Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pope Officially Steps Down Today

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Pope Benedict is stepping down today, the first pope in centuries to step down from a position that most others only leave once they themselves depart from this world.

He wants to get back to a life of seclusion, and his ailing health, he felt, made him unfit to remain as pope, and endure the grueling schedule and responsibilities of that position.

Before leaving officially, he will make one last public appearance as pope at the Castel Gandalfo (no known association with the wizard known as Gandalf from "Lord of the Rings"). Then, at 8pm Roman time (2pm EST), his resignation will become official.

He will then be known as "pope emeritus" and wear a plain white cassock, rather than the traditional, all white clothes that the pope wears. He will also be retiring the "shoes of the fisherman", colored red to symbolize the blood of early Christian martyrs. It has been so long since any pope had resigned, and this came so unexpectedly, that the Vatican had to figure out some of this stuff and determine what he would be called officially, and what he would wear.

The Swiss Guards will resign their posts and wait for the next pope, whoever that may be.

Pope Benedict will officially no longer be pope as of 2000 Roman time, and he will walk away from the Vatican. At that point, it will be up to the cardinals who have assembled at the Vatican from all over the world to come to some sort of a decision as to who the next pope should be. Many feel that it should be from a part of the world where no pope has ever come from before - namely either Africa or South America. It would be a sign of the shift of the base of believers from Europe, which was the traditional stronghold of Roman Catholicism, to other continents, mostly through colonization and missionaries.

 In his last major address at St. Peter's Square as pope, Benedict said yesterday (Wednesday), addressing his unexpectedly stepping down from a position that many tend to believe should be held until death:

"I took this step in the full knowledge of its gravity and rarity but with a profound serenity of spirit."

He also summed up the tenure of his papacy with these words:

"There were moments of joy and light but also moments that were not easy ... there were moments, as there were throughout the history of the Church, when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping.".

There were some questions about this pope. He was a conservative pope, holding strongly held, traditional positions on subjects such as with HIV/AIDS, birth control, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. He also at times was criticized for insensitivity towards other faiths, although in general, he tried to bridge the gaps between the religions. This pope also called for nuclear disarmament and greater equality in worldwide wealth distribution.

Many practitioners have hopes that the next pope will break away from the traditional stance of the Church, and open more doors, as they feel too traditional a stance on certain issues tends to drive more and more people away. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

But there were other questions regarding this particular pope, as well. Unlike the last pope, who had actively resisted the Nazis when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany, this pope, who is German, became a member of the Hitler Youth, before briefly being drafter into the Luftwaffenhelfer (a child member of the air force). His brother said that Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger (the pope) was not enthusiastic about any of it. When the Allied forces drew nearer, he deserted back to his hometown, and was briefly taken as a POW by the Allies, then released after a few months as the war ended, in May of 1945. His involvement, although not extensive, still nonetheless was controversial. He is likely the last world leader that will have any direct associations with the Nazi regime.

Much of the information in this blog was taken from the following article: "Low-key departure as pope steps down and hides away" by Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor for Reuters:

The quotes included in this blog were taken from the article "Pope speaks of "rough seas" of papacy at emotional farewell"  by Philip Pullella of Reuters:

I got some of the background information on the pope from the always reliable online encyclopedia popularly known as Wikipedia:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mentally Stimulating Online Games

I tried as long as I could to keep my son away from video games. Not that he would be prevented from playing them forever. But to prolong it as much as possible.

Oh, eventually, inevitably, other kids, classmates, would talk about them, and he would surely want to play the games himself. That much, I knew, of course. But it seemed like the best idea to hold off for as long as possible.

Ultimately, it was an adult, rather than a fellow child, who more or less introduced him to video games, and he has been hooked ever since.

Now, he is capable of playing video games for hours at a time. I have to tear him away from it at times. Last summer, on a beautiful day, I remember walking in and seeing him cooped up inside, sitting with his face a few feet from the screen, playing one game after another. I couldn't take it, and told him to turn it off, then took him swimming. He was reluctant to go at first, but he loves swimming, and despite resistance initially, he always ends up loving it, and is the last one on the beach, never wanting to leave.

On a beautiful day, it seems much more natural (and healthy) for a kid in perfect health to play outside, on a playground or riding his bike or swimming or playing with friends. Anything but the antisocial and unhealthy habit of playing one video game after another. It's depressing.

I can relate, on some level. When I was younger, on Sundays, I would tend to stay home and watch football (particularly the Giants), even when it was simply gorgeous weather outside. Often times, if it was another time of the year, I would choose to play music or watch television and veg, rather than go outside and do something more imaginative and healthy.

The thing is, I think video games tend to be addictive, and far too many kids seem to jump on this bandwagon. I don't blame video games for excessive violence, or school shootings or mass shootings in general, as some do. It seems preposterous to think that you play some video games, and then decide to pick up a gun and do some real violence. that's to simple of an argument, and generally speaking, it just doesn't work that way, although video games may indeed have some influence in some isolated cases. They surely don't help.

But my main concern with them actually has nothing to do with violence. In fact, the main problem that I see with them is that they generally cause you to do nothing. Nothing at all. Far too many people (notice that I am not limiting it to kids here) find no greater motivation than to play video games incessantly, and to wait in deep anticipation for the next "big thing" video game with the latest graphics and cool effects. Some video games almost seem like movies.

I know how addictive video games are and, again, it certainly is not restricted to children. Plenty of adults that I know of play video games more than seems healthy. Hell, a lot of people who are not into video games still can play hours of solitaire per day. It's addictive, and it can be a problem.

Lately, I have found myself playing games online, as well. That said, these games tend to be a bit different, and not only are they challenging and enjoyable, they are creative. Specifically, I am talking about a website that I have come to love: Sporcle.

Sporcle's slogan is "mentally stimulating diversions", which is true. They are mentally stimulating.

My favorite game personally is "Countries of the World". You get fifteen minutes to name all 197 countries of the world. I have played it many times, and have gotten closer and closer to the perfect score, although I have not quite gotten there yet (although I have gotten several continents with a perfect score). The friend who introduced me to the website has managed it a few times. I can't wait to join his ranks, although it feels right now like one of those situations where, the closer you get, the further the goal seems, sometimes. Still, I think I'll be able to get it one of these days. Soon.

In the meantime, it seemed like a good idea to mention it here, just in case there are any out there who stumbled on this blog and were in search of such games. It is certainly not all about geography, although that is one category where they have a very impressive array of such games and challenges. But Sporcle offers other categories as well, some of which I have tried, others that I have not. Included are history, science, literature, music, language, religion, and numerous other categories to boot.

These may not exactly be video games, but they are mentally stimulating, fun, and they are also free!

So, if this sounds like something that piqued your curiosity, I would recommend checking it out:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Candle Shall Light Our Way?

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
~ Carl Sagan

I ran into this most amazing quote by chance, and was blown away by it. I mean, Carl Sagan always was amazing, but I don't think that I fully realized that while he was still alive. He was the science guy, and came on the PBS channel. My grandfather, who's interests were wide and varied (maybe that's where I get it from?) liked him, if memory serves me correctly.

That amazing quote  was taken from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. This is a book written by Carl Sagan to urge them to think more critically and independently. He wanted everyone to understand the difference between scientific fact and what was often mistaken for fact. More specifically, he was referring to religious thought that got in the way of science, because it refused to accept the conclusions that science tended to come up with, which have noticeably been detrimental to religious thought and practice.

There are four states presently that are weighing bills that would limit the teaching of biology, and science in general, in schools. Our children, and their education, are at stake. Not only in those four states - Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Montana - but in the rest of the country, as well. remember how the anti-union spirit spread like wildfire across the nation, following the events in Michigan a couple of years ago?

This is a threat. A real threat, against independent thinking. A real threat against the education of our children. A real threat against the democracy's well being in this country. A real threat that would favor mythology and fantasy and, ultimately, tyranny, over reality.

It cannot be allowed to stand.

We talk so much about being "the shining city on a hill", that perhaps we have lost sight of just how dark things have turned in this country, and in this world, in general.

Whether people like it or not, there IS a separation of church and state, AND it should be maintained.

If we do not maintain it, we lessen ourselves as a country, and as a thinking, rational people, in general. Furthermore, we will lose our standing in this world even more than we already have, because we would be entrenching ourselves in positions that some among us want to believe, rather than need to understand.

For too long, we have allowed ourselves the indulgence of believing things that simply are not true. The results, which have been detrimental, speak for themselves. You might not like what you have to hear about reality, but that does not give you the right to not only to pretend that it is not true, but to impose that willful ignorance upon others.

The irony of such a thing happening in this country is not lost on everyone. Given our history, which included those who sought freedom from religious persecution in their own lands (although, unfortunately in too many cases, subsequently imposing that same spirit of religious persecution once they got here), and then even fighting a revolution and securing the independence of a fledgling new nation to free it from the shackles of ruthless tyrannical traditions, we should know better than to simply voluntarily make way for that same spirit of intolerance. Some may say that Well, then, let's examine what some of those founding fathers had to say about religion to begin with:

"Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong."
~ Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity."
~ Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

How about some words on the subject from other sources?

"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"
~ John Adams, in a letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

"I shall have liberty to think for myself without molesting others or being molested myself."
~ John Adams, in a letter to his brother-in-law, Richard Cranch, August 29, 1756

"When philosophic reason is clear and certain by intuition or necessary induction, no subsequent revelation supported by prophecies or miracles can supersede it."
~ John Adams

"God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world."
~ John Adams

I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved -- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! 
~ John Adams

"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."
~ Benjamin Franklin  

"Original sin was as ridiculous as imputed righteousness."
~ Benjamin Franklin

"We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth that religion, or the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence. The religion, then, of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and that it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate."  
~ James Madison

"The civil government ... functions with complete success ... by the total separation of the Church from the State."
~ James Madison

"What is it the Bible teaches us? -- rapine, cruelty, and murder. What is it the Testament teaches us? -- to believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married, and the belief of this debauchery is called faith." 
~  Thomas Paine

"Science is the true theology."
~ Thomas Paine

“The strongest weapon against all kinds of errors is Reason. I have never used any other, and hope I never will.”
~ Thomas Paine 

"Only by using reason can man discover God. Take away his reason, and man could not understand anything.”
~ Thomas Paine

"Wild and blasphemous ideas of God are formed because man has wandered away from the unchangeable laws of science, and the right use of reason; and because something called revealed religion was invented."
~ Thomas Paine

I leave the last word from the Founding Fathers, once again, to Thomas Jefferson, who summed up the arguments quite nicely here:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
~Thomas Jefferson in a letter to a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut, January 1, 1802

There were plenty of other quotes to choose from, but in the interests of time, I had to limit them somewhat. But these speak for themselves, and give you a good idea of where the most enlightened thinkers of the time were on this crucial issue, which remains relevant right up to our present age. Not exactly an unconditional or unanimous endorsement of the notion that the United States was a Christian nation from it's inception, or that there is no real separation of church and state, now, is it? We may be led to believe otherwise, by those with vested interests in having us forget history. But the truth lies elsewhere than in the prejudices of those who want to manipulate history in their favor.

We Americans often times take great pride in recalling that mythical fighting spirit of earlier Americans, and we glorify the sacrifices of many who gave everything that they had on the battlefield. Lest we forget, those are not simply dates in a history textbook to remember for exams, or on patriotic holidays. There are reasons that they fought, and sacrificed so much. They wanted a new nation, a new spirit of greater individual freedom. That meant greater freedom from huge, domineering institutions, whether some monarchy in a land thousands of miles distant from American shores, or whether it meant an institutionalized religion that always seemed to place gaining more of a following over all other endeavors.

In this regard, despite the obvious changes over the time, the issues are fundamentally the same.

This is too important. This is something that we need to fight.

I leave you with one last quote, from that noted revolutionary, Thomas Paine, to show that while this is not for the lighthearted, it is a fight that we must engage in:

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

The article, "Anti-Science Bills Weighed in Four States", was written  by Larry O'Hanlon of Discovery News

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

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Let me just say, right off the bat, that this is a very well written and concise book! I don't know how Charles Cross got his hands on some of this information, but he puts it to good use. As you read this very vivid biography, it comes alive almost to the point that you feel you are witnessing Kurt Cobain living through these times, from his childhood through the teen years, and into adulthood, before and after he catapulted to stardom. You almost feel that you are getting to know the real person, rather than the hyped rock star.

I always knew that Kurt Cobain had been tormented, although at some distant level. You can see it in his works, in his words. Even in his facial expressions during some musical videos.

But Charles Cross really gives a great diagnosis of the life and times of Kurt Cobain, and those around him. This book is extensively researched. So well researched, frankly, that I don't even know how he managed to get his hands on some of the stuff that was used in writing this.

The effect is that you feel almost like you are there, so vivid is the description. That is a sign of very strong writing skills.

You really get a feel for his native town of Aberdeen, Washington, and the happy childhood that too soon yielded to family tensions and fights. You can relate to the rebellious and angry young teenager who dreams of being a rock star, and you can sympathize with his nervousness before playing his first ever gig at what amounted to a frat party. You watch Nirvana begin to take form, as they struggle to find their identity and make a name for themselves, even spending a night on a highway median at one point, and then you witness their rise to superstardom with a bang. You also see Cobain's self-destructive tendencies clash with the excesses of success, and as the book goes along, you bear witness to what proved to be the inevitable crash from the heights.

Somehow or other, all of this is done while making you feel like it is coming to life, rather than history. You begin to pull for Cobain, and it seems that there are so many choices out there that he could have made to change the outcome. Yet, the past cannot be undone, and although Cross has been criticized for taking liberties with the final aspects of Cobain's life (that being his suicide), he really makes it pack an emotional punch. Even though he was completely alone and feeling the weight of an all too familiar isolation, Cross almost seems to take you there, to witness a tragedy unfold, as a young, heartthrob rock star who seemed to many to have everything hits rock bottom, and takes his own life, leaving behind a beautiful young daughter who will have to live on with such a legacy that her father left her.

Cross has also been criticized for not talking to Dave Grohl, the longest lasting drummer that Nirvana ever had, as well as the one who was with them during the salad days, and obviously, the most famous drummer for Nirvana, and perhaps the most famous surviving former member of the band, period. He has also been criticized for siding too closely with Courtney Love. I cannot, or at least will not, speak to that at present. What I will say is that you are not likely to find a more thorough, or vivid, account of Kurt Cobain's life, or a history of Nirvana, that is as thorough and detailed as this.

There were a lot of contradictions in regards to Kurt Cobain, and Cross does a very good job in highlighting some of these. Cobain seemed to embody paradox, at times. For example, he seemed to suggest that he despised popularity, yet he complained when his videos were not played on MTV as much as he wanted them to be played. Also, he had a great deal of empathy and a great conscience. Yet, at times, his actions defied logic, as with his first sexual experience (which seemed abusive at best, and could almost have been defined as borderline rape), or his leaving a beautiful young daughter with a lifetime to cope with her own father's suicide, at an age when she was yet too young to understand what happened.

One thing I was surprised by was the lack of mention to Kurt Cobain's animosity towards fellow Seattle band Pearl Jam, although Cross does detail the feud that existed between Nirvana and Guns N' Roses. But Cobain's constant mention of Pearl Jam at the time that they were rising I think illustrates some of the contradictions in Cobain's character.

But Cross does get a lot right in this book. A hell of a lot, actually! There are some descriptions of the shows that are spot on, and you can almost feel the success (or the lack thereof, depending on the situation) involved. What makes it even more fascinating is the background story leading up to, and immediately after, shows.  For example, you gain a far better understanding of the legendary MTV Unplugged, and the circumstances surrounding it. If you're like me, you'll never watch or listen to that show, or Nirvana in general, the same way again!

All in all, an excellent read! Informative and everything you could want out of a book like this, and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Charbor on the Rocks - Band on Band Rock Feuds: Metallica & Guns 'N Roses



Metallica and Guns 'N Roses toured together in 1992, and rarely has a tour been filled with so many severe setbacks.

Guns N' Roses insisted on being the headliners, so they came on after Metallica every night. But this might have been a case of, as the lyrics to Metallica's King Nothing goes, "careful what you wish/ you just might get it." They got what they wanted in terms of going on last, but it proved not to be the smartest idea. Metallica is not the kind of act that you easily follow, and even someone with the stadium-sized ego of Axl Rose should have realized that.

I went to one of those shows with my brother, on July 29, 1992. It was the first major concert that either of us had chosen to go to of our own accord. We were both there more for Metallica than Guns N' Roses, admittedly, so it might seem like I am taking Metallica's side in this conflict, so to speak.

But, all I have to say is that the stadium was filled with energy when Metallica first took the stage. Then, after two hours and change (if memory serves me correctly) of some of the hardest, loudest, and most intense music around, the stadium seemed drained of energy after their set list. They took a lot out of you, whether or not you were a fan. Again, I repeat, Metallica (at least back then) was not the kind of act that you would want to have to follow.

Guns N' Roses came on late (shocker!), and the reception was considerably milder than what it had been for Metallica. Axl Rose noticed, too, much like he did throughout that tour. For a man who starved for attention, and wanted everyone on their feet at all times, excited and singing every word, it must have been a disappointment. A good percentage of people were there to see Metallica, and many of the rest of the fans simply were drained of their energy and enthusiasm after Metallica's set. By that point, it was very late. It was a Monday night, and Guns N' Roses did not take the stage until the wee hours of the morning. My brother and I did not mind so much. We were young, and did not have to get up early the next morning. But I can't help but wonder if that was true for a lot of people that went to that show. Fatigue may have been a factor. Can't say for sure.

Less than two weeks after that concert, came the most infamous moment between the two, and what really cemented the status of feud. It happened in Montreal. James Hetfield, the lead singer for Metallica, was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, when the pyrotechnic blasts. He suffered second and third degree burns, and Metallica obviously could not continue with the show, although they did promise to return in order to complete the show.

It was time for Gun N' Roses to step up and win the day, right?

Well, actually....not so much.

Guns N' Roses took the stage after a long delay of well over two hours, during which time the crowd grew restless, but it was hardly a command performance. First off, the stage had not been fully prepared for them, and they had difficulties with the sound system. Also, GNR frontman Axl Rose claimed that he had a sore throat. Perhaps there were some other reasons stated, but one way or the other, Guns N' Roses left the stage far too early. It could have been the moment for Guns N' Roses to finally shine. Instead, it underscored exactly what was wrong with the group. Axl Rose even commented that, while the band had "got it together in Europe", everything had fallen apart here. He also said that it would be the last show for a long, long time for Guns N' Roses.

Years later, the experience of that night was captured on VH1's Behind the Music when it focused on Metallica. James Hetfield described how Guns N' Roses could have been "the hero of the day", but instead, Axl "throws this fit". The other members of Metallica saw Guns N' Roses backstage, and they described how Axl Rose was complaining to anyone who would listen that his voice was giving him trouble, although Jason Newsted remembered how he had a cigarette in one hand, and a drink in another, while he said this. Kirk Hammett said that it reminded him "of what it must have looked like when Rome burned and Nero played a fiddle."

James Hetfield summarized it:

"We couldn't relate to Axl and his attitude, you know? So we learned...we learned quite a bit on what not to do."

Guns N' Roses explained their side of things, claiming that the crowd really was dead, not into it. The sound system really was bad, none of the band members could hear at all. Plus, Axl's voice was really bothering him, and he didn't want to hurt himself. So, according to Axl, the band got into a huddle, and decided they were out of there.

A riot ensued, and it was compared to a similar riot the year before in St. Louis following a Guns N' Roses concert. Thousands of fans looted, threw rocks through shop windows, and caused general mayhem. There was violence, and there were arrests. Metallica seemed to point the finger at Guns N' Roses, while Guns N' Roses just kind of collectively seemed to shrug.

For Metallica, the tour was a success, financially and otherwise. It established their hard rocking credentials, and if it was perceived that they were in the shadow of Guns N' Roses before the tour, the same could certainly not be said afterwards.

Guns N' Roses, on the other hand, was a different story. The band did not make much money from the tour, and Slash blamed Axl Rose for hosting expensive and elaborate parties during every single show. Also, although perhaps it was not so obvious at the time (especially for the members of the band) Guns N' Roses was on the downslide. Perhaps it was the riot. Perhaps it was the tendency by Guns N' Roses to make their fans wait before taking the stage. Perhaps it was the tiresome and repetitive antics of prima donna lead singer Axl Rose, who's legendary self-obsession and ego finally took it's toll. Or, perhaps, fans just got tired of a big, huge band taking itself too seriously.

Axl Rose had some words to say about Metallica after their 1992 tour together, as well. On stage in San Francisco in 1993, Axl talked trash about Metallica, and claimed that they had not brought much with them on the tour. He also responded to some who believed that he was a racist, and made the claim that James Hetfield was a racist (which may or may not be true, I'm certainly not the authority on that). He mentioned how he had thought that they were friends, obviously implying that this was not the case, and also claimed that Metallica had talked shit about others, including some who adored the band. He said a lot of things, of course. There's never a shortage of trash talking when it comes to Axl Rose.

Looking back, it was a difficult time for Guns N' Roses, I think. Nirvana had just overtaken them in terms of album sales as the biggest band in the world, and had snubbed them when asked to join their summer tour. Metallica was on the bill with Guns N' Roses, but for all intents and purposes, overshadowed them. GNR had long dominated hard rock, but a new day was dawning. The so-called "Seattle sound" was taking over the country, while other bands like Metallica, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and the Smashing Pumpkins were beginning to really rise, benefiting from the newfound success of hard rock in the popular medium.

Whatever it was, Guns N' Roses began to fade into the background more and more. And deservedly so, I might add. They made solid music, I'll admit, and I still enjoy listening to it from time to time. Yet, whenever they come on the radio, or are mentioned in the news, it's hard to forget those ridiculous antics that came to define them. If you have followed Guns N' Roses at all recently, you already know that nothing has changed in their approach. The band might be different, but they still have Axl Rose as their singer. All these years later, he is still showing up hours late for shows, and then offering half-assed apologies to unhappy fans. Some things never change, I guess.

Well, maybe some things have changed. Their popularity, for starters. They certainly are nowhere near as dominant on the radio waves or album charts as they once were. That means that these days, in great measure stripped of their musical distinction, Guns N' Roses are simply known as a clown act. If they could focus on the music, perhaps they would still be respected. But since it is obviously more about Axl Rose's apparently still enormous ego and prima donna antics, it is all about him. Always, him. And that, perhaps, has worn thin. Perhaps it enhanced their dangerous, bad ass image back in the eighties and, arguably, into the early nineties. But nowadays? Frankly, it seems more pathetic than anything else. Because another thing that has changed is Axl Rose's age, which has inflated even faster than his waistline. Some people increase their perspective and knowledge with advanced age. In the case of Axl, the only thing that seems to have expanded, ironically, is his ego. No wisdom to be had there. Nothing new to offer at all.

Guns N' Roses always were good musically. Even Chinese Democracy, which took ridiculously long to come out, was good musically. Again, if the band would focus on what made them - namely, the music - they might be okay. But any band featuring Axl Rose is doomed to be distracted, and the focus will never be exclusively on the music. Probably, it will not even be primarily on the music. Axl's legendary ego is way too big for that.

I believe that the 1992 tour with Metallica might have contributed to the end of the dominance that Guns N' Roses had long enjoyed at that point. They had been known as the hardest rock band according to many, but truth be told, Metallica blew them away, and it was hard to even think that GNR might still hold such a lofty title, or that they could regain the prestige as the biggest band in the world after such a disastrous tour. They never got it back, either.

They could have been a great band, to boot. I can't help but wonder what they might have been minus the rock star attitudes. Sure, they were huge. Most big bands eventually get past that, and settle down a bit. Show some sense of moderation. But not with this band, and that really is a shame. I can't help but wonder if all of these ego trips and sideshow distractions perhaps are not so much getting in the way of good music, as they are an attempt to mask a sense of insecurity that the band might have about producing good music.

As for Metallica, they have their own egos to worry about, and they have had their share of problems over the years. But there music had such power in their prime, and they have still produced solid music now over the course of decades, like Guns N' Roses. Unlike Guns N' Roses, the also considerable distractions in Metallica's case have not so strongly overshadowed what they have done in the studio, or on stage.

Metallica have had personnel changes since then, and there has certainly been no shortage in controversies with them.  Still, always, the focus is on the music first. I have not always agreed with them, particularly on what seemed to be a corporate approach. Yet, when I think of Metallica, it's always the music that comes to mind first. It has changed over time, but still, always, the band has credibility enough that the music is the first and major focus with them, whether or not you like them.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: Stephen King's The Stand Graphic Novel: "Captain Trip's"

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big Stephen King fan. And, like many Stephen King fans, I think he does his best works in the biggest novels. It gives King room to do what he does best - character building. There is not one long novel of his that I don't love. The final Dark Tower novel would be one. It would be another. Insomnia, a novel that, when I purchased it, had been on the discount racks of several bookstores that I knew, and so I had expected it to be so-so. Instead, it was phenomenal - one of my favorites! More recently, Under the Dome was a phenomenal read. But the longest of his books is my very favorite - The Stand.

When I read Stephen King's "The Stand", it was the first doomsday kind of book that I had really read. Sure, there had been some movies with end of the world type scenarios, but that was all Hollywood.

In the Stand, I particularly was appreciative of the detailed account of how the world ends "not with a bang, but with a whimper". You read detailed accounts of how the world as we know it slowly ends, as 99.9% of the population dies off. What makes it scary - and fascinating - is that it truly feels like something that could happen. Not the Dark Man or Walkin' Dude, but something going wrong, even for a split second, in some chemical warfare lab by the military, and releasing some kind of a plague that infects that vast majority of the human population, and essentially kills them off. Then, the response, the beginning of the breakdown of law and order and stability, and the eventual emergence of a new kind of society, a micro version of what had previously existed. That takes up the first chunk of the novel, and it is the focus of this graphic novel. We see the Walkin' Dude, and we many of the characters that will effectively play out the events in the rest of the story. But this first part is about the plague, and how it begins to spread.

There was a movie version of The Stand that is currently in production, and there was another movie version, more like a miniseries, that came out in 1994. I can't speak to how the newer movie version will play out, but the 1994 made for television version had some holes in it. I actually kind of liked it, and have watched it numerous times. Still, I can understand how some people that I know did not like it so much. There are points when it is obviously cheaply done, although it boasts a pretty incredible cast, with stars such as Molly Ringwald, Gary Sinese, and Rob Lowe. I like this version, yet will admit it does not quite capture the dreary feel of the end of the world scenario that originally came out in the novel,  The Stand. We will have to wait and see about the newer version of the movie.

But in the graphic novel version of The Stand, the dreariness really comes out. Some of the artwork is quite literally gross, thus perfectly illustrating the decadent aspects of the plague, and how harmful it is to human beings (not to mention, that it is the responsibility of human beings). We watch the world as we know it quite literally fall apart, deteriorate. The breakdown of the old order and way of doing things. The miniseries version felt different, and not true to the novel. It felt too sunny and cheery, somehow, with only token efforts to address the very real fears and sorrow that the survivors would inevitably feel. But this graphic novel comes closer to what likely would be the truth. It really focuses on the sadness, the gloom, the fears, and perhaps even the disgust that would be involved with a plague of this magnitude, if it ever actually were to happen. I think it is fair to say that this is closer to Stephen King's original vision.

Graphic novels and comics can utilize methods of communicating that sometimes are left out of novels and/or movies, and this is a perfect example of that. Somehow, graphic novels seem to compliment Stephen King's works very nicely. They go well together, and this version of The Stand is a triumph, I think. True, I only read the first part of it, when Captain Trips begins to ravage the world. But I very much look forward to the other parts of it, and if these are done as well as Captain Trips (the graphic novel that includes the first series of these comics), then this should be an incredible series of books indeed!

A bonus in this was in the back, when you get an inside look at just how such a graphic novel is made. I have long enjoyed the medium of comics, and my father is a cartoonist in his own right. So, it was a fascinating look at how a story begins to mesh with the illustrations, and vice versa. You begin to gain an understanding of and appreciation for just how much work and efforts towards perfection goes into making the finished product.

All in all, an excellent work that suits the spirit of Stephen King's writings perfectly! I would strongly recommend this to any fans of Stephen King, horror, or graphic novels in general, or even to those simply looking for a decent read, and are not turned off by the idea of comics.

Right after first publishing this, I ran into this review from a specialist in graphic novels, Joe Hartlaub of, and he really wrote an excellent review, one probably makes this effort by me pale by way of comparison. It is available on Amazon, and I thought I would add it here, as well as providing the link, should you, the Constant Reader (sorry, couldn't resist), be interested.

I don't want to be a pain in the arse here, but I get serious about great--classic--books, particularly those that you need to take down off of the shelf and read every year or two. The Stand by Stephen King is one of those. Marvel has begun a beautiful and respectful adaptation of The Stand, not breaking it up, but carefully sectioning the work into five issue arcs that, as you read them, draw you deeper and deeper into a dark world, our world, where an apocalyptic battle between the good and the very, very bad is about to take place. Marvel is not doing here what it's been doing with King's world of The Dark Tower--that is a broader, much different canvas, of which The Stand is actually a part. No; you don't fool with The Stand. If reading the adaptation of The Dark Tower is like going to hear a hot jazz combo on ten straight nights riffing differently and brilliantly on the same set, reading the Marvel adaptation of The Stand is like going to hear your favorite rock band perform on a night when they're on it in every conceivable way, playing all the songs you've come to know and love them by. They're not doing a slavish note-by-note imitation --- you could have stayed at home and listened to them on your iPod if that was what you wanted to hear --- but they're playing the songs with an energy and love that one associates with hearing them the first time through.

The collection of the first of these arcs, The Stand: Captain Trips, will send the blood rattling through your veins, as the boys in Spoon would say. The team of folks doing it--Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Sensational Spider-Man, Marvel Knights, and Big Love) on scripting, Mike Perkins (Captain America)on art, and Martin (Ultimates 2, Astonishing X-Men) on inks --- has been pitch and letter perfect from the beginning to end of each issue. Reading The Stand: Captain Trips is like a Classic Illustrated adaptation of a novel loving done by EC Comics (and there are those of you who know what a compliment that is). And indeed, it is a classic. When The Stand was first published in edited form in 1978, home computers were the stuff of science fiction. Cell phones were a decade away. The internet was in its infancy, its accessibility limited to a few. Cable television was new. The beta vs. VHS VCR wars were in full swing. And people knew AIDS only as a weight loss supplement, rather than as a disease which was beginning to attract uneasy attention from a handful of doctors in a very limited number of urban centers. So when I call The Stand a classic, I mean that it is as timeless and as timely today--right now--as if it was published yesterday, notwithstanding the thirty-odd years that have passed since the original novel first saw the light of day.

The story, for the uninitiated, begins when a very nasty designer viral strain, dubbed "Captain Trips" (a sideways tribute to Jerry Garcia) escapes from a secret government facility and spreads. When Charlie Campion and his family escape from the facility--or think that they escape--they are doing nothing more than postponing the inevitable and spreading death in their wake. From the moment that their automobile with its extremely ill passengers makes a final stop at Bill Hapscomb's gas station in Texas, the fate of the nation is sealed. Since the virus is a secret, no one knows what they're dealing with. Each person who gets it--and just about everyone gets it--thinks they have "the flu," at least at first. The few who don't, and who constitute a fractional rounding error off of ninety-nine percent, include Frannie Goldsmith, a young pregnant woman who is facing the birth of her unborn child on her own; Larry Underwood, a fledgling rock star unable to come to terms with the terms of his own success; Nick Andros, a young man with a hearing and speech impairment who lists compassion as among his few remaining assets; Stuart Redman, one of the first to be exposed at Hapscomb's gas station, and who may hold the key to immunity; and Lloyd Henreid, a homicidal killer who awaits what would seem to be an inevitable justice. They are all, to varying degrees, haunted in their dreams by an enigmatic character named Randall Flagg, known by those he meets in the back alleys and the shuttered rooms of America as the Walkin' Man or the Boogeyman. Flagg welcomes Captain Trips as a harbinger of his ascent to glory, even as he haunts the dreams of the survivors.

The Stand: Captain Trips adapts wonderfully to the sequential art media, primarily because the team in charge of this wild night's ride approaches the work the way a groom should approach his bride: with love, respect, and, most importantly, unbridled passion. There is plenty of opportunity for shock and awe here, and Perkins and Martin are not above presenting some of the more gruesome scenes in all of their graphic glory. Yet, they are more than capable of wringing terror from the most ordinary scenes. Have you ever had your hair stand on end as you witness...a handshake? You will here.. Aguirre-Sacasa, for his part, brings his considerable cinematic narrative talents to the proceedings, infusing even the most benign passages with an atmosphere that hints and whispers that all is not well, even as he moves the narrative along at a perfect pace. And Perkins and Martin are in perfect synch with him, pulling back when appropriate, and getting up close and personal when necessary. And one note, here: I haven't always been the biggest fan of Perkins' work, but I am on this effort, where his lines mesh flawlessly with the storyline and with Martin's dark, somber coloring.

The Stand: Captain Trips is an indispensable take on a much-loved work, a gutsy effort whose reach and grasp are as one. I cannot wait for more. This volume (as well as future ones, presumably) includes reproductions of the alternate covers of each issue, notes from creators, and other contributions to give the reader an over-the shoulder look at how the sequential art adaptation in their hands came into being. Such lagniappe notwithstanding, however, the meat of the book is the story itself, and what a rich, irresistible feast it is. Strongly recommended.

-- Joe

Friday, February 22, 2013

An Early Preview of Upcoming Tours for 2013

Winter is coming to an end (although for those in the Midwest who got hit so hard in the recent storm, this might seem hard to believe). So, now is the time to begin to make those plans for summer. This is when people dream of vacations, of summer gigs (and romances), and, yes, concerts.

So, I figured it might be a good idea to announce some of the bands that at least have tentative plans to go on tour for this upcoming year. Here goes...

Good news!

Voivod is going on tour this year, in honor of their 30th anniversary! Attached is a fascinating (and short) article on the announcement, which should excite fans of the Vod (it excites me!), It also talks a little about their recent album, and why it sounds so reminiscent of their past works.

Voivod to tour the world 2013 

by Ralph Archer January 25, 2013

The Metal File recently interviewed Voivod drummer Michel “Away” Langevin. To no surprise, the interview mainly concerns the band’s new (thirteenth) album, Target Earth, released on January 22nd by Iron Gang Factory and Century Media.  

According to Langevin one of the reasons why the album sounds a lot like earlier Voivod is because bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault is back in the band after a 17 year absence, being closely involved in the songwriting with new guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain. Among all the “very progressive” songs with “strange time signatures”, Langevin requested to include two more thrash-y songs à la Motörhead, which resulted in “Kluskap O’Kom” and in the band’s first French song, “Corps Étranger”.  

Langevin also says that due to Voivod’s 30th anniversary this month, the band plans live tours throughout the world this year, starting in Canada, crossing North and South America, then going to Europe and ending in Asia. In between tours they want to write new material. The past is alive.

That is pretty awesome news! Dates are still mostly unconfirmed at the moment, but stay tuned! I know that I'm definitely looking forward to it.

How about some other groups? Any big plans?

Well, here's the itinerary for Alice in Chains, according to

APRIL 2013  

Apr 25 - Miami Beach, FL - The Fillmore  
Apr 26 - Tampa, FL - WXTB Rockfest  
Apr 27 - Jacksonville, FL - Welcome To Rockville  
Apr 30 - Birmingham, AL - BJCC Concert Hall  

MAY 2013 

May 1 - Augusta, GA - William B. Bell Auditorium  
May 4 - Charlotte, NC - Carolina Rebellion  
May 5 - Norfolk, VA - Norva  
May 7 - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Event Center  
May 8 - Pittsburgh, PA - Benedum Center  
May 10 - Boone, IA - Central Iowa Expo  
May 12 - St. Louis, MO - KPNT Pointfest  
May 14 - Sioux Falls, SD - Lyons Fairgrounds  
May 15 - Milwaukee, WI - Eagles Ballroom  
May 18 - Philadelphia, PA - Susquehanna Bank Center  
May 19 - Columbus, OH - Rock On The Range  
May 21 - Ft. Wayne, IN - Embassy Theatre  
May 22 - Evansville, IN - Aiken Theatre  
May 24 - Lincoln, NE - Pinewood Bowl Amphitheater  
May 25 - Pryor, Oklahoma - Rocklahoma   

JUNE 2013 

 Jun 15 - Donington Park, England - Download Festival  


Sep 19 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Rock in Rio

Sounds good. Here's some information on highly regarded Mumford & Sons, as well as upcoming tour dates, according to

Mumford & Sons are a folk group formed in London. The line up consists of Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ted Dwayne and Ben Lovett. Their debut album, Sigh No More, was released in the UK and Ireland in October 2009, and February 2010 in the United States. It was a commercial success, hitting the top ten in multiple countries. Top singles: Little Lion Man, Winter Winds and The Cave.

Upcoming Mumford & Sons concerts Mumford & Sons

March 04, 2013  Warsaw  Stodoła, Poland Mumford & Sons
March 06, 2013  Prague  Lucerna Music Bar, Czech Republic Mumford & Sons
March 07, 2013  Vienna  Gasometer, Austria Mumford & Sons
March 08, 2013  Budapest  PetĹ‘fi Csarnok, Hungary Mumford & Sons
March 11, 2013  Munich  Zenith, Germany Mumford & Sons
March 12, 2013  Berne  Festhalle Bea Bern Expo, Switzerland Mumford & Sons
March 14, 2013  Milan  Alcatraz, Italy Mumford & Sons
March 15, 2013  Florence  Obihall, Italy Mumford & Sons
March 16, 2013  Rome  Atlantico Live, Italy Mumford & Sons
March 19, 2013  Toulouse  Le Bikini, France Mumford & Sons
March 20, 2013  Barcelona  Razzmatazz, Spain Mumford & Sons
March 21, 2013  Madrid  La Riviera, Spain Mumford & Sons
March 23, 2013  Lisbon  Coliseu dos Recreios, Portugal Mumford & Sons
March 26, 2013  Paris  Le Trianon, France Mumford & Sons
March 27, 2013  Luxembourg  Rockhall Alzette, Luxembourg Mumford & Sons
March 28, 2013  Antwerp  Lotto Arena, Belgium Mumford & Sons
March 30, 2013  Amsterdam  Ziggo Dome, Netherlands Mumford & Sons
April 02, 2013          Berlin  Velodrom, Germany Mumford & Sons
April 03, 2013          Dusseldorf  Mitsubishi Electric Halle, Germany Mumford & Sons
April 04, 2013          Hamburg  Alsterdorfer Sporthalle, Germany Mumford & Sons
April 08, 2013          Copenhagen  Falconer Salen, Denmark Mumford & Sons
April 10, 2013    Stockholm  Cirkus, Sweden Mumford & Sons
April 11, 2013    Oslo  Sentrum Scene, Norway Mumford & Sons
July 12, 2013      Kinross  Balado, United Kingdom Mumford & Sons
July 19, 2013      Lewes  The Convent Field, United Kingdom Mumford & Sons
August 23, 2013  Simcoe  Norfolk County Fairgrounds, Canada Mumford & Sons
August 30, 2013  Troy OH Troy Memorial Stadium, United States Mumford & Sons
September 06, 2013  Guthrie OK Cottonwood Flats, United States Mumford & Sons
September 13, 2013  St Augustine FL St. Augustine Francis Field, United States

So, how about some dates for Pearl Jam? This, according to

Upcoming Pearl Jam concerts Pearl Jam
March 31, 2013 Sao Paulo  Jockey Club, Brazil Pearl Jam
April 03, 2013          Buenos Aires  Costanera Sur, Argentina Pearl Jam
April 06, 2013   Santiago  Parque O'Higgins, Chile Pearl Jam
July 16, 2013     London (ONT) Budweiser Gardens, Canada Pearl Jam
July 19, 2013     Chicago IL Wrigley Field, United States

Here are upcoming tour dates for ZZ Top, according to

March 13, 2013 Hunter Stadium , Newcastle Guns N' Roses, ZZ Top, Rose Tattoo, Venue Changed to Newcastle Ent Centre in Newcastle  
March 19, 2013 Southport RSL , Gold Coast ZZ Top, The Dead Daisies in Gold Coast  
May 2, 2013 First Council Casino , Newkirk ZZ Top in Newkirk  
May 3, 2013 7777 N Highway 81 , Concho ZZ Top in Concho  
May 9, 2013 Community Theatre At Mayo Center For The Performing Arts , Morristown ZZ Top in Morristown  
May 10, 2013 2000 West Virginia Ave , Crewe ZZ Top in Crewe  
May 11, 2013 500 Boardwalk , Atlantic City ZZ Top in Atlantic City  
May 14, 2013 Bergen Performing Arts Center , Englewood ZZ Top in Englewood  
May 15, 2013 NYCB Theatre at Westbury , Westbury ZZ Top in Westbury  
May 17, 2013 Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom , Hampton ZZ Top in Hampton  
May 18, 2013 Lynn Memorial Auditorium , Lynn ZZ Top in Lynn  
May 25, 2013 850 Bayview Avenue , Biloxi ZZ Top in Biloxi
August 2, 2013 Soo Pass Ranch , Detroit Lakes Dustin Lynch, Keith Urban, ZZ Top, Little Big Town in Detroit Lakes

How about some Rush? Here, according to

Rush - Summer 2013 "Clockwork Angels" North American Tour Dates:  

June 21 – Hershey, Pa., Giant Center 
June 23 – Wantagh, N.Y., Nikon At Jones Beach Theater 
June 25 – Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Saratoga Performing Arts Center 
June 28 – Tinley Park, Ill., First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre 
June 30 – Grand Rapids, Mich., Van Andel Arena 
July 2 – Cincinnati, Ohio, Riverbend Music Center 
July 4 – Milwaukee, Wis., Marcus Amphitheater -Summerfest 
July 6 – Hamilton, Ontario, Copps Coliseum 
July 12 – Halifax, Nova, Scotia, Halifax Metro Centre 
July 24 – Calgary, Alberta, Scotiabank Saddledome 
July 26 – Vancouver, British Columbia, Rogers Arena 
July 28 – Ridgefield, Wash., Sleep Country Amphitheater 
July 31 – Salt Lake City, Utah, Usana Amphitheatre 
Aug. 2 – Denver, Colo., Pepsi Center 
Aug. 4 – Kansas City, Mo., Sprint Center

Plenty to choose from. I'm obviously forgetting some. Of course, there are plenty of other artists out there that I have not mentioned. We all have different tastes after all, don't we? But if you like going to shows, and want to know if your favorite act, or acts, will be coming around somewhere near you, here is one website I recommend checking out:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Charbor on the Rocks - Band v. Band Feud: Guns 'N Roses v. Nirvana


This feud flared up relatively quickly and, it might be added, seemingly randomly, at least on the surface. But there were actually deep-seeded differences in attitude and philosophy. They were both hard-rocking groups in their own right. But Kurt Cobain actually could not stand the machismo. He hated the possibility that many fans were homophobic, sexist, and racist, and he felt that Guns N' Roses played up to that, and embodied that redneck mentality.

When asked about this mentality, it was Cobain (and not the interviewer, Kevin Allman) who brought up Guns N' Roses in his response:

"That's been the biggest problem that I've had being in this band. I know there are those people out in the audience, and there's not much I can do about it. I can talk about those issues in interviews-I think it's pretty obvious that we're against the homophobes and the sexists and the racists, but when "Teen Spirit" first came out, mainstream audiences were under the assumption that we were just like Guns N' Roses." (

The feud had it's roots with Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose, who was a fan of Nevermind, continually asking Nirvana to accompany them on their upcoming tour for the summer of 1992, with Metallica. Cobain liked Metallica, but Guns N' Roses? Not so much. Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana, recalls:

"I remember that when Nevermind first came out, Axl Rose was a really big fan of us. Guns N' Roses was about to do this massive stadium tour with Metallica, and they wanted us to open. So Axl had been calling Kurt nonstop. One day we're walking through an airport and Kurt says, "Fuck. Axl Rose won't stop calling me." I think it represented something bigger. Nirvana didn't want to turn into Guns N' Roses. So Kurt started talking shit in interviews, and then Axl started talking back. It went back and forth like tenth-grade bullshit. Then we got to the awards and our trailers were all in the same one hundred yards. And Courtney was there, which never makes anything easier. So it didn't take much to blow up into a full-fiedged showdown. Kurt and Courtney were screaming at Axl. Axl screamed back. It was all just soap-opera bullshit. Krist, our bass player, almost got in a fistfight. I was just the drummer, so I shouted some loud, funny shit and hit the bar." (

Here's what Kurt had to say in a 1992 interview with Kevin Allman of The Advocate (February 1992 issue):

"I can’t even waste my time on that band, because they’re so obviously pathetic and untalented. I used to think that everything in the mainstream pop world was crap, but now that some underground bands have been signed with majors, I take Guns N’ Roses as more of an offense. I have to look into it more: They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can’t believe it." (

That was not the end of the feud, by any stretch of the imagination.

When confronted by a kid who claimed that both GNR and Nirvana played awesome music, and should just get along, Kurt had this to say:

"And I just couldn't help but say, 'No, kid, you're really wrong. Those people are total sexist jerks, and the reason we're playing this show is to fight homophobia in a real small way. The guy is a fucking sexist and a racist and a homophobe, and you can't be on his side and be on our side. I'm sorry that I have to divide this up like this, but it's something you can't ignore. And besides they can't write good music'." (

So, when rumors ran rampant that the Cobain baby was deformed because of drug use, Axl rose had something to say. "Axl Rose, of Guns N' Roses, even weighed in from the stage: Kurt Cobain is a fucking junkie with a junkie wife. And if the baby's born deformed, I think they both ought to go to prison." ("Heavier Than Heaven: A biography of Kurt Cobain", by Charles R. Cross, Loc 4287, 57%).

Then, of course, came the most famous, or perhaps rather infamous, night between the two bands at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, when tempers really flared up and came to the surface in a very public way. Charles Cross describes how it began:

"Meanwhile, a drama was unfolding backstage. Kurt, Courtney.... were sitting with Frances when Axl Rose walked by, holding hands with his model-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour. "Hey Axl," Courtney beckoned, sounding a bit like Blanche Dubois, "will you be the godfather of our child?" Rose ignored her but turned to Kurt, who was bouncing Frances on his knee, and leaned down near his face. As the veins in Axl's neck thickened to the size of a garden hose, he barked: "You shut your bitch up, or I'm taking you down to the pavement!"

"The idea that anyone could control Courtney was so laughable that a giant smile came to Kurt's face. He would have chortled uncontrollably if it weren't for his own strong sense of self-preservation. He turned to Courtney and ordered, in a robot-like voice: "Okay, bitch. Shut up!" This brought a snicker to everyone within earshot, other than Rose and Seymour. Perhaps seeking to save face, Seymour created her own confrontation, asking Courtney, with as much sarcasm as she could muster, "Are you a model?" Love, who had just delivered her child three weeks before, was too quick for anyone to best her in this type of reparteee - particularly Stephanie Seymour - and fired back, "No. Are you a brain surgeon?" With that, Rose and Seymour stormed off." ("Heavier Than Heaven: A biography of Kurt Cobain", by Charles R. Cross, Loc 4452 - 4463, 60%).

The night did not end there, however.

After Nirvana performed their song, Lithium, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl went up to the microphone and loudly taunting Axl Rose, "Hi, Axl! Hi, Axl! Where's Axl? Hi, Axl! Hi, Axl! Hi Axl!" (Here's a video clip of the performance of Lithium, with Dave Grohl's taunts at the end:

Here's a video clip of Grohl's "Hi Axl!" taunt at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, following Nirvana's own performance:

The tensions erupted yet again, this time involving other members from both bands. Charles Cross explains again:

Novoselic....found himself confronted by Duff McKagan, of Guns N' Roses, and two bodyguards, looking for a brawl. Krist, Courtney, and baby Frances were inside the band's trailer when the entourage unsuccessfully attempted to topple it. Kurt missed this because he'd left to make the Exodus curfew." ("Heavier Than Heaven: A biography of Kurt Cobain", by Charles R. Cross, Loc 4463-, 60%).

Still, by year's end, Cobain sent Axl Rose an unexpected Christmas card.

At one point, Kurt Cobain even mockingly imitated Axl's famous "snake dance". I could not get a precise date, although it was mentioned in a comment somewhere that the clip is from 1994, which would mean that the hard feelings between the two may have lasted right up until the end. Here's the clip:

The public spat between the bands had finally simmered, although Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain never really did have a chance to settle the dispute before Cobain's suicide in 1994.

Perhaps there is a good reason for that, though. Maybe the tensions still very much existed.

In 2004, Dave Grohl, now of the Foo Fighters, wanted to "personally I'd like to thank Guns N' Roses for cancelling so that we could be here tonight." (Here's the clip for that:

More recently, Dave Grohl discussed some of the guys from the original GNR while visiting with Jon Stewart on the The Daily Show:

"Anyone that has met any of those guys like Slash, Duff... they're really nice guys," said Dave Grohl.  "After Kurt died one of the first phone calls I got was from (GN'R drummer) Matt Sorum. He left a message and said 'man, I'm really sorry and I hope you're doing well'. I thought that was really cool. They're good dudes."

Grohl continued:

"What had happened was [GN'R] were about to do a big stadium tour and they wanted us to come out on the road with them and we just weren't ready to do something like that. It wasn't our scene. So in saying no it blew up into something else."  

Dave said while everyone gets along with each other now, back then Nirvana's way of doing things was against the huge rock spectacle of bands like Guns N' Roses.  "We were coming from two totally different places. Our whole world rejected that scene as something that was just not real. There were big differences, fundamental differences in what we did." (Article by Dave-O of Triple M, with quotes from the Dave Grohl Interview during their visit to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Here is an interesting article that was short enough to include here, that describes Cobain's lingering dislike of Guns N' Roses, and Axl Rose in particular. The entire article is included here, with the link attached below:

Rocker KURT COBAIN "detested" GUNS N' ROSES frontman AXL ROSE, according to a new book detailing the late musician's life.  

Former record executive Danny Goldberg writes in his forthcoming memoirs, Bumping Into Geniuses, that the Nirvana singer and Rose were engaged in a bitter feud throughout their careers.  

Goldberg claims promoters were desperate to launch a tour featuring Nirvana, Metallica and Guns N' Roses during the height of their popularity in the early 1990s.  

But plans for the show were put on hold because of a rift between Cobain and Rose when the Nirvana frontman refused to meet Rose after a concert.  

Goldberg writes: "There was a lot of money on the table. Kurt really liked Metallica... (but) Rose had the kind of macho rock persona that Kurt detested."  The book also tells how the grudge between the pair was still not settled when Cobain committed suicide in 1994. 

Article above: "Cobain + Rose's Feud Detailed in Rock Memoir" by Contact Music:


Clip of Kurt Cobain mockingly imitating Axl Rose's snakedance:

Audio clip of Kurt Cobain discussing confrontation with Axl Rose's during Nirvana concert, the night after:

Audio clip of Axl Rose questioning the label "alternative" music, and discussing Kurt Cobain, suggesting that Cobain and his wife are junkies, and that they should be thrown in prison if something ended up wrong with their baby:

Vidio clip of the history of the rivalry between Nirvana and Guns 'n Roses:

Other articles on the feud:

"The Top Five Musical Feuds Of The Last 20 Years (Not Involving Moby)" by Nick Minichino of VH1 Blog:

If you want to get a more in-depth viewpoint from Kurt Cobain's perspective, take a look at this fascinating article, in which he talks quite extensively about Guns N' Roses, and the tensions that existed between the two bands at the time.

Axl Rose vs. Nirvana- Nastiest Rock Feuds by Graham "Gruhamed" Hartmann of Loudwire:

Quote from Dave Grohl taken from a 2008 interview with Esquire. I found the quote at the link below:

Article by Dave-O of Triple M, with quotes from the Dave Grohl Interview during their visit to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Charbor on the Rocks - Band vs. Band Rock Feuds: Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam


Having finished a book on Pearl Jam last month (Mick Wall's "Pearl Jam"), and coming close to finishing a book on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana this month (Charles R. Cross's "Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain" - look for the book review in the near future!), it seems appropriate, as well as inevitable, to begin the series on band feuds with two bands that I have liked for a long time. It is a feud that was well-publicized in it's day and, in a strange way, the reverberations of which continue on some level even to this day. I personally know of a few people who feel that Cobain got it right about Pearl Jam being sell outs, commercialized music posing as anti-establishment, and a lead singer and band who profess to be uncomfortable with their success, even while every move that they have made seemed clearly with the intent of furthering their popularity and success. Ironically, the same claim could (and has) been made about Nirvana.

The feud between the two biggest "Seattle sound" (there really wasn't such a thing, but the label stuck), or grunge, was greatly exaggerated, and also really unnecessary.

Here's what Spinner had to say about it in their piece, "Worst Band Feuds: No. 14" (see link below):

This one, like Beatles-Stones, was the rivalry the media really, really wished would blow up. The fact of the matter was that, while Kurt Cobain was occasionally dismissive of his fellow Seattle band in the press, the conscientious blokes in Pearl Jam never took the bait. Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam was pretty much a nonstarter: All apologies.

Pearl Jam may not have fought back, or done anything to up the ante and make it an outright feud with Nirvana, yet they undeniably felt the effects. In Cameron Crowe’s documentary on the band, “Pearl Jam Twenty”, they discuss the pressures that these criticisms of Cobain, and the overall question of credibility, had on the band, and the consensus was best expressed by Stone Gossard, who said that this kept them honest, kept them on their toes, and made them scrutinize everything that they did.

Indeed, in many respects, the criticisms that Cobain voiced the loudest have continued long after Cobain’s death. Many have accused them of being overly commercial, buying Cobain's comments without question. During their highly publicized battle with Ticketmaster, citing that the agency not only was a monopoly, but that they charged prices that the band felt were simply too high, Green Day claimed that Pearl Jam should simply take a smaller cut. Whether or not they were missing the point or not is up for debate, but the band’s motives have always seemingly been under the microscope and questioned at every turn.

Kim Neely, author of another Pearl Jam book (that I read a long, long time ago) made it clear that the rivalry got more intense as Pearl Jam's popularity began to overtake Nirvana's, and seemed to suggest that Cobain stepped up his criticisms of the band possibly out of some measure of jealousy. Nirvana themselves may themselves have fallen victim to another such rivalry as they were the new hot band, as Guns N' Roses (Axl Rose in particular, shockingly enough) seemed to lash out against Nirvana as their popularity began to eclipse that of Gun N' Roses, who had formerly been quite dominant in that category.

Pearl Jam's "Ten" album was released shortly after Nirvana's groundbreaking "Nevermind" album, which really catapulted alternative music into the mainstream, where it began to dominate (at least for a few years). But many felt that Pearl Jam had hastily slapped an album together and released it, in order to try and follow in the footsteps and cash in on Nirvana's success - essentially, of jumping on the bandwagon. Cobain himself entered this debate, dismissing Pearl Jam as "sellouts", and claiming that they were "pioneering a corporate, alternative and cock-rock fusion".  Cobain also claimed that Pearl Jam was "false alternative macho metal", and he was vocal in his displeasure about MTV's lumping Pearl Jam with Nirvana. Cobain grew more vocal in his criticisms of Pearl Jam the more popular they got, and he targeted the one area that was at least perceived to be Pearl Jam's weakness: their credibility. So, even as Pearl Jam's popularity began to be greater than Nirvana's, purists could point out that this was part of the script, and that was, itself, the problem. Mick Wall, in his book, "Pearl Jam", described how this hurt Pearl Jam's credibility, although credibility was one thing that came easily to Nirvana. As described in the article by Clash Music in 2009 (see link below):

Pearl Jam would later eclipse Nirvana in terms of sales with follow up 'V' outselling Nirvana's 'In Utero' by almost five copies to one. However it could be argued this is exactly what Cobain wanted.

The tensions between the two bands existed, yet it was not strictly defined by tensions, either. They played on the same bill on certain nights, and Pearl Jam even performed Nirvana's signature "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on more than one occasion, with Eddie Vedder always giving praise to Nirvana and Cobain. For their part, Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic tried to defuse any tensions by being supportive of Pearl Jam in their own right on certain occasions.

Cobain clearly did not like Pearl Jam's music, and thought that they were entirely corporate music. Yet, even then, he admired their attitudes, in comparison to other major groups that, he felt, stood for nothing, even adamantly refusing to stand for any issues. Here is what Cobain had to say in an interview with Kevin Allman of of The Advocate (February 1992 issue):

"I don't like Pearl Jam's music at all, but at least they have good attitudes; they're not another Van Halen, who totally refuse to address anything. The only sad thing about it is that the innocence of underground music has been lumped in with the corporate idea of what underground is. There are no boundaries. Pearl Jam's a good example. I don't mean to harp on them; I'm tired of talking shit about them, but they're a real commercial rock band." 

But even Cobain himself began to want to defuse the tensions, saying, "I can appreciate them. I realize that the same people that like their band like our band. So why create some kind of feud?"

Famously, Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder even slow-danced together at the 1992 MTV VMA's. In His biography about Kurt Cobain, Charles Cross describes what happened when they were forced together" "When they were pushed together by the women, Kurt grabbed his rival and danced with him like an awkward teenager at the prom." ("Heavier Than Heaven: A biography of Kurt Cobain", by Charles R. Cross, Loc 4463, 60%). It was a rare piece of archival footage found by Cameron Crowe as he researched material for "Pearl Jam Twenty" a few years ago. You can see a clip of that below, where there is a link to the footage.

Later that year, Cross wrote, Cobain even sent Eddie Vedder a Christmas card.

The tensions between the camps of the two bands seemed to be largely a thing of the past. But that was not exactly true, and everything that happened in relation to the two bands was greatly magnified under the media microscope. When Eddie Vedder pulled Pearl Jam out of a show with Nirvana in late 1993, it was seen as a slight. The official reason stated was that Vedder had a flue, but many suspected that it was Eddie Vedder's way of getting back at Cobain and Nirvana.

Not much after this, Kurt Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, would bring the feud to a new low with a few careless words. It happened as Cobain's personal, self-destructive problems began to edge closer to that infamous point of tragedy. About one month prior to his suicide in the spring of 1994, Cobain nearly died of an overdose while on tour in Italy. It was not clear to the world at that point that it had the elements of a suicide attempt. A month later, when Kurt Cobain shot himself in his house back in Washington, it would become more apparent.

Vedder found out shortly thereafter that one small-circulation British monthly magazine, Select, had an article with the headlines, "WHY COULDN"T IT HAVE BEEN EDDIE VEDDER?" Courtney Love had said in an interview, "I wish it had been Eddie. They'd have had a fucking candelit vigil for him."

When confronted with this in an interview, Vedder responded:

"Oh, that's nice. That's really nice. That makes me feel really good. I wonder why she didn't mention that when I phoned her last night (April 16th, 1994) and offered her any help or support I could give her...I really don't know any of these people, I don't know Courtney, I'd never talked to her before. But someone said I should call her and and I thought maybe I should. I mean, all this shit that comes up and all this bullshit that flies back and forth in the press that gets italicized and trumped up to make it a bigger deal than it really is, when all that's said and done, there's feelings I have for those people. And the ones that are alive, I need to let them know how I feel."

In the same interview, he describes his own reaction when he first heard of Cobain's overdose in Italy:

"I remember when he got sick in Rome - -I didn't realize then that it was actually a suicide attempt - -I was in Seattle. I went out to grab something to eat and I saw the headlines. That he was in a coma. I just freaked out, man. I went home and made some phone calls, tried to find out what was going on. Then I started pacing the house and started to cry...I just kept saying, 'Don't go, man, just don't fuckin' go...just don't go.' I kept thinking, 'If he goes, I'm fucked."

There were t-shirts being sold shortly after Cobain's suicide that read: "Eddie's Next".

That, of course, did not happen. Nirvana ceased to be with Cobain's suicide, and the surviving members all went in their own directions. However, they did reunite with Paul McCartney heading the makeshift band in a concert late last year, the 12/12/12 Concert for Sand Relief at Madison Square Garden (see my review of the concert posted on December 13, 2012, if interested).

It should be noted that Courtney Love and Eddie Vedder have since seemed to make amends. Following a Rolling Stone article that seemed to completely trash Vedder, numerous musicians, including Michael Stipe of REM, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, and Courtney Love defended Eddie Vedder, praising him for the battle with Ticketmaster, even comparing him to Abraham Lincoln, and blasting Rolling Stone for their harsh treatment of him.

Kurt Cobain had problems with two members of Pearl Jam in particular – Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. Both had formerly been members of other Seattle bands, Green River and Mother Love Bone. Perhaps it was the relatively radical change in musical style and scene that left him suspicious?

Jeff Ament had a bit to say about the conflict in an interview with John Robinson, and he seems to betray a hint of taking it personally:

"I think that any of our comments [in the press at the time], or any of Nirvana’s comments, were probably based on being asked over and over about each other. I wasn’t going to feel bad about any of that stuff, because I was in a hardcore band when Kurt [Cobain] and Krist [Novoselic] and those guys were 11 or 12. I certainly didn’t want to be in a punk rock band, because I had already been in a punk rock band. I wanted to be in a band that could do anything – like Led Zeppelin."

In the same interview, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard had this to say, sounding considerably more at peace with himself, and philosophical about the whole thing:

"I think he [Kurt Cobain] raised our bar. By him being critical of us, I think we said, “Well, that’s what he says about us – what are we going to do?” I think we made tougher records, and I think we thought about everything in the light of “Are we doing this because we like it? Or are we doing it because we’re sellouts?” So in a sense, he kept us on our best behaviour. I think Ed and Kurt became friends. But I think it was all about a fight between [Mudhoney’s] Mark Arm and Steve [Turner] and Jeff and I [over the demise of a previous band, Green River]. And Kurt Cobain was just a pawn in the whole thing." 
(Both quotes taken by:

More recently, Jeff Ament returned back to the subject, and claimed that Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love used to mock him for playing basketball. You can read the story for yourself at:

In the 2009 interview with Clash Music, Eddie Vedder reflected back on the feud between the two bands, and said, "I don't think Kurt understood us at the time, but we became friends and I'm glad we had some of the great conversations we had, that I'm always going to keep up here."

I think it would be fitting to conclude this piece with some words quoted by Eddie Vedder from that same Clash Music article (the link can be found below, and is definitely recommended!):

"But there's a couple of complimentary things that he said in public about me as a human being, which I'm proud exist.

"But if Kurt were around today, I know he'd say to me, 'Well, you turned out OK'."

Video Clip of Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain slowdancing together:

"The 50 Greatest Beefs in Rock Music History" by Daniel Margolis

"Vedder on Nirvana Feud : Singer reveals Cobain friendship" by Clash Music. This is a 2009 article in which Eddie Vedder reflects on Kurt Cobain, which I used rather extensively on this entry:

Seattle Times article from 1993, about Vedder pulling out of the concert with Nirvana:

"Epic Musician Feuds of the '90's" by Judy Berman of Flavorwire

"Interview with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder" by Allen Jones (April 17, 1994):This is a fascinating interview done in the aftermath of Kurt Cobain's suicide, and Eddie Vedder shares his thoughts on Kurt's death, as well as the feud between the two, and his own predicament with stardom and the lack of privacy that he was really struggling with at the time. Also, he is confronted with Courtney Love's mean-spirited statement, "Why couldn't it have been Eddie?". A fascinating, albeit long, read, but highly recommended!

Link to "March 1994 Pearl Jam History", which had some derogatory quotes from Flipside magazine with quotes from Kurt Cobain about Pearl Jam that was used in this blog:

More info on the 1996 Rolling Stone article "Reinventing Eddie Vedder" that generated so much criticism from rock notables, including Courtney Love: ... newhoy.htm

Article from Spinner:

Interview of Kurt Cobain by Kevin Allman of The Advocate (February 1992 issue), from which I got one of the quotes used above:

Excellent article with reflections on the subject by both Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament: