Saturday, August 8, 2015

Spiritual Cramp

I was just in a record store purchasing the 12" version of Japanese Whispers by the Cure when a tattoo artist from the parlour next door waddled in and accosted me with tales of the last Death Rock Bar in Los Angeles having an anniversary party tonight. "Will they play Rozz?" I said, meaning, of course, Rozz Williams, creator and former lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Christian Death. "Well I don't know about that, but I've got his ashes in my shop!" the guy blathered.

Turkey, please.

First of all, Rozz's ashes were scattered, aside from a small portion that reside at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Observe:

Rozz Williams Memorial, Hollywood Forever. 

Second of all, I am so sure that Rozz would wind up in some crappy tattoo shop on York in Highland Park. He's got better places to be. 

I've been listening to Christian Death a LOT lately. They're that death rock / goth band that have been around since 1979 and have gone through tons of lineup changes (one in particular very controversial) and are incredibly polarizing, mostly because people who haven't ever listened to them think the name makes them Satanists. I've gotten death threats under my windshield wiper in the past when I had a Christian Death bumper sticker on my car. Give me a break, assholes.  

I go through phases, maybe once every two years, in which I listen to nothing but Christian Death. And I always get wrapped up in the stupid "Valor vs. Rozz" debate. 

Today, I am going to say very clearly, definitively, once and for all - Fuck the "Valor vs. Rozz" debate. Why can't we just enjoy Christian Death as an ever-changing thing of beauty? All versions have produced lovely, thoughtful music. All versions are connected. All versions count. Christian Death - whether it's Rozz, Valor, Gitane DeMone, or Maitri singing, is just a great band. Besides, arguing about it will never solve anything since Rozz is sadly long gone. 

I interviewed Rozz in 1993 before his band Shadow Project came to Ybor City, Tampa. We spoke for about an hour about serial killers, his musical influences, what he planned to accomplish with Shadow Project. He told me I was the best interviewer he'd ever had, which naturally made me all giddy. And so I finally had to ask him what his thoughts on the current state of Christian Death were. He said, "I really don't know. I haven't paid any attention to it. I see it and I know it's out there, but I don't really care." So there you go. Rozz didn't care, and neither should you. 

(Mind you, he DID reform his own version of Christian Death a few years later... but what're you gonna do.)

Now, this most recent foaming-at-the-mouth obsession with Christian Death came about because Valor's Christian Death has a new album. And I bought it. (I will buy everything they put out until either they or I die. It's just how it's going to be.) I wasn't sure what to expect. Valor's Christian Death albums are either pure masterpieces or absolute garbage. There's really no in-between. You just don't know which one you're going to wind up with. 

Happily, it's a REALLY good album. The cover art looks like a PowerPoint presentation, but you can't have everything. The music is what's important, anyway.

To celebrate the continued existence of Christian Death in any form, I decided I'd rank Christian Death's albums from best to worst. If I didn't include it, it's because it's so bad I don't listen to it. And you all know there are a few turkeys in this discography that are just laughable, so don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about. Pee-yew. 


1) Ashes. 

Best songs: "Ashes," "When I Was Bed," "Lament (Over the Shadows)." Rozz and Valor proved that their collaborations were amazing. It's too bad we didn't get to see what would have happened had they continued to collaborate. 

2) Catastrophe Ballet. 

Dang have I listened to this album on repeat forever since I first heard it. I love, love, love every moody, gloomy fucking song on this album. Beware, though - the remastered version that was most recently released on CD has some awful "bonus track" as the first song, and it fades into "Awake at the Wall." Why Valor would decide to ruin a masterpiece album this way is beyond me, so I'd suggest you find an older version on CD or get the recently released 30th Anniversary (!) vinyl. 

Any of you who went to Unitarian Universalist summer camp in the mid-Eighties - this album will remind you of that time!

3) Only Theatre of Pain. 

Now, "Burnt Offerings" was the first song I ever heard off this album. A goth girl in college put it on a mix for me. I don't know how anyone could listen to this song and not be immediately charmed. Rozz was obviously going for full shock value on this album, with his gurgling, crazy vocals and Satanic ritual sacrifice lyrics. Just adorable. 

4) Atrocities. 

My affection for this album grows each time I hear it. It's so, so good. Gitane is finally given her own songs, including her haunting version of "Gloomy Sunday." It's a theme album - most of Valor's Christian Death albums are. My favorite songs are "Silent Thunder" and "Will-o-the-wisp." 

Dang, y'all, put this on, light some candles, lie on the floor, and pretend you're in a dumpy, dank, smoke-filled club wearing all black and holding a clove in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other. 

5) Sex and Drugs and Jesus Christ. 

This was the first Christian Death album I ever purchased, never having heard them, based solely on the cover art. Yes, it's a picture of Jesus looking up to the heavens while shooting up. How could I NOT buy it?!? 

When I got it home, my uncle was there. He took the sleeve out and read the lyrics to "This Is Heresy" out loud. "Your church makes me vomit into the vertiginous abyss," he deadpanned, before pausing to think.  "I like that."

This album is gritty, pared down, and awesome. Gitane's songs are wonderful, especially "Incendiary Lover."  Woo-wee! 

6) The Scriptures. 

This here is some preachy shit. 

You see, before 1999, Valor SWORE that the world was going to end (in 1999) based on the prophecies of Nostradamus. Obviously that didn't come to pass. But Valor spent a lot of time talking about getting the "right" people to move with him to Antarctica. Yes, you read that correctly. Antarctica. What he thought they were going to do there - this Christian Death Society - is beyond comprehension, but at least he was trying.

That doesn't necessarily have anything to do with The Scriptures - it's just a cute story. The Scriptures is Valor's take on the philosophies of the world's religions. I used to dislike this album pretty intensely but upon repeated recent listenings, realized that it is actually really good. What was my problem? Who knows. 

7) Pornographic Messiah.

This came out in 1999, the year that nothing Nostradamus predicted would happen did... so Christian Death clearly moved past that shit. It's good. I love "Weave My Spell" and "The Obscene Kiss." This was the first album to come out after Rozz's suicide, and is dedicated to him. The poor lamb. 

8) The Root of All Evilution. 

Y'all this here's brand new. As of July Fourth, 2015, as a matter of fact. You can order it on pledgemusic, where they raised the money to produce it. Take a listen - it's only ten dollars! 

9) American Inquisition. 

This one came after a long silence, and it was worth the wait. "Angels and Drugs," "Surviving Armageddon," and "Last Thing" are excellent. 

Yes, I left a few albums out, as I stated I would earlier. The unmentioned albums - well, they have their merits, I suppose - some more than others. If you want to root through Sexy Death God and try to find a good song, please feel free. 

However, if you're just starting out with Christian Death, avoid things like "Best of Christian Death Featuring Rozz Williams," "All the Love / All the Hate," and pretty much anything on Cleopatra Records with the exception of The Path of Sorrows (primarily for the song "Mother," which is a beautiful, incredibly depressing little number.)

So why not pretend you're a disaffected teenager in the mid-1980s rifling through discs at your local record shoppe and coming across one of these little gems for the first time. You'll feel better about the world, at least temporarily. These people - they're geniuses. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

What We Know So Far About iTunes 11.

It sucks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hey, Jesus Freaks. Mind Your Own Business. I'll say "Happy Holidays" if I want to.

The "War on Christmas."  

According to conspiracy theory ultra-right wing Christians, it's being waged right now - and it's just getting harder and harder for those Christians to win this "War."  

You see, these pinhole-eyed shitsmear Jesus Freak losers seem to think that here - in America - we should be jamming Jesus down everyone's throats because this is a "Christian Nation."  To them, t's a place where Christ should be in schools, in government, in every home.

It's a place where if you're a Muslim, or a Unitarian, or a Jew, or any other religion, you're automatically suspect of any number of transgressions - from Satanism to terrorism.  Because these knuckle-dragging simpletons, most of whom haven't even read the book they hold so dear to their hearts, can't grasp the concept that here in America - as long as it doesn't draw blood - you can believe pretty much ANYTHING YOU WANT. 

So, they get offended when people say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  And they can't get why a large portion of the population seems to be upset by mangers on government property. And it makes their blood boil that some people don't want to pray to or worship a God that isn't a part of their faith.

To them, I say this - Fuck off. 

"Happy Holidays."  Big deal.  Why does that offend you? Why shouldn't you be sensitive to the fact that there might just be someone you're saying "Merry Christmas" to who doesn't buy into the ludicrous story that a "virgin" gave birth to the "Son of God"? Why is it so difficult for you to try to include other people once in a while instead of being so fucking arrogant and smug that you have to make the entire world either be on your side, or your enemy?  

And since you're so anti-tampering with Christmas, why don't you lay off trying to Christianize Halloween? Ooh, "it's the Devil's night." Give me a break. Practice what you preach, dickholes.

Calm the fuck down and let people have their own beliefs.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another St. Pete Landmark Dead.

I hate it when things I love close - especially when they were integral parts of my childhood, helping to shape what I was to become as an adult.  

The Beach Theatre on Corey Ave. in St. Pete Beach was always tentative, as long as I was alive.  It was a dump.  The fabric on the seats was held together by gum and old popcorn oil. But it was the only place in the entire area that would DARE play artsy films or second run stuff.  Most people in St. Petersburg never got the chance to see some of the more brilliant movies of our time because those movies - they just didn't come down South.  This theater, on the other hand, showed them all.  

Most clearly I remember seeing My Favorite Year, one of the most charming and under-appreciated films of the 80s (where the HELL is a DVD edition?), in which Peter O'Toole portrayed a movie star struggling with alcoholism and his own personal insecurities while trying to prepare for his turn as a guest celebrity for a live television broadcast.  I saw it when I was 12.  Everything about that movie, from the "How High the Moon" by Les Paul and Mary Ford intro music, to the wonderful portrayal of a Brooklyn Jewish Mother by Ms. Lainie Kazan, has stuck with me for my entire life. 

They were also the only theater in the 80s and 90s brave enough to show any movies by that infamous communist director, Mr. Woody Allen.  He's one of my all-time favorites. My friend Gina and I - we had all of his greater movies memorized, and would at times hold entire conversations that were absolutely nothing but quotations from these films. 

Gina - "SHE STOLE."

Me - "Have it your way. The Pacific is greater."  

Gina - "The universe is expanding." 

Me - "You take a knife." 

You see how it goes?  Needless to say, we, along with the rest of the "intellectual elite" of St. Petersburg and environs, flocked to this theater.  Mr. Allen, happily, is enjoying a more mainstream audience these days and one might even hope to encounter a run of his latest motion picture at a regular theater.  Back then, though, we had to search. 

The final sad thing about the death of the Beach Theatre - it was the local venue for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Now, I don't know about kids these days. I don't know what draws them to that film.  When I used to be rabidly obsessed with it, I was struggling with my sexuality in ways I didn't even understand yet. I was 14 the first time I saw it.  I knew I was different - but I didn't know that it could be a) accepted and even more interestingly, b) cool.  This movie was responsible for my being able to come to terms with the fact that I am a big old gayfer (as they call them in St. Petersburg).  It saved me. I'm pretty sure it still does that for some people.  

While the closing of a movie theater isn't really the end of the world now that we have instant access to almost everything ever made if we search hard enough, it's sad in that seeing a movie like Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown or Radio Days - one you know you'll be one in a group of people who are probably more like you in many ways than if you were just seeing Iron Man or Breaking Dawn - is just not the same watching it in your living room by yourself.  

Change - I don't care for it.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Every family has one - that member whose presence is tolerated solely because everyone feels pity for that person. They show up at gatherings, widely ignored, and then are the butt of jokes when not around.

My family has several - actually, more members of my family fit into that category than not, which is bewildering. There's the uncle who painted a car with a broom; the cousin who sits in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth all day long, lighting and putting out matches and then sniffing the fumes; the cousin who porked a turkey through a fence.

And then there's Peachie.

Now, morbid obesity runs in my family. My grandmother and both of her siblings were full-on wide loads, weighing 400+ pounds each, and their outfits consisted of mumus and sansabelt pants that were stretched to capacity. They rarely moved, and when they did expend the energy needed to get up out of their chairs, it was generally because they were in search of a bulk order of Twinkies or a side of beef. Sated, they would waddle back to their compacted seats and turn on their "stories" - soap operas to the rest of the world.

Peachie was my grandmother's younger sister. Her face resembled something you'd find living under a moist log. Her personality was akin to that of a dead duck. She was unabashedly obsessed with food, and her brain barely operated above the first-grade level. Unemployable, she was passed from family household to family household, staying only as long as the people with whom she was boarding could stand her or afford to keep up with her massive grocery list.

When the people with whom she was staying in Lake Wales, Florida gave her the boot, my uncle and aunt, who had two children, let her move into their house with the stipulation that she would watch their children while they were at work. This turn of events would lead to one of the longest-running jokes in my family history, but they were blissfully ignorant of this fact at the time; they were just trying to be good family members.

My aunt and uncle set up their Florida room as a makeshift bedroom for Peachie. There was a daybed and room for her meager belongings, most of which were either inspirational phrases laminated onto driftwood plaques or shell art clowns holding plastic balloons. A few pieces of art adorned the walls - sad-eyed kittens gazed plaintively while asking the viewer to "Hang In There," and Jesus led the viewer along the beach in the perennially tacky "Footprints." Knitted cozies covered everything - tissue boxes, vases, shoes.

My aunt has very strict guidelines as far as home decorating goes. She enjoys crystal, and has a huge collection of it. The sight of these yarned and carved abortions that graced Peachie's nook in her home sent her into a foaming frenzy, and she practically had to wear blinders while walking near Peachie's zone to keep from strangling people.

As Peachie settled in, we noticed things. First of all, she farted when she walked. Loudly. And it would happen anywhere - in the mall, in Steak -n- Shake, at funerals, in church. They slipped out and sounded like balloons being popped, startling everyone around. We, as children, would have to run away to keep from laughing in her face. On many occasions, we didn't make it, and the adults in the family would be mortified. Peachie, however, just stared ahead, either blissfully ignorant to the fact that gas had actually managed to maneuver its way through the torrential tunnels of her ass cheeks or pretending to be unaware that the foul incident had occurred.

She had huge open sores all over her arms which she spent her time picking. She loved to do this at the table while people were eating, and it caused a lot of unintentional weight loss in my family - people were so horrified by the bloody lacerations covering her upper arms that they couldn't possibly consume their pot pies or hoagies.

The most important thing, legendary in my family, that came to light about Peachie, was that she made involuntary noises whenever she found out that food was around. "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh..." she would groan, as if she were preparing for a particularly vulgar sex act. "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh..." over the chocolate cake. Over the roast beef at Christmas. Over a box of Saltines. It didn't matter to her - if it was food, it turned her on. Big time.

Her favorite snack was something she called "bologna rolls." That's exactly what it was - a slice of bologna rolled up into a tube. She would eat one, walk back to the couch and sit down, then get up, go back to the refrigerator and say, "I'm gonna have me another bologna roll," and then go back to the couch. It was as if she were following the instructions on the shampoo bottle - "lather, rinse, repeat," but had switched out the shampoo for bologna. She would keep this up until the pack of bologna was gone, and then she would sulk.

The Scarsdale diet was popular in the early 80s. Cottage cheese, plain hamburger patties and other boring foods were supposed to help the fat and lazy lose weight, and Peachie was a prime candidate. She claimed she was going to lose weight, and we all supported her. Her goal was set, and she volunteered herself freely to the cause, stating that the "Clydesdale" diet would be good for her. Weeks went by and she seemed to be following the diet accordingly - lame ass food that tasted like air seemed to be keeping her sated and happy.

One day my uncle came home early and she ran out the back door really quickly. He followed her outside to see what was going on, and then called my father to relate the following information: "I busted Peach with a piece of toast. She was scrubbing the windows with Windex and had a paper towel with her when she went out in the backyard, and god damn if she wasn't eating that toast covered in Windex!"

Soon after, they discovered a crate (yes, a CRATE) of M&Ms hidden under her bed. How she got them, no one will ever know, for the final straw in her stay at Joel and Cheri's was just around the corner.

It all happened so quickly.

My aunt was cooking a huge pot of green beans, enough to feed the entire family for days. She, my uncle and cousins left the home and Peachie stayed behind, the green beans cooking fervently on the stove. All seemed to be fine.

When they came back to that home, they opened their door to a house of horrors few could witness and survive.

From Peachie's bedroom to the bathroom, which was on the other end of the house, was a continuous stream of diarrhea. The bathroom was caked from top to bottom in shit, and the good white towels were thrown into the bathtub, befouled by a brown concoction. The green beans were gone.

Soon after that, Peachie was shipped back to her hometown, Sidney, Ohio, where she got subsidized housing and visited with her brother and his children. She was finally living alone.

The last time I saw her, we went to her tiny domicile and looked at all the crocheted clowns, statues of kittens batting string, praying hands wallhangers, and other definitions of tackiness while trying to make small talk with someone who was not capable of holding a conversation that went past discussing the candy aisle at the local supermarket. We then drove her to her favorite restaurant, Hussey's, which was several towns away. As we got closer to the restaurant, the "uh-uh-uh-uh-uh" started in. I played with the ducks in the pond by the restaurant and pretended I wasn't associated with her.

She died soon after that, and they had to cut the door frame to twice its original size to get her out.

She's long gone, but whenever my family gets together, we all feign orgasmic bliss over the food in her honor.

Christmas Be Stank.

It's Holiday Season again. 

Once Halloween ends, retailers scream straight past that boring old bullshit holiday Thanksgiving (there's limited retail opportunity) and head straight for Christmas. These days, they put Christmas stuff up in stores BEFORE they put up Halloween decorations.  Why not be honest and just leave the Christmas decorations up year 'round?  I mean, fuck. 

It's annoying enough to be assaulted by baubles and shiny things and Ferrero Rocher chocolate samplers and pies and puddings and wreaths and lights and all - but what makes it all intolerable are the ODORS that are associated with this frenzy of retail brainwashing.  

Christmas be stank, y'all. 

For example - the very MOMENT Halloween ended, my local Whole Foods in Glendale, CA. put up directly in front of its doors very large bins of pine cones.  "Oh, isn't that cute?" One might be heard saying as he or she approaches the crates of brightly-colored, glitter-sprayed coniferous seedpods.  

But as one gets closer, one's olfactory system is assaulted. A blast of artificial cinnamon destroys all other odors within a five-yard radius.  The scent is so strong that it's actually painful. 

As I attempted to circumnavigate this offensive kiosk of crafts gone wrong to enter the store - supposedly a NATURAL foods market - this pungent elixir of death gave me the vapors.  I actually staggered, this shit was so overpowering.  

I was taken by surprise.  The entrance to Whole Foods used to just be a maze of liberal youth trying to get you to "Sign a petition" and donate your ATM card # to them so they could make monthly withdrawals for the cause of their calling (I am NOT giving my ATM card # to any random zitty hippie who claims it will help gay marriage. Do I look stupid?).  But now...

People who treasure these sorts of things are instantly suspect.  I imagine their homes are filled with items they've amassed from "swap meets" and marathon sessions of Home Shopping Network viewing.   They enjoy Black Friday.  They believe in God. 

Whole Foods, as a marketplace that allegedly caters to hippie sensibilities, should remove these pine cones at once. Were I to be shopping at Michael's or KMart, I would expect nothing less than to be attacked by disgusting odors at every turn - but Whole Foods should know better.  

Fuck those cones. I'll take the underpaid, idealistic hippies with their clipboards over this bullshit any day. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Little Tracy's a clean teen!

Now, I'm not generally one to send Valentine's Day cards or candy or any of that bullshit. I find the entire holiday to be a giant pile of Number Twos manufactured by corporations in order to scrounge money out of suckers. HOWEVER. When I saw this promotion, I knew I had to jump at the chance to participate.

The Bronx Zoo is sponsoring a "Name a Roach" campaign. They say they have over 58,000 Madagascar hissing cockroaches on display in their Madagascar! exhibit, and I believe them. I've seen their hissing cockroach tank, and those little fuckers are just all over the place. (I've also seen them in their natural habitat, under the bark of baobab trees in Madagascar, but that's another story.)

Meanwhile, never one to pass up an opportunity to do something repulsive to shock my parents, I "adopted" one of these bitches and named it for them.

Just take a gander at this little number:

Y'all should adopt one too. Roaches need love just like the rest of us.