Thursday, June 25, 2009

My First Foray Into Electoral Politics....

Okay, this is less of a blog, and more of a link to Thunder Matt's Saloon, where I actually wrote a blog entry.

I guess that earns a lazy blogging tag, even if I worked on it elsewhere...

2010 Edit: Hey, since I'm doing this whole Archiving Project, here's the piece:

The Prodigal Son Wants A Crack At the State House

God, what a colossal tool you are.Often, when people learn I am, in fact, from South Carolina, they are stunned. I’m an avowed atheist, a civil libertarian, and I have never shot a gun at anything living. I don’t even have a strong enough accent to place me anywhere near my home town of Charleston (most people assume I’m from Ohio or something). I hate NASCAR, and don't sleep with my cousins.

But, if you get to know me, the hints come out. I’m passionate about the fact that barbecue is a noun, and should be made with either mustard or vinegar. I strongly believe tea should be iced and sweet, or it’s better off in a harbor. When I drink I get maudlin about country songs and boiled peanuts. And, I own a few slaves (it’s a heritage thing, people. It has nothing to do with hate).

And, while I love my adopted home state of Illinois more than I love John C. Calhoun’s wild-eyed stare, I’m willing to do my part and throw my hat into the ring.

God, how terrifying you are. Calhoun could never get elected in the TV ages.That’s right, Palmetto State. This expatriate Sandlapper is willing to come home and govern you. Govern you hard.

Well, that’s not really true. I’m in no way willing to actually “come home” for more than a few days at a time. But hey, in these internet-savvy days, you don’t need to actually live somewhere to control it. Most of the TMS bartenders don’t live anywhere near Chicago, and Chaim Witz was actually replaced by a team of Indian day laborers 7 months ago.

However, I've got big dreams. In 2012, I will be 36 years old. That's the first election where I will be legally eligible to be president. And, as that election approaches, I will be unveiling a comprehensive platform that is sure to galvanize the entire electorate (I'll give you a hint: Flying Goddamn Cars). I am the man to build a bridge to the mid-20th century's idea of what the 21st Century was going to be like.

Or, I would be, if I didn't have absolutely no experience in governing, a public record of underachieving, and almost zero personal charisma.

Easy way to solve this: get elected governor of some podunk state, be charmingly stupid, and pander to the masses. And here is where South Carolina steps in...

I'm not going to go deeply into this current imbroglio. We all know what's going on down there. And, frankly, I found those emails disarmingly heartfelt and embarassing. Human emotions like that sicken me, and I will not support their promulgation.

I think what outrages voters more than sinful behavior is pretending you aren't a dirty sleazeball. Bill Clinton still kept a reasonably high approval rate while nailing every thick ankled, small uvula'd woman in the Beltway. Sure he denied everything, but he did it with a wink that said..."you've all ridden a moped, too, boys..."

So, South Carolina, I make these promises:

1. I have no ability or experience in leadership roles. I know nothing about running a state government. This should not be a problem, as I'm pretty sure no one born in South Carolina in the past 75 years knows how to run a Quizno's in a strip mall, much less a State Government.

2. I will be abusing the power of my office. That is the strongest campaign promise I plan to make, and I'll be damned if I break it. You can trust in me.

3. Most importantly: I can assure the voters of my home state that if I disappear for 3 days I am safely ensconced in a mountain hideaway with a pile of drugs, a few handles of whiskey, and no less than 6 prostitutes of no less than 3 different ethnicities. In fact, even when I'm actually going on a hiking trip or just taking some time to catch up on reading, I will tell the press I am going to Argentina to bang my hot mistress. Because I have a rep, people.

So what do you say, South Carolina? Are you willing to take a chance on an unproven maverick who won't play by the rules? I mean, your leadership has been running your state into the ground for almost 2 full centuries. Why not choose a man who will do it openly, honestly, and (quite likely) completely fried out of his mind on psychedelic mushrooms and Islay malt scotch?

Vote Wolter. His Sordid Scandals WILL Go Into Sexual Details.

So...majestic. He's got my vote.

Paid for by the Committee to Elect Jon Wolter to Run South Carolina Into the Ground.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If I May Be Pompous For a Moment....

Note: In lieu of writing TWO non-Hitler-Punch-Related Blog Entries in the same month, I am dual posting this entry on TMS and right here on the sadly-neglected-of-late Slog. You case you give a rat’s ass.

Welcome to Wolter’s Music and Pop Culture Theory Corner, a feature deemed “Too Pseudointellectual Even For Pomp Culture” by a volunteer panel of U of C grad students.

Today’s discussion is based on aspects of the Generational Theory first espoused by William Strauss & Neil Howe in their seminal work, Generations (not to be confused with the incredibly bad Star Trek movie of the same name), and how they related to the lyrical content of the debut single two unrelated UK bands from roughly a quarter century apart (The Adverts and Art Brut).

Generational Theory is a more or less cyclical explanation of long-term historical trends based on each generation’s relation to and reaction at the previous generations throughout the phases of their life. It’s a very fascinating tool that, while not fully accurate as a predictive device, is very interesting as a means of analysis of events. You can get a decent quick-n-dirty overview in the wikipedia link above, which I strongly recommend reading as a background material (I'm going to be relatively brief in my reasoning, so if you find flaws with this theory, remember that Strauss & Howe wrote several books on the topic, and it's worth reading more about it).

At any rate, the short version is each generation has an overall character that is the result of its environment (though obviously there are always members of each generation that defy the prevailing norms). The two generations that matter for this discussion are Generation X (also known as 13th Gen) and the Millennial Generation (also known as Generation Y).

The Adverts formed in 1977 as part of the slew of punk bands that appeared in the wake of the Sex Pistols (and to a lesser extent, the Clash and the Damned) rise to notoriety in the UK. Their debut single, “One Chord Wonders” is a marvelously paranoid ode to the bravado and gallows-humor of musicians with low-self-esteem everywhere who know in their hearts they are doomed to failure. For the purposes of this discussion, please feel free to download a copy here.

And, for your perusal, here are a copy of the lyrics (hopefully correct, as god knows I don’t want to search too deeply for lyrics sites, and the requisite computer viruses they seem to contain):

I wonder what we'll play for you tonight.
Something heavy or something light?
Something to set your soul alight?
I wonder how we'll answer when you say,
"We don't like you - go away,
"Come back when you've learnt to play"

I wonder what we'll do when things go wrong,
When we're half-way through
Our favorite song,
We look up and the
audience has gone.
Will we feel a little bit obscure?
Think "we're not needed here,
"We must be new wave
- they'll like us next year"

The Wonders don't care
- we don't give a damn
(repeated to end of

Note the outright pessimism and cynicism of these lyrics. This is a band that fully expects to go nowhere, but plans to do so defiantly. This is very indicative of the Nomad Generation mentality, which describes both Generation X (born c. 1960-1982 – opinions differ on the exact dates) and preceding similar generations (such as the Lost Generation). Of course, Adverts lead vocalist TV Smith was born in 1956, a few years before the first Generation X cohort, but this song’s worldview is much more Gen X than Boomer (and most of the fans he was reaching for were first cohort Boomers). Indeed, most of the idealized notions of the Punk subculture are overwhelmingly suited to the first stirrings of Generation X – rebelliousness tempered with nihilism, a belief that there is no future and very little hope. Irony is the shield of the Nomad Generation, defending it against the dark pessimism ingrained in most members.

On the other hand, Art Brut (who formed in 2003 at the cusp of a Post-Punk revival in the British charts, are staunchly part of a Hero Generation (The Millennials who followed Generation X and are most closely analogous to the GI, or Greatest Generation born c. 1900-1924). Team oriented, optimistic, and usually hard-working, Millennials are often thought have no use for the cynical irony of the Gen X-ers (which irritates Gen X-ers almost as much as being called "Gen X-ers"). They have the sense that they are special and have been brought up for a purpose, which can be seen in the debut single "Formed a Band" which can be found here (well, the album version). Also, note (like T.V. Smith) that Art Brut's lead vocalist Eddie Argos was born just before the technical beginning of this Generation, but is singing to an audience of first cohort Millennials. I think some artists on Generational cusps are the canaries in coal mine who feel the shift as it's happening.

Now contrast the following lyrics with what goes before:

Formed a band
We formed a band
Look at us
We formed a band

Honey pie, I don't know when it started
Just stop buying your albums
from the supermarkets
They only sell things that have charted
And Art Brut?
Well we've only just started

And yes, this is my singing voice
It's not irony
And it's not rock and roll
I'm just talking
To the kids

Formed a band
We formed a band
Look at us
We formed a band

I want to be the boy
The man
Who writes the song
That makes Israel and Palestine
Get along

I'm gonna write a song
As universal as Happy Birthday
That's gonna make sure
That everybody knows
That everything's gonna be ok
I'm gonna take that song
And we're gonna play it
Eight weeks in a row on Top of the Pops

Formed a band
We formed a band
Look at us
We formed a band

Dye your hair black
Never look back
My past is my business
We have two songs about more-or-less the same subject by bands that aren't massively musically dissimilar. But what a difference a generation makes. A specific denouncement of irony (at least the humorless kind), and a bouncy statement that despite their admitted shortcomings, Art Brut (whose very name means, more or less, "Primitive Art") will take the world by storm and solve everyone's problems. The Adverts seems to be saying "You probably will hate us, but screw you, we don't care what you think...much...." Art Brut is saying "You don't know it yet, but we're your new favorite band. And we love that about you." There's a bit of a twist of the knife at the end, but no true darkness pervades this song.

Ultimately, of course, this is just an observation I made while listening to my iPod on shuffle. But it gave this late-cohort Gen X-er (God, I hate that term) some food for thought about two songs he happens to enjoy quite a bit for very different reasons.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Captain America: Man's Man

Or not.

He should punch Hitler. That always makes him feel better.

Cry me a river, Captain Emo.

"A Team Full Of Outlaws"

Another Chip From the TMS Fireball.

Eat your heart out, ChuckDickens... or so the Cubs were dubbed last week by Paul Sullivan of the Tribune.

And I for one, embrace this image. If I can't root for a winning team, at least I can root for an entertaining (and not a little scary one). And let's face it, a team where Ted Lilly, a man who allegedly got into a fistfight with his manager, doesn't even make most fans Top 3 Cubs Hotheads list, is bound to be entertaining.

But outlaws? Well...I suppose if you really want make this judgment, then I suppose the only right way to do it is to compare the Cubs to the True Barometer of All Things Outlaw: 1970s Country.

Well, that's easier said than done, mister. Unless you're one of those responsible-type bloggers who does their research and writes in a timely manner. Which I clearly am not.

But I suppose I should actually earn my keep here, so here goes:

Waylon Jennings
Waylon is one of the true giants of the Outlaw movement, with a solid musical resume and a bad-boy image that belied his down-to-earth nature. So who better than Milton Bradley to personify this? A man with a solid pedigree of above average ballplaying mixed with some rather public moments of...hold it...I'm being informed that I should probably not talk too much about Milton. I might make him angry....

Willie Nelson
Willie is an outlaw in spirit, but his laid back, easygoing (read: stoned) demeanor doesn't fit this current spate of umpire run-ins very well. However, his past run-ins with the IRS and his support for a controversial position on marijauna legalization remind me of a relatively laid back and softspoken Cub with a controversial position on chickens pecking each other to death: Aramis Ramirez. Expect Aramis to appear in Stephen Colbert's manger scene next year, prize rooster in hand.

Johnny Cash
A hipster favorite, even though his true outlaw days were far before this time, Cash is a difficult one to pin down as a Cub. Based on the fact that in the 1970s, Cash was entering a decline that lasted some time, I'm going to cheat and say that it's Derrek Lee. Lee used to be a very good (and for a year, elite) player, and once almost landed a punch on Chris Young (that's like going to Starkville County Jail for picking flowers, I guess). Let's just hope Rick Rubin can engineer a comeback for Lee soon.

Johnny Paycheck
Now here's a real wildman. Paycheck had an awesome run of raw edgy honky-tonk classics in the late 60s, but flew under the mainstream radar until he re-invented himself as an outlaw. And late in his career, Paycheck ended up serving a couple of years in prison for shooting a man in a scuffle. Ted Lilly spent several years as a solid but relatively unnoticed pitcher before reinventing himself as a psychopath for the Cubs blogosphere. And Lilly will no doubt serve a few years in prison if anyone finds the bodies...

Kris Kristofferson
Kristofferson has always been the thinking man's country musician. It's not a well-known fact, but Kristofferson is a Rhodes scholar with a Masters' in English from Oxford. No. Really. He is. But he still manages to exude a sort of gruff, good-ol-boy air that gives him an authentic bad-boy feel. Now, if Greg Maddux was still a Cub, I'd assign him Kristofferson in a second. But since he isn't, the closest thing we have to intellectuals on the team are...well, the Canadians...I guess. I'm putting Ryan Dempster in this role, because Harden is clearly a robot.

David Allan Coe
Now here's where it gets fun. David Allan Coe is immensely talented, immensely self-destructive, and you never know just how much of his crazy is a put-on and how much is just...because there's no doubt he's insane - it's just to what degree? After being released from prison, Coe put out a couple of strange, poetic, blues based art albums about the prison-industrial complex and being a young man in America, then wrote some of the tenderest country love ballads ever. Later he put out two of the most racist and offensive country albums ever made. He's dressed in a mask and rhinestones, in Nudie suits and huge belt buckles, and (most recently) like the scariest white-trash biker grandpa in history. If there is anyone else than Carlos Zambrano who fits this mold, I'd like to hear it.

Merle Haggard
Lou Piniella. I will brook no argument.

George Jones
Like Merle and Cash, he's not technically "Outlaw" country at all, but his carousing days certainly put him on this list. But not as a Cub. His legendary drunken exploits behind the wheel put him squarely in St. Louis, most likely as resident "jeenyus," Tony LaRussa.

Okay, I'm stretching this concept to the breaking. See you in 3 months, when I write my next TMS feature. Special thanks to my fellow bartender Dave Thomas for the photoshop.