Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Rolling Stone Bombshell

What many may see as a stupid move on General Stanley McChrystal's part regarding his comments to Rolling Stone magazine in which he degrades the Obama administration, I see as a calculated attempt to get the hell out of a dead end situation in Afghanistan. McChrystal can't possibly be so misguided as to think that hanging out with a Rolling Stone reporter for a lengthy period of time while talking shit about his boss - the President of the United States - will be "off the record." Not surprisingly, McChrystal was fired today and I can't help but think that he has to be relieved.

The timeline that Obama has set for leaving Afghanistan is July of 2011. We are not currently winning this war and things are not going to drastically change for the better in the span of a year. This timeline is foolish. McChrystal knows this timeline is foolish. General David Petraeus, who has replaced McChrystal, certainly has to believe that this timeline is foolish. When outrage ensued over Afghan president Hamid Karzai's threat to join the Taliban, you need to realize that Afghanis won't have much choice once U.S. troops pull out. If you are trying to win the "hearts and minds" of the Afghan population, this timeline is not only a noose around their loyalties to American forces, but a death sentence as well.

The silver lining in all of this is that Petraeus is Obama's last realistic option in Afghanistan which will hopefully give him leverage. Petraeus understands Afghanistan and Middle East issues just as well if not better, in my opinion, than McChrystal. In March, Patraeus said that the perception of U.S. favoritism towards Israel was becoming a liability for the advancement of our interests abroad. An obvious statement, but one that is rarely uttered from such a high ranking military official. Needless to say, I like Petraeus.

I don't blame McChrystal for saying the things he said about Obama given the situation in Afghanistan. Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call for an administration that is quickly unraveling while justifiably being perceived by the public as disengaged and elitist.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baby Snakes and Bruce Bickford

Baby Snakes is a film documenting Frank Zappa's 1977 Halloween concert at New York City's Palladium Theater. I saw it for the first time the other night and, even though I like Zappa, this documentary clocked in at just under 3 hours which made me want to punch my television set. It was way too long and I could care less about backstage hijinks. It did, however, make me realize two things that I'm very thankful for: 1)Frank Zappa is an amazing guitarist, which is even more frustrating considering he plays it all of ten minutes throughout the entire film; and 2)the most wonderful thing about this whole documentary is, hands down, the spotlight it shines on artist Bruce Bickford. My anger at the length of this film was tempered by the need to find out more about Bickford, which led me to a 2004 documentary film about his life entitled Monster Road.

Egos are quite a pet peeve of mine and there couldn't be a bigger gulf in egos as there is between watching Zappa's in Baby Snakes and Bickford's lack of one in Monster Road. I would argue that Bickford is one of the most important visual artists of our lifetime and yet, as the film points out, the guy can't find work. You would think that some current musical artist would seek him out to do a video but, then again, what else should you expect? The non-egotistical of the world don't exactly market themselves very well because, well, they don't have an ego.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Russell Brand

"My life is a series of embarrassing incidents strung together by telling people about those embarrassing incidents."
-Russell Brand

I've never seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall nor have I seen Russell Brand's latest movie Get Him To The Greek. I bought Russell Brand In New York City on dvd and was a bit disappointed, yet every time I see this guy as a guest on late night talk shows, he absolutely shines. The guy intrigues me so much that I purchased his latest book "My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up."

If you're looking for high comedy, this isn't the book for you. Reading "My Booky Wook" is what I imagine a priest feels like in a confessional booth upon hearing the most lurid tales of debauchery he has come across. Russell Brand is a man of many vices, and while most people would bristle at the thought of airing their own personal dirty laundry, Brand not only airs his, but he dissects it as well in a very impressive manner. Jail; drug rehab; sex addiction rehab; mental issues - Mr. Brand has his demons and, yet, he makes light of them at his own expense while holding a mirror to society's own hypocrisies.

Russell Brand has all the potential in the world to become the next Lenny Bruce. Whether he will or not remains to be seen, but I really like this guy and I highly recommend this book.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ariel Pink

Ariel Pink's latest album Before Today has been getting great reviews which is completely confusing to me because his previous work pretty much got overlooked. gave Before Today a 9.0 rating while giving his far better 2004 album The Doldrums a 5.0 rating.
And that's the trouble with The Doldrums, and the reasoning behind this conflicted rating. The album is not so much Ariel Pink's creation as it is Ariel Pink himself, a real-time observation of his brain synapses at work. His nerves are either firing at Einstein levels or misfiring like harlequin babies, and in fairness, I'm hardly the staff brain surgeon.
-Nick Sylvester, October 25, 2004

This isn't a knock against Ariel Pink so much as it is a knock against critics who find his latest album more appealing. Before Today is The Doldrums lite. I'm happy for Ariel Pink in that critics are finally giving him his due, but if you fell in love with The Doldrums first, I can't imagine that you are blown away by this album because I'm not. Anyone who thinks this new album is his best, I must challenge you to a duel.