The Nightmare Before Christmas Drinking Game

Oh there’s a drunkard inside of these bones…

In my family, I’m the person that’s the hardest to shop for. Don’t know what it is. But there’s just one every 4-5 years that my family will find out that I like and abuse. Between the years of 10-15, that one thing was “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Gift list:

  • Jack Skellington Tie
  • Jack Skellington Shower Curtain
  • Jack Skellington Yatzee Game
  • Jack Skellington T-Shirt
  • 2 Copies of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” DVD

Sally wasn’t really a major character in the movie and thus I guess she wasn’t really a major source for gift purchasing.

The movie masterfully put together by Tim Burton’s neon driven imagination and hundreds of stop motion animator hands (which I’m sure have worked on his subsequent films of the same vein; “Corpse Bride”, “Caroline” “Coraline”, “Batman”)  Danny Elfman absolutely kills it on the soundtrack which can’t be ignored in these drinking game rules, especially when sometimes it’s played to lull my sister to sleep on her air mattress in CT.

Enjoy this special holiday (Halloween or Christmas? You be the judge) edition of a long overdue movie, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Drink every time…

  • worlds are changed
  • Jack is confused
  • the Mayor of Halloween Town rotates his head
  • the movie switches themes from Halloween to Christmas, and vice versa

Death Rule

Drink every time someone says, “Christmas”

Monsters of Madness

 alice cooperAt long last and after over a year of intense study, June 20th finally came. The Monsters of Madness tour featuring Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper was nigh. And by george it didn’t disappoint.

Can’t say enough about the Meadowbrook complex. Really take care of you, throwing you swag in the parking lot, welcoming you off the grimy dangerous back roads of New Hampshire with a yellow shirted security safety blanket with full coverage. Got into a nice conversation with my parking neighbors, a sweet family who was friends with the studio drummer on the Trash album, my favorite Cooper disc. Mom’s name was Alice as well, she told me up front I wouldn’t believe her, and I almost didn’t, but Brothers in Arms was taking hold of me so it was time to journey in.

I don’t remember the opening band, but the pizza was pretty good. The ticket posted me up directly right of the soundboard section, which was pretty rocking. (I think Manson’s sound crew smoked weed backstage, not sure though.)

I only remember Marilyn Manson from random MTV due to woefully inept media exposure as a teen. First of all, the dude looked huge on stage. While the band’s songs weren’t terribly complex, he put on a show and demanded your attention. Singing songs with dark and ominous theme overtones, you could tell why a lot of 90’s era parents prevented their kids from hanging out with the Manson crowd. However, I thought most of the audience was a bit freakier than the performers themselves. I could picture the band being pretty down to earth and downright likable off stage, which I’m sure they are. I couldn’t say the same for the pink and black striped tank top lady who wanted to go to town on Marilyn’s wee-wee on stage and got upset when security didn’t let her + asked her friends to not tell her boyfriend about the attempt. I was looking forward to the next act.

My seat neighbors, after being completely silent the whole show, asked to see what my t-shirt looked like. I found out that their first Alice Cooper show was in 1974. Boss. Glancing around, a few Manson kids left in front of me, but I was disappointed to see not a ton of filled pavilion seats behind me.

We weren’t the audience Alice wanted, but he was the hero we deserved. Once the curtain fell, you knew without question that you were watching a legend. Cooper surprised me with his vocal quality and cane twirling abilities both of which were excellent at the ripe age of 65. The band had not one, not two, but three lead guitarists, all very very talented, yet the lovely Orianthi a.k.a. Queen of Guitar Lick Hell was clearly the Lebron of the big three six-stringers. I was really looking forward to seeing Glen Sobel’s work on the drums. I’m convinced that nobody has better stick trick skills than him.

The presentation was pretty vanilla for the first half, adding to growing concerns about the rumors I’ve heard of Alice Cooper’s stage shows. Welp, a twelve foot Alice Cooper Frankenstein monster cured that ailment right quick. I can’t think a better set list for a first timer, all the songs ruled, though I’d love to see live Muscle of Love and Bed of Nails in subsequent tours.

What really made a lasting impact was eavesdropping on all the conversations on the walk to the parking lot. The youth of the crowd, e.g. Manson fans, shirtless folk from Concord (or worse), etc. couldn’t stop talking about how great they thought Alice Cooper was. “Man, that was in the top five shows I’ve ever seen”, “He just kept getting better as the show went on”, “Damn, that was so bad ass!”. It’s great to see music fans giving a rock figure like Alice Cooper such respect. Such a fun time, and I can’t wait to return next year.

Edit 6/25/13 – The Coop was nice enough to post the entire show on YouTube. Bad. Ass.

Blasphemy, Tom Cruise and how to debase one art form with another

Motley Crue

“Ohhhhh what a beautiful moooorrrrnnnninggggg…”
Yep, doesn’t work..

So a movie was released in theaters this past weekend called Rock of Ages, you might have heard of it. This film seems to be based on a musical about hair metal in 1980’s Los Angeles.

Read that statement again:

This film seems to be based on a musical about hair metal in 1980’s Los Angeles.

If you don’t find something wrong with that statement, our value systems are drastically at odds.

I first caught on to this abomination in the local movie theater.  A cardboard setup with a dumpy fake guitar was attached to a wall.  Being an avid Rock Band gamer, it caught my eye.  I didn’t even know it was about a movie, I thought it was some dumb arcade game that had broken down.

Then I saw the trailer.  By god, did I want to tear my eyes out of their sockets.  What the FUCK is wrong with the world?!?  Has it been long enough that movie producers think that they can cast Tom Cruise as Bret Michaels, Russell Brand as Nikki Sixx, and Diego Boneta as Creed front-man Scott Stapp’s father? See for yourself. This is not okay.

The 1980’s metal scene was a complex melting pot, but basically boiled down to the best bands shedding the LSD induced yuppie disco/new wave rock music movement and tearing faces off with their no holds barred shredding and enthusiasm towards wrecking havoc.  There is nothing glamorous about this lifestyle.  True, partying on the Los Angeles strip when Mötley Crüe was tearing up the town might have been awesome, but it wasn’t for the whole family to enjoy.  It was a raw, bloody, gritty, dangerous environment free from oversight and glorious to behold.  However, my view on this type of glory vastly differs from the Broadway-turned-Hollywood abomination of Rock of Ages.

Consider this way of looking at the movie from Zach Baron: (emphasis mine)

Rock of Ages attempts to appeal to the childhood nostalgia of audiences in the 25-54 age demographic in the same way that Battleship and MIB3 and any number of other summer blockbusters spawned from preexisting brands do, though the ongoing assumption that people will just continue to care about Journey until the end of time remains chilling. More chilling is the way Rock of Ages treats the music of that era, which is to divorce it from any sense of context or intended meaning and instead use it to play Mad Libs. I have no particular reverence for Starship or Twisted Sister, but the scene in Rock of Ages in which two mobs face off by singing “We Built This City” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” at one another is somehow deeply depressing. (Imagine a version of this film in which a depressed group of Nirvana devotees chanting the lyrics to “Lithium” are brought back from the brink by a chorus of people singing LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.”) It makes you feel like the destiny of every song you ever loved is to become a sock puppet in a movie musical starring Tom Cruise.

Besides being incredibly well written, Baron strikes true on what hits my spleen when I think about the existance of this filthy animal.  My greatest fear is that all those youth Hairspray fans, who don’t remember when using hairspray was cool, watch Rock of Ages and get the wrong idea about what those times were really like.  I predict that they’ll go back to listening to their auto-tuned copies of the soundtrack, and when they hear the real thing they’ll squeal and exclaim, “omg reallyz i has that song on my iPhone, but MY version sounds wayyyy better” in which case I will punch that little twerp in the shoulder and turn Kiss up even louder.

Thank you, Earl Scruggs

earl scruggs banjo player

Earl Scruggs, the greatest banjo player ever.

Earl Scruggs passed away on March 28, 2012 at age 88.

I’m not going to pretend that I know a whole heap about Earl.  I first learned about the god of banjo from my college roommate, the great Banjo Mike, banjer player in the 2nd Avenue Mountain Boys of NYC.  (Haven’t seen ’em live yet, but their vids rule)  Wise beyond his years, he introduced this rookie of society to one of the greatest talents ever, playing numerous purchased and pirated tracks to an eager ear.  It was my great privilege to accompany Banjo while practicing some classics, forever cementing bluegrass music into my soul.

A while back, I had the opportunity to see Earl at a desolate New England venue.  Due to a dire financial situation and utter stupidity and lack of foresight, I declined making the road trip to see Mr. Scruggs live.  I was told that this may be one of the last times I could witness a legend in person, and indeed it was, as I learned of his passing this very evening.

Almost immediately, I had to start up “The Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show” on Netflix Instant Watch, to clumsily attempt to honor his spirit.  Halfway through, I’m on the verge of tears.  Let me try to describe what a baller this dude was:

First off, these guys really like Martha White Flour, and want you to like it too.  It makes great cornbread, and I’m convinced that it’s the best goddamned cornbread in the nation.  They make evaporated milk too, and they teach you to cook better than Rachael Ray does.

Okay, now on to the real shit.  This show doesn’t mess around like all these new fangled network TV rip-offs that over dramatize everything, and contain really shitty commercials every 10 minutes.  This show is the complete opposite.  The emcee introduces Lester, who immediately intros the song and shoots the camera over to Earl, who absolutely RIPS his banjo strings apart playing the first tune.  This guy was so good, they named a style of pickin’ after him.  He never misses a fret, bends a note too far, or breaks a string.  You may as well think you’re listening to a studio track, but guess what?  They are all playing LIVE, without the benefit of modern technology, masking inconsistency and lack of practice.

Lester rocks at the rhythm, the supporting band members bring the house down, but Earl stands out above all.  What’s more amazing, is the manner in which he carries himself. The man is more stone faced than Tim Duncan, and works his craft even better.  But unlike Timmy, you can see in Earl’s face how much he has dedicated himself to music.  He picks the guitar in episode one of the show, and while he’s probably just making sure the reverberation sounds just right, watching him put his ear to the body of the acoustic is a magical moment.

Just now, Earl seems to have broken out in early version of a tune aptly named “Earl’s Breakdown” (YouTube video below).  I know it’s an early version, since Banjo played me a newer live-er version where he re-tunes the thing mid-song.  Lester accuses him of being mad at his banjer.  I bet he is.  It must be caused by being forced to play the traditional slow ass country and religious tracks popular in the 50’s.

Wow, they”re really wrapping up episode two in style.  The Martha White Flour theme song flows right into John Henry, with Earl calmly owning the bluegrass genra’ with a skilled, simple, and perfect banjer sequence.

I swear I’ll introduce every future house guest to a viewing of this magical show featuring the immortal Earl Scruggs, to honor his legacy and try to keep the spirit of Earl and bluegrass music alive.  (Even if it costs me my precious stock of Basil Hayden bourbon)  You’ll be remembered Earl.  Because I’m a city slicker, I’ll be moaning your praises as I hit the ground after my first ever shot of moonshine.  After I come to, the next one will also be in your honor.  I’ll try to make some birds pass out while I’m at it.

Hat’s off to you Earl.  A million thanks to your enormous contribution to our world.

A Las Vegas Excursion

What happens in Vegas stays there? BS.  Only if you are a cheating schmoozeball.  Four days of Las Vegas provides quite the opportunity for positive and negative reflection.  I was overjoyed and awestruck by the spectacle, followed by an equally large feeling of disgust and terror.  Thus follows Esteban’s saga in Sin City.

An early morning flight to a lovely Newark airport (seriously, it was nice) brought us to the extravagant Terminal D in Las Vegas, N.V.  The amazement was immediate, but we had seen nothin’ yet.  Whilst trying to find transportation to our suite at the Encore, we stumble upon a busy outside location full of taxi’s, sedan’s, limos, you name it.  We are approached by a fast talking man who hooks us up with a limo and a stop at the local watering hole to stock up on beverages on the way.  We arrive at our hotel in fifteen minutes, so fast that we underpaid our driver.  So far, this town is awesome.  Then, we walked into the Encore.

For those unfamiliar, Steve Wynn basically reinvented Las Vegas and made it what it is today: an over the top vacation spot for everyone to spend money on what they want. His marquee resort is appropriately named the Wynn; the Encore is the Wynn’s newer sister resort directly adjacent.  They are literally the best locations to stay in Las Vegas, and walking into the lobby immediately proved this point.  It was INCREDIBLE.  Red carpets, luxury ground floor pool access, exquisitely designed bars, and the Encore casino, full of slots, card tables, roulette, craps, etc.  Oh, and the lobby smelled of flowers.  The suite was equally as nice, overlooking the Wynn and the rest of the Strip.  Couldn’t beat the location!

In the words of Andrew W.K., it was then time to party. I had my first blackjack experience at Harrah’s, a slimy smoke infested super-casino, where I happened to come away with 10 american dollars of profit.  There were people everywhere, and lots of noise.  The night’s entertainment was a special viewing of Andrew at Body English in the Hard Rock Cafe, and turned out to be an amazing show.  The next day, a full walk of the strip down to the MGM Grand for day one of 311 Day didn’t disappoint, though two full days did me in after the first full set and I stumbled to a cab for home.   That’s where things started to turn.

It is said that two days is the maximum amount of time to spend in Las Vegas.  I can attest tthat fact to be utterly and completely true.  I was a wreck of a human being, unable to function, and grasping to every drop of water I could in the unforgiving dry desert air.  The problem with that?  Sunday was no different than the day before.  Indoor smoking of cigarettes filled every inch of the place, drinking and suspicious women crowded the lobby, and it was a bit distressing.  And thus Sunday illustrates a key point of Las Vegas: This place never takes a break. EVER.

You are basically allowed to do anything in Las Vegas.  We often saw folks on the street (both homeless and semi-wealthy) carrying full handles of liquor, chasing with either beers or red-bulls, depending on the socio-economic status.  In the east, it’s usually frowned upon to smoke in the presence of non-smokers, be visibly drunk in public, and try to pay for erotic satisfaction.  This is the environment I grew up in, and am used to.  Las Vegas has the complete opposite point of view, and the atmosphere reflects it everywhere you go.  This may float may people’s boats (and obviously does, considering how many god-damned people were in town), but not mine.

I had a fantastic time experiencing Vegas.  Conversely, I don’t have a desire to return anytime soon.  Had I only stayed for two days and peaced the hell out or won a couple grand on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine, it would have been just enough to bring me back to that decadence.  However, I am resigned and happy to enjoy some east coast moderation rather than complete and utter chaos in the wild wild west.