Sunday, March 2, 2014

Post No. 100: On freedom and equality, and what happens when they clash

This started off as a Facebook status. I usually try to refrain from getting too political on Facebook, and after typing a few paragraphs, I realized I had a lot more to say on this subject than I originally thought. So I figured why not post it over here on my music blog? Makes perfect sense, right?

Anyway, the whole brouhaha over the recently-vetoed SB 1062 has sparked somewhat of an internal conflict between my rational, libertarian side and my compassionate, egalitarian side. I suppose you could sum up my general philosophy -- both in politics and everyday life -- as "live and let live," so these two sides of me are rarely in conflict. But this bill is unique in the uncomfortable questions it forces us to confront. Most everyone agrees that, at the very least, SB 1062 was an unnecessary law. It was a solution in search of a problem. Even the bill's most ardent supporters grudgingly admitted that there were no cases here in Arizona of business owners being sued (or otherwise chastised or harassed) for turning away business on religious grounds. 

The case most frequently cited in support of SB 1062 was that of a New Mexico photographer being sued for refusing to shoot the commitment ceremony of a gay couple. Now this is where the libertarian side of me starts to get perturbed. As disappointing as it is that homophobia is still very much alive and well in New Mexico, Arizona and every other state in this wacky-ass country, I'm also not too keen on someone getting sued for a having a "sincerely held" religious belief and sticking to it, despite how backwards and behind-the-times said belief might seem to most of the civilized world.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10 albums of 2013

Well, here we are. We made it through the first full calendar year in the wake of Ween's untimely demise, and somehow, against all odds, the music industry managed to not only survive the year 1 A.W., but actually spew out 10 albums worth ranking in a listicle-type thingy. Putting together a year-end top 10 list almost seems quaint by today's standards. In its relatively brief existence, BuzzFeed has already ranked the relative worthiness of just about every item, person or event since the dawn of civilization, up to and including BuzzFeed lists themselves. (At least they have a sense of humor about their utter disregard for journalistic standards, I guess.)

So what's the point of adding yet another list to the shit heap? Well, this happens to be my list, containing my opinions. And my opinions are important. So much so that I usually present them as unassailable fact. Ween was the greatest musical act of all time. Slayer's Reign in Blood is the best 29 consecutive minutes in the history of recorded music. See? Those are most certainly opinions, shared by relatively few others, but I know them in my heart to be true.

It's no coincidence that the people who claim that all music has equal merit and individual taste in music is subjective tend to have the shittiest taste in music. Ultimately, that's why I became a music journalist. Some music is simply superior to other music, and the world needs me (and others like me) to sort it all out for them. Therefore, it is with great pride that I perform my civic duty and unveil my list of the 10 best albums of 2013. Consider this list your definitive, one-stop shop for the best music of 2013, and feel free to leave me a note of thanks in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Joey Bada$$ and Samy Elbanna - two teenagers who will restore your faith in music

Lost Society's Samy Elbanna and Pro Era's Joey Bada$$

I was sitting at a poker table the other day when the conversation turned to music. The guy in the 7-seat was talking about a recent debate he'd had regarding the best 10-year stretch in music history. He was pretty convinced that it was 1965-1974, and nobody was putting up much of an argument. After all, it's hard to argue with an era that includes the prime output of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, CCR and Janis Joplin, just to name a few.

After mulling it over for a bit, I acknowledged that his decade was damn near impossible to top, but that for me, it would probably be 1986-1995. It's a span that saw thrash metal -- and, for better or worse, hair metal -- reach its creative zenith. It also includes the rise and abrupt fall of grunge and the entire "golden era" of hip-hop. Maybe names like Nirvana, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Slayer, the Pixies, Jane's Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, Public Enemy, N.W.A and the Beastie Boys don't quite stack up to the names above, but they're pretty goddamn close.

Not coincidentally, that also happens to be the era when music mattered the most to me. In my teens and early 20s, discovering great new music was pretty much my number one priority, and at the time, there seemed to be an abundance of it. Unfortunately, by acknowledging as much, I'm basically outing myself as one of those annoying old people who always complain about how much better music was "back in the day." I never wanted to become that guy, but what can I say? Everyone gets old eventually, and full-time jobs, mortgage payments, credit card debt and student loans -- and, if I'm being completely honest, poker and video games -- tend to take priority over seeking out cool new bands.

That said, I do still try to make a concerted effort to find awesome new music as time and life allow (and even write about it on occasion). It's probably no surprise, then, that two of my favorite new artists sound like bookends of that glorious '86-'95 era. What is surprising is that neither of them is even old enough to buy a drink.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Top 10 albums of 2012

Well, I've run out of excuses for the absence of my "best albums of 2012" list. It's been 2013 for damn-near two weeks now, so I can't exactly say that I'm waiting for a last-second release to blow my mind. In truth, I've just been lazy in 2012: lazy about writing and lazy about seeking out new music. That's what happens when you're your own editor and you don't give yourself any deadlines or pay yourself jack shit. Suddenly, there are a lot of things more appealing than cranking out another blog post that might get read by 100 people (10 who came here willingly and 90 more who inadvertently stumbled their way here Googling cover art for metal bands).

So yeah, I admit it. I've been a lazy journalist this year, to the point that when I got an email from the Village Voice asking for my annual contribution to their Pazz & Jop poll, I worried that I'd even be able to come up with 10 albums worth ranking. Thanks to some 11th-hour cramming on iTunes and Spotify, that turned out not to be the case. After all was said and done, I still had to make some tough choices. Quality albums by the likes of Meshuggah, Brother Ali, The Sword, Fen, Testament, Goatwhore and Japandroids all narrowly missed the cut.

My list is pretty heavy on the heavy again this year. What can I say? I'm a metalhead, damnit. If you were expecting a paean to the brilliant artistry of Frank Ocean, you've stumbled onto the wrong blog. So for better or worse, here are my 10 favorite albums of 2012. If you love my picks or hate them, please leave a comment below. We journalists (professional or otherwise) thrive on internet comments, even those of the "ur writing is teh suck, plz die soon" variety.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fruit Roll-Ups, rice crackers and whiskey: How I lost 50 pounds without exercise

Chubster author Martin Cizmar, before and after losing 100 lbs.
Sorry for the non-music post, but it looks as if Fat Kid vs. Fit Kid isn't much longer for this world, so I figured I'd compile all my dieting posts over here so they're all in one place. For those of you who don't know, I started a diet on April 2 of this year and, over the course of four months, lost about 50 pounds. I owe a great deal of my success to Martin Cizmar, my former editor at Phoenix New Times and the author of Chubster: A Hipster's Guide to Losing Weight While Staying Cool. While I'm not a hipster and I never really fancied myself as particularly "cool" to begin with, Cizmar's book and his own remarkable weight loss were an inspiration to me, and I'm happy to report that the Chubster plan flat-out works. I managed to lose all that weight without so much as a regular exercise routine.

If you're interested in discovering how you can lose a significant amount of weight via simple calorie counting, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy of Martin's book. To find out how I did it, read on. I've added an epilogue at the end, since I never really wrote a proper ending to this tale. Enjoy and happy counting!