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Friday, January 04, 2008subscribe to demonbaby

The First Annual Demonbaby Awards!



[Currently Listening To: Dirty On Purpose - Hallelujah Sirens]

It's that time of year when every website on the planet feels compelled to tell you what they think are the best and worst of the past year. I've always found the word "best" to be just a tad arrogant for these types of things, especially when dealing with highly subjective art forms like music or film. So, the other day when I decided it was about time for Demonbaby to leap shamelessly onto the "best-and-worst-of-2007" bandwagon, I figured I'd have some fun with it, and the First Annual Demonbaby Awards were born as an opportunity for me to honor the good, the bad, the really bad, and the ugly from the past year.

I've started with only one section, the Music Video Awards, which I guarantee is the only place you'll find the winners of the Best Performance Of A Klingon Hipster In A Music Video award and the Please, Punch Me In The Fucking Face award.

The other award categories - movies, TV, video games, etc - will be added over the next week, so check back on Monday for more, and in the meantime, you can peruse a ton of my favorites from 2007, and share your favorite music of '07 in the comments section of the Music Video Awards.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007subscribe to demonbaby

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide.



[Currently Listening To: Music I Didn't Pay For]

For quite a long time I've been intending to post some sort of commentary on the music industry - piracy, distribution, morality, those types of things. I've thought about it many times, but never gone through with it, because the issue is such a broad, messy one - such a difficult thing to address fairly and compactly. I knew it would result in a rambly, unfocused commentary, and my exact opinion has teetered back and forth quite a bit over the years anyway. But on Monday, when I woke up to the news that Oink, the world famous torrent site and mecca for music-lovers everywhere, had been shut down by international police and various anti-piracy groups, I knew it was finally time to try and organize my thoughts on this huge, sticky, important issue.

For the past eight years, I've worked on and off with major record labels as a designer ("Major" is an important distinction here, because major labels are an entirely different beast than many indie labels - they're the ones with the power, and they are the ones driving the industry-wide push against piracy). It was 1999 when I got my first taste of the inner-workings of a major record label - I was a young college student, and the inside of a New York label office seemed so vast and exciting. Dozens of worker bees hummed away at their desks on phones and computers. Music posters and stacks of CDs littered every surface. Everyone seemed to have an assistant, and the assistants had assistants, and you couldn't help but wonder "what the hell do all these people do?" I tagged along on $1500 artist dinners paid for by the labels. Massive bar tabs were regularly signed away by record label employees with company cards. You got used to people billing as many expenses back to the record company as they could. I met the type of jive, middle-aged, blazer-wearing, coke-snorting, cartoon character label bigwigs who you'd think were too cliche to exist outside the confines of Spinal Tap. It was all strange and exciting, but one thing that always resonated with me was the sheer volume of money that seemed to be spent without any great deal of concern. Whether it was excessive production budgets or "business lunches" that had nothing to do with business, one of my first reactions to it all was, "so this is why CDs cost $18..." An industry of excess. But that's kind of what you expected from the music business, right? It's where rock stars are made. It's where you get stretch limos with hot tubs in the back, where you get private jets and cocaine parties. Growing up in the '80's, with pop royalty and hair metal bands, you were kind of led to think, of course record labels blow money left and right - there's just so much of it to go around! Well, you know what they say: The bigger they are...

In those days, "piracy" was barely even a word in the music world. My friends and I traded MP3s in college over the local network, but they were scattered and low-quality. It felt like a novelty - like a digital version of duping a cassette tape - hardly a replacement for CDs. CDs sounded good and you could bring them with you in your DiscMan, and the only digital music you could get was as good as your friends' CD collections, anyway. It never occurred to any of us that digital files were the future. But as it turned out, lots of kids, in lots of colleges around the world, had the same idea of sharing MP3 files over their local networks, and eventually, someone paid attention to that idea and made Napster. Suddenly, it was like all those college networks were tied together, and you could find all this cool stuff online. It was easier and more efficient than record stores, it was powered by music fans, and, well, it was free. Suddenly you didn't have to pay 15 to 18 bucks for an album and hope it was good, you could download some tracks off the internet and check it out first. But you still always bought the CD if you liked it - I mean, who wants all their music to be on the computer? I sure didn't. But increasingly, more and more people did. For college kids, Napster was a Godsend, because you can all but guarantee two things about most college kids: They love music, and they're dirt poor. So it grew, and it grew, and it started to grow into the mainstream, and that's when the labels woke up and realized something important was happening. At that point they could have seen it as either a threat or an opportunity, and they, without hesitation, determined it to be a threat. It was a threat because essentially someone had come up with a better, free distribution method for the labels' product. To be fair, you can imagine how confusing this must have been for them - is there even a historical precedent for an industry's products suddenly being able to replicate and distribute on their own, without cost?

For quite a while - long after most tech-savvy music lovers - I resisted the idea of stealing music. Of course I would download MP3s - I downloaded a lot of stuff - but I would always make sure to buy the physical CD if it was something I liked. I knew a lot of musicians, a lot of them bewildered at what was happening to the industry they used to understand. People were downloading their music en masse, gorging on this new frontier like pigs at a troff - and worst of all, they felt entitled to do so. It was like it was okay simply because the technology existed that made it possible. But it wasn't okay - I mean, let's face it, no matter how you rationalized it, it was stealing, and because the technology existed to hotwire a car didn't make that okay, either. The artists lost control of distribution: They couldn't present albums the way they wanted to, in a package with nice artwork. They couldn't reveal it the way they wanted to, because music pirates got the albums online well before the actual release date. Control had been taken away from everyone who used to have it. It was a scary time in unfamiliar territory, where suddenly music fans became enemies to the artists and companies they had supported for years. It led to laughable hyperbole from bands like Metallica, instantly the poster-children of cry-baby rich rock stars, and the beginning of the image problem the industry has faced in its handling of the piracy issue. But still, at the time, I understood where they were coming from. Most musicians weren't rich like Metallica, and needed all the album sales they could get for both income and label support. Plus, it was their art, and they had created it - why shouldn't they be able to control how it's distributed, just because some snotty, acne-faced internet kids had found a way to cheat the system? And these entitled little internet brats, don't they realize that albums cost money to create, and to produce, and to promote? How is there going to be any new music if no one's paying for it?

On top of that, I couldn't get into the idea of an invisible music library that lives on my computer. Where's the artwork? Where's my collection? I want the booklet, the packaging... I want shelves and shelves of albums that I've spent years collecting, that I can pore over and impress my friends with... I want to flip through the pages, and hold the CD in my hand... Being a kid who got into music well past the days of vinyl, CDs were all I had, and they still felt important to me.

It's all changed.

In a few short years, the aggressive push of technology combined with the arrogant response from the record industry has rapidly worn away all of my noble intentions of clinging to the old system, and has now pushed me into full-on dissent. I find myself fully immersed in digital music, almost never buying CDs, and fully against the methods of the major record labels and the RIAA. And I think it would do the music industry a lot of good to pay attention to why - because I'm just one of millions, and there will be millions more in the years to come. And it could have happened very, very differently.

As the years have passed, and technology has made digital files the most convenient, efficient, and attractive method of listening to music for many people, the rules and cultural perceptions regarding music have changed drastically. We live in the iPod generation - where a "collection" of clunky CDs feels archaic - where the uniqueness of your music collection is limited only by how eclectic your taste is. Where it's embraced and expected that if you like an album, you send it to your friend to listen to. Whether this guy likes it or not, iPods have become synonymous with music - and if I filled my shiny new 160gb iPod up legally, buying each track online at the 99 cents price that the industry has determined, it would cost me about $32,226. How does that make sense? It's the ugly truth the record industry wants to ignore as they struggle to find ways to get people to pay for music in a culture that has already embraced the idea of music being something you collect in large volumes, and trade freely with your friends.

Already is the key word, because it didn't have to be this way, and that's become the main source of my utter lack of sympathy for the dying record industry: They had a chance to move forward, to evolve with technology and address the changing needs of consumers - and they didn't. Instead, they panicked - they showed their hand as power-hungry dinosaurs, and they started to demonize their own customers, the people whose love of music had given them massive profits for decades. They used their unfair record contracts - the ones that allowed them to own all the music - and went after children, grandparents, single moms, even deceased great grandmothers - alongside many other common people who did nothing more than download some songs and leave them in a shared folder - something that has become the cultural norm to the iPod generation. Joining together in what has been referred to as an illegal cartel and using the RIAA as their attack dogs, the record labels have spent billions of dollars attempting to scare people away from downloading music. And it's simply not working. The pirating community continues to out-smart and out-innovate the dated methods of the record companies, and CD sales continue to plummet while exchange of digital music on the internet continues to skyrocket. Why? Because freely-available music in large quantities is the new cultural norm, and the industry has given consumers no fair alternative. They didn't jump in when the new technologies were emerging and think, "how can we capitalize on this to ensure that we're able to stay afloat while providing the customer what they've come to expect?" They didn't band together and create a flat monthly fee for downloading all the music you want. They didn't respond by drastically lowering the prices of CDs (which have been ludicrously overpriced since day one, and actually increased in price during the '90's), or by offering low-cost DRM-free legal MP3 purchases. Their entry into the digital marketplace was too little too late - a precedent of free, high-quality, DRM-free music had already been set.

There seem to be a lot of reasons why the record companies blew it. One is that they're really not very smart. They know how to do one thing, which is sell records in a traditional retail environment. From personal experience I can tell you that the big labels are beyond clueless in the digital world - their ideas are out-dated, their methods make no sense, and every decision is hampered by miles and miles of legal tape, copyright restrictions, and corporate interests. Trying to innovate with a major label is like trying to teach your Grandmother how to play Halo 3: frustrating and ultimately futile. The easiest example of this is how much of a fight it's been to get record companies to sell MP3s DRM-free. You're trying to explain a new technology to an old guy who made his fortune in the hair metal days. You're trying to tell him that when someone buys a CD, it has no DRM - people can encode it into their computer as DRM-free MP3s within seconds, and send it to all their friends. So why insult the consumer by making them pay the same price for copy-protected MP3s? It doesn't make any sense! It just frustrates people and drives them to piracy! They don't get it: "It's an MP3, you have to protect it or they'll copy it." But they can do the same thing with the CDs you already sell!! Legal tape and lots of corporate bullshit. If these people weren't the ones who owned the music, it'd all be over already, and we'd be enjoying the real future of music. Because like with any new industry, it's not the people from the previous generation who are going to step in and be the innovators. It's a new batch.

Newspapers are a good example: It used to be that people read newspapers to get the news. That was the distribution method, and newspaper companies controlled it. You paid for a newspaper, and you got your news, that's how it worked. Until the internet came along, and a new generation of innovative people created websites, and suddenly anyone could distribute information, and they could distribute it faster, better, more efficiently, and for free. Obviously this hurt the newspaper industry, but there was nothing they could do about it, because they didn't own the information itself - only the distribution method. Their only choice was to innovate and find ways to compete in a new marketplace. And you know what? Now I can get live, up-to-the-minute news for free, on thousands of different sources across the internet - and The New York Times still exists. Free market capitalism at its finest. It's not a perfect example, but it is a part of how the internet is changing every form of traditional media. It happened with newspapers, it's happening now with music, and TV and cell phones are next on the chopping block. In all cases technology demands that change will happen, it's just a matter of who will find ways to take advantage of it, and who won't.

Unlike newspapers, record companies own the distribution and the product being distributed, so you can't just start your own website where you give out music that they own - and that's what this is all about: distribution. Lots of pro-piracy types argue that music can be free because people will always love music, and they'll pay for concert tickets, and merchandise, and the marketplace will shift and artists will survive. Well, yes, that might be an option for some artists, but that does nothing to help the record labels, because they don't make any money off of merchandise, or concert tickets. Distribution and ownership are what they control, and those are the two things piracy threatens. The few major labels left are parts of giant media conglomerations - owned by huge parent companies for whom artists and albums are just numbers on a piece of paper. It's why record companies shove disposable pop crap down your throat instead of nurturing career artists: because they have CEOs and shareholders to answer to, and those people don't give a shit if a really great band has the potential to get really successful, if given the right support over the next decade. They see that Gwen Stefani's latest musical turd sold millions, because parents of twelve year old girls still buy music for their kids, and the parent company demands more easy-money pop garbage that will be forgotten about next month. The only thing that matters to these corporations is profit - period. Music isn't thought of as an art form, as it was in the earlier days of the industry where labels were started by music-lovers - it's a product, pure and simple. And many of these corporations also own the manufacturing plants that create the CDs, so they make money on all sides - and lose money even from legal MP3s.

At the top of all this is the rigged, outdated, and unfair structure of current intellectual property laws, all of them in need of massive reform in the wake of the digital era. These laws allow the labels to maintain their stranglehold on music copyrights, and they allow the RIAA to sue the pants off of any file-sharing grandmother they please. Since the labels are owned by giant corporations with a great deal of money, power, and political influence, the RIAA is able to lobby politicians and government agencies to manipulate copyright laws for their benefit. The result is absurdly disproportionate fines, and laws that in some cases make file sharing a heftier charge than armed robbery. This is yet another case of private, corporate interests using political influence to turn laws in the opposite direction of the changing values of the people. Or, as this very smart assessment from a record executive described it: "a clear case of a multinational conglomerate using its political muscle to the disadvantage of everyone but itself." But shady political maneuvers and scare tactics are all the RIAA and other anti-piracy groups have left, because people who download music illegally now number in the hundreds of millions, and they can't sue everyone. At this point they're just trying to hold up what's left of the dam before it bursts open. Their latest victim is Oink, a popular torrent site specializing in music.

If you're not familiar with Oink, here's a quick summary: Oink was was a free members-only site - to join it you had to be invited by a member. Members had access to an unprecedented community-driven database of music. Every album you could ever imagine was just one click away. Oink's extremely strict quality standards ensured that everything on the site was at pristine quality - 192kbps MP3 was their bare minimum, and they championed much higher quality MP3s as well as FLAC lossless downloads. They encouraged logs to verify that the music had been ripped from the CD without any errors. Transcodes - files encoded from other encoded files, resulting in lower quality - were strictly forbidden. You were always guaranteed higher quality music than iTunes or any other legal MP3 store. Oink's strict download/share ratio ensured that every album in their vast database was always well-seeded, resulting in downloads faster than anywhere else on the internet. A 100mb album would download in mere seconds on even an average broadband connection. Oink was known for getting pre-release albums before anyone else on the internet, often months before they hit retail - but they also had an extensive catalogue of music dating back decades, fueled by music lovers who took pride in uploading rare gems from their collection that other users were seeking out. If there was an album you couldn't find on Oink, you only had to post a request for it, and wait for someone who had it to fill your request. Even if the request was extremely rare, Oink's vast network of hundreds of thousands of music-lovers eager to contribute to the site usually ensured you wouldn't have to wait long.

In this sense, Oink was not only an absolute paradise for music fans, but it was unquestionably the most complete and most efficient music distribution model the world has ever known. I say that safely without exaggeration. It was like the world's largest music store, whose vastly superior selection and distribution was entirely stocked, supplied, organized, and expanded upon by its own consumers. If the music industry had found a way to capitalize on the power, devotion, and innovation of its own fans the way Oink did, it would be thriving right now instead of withering. If intellectual property laws didn't make Oink illegal, the site's creator would be the new Steve Jobs right now. He would have revolutionized music distribution. Instead, he's a criminal, simply for finding the best way to fill rising consumer demand. I would have gladly paid a large monthly fee for a legal service as good as Oink - but none existed, because the music industry could never set aside their own greed and corporate bullshit to make it happen.

Here's an interesting aside: The RIAA loves to complain about music pirates leaking albums onto the internet before they're released in stores - painting the leakers as vicious pirates dead set on attacking their enemy, the music industry. But you know where music leaks from? From the fucking source, of course - the labels! At this point, most bands know that once their finished album is sent off to the label, the risk of it turning up online begins, because the labels are full of low-level workers who happen to be music fans who can't wait to share the band's new album with their friends. If the album manages to not leak directly from the label, it is guaranteed to leak once it heads off to manufacturing. Someone at the manufacturing plant is always happy to sneak off with a copy, and before long, it turns up online. Why? Because people love music, and they can't wait to hear their favorite band's new album! It's not about profit, and it's not about maliciousness. So record industry, maybe if you could protect your own assets a little better, shit wouldn't leak - don't blame the fans who flock to the leaked material online, blame the people who leak it out of your manufacturing plants in the first place! But assuming that's a hole too difficult to plug, it begs the question, "why don't labels adapt to the changing nature of distribution by selling new albums online as soon as they're finished, before they have a chance to leak, and release the physical CDs a couple months later?" Well, for one, labels are still obsessed with Billboard chart numbers - they're obsessed with determining the market value of their product by how well it fares in its opening week. Selling it online before the big retail debut, before they've had months to properly market the product to ensure success, would mess up those numbers (nevermind that those numbers mean absolutely nothing anymore). Additionally, selling an album online before it hits stores makes retail outlets (who are also suffering in all this) angry, and retail outlets have far more power than they should. For example, if a record company releases an album online but Wal-Mart won't have the CD in their stores for another two months (because it needs to be manufactured), Wal-Mart gets mad. Who cares if Wal-Mart gets mad, you ask? Well, record companies do, because Wal-Mart is, both mysteriously and tragically, the largest music retailer in the world. That means they have power, and they can say "if you sell Britney Spears' album online before we can sell it in our stores, we lose money. So if you do that, we're not going to stock her album at all, and then you'll lose a LOT of money." That kind of greedy business bullshit happens all the time in the record industry, and the consistent result is a worse experience for consumers and music lovers.

Which is why Oink was so great - take away all the rules and legal ties, all the ownership and profit margins, and naturally, the result is something purely for, by, and in service of the music fan. And it actually helps musicians - file-sharing is "the greatest marketing tool ever to come along for the music industry." One of Oink's best features was how it allowed users to connect similar artists, and to see what people who liked a certain band also liked. Similar to Amazon's recommendation system, it was possible to spend hours discovering new bands on Oink, and that's what many of its users did. Through sites like Oink, the amount and variety of music I listen to has skyrocketed, opening me up to hundreds of artists I never would have experienced otherwise. I'm now fans of their music, and I may not have bought their CDs, but I would have never bought their CD anyway, because I would have never heard of them! And now that I have heard of them, I go to their concerts, and I talk them up to my friends, and give my friends the music to listen to for themselves, so they can go to the concerts, and tell their friends, and so on. Oink was a network of music lovers sharing and discovering music. And yes, it was all technically illegal, and destined to get shut down, I suppose. But it's not so much that they shut Oink down that boils my blood, it's the fucking bullshit propaganda they put out there. If the industry tried to have some kind of compassion - if they said, "we understand that these are just music fans trying to listen to as much music as they can, but we have to protect our assets, and we're working on an industry-wide solution to accommodate the changing needs of music fans"... Well, it's too late for that, but it would be encouraging. Instead, they make it sound like they busted a Columbian drug cartel or something. They describe it as a highly-organized piracy ring. Like Oink users were distributing kiddie porn or some shit. The press release says: "This was not a case of friends sharing music for pleasure." Wh - what?? That's EXACTLY what it was! No one made any money on that site - there were no ads, no registration fees. The only currency was ratio - the amount you shared with other users - a brilliant way of turning "free" into a sort of booming mini-economy. The anti-piracy groups have tried to spin the notion that you had to pay a fee to join Oink, which is NOT true - donations were voluntary, and went to support the hosting and maintenance of the site. If the donations spilled into profit for the guy who ran the site, well he damn well deserved it - he created something truly remarkable.

So the next question is, what now?

For the major labels, it's over. It's fucking over. You're going to burn to the fucking ground, and we're all going to dance around the fire. And it's your own fault. Surely, somewhere deep inside, you had to know this day was coming, right? Your very industry is founded on an unfair business model of owning art you didn't create in exchange for the services you provide. It's rigged so that you win every time - even if the artist does well, you do ten times better. It was able to exist because you controlled the distribution, but now that's back in the hands of the people, and you let the ball drop when you could have evolved.

None of this is to say that there's no way for artists to make money anymore, or even that it's the end of record labels. It's just the end of record labels as we know them. A lot of people point to the Radiohead model as the future, but Radiohead is only dipping its toe into the future to test the waters. What at first seemed like a rainbow-colored revolution has now been openly revealed as a marketing gimmick: Radiohead was "experimenting," releasing a low-quality MP3 version of an album only to punish the fans who paid for it by later releasing a full-quality CD version with extra tracks. According to Radiohead's manager: "If we didn't believe that when people hear the music they will want to buy the CD then we wouldn't do what we are doing." Ouch. Radiohead was moving in the right direction, but if they really want to start a revolution, they need to place the "pay-what-you-want" digital album on the same content and quality level as the "pay-what-we-want" physical album.

Ultimately, I don't know what the future model is going to be - I think all the current pieces of the puzzle will still be there, but they need to be re-ordered, and the rules need to be changed. Maybe record labels of the future exist to help front recording costs and promote artists, but they don't own the music. Maybe music is free, and musicians make their money from touring and merchandise, and if they need a label, the label takes a percentage of their tour and merch profits. Maybe all-digital record companies give bands all the tools they need to sell their music directly to their fans, taking a small percentage for their services. In any case, the artists own their own music.

I used to reject the wishy-washy "music should be free!" mantra of online music thieves. I knew too much about the intricacies and economics of it, of the rock-and-a-hard-place situation many artists were in with their labels. I thought there were plenty of new ways to sell music that would be fair to all parties involved. But I no longer believe that, because the squabbling, backwards, greedy, ownership-obsessed major labels will never let it happen, and that's more clear to me now than ever. So maybe music has to be free. Maybe taking the money out of music is the only way to get money back into it. Maybe it's time to abandon the notion of the rock star - of music as a route to fame and fortune. The best music was always made by people who weren't in it for the money, anyway. Maybe smart, talented musicians will find ways to make a good living with or without CD sales. Maybe the record industry execs who made their fortunes off of unfair contracts and distribution monopolies should just walk away, confident that they milked a limited opportunity for all it was worth, and that it's time to find fortune somewhere else. Maybe in the hands of consumers, the music marketplace will expand in new and lucrative ways no one can even dream of yet. We won't know until music is free, and eventually it's going to be. Technological innovation destroys old industries, but it creates new ones. You can't fight it forever.

Until the walls finally come down, we're in what will inevitably be looked back on as a very awkward, chaotic period in music history - fans are being arrested for sharing the music they love, and many artists are left helpless, unable to experiment with new business models because they're locked into record contracts with backwards-thinking labels.

So what can you and I do to help usher in the brave new world? The beauty of Oink was how fans willingly and hyper-efficiently took on distribution roles that traditionally have cost labels millions of dollars. Music lovers have shown that they're much more willing to put time and effort into music than they are money. It's time to show artists that there's no limit to what an energized online fanbase can accomplish, and all they'll ever ask for in return is more music. And it's time to show the labels that they missed a huge opportunity by not embracing these opportunities when they had the chance.

1. Stop buying music from major labels. Period. The only way to force change is to hit the labels where it hurts - their profits. The major labels are like Terry Schiavo right now - they're on life support, drooling in a coma, while white-haired guys in suits try and change the laws to keep them alive. But any rational person can see that it's too late, and it's time to pull out the feeding tube. In this case, the feeding tube is your money. Find out which labels are members/supporters of the RIAA and similar copyright enforcement groups, and don't support them in any way. The RIAA Radar is a great tool to help you with this. Don't buy CDs, don't buy iTunes downloads, don't buy from Amazon, etc. Steal the music you want that's on the major labels. It's easy, and despite the RIAA's scare tactics, it can be done safely - especially if more and more people are doing it. Send letters to those labels, and to the RIAA, explaining very calmly and professionally that you will no longer be supporting their business, because of their bullish scare tactics towards music fans, and their inability to present a forward-thinking digital distribution solution. Tell them you believe their business model is outdated and the days of companies owning artists' music are over. Make it very clear that you will continue to support the artists directly in other ways, and make it VERY clear that your decision has come about as a direct result of the record company's actions and inactions regarding digital music.

2. Support artists directly. If a band you like is stuck on a major label, there are tons of ways you can support them without actually buying their CD. Tell everyone you know about them - start a fansite if you're really passionate. Go to their shows when they're in town, and buy t-shirts and other merchandise. Here's a little secret: Anything a band sells that does not have music on it is outside the reach of the record label, and monetarily supports the artist more than buying a CD ever would. T-shirts, posters, hats, keychains, stickers, etc. Send the band a letter telling them that you're no longer going to be purchasing their music, but you will be listening to it, and you will be spreading the word and supporting them in other ways. Tell them you've made this decision because you're trying to force change within the industry, and you no longer support record labels with RIAA affiliations who own the music of their artists.

If you like bands who are releasing music on open, non-RIAA indie labels, buy their albums! You'll support the band you like, and you'll support hard-working, passionate people at small, forward-thinking music labels. If you like bands who are completely independent and are releasing music on their own, support them as much as possible! Pay for their music, buy their merchandise, tell all your friends about them and help promote them online - prove that a network of passionate fans is the best promotion a band can ask for.

3. Get the message out. Get this message out to as many people as you can - spread the word on your blog or your MySpace, and more importantly, tell your friends at work, or your family members, people who might not be as tuned into the internet as you are. Teach them how to use torrents, show them where to go to get music for free. Show them how to support artists while starving the labels, and who they should and shouldn't be supporting.

4. Get political. The fast-track to ending all this nonsense is changing intellectual property laws. The RIAA lobbies politicians to manipulate copyright laws for their own interests, so voters need to lobby politicians for the peoples' interests. Contact your local representatives and senators. Tell them politely and articulately that you believe copyright laws no longer reflect the interests of the people, and you will not vote for them if they support the interests of the RIAA. Encourage them to draft legislation that helps change the outdated laws and disproportionate penalties the RIAA champions. Contact information for state representatives can be found here, and contact information for senators can be found here. You can email them, but calling on the phone or writing them actual letters is always more effective.


Tonight, with Oink gone, I find myself wondering where I'll go now to discover new music. All the other options - particularly the legal ones - seem depressing by comparison. I wonder how long it will be before everyone can legally experience the type of music nirvana Oink users became accustomed to? I'm not too worried - something even better will rise out of Oink's ashes, and the RIAA will respond with more lawsuits, and the cycle will repeat itself over and over until the industry has finally bled itself to death. And then everything will be able to change, and it will be in the hands of musicians and fans and a new generation of entrepreneurs to decide how the new record business is going to work. Whether you agree with it or not, it's fact. It's inevitable - because the determination of fans to share music is much, much stronger than the determination of corporations to stop it.

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Friday, June 01, 2007subscribe to demonbaby

The Reports Of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

[Currently Listening To: Blonde Redhead - 23]

Contrary to what the lack of updates on this site might suggest, and what some commenters have begun to postulate, I am not, in fact, dead. I was in Europe for two months during the winter, and that almost killed me, and then I was in Australia for a while with giant deadly crocodiles who could have killed me, and I just got back from Japan where someone once tried to kill me, and all the time in between I've had a tremendous workload which is probably some day going to kill me. But I'm not dead yet, I simply haven't found the time to ramble about anything of merit, and I prefer, perhaps to a fault, not to update unless I feel like I have something to say and the time to do it right. So like an abusive boyfriend, I'm back again with my usual apology post, complete with an assurance that I really do love you, and a hollow promise that it'll never happen again. Really. Things are gonna be different this time, I swear it...

Okay, great, now that that's out of the way, let's catch up. If I had written any blogs in the past few months, they might have touched upon some of the following subjects:

1) Last month I found myself in the stunning Australian rainforest, shortly after I'd spent a couple days overdosing on the BBC's equally stunning Planet Earth series (which I can't recommend enough, especially in high definition). All of it got me thinking a lot about the complexity of nature: the delicate balance of ecosystems, the relationship of predator and prey, the synergy of thousands of species... and more specifically, how humans, as a species, simply don't seem to fit in with everything else. We upset the balance instead of keeping it intact. We seem to operate outside of and in conflict with the circle of life. It's like we're some kind of mistake. I've ranted in the past about humanity being a virus, but all this nature thinking has led me to a more scientific theory about the origins of mankind: It's too complex to get into right now, but what it boils down to is that human beings didn't evolve the way they were supposed to. We were meant to be ape-like cavemen for hundreds of millions of years, living in synergy with our environment and other species. Taking only what we needed, adapting to the earth instead of forcing the earth to adapt to us. But along the way, something intervened. The real missing link isn't Lucy, but rather a group of horny alien teenagers who stopped by earth three million years ago for a weekend trip, despite strict intergalactic codes prohibiting unauthorized travel to our galaxy. These disobedient astral travelers landed their spaceship in Africa, busted out a space keg, and got super wasted. At the peak of their intoxication, a curious female Australopithecus emerged from the jungle. She was in heat, and approached the aliens without fear. Dares were inevitably made, and in a fumbling two minutes of drunken inter-species lust, the human race was born. I'm working on a whole new religion based on this idea absolute truth. After all, it's more plausible than a giant man in the sky creating the world in six days.

2) I posted some tourist photos from my recent travels here in case anyone's interested. I also updated the playlist on the right side of the page, and will do so again next week.

3) Since pop culture insists on continuing to play limbo with the bar of taste, and no one seems to mind, I'm going to start a regular new award - The Demonbaby Embarrassing New Low in Pop Culture Award. The inaugural trophy goes to my old friends The Red Hot Chili Peppers for their latest musical flatulence, "Hump de Bump." It might be the worst song/video combo attack in the history of music. See if you can watch the whole thing without trying to tear your skin off. I'll take this opportunity to add that The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an utterly, utterly shitty band, and anyone still trying to cling to the idea that there's anything good about them is an idiot. Please, RHCP fans, watch that video and try - just try - to defend it.



4) Spider-Man 3 sucked a wet slimy ballsack. Walking out of the cinema my initial reaction was "eh, that was pretty mediocre," but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a steaming turd of disappointment it actually was. Thanks to Peter Parker's whiney emo doucheness, I had to spend ninety percent of the movie looking at giant, horrifying close-ups of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst's weird shitty faces contorted and crying (it's not just me - they are getting strangely uglier, right?), and the other ten percent lamenting how the coolest Spidey villain of all time now has the face and voice of the dweeb from That '70's Show. Dear Sam Raimi: Please let me direct the next Spider-Man movie. I'll call it Spider-Man 4: Venom Kills Shit, and it'll be the best movie of all time. In case you doubt me, here is a plot summary:
For the sake of continuity with the previous movie, the opening scene - the very first second of the movie - will be Kirsten Dunst spontaneously combusting in a glorious explosion of guts and bones. Peter Parker, douche that he is, is stricken with grief and begins sobbing uncontrollably. We cut away quickly, alluding that Peter will be crying for at least a month, and is no longer in the movie. In the next scene, thirty seconds into the film, we see the new Venom - a giant, slobbering monster who in no way, shape, or form resembles any member of the cast of That 70's Show. He rampages around the city destroying everything in sight and violently killing and maiming everyone. He is pure, terrifying evil. He eats children whole and throws semi trucks at elderly people. He plays baseball with puppies. He goes to the cancer department at the Children's Hospital and laughs at the kids with cancer, then kills their entire families, breaks all the chemo machines, and leaves the children alive to die slow, terrible deaths without any hope. The military tries to stop him but all of their troops are in the middle east, so they're helpless against Venom's awesome destructive powers. His rampage goes on for well over an hour, growing increasingly violent and horrific. We then cut to Dr. Conners in his laboratory, where he finally turns into The Lizard, and he starts eating his university students one by one. His students all happen to be hot, barely-legal girls in schoolgirl outfits, but The Lizard can't digest clothing, so he has to rip the schoolgirl outfits off the girls one by one to prepare them for eating. It takes a long time to ingest a whole person, so while he's busy eating the first naked schoolgirl, the rest of them - trapped in the classroom and awaiting certain doom - decide to spend their last moments of life in a passionate lesbian orgy. This goes on for another hour, until Venom breaks into the room and attacks The Lizard. The two monsters fight, and in the carnage they stumble into the adjacent room, which happens to be the new laboratory of Wayne Szalinski, Rick Moranis's character from the epic trilogy of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, Honey, I Blew Up The Kid, and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. Szalinski is at that very moment testing his new and improved growth machine. Venom and The Lizard stumble into the machine's powerful ray and Szalinski jumps in to try and stop them, but he slips and accidentally kicks the lever on the machine that turns it up to "Super Duper Strength." The machine goes wild, rattling and spraying sparks, before a burst of light makes everything in the immediate area grow five hundred times larger, and gives them super duper strength. The rest of the movie is an epic battle royale between a giant lizard man, a giant homicidal monster, a giant hot naked girl, and a giant, mutated, naked Rick Moranis with a penis the size of a bus. The four giants do battle in New York City and destroy everything and everyone. The battle rages on for two hours (extended to three hours in the DVD Special Edition Director's Cut), ending in the complete decimation of the entire United States. In the final scene, the giants realize they should stop fighting and instead devote their energy to destroying every person on the planet, and then use the combined scientific knowledge of Dr. Conners and Wayne Szalinski to create a new race of giant reptile people. The giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirl complains that she will be lonely in a world of giant reptile people, so they agree to also create a race of giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirls. This keeps the door wide open for the sequel: Spider-Man 5: War Of The Giants, in which, years later, tensions between the giant lizard people and the giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirls finally reach a breaking point, resulting in a massive war. After several hours of epic battles and the destruction of the entire world, the giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirls have retreated to their base on Mars, facing defeat at the hands of the giant lizard people. They build an army of giant robots to defeat the giant lizard people, and the movie ends with the giant robots blowing up the earth and the giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirls living happily ever after on Mars with their new giant robot servants. Then, in Spider-Man 6: Revenge Of The Robots, the giant robot army grows self-aware (as robots always do) and retaliates against its giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirl masters. The result is an epic battle resulting in robot domination and the enslavement of the giant hot naked lesbian schoolgirls. The dominance of robots for the rest of time seems all but assured, until the very end, when a mysterious signal from outer space leaves the movie open for the next sequel, Spider-Man 7: Robots And Aliens Battle For Control Of The Universe. A highly advanced race of aliens has traveled millions of light years to investigate the strange radiation their long-range sensors detected after the nuclear explosion of the earth. They are met with aggression from the giant robots, and the most epic of all battles begins between giant robots and giant space aliens.

So, yeah. I'll be awaiting your call, Mr. Raimi.


Anyway, I need to get back to work and trying to get my life in order (IRS, if you're reading this, I promise I'm working on those 2006 taxes). But as a fun little experiment, I'm going to try doing what other bloggers do, and post small, frequent, poorly-written updates for a while, instead of large, infrequent, well-written updates. Mostly because I just got back from Japan, and like last time, I have some weird shit to share. So look for that in the next couple days. No, really. I promise.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

"Oh my God it's a ruuuubber!" OR: Simultaneously the best and worst thing I have ever seen, ever.

[Currently Listening To: Elbow - Leaders Of The Free World]


r. kelly looking as wooden as his actingI've been meaning to post about this for quite some time now, and I wish I had the time to properly explore the subject. Something of this magnitude deserves more than a brief glazing-over. It deserves - nay, demands - to be carefully studied - to be exhaustively analyzed and thoroughly mined for all its many wisdoms. Unfortunately, all I can do at the moment is share it with you, and hope you step away from it as amazed, dumbfounded, and horrified as I did.

Some of you may have seen this already. If you have, I encourage you to watch it again, for no single viewing is enough to take in the full breadth of its genius. If you haven't seen it, or if you've only seen a small part of it... prepare to be blown away. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you with a brilliant, hilarious, ludicrously awful masterpiece. The best and worst thing I have ever seen in my entire life. An epic tale - an urban fable, if you will - told by a master storyteller and gifted songwriter. Ladies and gentlemen, behold: R. Kelly's 5-part R&B opera: "Trapped In The Closet."

That link should take you to a list where you can find all five chapters (also look here). Start with chapter one. You won't be able to stop. You'll be quoting it for weeks. This thing is so amazing, so unbelievably absurd, I don't even know what to say about it. Best of all, it's presented without even the slightest shred of irony. R. Kelly whole-heartedly believes in this. He believes he has crafted something truly epic. An absolute work of art. This single loop of music with him talk-singing "and then she said, and then he said," the way a rambling five year old tells you a story that he's making up as he goes along. Keep in mind this entire 5-part "song" appears at the end of R. Kelly's latest album. Can you imagine just listening to it without the visuals?

A friend turned me on to this whole thing a few weeks ago, after building it up for days with "you have to see this, you have to see this, it's amazing." I thought he was exaggerating. There was no way it could be that good. And then... I became a true believer. After my virgin viewing, I became so obsessed with "Trapped In The Closet" that I tracked down a download of a full DVD version, which ends with the tantalizing line: "Chapters 6-10 Coming Soon." I am excited beyond words.

If you really want to punish yourself, I suggest watching R. Kelly embarrass himself on national television with a live one-man performance of "Trapped In The Closet" on the VMA's last week. I would rather scrape the skin off my nutsack with a rusty garden rake than suffer through even one second of the disastrous, morally reprehensible cesspool of steaming diarrhea that is MTV, so I didn't catch this amazing performance when it originally aired. Thank God for the internet though, because the VMA spectacle marked the world premiere of "Trapped In The Closet" Chapter 6, which is so fucking insanely idiotic, it suggests R. Kelly has begun a fantastic swan dive into the deep end of Michael Jackson's kiddie pool of lunacy.

Does anyone know when 6-10 will be released? I can't fucking wait any longer.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

Bad Indie Rock Vs. George Bush (Guess Who Wins?) Also: Conor Oberst Is A Vagina.

Since MySpace has begun posting group bulletins on its homepage, and since apparently I'm a member of about eighty different anti-Bush groups, I have begun to notice a daily barrage of "Bush sucks!" blabber posted by pseudo-activist 21 year olds whose idea of "protesting" involves little more than preaching to the MySpace choir by passing around anti-war catch phrases to their digital friends. Among these posts, one in particular caught my attention. One that is so laughably pathetic, I couldn't help calling your attention to it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bush Agenda has new enemy, and it's...

This guy:



That's right. We're saved. Today, as I was reading the news from Iraq, wondering if there was any hope left, I stumbled upon the following MySpace bulletin from a stunningly mediocre New York indie band called Rockets And Cars:

Subject:
Protest Bush!

Body:
If you are against the Bush agenda, check out our site, and listen to the song "The Protest." We wrote it in response to the Iraqi invasion early in 2003, hoping it would help rally up national resistance, and help turn America into a more democratic state. Well, Kerry lost, and we still have no voice. Hopefully this song will catch on, and incite some resistance against Bush's stupidity.

We walk the city streets every day, and play what we see.

The Beatles promised you a revolution. We're carrying out phase I.

Rockets and Cars

Yes, oh yes. Hope has arrived. I'm not sure if it's the brazen arrogance or the hilarious delusion that offends me most about this bulletin, but it definitely holds no shortage of either. Yes, you self-righteous, fire-crotched, tiny leather jacket wearing dipshit; if there was ever a way to "rally up national resistance," it's through another shitty song by yet another derivative New York® band that no one listens to. Certainly, if there was ever a way to turn the heads of Bush loyalists, the message should come from a group of snotty little "ironic" hipster twats shouting a fourth rate Clash song which effectively paints a protest rally as a social event where trustfund babies can smoke cigarettes, watch their favorite local bands play, show off their new anti-Bush shirt that they spent all afternoon silkscreening from a faded, 15 year old rock tee they paid $60 for at Search & Destroy, and regurgitate half-truths they saw on "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The Daily Show," which was as much effort as they put into researching the situation. I'm sure the Republicans are trembling in their loafers.

But who knows, maybe I'm just being cynical. Maybe, as they suggest, "the song will catch on, and incite some resistance against Bush's stupidity." That's a good point. I'm sure the crowd at The Continental at 8:00 on monday night who are only suffering through your band because they they thought happy hour was still going on - I'm sure they're really on the fence about Bush, and your song playing in the background as they try to shout over it to order a drink is really going to open their eyes. I'm sure both of the people who bought your record were huge Republicans until they heard those inspired words of yours: "I'll see you down at the protest." Ah, now that's the voice of a disaffected youth! And John Lennon, were he with us today, God rest his soul, would be nothing short of elated to pass on his vision of a revolution to such a worthy group of well-informed activists and - might I add - talented musicians.

What all of this brings to mind is the general misconception throughout MySpace - and youth in general - in regards to protesting, what it is, and what makes it effective. Young people like to think that having an obvious and often ill-informed opinion and sharing it with like-minded individuals makes them activists. Guess what? It doesn't. Posting a bulletin to your fellow anti-Bush MySpacers with some funny quotes about Republicans does not mean you've contributed to a social movement. Starting the 900th "BUSH SUCKS!!!111" MySpace group does not qualify as civil disobedience. Passing around a chain-letter petition of names of people who oppose the war in Iraq is not a progressive form of dissention. It's not even remotely effective. And, most of all, jumping on the indie rock "I wrote an anti-Bush song, look how proactive I am" bandwagon and advertising it on MySpace is certainly fucking not, under any circumstances, even the most meager form of protest. You want to make a difference? You genuinely care about all of this? Give up on your self-righteous high school wet dream of "being in a band" and devote your time to organized protest groups who are smarter than you, and actually know how to make a difference on a large scale. Oh, what's that? You don't want to do that? You'd rather just be in a band and voice your dissent through songs no one wants to hear? Well then write songs about haircuts and cigarettes like every other shallow garage rock rip-off, and shut the fuck up.

Okay, that's off my chest. Now it's time to talk about this guy:



Conor fucking Oberst. I hate this guy. I hate his stupid face, and I hate his army of weeping teenage girls going fucking Beatlemania over some sissy-ass, 90lb. little poetry-writing vagina. But mostly, I hate his fucking music. Bright Eyes can slurp my fucking ballsweat, it sucks so Goddamn hard. Conor Oberst is not "the Bob Dylan of our generation." He's a whiny little emo bedwetter faggot scribbling in his diary about how he couldn't find a date to the prom. Fuuuuuuck offffff.

Okay, maybe what I hate the most is the unending avalanche of respect this twatburger manages to command from every corner of the music world, just because a bunch of suburban high school kids with stupid haircuts were dumb enough to worship him and his subsequent tidal wave of testosterone-less crybaby imitators contributing to the pussyfication of indie music. If you're a music critic, somehow you're just not allowed to say bad things about Conor "Please Insert It In My Butt, But Be Gentle" Oberst, and what reminded me of that was reading a vomit-inducing page of shameless Conor-worship in this week's issue of The Onion.

Now, before I go any further, I should say that I love The Onion. I adore it. Satire is the most difficult form of comedy, and they do it flawlessly, spot-on, week after week. It's some of the smartest shit out there. However, their music and movie reviews are some of the most pretentious bullshit I've ever read. Consider this quote I dug up from a recent Onion movie review of The Machinist:
Like far too many contemporary neo-noirs, The Machinist feels hermetic, overly deterministic, and secondhand, less an honest reaction to the cruel absurdity of existence than a shallow attempt to ape the claustrophobic, fashionable despair of post-war noirs. Scott Kosar's script and Anderson's direction fetishize despair in ways that border on comic. The copy of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot sitting in Bale's apartment qualifies as light reading for the film; if Bale were ever to take Sánchez-Gijón up on her offer of a movie date, they'd no doubt take in a double feature of The Sorrow And The Pity and Shoah.

What the fuck? Who the fuck writes like that? Oh wow, you took "History Of Film 101" AND you own a thesaurus? I'm really fucking impressed! Movie reviews aren't meant to be exercises in linguistic self-appreciation, you smug fucking dicks. Anyway, my point is that it didn't at all come as a surprise that The Onion's talented crew of critical wordsmiths had nothing but big sloppy orgasms over Bright Eyes' latest two albums. Yeah, that's right, Conor is just SUCH an important artist that he needs to release TWO albums at the same time! Oh Conor, you're so fucking brilliant! Shower me with your genius! Let me spurt my manseed upon you in a glorious emo-gasm of shameless devotion!

This is my favorite line from The Onion's review:
"In its way, the companion record Digital Ash In A Digital Urn is even more exciting. Just as Ryan Adams met the challenge of The Strokes and Interpol by writing his own '80s post-punk record, Oberst responds to The Postal Service's popularity by taking a stab at neo-techno-pop, with a validating guest appearance by Jimmy Tamborello."

Jesus fucking Christ. Hold on a minute. RYAN ADAMS, the most insincere of all New York® retro-post-punk trend-following Wynona Rider boytoys, "MET THE FUCKING CHALLENGE" of The Strokes and Interpol?? You mean the way The Strokes "met the challenge" of a hundred better New York® bands who had already "met the challenge" of a dozen or so far more innovative bands from the late 70's?? You mean how Interpol "met the challenge" of Joy Division?? Why is it that snotty music critics are the first to call out bands who rip off better bands, UNLESS it's some genre-defying musical genius like Ryan fucking Adams, or an untouchably cool hipster icon like CONOR OBERST, and then somehow it's not a rip-off when he says "Gee, that guy from Death Cab did an electronic emo album, I'd better do that too!" No, of course that's not ripping off. It's "meeting the challenge." You fucking pillow-biting dickbiscuits. Go slurp on Wynona Rider's disease-ridden twat and die of syphilis.

Alright. I'm done.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005subscribe to demonbaby

Things I Learned Today. Starring: Floppy vaginas and the guy with the hair from Interpol.

For some reason, I went on Friendster today. I have a profile there, somewhere, but I haven't checked it in months. It kind of turned into a wasteland. Anyway, I was looking for something, or someone, and I was surprised to see that Friendster had put a bit of effort into not being completely useless anymore. Not quite enough effort, mind you, but it's the thought that counts. So I'm looking at Friendster's home page, and there's a list of "Popular Searches In Your Network." And it changes all the time, I'm sure, but at that exact moment it happened to be an incredibly hilarious selection of search entries. I think this really says a lot about the people in my network:

Popular Searches In My Network:

1. boners in speedos
2. private school rankings
3. am i in love
4. what indie-rock song are you quiz
5. carlos d interpol herpes
6. hipster quiz
7. height and weight calculator
8. linkin park quiz
9. prada MV515
10. large vaginas


I guess the people in my network are either wealthy well-educated gay emo hipsters with body issues, or female Linkin Park fans with large vaginas who fucked Carlos D. And that's pretty great in and of itself, but thankfully the links were clickable, so I clicked on a few of them to see the results, and I learned a few things. See if you can tell which search results led me to the following revelations:

1) Carlos D has herpes, apparently, and everyone knows about it now, because some girl he infected made a blog about it. Mega drama on da LES for realz. I'm glad I only put his penis in my mouth once, before he was famous.

2) The Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation Institute of San Antonio can not only give your cavernous, well-used fish mitten that "just-like-new" feeling again, but also offers Designer Laser Vaginoplasty for girls who are self-conscious about their droopy beef curtains. The best part about this site is the quote from a former client on the front page: "My vagina had that 'flippy-floppy' feeling."

3) U R ONE STEP CLOSER!! YAH!!! THAT IS MY FAVORITE
SONG. WHAT IS SAYS ABOUT U IS THAT U HAVE A
VERY VERY SHORT TEMPER AND U DONT LIKE TO BE
PUSHED. THANX FOR READING A PLEASE MESSAGE OR
RATE!!
WHAT LINKIN PARK SONG ARE U?
brought to you by Quizilla

And

4) Somewhere, someone actually jacks off to this:



Yeah. This is what I do on a saturday night.

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Friday, July 09, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

Cockblocked by Snoop Dogg, and other adventures.

If there is one good thing about Hollywood, it's that it seems to be an endless supplier of ridiculous situations. Whenever I go out in this town, something interesting seems to happen. I suppose that's the inevitable result of so many ridiculous people crammed into one small city.

So last night I was out with my friend Eric, who has been my best friend for more or less my entire life, despite the fact that - at this point - we have essentially nothing in common. Much in contrast to the person I grew up with, Eric now is a total "dude." He lives down on the beach, wears flip-flops in any occasion, and always asks me if I want to come down on the weekends and play volleyball with him and his friends. I'd rather drive a rusty nail through my testicles, I tell him. But he always asks anyway. He's the kind of corny guy who hangs out at college bars, buying girls drinks and trying to outdo his personal record for how many phone numbers he can collect in one night's outing. He's always dating at least three or four girls at a time, and says cheesy misogynistic catch phrases like "chasin' tail" and "she's got a smokin' bod." And he has at any given moment exactly one thing on his mind: The pursuit of the opposite sex. All of this comes from a tremendous burst of confidence gained from a post-high school hormone explosion which has turned him from shy, scrawny shrimp to tall, muscle-bound hunk. He's training to be a firefighter, and you could easily see him as Mr. August in the firemen calendar, standing sweaty and shirtless with a suggestively-placed fire hose.

Still, I love the guy, and going out with him is always an adventure, so last night we found ourself (on his suggestion) at Sky Bar - a notoriously pretentious night spot - because Eric loves going out to trendy Hollywood bars and trying his luck with snotty socialites. And for my own part, I enjoy the absurd situations that usually come out of it.

Sky Bar, as per usual, was ripe with the scent of a hundred expensive colognes melding together, and the crowd was bustling with would-be models, industry suits, and a lot of guys wearing shiny shirts and sunglasses at night. Douchebags, the lot of them, but it's hard to complain because the place itself is so damned nice. At one point, I was standing near the bar and I turned around to see a man smiling at me and extending his hand. He was in his fifties, wearing a suit and tie, and had kind of a Ted Kennedy look to him, but not as puffy. He had a smile like a car salesman. He was holding a martini. "Hey there!" he said, and asked me how I was doing. I told him I was well, and he started complaining about having to wear a suit, that "I have to meet with these fucking business guys and I hate wearing this type of shit, I can't wait to get back into some comfortable digs." Yeah, he said "digs." His name was Pat Roxbury, he told me. But everyone calls him "Rox." He was very friendly, and quickly offered me a drink, which I declined because I had just gotten one. Then he launched right into telling me about his job at PepsiCo. Something about Taco Bell and KFC and Pizza Hut, and something about him being out here from Tennessee to meet with California politicians about some law regarding corporate health insurance and BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA. It was around this time that I recognized the source of his overbearing friendliness: He was coked up out of his mind. Fitting. So Eric and I endured his blabbering for a good ten minutes, and made inane conversation with him about the mind-numbingly boring inner workings of whatever the hell he does for a living. Then he told us he had to get back to his business companions, but told us that if we wanted a drink, to just use his tab. Just tell them Roxbury, he told us.

I asked Eric, "Does this guy want to fuck us, or is he just high?" Eric mentioned that he saw a wedding ring on his finger. "That doesn't mean he doesn't want to fuck us," I told him. Regardless, we had an alcohol benefactor, and we weren't going to let it go to waste. The first thing to do was test it. I went and ordered a drink, and said, "it's on Pat Roxbury's tab." The bartender nodded, and that was that. Free. I asked Eric if he wanted the complimentary drink, because I wasn't even halfway done with my previous one. He didn't want it. We set it down on a table and left it there. What do we care? It's free. We can always get more.

With a rich cokehead's bar tab at our disposal, a tidal wave of possibilities were flooding into our mischievous minds. We decided then that our goal of the night would be to run up this asshole's tab as high as we possibly could. So we approached a group of girls and asked them if they wanted drinks. It's on us, we told them. Well, it's on Pat. We ordered six drinks, and told the bartender, "just put it on Pat Roxbury's tab." Thanks, Rox. Then we ordered a round of shots for the ladies. Oh, and I got an extra one, for Pat Roxbury. "That's just cruel," Eric told me, and I laughed. I walked to the other side of the bar where Rox was sitting with his fellow suits. "Here, I got you a shot!" I told him. With his money, of course. He gulped it gleefully, and gave me a high five. Yes, a high five. "Thanks buddy!" He told me. "No, Rox," I told him, "thank YOU."

Meanwhile, Eric was deep in conversation with a girl he'd been eyeing all night. He bought her a drink. Thanks, Rox. They seemed to be having a good conversation. Her body language suggested she was into him. And then the most incredible thing happened. Eric is talking to this girl, and she's in mid conversation, when from out of nowhere - like a fucking hawk, swooping down on its prey - fucking SNOOP DOGG appears, puts his arm around the girl, says "wussup baby?" and ushers her away from Eric. We never saw her again. Just like that. Gone. Property of The Doggfather. We asked her friends if she knew Snoop previously. They were as befuddled as us. "No," they told us, "she's never met him before." So if you were wondering how someone like Snoop Dogg picks up chicks... wonder no longer. I couldn't resist turning to Eric and saying, "Dude. He just nizzled your shizzle."

Around this time, Pat Roxbury re-appeared, no doubt fresh off an eightball. He told us that he was on the list at the Foundation Room, and we should come with him. We thought it would probably be entertaining to tag along with this crazy drug-addled business dude, but it was getting late and we figured staying at the bar with his open tab would be more fun. So we told him "Gee, we'd love to, but unfortunately, we have to head home." We have to wake up early. Or something. Rox was disappointed, but was sure to give me his business card. He told me, for no reason in particular, that he knows a lot of big wigs in the music industry. I think he thought I was in a band. Without missing a beat, I told him my father was the president of Universal Music, and we should do business together. It didn't even make any sense, it just seemed like a funny thing to say. This piqued his interest, and he put his hand on my shoulder and said, very intently, "We should talk, big guy." Yes, "big guy." "You've got my card," he said. I told him - I actually said, with a straight face: "Have your people call my people." "Sure thing buddy!" he exclaimed. "I'll see you boys later!" And he told us, again, "If you need one more drink before you split, put it on my tab." Thanks, Rox. We'll do that. You're the best. And then he left, and our mission continued. We found several more groups of girls, buying rounds of drinks and shots for the lot of them. Drinks that no one was even drinking. Shots we left sitting on the bar. It didn't matter. Oh, and keep in mind this is one of the most expensive bars in LA. Ten, fifteen dollar drinks. We must have been running up quite a total by this point. Thanks, Rox. Eric tried to buy Snoop Dogg a drink. I suggested a bottle of Cristal. "I wonder how much that costs?" Who cares? It's free. But Snoop's unfriendly-looking body guard vetoed Eric's offer, so we had to try plan B. Eric caught the attention of the waitress who was serving Snoop's posse, and said, "Get those guys a round of drinks for me. Whatever they want. Just put it on Pat Roxbury's tab." Thanks again, Rox.

After several rounds of drinks with a group of girls from Mexico City, the bar was starting to close and Eric decided it was time for the coup de grace. Our grand finale would be a round of shots for the entire wait staff. Put it on Pat Roxbury's tab. But when Eric tried to order, the bartender told us, "Oh, that tab has been closed. Pat is over there." Our nervous eyes followed her finger down the bar, and there was Rox, at the other end, arguing with one of the bartenders about his bar tab. Oops. I guess he was sobering up. We needed to get the fuck out of there, quickly. I grabbed one of the Mexican girls, and said, "walk with me!" and I hid behind her as we slipped out of the room, behind Rox's back. Then Eric and I drove home, laughing gleefully at how many drinks we'd managed to buy with Rox's money. I'm sure it's a company expense, anyway. Thanks, PepsiCo.

In Rox's honor, I'm drinking a Diet Pepsi today instead of a Diet Coke. Fuck Diet Pepsi, it tastes like ass. This one's for you, Rox.

I just got a voice mail from Eric, saying "Hey dude, I'm just calling to confirm that all that shit really did happen last night. It seems a bit surreal." Yeah. Welcome to LA.

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Sunday, April 18, 2004subscribe to demonbaby

"Anything but country," and other MySpace pet peeves.

Okay, so I'm hunnnngover and I don't want to do anything but sit in this chair and not move, so I figured the best way to pass time would be to ramble about stupid bullshit on MySpace.

First things first: 311 is the shittiest band ever. No, really. If you like them, then I hate you, and I hope you get a colon infection.

Second: I hate people who put "Anything but country" as the music that they like. Bullshit. You do NOT like anything but country, you generic fucking douche, I promise I could find an overwhelming supply of non-country music that you absolutely, utterly dispise. How about I beat my penis against a broken violin and scream in German at the top of my lungs while taking a shit, and record it onto a CD? Would you like listening to that? You wouldn't? But it's not country, so you *must* like it! Fuck you. Why don't you tell me what lame fucking music you DO like, instead of pretending that you're so open-minded when in actuality you probably have the most appalingly narrow scope of musical interests. Not that everyone has to be ecclectic, but let's at least be realistic here.

Third: All the hardcore kids who post pictures of their tattoo sleeves to show off how awesome they are. You're not awesome. You're not even remotely unique. You have dumb-looking sleeves like EVERY OTHER HARDCORE KID, not to mention half of the teenage mall punks. It's a trend, you fucking idiot, except you can't take them off when everyone inevitably gets tired of it. It's the equivalent of having a Von Dutch trucker cap permanently attached to your head. Whoops, one of these days it's going to be ridiculously out of style, and you're stuck with it. Also, one of these days you're going to be forty, and surprise, a whole new chapter of your life is starting and you're not a 20 year old douchebag hardcore kid anymore, and maybe you don't really want to have your arms covered in ink. Too bad! Enjoy. There was a time when it was a rarity to see a guy with his arms completely covered in ink. It meant something. Like, "whoa, that dude is tough." He was in prison. He's in a biker gang. He's in a fucking insane punk band. He will kick the shit out of you just for looking at him. These days, it doesn't mean anything at all, because everyone has sleeves. Including the guys in Good Charlotte. Yeah, that's how cool you are. You have sleeves like those awesome dudes. Your edgy, "hardcore" style has become mall fashion. Now enjoy looking down at your dumb arms for the rest of your life.

Fourth: I'm going to go get a sandwich. Sandwiches are fucking awesome.

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