Sometimes I don't know whether something is appropriate for this blog, mostly whether it's "geeky" enough. But at times like that I probably need to remember that this is my blog and I can write whatever I like. At least I'm fairly certain there aren't blog content police that are going to come and take me away if my posts don't fill some magically assigned criteria.
I have a personal philosophy that may sound a bit pessimistic, but it works well. This philosophy is "Everyone will let you down eventually." Think about nearly every friendship you've ever lost, every relationship that has ended, really any time someone has hurt you. Chances are, it's because you thought the other person was going to do, say, or react a certain way, and they didn't. It's also possible that suddenly the other person got really mad at you and you didn't understand why, and chances are it was because you did something contrary to THEIR expectations. So when I expect someone to let me down, what results is that when that disconnect between what I expect of them and what really occurs happens, I am now less likely to write that person out of my life forever. "Oh," I think, "I thought our friendship was on this level, but in reality, it's a little lower. That's fine, carry on then." This level of expectation can also apply to our idols and fandoms. When a celebrity you admire lets you down, this is probably a really good thing. We tend to put these people on far higher pedestals than they should be on.
Since I had foolishly walked away from comics for the sake of my high school boyfriend, my main obsession in high school was music. Not playing music, but listening to it. This happens to nearly all of us, of course. Our emotions are running high thanks to the overproduction of hormones, and most music deals with overly emotional issues, so suddenly that singer who seems to be transcribing our thoughts into words for us becomes really, really important. We draw lines in the sand based on the type of music we listen to. For my experience, the people who liked metal were called freaks and the ones who liked popular music (rap was grouped into this at the time) were called preppies. When my friend Melanie died in a car accident, someone at my mostly preppy high school was actually known for saying "Oh well, one less freak in the world!" In my junior year religion class, a group of preppy girls chose for their group topic to prove how movies like Pulp Fiction and The Crow, and music like Slayer and Nine Inch Nails were evil and made you a horrible person. They had to show examples, and the girl who played the music clips was all apologetic "I don't want you guys to think I'm a big freak or something, I got this stuff from my brother." She then went on to explain that the hard to hear lyrics of the song "The Downward Spiral" were "He put the gun to his head, bang, so much blood for such a little boy..."
Of course, at that point I was listening to so much NIN that I knew she wasn't playing the album version of the song, but the remix on Further Down the Spiral. I NEVER spoke in class, yet I blurted out, shaking with anger, "It's HOLE, not BOY. It's about suicide, not killing little children!!" Of course my point that if you're going to bash something you should at least get your facts straight was completely lost on those morons, and I'm sure if they hadn't already labeled me as "one of those weirdos" that event certainly solidified it. I had one other friend in the class who chimed in and tried to help but it was pointless to even try, really. Funny how they didn't pick any gangster rap for their examples, either.
Beyond NIN, my main love was Tool. I discovered them at 17 and was fascinated by them. I found the music far more intricate and complex than any I had heard before, but more than anything else, Maynard James Keenan's voice blew me away. I even remember which song did it first: H. It's a very soft and delicate song that builds to something powerful, and the emotion in his voice struck me, even if I didn't really know what he was singing about at first. From there I went deeper and deeper.. buying all their albums available up to that point, looking at the lyrics online, reading the brilliant FAQ on toolshed.down.net that touched on the meaning of most of their songs. I was a full blown card carrying member of the cult of Tool. That's actually pretty literal, as somewhere in my house I still have the card that shows I'm a part of Tool Army, their fan club. I loved them so much that in college, I used to try as hard as possible to get other people into them, and I'd get really hurt when people told me they hated them.
The majority of Maynard's lyrics, particularly beginning with Tool's Aenima and also continuing into his work in A Perfect Circle, are all about personal growth and change. For whatever reason, I've found that I learn these sort of lessons better when the advice is put to music, as compared to just a person actually telling me what I should do. As such, Maynard helped me a lot, and in some ways saved my life. Since college was the absolute most turbulent time for me, it makes sense just how personally I used to take the whole thing.
Then 2004 came along. I'm pretty sure Tool Army already existed by that point, and I had been shocked and appalled when Maynard put up a drawing that was little more than a doodle and they put prints of it up for sale for over $100. And people bought it! But the worst came through A Perfect Circle, who were going strong at that point while Tool was on hiatus. I have a strict no discussion of politics policy, so I'm trying my best to not offend anyone here, but we all know how explosive that election was. Suddenly, this man who had been a part of a band who had always stressed "think for yourself" was putting out a remix album that was basically one giant sign of "If you vote for Bush you're serving the devil." I'm not saying they didn't have a right to express their own opinions.. everyone does. It was the constant barrage of emails "promoting the album" I was receiving at the time that kept telling me who I was supposed to vote for that infuriated me. After seeing how many people jumped at the chance to pay large amounts of money for a frickin' doodle, I didn't have any doubt in my mind that they were also going to do as he wished in the voting booth too.
But that wasn't his greatest sin. I expect liberal bias from musicians, along with other celebrities and most of the internet. My main problem was with one of the songs on that remix album, eMotive. Specifically, a cover of the John Lennon song, "Imagine." See, while music was my main obsession in high school, it was not the first time I had fallen in love with music. In 1994 The Beatles Anthology had aired on television, and that cool band my dad had played the records of when I was young became my main obsession. I scoured the library for every book I could find, bought magazines featuring them, got the CDs of their albums; anything and everything I could to learn more about them. I had taped the special off the TV, but I always looked lustfully at the large box set they sold in stores that was told to feature even more footage than was aired. It was too expensive for my budget back then.
Pre-Anthology I had had a bit of a thing for Paul, but post, I was all about John. So very, very much in love with him. His goofy smile, his sharp wit, his passionate vocals and honest lyrics. My love for him was near unconditional and though he wasn't perfect, he had always been so honest about the mistakes he had made, it was easy to forgive. Had I been alive Dec 8, 1980, I would have been devastated. "Imagine" is considered by most to be John's crowning achievement, his message of peace and hope for the world.
I first heard APC's cover of the song thanks to one of those many emails they were sending me on a regular basis. They were urging everyone to watch the video, as it contained footage of the Iraq war that supposedly was not being shown on news stations. I honestly don't remember anything about what was in the video, because I was too busy being horrified by what I heard. Minor chords played on a droning guitar, Maynard singing in his best sad voice, turning this message of peace and love and hope into a funeral dirge. It was horrifying, it was disgusting, it was the exact opposite of everything that John had meant the song to be.
And so, the mighty had fallen. Maynard was no longer this paragon for me to admire and look up to.. he was just another human being that happened to have a nice voice and occasionally wrote some nice lyrics. I didn't stop liking Tool. I loved Lateralus when it came out and at least two of the songs on that album were even more helpful to me personally than some of the others in the past. But this strong burning desire to make everyone else love Tool was suddenly gone from me. So I was able to look at other fans and become ever the more horrified. I have a live recording from one of their shows.. before the song starts, you can hear this girl shout out "You're a god!" and I almost always yell back at her "No, he's not!" unless I have the chance to fast forward through it.
Last week, I watched Blood into Wine. It's a documentary both about the Arizona wine industry and about Maynard himself. If you're like me and know next to nothing about wine, wine making in AZ is a fairly new endeavor, and those involved are not particularly well respected yet in the wine industry as a whole. So the doc is sort of a combination of how these guys are trying to earn respect, and also how everyone knows Maynard as a musician, so are they going to take this whole thing seriously? I personally found most of the wine stuff to be fairly boring. I also think it's disgusting that wine tasters spit the wine back out into the glass. It was seriously starting to make my stomach turn after awhile.
Maynard is a pretty private person in general, so if you're expecting something really in depth here, you're not going to get it. But he does make a few statements throughout that I found interesting, particularly related to making art and how one's art should grow and change along with them. I was also very touched when he talked about his mother and the wine he created as a tribute to her. If you've ever listened to 10,000 Days, then you have an idea of just what he thought of his mother. She spent a good portion of her life completely paralyzed on the right side of her body and yet still had a lot of faith and courage.
It's not a straight documentary as there are interspersed in the film clips from this supposed cable access type show of these two guys generally interviewing and making fun of him for choosing to make wine. It's obviously fake and not a real show. It's a bit over the top at times but I have to admit that the extremely dry humor of it made me laugh. Maynard was a comedian before he was a musician, and he's had some experience with acting as well, so this goes over fairly well. There's also a strange part where the two directors start talking to Maynard about the possibility of turning the doc into a reality series, and they lie to him and tell him the camera is off when it really isn't, as if they're trying to be sneaky and gauge his reaction. He tells them he's not interested.. and then turns to face the camera directly and talks to it while he walks away from them. I didn't really see the point of blurring the line in such a way.
The absolute worst part is in two scenes where they talk to fans who are waiting in line to purchase the wine and get it signed by Maynard and the poor other guy who helps him that no one actually cares about. These people made me sick. First off, the ones that they talked to, you could tell that there was very little chance that any of them actually drank wine normally.. they were only there for the chance to meet him. A couple proudly proclaimed that they had named their kid after him. I don't remember all the things that were said but it was generally a lot more proclamations of godhood and how he's the best thing ever and they were all dying to meet him. It scares me that I was ever even remotely associated with these people. The fact of the matter is, it proves that half the point of the documentary is moot - people don't have to take him seriously as a winemaker, because there are idiots like this who will buy anything he sells them no matter what. He knows this and takes advantage of it frequently.
When he first opened his Puscifer site, he used to sell used targets from the gun range. I'm not even sure he signed them. But he actually admitted that each time they sold out, he would raise the price on them. And people kept buying them. They're not there anymore, so I guess he eventually either had a crisis of conscience or maybe it finally got too expensive for people to stop. If he was giving the money to charity, he never actually said so. He's also got this "velvet slipper club" where people can drink his wine and be in the same room as him at special events. What boggles my mind is why these people even want to. I used to have a transcript of this online chat he did with fans once, and he spent pretty much the whole time mocking them. It's hilarious to read from the outside, but personally I have no interest in meeting a guy who's most likely going to be rude to me in some manner. I'll just enjoy his music from afar, thanks.
I think that whole experience really cured me of being obsessed with celebrities as a whole. The list of celebrities I'd like to meet is actually very small. All of them are people who seem really down to earth by nature and seem to have enough in common with me that if we were stuck in an elevator together, we'd have something to chat about. I always figure most celebrities get their asses kissed on a regular basis so meeting someone just to tell them how awesome you think they are is pretty pointless. I don't know what I'm going to end up doing at Nola Comic Con this year, since it seems like such a huge part of these cons is meeting celebrities. I'm always scared to meet anyone for the first time, be they celebrity, like when I took my picture with Penn Jillette after a Penn & Teller show, or just average every day friends of friends that I'm being introduced to. I suppose the nice thing to be said about the celebrity encounter is that it's over quicker.