Thursday, November 25, 2010

Consumerism: A World of Entitlement and Instant Gratification

With Black Friday on the way, I thought I'd take the time to talk about the more underhanded dynamics of consumerism, that most Americans are unaware of. Hopefully, this will cause the snarling masses to pause before they lunge at a Wii in a department store near you this Friday. For those who are not aware, “Consumerism is a social and economic construct, perpetuated by advertising and marketing, in order to to create and encourage the desire to purchase goods or services in large quantities.” A formula for consumption as a “way of life” was purposed by Victor Lebow, (god I hate that guy), in his paper Price Competition in 1955, where he states, "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption a way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions in consumption....We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever growing rate." This idea permeates our culture, and manufactures false ideals that create a sort of “consensus reality”, which perpetuates the idea of shopping as a “spiritual practice” and encourages entitlement and satisfies the desire for instant gratification.

While the conservatives and liberals argue about what is destroying American ideals, the philosophy of consumerism quietly establishes itself as the predominant “religion” of the west world, which is more likely the culprit responsible for this cultural degradation. Conservatives blame liberals because of their tolerating homosexuality, protecting abortion rights, providing welfare and socialized medicine. Liberals blame conservatives for giving the wealthy larger tax breaks, trying to abolish the separation of church and state and encroaching on our civil liberties. Most of this is social posturing, utilized to divide and conquer American citizens. They mindlessly distracting us with either the hot social issue of the day, or they spend the rest of their time pointing out what makes us socially different (ie. race, religion, ethnic and national background, jobs, income, education, social status, sexuality). All of this seems like nothing more than a ploy to keep us uniformed and uneducated about real issue that are seemingly never covered by the media.

The reason for this is quite simple; it all boils down to advertising. The best example that comes to mind was the Fox syndicated WTVT “Cancer Milk” exposé about the artificial bovine growth hormone (BGH), a recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH, known better as Posilac. Posilac is a synthetic hormone developed by Monsanto that is injected into cows to increase milk production. Many people are unaware that Posilac was banned from use in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and most of Europe, by 2000 or earlier. In 1997 Steve Wilson and Jane Akre worked together on a story about rBGH for Fox's WTVT in Florida. As a result of their investigation they discovered that BGH had been approved by the FDA after only one human study on 30 medical rats for 90 days.

It has also been recently discovered that rBGH may increase the risk of mastitis, an infection of the udders from over production of milk, by 25%. In addition to mastitis, rBGH has been demonstrated to increase the incidence of 15 different harmful effects to cows' health, including birth disorders, increased pus in milk, hoof problems, heat stress, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal disturbances. It is interesting to note that The Humane Society of the U.S., Humane Farming Association, Farm Sanctuary and Animal Protection Institute all oppose the use of rBGH. It is because of this that shortly before the story was aired, Fox News received two faxes from Monsanto's lawyers. One of which stated that the story was, “a great concern to Monsanto”, and that there would be, “dire consequences for Fox News. ” if the story aired in Florida. Fox News subsequently pulled piece for deliberation on the story, for fear of losing advertisement money for products like Round-up, which is produced by Monsanto.

Shortly after, the General Manager of WTVT Fox asked the journalist how they would feel if the story was “killed” and if they would tell anyone. In an attempt to bribe the journalists a lawyer of WTVT sent the journalists such a bribe in the form of a confidentiality agreement, which guaranteed both journalists a full year’s salary as long as they never talked about Monsanto, the legal process taken up by Fox and also that they could not take it to another news station. The journalist refused to sign such a waiver and keep it as evidence that fox was trying to bribe them. WTVT aware that they could not fire or bribe the journalists decided to edit the expose with the journalist 83 times! Most of the editing decisions were made in order to reduce or remove any criticism of Monsanto. For instance words like “cancer” were substituted by more docile euphemisms like, “human health implication”. Inevitably, the two journalists took legal action against Fox under whistle blower status. The sad thing is that Fox won the appeal, since the judges claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy."

Consequently, this means that the FCC, a government body established to protect American citizens, is good for nothing, except when it comes to crucifying people like George Carlin and Howard Stern for “obscene” language. The advertisers and marketing executives get paid the big bucks, because they are so good at what they do, which is nothing short of propaganda. They can be misleading or even falsify information to their consumers, just as long as their products don't violate any laws established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Federal Trade Commision (FTC). That is why, as George Carlin put it, “America's leading industry, America's most profitable business, is still, the manufacture, packaging, distribution, and marketing of Bullshit. High quality, grade A, prime cut, pure American Bullshit.” This is the same reason that during every election cycle we see smear ads plastered across our television screens, and wonder why nobody does anything about it. It is because any legal action must be pursued by the candidate, in the case of libel or defamation, which would inevitably take up more of a candidate’s time and money, then creating a counter attack campaign ad would.

This is no big surprise, since by now if you haven't heard it is the corporation that owns and runs this country, not the lowly citizens. We've granted the corporations and conglomerates of this country, with the power to replace the meaningful rituals of certain holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day with banal ritual of shopping and consumerism. Even “patriotic” holidays, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day, have been replaced with sales that to the general public are infinitely more important than the dead men and woman that have served this county. Since the 80's this country has become nothing more than a “coast-to-coast shopping mall”. The remnants of which have been raped by what I like the call the United Sodomizers of America; A group of elite corporations that tempt consumers with over priced goods, built upon the blood, sweat and tears of slave laborers of third world countries. It disturbs me that Americans don't mind being referred to as “consumers”, a poorly constructed euphemism that describes those of us who...CONSUME! But the longer you live in this country and the more you look around the more you realize that is exactly our motive of operation. The word consume means to “destroy or expend by use”, it can also refers to the “spending of money or time wastefully”. And when it comes to wasting money and time America is #1! I really think it is pathetic if that is the only thing we excel at anymore as a nation. Once this country becomes nothing more than a Third world consumer plantation, more developed countries like India and China may start creating better jobs. And with developing countries like India and China hot on our tails, who knows maybe America will be unseated as the Heavy Weight champion of consumption, and forced to excel at something sweat shops!

America constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, but consume more than a 25% of the worlds resources on a daily basis. It is also interesting to note that a majority of products that American's consume are poor made electronics that become obsolete within 6 months. This helps to perpetuate Victor Lebow's vision of creating products that can be, “consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever growing rate.” Little do people know that the products that become obsolete are shipped to landfills in India where desperately poor children pull apart the devices to salvage lucrative metals like copper. Also, as a result, the salvaging releases harmful chemicals and nurotoxins, which will either be inhaled by the children, or leach into the ground to affect countless numbers of innocent lives. None of this is presented to the American public while they watch commercials celebrating the new iPhone or any other host of soon to be obsolete gadgets and gizmos.

You could call Americans ignorant, but that is an understatement. The truth if the matter is that American's simply don't care. Most Americans don't want to know that a overwhelming majority of the cleaning products they purchase contain chemicals that are carcinogenic. They don't care that the production of plastic, which can only be down-cycled, not recycled, is polluting their water and soil from leching. When it comes to consumer products, Americans only care about themselves and how other with view them. They allow their consumer goods to define who they are, by buying the latest cars, gizmos and video games. Instead of purchasing things like books or art, which demonstrates to others that they acquire possessions with intrinsic value, that are an extension of who they are, not what they are.

-The Dead Guy (Who Won't be Caught Dead Near A Big Box Store This X-mas)

Healthcare In The Real World: Or How We've Politicized The Personal

Lately, it seems like there has been a lot of talk about healthcare in the US. No one on either side of the political debate seems particularly pleased with the new healthcare bill, and many seem unhappy with the state of healthcare as it is. I often hear people complaining that private healthcare is available to anyone who is hard working, a tax payer, and who wants it and publicly assisted healthcare is there for the poor. Since it’s already so widely available, they seem to reason, then why should we change the system?

They’re right, to a point. Yes, private healthcare is available to nearly anyone who wants it, at least on the surface, and yes there are already public assistance programs for the poor, but this is a pretty incomplete view of the American healthcare system, which avoids addressing the fact that many Americans fall somewhere between having ability to pay for their own healthcare and being poor enough to qualify for public assistance.

I am one of those Americans.

I have worked, mostly full time, for the past 16 years. During those 16 years, I had exactly one year of working for a company which provided reasonable health insurance to its employees. Most of my jobs have involved waiting tables, and most of them have been for corporations, as opposed to mom and pop restaurants. I think this is important to note, because the corporate jobs which did provide any healthcare at all, provided bare bones, emergency only coverage to employees who worked a minimum of 40 hours a week. However, the one independently owned company I worked for offered the best insurance they could afford to their employees. Many of my friends have had exactly the same experience, with major corporations offering piss poor or no benefits to employees while smaller companies seem to offer livable policies. This experience flies in the face of those naysayers who bemoan the fact that it would be unfair to “force” small businesses to provide health insurance. You see, most small businesses seem to operate under the belief that their employees are human beings and, as such, deserve to be treated fairly. If a business is already providing good coverage for their employees, the healthcare bill as I understand it will not affect them at all.

However, this is not about the healthcare bill and what it will or won’t do. This is about what it is like to be one of the many people who cannot afford to insure themselves, but are not eligible to receive publicly assisted healthcare.

For me, it is pretty horrendous.

As a 31 year old student with little to no income during the school year, I certainly cannot afford to purchase private insurance for myself and, even if I could, half of the things which concern a thirty year old woman would not even be covered. These include, but are not limited to: birth control, maternity, some forms of cancer screening (including breast and cervical), yearly gynecological exams, and STI screenings. However, as an uninsured woman, I can access these things though my local Planned Parenthood where I can pay on a scale that relates to my current income level.

This may sound like a pretty good deal, but a trip to Planned Parenthood is not a very pleasant experience. For me, an annual checkup must be arranged months in advance, I must answer hours worth of questions about my sexual history, medical history and current income every single time I walk through the door, and I often spend hours in their waiting room only to be led to an exam room, told to undress and left sitting, in nothing but a paper robe and knee socks, for up to an hour while I wait for the clinician on duty to come into the room. I never see the same clinician twice and, as a result of that, a routine pelvic exam can take over hour as each new caregiver must ask the same questions each time. Furthermore, using Planned Parenthood as a resource for birth control means that I have very little personal choice in terms of which type I receive. One clinician may determine that I need a combination pill one year, while another (as was my most recent experience) may aggressive push me toward having an IUD inserted to the point of refusing to continue my previous pill. If I take issue with the method they are prescribing, I am often told that as a non insured patient I should be grateful for what I can get and take it or leave it. Don’t get me wrong here, I am grateful for the resource, but it is still very frustrating to feel as though my opinion regarding my body does not matter as much as it would if I were insured. Although trips to their clinics are not often pleasant or comfortable as an overtaxed system must provide care for thousands of men and women each day, I am at least able to access some healthcare through them.

Even with access to sexual healthcare through Planned Parenthood, not having insurance still leaves me in a precarious position in terms of general sickness and health issues. In my position, being sick rarely means a trip to the doctor, unless there is something seriously wrong. This means that I will often hold off on seeking care until I am nearly disabled by whatever sickness I have and, even then, will not seek help unless I am pretty certain that the illness requires antibiotics. Instead, most illnesses involve a lot of googling, a lot of self medication and a lot of hoping that I am not further damaging myself. The only time I will immediately seek medical care is when I am certain that I’ve got a urinary tract infection, as those absolutely cannot be effectively treated by any home remedy and can progress into sepsis or kidney infections.

In those rare situations where I must seek medical attention, I am often at a loss for what to do. You see, most primary care doctors won’t keep a self paying patient because there is too much risk of unpaid services. Without a primary care doctor, I am often given two options. I can spend an entire day and a month’s salary at the emergency room, or I can utilize an urgent care center.

Whenever the option exists, I use the urgent care center to avoid taking up the time of emergency room staff and incurring the ridiculous cost of being seen in a hospital. Again, I am grateful that such places exist, but using one is not a comfortable experience at all. As with Planned Parenthood, I must redo a full patient history every time I am seen. This means, again, spending hours in a waiting room and constantly having to repeat that I am self paying. Often just those very words are enough to cause the staff’s attitudes to change ever so slightly. Depending on the staff member, I have received everything from lectures on the importance of health insurance to pitying glances in the waiting room and downright degradation in the exam room. Because these centers are often staffed by students who perform all initial consultations, I have been lectured on eating disorders, been told that the student examining me is “certain” that I am sexually promiscuous based on my tattoos, been warmed that my seasonal congestion is a sign of AIDS and been prescribed medication that I am deathly allergic to, despite having clearly marked the allergy on my intake forms. All of these snafus could have easily been avoided if being a self paying patient wasn’t seen as akin to being uneducated or unemployed.

Furthermore, they could all be avoided if I had the ability to have one primary care doctor who I see repeatedly. Having a consistent doctor would mean the world to me as it would mean that I did not have to jump through hoops, be embarrassed, degraded or talked down to, whenever I am in the already frightening position of being sick. It would also mean that I would have access to preventative care and advice beyond the realm of WebMD.

Unfortunately, given our current system, this will not be possible until I am employed by a company which provides decent care, or the system is massively reformed to address the stranglehold which drug manufacturers and insurance companies have on the system. As one doctor recently explained to me, the current system has doctors answering to insurers and drug companies exploiting this fact by offering samples under the table in order to convince doctors to prescribe their drugs. This means that a doctor with a private practice must justify every service he or she performs to the patient’s insurance company before he or she justifies it to the patient. It also means that it is not in a doctor’s best interest to make services affordable to self paying patients as it takes money out of the pockets of the very insurance companies which pay most of their salaries. Often, giving away those free samples from drug reps is the only way for a doctor to circumvent this. In other words, most doctors have their hands tied in terms of being able to provide service as they see fit and this leaves many patients with less autonomy than they should have.

I know the healthcare debate is shrill and fully loaded for every American, but I also think that we have become so lost in the sound and the fury or it all that we may have forgotten who really is affected by the way our current system operates. This is not to say that I am looking for a handout, or, as one Planned Parenthood receptionist recently inferred, crying “poor” in order to exploit the system. On the contrary, I am looking for a reform which will remove the power over our well being from the hands of the insurance and drug companies and return to its rightful place in the hands of each American citizen and their respective caregivers. I only hope that whatever happens in 2014 makes that more possible than it is at this point.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Progressive Rock: Why Its Influence Just Won't Die

Progressive rock is a sub-genre of rock that began to develop during the early 60's. The term progressive could be thought to be synonymous with the term experimental, but experimentation is just one of the many facets of what we call Prog. Few could deny that the 60's were ripe with musical experimentation, especially with the emergence of musicians like the Beatles and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. To Find the earliest roots of Prog, one would have to look no further than The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), which laid the groundwork for popularizing another facet of Prog, the concept album. A concept album was a record that had a instrumental, compositional or narrative theme that unified the music. Meanwhile, Frank Zappa, a musical pioneer known for being unconventional, was responsible for one of the most thought provoking debut albums of the 60's, and possibly in rock history, with the debut Freak Out! (1964). Armed with the talent of The Mothers and Zappa's bitingly sarcastic and satirical song lyrics, the band set out to destroy and dispel the modern myth of what rock music should be. The first half of the album is filled with catchy satirical do-wop pop songs such as “I Ain't Got No Heart” and “Wowwie Zowwie”, while the second half consists of more experimental and socially charged commentaries, which are more evident in songs like “Trouble Every Day” and “Help I'm a Rock”. These albums, with the addition of Bob Dylan going electric and the early recording experimentation of Phil Spector would help in progressing bands, like the Beatles, to give us masterpieces like Let It Be.

The experimentation of the 60's would eventually lead to the culmination of the cornerstone of what would become Progressive Rock with King Crimson's seminal debut In the Court of the Crimson King (1969). This masterpiece would be darker and more esoteric than it predecessors, leading King Crimson to be dubbed the “Think mans Floyd”. While Pink Floyd would exhaust much of it career exploiting the story of their first lead singer, bands like King Crimson would delve into fits of non-structured improvisation of free jazz in songs like “21st Century Schizoid Man”. In the Court of the Crimson King would establish progressive rock as its own style of rock music, giving impetus for more commercially successful bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. These bands would chart a musical territory outside of the mainstream, while still be accessible to a large following of fans. It is important to know that Progressive rock was not localized to England, Canadian Rockers Rush were charting new grounds, while Germany bands like Faust were also experimenting with a style of music called Kraut-Rock, and Focus, a little known band hailing from Amsterdam, with their unlikely smash hit “Hocus Pocus”.

Progressive Rock established itself in the 70's as a force to be reckoned with. Prog bands were infamous for combining their intricate song structures and esoteric themes with grandiose arena shows. These extravagant theatrical performances were spiritual, artistic gatherings to some, while to others the obsession with artistic authenticity was considered pompous and pretentious. This pompousness would lay the foundation of the punk ideals that would set out to unseat the Goliath of prog-rock. Punk rockers called for a return to the roots of rock with more rebellion and simplicity. In 1975, with Peter Gabriel announcing he was leaving Genesis at the height of their career, the emergence of the more banal Prog rip off, known as Arena Rock with bands like Journey, Kansas and Boston, and the catchy angry wave of punk coming from bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, it seemed as though progressive rock would be slain by its own commercial success. Progressive rock would suffer the setbacks of the late 70's, but this sleeping giant would soon return more poised than ever.

In the 70's, with the emergence of punk and disco, traditional hard rock was on the verge of extinction. Kiss began to make disco records, while hard rock god like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC lost key members in John Bohnam and Bon Scott to pools of vomit. Disco was short lived, while punk seemed poised to take over the hard rock reigns. Hard rock bands had no choice but to start playing faster, heavier and more proficiently then those in the punk scene. This ideal was reenforced by a DJ named Neal Kay who said, “Nobody should be allowed to stand on stage unless they can present the total professional thing. That is to say that unless they can really sing and really play. Punk was a total anti attitude towards music.” As this pissing match ensued, bands like Motorhead, Judas Preist and Iron Maiden began combining the heavy sound of Black Sabbath with the speed of punk rock. Out of these bands which were refered to as the “new wave” of British heavy metal it seemed as though Iron Maiden was the best at integrating prog rock elements into their music. Motorhead had become the darling of both camps. Iron Maiden, was a lot like Rush, that is to say that even if you don't like the music you know that they are extremely smart and talented individuals.

Bands like Iron Maiden would influence numerous metal bands that also would experiment with elements of prog and musical proficiency. Many of the early Thrash bands like Slayer, Anthrax and Seplutura are known for their musical proficiency. Iron Maiden would also influence the more purist neo-prog in the late 80's with bands like King's X and Dream Theater. Many of these bands became aware of how the theatrics of the evil, or more likely paganism, could enchant an entire audience. For instance, contrary to popular belief bands like Slayer did not write about or worshiping Satan, they used Satan as a personification of the evil and greedy forces that controlled the world. It is because of this that when the song about the Holocaust, specifically “Angel of Death”(1986), were released people tried to label bands like Slayer as satanic, racist skinheads, failing to see that the song is about the horror perpetrated by Dr. Joseph Megela during the holocaust, and that two members , Tom Ayrara and Dave Lombardo, of the band originally hail from South America.

On the Punk side of the coin, you had a lot of bands who grew up with the first wave of punk. The first wave was mostly comprised of bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Ramones. Eventually, many musicians decided that punk was too narrow-minded, and lacked experimentation. As a result, more innovative and artsy bands like Joy Division, The Velvet Underground and Wire began to emerge. These bands would influence the disaffected musicians from the second wave of punk, called “hardcore”. Once again, these bands thought punk was becoming conventional and reactionary and, as a result, began to learn more than three or four chords and branch out into uncharted territory. A good example of this was Minneapolis' own Husker Du, a band that started like any other hardcore band, when they released their debut album Land, Speed Record (1981). Like a lot of the hardcore bands at the time they played fast and angry, with little or even no attention for melody or riffs. But by 1984, with the release of the epic Zen Arcade (1984), everything had changed. Husker Du had produced an album that had the energy of punk, with a more technically tight song structures. This would lead to the advent of what would become known as “post-hardcore”, and just like the post-punk bands before them bands like Fugazi and Sonic Youth paved the way toward unexplored areas. I use to hate the 80's until I realized that, contrary to popular belief, what really made the 80's truly amazing was all of the underground music, not the fetishistic nostalgia for Debbie Gibson, Duran Duran and stirrup pants that we see on VH1's “I love the 80's”. Underground music was being played on college rock radio stations across the country, laying the ground work that made the 90's possible in the first place.

By the late 80's nothing was off limits. More and more bands began to experiment with different fusions of styles and genres; everyone was listening to everyone else, and slowly but surely the influences began to blur. It had been five years since Tipper Gore received her fucking sticker, a battle fought and won by the most unlikely heroes of Dee Snider, John Denver and Frank Zappa. Summer festivals like Lollapalooza were in full swing, and so was the PMRC with pickets in hand. But this didn't stop bands like Jane's Addiction, Faith No More and Tool from producing music video that were disturbing and weird, but nothing really that shocking, at least to the fans. Rage Against the Machine was hard at work fusing rap and rock in face melting ways, before and after they stood before a confused audience naked, with P-R-M-C taped across their chests, at Lollapaloza. In fact, the zanier bands seemed to have the most progressive the sound. King Buzzo, of the Melvins, began playing everything in drop D, while Joshua Homme from Kyuss tried to keep up by plugging his guitars into bass amp and tuning them down to G. Les Claypool was experiencing notoriety with his band Primus, gaining a reputation for melting your soul with his muddy bass.

At the top of this sweaty pile of underground, grungy alternative music you had the Pixies, or what should be known as “Our Beatles”! The Pixies were far from Prog, but they experimented more than anyone in a time when “Alternative” music actually meant something. They had created an aural dynamic that wasn't like anyone else. And when the Pixies broke up, musicians everywhere where as heartbroken as the day The Beatles played on the roof of Apple Records. David Bowie in an interview with French magazine, Les Inrockuptibles, said that he, "felt very depressed the day I heard about the Pixies split. What a waste...I could see them becoming huge.” he went on to state later that, “when I heard Nevermind from Nirvana for the first time, I was really, really angry. The dynamics in the songs, this was a total Pixies rip-off. I would have like so much the Pixies and Sonic Youth to be at the top. The former have split, and the latter accept too much compromise.” Eventually Kurt Cobain would admit that he did in fact rip off the sound of the Pixies for Smells Like Teen Spirit. And as the narrow-minded narrative goes; Kurt Cobain blew his fortune on heroine and Courtney Love, and his talent against the wall behind him, and that my friends was the day that the music died, or so most people thought.

Things were pretty bleak after Cobain's death. Most alternative bands were ready to pack it up and call it a show. Many of the grunge bands split up or sold out. The rest became unemployed musicians, who still wanted to keep making good music. After Kyuss disbanded Joshua Homme started the garage influenced prog outfit Queens of the Stone Age, while bands such as The Melvins, Clutch, and Tool were still going strong. Tool and the Melvins would eventually work together producing a 14 minute epic simply titled Divorced, and albums like Colussus of Destiny (2001) and Pigs of the Roman Empire (2004). Tool's Lead singer, Maynard James Kennan, began working on a side project called A Perfect Circle, while bands like Neurosis progressed from a trashy grindcore band to a lumbering, dark and ambient doom metal outfit, which has outlasted most of the bands they had influenced, such as stoner metal legends Isis. In fact stoner rock was filled with progressive influences, while early alternative bands, like the Flaming Lips, were still making music. Producing experimenting with insane idea like the four disc album Zaireeka (1997), which was intended to be played on four synchronized stereos simultaneously, or progressive acid rock excursions like Embryonic (2009), that even Frank Zappa would have been pleased with.

If you think about it thing actually have been looking up for music, which may have something to do with the Pixies reunited in 2004. Radiohead's Thom Yorke, and Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne lost their shit when they found out the Pixies were going to be the secret act at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. “That's just not right! The Pixies opening for us is like the Beatles opening for us.” Thom Yorke exclaimed on stage. At the same time more experimental bands began to gain recognition. Mastodon had produced 4 thundering epics each based on the 4 elements of magic; Fire: Remissions (2002), Water: the Grammy award winning Leviathan (2004), Earth: Blood Mountain (2006) and Wind: Crack the Sky (2009). Also the Prog two piece, Big Business, has joined forces with the Melvins producing the mind numbing drumming tandem of Cody Willis and Dale Crover. A drumming duo so good, the only way this band could get any better is if Buzzo got his wish and added, “ Neil Pert, Bootsy Collins and Paul McCartney”. Even fossils like John Paul Jones jumped at the opportunity to work with two veterans like Joshua Homme and Dave Grohl, who were taking time off from their respective bands, in order to work produce the supergroup known as Them Crooked Vultures. And with rock giants like Faith No More, Primus and the Pixies touring again, there looks to be more experimental music, influenced by Prog, then this concert going, music loving freak can get his hands on.

-The Dead Guy

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jukebox Throwdown: The Deftones "One Weak" from the album "Adrenaline"

It seems as though many posts lately have been born from conversations between Shannon and The Dead Guy, and this one is no exception. Over the course of the past few weeks, we have been tossing around the idea of writing posts which are based on our interpretation and impressions of song lyrics. We decided to go ahead and try it after our facebook pals told us they liked the idea, so here it is. With no further ado, we give you Jukebox Throwdown. Let us know what you think.

One Weak

by: the Deftones

Nerve - Here I born, feeding on his lung
Verve - Is his curse, because he wanted to meet Christ alone
Bitch - you're no good, we could be so flown
Misunderstood - we could be your God
There in my bones, we could be so flown
Misunderstood - because he wanted to meet Christ alone
But you will...

Ah you'll never find me - breach unborn
Never, come here watch me burn
Never, bitch cause your scars show
Never, will I burn

Under, beneath the floor
Before, his face 'cause your no good
We could have been like one
Fuck it!

Bitch, you feel sore, we could be so flown
Misunderstood - because he wanted to meet Christ alone
But you will...

Ah you'll never find me - breach unborn
Never, sit and watch me burn
Never, bitch cause your scars show
Never, will I burn, will I burn, will I burn, will I burn

Try won't you'll never, Beg don't (3x)
Even waste your time!!!

The song “One Weak” by the Deftones is a song that has always resonated with me personally. One of the great thing about the Deftones is Chino's ability to write song that are lyrically ambiguous but saliently powerful when personally interpreted, much like a Rorschach test. To me this song is about a creative person, such as a poet or painter, and their view of the spiritual trappings of organized religion. Verve, simply means, “enthusiasm or vigor, as in literary or artistic work”. So the line, “Verve- is his curse” could be expressing how some artists, like myself, see their inspiration as something that originates from within but is trans-personal, and maybe afford a deeper understanding of this energy, which dogmatic religions personify as God. The lyrics also suggest that organized religion has attempted to fill the void, a residual effect of a child losing their innocence which once connected them to this energy, by becoming God to it followers, “Misunderstood - we could be your God.”.

In this song the word “bitch” seems to delineating organized religion or specifically the Catholic Church. The lyrics “Bitch - you're no good, we could be so flown”, may refer to the feeling that if religious leaders and artists worked together humanity could be taken to new heights. Just look at Renaissance art, and think of the possibilities if those artists where given full artistic freedom. If that was the case, the Renaissance could have been the ultimate paradigm shift in human consciousness and unity, “We could have been like one... Fuck it!”. Chino proceeds to write, “Ah you'll never find me - breach unborn. Never, sit and watch me burn. Never, bitch cause your scars show?”, this seems to refer to religious fervor, for example when it comes to a topic like abortion, or as he ambiguously refers to it the “breach” of the “unborn”. It sheds light on the tenancy of the pious to criticize others decisions, and suggests that this is not a divine path toward this energy that the holier-than-thou call God. The line, “your scare show.” may also refer to the hideous acts of violence and ignorance perpetrated by an institution that presents itself as infallibly righteous.

You could make the argument that the title of the song, “One Weak”, refers to an idea that a spiritual path of one, may appear “weak” to the pious follower, even though mentally the artists may have a leg up on the establishment. The problem may lie with the masses of public life, who when confronted by an artist, might fail to see beyond the ideal of just an individual that creates aesthetically pleasing images, “Misunderstood - because he wanted to meet Christ alone”. It is the artists who attempts to bring to the surface the inner worlds of suppressed turmoil as something to learn form, not to feel guilty about. As Alan Watts once said, “Christianity has made guilt into a virtue.” The artists experiments with, communes, and channels the unconditional love of the universe out toward humanity on an attempt to guide toward a more spiritually connected toward all the energies of the universe. It may be interesting to point out that the album was originally titled “Communion” before it was change to Adrenaline, and that the cover art uses a baby aspirator, a device used to remove mucus and other and other “obstructions” from the respiratory system.


While I do not directly disagree with DG’s interpretation of this song as a commentary on religion, I would like to offer another interpretation. If we take the lyrics as they come, we can see a certain personal anguish which I believe is working in conjunction with the religious imagery to obscure itself.

The theme of betrayal and loss of love is fairly apparent to me as in the lyrics “We could have been as one.” And “Don’t try, you’ll never beg, don’t even waste your time.”

I agree that there is a sense of this song being about the loss of life, but I am not sure that it is a direct reference to abortion. It seems more likely to me that the image of a breach birth, which is a very difficult way to create a life, is being used metaphorically as a way to express the author’s anguish over someone giving up on something difficult such as a lover betraying him. This interpretation is further supported by the lyrics:

“Under, beneath the floor,

Before, his face 'cause you’re no good

We could have been like one,

Fuck it!

Bitch, you feel sore, we could be so flown.”

When looking at these lyrics, I think a case could be made that the author is lamenting having been abandoned by someone he loved. “Under”, “Beneath” and “Before his face, cause you’re no good” all seem to indicate that the subject of the lyrics, if we take it to be about a lover or ex-lover, has been sleeping with someone other than the author, and that the author is a great deal of pain over this.

Additionally, the author repeatedly makes reference to being unfindable to the subject, as though they are afraid that the subject will someday want to find them again. The references to showing scars could be taken as another metaphorical reference to lifting of a veil that occurs when one is so hurt by someone about whom they care that they then become able to see that person’s flaws in a way that they were unable to before.

Of course, this interpretation runs into a bit of trouble when we are faced with the line “he wanted to meet Christ alone”, but perhaps these words are not as troublesome as they appear. One could safely argue that, when taken within the context of the larger work, they may refer to the subject’s new lover leaving them to be alone, or even dying. This makes more sense when you consider that the rest of the song could be taken to indicate a desire to lose contact with an ex-lover.

Finally, to address the title, “One Weak”, that in and of itself is a play in words which could be taken to either delineate a period of time, or a personal weakness. Both possibilities can be made to work with my preceding interpretation. If we look at the title to be a length of time, it can be taken to measure the amount of time the author spent with the subject, the amount time they have been away from the subject, or the amount of time the subject spent betraying the author. If we take it to indicate personal weakness, it can be taken as a statement about either the subject or author’s state of being. Perhaps the author sees the subject as being weak when they once appeared strong or perhaps the author sees themselves as being weak in the face of betrayal.