Saturday, March 20, 2010

You're Only Angry 'Cause You Wish You Were In My Position

Have you ever heard some variation of the following statement?  Usually it's made in response to somebody criticizing someone famous for doing something:

"Don't be so critical.  You'd do the same thing if you were in his position."

There's a lot of wisdom in that.  It's the basic caution against hypocrisy.  I suppose it may even be a watered-down version of Jesus' teaching: "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

Most people are content to focus on the "judge not" part, but there's more to it than that.  See, I don't think that anybody who judges is automatically a hypocrite.  That's what the "lest ye be judged" part is for.  It means "you'd better be ready to back it up."  Perhaps a more relevant modern colloquialism would be "Don't write checks your butt can't cash."  Now, technically that could still be interpreted as the lone "don't judge" again, because butts can't cash checks -- but I think you get the gist of it.

Let's suppose nobody ever wrote or cashed checks.  That would have a bad effect on the economy, wouldn't it?  It would be isolationism; no business would ever get done.  The same can be said about judging.  If you never called anyone out on anything, you'd never have to answer for anything yourself, either.  You can avoid hypocrisy this way, but it's far more useful to actively avoid hypocrisy by striving to be consistent in your actions.  As with spending money, judging is a good thing, but only in moderation.  "Judge not, let ye be judged" doesn't mean you don't have standards; it means you do have standards, and you hold both yourself and others to those standards.

That being said, I also have to make an important distinction.  Judging, on a personal level (I'm not bringing courts or deities into this), should always be done from the perspective of "I have the potential to do this, and that's exactly why I know how important it is that you don't do it."  Not from the perspective of "I don't do this stuff, so that puts me in a position to tell you not to."  The latter is more common, unfortunately, and it's why judging has gotten such a bad rap. It's actually more hypocritical, even though it doesn't carry the outward appearance of hypocrisy, because the person is refusing to admit -- or at least emphasize -- that they're capable of doing the same thing.  That matters a lot more than what you actually have or haven't done, because that's largely just circumstantial, isn't it?

And there it is.  We shouldn't put so much stock in circumstances.  To use a recent example, Tiger Woods.  I've heard it said that I shouldn't judge him because if I had billions of dollars, I'd probably have women throwing themselves at me too, and I'd probably cave in to the temptation.  Is that true?  On a fundamental level, yes.  I likes me some womens.  But here's the thing: if -- God willing -- I ever were to find myself in such a position, I believe my words would come back to haunt me.  By criticizing what this guy did, and admitting that I'm capable of the same thing, I've set the bar higher for myself.  Whereas if I just say "I'd do the same thing," I've set the bar depressingly low.

I believe that progress only happens when we set the bar high for ourselves, and to do that, we can't shy away from criticism.  We also can't be hypocrites.  But those two things actually don't have a whole lot to do with each other.  Circumstances vary, but principles are constant, and they should be tested.  You don't have to have done better to criticize someone else's work or actions; you just have to be willing to do better.

When you "judge" someone, you're making a pact.  You're not necessarily saying you don't or wouldn't do something, but that you won't; and if you can't honestly say that, then yes, you need to either refrain from judging or take the opportunity to set yourself straight.

And that, my friends, is why I am allowed to argue on the internet.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Audioslave: Audioslave - The Review (see? it's self-titled)

Once upon a time, there were two bands.  One of them played funk-infused rap metal with politically charged lyrics that no one really payed attention to, and was known throughout the land as Rage Against The Machine.  The other band played one of the hundreds of different styles that fall under the "grunge" label, featuring a singer who sounded like a baby dinosaur and sometimes sang freakishly high, and they were known as Soundgarden.  Not long before the year 2000 AD, both of these bands split up.  Shortly after 2000, they reunited, but there was a mix-up and Rage accidentally got Soundgarden's singer, and Soundgarden didn't want to wear Che Guevara shirts so nothing ever came of that (I'm the only guy who knows about it).  Meanwhile, Rage tried to abandon Soundgarden's singer at a gas station a couple of times but eventually they figured "What the heck, let's see if we can work something out."  And they did!  And it was called Civilian.  And then it was called Audioslave.

1. Cochise
The first track and the first single from the first album.  This song should've been called "Audioslave," because then it would've been the debut single and opening track and title track of the self-titled debut album.  "Audioslave - Audioslave (from the album Audioslave)."  In light of recent events in late-night television, Cornell's words ring eerily prophetic: "Conan, save yourself!"

2. Show Me How To Live
STEP 1: Breathe.  STEP 2: Eat.  STEP 3: Drink.  STEP 4: Do not collaborate with Timbaland.  STEP 5: Sleep.  STEP 6: Repeat step 4.  REPEAT STEP 4.  REPEAT STEP 4 FOR THE LOVE OF--
So does the end of the song do the skippy thing for everyone else or what?

3. Gasoline
This is secretly Al Gore's favorite song.  He plays it while burning whales.  FUN FACT: Near the end of Audioslave's touring, Tom Morello insisted that they change the lyrics to "I'm burnin' that gasoline (and I'm a bad person because of it)."  It was an interesting change, but ultimately I feel it detracted from the flow of the song.  Luckily this is not present in the album version, which rocks pretty hard.

4. What You Are
In this song Chris Cornell talks about burning himself.  Could he be made of gasoline?

5. Like a Stone
This song was our first glimpse of Audioslave's softer side, and possibly the best.  The lyrics are open to interpretation, but I'd wager that they've got something to do with the afterlife.  Otherwise it just sounds creepy.  "In your house I long to be!"

6. Set It Off
This controversial song led to one of Audioslave's several breakups during the writing of the album.  Tom Morello was uncomfortable playing music with such a potty-mouthed vocalist, and he would have none of it.  Chris Cornell won back his favor by giving him a book about world hunger written by Che Guevara and printed on recycled paper.  Ha ha, get it?  Because he supports causes.

7. Shadow on the Sun
Okay look, this song is just plain awesome.  If you don't like it, you're a bad person.  The only thing I don't like about it is how Chris Cornell boldly proclaims "I can tell you why people go insane," but then he never actually tells us.  Mr. Cornell, your research could be useful to thousands of psychologists around the world!  Isn't that more important than money to you?  Or have you spent so much time with Timbaland that you've... become just like him?

8. I Am the Highway
CIRCLE ONE: Chris Cornell is
a) rolling wheels
b) the lightning
c) a carpet ride
d) blowing wind
e) Batman

ANSWER: Trick question!  He is both b) the lightning and e) Batman.  At the end of the song, Chris Cornell sings "I am the night", and Batman is the night.  Ergo, Chris Cornell is Batman.

9. Exploder
This song is where the standard Audioslave formula begins to become apparent.  But as is the case with the Audioslave formula, it still works.  I don't have anything witty to say about this one except DAH DA DA DAH DAH, DAH DA DA DAH DAH

10. Hypnotize
Who put this techno song on here?  This is like the polar opposite of the last track; a really unique song with a distinct identity.  I'm guessing that when they were putting the album together it was a toss-up between this song and "Give", which has the same basic message.  "Give" is a cool song, but I'm glad they went with this one, because it adds variety.

11. Bring 'Em Back Alive
This album has an awful lot of songs where Chris Cornell narrates his own death, doesn't it?  "Then they buried me in an island in the sea, etc."  Can't fault the music though, it's a pretty sweet slow heavy groove.

12. Light My Way
I still have no idea why, but you can hear somebody's default ringtone in the second verse of this song.  One time in each measure.  Once you hear it, it might ruin the song for you.  Sorry.

13. Getaway Car
Here's your final ballad for the day.  Don't like it?  Then Chris Cornell knows a car you can use.  Oh snap!

14. The Last Remaining Light
This is another song with "If You Don't Like It You're A Bad Person" syndrome, which is a good syndrome to have.  It kind of sounds like "Hotel California" blasting off into outer space.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Audioslave: Out Of Exile - The Ultimate Review (Digitally Remastered)

Audioslave's second album, Out of Exile, was sort of like they took half of the first album -- the "Rage + Cornell" sound -- and then filled the rest with cream.  It was like Cookies and Cream.  But hey, man, I love that stuff.  Even though most fans were really more in the mood for another cookie.

1. Your Time Has Come
This song has two of Chris Cornell's favorite words to sing: "sun" and "stone".  In fact, if Chris ever encountered a Sunstone in nature, he would literally explode.  It's his weakness, just like how a vampire's weakness is garlic or crosses or teenage girls.  Come to think of it, I wonder what Scott Weiland does on Sundays.  Maybe everything.

2. Out of Exile
I guess if there were some sort of termite extermination product called "Exile" then this song title is something you might hear at a supermarket.  "We are out of Exile."  Eh?  Whatever, I can't think of anything to say about this one.

3. Be Yourself
This was the first single Audioslave released from this album after 3 years of anticipation, which is pretty funny.  It's scientifically engineered to be the least Audioslave-fan-pleasing song imaginable.  The mellowness is front-and-center, and in the middle of it Tom Morello is all like "Man I can't take this, here's a guitar solo, RRRRRGH" but then he sort of gives up.  The song bears sage words of advice, though.  Listen, person catching a bouquet at a wedding.  Be yourself.  Be yourself is all that you can do.  Catch that bouquet.

4. Doesn't Remind Me
This song is kinda like...  hmm...  I guess nothing?

5. Drown Me Slowly
How fast you drown kind of depends on your lung capacity, doesn't it?  I'm afraid there's only so much we can do for you, sir.

6. Heaven's Dead
This song is a lot better if you don't go into it expecting ROCK 'N ROLL DUDE, and I'd imagine that worked against it when it first came out.  Good luck figuring out what the heck the chorus is supposed to mean, though.

7. The Worm
This song is only partially related to the dance move popularized by former WWE superstar Scott "2 Hot" Taylor.  It's pretty good though.

8. Man Or Animal
Remember how "Cochise" started with Tom Morello making his guitar sound like a helicopter?  Well, this time around he just settles for making it sound like a door creaking.  Guy's not even trying anymore.  Meanwhile, Chris Cornell says a bunch of stuff about animals.  I really have no clue what it means, but then again, "Black Hole Sun" was basically just word association set to music.

9. Yesterday To Tomorrow
Slow techno-groove bassline, atmospheric guitar, haunting melodies, and... a bell.  It sounds like some kind of sci-fi Christmas music.  And that's not a bad thing.

10. Dandelion
This is another song to anger everyone who liked the first album.  It sounds upbeat but gritty, like a tropical beach with cigarettes in the sand.

11. #1 Zero
Oh snap, we're near the end of the album.  This here is what we call a "slow burn" song, folks.  All ominous  and reserved for the first half of it, then it explodes.  Like a... like a grenade in a forest fire?

12. The Curse
Despite the song title, he actually only curses in "Set It Off", and that ain't even on this album.  He also sings about being a werewolf.  Or maybe not really, but it goes along with his other animal transformations.