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Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
E.F. Schumacher

Different Seasons

Different Seasons - Stephen King Different Season is King's best work (that I've read).

Almost nothing fantastical here. Just good old good storytelling (with the possible exception of "The Breathing Method").

I've always felt that with such abundance of ideas (loads of crapola too - but that goes without saying), King if anyone should stick to writing novellas.

Writing short stories (well.. the term short is obviously a very relative concept to Mr. King) honestly seems to be the only way to stop the man from tediously describing every scene so that in the end most if not all of his novels contain at least 200-300 pages of details that we could very easily manage to do without (or imagine for ourselves).

I think that one reason King chooses to write horror, is because he is not comfortable of showing his political leanings and views (that each and everyone of us do have). There's always the possibility that being more openly political might kill the milking cow.

In this context, choosing to write horror is the safest genre of writing - that is unless you are writing to children. After horror, writing detective stories is the next safest choice: that way you can at least give the impression to the readers that you have something important to say about something that ain't right (even when the author would be talking more or less out of his - or her - ass).
A must read.

Russia Dies Laughing: Jokes from Soviet Russia

Russia Dies Laughing: Jokes from Soviet Russia - Z Dolgopolova I'm not a fan of Russian government but I'm a huge fan of Russians.

Tesla: Man Out of Time

Tesla: Man Out of Time - Margaret Cheney Feels like thoroughly researched work yet doesn't exactly succeed in demystifying Tesla all that much honestly.

Cheney spends too much time in giving minute and often technical details that have little to no value for a casual reader who isn't all that interested in hearing about various technical and financial aspects and considerations that obviously went into his work.

Not a whole lot is attempted to argue about Tesla's inner life and about his aspirations that weren't related to his immediate work as an engineer/inventor. For Tesla was clearly a man who was intrigued about life in general - and seemingly gifted at or at least knowledgeable about many things in life indeed.

I believe Cheney did the best job she could with what material she succeeded in obtaining. Interesting read and definitely a good place to start.

Empire And Sexuality

Empire and Sexuality: The British Experience - Ronald Hyam Only had time to browse few of the most interesting chapters.

One piece of information that particularly stuck in my mind:

The common "knowledge" is that in the Victorian era the vast majority of British women who offered sex services did so out of having no other real means to support them financially.

Not quite so it seems.

The truth - well, according to some research at least - is that most of "fallen ladies" actually plunged into prostitution voluntarily (relatively speaking of course) because it paid better (sometimes much better) as opposed to remaining as, say, a maid even in a relatively well-to-do household.

No doubt the "good folks" (who were responsible in the first place for the demand of these "ladies of the night") still considered prostitution a wretched and filthy thing to be doing, and these largely young women had to face being ostracized and being treated - particularly by various "relief" organizations I'm sure - as essentially wayward children who simply didn't know any better.

Facts rather seem to point in the direction that it was indeed a conscious choice, and particularly younger women were often tempted to view prostitution as more or less a glamorous occupation as they saw their "fallen" friends wearing smart clothes and expensive perfumes.

All of a sudden, the potential perks seemed to outweigh the less rosy realities of the job. After all, for a young and beautiful woman there was always the chance that someone will buy you expensive clothes and jewelry, take you out to dine in a fancy restaurant or catch the occasional theater show.

Hell, someone nice (again, it's a relative thing) or at least half-decent man might even take you up as their wife - or at least spoil you as their very own private mistress.

Of course for something like that to happen one surely had to possess both the looks and the demeanor to attract real "gentlemen".

Put into that equation the all too common scenario where a housemaid essentially "offered" (= was coaxed or forced) the same services as a proper prostitute (by one or more males, either by masters or servants, who lived in the same quarters or merely frequented the house in question).

Odds were high that you were basically treated as a whore anyways - then it begs the question, why not make some real money out of it if it must be so in any case?

If you were underpaid, under appreciated, sexually abused and likely going nowhere fast if in fact anywhere at all, then it was indeed actually a wiser choice to try one's luck in prostitution instead.

And it didn't necessarily have to mean going out on the streets either.

There were relatively respectable and relatively safe brothels, I'm sure. Some were actually managed by madams who most likely knew from their own experiences that in order to really run a thriving business is to treat your employees well so that they will please their clients better and make them come again (pun intended).

I'm sure there were some madams - and some masters - and of course some clients who actually helped some ladies to get out of the jam. For whatever reasons.

Just because someone works in a sex business doesn't automagically mean they don't have a heart. Now, I don't know this from a personal experience but I assume they are still humans like you and me and not some creatures from the abyss.

So, in conclusion, sometimes (even often times) the only difference between being a maid and being a "legit" prostitute was that the former was so much cheaper and likely much safer choice (= lower risk of catching venereal diseases, PLUS much smaller risk of getting caught as opposed to visiting whorehouses, let alone alleys, where someone might recognize you, try to blackmail you to keep it a secret, or simply getting arrested) - for a "gentleman", that is.

Happy, happy, joy, joy. I'd hate to be the one to point this out but I believe those same young women are worse off today because it's become a global industry with global reach with ties to organized crime, and frequently involves elements of human- and drug trafficking.

Even in the worst case Victorian scenario - which meant hustling on the streets - at least there was a chance to be your own master.

I'm sure in many parts of the world today a prostitute today can consider herself being "lucky" if she gets a penny here and penny there rather than a smack in the face (either from a client or a pimp or both).

More often than not these women are drugged into submission, they will never see their passports again, and they are discarded like a pack of empty cigarettes in the gutter if not shot to death then and there when they start to cost more to their masters than they have usable value.

Believe me, even 16th century slaves as a whole got a better treatment than these modern days' painted women and child-women do. They are less than slaves, they are (barely) living zombies.


1) Don't ever draw parallels between spoiled college kids who exchange sexual favors for the latest iShit because they are insecure attention whores who will always insist on getting what they want with beaten and drugged-up 15-year-old naive girls who were promised lucrative modeling jobs or work as an au pair in well-to-do families in some random affluent OECD-country.

2) The next time a male you know says he's heading down to Thailand or Mexico for some "down time" all by himself, there's more than a slim chance that he's unwittingly telling you the actual truth…

Metallica: The Stories Behind the Biggest Songs

Metallica: The Stories Behind the Biggest Songs (Stories Behind Books) - Chris Ingham Reads like a fanzine. Some info and a lot of assumptions and/or half-assed song interpretations. Here's an idea: why don't you actually do your job and just ask Hetfield what he wanted to say and let the readers decide for themselves...

To Live Is To Die The Life And Death Of Metallica's Cliff Burton

To Live Is To Die The Life And Death Of Metallica's Cliff Burton - Joel McIver, Kirk Hammett Make no mistake this book will further mythologize Mr. Burton.

Like an inane fan McIver will offer his look on what Metallica would have become if Burton would have survived which is totally uncalled for, not to mention preposterous.

In essence he argues that Metallica would have turned out pretty much the same after Puppets - if not even more "mellow" - because A) Burton had a more versatile taste in music (as opposed to his band mates), B) he had had professional musical training, and because C) Burton was actually sometimes caught saying something - anything - to the press about this or that issue (something he usually avoided for some reason or the other).

Right. Sounds like a fanboy to me.

Yes, Burton took his music seriously. Yes, he even - OMG! - actually studied music. Yes, he listened to more than just NWOBHM. He dug classical music, old school rockers (Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, etc.), and even early R.E.M.

The reader has to assume that James, Lars and Kirk merely listened to metal music because McIver is too indifferent to actually ask them to verify this. I for one do not think that assessment to be entirely or at all valid. But this is how mythologies are of course built.

I feel strongly that latter days chroniclers like nothing better than to portray Cliff as larger than life figure even when most people who actually knew him and spend time with him would describe the man as being very much fun loving down-to-earth kinda guy who didn't take himself seriously at all, who just liked to play some loud music, smoke pot, drop some acid and drink beer with his buddies - and of course read his books and romance the ladies.

He was essentially a hippy who was more or less into "creepy" or just weird stuff, death, horror, zombies, mythologies etc. - just like millions of teenaged guys the world over before and after him.

I'd like to draw parallels with Cliff and Dave Mustaine. They were both self-assertive guys if not adamant and/or borderline obsessive, smarter than average, "older" than their age would imply, who both drew inspiration from variety of musical genres and last but not least who were both motivated if not down-right driven to succeed in life.

Cliff surely in part out of respect for his supportive family and for his deceased older brother in particular, and Dave because he was dealt crappy cards in life from the get go. Mustaine had and probably will always have a life-long trauma that requires him to constantly prove that he is worth something, too, that he can become someone "important", as well.

Dave found family in Metallica - a band he essentially turned from just a daydream into a reality - until he had nothing again - except huge load of bitterness on his shoulders.

The other guys in Metallica knowingly decided Mustaine's fate in the band days - if not weeks - before in full secrecy without giving him a proper chance to even try and mend his ways. What's even worse is that they waited until the very last minute to sack him before his replacement would arrive in town. If that's not a betrayal of epic proportions, I don't know what is. Mustaine felt betrayed by the very same people he called his friends and whom he loved. I would have felt exactly the same had I been in his shoes.

This is the kind of a shame that James and Lars will eventually take to their graves I assume.

I think the only real difference between Cliff and Dave would arise from their outer personalities. Dave was always more extroverted kinda guy - or who probably just figured that by adopting this so-called fuck-off/Mr. Tough Guy attitude, people would more likely leave him be.

I believe that we all develop one or more defense/coping mechanisms in order to not feel as hurt and/or to not be an easy target for others to begin with. Some decide to use their fists (Dave), others to use their tongues (Dave, Lars, Cliff, James). Many decide to use their legs (Lars, James, Kirk), and most just try to become more or less invisible (Kirk, Jason). But again most people probably tend to use what ever method - or combination of methods - they assume would best suit for any particular situation. Some tend give it a thought, others tend to just react. Chances are that if you happen to be intoxicated, you probably mainly react. In vino veritas, as the Romans were fond of saying.

Cliff on the other hand was most likely always a bit more introverted kinda fella. Maybe because he had such a luxury by being the youngest child, coming from a middle-class, supportive family where kids were raised to be so-called free spirits. Dave never really even had a proper family and generally had more or less chaotic upbringing and at times very religious indoctrination, something that James would probably have understood only too well (if they ever spoke about it, and I'm pretty sure they did - if only when intoxicated).

I think in the USA particularly people are quick to label an individual as either shy/reserved/quiet or loud/people-person/happy-go-lucky. I think it's almost never this clear cut case.

Yet once again people tend to see Cliff as shy, James as shy, Hendrix as shy, Cobain as shy, Slash as shy, and yes, even Axl Rose as shy (only to name a few well-known rockers). They are amazed to see how these same people positively come to life on stage as if someone had set them on fire! They are puzzled why they really only seem sociable when they happen to be intoxicated on alcohol, drugs or live performance rush - or all three.

We used to call such folks manic-depressive, now the politically correct term is bipolar. We need to medicalize these people because we can't accept them as showing different aspects what it is to be, nay, feel human. I tend to think that if a person doesn't feel strongly about most things in life, then s/he's mostly not alive at all. YMMV.

In conclusion, Metallica had four guys who all wanted to lead (James, Lars, Cliff and Dave - in no specific order).

Because I'm a nice guy and because I want to believe that most of us are pretty decent folks, I'd like to believe that Dave was "let go" because everyone kinda understood that he had the necessary attitude to make it happen for himself. Both Lars and James were cocky but ultimately wimpy who might never have mustered enough courage to actually play professionally without Dave's and Cliff's contribution and - dare I say it - their stage presence and natural charisma.

At least that's my interpretation, folks. Just some food for thought. I could be totally wrong - though I rarely am. ;)

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It - Gary Taubes Physical exercise doesn't work (but do it anyways more often than not because - unless you over do it - it will put you in a better mood than you otherwise would be, and everyone will be better off because of that).

Starving doesn't work (but do it anyways from time to time if only to remind yourself that we should not take food for granted, and we sure as hell should not be wasting any of it, but also do it because it will likely keep our immune system better in check: too much routine tends to backfire in some form sooner than later).

Avoiding eating white stuff on most days of your life will work (because until some 10 000 years ago we simply didn't have steady access to carbs - let alone to highly refined ones! - for this carb eating extravaganza phenomena to even turn into a potential health problem).


Even when we probably jumped on every possible chance to devour those sweet carbs (relatively speaking because they of course almost never tasted as good as our carbs today, so there was less of an incentive to try to get access to them at any means necessary in the first place), continuous binging on carbs was simply an impossibility.

Fruits tend to rot sooner than one can hope to eat them - even when you'd be a particularly persistant individual.

There were only so many opportunities to attempt something like that during a yearly cycle. And that's why eating carbs back then didn't matter dick shit in the real world.

Of course we all ran kicking and screaming inside the pre-historic fast food joints when ever they happened to be open, even when their french fries didn't really taste all that good to be honest. It was a welcome change to the usual diet nonetheless.

Carbs were a supplement - and more often than not the only alternative, although poor, source of energy when we - once again - failed to down the big ass ox and catch that colored fatty fish. Fuck. Even the relatively tasty insects were nowhere to be had!

Trust me. Wild apples do not generally entice your taste buds. But if it's between that or nothing at all, hungry person doesn't think twice. Beggars can't be choosers.


But health-wise carb binges then - and binging on food in general! - were such rare, isolated incidents that it didn't even begin to become an issue for thousands of years when we first started to till the lands around us.

If we hadn't cracked the code how to reliably preserve food over very long periods of time (when and if we even had the good fortune to actually come up with surplus of food), we wouldn't be here.

But it really started to take discernible turn for the "worse" only after we upped the ante and figured that mass scale farming (and animal husbandry) is where it's at. But for the longest of time that way of living was fine too because almost everyone had to labor away frantically anyways in order to get anything done at all. I doubt the women folk had much time to hone their pie recipes. Closest thing to sugar they had was honey, and we all know how easy that is to come by...

Only after we managed to succeed implementing modern breeding, cultivation and preserving techniques on a world wide scale whereby food could be produced, harvested and transported year-round and round the clock to any place in the world in a moment's notice, for what seemed like pennies a pound, the shit finally began splattering to the fan. Slowly but firmly.

Slowly but firmly we had managed to create this hungry man's paradise on Earth: eternal growth season.

We just figured no one would eat more than he can chew. Cause that would be like, well, pretty fucking stupid, right?

We assumed wrong.

Obviously we are still mentally in the exact same prehistoric survival mode where you eat all that you can get your hands on, e-ve-ry single time, and see if you couldn't manage to steal a bite or two from those poor bastards that are wasting precious resources in trying to actually chew down their food. Those retards...

And then we just continued to perpetuate this lie because, hey, selling food is the best business there is! Everybody needs food all the time, and fat people seem to need it even more. Simple mathematics.

Then we realized that treating those same overweight people with expensive - and useless - diets, drugs and other "treatments" was even bigger business than selling them food. But of course you can't have one with out the other! Cramming food with the right hand and popping pills on the left hand compliment one another nicely.

Is there a better - not to mention easier - recipe for steady income? Not likely.

And the last stroke of genius was to in effect label everyone as basically ugly sick fatsos who are just one step away from the grave. What better way to do it than encouraging skin tight fashion? Of course photoshopping every aspect of our modern life helps a lot too. Not to mention alternating with showing fat and beautiful people on TV every day, all day. Chances are that if they aren't actually preparing food on TV, they are either talking about food and eating and dieting, or otherwise showing what happens when one eats too much, or too little, or too plainly.

If you think you are skinny enough, we can always produce skinnier jeans tomorrow. Face it: this is a game you can't win. In fact it's a game where you will lose e-ve-ry single time.




All in all, this book offers a revealing story about how incredibly easy it is to succumb to doing bad science, how astonishingly easy it is to dismiss entirely and/or misinterpret (deliberately and otherwise) previous studies and whole lines of inquiries, how seemingly easy it is to actually start believing that you are in fact doing sound science when you are not, and finally how incredulously easy it is to in fact convince just about everyone who will listen that you are right because you very much believe that you are right (and I'm sure many sincerely thought they were correct), and not entirely because you've invested an awful lot of work in this theory of yours.

Hell, your whole social standing, your scientific credibility - and more often than not - your livelihood too more or less depends on you being right. What's the incentive again that would incite you to take a good hard objective look at your own work?

Just like there are knowledgeable and capable doctors with lines and lines of patients that all got well - or at least better - because of their expertise, there has to be doctors who under perform for what ever reasons.

Maybe they lost their original motivations somewhere along the line or maybe they never even had a real desire and the passion to become a doctor - let alone a great one! - in the first place. Maybe some in fact got to graduate more out of pity (or just privilege) rather than merit? The real world tends to be funnier place than we like to give it credit for.

How many decided to go through the mill just because they knew it at least would likely pay well, not to mention make them look important, intelligent and capable in other people's eyes? One in a thousand? One in a hundred? One out of ten? Half? Three quarters? We don't know and they aren't telling.

In every profession we can find folks who just aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. This is natural. There's a bell curve like in most every aspects of life.

It becomes not only unfortunate but positively counterproductive when such people who do not possess the needed qualifications despite everything end up in positions that actually matter.

Such position always come with real world implications and as such it means that their action - or inaction - will causes more harm than it does good. We should remember that this "holy fat war" isn't merely some abstract, academic dispute that would have little to no impact on anyone's life when in fact the exact opposite is true: people have died and continue to die because of it.

These people are indirectly responsible for a quite a few deaths, not to mention endless everyday dieting misery and ill-health because they couldn't fucking do the one job they were asked to do: to find out the healthiest way to eat and to establish whether heightened physical exercise actually helps to achieve and maintain this target or not.

It turns out the more we move, the more we tend to eat too. And that we don't merely compensate but in fact overcompensate. That in the real world scenarios training hard only helps to maintain this vicious circle.

That only professional athletes (and people who assume such an attitude) can pull it off, but even they can only do so temporarily, that is, until they achieve this specific goal they have set for themselves (or when they fail to reach it).

That for most people rigorous training tends to be counterproductive when the aim is to loose excess weight permanently. And that as long as you continue to eat wrong, you will never be able to maintain a relatively stable body weight.

Short term goals require willpower and willpower will always cease sooner than later.

Long term behavioral changes happen through self-awareness and self-acceptance. You shouldn't be doing things just because you might feel like you ought to do them to prove something to yourself and/or to others.

In the end you will want to be doing things for their own sake and because doing them makes sense to you personally which in turn will in all likelihood make you that much more happier individual.


But of course too much is at stake professionally that the establishment would allow vocal proponents of fat fighters to be all of a sudden publicly humiliated and ridiculed. Nope, these guys and gals will get to retire quietly, keep their fat pensions and accolades of yonder years.

As of now official diet recommendations are being realigned pretty much everywhere. And it can only be a gradual process because you can't give the public the impression that these people didn't know what they were doing.

New guidelines are being re-specified as better "data" becomes more readily available. That's how these things tends to work all too often I'm afraid.


In Heller's words: some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.

My advice would be this: when in doubt, stay out (kick back, and just leave the problem solving to the real professionals to tackle).

It's So Easy: and other lies

It's So Easy: And Other Lies - Duff McKagan Proof that you can turn your life around if you truly want it.

I knew basically nothing about McKagan other than him of course having been the bass player in Guns N' Roses.

He didn't really interest me much back then in my early teenage when GN'R was probably the first true love of my life. There was Axl and Slash and then there were the rest.

Bass players do have it worse: no one really pays any attention to them because they are, well, bass players. Everyone pretty much assumes that they just play open E anyways when no one's looking (which is pretty much always) or likely even then when someone actually cares enough to look at their way.

Of course I'm exaggerating here a bit. But this is the sort of reality bass players have to come to terms with.

Few realize tough that playing bass is more often than not merely a position where folks who played guitar first and/or primarily just end up in. Just like in McKagan's case. Either you pick up a bass and learn to love it (or hate it, that'll do just as fine) or you take the risk of not playing in a band at all. There are only so many positions available in a standard rock band to play a guitar...

So, the next time you see a drummer switching over to strum some guitar, it really shouldn't be that big of a mindfuck to you: he probably started playing music with a guitar - just like the majority of rock musicians you happen to come across in your life. Hell, that drummer might be playing an old beat up acoustic at home or backstage more than he likes beating his drums.

***

McKagan has already done twice or thrice as much as most of us ever will and who knows what he's still going to do in the remainder of his life.

He not only survived that cliched rock-n-roll lifestyle unlike so many fellow musicians but he actually did the almost unimaginable too: he went back to school.

And not only did he crack those books open, he actually walked away with a university degree - and launched another successful career. And he still gets to continue playing his music - the one thing he probably loves doing the most.

McKagan's position now is pretty damn envious: he truly seems happy and content, full of good will, insight and energy.

That's a long way from looking down the barrel of a shotgun in a closet in your own home finger firmly on the trigger all those years ago thinking that you are a worthless piece of shit, that life ain't got dick to offer you anymore and even if it did you wouldn't deserve any of it anyways.

Oh, how I wish Kurt Cobain would have had the will-power to run his course with heroin and choose new routes for himself as well. But then again, it's pretty obvious that Duff was always a fighter and a go-getter and Kurt was neither.

Still, such a bloody waste of life to off oneself for no good reason.

While we're on the topic of wishful thinking, I'd still like to see professor Dave Mustaine lecturing on quantum physics in Palo Alto. :)

But back to Duff. Turns out he was hands down the most experienced guy of the bunch when it came to playing music for a living. Or if not for a living per se at least doing real gigs and tours, even abroad (if only in Vancouver, Canada).

When rest of the guys were then most likely just jerking off and fantasizing about being a rock star Duff had already made it - in a local and regional kinda way of course but still.

It's funny that the old cliche persists that it takes a lot of hard work to make it in the rock business when much more crucial factor seems to be able to party all night long as if on command.

The turning point for GN'R? Their first out of town tour in the Pacific Northwest which Duff had arranged by himself - no doubt having grown tired of no one in the band actually working towards concrete goals.

That tour lasted for one gig only, tough. Apparently because they couldn't get rest of their gear (their van broke down, so they had to hitchhike along with what they could reasonably carry by themselves) on time which is one big pathetic excuse if anyone asks me.

You can always arrange to borrow someone else's drum kit if you really want to play. You'd think that with Duff's contacts it would have been pretty much a non-issue. Not that it would have been a huge issue to just reschedule new gigs. Their venues would have been tiny places anyways and they'd be lucky to get paid anything at all to begin with.

You'd think a posse like GN'R - any band for that matter who's about to do their first actual tour out-of-state or otherwise - would've been only too thrilled to be able to play their music to all those who probably haven't a clue who they even are. To show to the locals how rock is supposed to sound - and feel - like.

It's not like anyone of them had proper jobs back in L.A. to much worry about. Let alone record company guys following their every move. At that point they were just a bunch of cocky long-haired nobodies who just wanted to play rock music, get wasted and screw ladies. And they call it quits because of one missing drum set? Get the fuck out of here!

Yes, they were penniless but it's not like anyone of them had a pot to piss in in L.A. either. They were tiny crappy venues to play in I'm sure but surely they would have kept them in drinks and given a burrito each for an exchange of live playing? I mean what more do you really need when you are about 20-year-old and want to play your music to anybody who will listen?

Plus they were all already used to living in basically where ever they happened to pass out. They probably could have crashed for weeks on end in fellow musicians homes and practicing pads and so on - had they really wanted to finish that tour. I mean for crying out loud they were all young, good looking rocker guys "from L.A." in distress which I'm sure many ladies would have found more than agreeable if you get my point.

How fucking un-rock-like. Just terrible.

I don't honestly think that there was anything remotely epic about their whole journey up from L.A. to Seattle (or was it Portland, can't remember, doesn't matter either way) where their tour was planned to start.

"We were so hungry that at some point we ate corn straight from a corn field." So crazy. And they hitched a ride. Totally unheard of! Only the preferred mode of transportation back in the 60s...

Not saying these guys were whiners but I sure am tempted to. Maybe not all of them, tough. But hell, most of the guys I studied with back in the day had more attitude than that.

It's so easy... (sometimes at least it seems).

Oh yeah, and there's one photo which shows the place where Duff lived in (probably taken around the time he moved in L.A.). Now, I don't know what an average American standard - then or now - is for a dump but to me it seemed perfectly acceptable place to live in for a while, particularly for someone with not a whole lot of money to go around.

I don't know... Cockroach infested dumps? Not the world's most hardest problem to solve, really. A call to landlord, maybe a call to city office if that doesn't help. If you are reasonable to people, they tend to be reasonable to you as well.

For me at least it didn't sound as chaotic or disgusting or even that hard of a life, honestly.

Not ideal of course but you can't have all: if you crave for some street cred, well, then you just have to play the part, too - for some while at least.

And you can't be doing terribly bad when there's always a drink or drugs or a girl at an arms reach - even when you are still basically just another band trying to make it big in L.A. in the 80s.

Just saying.

You want stories of hard life, try Africa...

***

Very well written book nevertheless and a good account of a phenomenon called Guns N' Roses. And an inspiring story of a man's transformation. Now all that's still left to hear is of course Axl's point of view, his autobiography. Which we will probably of course never get.

It's funny and telling that GN'R was effectively over as a band already in 1989 if I interpreted Duff correctly (and memory serves me right) - in my perspective, that is. It quickly morphed into Axl Limited company that merely featured guest stars Slash, Izzy, Duff and Steven until they were all let go or just walked out themselves one after the other.

GN'R had truly transformed into a gigantic machine that had about a dozen zillion other musicians both on stage and off it - it no longer had anything to do with a group that consisted of five guys who just wanted to leave their mark in the world. And they had all managed to do just that, only Axl figured that he can leave even bigger imprint behind him. And in a way, he did.

The not so unusual story: money in, men out. Though in Axl's case money might really have been less of a factor: he simply needed people to know who really runs the show and calls the shots.

And if Axl truly wasn't the creative genius behind GN'R there's just no way musicians who respect themselves let one guy transfer the rights to the name of the band to himself without a fight. Let alone constantly allow their frontman to show up on a gig when and if he pleases.

They knew, just as everyone else knew too: no Axl, no GN'R.

On the Road

On the Road - Jack Kerouac Not worth anyone's time, I'm afraid.

The Egyptian

The Egyptian - Mika Waltari,  ذبیح‌الله منصوری Well written book that outwardly belongs to an adventure and romance genre, almost a tragicomedy in fact, yet it speaks volumes about who we are, who we have probably always been, and who we will most likely continue to be until we are no more.

Absolutely loaded with fantastic passages and moments with a full spectrum of human emotions at the author's disposal. I've heard that the author actually went borderline crazy, succumbing to bouts of depression and alcoholism while writing this tome - not sure whether that's really true or not - but I kinda understand if he did.

An epic journey not just for Sinuhe and his sidekick Kaptah (who by the way almost steals the whole show) but for the reader as well. It is essentially a journey into your own psyche.

Highly recommended.

Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana

Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana - Michael Azerrad The original myth buster, straight from the horse's mouth. Azerrad writes well but sadly stoops to attacking the same bands/artists that Kurt/Nirvana was more or less famously guilty of.

Honestly, I've never heard any one say about Axl that he wouldn't be an articulate person. There are two faces of Axl Rose just like there were two faces of Kurt Cobain. Both were and continue to be more or less misunderstood.

Heart of Darkness (Green Integer)

Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary - Joseph Conrad I'm guessing this is considered to be Conrad's best because that's all everyone's ever read by the man... And on that same note, also my time is probably better spent reading someone else.

Catch-22

Catch-22 - Joseph Heller It's the same as with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: at some point the joke grows old.

I think everyone knows what the guy was after, what he was trying to say. But he could have said it all in less than 100 pages, and save us the excess hours to something more fruitful and enjoyable.

That way the story would have been far more effective, and something you might actually want to came back to from time to time. For there truly are some wonderful passages and I believe, if you are honest with yourself, you should be able to relate just fine with many of the characters depicted. In fact, put together they form a pretty good composite of who we are.

I fully share Heller's notion that "Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them." I just can't tell into which criteria Heller himself would fall.

I looked into Heller's background after I had been reading Catch-22 for a little while. I just can't take people seriously if they are talking about stuff that they know nothing about. That is waste of time. Though I had a pretty good hunch that he was no stranger in matters of war, it was pretty reassuring to learn that Heller had actually flown a bomber - even when those 60 missions were "largely milk runs". It's hardly autobiographical, but a lot of the stuff in the book probably happened - one way or the other.

Heller is playing it safe and possible covering his own tracks. I can certainly understand why. You don't want to announce the whole world that you for example had sex with prostitutes (even if everybody else did too) which you might have paid for by giving food or other gifts (which would've been essentially free to you personally) or by just agreeing to help them out from time to time (even if you never did). I'm not saying Heller did any of this, I'm merely stating the obvious: that soldiers and young ladies have always found a common tune at times of war. So, let's not pretend something like that never happened, OK?

But it didn't all happen, and certainly not in one place. If the situation during warfare really were that much out-of-control, that particular squadron (and the whole army for that matter) would be wiped out in no time.

Painting something as disgusting as war as wholly absurd and inconsequential, in the end does more harm than good. Thanks to war movies particularly, a lot of young males actually have this image implanted in their brain that apart from killing people (and well, you get used to that), the war is actually pretty cool: you get to do dope, you get to get laid, you get to have free food, free beer and all sorts of entertainment - it's just like going on a vacation except they actually pay you to go. PARTIEE!!!

And a lot of crazy stuff that people insist that happened during times of war, most likely never did, and when they did, you'd really have to write them off as "just" isolated incidents because that is what they (almost) always are. Certainly there are more wackos present in any standing army because wackos generally like hurting people, or at least don't much mind if they do.

I'm sorry y'all hippies, I know you'd like nothing better than to hear just how f*cked up waging a war always is, but it has never been even remotely as absurd as in Heller's make-believe. War might be hell, but as a rule it's very well organized hell.

Frankly, I would prefer hearing Heller's own accounts about what really went down during his leg in WW2. I'm sure some of it must have seemed like pretty crazy shit. And if it's more or less fantastical as it is, then why turn it into a total farce and work of fiction? Because it would work better? Gimme a break! When it comes to war I've found it far more effective to just tell the truth. Then people go mental. Then official inquiries will be made. Then heads will fall. Then changes will take place.

Now just about the only thing we get is an occasional hearty laugh and a lot of yawning (and page skipping no doubt).

Heller, you damn fool, see what you did?


PS. I haven't yet finished the book, and if by some miracle I can muster the will power to do so and also will find the book more worthwhile than what is previously stated here, I shall leave a very short comment after the beep.

Monsters

Monsters - Simon Sebag Montefiore With a title like that and a page or two dedicated to hand-picked "demons", there's really no chance of a fair trial here, now is there?

Always superficial with frustrating inaccuracies and typos galore, and if the writers didn't simply get their facts wrong, they are being hopelessly one-sided and sensational (=demonizing). At times it's no better than guess work, really.

But I guess the book works as a good showcase of enduring human stupidity. Because let's face it: there are monsters only because we, you and me, allow it to happen.

1. No man is born evil.
2. True kooks are far and few between (and rarely if ever amount to much).
3. One nation's terrorist is another nation's freedom fighter.
4. Kill a man and you are a murderer. Kill many and you're a conqueror.
5. Q: How to efficiently lie? A: Keep on repeating...

***

Honestly, we can never say for sure what really went down say in 16th century Europe with the likes of Elizabeth Báthory for example. One only has to stop for a moment to reflect about woman's place even in these so-called modern times in order to realize that historically women have always been more or less the property of men who could and would do with them as it best suited them.

So if you happened to be a woman of wealth and therefore of influence, a lot of people, and particularly many men, do not take kindly to a woman who is trying to have her own way about matters that concern everyone else too. It doesn't really take a whole lot of effort, imagination, creativity and scheming to ostracize someone as persona non grata - particularly in an age when almost everyone was illiterate, uneducated and superstitious, to boot.

I imagine an educated and business savvy woman who probably enjoyed showing her influence over men to be of a great source of nuisance to all those who lusted after her wealth and/or her warm bed but who never got beyond second base, if even that. If you can't have her, kill her?

Not saying she wasn't a true bitch, just doubting she ever did what history claims she did.

Nobility or not, the villagers would no doubt have ripped her to pieces had the accusations, let alone evidence proved to be anything more than pure conjecture and personal libel. It's more than little telling that the authorities really only started to act upon the wild rumors after her husband had already died. Ripe for the taking, right? I smell political power games, religious intolerance and more than a dash of misagony all weaved into a nice little package called she-devil who more likely ended in a house arrest rather than walled in a room.

***

I'd very much like to know what exactly would make Charles Manson - a guy who never killed anyone - a monster? Because some other stupid, messed up, and/or borderline crazy hippies took his cryptic ramblings seriously and figured that he'd want them to kill for him for some reason or the other? Manson deserved some jail time, for sure, but a life for crimes he did not even commit?

Or take case Bin Laden. Unarmed, shot in the face in cold blood. Remains dumped at sea less than 24 hours later. By orders of Nobel Peace Prize winner. And basically everyone, UN including, rejoiced.

If you strip away rule of law, you're left with rule of the strong (or more often than not rule of the weak).

When Manson should've finally gotten a chance to get some proper schooling (and proper meds) after the trials in 1971, he instead was locked up for life simply because he essentially gave the media and the American populace what they had wanted to see all along: the chance to see the devil himself. And everyone knows you can never let a devil out because if you do, everyone would see that the devil's just a man after all. Nothing more and nothing less.

More accurate book title would be: "Monsters - and the ordinary folks who really make the magic happen." Or: "Monsters (because you were still at it when your enemies took a day off!)"

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir - Dave Mustaine, Joe Layden Let's get this first out of the way: yes, in my tender years I was a huge Megadeth/Mustaine fan even though Metallica for sure always churned out more consistent albums, and like many others I consider "Master of Puppets" (1984) to be the reference metal album that shows where your music really stands - what separates good from truly phenomenal.

For someone who "started" with Guns N' Roses' Illusions (1991) and "Lies" (1988), even Metallica's Black album (1991) seemed at first too noisy… ;) When I feel like I need an antidote to contemporary music or want to take a trip down the metal memory lane, just a handful of classic metal albums (by my definition that is) does the trick for me. Because let's face it: a lot of metal is more or less redundant shite.

I don't follow US politics actively but I sometimes have this urge to find out what's happening in the alternative universe called Dave Mustaine. He's just one of those rare people who seem larger than life, and he truly was one of my biggest idols back in the day.

Mustaine's personal "transformation" from "Countdown to Extinction" -era Mustaine to latter days' born-again christian who seemingly seems to favor spouting wild conspiracy theories these day, is pretty mind-boggling and more than little off-putting for someone who hasn't really been following Mustaine's musical career since 1997.

I don't think it's fair to judge anyone based solely on seeing her/him on a few youtube clips. If you read this memoir, you will get a much fairer picture of the man - warts and all. Mustaine for sure needs to go out more, talk to more people than just Alex Jones and generally get his hands on books and papers that might challenge his views and opinions.

Recovering alcoholics/druggies always find themselves suddenly with a lot more time on their hands, and most will be at lost as to what to do with it. Some go to church, some get interested in politics. Mustaine apparently does both. I salute anyone who expresses their distaste for political games and scheming. And if going to church and/or believing in some deity keeps you from hurting yourself and those around you, then I suppose it does more good than harm.

Anyways, I think "Countdown to Extinction" (1992) is to blame for turning me into a political being/animal. Hetfield never really let us see his political side (even still) other than on very general, superficial level. With Mustaine it was pretty obvious from the start that he's a guy who is not afraid to voice his opinion whether we like it or not.

Of course by playing it safe, you never upset/alienate people/fans. It's very understandable on so many levels (financially, personal relations, and so on), it's probably more or less instinctual, too, but it's also a cop-out. It either shows a lack of understanding (intellectual laziness) or lack of moral fibre (doing what is easy rather than what is right) - or both.

Mustaine has quick wits but little education. Unfortunately lack of education tends to show as people get older (and sober).

But of course almost all rockers are void of proper education. If you combine that with less than stellar intellectual capacity (let's face it: there are a lot of hippies out there in the entertainment business), it's no wonder that most people would just prefer to listen to these entertainers play their music and keep their mouths shut as much as possible, rather than the opposite.

On the contrary there's no doubt in my mind that had Mustaine stuck to school and eventually gone onto college, he might even have become somewhat of an intellectual giant - never mind the field - and all-round fun guy to be with.

Per my experience personal traits tend to remain. Mustaine's a fighter by nature but he's always come across as pretty jovial, down to earth, and generally well-meaning fella - something I think that readers will pick up from his memoir as well.

I struggle to see douchebagness in Mustaine. He's opinionated, and I certainly think he's misguided particularly in some of his latter days views and use of rhetorics, but an asshole? I don't think so.

Assholes do not take the risk of getting beaten up for defending their friends. Assholes are people who turn their backs on you instead. Assholes are people who dump you on the eve of success, bigger assholes dump you when "they" hit it big time. First grade assholes are the ones who put you on the bus while waiting for a replacement to arrive the same day or the next.

First grade assholes are people who in this case use you and your songs to not merely further their own career but to start one in the first place. First grade assholes are people who do not give you the credit you deserve other than what is minimally required by law and/or base human decency. But maybe the biggest assholes are those who let other people ultimately decide what is beneficial for you as well?

There are people who have strong moral fiber to begin with, and there are people who tend to take the easy way out when they can. Although, judging from the painstakingly awkward situation where Mustaine was called up to share a stage with Metallica, and Hetfield particularly, for the first time since being "let go" from the band, it's more than evident that sacking Mustaine was anything but easy on Hetfield all those eons ago. Unless he's a really good actor (doubt it), that's what being still ashamed of betraying people you (used to) love pretty much looks like when caught on tape.

For the record I agree with Hammett's views that all Mustaine wanted to do (then) was to play fast. That has always been the weak spot for technically gifted players. In heavy metal scene particularly being a guitar whiz is your best shot at being an alpha male.

This is something that Mustaine himself indirectly admits in his memoir: if playing guitar equals pussy, then playing better than the next guy (read: faster) should equal more pussy. That's the logic anyways, and from what I can gather, this is (still) somewhat true. Mustaine tells us that he too was skeptical at first about all the excesses attached to so-called r'n'r lifestyle… Well, we all know how that turned out.

Best songs (meaning songs you will never grow entirely tired of hearing) are almost always melodically simplistic tunes that everyone can whistle/hum along to at will. If you can't hum it, don't write it (that is unless music means more to you than being some competition about who gets to win the biggest audiences). Metallica realized this and they went with that. Mustaine either didn't or wouldn't. He was more into pushing the envelope, pushing his own limits.

Both bands made their members rich but there are no surprises here who ultimately won the popularity contest. Metallica became a household name that your grandmother could recognize, but you'd have to be a headbanger to even recognize a brand called Megadeth. That's just the way it is and will be.

Mustaine, like so many outwardly confident people, often seem pretty brash. Even though many of them, Mustaine including, are more or less insecure on the inside particularly when it comes to their status among their peers. Some are incredibly insecure and incredibly vain as well.

I don't think it's an issue of vanity when Mustaine tells about how much it meant to him to see that he was placed as the top dog among world's metal guitarist. I think he's being sincere.

Of course everyone needs some measure of verification, but as people grow old and mature they tend to need less of it. It's sad that a guy whose guitar playing chops no one in the know disputes still at the age of 48 needs to "see it in black and white".

At the very least this Joel Ivers fella would have to be a pretty proficient guitarist himself and know some music theory too to even claim to be an authority on the subject. But in the end guitar playing skills is all subjective anyways. One guitarist simply can't please all.

Take home message is that Mustaine still requires that validation. Maybe less than before, but he needs to hear it. I don't think Mustaine's an exception, though. Others may be just better at keeping such self-doubting sentiments at bay or at least better hidden from the fans and/or public eye.

I suppose for many if not all artists their career is this on-going personal therapy session that aims to prove to themselves that they are just as good and worthy as anyone else, that they too deserve other people's attention and yes, even admiration.

Nothing wrong with that as long as you're not kidding yourself. There are multitude of performing artists who never write their own stuff, who can't play a single instrument, who are totally content in living in the bubble where they view themselves as the sole reason that this music that they perform even exists.

I appreciate any artist who has managed to make me think and Mustaine is one of the few artists that succeeded in that. I am grateful to Mustaine for that fact alone.

But rockers really should have the decency to step down when they still have some credibility left. When I see acts like Metallica, Foo Fighters etc. still perform their "angry" stuff, it's more than absurd, it's ridiculous and phony.

Know when it's your time to move on to other venues and leave headbanging to guys who still bear a grudge to their ex-girlfriends (or just mom and dad)...

Actually I can only come up with one metal band, Type O Negative, that could simultaneously in a way make fun of metal, its cliches, its imagery, yet still be a "serious" and original band you'd actually want to listen to. It's a funny world.

While Megadeth's "Cryptic Writings" (1997) pretty much ended my love affair with all things metal, in hindsight it proved that Mustaine is in reality a very versatile and capable songwriter who could probably operate in just about any musical genre if he really wanted/allowed himself to.

Per my experience there just aren't that many technically good singers around in the popular music sphere, and Dave for sure ain't one of them.

It's always a big bonus if someone can actually sing well too, but as long as the music's good and the singing is at the very least bearable, I'd rather listen to "bad" singers - each and every time - who have something to say.

Hetfield's grunting may be easier on the ears, but Mustaine's sense of varying singing "approaches" is much more satisfying for me. Mustaine's signature snarl combined with his sense of theatrics together helped to create a recognizable, I'd even go as far as say unique, sound. But alas, I've always been more or less dissappointed hearing - not to mention seeing - Megadeth live. Like most bands Megadeth excels on record.

Use of theatrics in metal music is like walking on a tight rope. Too much, and you tend to sound (and too often than not also look) like Manowar. Then again, too little and you sound, well, a little boring.

It's obvious that neither Mustaine nor Hetfield ever bothered to take singing lessons if only to learn to breathe with more ease. And that is why Hetfield always resorts to doing his signature yeah -yell at the end of every line because otherwise he'd probably pass out or it would sound even worse live than what it already is. Mustaine manages (just barely, though) to replicate better what he sounds on record. Because of Mustaine's and Hetfield's less than adequate live singing I could never really relax and just enjoy these bands play live.

I never fail to give credit to good singers (Freddie Mercury, Axl Rose, Phil Anselmo, Bruce Dickinson - just to name a few) but I also fully acknowledge just how hard a combination it really is to sing and play simultaneously in a live situations - especially if you are drunk, high or both (which in rock music happens more often than not).

Anyone can learn to strum three chords and croak at the same time. It turns into whole other ball game when you up the ante. At Mustaine's guitar playing level the fact that he can simultaneously sing at all, more or less blows my mind. Mustaine plays intricate, fast rhythms parts at greatest of ease but he is also no worse playing technically demanding leads.

Quite often when people like to assert that some (usually solo) guitarist's playing has a "soul", it just means her/his chops are limited if not downright lacking. If Slash - for example - wanted to play Mustaine's licks, he'd not only have to toss away his cig while attempting to do so, he'd most likely flat out fail.

Don't get me wrong: Slash is by all accounts a nice guy, a legit rock icon and yes, even a noted guitar legend, too. That's all fine and good but it says precious little about his guitar playing. It takes more than just blues scales to call anyone a guitar hero. And I'm not bashing blues here, either.

I think it's more than telling why with some guitarists people will much rather talk about their sound (that is how good they sound) as opposed to how they play (that is how well they can actually play). But like I said before, I'll rather listen to someone who writes good tunes than someone who runs her/his fingers the fastest on the fretboard.

That's why I don't listen to likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. If I want to listen to instrumental music, I'll head on to classical section. Why listen to faux-Paganini when I can have the real thing instead? The great composers of the 17th to 19th century made music that I could feel in my guts. I don't know what Malmsteen and friends are trying to do but to me it's not music. It sounds like something you'd do to warm up before you actually start playing music.

I don't know how many musicians there are who could top Mustaine in his own game. Matthew Bellamy from Muse could probably pull it off - while singing beautifully, too - but it would inevitably sound campy.

But I digress.

When Mustaine made the "decision" not to dumb down his guitar playing (I'm assuming here) even when performing live, that in hindsight most likely helped to cement his band as the "second best" in the business. Sound- and songwriting wise Metallica was always much more consistent band. While Megadeth experimented and evolved (Mustaine changing the lineup like socks), Metallica had time to perfect their art.

That's probably what happens when another band gets a head start and a mostly intact unit that is already comfortable playing together. Mustaine didn't have that luxury to fall back on when he was trying to kick start his career. Rather than exaggerating his role in early Metallica he positively downplays it.

If what I read is true - and Mustaine has always seemed pretty open and honest about what went down and why - there basically wasn't even a band to speak of when Mustaine "auditioned" to join Ulrich's and Hetfield's hobbyist posse. They had like one song recorded on a crappy demo tape, and not much else. Mustaine on the other hand was already a more or less skilled guitarist who already had a real band together. A band that actually did gigs and not just daydreamed about it…

That's why it's so puzzling why Mustaine doesn't care to elaborate why he decided to stick with Lars and James in the first place even though he clearly thought that they were much greener around the ears than he was was when it came to playing and writing music (and apparently life in general)? When these new comrades even seemed to lack basic skills at playing an instrument - Lars particularly? Why not just continue with the band he already had, and try to make some changes there?

No one knows, because he's not telling us.

I'm personally guessing that more than growing tired of Mustaine's substance abuse and/or violent temper, Lars and James probably then just decided that it's not going to work if and when there are two or even three people who want to lead the band.

Strictly financial-wise you better sack people before they get the chance to sack you! However, it's not something you do to a friend. Hell, it's not something you do to a hired gun, either. I have a hard time believing that Mustaine would be so bad judge of character as to misgive their relationship to be one of business and not of comradeship/friendship.

So, I'm going to go as far as claim that both Hetfield and Ulrich were also more than just little intimidated by Mustaine's self-assertiveness, apparent quick wits, charisma/stage presence and yes, even good looks.

Speaking of good looks, it's actually quite funny and maybe more than just little telling that Mustaine is more or less homophobic, yet it was always supremely important to him that the guys in his band also look the part. No bald (or balding) guys, only guys with healthy long hairs. I suppose one doesn't have to give second chances to balding guys, eh?

I can relate to Mustaine's animosity towards Metallica - to some extent that is. The way they let Mustaine go was fitting for cowards. If Mustaine is/was an alpha male, then Hetfield and Ulrich (and later Hammett) seemed in comparison like the quintessential momma's boys who at most talked the talk but never walked the walk. I've known friends who when shit hits the fan are the first to bail out. I've always got the same feeling about those three guys in Metallica.

I suppose there just aren't that many folks around who are truly willing to take a beating in order to defend a friend or friends. Mustaine took the heat for his buddies on more than one occation and I for one must admire him for doing that. Moral principles define a man.

Rather than revealing a little about what he felt in such and such times and how he dealt with such and such issues, Mustaine (or rather his ghost writer) pretty much just lists what events took place in more or less chronological order.

Mustaine's childhood and youth is left pretty sketchy. It's understandable if he honestly doesn't know much about his early childhood, but you'd figure someone in the family would! This is very unsatisfying for me personally. They named the book "Mustaine" after all, not "Story of Megadeth" which it is much more so.

I also have a hard time believing that there were no authorities involved at all during that time when Mustaine allegedly lived all by himself in his mother's house in his teens while supporting himself by selling drugs. It's as if no one knew what was going on or just didn't care. Seems unlikely, particularly considering that Mustaine later moved to Idaho to live with his older sister's family for a year or so.

I don't want rags to riches stories (particularly if they are unfounded), I just want to know what happened. Nothing more, nothing less.

As always I'm much more interested in learning about the artist's internal world, about the daily drudgery/joys, the creative processes and so on. I don't really care how much dope someone did or how many chicks someone banged if there's no real learning process involved. Banging groupies isn't something a rocker even has to put great effort into - on the contrary. More than anything that kind of a behavior is more or less abuse of power.

At the end of the day Mustaine remains a mystery. A believer in second chances. A guy who will protect those who are dear to him by force if necessary (and preferably?). What else?

All in all this book isn't the definitive book about a man called Mustaine I was hoping for but it's the best we have. I end this tirade with a quote from the man himself that quite possible explains a lot why Mustaine is, well, Mustaine:

" I begged to differ with almost everything just for the sake of being argumentative. But that's me. I'm a sarcastic fucker. "