‘good’ and then get ‘dead.’” Huh? It starts to get stupid after a while: “After years of research, I have come to the conclusion that animals enjoy being eaten; they think it’s fun” (and this, in a section on Ted Nugent, is where he gets pretentious, referring to deer as “ungulates”, and horses as “equine”).

Some day, when Klosterman actually dies himself, these quotes will all seem poignant.

He can also be amazingly stupid. “Judas Priest supposedly made kids point guns at their heads; Cinderella made me do the same thing with a hair dryer.” And he can be cruel about other things than death: “What we were too dumb to realise was that the guys in Def Leppard hated the term ‘heavy metal’, and any member of the band would have given his right arm to avoid the label (except for [one-armed drummer] Rick Allen).” But here, I guess the joke’s on Klosterman, because Allen still has his right arm – it was his left arm that he lost in a car crash!!

He gets riled up about the craziest things: “[Dolphins] are the most overrated mammals on the planet.”

He describes Iron Maden as “unattractive, they weren’t prototypically cool, and it was impossible to sing along with any of their songs.” Pardon?!?! I guess he’s never been to a Maiden concert, or seen them perform “Heaven Can Wait.” Dumbass.

He gets the lyrics of an Ozzy Osbourne song all wrong (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel”, quoted on P142, “They say I worship the devil/ They must be stupid, all right.” – it’s quite clear that he says “They must be stupid or blind“… please!!!). He also gets wrong the name of one of the bands that (he says) influenced Metallica, the “Tygers of Pang Tang” (actually Tygers of Pan Tang).

With all of these mistakes or misinterpretations of his subject of choice, I’d say that Klosterman’s probably just too lazy to do his research (either that or he just wants to rile people up); how else would you explain the many errors this pop culture-obsessed geek makes? The biggest/weirdest one is about a Canadian band called Rush:

Most people (or – more accurately – all people except me) do not consider Rush a Christian rock band. However, this fact is virtually indisputable. Aren’t pretty much all of their songs about Jesus? It certainly seems like it. At the very least, Rush albums promote some sort of bass-heavy Christian value system. ‘He’s trying to save the day for the Old World man,’ proclaims the soaring vocals of Canadian spiritualist Geddy Lee. ‘He’s trying to pave the way for the Third World man.’ Isn’t that the entire New Testament in two lines? Didn’t Jesus teach us to big ‘A Farewell to Kings’ and to watch the humble

‘Working Man’ inherit the earth? And I’m sure God likes ‘Trees’ and hates racism at least as much as Neil Peart does.

“Nobody ever believes me when I start talking about Rush’s hard-line Christian stance, but every time I hear their music, it becomes more and more clear. Listen to the song ‘Freewill’: I have a hard time understanding exactly what Lee is talking about here, but I can tell it has something to do with being a good person (or with being an honest person, or a stoic person, or holding some vague personality trait that God would probably support). ‘Freewill’ also implies something about agnostics going to hell, but that’s just par for the course when it comes to Rush. I even have some suspicions about the metaphorical significance of ‘The Spirit of Radio,’ and that goes double for the cover art on Grace Under Pressure, Fly by Night (a fucking owl?), and – most notable – the homoerotic purgatory imagery on the sleeve for Hemispheres. Who is in the Temple of Syrinx? Perhaps it’s Jesus.

It’s a totally silly passage that Klosterman embarrasses himself with – the “me against the world” argument – when all of the rest of us are wondering which Christian band has a Jewish frontman, and an atheist drummer? Chuck, Chuck, Chuck… do we really know ya? Do you even know yourself? He even says grandiose things like “Few people listen to entire albums, even when they’re released by their so-called favorite band.” Excuse me? Speak for yourself, I mainly listen to entire albums!!

Of course, people who makes mistakes will make some excuse about why they make mistakes, especially writers who have a wordcount quota to fill and not really much of anything to write about, but I don’t buy this argument – you’re a writer, you know that people will read what you write (sometimes paying good money for the privilege), and therefore if you present facts they should be accurate. Also, writers whose books get released by major publishing houses like Scribners have access to editors, fact checkers and other support, something not all of us have.

Did you ever notice how Chuck Klosterman likes to start sentences with conversational points like “ANYWAY”, and “As I mentioned earlier”. Chatty things like this make a person wonder if he gets stoned, dictates books into electronic recorders, then them transcribed, lightly edited and rushed to the printers. I know people who like to pepper their long stories with “As I was saying earlier” in conversation, and Klosterman is one of these people. Sheesh! He even goes so far as to admit in a 1988 anedcote about Lita Ford’s “Lita” release. “Talking about the music was more interesting than hearing it (which is still the way I feel about most rock ‘n’ roll).” A telling confession – write (or dictate) your little heart out, Chuck, I’ll listen to music and you write the books.

He also misunderstands words (beyond just the mis-use of “unconscious”, as in the the way some people say “unconscious decision” – I once read Madonna say this in an interview, actually), when he says “Maybe Tesla turns kids into mindless deadheads (which I suppose is a pretty blatant oxymoron).” If he’s referring to “mindless deadheads” as an oxymoron, then he doesn’t know what the word “oxymoron” means. At another point he says “most metal said nothing (and sometimes even less).” What is less than nothing?

He embarrasses himself even further when he writes “I have never met Satan, but he actually sounds like a pretty cool guy. A bit geeky, perhaps, but I’m sure we could still hang out and play Scrabble or something.” Say what? But Chuck’s too clever for me, so I’ve missed the obvious ironic statement here (I got the reference to the “angel dust” that he likes to smoke, and how “he probably has a framed poster of Ronnie James Dio on his living room wall”… Dio… God… Dio… Satan… Dio poster… I get it).

Going on the defense, Klosterman writes many a long passage about why people hate heavy metal for all the wrong reasons, but he’s never really convincing. He makes the lame point that “people who take rock music seriously in a literal sense always seem to be missing the point.” He’s missing the point if he thinks his readership understand what he means with the phrase “to take something seriously in the literal sense.” How could seriousness be anything but literal? He also makes fun of Michael Azerrad for believing that Black Flag fans had to work harder to be Black Flag fans than Warrant fans did, since they didn’t have their bands handed to them on a platter by the media. Sorry, Chuck, that makes sense to no one except you.

Perhaps one of my biggest frustrations with Klosterman is how he alternates between boring people with his navel gazing, and infuriating him with his misinterpretation, mis-analysis and factual mistakes about the very topics he takes on. Ironically, he has no respect for writers who make mistakes in their writing, and aims his tiny arrows at his fellow journalists:

I remember being mildly excited when I saw a nine-inch article about an accident involving Vince Neil Wharton, the lead singer from the “rock ‘n’ roll band Motley Crue.” To me, that line was the most offensive part of the entire article – Mötley Crüe was not a rock ‘n’ roll band.” Bruce Springsteen was in a “rock ‘n’ roll band.” Motley was a heavy metal band. I immediately questioned the reporter’s credibility.”

By Klosterman’s logic, we should definitely also question his credibility (he should too) over the many errors in his book. But I honestly believe that Klosterman is too knowledgable to get many facts wrong, which is why I think that coming up with goofy and controversial (and incorrect) views is merely a gimmick, one that a friend of mine told me Steve Albini regularly indulged in, which is to rile people just for the hell of it and see what happened.

This all makes Klosterman a very unauthentic person, kind of like those flawed characters we get in Wes Anderson movies that we all love. Maybe Chuck isn’t being cagey when he mentions that he’s actually a bad person (this exercise continues unabated in his second book, Killing Yourself To Live where he puts himself down by putting sentences like “my thoughts are unoriginal” and “I have no redeeming social value”, randomly at the end of paragraphs).

The book was published in 2001 (with a new epilogue written from the perspective of 2003). Sadly, his later chapters talk about the current (to 2001) state of glam metal and he spends time on rap rock/nü-metal by talking about Korn and Limp Bizzkit… awkward (the quote with Korn bassist Fieldy – the guy who became a born again Christian – where he says “I’ve never owned a Beatles record; I’ve never even listened to one” is hilarious. It seems that, for Korn, “our musical history starts with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and early Faith No More”); this despair for the future of glam leads Chuck to hypothesise about recent alt rock gods like Billy Corgan, where he decides that “we all know that Corgan is actually keeping glam rock alive, even through the rock press doesn’t want to believe it. And that’s why he can get away with it. Keep acting pretentious, Billy. We ‘understand’.” Funny quote, but I wonder what Chuck would have made of the downfall of nü-metal, the ironic popularity of the hilarious Steel Panther, or even Corgan’s worship of Rush in the documentary Beyond The Lighted Stage, not to mention the reunion of Black Sabbath and the huge resurgence of heavy metal… Oops, I keep forgetting that this book was written about glam metal/hair rock; oh well, at least there’s Steel Panther. I need to find out if Klosterman’s written more recently on the Panther, and if he’s okay with them or not (I suspect he has complicated views on Steel Panther…).

Given the passage of time (or otherwise), Klosterman’s not-so-very-old book still has a worrying number of unfortunate joke passages that just don’t feel right, like “There’s still a thriving death metal scene in Florida, so maybe the presence of old people makes the concept of death more pertinent.” He refers to Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin as “that ponytail guy” (Bordin is famous for his dreadlocks), and then dismisses the Black Sabbath Ozzfest performances as “How much can you really expect from three fifty-year-old Brits who spent half their life eating acid and pretending to worship the devil?” Yep – he’s really a dick. There’s also an unfortunate moment when he says that David Lee Roth “would look like a fool if the original Van Halen ever reunited.” Well, they did, and he’s right – but didn’t always look like a fool? Don’t guys who dress up on stage act like fools all the time anyway!!

Funnily enough, the endorsements (I’m amazed that he could get any) for the book are in many ways more interesting than the book (especially when they lump it in with other winning books, like Bebe Buells Rebel Heart, Dave Mersh’s The Heart of Rock and Soul, Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train, Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music and Gary Giggins’ Visions of Jazz). “It may even prompt you to spin ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ or ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ again – God help us all”, pants the Phoenix New Times. “His sly, swaggering prose struts across the page like Axl Rose in his prime,” author Max Wingerten writes, clearly proud of his zesty wordplay. “Either one of the saddest or greatest music books ever written,” says Q magazine.

The book is good for a few other things, among them making KISS seem interesting, and turning me on to videos that I think that I might want to watch, like that Whitesnake video with Tawny Kitaen in it.

Interestingly, a book that I’ve read recently that’s much better than this one is by a cook, not a journalist. Anthony Bourdain tells a better tale, and he also has better taste in music.

This book needs an index. Chuck Klosterman is clearly a lazy writer; and his editor (if he has one) is clearly also a lazy editor.

Are Singaporeans unhappy?

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Last year, Gallup, a reputable research firm, surveyed people all over the world and came to the conclusion that, based on their responses, fewer Singaporeans were happy than people in other countries. Singaporeans weren’t happy with this response and went on an excuse-gathering exercise to come up with all sorts of reasons why they came out so low; personally, I didn’t find it all that unlikely an outcome – when I look around I see a lot of frowns, and that can be any time of the day, even 6:00 on a Friday night when everyone’s heading home for the weekend!!

Now it looks like someone has paid good money to produce a not-so-authentic-looking video to debunk the survey. Call this an entry from the Department of SEE-HOW-HAPPY-WE-ARE!!! SEE!!! SEE!!!

In December 2012, a global survey ranked Singapore the unhappiest country in the world. At StarHub, we didn’t agree with it — not for one second. So, we went out to uncover what real Singaporeans thought of the survey. And this was their answer.

The text in the commercial is as follows:

In December 2012 a global survey ranked Singapore the unhappiest country. They say we are emotionless. Soulless. The least positive nation. One that is intolerant. One that is not for family. They call us a nation of complainers. People who don’t smile, laugh, dance. People who are just about the GDP. NOW…. who says we are all that?

Well… this is a bit dishonest. Yes, the survey said least positive, which can be rephrased as unhappiest (and a different survey a month earlier said emotionless). But the words and phrases “soulless“, “intolerant“, “not for family“, “just about GDP“, “a nation of complainers“, and “don’t smile, laugh, dance” are not in the Gallup findings. Those words are all Starhub’s (and, I suppose, reflect Singaporeans’ suspicions about themselves).

It gets a bit silly when the commercial asks “who says we are all that?” – if you remember, at the beginning of the commercial it is announced that this all comes from “a global survey”. Okay – this looks to me like a case of someone coming up with an answer to a question, giving the answer away early, then asking for the answer later on in order to influence the outcome. Nice, and this may convince those people who just aren’t paying attention. But the fact is that Gallup conducted a survey, where they asked people all over the world questions about how they feel, so in terms of the outcome of the Singapore portion of the survey, the real answer to the question “who says we are all that?” is actually the Singaporeans who took the survey who say they are unhappy (and, in a November 2012 survey, emotionless) and no one else.

The ad ends with the marketing catchphrase ” Starhub says Happy Everywhere.” Sounds like a command… sir, yes sir!!

MegalomaniA, international touring band

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Well, it’s official – MegalomaniA has played its first overseas gig. We headed up to Kuala Lumpur on July 6th by bus, stayed overnight at the friend of our drummer’s place, had great seafood, then on Sunday we headed to the gig hall. Our set was around five o’clock, the fourth of 10 bands to play that afternoon and evening. We did a great job, totally blowing the audience away. We got great comments from our peers afterwards by Facebook:

we really enjoyed your set! it’s like being in a real sabbath gig minus the props and all.. \m/

Megalomania rocked harder! We were practically blown away by your uncanny resemblance of Ozzy, Peter Hoflich! \m/

You guys rocked so hard that you ought put Black Sabbath run for their money! Woohoo!”

Hey what’s up Peter. Megalomania totally killed it the other day.

you are rock peter….

Here’s the full set of four songs: “Into The Void”, “Children Of The Grave”, “NIB” and “Iron Man”.

Here’s a highlight song – “Children Of The Grave”, showing the headbangers in full groove:

Here’s another highlight – “NIB” with a bit of moshing going on. Oh Lord yeah!!

After our set, we had some food and drinks, then I stuck around until it ended at 10:30 or so. All of the bands were great, some better than others. The audience engagement was pretty good, and the later bands had just a bit more than our band had due to the evening “party time” feeling.

Here’s another band that played that day, they are called Instake:

What Would Keith Richards Do?

Sunday, July 14th, 2013


What Would Keith Richards Do?, by Jessica Pallington West – Prominently dubbed “Unauthorized” on the cover, this silly but fun book clearly doesn’t sit within Keith’s sense of humour itself, making it seem a bit of a paradox. While nearly half of the book is a collection of great quotes on topics such as “the Afterlife and Reincarnation”, “Aging and Longevity”, “Authority”, “Art”, “Fashion and style”, “Inner Demons”, “Inspirations and Influences”, etc, the rest of the book demonstrates the author scrounging around to describe situations and concepts that make Keith (and herself) look wise. This all demonstrates that she’s a great editor (and if there is any lingering doubt that she’s another Tony Sanchez, the six pages of thorough and comprehensive references is further testimony); but she’s not really a great writer, so the opening chapter “Keithism: the 26 10 commandments of Keith Richards” comes off as having a tremendous amount of filler and empty exposition (I also wonder why she can’t just say “the 26 commandments” and has to say “the 26 Ten Commandments” – maybe she’s not such a great editor after all).

Another chapter “What Would Keith Do” presents regular, day-to-day challenges and conjures up a Keith-ish response, using lessons from his life. “Keith And Nitzsche” sets about drawing parallels between Keith-thought and the ideas and quotes of Nitzsche and other famour philosophers, going from the Greeks to Mae West (it’s bit of a stretch). “Prophetwear: Urban Guru Fashion & Style” is an interesting, albeit silly chapter discussing Keith’s armour and personal talismans. “Everyting you always wanted to know…” is a fact file on Keith, most of which I knew (interesting fact – cheese is the only thing that Keith won’t put into his body. Cheese!!!) Then there’s a Keith timeline (interesting fact – he recorded an instrumental called “Scarlet” with Jimmy Page and Ian Stewart in 1973) that is an interesting chronicle of arrests, riots and battles with Mick Jagger (who he calls Brenda).

The best part of the book? The six-page bonus section of insults to various figures such as Chuck Berry, Jean-Luc Godard (“He’s a Frenchman. We can’t help them.”), Mick Taylor, Bianca Jagger, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, the Bee Gees, modern rock stars ilk the Arctic Monkeys, the punks of the seventies, George Michael, Boy George, Oasis, David Bowie, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine (not sure why they warrant comment), Nirvana, Bob Geldolf and Life Aid, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant and John Bonham, Ben Stiller (not sure why he warrants comment), Eric Clapton, Ray Davies and Bob Dylan.

Incidentally, I’ve not read any of the “What Would Jesus Do” type works, so I don’t really have a basis of comparison on that level, but I’d say that as far as objective fun and readability goes, the book is so-so overall. But however he’s presented, at the end of the day, Keith is still infinitely fascinating. In my reviews, I’m typically wont to quote extensively from the books I discuss; I can’t do that here, otherwise I’d be reproducing half of Chapter Five (Keith quotes), so you’ll just have to get this book for yourself – despite my misgivings about the weakness of the other chapters (at one point the author brings in a mention of the Brady Bunch… I really can’t see how she could commit such as crime, as that old TV show was about as un-Keith as it gets – clearly she’s learned nothing from her subject), it’s worth the price of the book on the strength of Chapter Five alone.