Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Dead To Me

Dead To Me
African Elephants
Fat Wreck

Dead To Me is back—and lacking in so many ways. For starters, singer and founding member Jack Dalrymple is notably (and very painfully) absent. Secondly, the pensive, captivating approach to ingenious song writing that so permeated its first two albums, Cuban Ballerina and Little Brother, has been completely scrapped in favor of a bland and unimaginative attempt to mature musically. Thirdly, the members of Dead To Me were great at being Dead To Me, but when they distance themselves from their previous efforts in a vein attempt to rip off the Clash, they inevitably sound like a bad Clash rip off. And that’s a shame, because Dead To Me was by far the best new political punk rock band of the 00s.

It’s tough to know where to begin explaining the dullness of this record. It starts with the mediocre reggae/dub tune “X,” a deliberate attempt to exhume the musical imagination of Joe Strummer. The second song—and high point of the disc if there is one—is “Modern Muse,” a catchy pop-punk tune that almost nods to the group’s inspired past. After that, however, it’s one forgettable number after the next. The worst crime of the album has to be “California Sun,” a ditty that nearly caricatures a bad Sublime tune and begins with the line, “Last night I got so high, I finally forgot your name.” This is Dead To Me? What happened to lyrics like, “I’ve got no reaction / Every action’s true” and “Cathode rays to entertain the good wage slaves”? (sigh) Hopefully African Elephants will forever be known as the “Bring Jack Back” album, and the next recording will demonstrate an actual process of musical growth and development instead of one so undoubtedly forced.

(And just for the record, I feel horrible about giving this band a bad review. Not only did I drive from Denver to Fort Collins to see them, but I was truly glad I did. They played good old fashioned political punk with heart and they had a great sense of humor about themselves. And they were the coolest, most laid back people on the face of the earth. I really love these guys. Really. I listen to their first two records daily, as I've done for the past several months. That's why I take this album so personally. It was a letdown on so many levels...)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

As I Had Tried to Explain Multiple Times to Eileen

By nate stone.

Scenario One:
As I had tried to explain multiple times to Eileen, my ex-girlfriend, I have never been one for conversation. Having been born with the rudimentary brain stem of a komodo dragon, I was prone to violent fits of rage and urinating in corners to mark territory. Our typical conversations were generally something like this:

EILEEN: How was your day today?
ME: Rarrgh. Mmmph.
EILEEN: Every day it’s “rarrgh mmmph” with you. Is it that painful to talk to me?
ME: BLLARCH! Rrrmphrgh. [soft, crisp sound of my chewing the laquered pine of the end table]
EILEEN: Well, if that’s how you feel about it. Why is it so hard to open up to me? Is it some sort of macho-dominance thing?
ME: Grgglmpfsh.
EILEEN: It’s like I don’t know you anymore.
ME: I think we should see other people.

Luckily for me, Eileen was usually distracted by a large puddle of fresh urine in the middle of her fresh laundry or slowly creeping darkly up the side of a new pair of thigh-high alligator skin boots before the fight became serious. This is how our relationship lasted for a year and a half: she would become angry at my guttural exclamations or my tendency to sweat profusely while sunning on top of her silk delicates, and then forget about it while spending the next hour desperately trying to avoid piss-stains on the top of her Scandinavian-designed modernist kitchen table. Now that was love.

Scenario Two:

As I had tried to explain multiple times to Eileen, my ex-girlfriend, I have never been one for conversation. Having developed Tourette’s Syndrome and a rare form of narcolepsy triggered by Scandinavian furniture, I was prone to spouting horrifying streams of obscenities and then falling into REM sleep at the sight of an Ikea catalog. Our typical conversations were generally something like this:

EILEEN: How was your day today?
ME: Fuckshit. Bitch cock ramsucker.
EILEEN: Every day it’s “Fuckshit bitch cock ramsucker” with you. Is it that painful to talk to me?
ME: TIT LICKER! Groin-pull bastard fuck!
EILEEN: Well, if that’s how you feel about it. Why is it so hard to open up to me? Is it some sort of macho-dominance thing?
ME: Suckshitcocksucker.
EILEEN: It’s like I don’t know you anymore.
ME: I think we should see other people.

Luckily for me, Eileen was an obsessed devotee of Scandinavian furniture, and it was usually a only a matter of seconds before I would spot the spare, clean lines of some new coffee table she had just brought into the apartment and instantaneously fall into a deep sleep before the fight became serious. This is how our relationship lasted for a year and a half: she would become angry at my casual obscene references to her mother’s anatomy during some high-profile work party, and then forget about it while riding in the ambulance with me after I had split my skull open after falling, unconscious, on the modernist corner of a Vërgënsøøten bookshelf. Now that was love.

Scenario Three:
As I had tried to explain multiple times to Eileen, my ex-girlfriend, I have never been one for conversation. Having been born without vocal cords, or, for that matter, a functional intestinal tract, I was typically silent and/or in the midst of tremendous stomach pain. Our typical conversations were generally something like this:

EILEEN: How was your day today?
ME: -
EILEEN: Every day it’s “I was born with vocal cords, or, for that matter, a functional intestinal tract” with you. Is it that painful to talk to me?
ME: -
EILEEN: Well, if that’s how you feel about it. Why is it so hard to open up to me? Is it some sort of macho-dominance thing?
ME: -
EILEEN: It’s like I don’t know you anymore.
ME: [Writing on dry-erase board hung around my neck] I think we should see other people.

Luckily for me, Eileen was usually distracted by my bowels exploding like Mount Vesuvius across her Scandinavian-designed corner set which functioned as both wet-bar and bidet before the fight became serious. This is how our relationship lasted for a year and a half: she would become angry at my bowels leaking their half-digested contents across her Spartan, modernist black-and-chrome house, and then become even angrier when I wouldn’t talk to her about it. Now that was love.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: The Inactivists

Love Songs & Other Songs About Love

Have you ever wondered what would happen if They Might Be Giants started a high-energy funkish bar-rock outfit? They might just release an album entitled Love Songs & Other Songs About Love and call themselves The Inactivists. Just like the Giants, this Denver five-piece sings jocular songs about randomness. Unlike the Giants, The Inactivists embellish their words with a danceable, lively soundtrack that features an assortment of instruments—everything from accordion and theremin to ukulele and saxophone. Tracks like the folk/country “Song for Gary Glitter,” the disturbingly funky “Why (Aren’t You (In Love (With Me)))?” and the hilariously entitled reggae send-up “Lock Jah” demonstrate the band’s proclivity to write musically precise scores with absurdly witty lyrics. But make no mistake, even in the groups wackiest moments, it takes its unseriousness* very seriously. Like most of its contemporaries in the weirdo-core scene, The Inactivists are much more fun live. Regardless, Love Songs manages to be both manic and tranquil, catchy and atonal, and full of love and hate. It’s a folk-funk-rock journey into the psyche of five musically-endowed, neurotic nerds.

Other Highlights: the lovely jingle “The Last Song,” the even lovelier bonus track “Bonus Track,” and the insanely catchy honky-tonk ditty “Take Me Back”

*Might not be a word

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Not All Your Enemies are Nazis

(Originally appeared in Lubricated Magazine)
By Brian Polk

It seems that in these dark days of political discourse, you’re either on my side or you’re a horrible person; and there is absolutely no middle ground. From animal rights activists to pro-lifers, from uneducated Fox News-watchers to indignant anarcho-punks, it really doesn’t matter what your political spectrum happens to be. Any way you slice it, your enemies are very, very bad people. And since atrocities like the Spanish Inquisition, slavery, and Stalin’s Great Purge have long been forgotten, ignored, or rewritten as “not as bad as they seem,” the terrible scoundrels that disagree with you have to be in cahoots with a group of bad people that will never be forgotten: The Nazis.

But listen: Not everyone who conflicts with your rigid ideology is a Nazi. Sure it’s tempting, shocking even, to associate your philosophical opposites to the far-right German political group that seized power in the 1930s, sent millions to die in the death camps, and killed millions more on the battlefields of WW2—a war that they were more than happy to provoke when they invaded Poland. And yes, it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of overly-emotional, hyperbolic-spewing talk show hosts that have a vested interest in ignoring the truth and fanning the flames of hatred by actively promoting salivating finger pointing. But come on, there has to be a better way. Is it really impossible to quell our emotions and ground our opinions in rationality? What ever happened to intellectual debate anyway?

These days, you can’t sit down to a discussion and reflect on the facts in a coherent, balanced manner. It’s terrible that this type of civility is nonexistent. And if you don’t agree with that, you might as well worship Hitler, you fascist, authoritarian, power-mongering heartless dastard. Why don’t you just kill millions of people? Because that’s what creeps like you are apt to do, isn’t it? YOU’RE WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY!!!

Ahem. You’ll have to excuse the outburst; I get very emotional about these things.

Digressions aside, below are just a few groups of people that just don’t know how to debate rationally. They rely on emotionally-charged, mouth-foaming accusations that take facts out of context and shun the greater truth. They aim at the heart and forget about the mind. And worst of all, they equate all dissenters to Nazis—who ironically, attempted to eliminate all dissenters. Weird, huh?

Pro-lifers: Obama = Nazi

According to a haphazardly cropped photograph on the Conservative Christian News website, President Barack Obama is just like Hitler because Obama loves “killing unborn babies.” Of course abortion procedures and the act of killing Jews go hand-in-hand, right? Not according to Hitler, who actually banned abortion in Nazi Germany. But we’re not going for facts here, are we? We’re trying to shock people into blindly hating an African-American president that Hitler would have detested for his darker-than-Aryan skin pigmentation. But I suppose I’m splitting hairs.

Left Wingers: Bush = Nazi
(Type, “Bush = Hitler” into Google and you’ll have a lot to choose from)

So I’m no fan of Bush either, but he didn’t send millions of Jews and other non-desirables to die in concentration camps. And he didn’t invade Poland; he invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. (It’s totally different…) Besides, at least one of the worst presidents in the history of the U.S. slightly redeemed himself by significantly expanding aid to Africa and appointing minorities into his cabinet. Hitler definitely didn’t do either of those things.

PETA: Meat Eaters = Nazis

In 2003, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a “Holocaust On Your Plate” ad campaign that linked meat eaters to Hitler and company. While I agree with PETA that factory farming has absolutely no redeeming qualities and cannot be defended based on its treatment of workers, animals, and the environment, this campaign is a misguided attempt to shock and appall. When you use tactics like this, it totally degrades the purity of the message because you just can’t bully people into agreement by insulting them. Frenzied finger pointing will never get you very far in the culture wars. (If it did, I would be pro-life by now. And obviously, I’m not. Even after bearing witness to huge billboards featuring dismembered fetuses, I am still, and will always be, pro-choice.)

Ward Churchill: Americans who died in 9/11 = Little Eichmanns
(Again, type “Little Eichmanns” into Google and be amazed at the choices)

Ward Churchill didn’t invent the phrase “Little Eichmann,” but he sure popularized it with his essay, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” The people in the twin towers, claimed Churchill, weren’t innocent because they played an integral part, however small, in the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians caused by U.S. sanctions. His premise is that Adolph Eichmann and good German civilians—who may not have actively participate in mass killings—didn’t raise a finger to prevent their fellow citizens from being slaughtered by Nazis in their own backyards, and therefore, are culprits in the crimes. He casually ignores the fact that U.S. citizens are a bit different. The latter remained largely and quite deliberately in the dark about destructive policies being wrought around the globe in their names. Had the media inundated American television sets with dying children the way they did during the Vietnam War, I’d like to think people would have a different reaction. “Blissfully unassuming folks,” would have been a better phrase than “Little Eichmanns.” But of course, Churchill definitely wasn't going for anything near a rational approach to the events of 9/11. Come to think of it, when the towers came down, no one offered close to a coherent explanation (except for the usually satirical The Onion:

Peter Gibbons: Bosses = Nazis

“You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear,” says Peter Gibbons, in the movie Office Space. He was referring to the obnoxious uniform his girlfriend, Joanna, had to wear at her job. The quote perfectly illustrates how far we’re willing to go to discredit our ideological opposites—or, in this case, the folks who casually inconvenience our daily routines. Aside from bosses, I’ve heard the term “Nazi” applied to principals, toll booth operators, police officers, concert promoters, right wing talk show hosts, left wing talk show hosts, communists, socialists, anarchists, capitalists, libertarians, centrists, white folks, black folks, Hispanics, gays, straights, vegans, ranchers, bloggers, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, jocks, nerds, dictators, freely elected leaders, rednecks, liberals, conservatives, and pretty much anyone and everyone who has a pulse.

Even though I strongly recommend against it, you can say it about anyone:

“A lot of the Nazis woke up early in the morning. You have to be at work at 7 a.m. What, pray tell, does that make you?”

“Nazis had birthdays. You have a birthday, you damned Nazi!”

“Hitler got his haircut. You cut your hair every few weeks. Nazi.”

“The Nazis ate food, lived in houses, and wore clothes. Since you do all these things, you must be quite fond of national socialism.”

It's easy. Too easy in fact. It's intellectual indolence. George Orwell once said of fascism, "All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword." I would say the same thing about the word “Nazi.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Denver Scene Report: Sarah’s Failin’ and the Death Panel Make-Believes

By Brian Polk

Sarah’s Failin’ and the Death Panel Make-Believes

SFatDPMB may have one of the longest names in punk rock, but they make up for it with exceedingly short songs. Formerly known as Hope Mongering in the Face of Eight Disastrous Years, (and before that, Bush Fisters) these Denver rabble-rousers have altered their moniker eight times in their five-year history. “We change our name every time society takes a shit,” says the group’s singer Jerry “Face-fucker” Stevens. “And let’s face it, we’ve had a massive case of diarrhea ever since Reagan took office.” After releasing its 2004 debut 7-inch, War Bacon is Fattening the Rich, the sneering 3-piece vowed to stir the political sauce with four-chorded songs that never top the two-minute mark. “We’re not pretentious art-rockers,” scoffs Stevens when asked about his unornamented song-writing approach. “How could you be, in this fucked up country?” Nine 7-inches and an oppressive American regime later, the group still has plenty to be mad about—even without its pubic enemy number one, George W. Bush—as evidenced with its latest effort, Tea-Bags of Hate.

Petty Complaints Corner (October/November)

By Brian Polk

Dear Petty Complaints Corner,
I’m a first time writer, long time reader, and I need help! I was at work the other day when one of my co-workers, “Susan,” called in sick. Since she seemed fine the day before, I was convinced that she was faking it and told my supervisor that Susan might be lying about the premise for her paid day off. My supervisor told me to mind my own business and just forget about the whole thing. But because I am a cold-hearted, terrible person, I simply cannot forget about it. Should I continue to let my unfounded resentment and petty jealousy eat me up inside? Or should I go over my supervisor’s head and tell his supervisor about it?
—Prying In Tin Town

Dear PITT, You are indeed a cold-hearted, terrible person. Here’s what you should do: Call in sick tomorrow, relax in the tub with a good book, and try not to spend your time worrying about the fact that your co-workers may have lives outside of work. It’s just a job, you know; It's not your life. You shouldn’t get wrapped up in something as stupid and insignificant as a career. And don’t tell your supervisor’s supervisor. That’s a total jerk-move. Atom and His Package has a song called, “Mission 1: Avoid Job Working With Assholes.” It really should be, “Mission 1: Don’t Be An Asshole At Work.”


Dear Petty Complaints Corner,
My girlfriend sometimes chats with her ex-boyfriend on the phone. Every time she laughs at one of his jokes, I fantasize about beating the shit out of him. Should I beat the shit out of him? I mean, what if she makes up some sort of excuse about going to the movies with her friends and they end up sleeping together?
—Jealous In Castle Rock

Dear JICR, I would knock it off. In fact just the other day, I was talking to my ex-girlfriend over the phone—telling jokes and just totally cracking her up. Her jealous boyfriend was within earshot and ended up getting really upset. In fact, he pissed her off so much that she made up some excuse about going to the movies and came over and had sex with me. As unlikely as it seems, this very thing could happen to you.


Dear Petty Complaints Corner,
I am a taxpayer, damn it. And because I’m a taxpayer, I don’t like this socialist president of ours giving all my money to people who need it more than me. I have things I want to buy, damn it! And here this fascist president of ours goes and takes MY money! As a feller who pays his taxes, I sure as hell don’t want to help people with their medical bills. I got my own inadequate health coverage from my employer. And since I have mine, screw everyone else! (MERICA!) I was going to buy another flat screen TV for the guest bathroom, and now I’ll have to wait until next paycheck! Why? Because our Muslim president wants to punish taxpayers like me by taking my hard-earned money and giving it to his Muslim friends. A taxpayer like me shouldn’t have to put up with this Nazi president of ours. A taxpayer like me has rights. Taxpayer!
—Madly, Angrily Shelling Out Cash Hoards in St. Tammany

Dear MASOCHIST, everyone pays taxes, not just you. And plenty of taxpayers aren’t mean-spirited, radically selfish jerks like yourself. Let me remind you of a couple of things: (1) You reserved your fiscal judgment when Bush started two different trillion dollar wars that were responsible for wreacking havoc on sovereign nations and killing hundreds of thousands of people. (2) Then when Obama proposed spending nearly a trillion on actually helping people (and not killing them), you began your campaign of shouting semi-coherent, poorly researched claims at town hall meetings throughout the country. Even though I respect the fact that our constitution allows you to voice your opinion, I have absolutely no respect for how you’ve chosen to exercise that right. You harbor bigoted opinions that stand in glaring contrast to an ideology that was flawed at the onset. Hunter S. Thompson once criticized Bush voters by saying: “They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character.” This sentiment obviously applies to the Glen Beck/Sarah Palin followers who made it a point to deny folks the right to health care. What a fucking terrible way to go down the history books.


Dear Petty Complaints Corner,
Ever since my neighbor bought a new BMW 7-Series, I’ve been feeling inadequate. Should I go out and buy one to assuage my envy?
—Idolizing Dumb Inventions Over Tampa

Dear IDIOT, seriously? If you’re thinking a possession (like an exclusive pair of shoes or laptop or phone or, in this case, car) will bring you instant respect, you are sorely mistaking. All a BMW proves is that you’re a sucker for paying way too much for a car. Give your money to charity if you want respect.


Send us your petty complaints:, or by mail: P.O. Box 100263, Denver, CO 80250

Saturday, October 31, 2009


By Nate Stone

1) A chaotic-evil level 106 druid with +32 charisma who leads a well-financed PAC of orcs.

2) A dashing pirate forever exiled to roam the seas for a rash mistake he made as a young and foolhardy junior senator.

3) An itinerant gypsy intent on kidnapping Glenn Beck’s family and selling them into white slavery, using the proceeds to pay for teenagers’ abortions.

4) The pupal form of a beautiful gypsy moth, which, by law, must select the head of the Federal Reserve when full grown by gracefully alighting on the chosen person’s shoulder.

5) King of the Blacks.

6) A pock-marked, pimply Burger King employee who commands the entire U.S. military on his smoke breaks.

7) A Lucha Libre wrestler named “El Presidente,” whose signature finishing move is drowning his opponent in dollar bills appropriated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

8) Bono, or maybe the Edge.

9) A smooth-talking door-to-door salesman intent on selling Glenn Beck’s frail and confused grandmother a 1,200-page health care reform plan hidden inside a set of Tupperware that will melt into a deformed, pastel mess on the first day warmer than 80 degrees.

10) An international dancehall star who’s song “Up In Them Pants (Earmark Me)” was voted #1 Summer Jam of 2008 by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

11) Strom Thurmond.

12) A sexier, smarter, funnier, much more likeable version of himself -- one that doesn’t cry so much.

* “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy—over and over and over again—who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, white culture, I don’t know what it is…I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. He has…this guy, I believe, is a racist.”
—Glenn Beck, Fox and Friends, July 28, 2009

Checked Out: October/November

Items I borrowed from the library this month
By Brian Polk

Letting Go Of God
By Julia Sweeny
(Audio CD)
“All these people were walking to church, holding their Bibles,” says Julie Sweeny in her masterpiece monologue, Letting Go Of God, “and I wanted to roll down the window and say, ‘Have you read that book? I mean, really?’” In her provocative one-woman show, the former Saturday Night Live actress (remember the androgynous Pat?) depicts her journey from curious Catholic to unassuming atheist—all of which began innocently enough when she decided she was actually going to read the Bible for the first time as an adult. What she discovered surprised and frightened her: Apparently one can justify hatred, war, slavery, sexism, or any number of humanity’s worst ills by citing passages in the Bible. Want to rape your father? Well, if Lot’s daughters are your role model, you might as well. Want to murder your progeny? That’s what God demanded of Abraham; who knows when he’ll come knocking for you. Is your mother giving you problems? Tell her to fuck off—since, according to Sweeny, that’s exactly what Jesus did: “And then there’s family,” she says. “I have to say that for me, the most deeply upsetting thing about Jesus is his family values—which is amazing when you think how there are so many groups out there that say they base their family values on the Bible…[Jesus] puts his mother off cruelly over and over again. At the wedding feast he says to her, ‘Woman, what have I to do with you?’ And once while he was speaking to a crowd, Mary waited patiently off to the side to talk to him. And Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Send her away. You are my family now.’” After being appalled by all of the book’s crazy laws and unethical behavior, Sweeny eventually drops the bombshell on the Bible’s very premise: “Why would a God create people so imperfect, then blame them for their own imperfections, then send his son to be tortured and executed by those imperfect people to make up for how imperfect people were and how imperfect they inevitably were going to be? I mean, what a crazy idea.” And so, since she couldn’t find God in the bible, Sweeny embarks upon a mission to find Him elsewhere. She travels to the East to find God in Buddhism. She travels to the Galapagos Islands to find God in nature. Eventually she has an epiphany while scrubbing her bathtub: Maybe God is nowhere. Of course, her blasphemous conclusion has very real consequences with her parents and community, which Sweeny describes with her character wit and humor. By far the most thoughtful, beautiful, varyingly dramatic and hilarious sentiment on the subject, Letting Go Of God is commonsense atheism that adapts none of the dogma or smug self-satisfaction that’s commonly associated with mainstream non-belief. It’s a denial of God with compassion and contemplation. And that’s damn good news.

Youth In Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp

By C.D. Payne
The only thing that’s unique about Nick Twisp is his intelligence. That is, he uses polysyllabic words and breezes through his classes at his public high school. Everything else about Nick Twisp is pretty unremarkable: He’s an American teenager with a hard-on, a face full of acne, and an unrelenting obsession to raise hell and lose his virginity. He lives in Oakland, California, with his single, neurotic mother and a cavalcade of her replaceable boyfriends. His ultra-competitive, BMW-driving dad lives with his 19-year-old girlfriend across town. And along with his friend Lefty, Twisp seems to be in a perpetual state of boredom. And then fate intervened. When a business deal turns sour for Jerry, one of his mom’s boyfriends, Twisp accompanies his parent and her lover to a mobile home camp. There he meets a gorgeous young female intellectual named Sheeni. What follows is a string of events that are impossibly awkward, hilarious, and law defying. It’s a coming-of-age story that relies on all the tired contrivances of horny teenagers, but it completely redeems itself by refreshingly never losing focus of all of the inevitable clumsiness and embarrassing discomfort that comes with raging hormones. Although tortuous in length—the book is 499 pages—the soap-opera complexity and sheer ridiculousness of the plot coupled with the protagonist’s radical veraciousness completely consume its reader, forcing the increased fleetness of eager page-turning until the book’s unfulfilled conclusion. And apparently, the film version of this story stars Michael Cera and will be out some time in 2010. If they remain loyal to the novel, there’s a strong possibility that it could be palatable. Of course, that quite literally remains to be seen.

By Kurt Vonnegut
Walter F. Starbuck is a man who wears a lot of hats: he’s been a communist, Harvard student, Nixon’s special advisor on youth affairs, vice-president of the RAMJAC corporation, and of course, jailbird. His memoir, Jailbird, recounts all the details of his storied life, from his service as a civilian employee of the Defense Department after World War Two to his role in the Watergate affair (which was minimal to say the least). Though this political fiction is not one of Vonnegut’s more famous works, it ranks among his best. Dense in plot and heavy on details, the prose ties actual historical events—the trial and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Watergate scandal—into greater themes of communism and the labor movement in typical Vonnegut fashion. Like just about everything else he’s written, Jailbird is enlightening, heartening, and a great way to spend a string of quiet evenings.

Are You Experienced
By The Jimi Hendrix Experience
This is an essentially unessential Hendrix album. (How many more times do you really need to hear “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” or “Fire?”) Still, like every “classic rock” band, the non-hits are still worth a listen. “Third Stone From The Sun,” is a sprawling, jazz-fusion tune replete with effects and sections of spoken word. “Can You See Me”—the titular track of the group’s first album—and the blues cut “Red House” similarly never received much airplay and are subsequently worth lending an ear to. Are You Experienced is a CD that I would never consider buying—mainly because I have all this material on vinyl, but more specifically because you can hear most of the songs on FM radio. Thank goodness there are still places to get free music legally.


By Nate Stone (1-13) and Brian Polk (14-35)

1) The sun producing light and warmth
2) Firefighters putting out fires for anyone who just calls them
3) True love
4) Ribbons on kittens
5) Non-banquet beers
6) Raising the price of the Moons Over My Hammy sandwich at Denny’s
7) The designated hitter rule
8) Libraries handing out books for free
9) Improper moustache care
10) Free unicorn rides
11) Eating lunch
12) Babies
13) Tacos
14) Dignity for anyone who makes less than $25,000 a year
15) Facts
16) Orgasms
17) Anyone who has overheard too much Spanish
18) Pre-menopausal women
19) All government health care (except for Medicare)
20) Anyone who (rightfully/obviously) claims Medicare is a public option
21) Everyone from ages 18-55
22) Hope
23) Non-Sinatra singers
24) Unwholesome acts, such as urination
25) Poor people who don’t pay enough taxes to cover the costs of systematically oppressing themselves
26) Bicyclists
27) Red lights—especially when they’re running late
28) Boners
29) Pronouncin’ words like a damned book-readin’ smarty-pants
30) All of Jesus’ Biblical quotes against the rich
31) All of Jesus’ Biblical quotes about loving thy neighbor
32) All of Jesus’ Biblical quotes about helping the poor and sick
33) The Sermon on the Mount
34) Pretty much everything Jesus ever said about anything
35) Gravity

Because Tasteless, Mean-spirited Halfwits Need a Voice Too

By Brian Polk

Yesterday I had the unfortunate experience of stumbling upon the worst fucking website I've ever seen in my life. The e-tripe that this site peddles is beyond reproach. It's an insult to every intelligent, open-minded, unique-culture-appreciator that values the appropriate capitalization of words.

It all started when I wanted to see what was going on at Denver's Hi-Dive on a Friday evening. So I googled "Hi-Dive Denver" and sure enough, the South Broadway venue's site came up. However, what appeared just below the website I intentionally googled was this piece of shit I couldn't believe existed:

For those web surfers fortunate enough to have never e-stumbled upon the pettiness and downright bullshit that pervades every virtual inch of the site, commissions curmudgeonly simpletons to write half-formed, utterly shitty reviews for free. The result is what you might expect from such a venture: Trashy crap that a third-grader could write. I'm not sure whose idea it was to give a voice to semi-literates with the absolute worst taste in culture, but it has to be among the worst ideas in the history of the internet. reviewers can't spell. They've never been taught punctuation (talk about a haunting indication that our under-funded public schools are failing our kids). They use their silly little text acronyms to talk shit about Denver's most integral mom-and-pop venues.

For example, a reviewer known as "Cory B" wrote the following about the Hi-Dive:

"love hi-dive but that dj jason heller needs to leave the attitude and billy joel at the door. i dont really care that you write for the onion, that may have been cool about ten years ago. i have to question mr heller's musical integrity since he prefers billy joel to siouxsie and the banshees, i mean really? do i need to be writing about this? unbelievable."

I didn't dip-shit up this review to make the writer look stupid. These are her unedited, small-minded thoughts about the Hi-Dive and my friend, Jason Heller. Yes, really is this bad. As much as I tried to ignore this piece of shit review, I couldn't let it go: First of all, this personal attack on Jason is totally unwarranted, inaccurate, and mean-spirited. He was playing Billy Joel because it was an 80s-themed dance night. Second, I wouldn't question his musical integrity until you listen to all the bands he has played in. And third, why would you insult his choice of careers? That's some personal shit the reviewer should have left at the door.

But it gets worse. My favorite store in the history of stores, Wax Trax Records, doesn't escape the wrath of half-wits either. Here's how one reviewer "Daniel A" puts it:

"Overrated. Dirty. Disorganized...Yeah, wow, they have independent music. Too bad you feel gritty when you leave. When you're done looking bored and ironic maybe you could think about putting the CDs in a discernible order...I just hurt my eyes rolling them so hard."

This review sounds like it came from someone's cantankerous grandpa. It reminds me of that customer from the movie/book High Fidelity who walks into the store and asks for "I Just Called to Say I Love You." And I have the same response for this straight-laced CD shopper: Go to the mall. Aren't you supposed to feel gritty when you leave a record store? Isn't it an integral part of the whole experience of buying music? If it's not, it should be.

I could scan the e-pages of for hundreds more unimaginative, simple-minded reviews, but I'm not a masochist. I just hope that the site's readership is limited to all the cretins that write for it. If anyone ever began taking that shit seriously, the best, quirky, weirdly-inspiring vestiges of our culture would be snubbed for DJs that play nothing but snob rock and record shops that look like Starbucks. And they would be reviewed by semi-literates that butcher the English language with self-congratulating, snarky write-ups that appeal to the dumbest among us.

I guess for all the internet's greatest advancements in the areas of porn and communication, it's going to have its warts. And is a wart the size of Jupiter.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hit Counter Added to Blog Page...

A magnificent hit counter was added to the YR blog page in order to keep track on just how many people read this e-tripe. So let it be known that as of October 9, 2009, we are keeping tabs on you.

Click on the title of this blog post and watch as the counter keeps up with you. Isn't technology amazing?

Another Advertisement

Click here to buy a copy of The Best of Yellow Rake book

And click here to buy a copy of Brian's other book, Turning Failure Into Ideology

Brian's New Band...

Brian has a new band, Joy Subtraction. Go ahead and befriend them on Myspace...

Checked Out: August/September

Items I borrowed from the library this month
By Brian Polk

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University
Kevin Roose
Kevin Roose is a brave man. First of all, he committed four months of his Quaker liberal life to attend Liberty University—a school founded and administered by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Second, he approached the semester with minimal trepidation and an incredibly open mind. Thirdly, he fit in seamlessly with the sober, virgin, born-again, mostly right wing student body. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface: He also sang in the choir at Falwell’s twenty-thousand-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, went on coffee dates with Christian girls, relentlessly prayed, and even interviewed the man himself, Jerry Falwell. Through it all, he comes to realize that born-again Christians (for the most part) aren’t the frothing-at-the-mouth, gay-bashing intolerants they’re portrayed to be. In fact, they were just confused kids at the end of adolescence trying to figure it all out. The Unlikely Disciple offers a sufficient introduction to the beliefs and habits of right-wing Christian soldiers in training. It’s always nice to get a dose of perspective—even if it’s a perspective with which you could never, ever sympathize.

What Would Jesus Buy?
Rob VanAlkemade (Director)
When I first saw a trailer for this movie a few years ago, I thought anti-consumerism was finally breaking into the mainstream. Of course as history has proven, the film didn’t make much of a dent—especially since our economy is still based on filling our unaffordable houses with unnecessities (just made that word up). What Would Jesus Buy? follows Reverend Billy and his activist troupe, The Church of Stop Shopping, as they travel around the country and enlighten American consumers about the “shopacalypse.” With the parodied ostentation of a Christian choir, the stop shoppers sing anti-shopping hymns to bewildered crowds of frantic bargain hunters. While its humor is biting, the guerrilla tactics probably end up alienating more people than they convert. However, the message is an important one—especially since anti-consumerists (myself included) sometimes need people like Reverend Billy to light a fire under their asses by reminding them to buy coffee from the corner shop instead of from Starbucks. Preaching to the choir has never been so much fun.

Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday
Kurt Vonnegut
For some reason, Breakfast of Champions never really had much of an impact on me—and Vonnegut is among my favorite writers of all time. Listen: Slaughterhouse Five, Timequake, The Sirens of Titan, and Mother Night are some of my favorite books. I’ve read them again and again. But Breakfast of Champions just never piqued my interest long enough for me to finish it. Even the author gave it a “C” when he graded it—along with his other books—in Palm Sunday. But since I listen to books on tape as a matter of course, I figured I’d give it another whirl. And this time around, I finally understood the underlying themes he attempted to convey: the randomness of racism, sexism, and homophobia, the relationship between a writer and his characters, and of course, free will—which is a favorite subject of the author. Still, even though I was able to identify its coherence this time around, I’ll probably file Breakfast of Champions away with other Vonnegut one-timers, like Deadeye Dick, Galapagos, and Hocus Pocus.

The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins
(Audio book)
If you’ve been looking for a coherent rebuttal to every argument made on the behalf of God’s existence, scientist Richard Dawkins wrote a book for you. As you might have guessed, The God Delusion teems with scientific jargon aimed at disproving and ridiculing believers in faith. Reading (or listening to, in my case) the whole thing is a daunting task. However, Dawkins and his wife (who both narrate the audio version) intersperse the dry text with beautifully articulated theses against the delusional belief in God. If you’re still fighting the culture war (read: atheism vs. belief), arming yourself with Dawkins’ arguments is like bringing an atom bomb to a paintball match.

Travels With Charlie
John Steinbeck
Travels With Charlie delivers one of my favorite literary quotes of all time (and one that I felt compelled to put on my Facebook page under “Favorite Quotations”): “I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.” For some reason I went on a John Steinbeck kick a few months back. And I’m glad I did. In Travels With Charlie, the great American author traveled the country with his dog Charlie to reacquaint himself with the pulse of America. It’s insightful, humorous, and a good read before bedtime.

Live At Shea Stadium
The Clash
The Clash is like a home you can always go back to. No matter how many times you foray into strange genres or listen to indie bands for months on end (for me it was Modest Mouse), these innovative punkers always seem to welcome you with open arms. “I see you’ve been listening to nothing but Iron and Wine and The Flaming Lips,” your Clash records tell you with an air of pity. “Why don’t you give us a spin and rejoice in your roots where you know you belong?” “Ahh, that’s better,” you think to yourself after taking your records’ advice. “I feel like my old self again. Thanks.” Needless to say, I love this CD.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review: Little Fyodor

Little Fyodor

Peace is Boring

“What the hell is this?” you’ll ask yourself upon slipping Little Fyodor’s latest effort, Peace is Boring, into your CD player. And it will take several listens before you finally wrap your head around what the hell is going on here. That’s because Little Fyodor perpetrates eclectic music that's reminiscent of awkwardly laughing your way through a really confusing acid trip. The lyrics address several pressing issues facing humanity, such as uncomfortable clothes, hairspray, and as the title suggests, the dullness of peace. The songs range from straight ahead rock to Devo-inspired electro—but they’re all deliberately offensive and strangely strange in that punk rocking kind of way. As a whole, Peace is Boring rails against a culture that takes itself way too seriously (you know, the kind of thing that punks used to be really good at). And Little Fyodor is a type of prophet with a simple message: Life is too short not to have fun. So why not write a song called “Fuck-a-duck-a-luck-a-luck-a-ding-dong?” At least it makes sense to him.

Definitely recommended.

CELEBRATE LITTLE FYODOR’S CD RELEASE PARTY! (The L.F. live show borders on genius.)

Little Fyodor is releasing Peace is Boring on Friday, October 9 at the Lion’s Lair. The Limbs and Ralph Gean are also playing. Go online for more information:

Little Fyodor and Babushka

Lion’s Lair

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rejected Article Ideas

By Brian Polk

Sometimes meetings can be productive, and brilliant ideas flow like urine after a night of cheap beer and melon-flavored kamikazes. Other times meetings are pointless endeavors that bear some of the vilest, most rotten ideas ever imagined my human minds. Below is a list of the latter concepts that thankfully never came to fruition.

Super Drunk Me
Premise: In the vein of Super-size me and Super High Me, we figured we get drunk for a month and document the experience via a sprawling serial article.
Why it didn’t work: We get drunk all month every month, and we more or less document it via this zine. Subsequently we figured we needed an idea with more pizzazz.
Killing quote: “Why don’t we write an article about the effects of listening to punk rock and drinking cheap beer for 30 days? Hell, we might even be able to develop a whole zine on that concept.”

Proclamation Infiltration

Premise: We figured we’d disguise ourselves as sports-loving frat dudes and infiltrate and record the drunken high jinks of Denver’s notorious Lower Downtown bro orgy.
Why it didn’t work: No one wanted to do it.
Killing quote: “No way, I’m not going down there.”

Hot to do What We do
Premise: Who doesn’t like “how to” guides? Pretty much everybody. Still, we considered the prospect of devoting an entire issue to the how-tos and what-nots of making a zine.
Why it didn’t work: After careful consideration, we realized what we did (i.e. making zines) was completely irrelevant. We figured we might as well make a “how to” handbook about changing a typewriter ribbon (which actually would have been covered in the handy zine manual.)
Killing quote: If we’re going to proceed with this idea, “We should probably also teach a journalism class and show kids how to dub cassette tapes.”

Anti-Consumerist Agitprop
Premise: The cavalcade of excessive merchandise and hackneyed advertising continues to eat away at the soul, slowly dissolving any vestige of original thought and artistic merit. Soon we will all be slaves to our fickle desires, wasting our meaningless lives as we work to buy an endless amount of the tacky crap that makes us boring and stupid.
Why it didn’t work: Utilizing an arsenal of comics, articles, and other what-have-yous, we got this area pretty well covered in our past issues.
Killing quote: “Why don’t we hold off on that until next issue…”

Undercover at the Erotic Massage Parlor

Premise: Someone actually pitched the idea to go undercover in an erotic massage parlor and describe in detail what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a “happy ending.”
Why it didn’t work: The day we find someone who wants to read about it, we’ll certainly give it a shot. (Pun not intended. Seriously.) Besides, we didn’t want to give an artistic justification to someone who really just wanted a handjob.
Killing quote: “The Yellow Rake has been described as journalistic masturbation more times than we can count. Let’s not prove them right in such a literal sense.”

You Don’t Have to be a Suit to be an Asshole
Premise: This was going to be an impossibly long article defining and describing all the assholes in our culture.
Why it didn’t work: We make zines not multi-volume encyclopedias.
Killing quote: “Suits may be the biggest assholes, but they’re certainly not alone. Besides, we’d have to include ourselves on this list.”

Shitastic Plastic is not Fantastic
Premise: This was going to be the title of one of our anti-mass-production articles.
Why it didn’t work: We originally cut it for fairly obvious reasons: It’s kind of stupid in a cutesy ironic way, which is the stupidest way to be stupid. However, it did work in a way because we eventually ended up running it.
Living quote: “This doesn’t have to die. Let’s run it in our ‘worst of’ issue along with all the other bullshit we’ve come up with over the years.”

Rejected Article Ideas
Premise: We thought we’d jot down all the horrible ideas we’ve ever concocted in order to amass them in one huge master-piece-of-shit article.
Why it didn’t work: You’re reading it.
Dying quote: Brian: “Let’s never do this again.” Everyone: “Agreed.”

Work: part one, by Nate Stone

Work: part two

Work: Part three

No Money No How

By Brian Polk

You can tell how broke you are by how low you're willing to let your bank account go before you start worrying. Back when I was making the big bucks ($20,000 a year), my brain would swell with anxiety if my account wandered below the $100 mark. During this last year, it was $20. Currently, I have $9.62 in my account and I'm confident that I can get at least another meal out of it before it hits zero. That's because I make no money and I'm poorer than I've ever been in my entire life.

And it's weird, because I'm also happier than I've ever been in my entire life. I'm in a great mood most of the time. I don't totally hate my job (though I do pretty much hate it, which is actually a marked improvement in the story of my life). I don't spend all my time wishing I were dead. I'm listening to all my old punk rock records and loving every minute of them. For once, it feels good to be alive.

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, is it? There’s supposed to be this apparent parallel between money and happiness; that is, if you have an abundance of the former, you will have the latter in spades. My own observations and experience, however, have dictated quite the opposite: the more money I earn, the more I worry about spending it on shit I don’t need. Then I spend it all on shit I don’t need. And I end up with piles of possessions that don’t enhance or benefit my life in any way. Eventually I say to myself, “You make so much money and have all these nice things and you’re still not happy. WTF, dude. WTF.” (Actually this last part isn’t true. I would never speak in acronyms. The rest of the quote is pretty accurate though.)

So we’ve all heard that money doesn’t buy happiness. This sentiment is nothing new. But why do you think more people don’t get the clue?

There is a reason for this, and no one summarizes it better than the author, Kurt Vonnegut. In his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Howard Campbell Jr.—the main character from another of his stories, Mother Night—expounds on why poor Americans always yearn for greener pastures…

"America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves … Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters … Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue … Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times."

So as poor folk, we’re explicitly taught to be ashamed of our economic situation. And since we’re not filthy rich, we are deemed unsuccessful and subsequently we invite the wrath of pity upon ourselves. In our country, only the insanely rich are worthy of wisdom, virtue, and happiness, and everyone else can wallow in their self-inflicted poverty.

Aside from the obvious repercussions that this sentiment breeds—being a “treasure for the rich and powerful,” as Vonnegut puts it—there are other dire consequences. When people hate themselves for being poor, they will do anything to remedy the situation. And in a country where the individual is judged almost exclusively on his/her appearance, we have this thing called credit that can eradicate the shame of supposed indigence by securing all the frivolous “necessities” one could ever desire. Buy it now and pay for it later, future creditors promise. If you don’t have a house, car, fancy clothing, or jewelry? Don’t worry about it. Get yourself a credit card and stimulate that economy now! (Of course, you’ll have to pay it back later with a hefty interest charge…) But what does later have to do with now?

Awhile back, I was listening to an episode of This American Life and a couple of employees from a credit company were discussing the worsening financial situation of a lot of their clients. “We have people that tell us how they’re desperate and have no money,” one of the credit employees said. “And we look at their bank statements and they’re going to PF Changs and Ruby Tuesdays and Starbucks, 7-11. If you go to 7-11 a couple of times a week, that adds up to $50 really fast. But nobody’s thinking about that. They’re not changing their habits to adjust to a reduction in income. Instead of changing habits, they’re changing paying [their bills].”

It’s such a mind fuck. People are willing to dine out and splurge on non-essentials just to save psychological face. “I’m not poor,” they tell themselves. “If I were poor, I wouldn’t be eating out all the time, driving a car I can’t afford, and living in a house with a mortgage that I haven’t paid in months.” It’s pathetic really.

We wouldn’t have this problem if people could just look deep into their empty wallets and say, “You know, even though I can’t afford nice things, at least I’m happy. And to hell with what anyone else has to say about that!”

There’s $9.62 in my account. I ride around town on a bicycle. I live in a modest, easily affordable house. My clothes are disintegrating off my back from overuse. Opting against dining out, I make all my meals for myself. And I feel great about everything.

If wealth were measured by happiness instead of money and material possessions, I’d be among the richest people I know. But since it isn’t, I suppose I’ll have to settle for poor and happy. Either way, it’s a pretty good life.

Review: NOFX

Frisbee (the CD is called Coaster)
LP, Download
Fat Wreck

I dig Fat Mike’s point of view: Religion is for anti-intellectual dimwits (“Blasphemy: The Victimless Crime,” “Best God in Show”). Doing drugs and drinking are both fun (“First Call,” “I Am An Alcoholic”). Conservatives still suck (“Suites and Ladders”). And punk rock should be fast and loud (the whole album). If that’s not a platform you can get behind, I don’t know what is. Frisbee is a NOFX record replete with NOFXy sounding songs and NOFXy style lyrics. In other words, these new songs will in no way take you by surprise. But it’s actually nice to know that the band never felt obligated to reinvent itself (read: no crappy metal albums or shameless appeals to the mainstream). Sure Fat Mike and company isn’t inventing the wheel, but sometimes consistency is an apt punk rock trait.

When Brian Ran For Mayor

By Nate Stone

Brian received exactly two votes, and he didn't even vote for himself. He's considering another run in 2010.

Review: Accordion Crimes

A Higher Quality Version Of This

If you were officiating a game of tug-of-war and at one end Modest Mouse and Built to Spill were tugging viciously against Shellac and Fugazi, you’d have a really shitty metaphor. On the other hand, you’d have an interesting tug-of-war match that refused to leave the CD player. After listening to A Higher Quality Version of This about a hundred times, I have come to accept that Accordion Crimes is a perfect band: its songs are maddeningly catchy, its lyrics thoughtful, its soft/loud dynamics executed with the seamless expertise of bands like Nirvana and the Pixies. The highlight of the disc, “Planes,” has the ability to reach deep within the very core of your soul and demand an emotional response: the intro is melodious and cacophonic at the same time. The drums and bass kick in a minute later like a sack of bricks across the face. The heart-on-the-sleeves lyrics are downtrodden with a shrug of inevitability—the most poignant way to sing the blues. The backbeat swings. The singer sings his fucking heart out. If you’re looking for a new favorite album that will remind you of the late summer of 2009 years from now, find a copy of A Higher Quality Version. If you end up regretting it, I’ll buy you a beer.

It’s all about the Music

By Lorien Nettleton

Some people use their status as rock stars to extort special favors from the world. For a lot of people, it’s about being entitled to special treatment as a star.

For me it’s all about the music

All I can think of while receiving a blowjob from a 17-year-old groupie is how important music is in my life. If it weren’t for music, I would have killed myself long ago. I never would have gotten to do cocaine with David Bowe, or heroine with Thom Yorke.

Yes sir, it is totally about the music. I’m not in it for fame, or for money, or to see how many girls I can tit-fuck in three days (17) while playing back to back shows in Detroit. All I want is to set my soul into a melody.

Each time I cup the pert breast of a woman whose name I will never know, all I can do is sing the praise of the healing power of music. As another woman grinds her tight fishnet-and-mini-dress ass into my groin when I’m relaxing backstage, and two she-males perform mutual fellatio, and coke-filled baggies litter the couch like Easter eggs, I thank my lucky stars that writing songs is my only passion.

I just wish it wouldn't burn when I pee.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pick up a copy of The Best of The Yellow Rake

Hello everybody! If you would like to get a copy of the book, please visit the link below and maybe buy a few records while you're at it.

The Best Of The Yellow Rake at The Vinyl Collective

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Worst Of The Yellow Rake Zine...

Cover by Drew Smith

The Worst of the Yellow Rake zine is available only at the Best of The Yellow Rake book release show. For more information on the whereabouts and what-have-yous of the said release party, scroll down!

Also, we're in the Westword:

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yellow Rake Book Release Party!!!

Huzzah! We are releasing our first ever book, The Best of the Yellow Rake. The release party will take place on Friday, August 28, 2009 at the Larimer Lounge and feature these bands:

The Dicky Jaguar Band
Joy Subtraction
Night of Joy
Two (Brian Polk and George Fraska)

2721 Larimer Street
21+ 8 p.m.

Is it Possible to Have Fun Without Drinking?

By Brian Polk

It seems no matter what I’m doing, I generally find a way to incorporate the sauce. Work, school, watching television, writing, bathing, eating—I’ve been drunk through almost all of life’s activities. Of course, there comes a point in everyone’s life—whether it’s the morning following a 13-day binge, or the day after turning 28—when he or she stumbles upon a query: Must I rely on alcohol in order to have fun? To hoards of folks in their twenties, the answer is an unequivocal yes. But there’s a fine line between using the hooch as an enabler and using it as a crutch. And if you find yourself drunkenly stumbling all over this line, perhaps it’s time to consider the alternatives—because there are ways to have fun without drinking. There just has to be, right?

Just for the sake of convincing myself that there is in fact sober fun to be had, I came up with a few activities for the aspiring teetotalers:

1. Disregard Social Regulations. People drink to blur the parameters of socially acceptable behavior. They’re fed up with the cultural dictates that limit them to speaking with an inside voice, not drooling all over themselves, and refraining from atonal Journey sing-alongs at one in the morning. In this sense, alcohol is a great liberator. However, once you realize the societal commandments that govern fashion, manners, and mores are pretty much random bullshit, you won’t need 15 cocktails to make you feel better about tying a tie to your head and yelling incoherently as you burn up the dance floor with a crappy rendition of the hustle. Personally constructing your own notions of what passes as acceptable behavior is the first step to merriment without the booze. After all, you certainly won’t be kicked out of the club for acting goofy around hordes of drunkards.

2. Play Some Games. I remember telling a story about how a group of friends and I got so drunk we decided to play hide-and-seek at four in the morning. About halfway through the story—when I got to the part about how much fun we had playing this popular children’s game—I had an epiphany: Why did we need alcohol to enjoy the exuberance that comes with playing stupid games? I quickly realized we didn’t. Fun is fun no matter how drunk or sober you may be. So instead of saying things like, “We should totally get trashed and play Clue.” You should say, “How ‘bout some Clue?” For some added spice, you could dress up as the characters and transform the board game into a theatrical affair. (However, if you choose this route, make sure no one has been drinking. I’ve seen drunken fistfights break out during casting, because everybody—and I mean everybody—wants to be Colonel Mustard.)

3. Call the Friends. There’s nothing fun about being in a constant state of solitude. Sure, everyone needs some time alone to stare at the ceiling and wonder why life is taking so long. But if that’s all you do—and especially if you introduce alcohol into this crippling loneliness—you need to get out more. Find some friends with some hobbies. Call these friends and have some fun. Are you a WWII buff? Get some buddies together and reenact the Battle of the Bulge. Do you enjoy select European cheeses? Find a cheese shop and throw a party. There are literally several get-togethers you could host that don’t involve alcohol: Coffee-drinking contests, pants-folding seminars, surprise pot-lucks (which all invariably become no-lucks since no one knew they were suppose to bring food), skateboard-jousting matches, the Back to the Future trilogy-watching challenge, and of course, no underwear under here bedtime slumber parties. You could also tailor the festivities to the benefit of your own self-interest. How about a taking out the trash party? Raking the leaves hoedown? Black mold-scrubbing jamboree? Dog poop picking up pick me up? You see: fun can be constructive.

4. Prank Calling! Remember as kids when you used to call up the bowling alley and ask if they had 10-pound balls? And then when the bowling worker guys said yes, you asked them how they were able to keep their pants up? While you may dismiss the prank as “kid’s stuff,” it’s still funny. There’s something about prank calling that provides a jolt of joy and self-confidence that can brighten even the most painfully monotonous day. So don’t stop with the bowling alley when there are plenty of other people just waiting to be prank called. Order stacks of pizzas to lousy ex-boyfriends’ houses. Call the Whitehouse (202-456-1111) and ask why the president hasn’t taken a firm stance against the extraterrestrials that have developed thought-reading technology that can penetrate even our most fortified foil helmets. Call a refrigerator repair shop and ask them if their refrigerators are running. However, since Caller ID is ubiquitous these days, you may want to wait for your drunk friend to pass out so you can use his phone.

5. Smoke Pot. Do you remember the song about the lady who swallowed the fly? Then she swallowed a spider to catch the fly. And she eventually swallowed a cow to catch the goat to catch the dog to catch the cat to catch the bird to catch the spider (that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her) to catch the fly. And no one knows why she swallowed that fly. (Perhaps she’ll die.) This song is a lot like drugs. The fly is alcohol, and once you’re done swallowing it, you have to swallow increasingly dangerous drugs just to have fun. (Perhaps you’ll die.) Here are some alternate lyrics to the “Old Lady” song that apply to most of my friends:

There was a kid who snorted some blow.

Oh gosh I don’t know, why he snorted some blow!

He snorted some blow ‘cause he couldn’t get ‘shrooms.

He couldn’t get ‘shrooms and he was tired of acid.

He was tired acid and he couldn’t afford hash.

He couldn’t afford hash ‘cause he bought too much pot.

He bought too much pot and he drank too much beer. (YUMMY!)

That enlarged and in charged and bloated his tummy.

He drank too much beer ‘cause he really loved booze.

I don’t know why he really loved booze.

Perhaps he’ll lose.

So I guess there you have it. Once you’ve tried everything else, there’s still a large part of the day that needs to be lived. And if you stopped watching television, what else is there to do? Maybe it’s a downward spiral with a series of chain reactions you just can’t avoid. I suppose you might want to just throw in the towel and admit to yourself that you can’t have fun without chemically impairing your ability to operate heavy machinery.

Jeez, you didn't realize you were this fucked, did you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health care is kind of like the library: It should be open to everyone

By Brian Polk

Spare me your horror stories of socialized healthcare—I just don’t believe them. I’ve talked with several Canadians and Europeans and none of them report any long lines, waits for surgery, or unqualified doctors. In fact, I’m convinced those stories come from within our own borders: Recently I paid a visit to Denver Health’s emergency room because my dog almost bit my finger clear off. I can safely report that I had to wait several minutes before I was even acknowledged, even though I was holding my bleeding finger in a dishtowel. When they finally found me an open bed, I sat there holding my finger in place for well over forty-five minutes before they finally gave me a painkiller. A full 5-6 hours later, they finally found someone who could stitch my finger back together. And then they almost let me leave without a prescription for painkillers (they told me to take Tylenol) because all poor people will abuse or sell prescription drugs, right? Even with the best health insurance money can buy, the whole ordeal cost me $500—a hell of a lot of money for someone like me. Despite the fact that my arguments for socialized healthcare are vast, I will say only this: Everyone needs medical attention, even poor people.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jason is Still Too Sexy for His Bike

Haikus to My Cell, My Liver, and Myspace, (and now Facebook)

By Brian Polk

"My Cell"
Ringing, oh ringing,
Talking and texting, enough!
I must kill my phone.

"My Liver"
Liver, I'm sorry
For the booze, if only you
Knew how fun it was

I'm a little too
Old for all of this nonsense...
Comment me later?

("and now Facebook")
Facebook is Myspace
But for some reason it's fine
for grown ups like us.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ways To Deal With the Total Implosion of Capitalism

By Nathaniel Albert Stone, Certified Financial Counselor

Concerned about the economy? Of course. We all are. What with massive house foreclosure, collapsing banks, rising unemployment, and a completely frozen international credit market, it’s hard to see how things can get much worse. Sure, we could devolve into a series of primitive fiefdoms, ruled by the strongest amongst us and forced to feast on the raw flesh of our neighbors in order to survive, but that’s a good year or two off. In the meantime, here are some ideas that can help you and your family weather these tough times:

1. Build an apple cart from wood stolen from abandoned loft construction sites. Sell apples. People can’t get enough apples. Pick out a jealously guarded street corner for your business, stabbing anyone who encroaches on your turf with a sharpened stake taken from a decaying McCain-Palin yard sign.

2. Grow out a rattail. Stroke it for reassurance every time you have to stand in line for unemployment benefits.

3. Become a 21st Century hobo, riding buses for free by dropping onto their roofs from highway overpasses, wandering from city to city looking for free wifi for your Nintendo DS, which you keep charged with homebrew batteries made from onions and vinegar.

4. Build a gigantic dam, creating thousands of jobs and millions of watts of energy while showing that fucking water who’s in charge around here.

5. Join the zombie army after they conquer Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma in early 2010. They have an excellent health p­lan and a really flexible comp time program.

6. Grow up a child of privilege on the East Coast but lose full use of your legs after an early battle with polio. Run for president and invent the modern social welfare state.

7. Put everything you own in a mattress. Stuff the mattress in a coffee can and bury it in your backyard. Have your house foreclosed on and lose your yard. Get shot by the National Guard when you try to sneak back into your condemned suburb to dig up everything you own.

8. Ask Congress to cover your bills.

9. Start practicing a folksy Midwestern accent and staring off into the dust-blown distance with nobly weary eyes. Learn how to play guitar. Write a lot of songs about “rambling,” “hard times,” and “punching a child in the throat to get the last bowl of soup after waiting in line for six hours.”

(Many more suggestions will appear in The Best of The Yellow Rake Book, out August 28, 2009)

Saved My Life

By Drew Smith

Suburban Home Records: Surviving the Record Industry’s Hardships with Grace

By Brian Polk

It’s hard to remember the last time anyone penned a success story about the flagging record industry. Aside from all the “vinyl comeback” articles that the major media outlets were all too eager to gloat about, any news over the last decade has been very bad news for most recording companies.

But despite the consumer’s dwindling interest in songs that aren’t free, there are exceptions to the downward trajectory of recorded music.

“Somehow, despite how shitty the industry is, we’re doing really well,” says Virgil Dickerson, owner of Denver’s Suburban Home Records and it’s online counterpart, Vinyl Collective. “The past year was the best year we’ve ever had in our 15-year history.”

Which is good news for at least someone in the business. But even though things may be rosy now, much like the overall picture of the rest of the industry, Dickerson’s professional life hasn’t always been so encouraging up to this point. “It has constantly been a roller coaster up and down,” he admits. But through it all, the 33-year-old, life-long punker somehow managed to never lose sight of why he started the label in the first place: unrelenting appreciation and devotion to the culture of underground music.

If you told the 20-year-old Virgil about how successful his label would become, he probably would have never believed you. Partly because it’s impossible for a college punk rocker to envision himself in his 30s, and partly because he was too busy putting together the first incarnation of Suburban Home, which was in the form of a fanzine.

“We put out the first issue of the Suburban Home fanzine on September 1, 1995,” says Dickerson with the obvious nostalgia it takes to recollect the exact date. “We first distributed it at a show in Denver at the Aztlan Theater. It was the first time I saw Pinhead Circus. I think they were playing with Mandingo and Schleprock.”

It was this show that he met a lot of the musicians that would impact the Denver punk scene for years to come, including members of The Facet and Pinhead Circus—bands that would wind up on the Suburban Home Compilation, Punk, It’s all about the Orchis Factor.

But Dickerson didn’t start releasing records until a year later, when he discovered the Raven, a small, all-ages club on Welton Street (that has since become the Climax

“For a time there, the Raven on a Friday night would have three or four hundred people. At that point—I don’t feel like it’s so much so now—there was such a big family of the bands and fans. Everyone would party and hang out together. I never thought I’d have a job doing anything like this, but I knew I wanted to be involved some way. That’s how the fanzine started. And that’s how I started Suburban Home Records.”

Initially the label was a testament to ‘90s style pop-punk, releasing Screeching Weasel-influenced bands like Overlap, the Fairlanes, and the Gamits. The aforementioned compilation even featured the likes of Digger and Blink 182—the latter of which, of course, went on to sell millions of records.

But in the early 2000s, when the popularity of pop-punk waned, Virgil’s musical tastes broadened beyond four-chord progressions and songs about girls. It wasn’t until he befriended and eventually signed the alt-country super-group, Drag the River, that he broadened both his musical tastes and the primary focus of his label. Though he didn’t know it at the time, adding the band to the roster would eventually open the door to signing much bigger acts, like Tim Barry, singer of the quintessential Richmond hardcore outfit, Avail.

However, “preceding that,” he says, “we had some difficult times.”

By far his biggest hardship occurred in March 2007, when sluggish CD sales in the pre-vinyl boom days nearly bankrupted the company. Dickerson downsized his staff and moved the operation into his actual suburban home. It got so bad he pleaded with his customers to help his struggling company by buying anything they could. “Then we just got so much support from people all over,” he says. “It helped us get through a
really tough period. Somehow after that it slowly got better.

“Coincidentally,” he continues, “working with Tim Barry and Drag the River and starting the Vinyl Collective was a whole new chapter for us. Since then every year has been better than the previous year.”

It helps that Suburban Home has been buoyed by the rediscovery of a long-dead music format and releases by more notable acts. However, it’s doubtful whether his company would have reemerged so successfully without the friendship-first, business-second approach Dickerson takes with all his bands.

“For me it’s really important that our relationship with our bands is strong,” he says. “Other labels treat it as purely business and don’t look at the personal aspect at all. But for most of us that get into this, we don’t do it because of money, we do it because there is that connection personally. It’s hard-wired into our DNA. I love all the bands we work with—not just musically, but as far as people go.”

It has been a long time since the owners of record labels have talked about putting the love of people and music before money. Similarly, it has been awhile since they were able to say the things that Virgil gets to say, like, “We’re going to put out more albums next year than we have in the past five years.” That’s also probably why there has been such a dearth of good news to report about the record industry in general.

Of course, when people like Virgil, who are in it for all the right reasons, have better years than money-obsessed phonies, the bad news might not be such a bad thing.

The White Man and the N-Word

By Brian Polk

The white man is angry. Somewhere along the line of historical and cultural evolution he lost profound rights and entitlements. No longer can he discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation in the workplace. No longer can he preserve separate but equal restroom facilities. And worst of all, no longer can he use the n-word, despite its ubiquity in rap lyrics, stand-up comedy and popular sketch shows on Comedy Central. Oh white man, whatever will you do in such an unfair world?

So Fox News-viewers and right wing talk show hosts just can’t seem to fathom why they, as white men, don’t get to spout off hate-filled diatribes whenever they get the urge to do so, which I can imagine is quite often. These right-wingers claim that since the n-word is open game for African Americans, it should be open to bigoted white folks as well. After all, they’re only trying to create a fair and balanced society, right? They must have the noblest notions of equality in mind when they promote this issue, don’t you think?

I have to say, I have my doubts about their intentions. To me this issue isn’t about leveling the playing field, or granting equal opportunity for all; it’s more about a bunch of old white guys finding it increasingly difficult to hide their prejudice in a society of burgeoning tolerance. They’re tired of feigning open-mindedness so they yearn for the good old days when they could be much more public about their racism. In other words, they’re ideas and attitudes are becoming extinct, and boy are they pissed about it.

Also, I don’t think it’s unfair for edgy pop cultural shows like Chappelle Show or hip hop albums like Straight Outta Compton to make gratuitous use of the n-word. White people may have invented that word, but the black folks took it back. (Kind of like what the gay queero did with the words "gay" and "queero.") It is no longer a part of the dominant race's vocabulary. Whitey wins some and loses some, right? (Okay, mostly wins some.) But the white man lost this one, and I say good riddance.

But that's because I have never even considered using the n-word. And not saying it is no big deal really. It’s not like it was hard for me not to utter hate-filled remarks about an entire race of people. I made no concerted effort not to be an racist jerk. But there are still white guys that want so desperately to use say those words. Oh they want it so bad! But I suppose that’s really a personal problem. Socially accepted racism is going the way of the dinosaur, and only a real douche-arino would feel bad about that.

And no matter what anyone says, this is not a first amendment issue. No one is going to jail for being a backwards redneck. Some ignorant white guy may have a hard time finding a job because his views don't mesh well with those of open-minded folks, but that has nothing to do with the constitution (and everything to do with with the fact that no one wants to work with an asshole).

At some point in his life, the white man—and every human of every race, nationality, etc.—would surely benefit by realizing that it’s okay not to be racist. Some rights just aren’t worth having.