Tony Ballz

Tony Ballz

The Last Thing On My Mind: Was I Tripping?

815cfcecc7a8b49b458c2e55e31cf5e4When she first came around, I was vaguely attracted to her, I don’t know why. Actually, I do know why: she had long red hair, and I’m a sucker for that stuff. Other than that, not really my type. Too thin. She was also a bit nutty, but that never stopped me before.
Anyway, a friend of mine was seeing her, but then they broke up. I ran into her at the bar one night. We drank, danced, drank some more, shot pool, drank, talked a lot, and drank. After last call we ended up at my place, smoking a joint under the back porch awning in the rain. I thought, “Well, no time like the present!” and went in for a smooch. She recoiled and said, “See ya!” and that was that.

The Confederate Flag: Public Opinion Is Often A Petty Thing

petty flag (4)A few years ago, I published an exhaustive multi-part article on Lynyrd Skynyrd and their iconoclastic singer and lyricist, the late Ronnie Van Zant.  The main thrust of the piece was that “Sweet Home Alabama” was not a racist song at all (the key is in the last verse, plus a line Ronnie throws away at the end), but an attempt by Southern hippies to reject the years of bigotry and hatred and murder weighing down their culture, while still maintaining a Southern sense of identity.  This gave rise to the 1970s liberated redneck (see also: the Allman Brothers, Jimmy Carter). One section concerned an issue that has recently reemerged in the public consciousness: the Confederate Flag, which Lynyrd Skynyrd and other bands of the time used as a stage backdrop.

Standing On A Corner In…Go F Yourself

d8def57a-880a-480a-aef5-6ee65a522193Everyone was waiting for that third shoe to drop and there it went. First Lemmy, then Bowie, then … GLENN FREY? In the immortal (scripted) words of John Travolta, “What a gyp!” How did I hate the music of Glenn Frey? Gosh, let me count the ways: “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Take It Easy,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Already Gone,” “Heartache Tonight,” and the truly despicable “Lyin’ Eyes,” all stomach churning monuments of utter suckitude.

And let’s not forget Glenny’s auspicious solo career outside The Eagles. Just have a look at these winners: “The One You Love,” “Smuggler’s Blues,” “Sexy Girl,” “Partytown,” and the two-headed saxophone monstrosities “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City.” HRRPP! There goes breakfast, lunch AND dinner, all over my Miami Vice jacket.

Dear Facebook Users

Greetings! My name is Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook, Inc. You may have noticed that your account has been blocked and you cannot log in. Don’t panic! The solution is quite simple. Recently, we here at Facebook decided that all accounts need to bear the full legal name of the user, not a pseudonym or nickname. I’m sure at this point you’re probably thinking: What? I’ve been a loyal Facebook user for nearly a decade under the name all my friends know me by, why is this important now?

The Captain & Tennille Split Up: Millions Rejoice

Prescott, AZ—1970s pop stars The Captain & Tennille have called it quits. On January 23, 2014, keyboardist Daryl Dragon was served divorce papers by wife Toni Tennille at the couple’s Prescott home, effectively ending their 39 year marriage. The Discord is only posting this now because our site admin is still reeling from the news.

Cosby’s Giving Me a Woody

Tony Ballz

With all the hoo-ha surrounding the Bill Cosby’s recent allegations, this seems like a good time to talk about Woody Allen. Whenever the media needs an easy punchline for a child molestation joke (always in good taste), they inevitably turn to Woody Allen. Countless blogs and entertainment outlets love to dribble on about the “sick” relationship between the film director and the much younger Soon-Yi Previn, his ex-lover’s adopted daughter, aka “that poor girl.”

What poor girl? You mean his WIFE, the woman he’s dated for 24 years and been married to for 18? The woman he has two adopted children with? THAT poor girl? The one who’s 45 years old?

Time for some background. In 1966, soap opera actress Mia Farrow (age 21) married singer Frank Sinatra (age 50). Farrow quit acting to be Sinatra’s hausfrau, on his insistence. The next year, after a bored Farrow accepted the lead in Rosemary’s Baby, Sinatra filed for divorce. The movie made her a star.

In 1970, Mia Farrow (age 25) became pregnant by conductor Andre Previn (age 41), who left his wife to marry her. Before their divorce in 1979, the couple had three children and adopted two more, including Soon-Yi, a Korean orphan whose birthdate was estimated to be around 1970.

In 1980, Mia Farrow began a relationship with Woody Allen, who put her in twelve of his films. The couple never married or lived together. They had one child and adopted two. Farrow has admitted there is a good chance the father of their “biological” son is actually Frank Sinatra, whom Farrow had sporadic affairs with in the years following their divorce. If this is true, it places Farrow at age 42 and Sinatra at 71 at the time of conception.

In 1991, Mia Farrow discovered that Woody Allen (age 56) was having an affair with Soon-Yi, then 21 and living by herself. And the shit-slinging began. Woody Allen says that he never had amorous feelings toward Soon-Yi until she initiated their relationship by sending him nude photos in 1991.

FACT: Soon-Yi Previn is not Woody Allen’s adopted daughter. Soon-Yi has stated that her “Dad” is Andre Previn and that Woody was never a father figure to her, just Mom’s boyfriend.

FACT: Before 1992, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn did not live under the same roof at any time. After her parents’ divorce, Soon-Yi stayed with her Dad. Allen and Farrow never co-habitated.

These two facts blow all the “Creepy Stepfather Molesting His Adopted Daughter” or “Old Pervert Selects His Child Bride” (“yeah, her over there, the cute one”) nonsense out the window.

Here’s a question no one can seem to answer: If Woody and Soon-Yi’s relationship is so sick … Why are they still together? Why hasn’t she wised up and left him yet? She isn’t stupid; she was taking college courses in her early teens and speaks better English than you or I do. She’s not in an Ike-and-Tina or Phil-and-Ronnie situation where Woody keeps her imprisoned in a tower like Rapunzel.

Have you seen pictures of them? Soon-Yi Previn is a big robust Korean woman in her 40s and Woody Allen is a 79 year old Jewish man around 4’1 who looks like he weighs about as much as her shoes. She could easily push him over and run away. Hell, she could sneeze in his direction and the force would probably kill him.

Does he have her permanently hypnotized? Maybe a voodoo curse? Some sort of mesmerism? Funny, I don’t see any armed thugs surrounding her in any of those pictures.

I mean, just LOOK at them! What possible attraction could there be? Why is she even with him?

I don’t know, maybe because he’s WOODY ALLEN? Maybe because he’s rich and famous and respected all over the world and charming and funny and intelligent and stable and plays the clarinet and works with top Hollywood stars and doesn’t drink and doesn’t take drugs and doesn’t cheat on her and doesn’t mentally or physically abuse her or their children? Ya think?

And maybe because he made Annie Hall and Manhattan and The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Sleeper and Crimes And Misdemeanors and Radio Days and Zelig and Broadway Danny Rose and Hannah And Her Sisters and Bananas and Love and Death and Play It Again Sam and Shadows and Fog and Stardust Memories? Ya think?

Maybe she LOVES him? A lady who finds a man with the above resume can easily overlook any shortcomings (pun) he may have in the looks department. Shit, I almost want to schtup the little guy now.

Recently, one of Allen’s and Farrow’s adopted children claimed that Woody had sexually abused her. The case was thrown out after a court-appointed psychiatrist testified that she was either delusional or coerced.

If Woody Allen is a pedophile, why the hell is he happily married to a 45 year old woman?


Tony Ballz

A hipster will put up fliers for his band’s show but the location won’t be on it because if you’re cool enough you’ll know where the show is. When a hipster wants to “rock out”, he’ll put on Franz Ferdinand instead of the Stooges. A hipster will have zero CDs by Elvis Presley, but at least one by ABBA. A hipster always makes sure the lyrics to whatever he’s playing aren’t offensive to his girlfriend, even if he doesn’t have one.

A hipster will dislike something not because of the thing itself, but because of the low coolness level of the people who do like it. Examples:

Heavy metal/hard rock – Metalheads are easy to mock, and no hipster wants to be mistaken for one. A hipster wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Kyuss or The Melvins, but High on Fire and Boris and Sunn O))) and Mastodon are OK (even though they’re all highly derivative of the first two) because they have a little indie sprinkled on them. My Morning Jacket’s music is obviously rooted in 1970’s stadium/Southern rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd (tres unhip) but the group hails from Louisville, which is cool because Slint were from there and Louisville isn’t REALLY the South.

Country – Same as metal. NO hipster wants to be mistaken for a redneck. Outlaw country like Merle Haggard is hip, if only just to have one album prominently displayed that is never listened to and cost a dollar. Johnny Cash is hip because he had a photo taken of him flipping the bird and got busted for drugs and recorded songs by Nick Cave and Danzig, but no one knows who Charlie Rich is.

Hipsters LOVE tortured artists and tragic dead guys. Townes Van Zandt is lionized not only for his spectacular songwriting, but because his life was such a mess. No hipster gives a damn about John Prine because he’s still breathing and there’s not a lot of good stories about how he ruined the lives of his friends and family.

Speaking of dead, Nick Drake’s stuff is nice but it’s barely a pimple compared to the incredible music his buddy John Martyn made in the same time period. Of course, Drake was painfully shy, battled depression, and killed himself at 23 (extremely hip) while Martyn was extroverted, a chipper fellow to the end despite having half a leg amputated, and died of being old (BOR-ing). Nick Drake’s hipness even survived a Volkswagen commercial, but only because he was already dead.

The Fall were probably a better band than Joy Division, but … dead guy. You won’t see a hipster wearing any of The Fall’s LP designs on a t-shirt. The point of a hipster’s t-shirt is to advertise his hipness, not to champion obscure groups that girls don’t care about. That’s the parvenu of record collector scum, who are basically hipsters without sex lives.

It’s hip to like The Beatles, but not their solo stuff. It’s hip to like The Rolling Stones, but only from 1968-1972. It’s hip to like The Beach Boys, but not the cars and surfing songs.

Fifteen years ago, it was the opposite of hip to like Bruce Springsteen. Now it’s the epitome, and so is acting like you knew he was cool all along. I used to dare people I could find a Springsteen song in their CD collection and then make a beeline grab for MTV Unplugged by 10,000 Maniacs (because everybody had it) and point to “Because The Night.”

“Oh, I LOVE that song!”

Maybe I did my little part to make The Boss hip to these cretins. You’re welcome, Bruce.

My Shitty Kids

Tony Ballz

Raising children is tough. It’s a pretty thankless job. Do my kids ever thank me for all the stuff I’ve done for them over the years? Heck no. I mean, I change their diapers, buy them food and clothes, lose hours of sleep while they cry all night, help them with their stupid school projects … it’s wasted YEARS of my life. But I’m not bitter.

The other day, my daughter Dorinda made a peanut butter sandwich for her brother Elmo and, good gravy, you would have thought Cuban revolutionaries had been through my kitchen. I mean, she didn’t put the lid back on the jar, she left the knife dirty, there was a big old smudge on the table … it was crazy. I said: “Hey Che Guevara, the next time your troops want a snack, tell ’em to wipe their boots off when they’re done!” I thought it was kind of clever, but they just ignored me. What a couple of spoiled little twerps.

My children’s names are Dorinda and Elmo. Ain’t that a hoot? Oh sure, my husband and I could have chosen something nice for our daughter like Jessica or Katherine, or something cool for our son like Clark or Steven, but that’s boring. We went through those baby name books until we found the ones that made us laugh the hardest. They’re definitely the only Dorinda and Elmo in their school. Probably in the whole state! Dorinda and Elmo. That just cracks me up. I’m a good mother.

My children are lucky. They really are. I bet they don’t know ANYONE that has a mother who writes a column describing every single embarrassing detail of their childhood, especially the ones that tick me off, and publishes it in a free weekly newspaper for all their classmates (and everyone in town) to read! And I use their REAL NAMES too! Why they aren’t the most popular kids in school, I’ll never know.

One time I was snooping around that pig trough my son calls his bedroom and under his mattress I found the Sears ads from the Sunday paper with the photos of ladies in their underwear, all carefully folded up. That night, when he was studying with the pretty little blonde-haired girl from down the block, I yelled: “Hey Willie Wanker! Why don’t you tell your girlfriend how much you enjoy reading the SUNDAY PAPER? Especially the SEARS ADS!” He turned seven shades of red and looked like he wanted to die. It was so cute! My husband and I laughed and laughed. I could scarcely wait to write about it.

Last month, Dorinda started her period. She tried to hide it from me, but nothing my kids do escapes mother’s all-seeing eye. She used up almost half a roll of toilet paper! I said: “Hey, Bleeding Betty! Now that you’re a woman, why don’t you get a job in the alley behind the pool hall so you can help pay for some of this?” I thought it was hysterical, but she just locked the door to her room and started crying. What a pampered little bitch.

Our family doctor and several members of the PTA have told me that giving my kids strange names and parading their childhood mishaps in a public forum such as my column may be damaging to their mental health and make them outcasts among their peers. And that using my idiot offspring as fodder for my mediocre writing smacks of self-absorption. I say: So what? What the hell do they know? I was never popular in school and my mother was a relentless harridan whom I despise to this day … and look at me! I turned out OK.

Next week: the funny stains on Elmo’s bed sheets and Dorinda’s poopy undies! Bye-bye!

Music Is Still Free!

Tony Ballz

Anyone remember how CDs are indestructible? How about the scene in Back to the Future 2 where Marty’s in an alley and there’s the huge stacks of old CDs waiting to be junked? Anyone remember portable turntables? Not the kiddie close-n-play kind, the name-brand ones that cost $200. Listen to your LPs in the car! On the beach! Take ’em to the office! (“Did you bring ‘Master of Reality’? Biiitchin’, crank it.”) Absurd, right?

Anyone remember those 8-track players shaped like a big apple? Or the TNT detonator ones with the handle you could push down on? KABOOM! Anyone remember Quad? I don’t, but my stepdad’s 1975 Fisher Quadrophonic receiver is one of the finest pieces of stereo equipment I’ve ever seen and yes, it still works. That thing freakin’ rocks, it weighs like 35 pounds.

Anyone remember how DAT was going to be the greatest development ever and then it just sort of disappeared?

A while back, I wrote a semi-satirical article on the joys of downloading and the invisible ethics of the music industry, which the fine semi-subversive website you are now eyeballing saw fit to print. Since then, I’ve received some feedback on the subject from sources as diverse as: fellow high school music nerds I haven’t seen in over 20 years (“…why do you want to rip off Rush? Those guys are cool!”), vague acquaintances drunkenly slinging a viselike arm around my shoulders at various downtown drinking establishments, as well as random obscenities hollered on the street by total strangers. So, I’ve decided to follow up on several points, as well as touch upon some peripheral subjects, in a fun Q & A format. Whee. Here goes:

Q: Isn’t file-sharing just like theft? Don’t you WANT to give Rush money to show your gratitude for the awesome music they make?

A: 70-80% of what I download is music I already own or have owned, either in LP, cassette, or CD form. I bought all of Rush’s albums years ago, and several again on CD. That music’s been paid for, some of it twice. How many times does the record industry want me to cough up more dollars for stuff I have already? (Answer: How many new formats can they think up?)

Q: Don’t bands benefit from signing with major labels due to promotion, distribution, etc.?

A: It depends on what you want to achieve. If you want your band/self to be a household name, recognizable to Main Street U.S.A. like John Mayer or Vanilla Ice, majors are probably the way to go, if you can play the game. They will deposit your music in Wal-Marts from Idaho to Nebraska (once all your filthy potty-mouth language and heretical ideas have been neutralized) and get your ugly mug on Jimmy Kimmel’s show as well. Some indie labels can do this stuff too, just not as often.

Maybe you can even play on one of those MTV spring break shows (do they still exist?) in front of a giant Coors banner. Remember at the end of the day, all the promo posters, free CDs, record release parties, crazy Vegas coke binges with expensive hookers, new gear and automobiles, manufacturing and shipping costs etc. is being charged to YOU. It all comes out of your sales, thanks to the magic little word “recoupable”. The label just fronts you the cash, they expect to get repaid for all this junk. And if the record stiffs, guess where the money comes from? That’s right, your ass.

Q: Your comment about record labels taking a cut of bands’ touring profits, is that for real?

A: Yes. Back in the day, labels were only concerned with record sales, any money made on tour was gravy for the bands. It usually wasn’t much, but a new industry sprung up surrounding the manufacture and sale of t-shirts, posters, bumper stickers, etc. with bands’ logos and/or faces on them. For the most part, this was money the labels couldn’t touch, since none of the products infringed upon the actual copyrighted music contained on the albums.

This is how a band like Wilco, within five years of their existence, could be pulling down a million dollars a year on tour while their records weren’t selling jack diddley and you never heard them on the radio. They built their fan base through live shows and word of mouth. Problem was, the band was making all the money, not their label, and they were soon dropped.

With the advent of downloading, record sales fell sharply and the music industry started sniffing around for other ways to make a profit off of those it had under contract. In the last five years, the tour percentage clause has become standard in most deals struck with new acts, who accept it as another stepping stone to stardom.

One article I read centered on the group Paramore, a young nondescript band with a female singer, who would still be playing nightclubs and campuses for peanuts, had it not been for the major label push. Paramore was one of the first acts signed with the new clause in place, and the band couldn’t be happier. Right now, they’re too stoked over hearing their songs on the radio and seeing themselves on TV to worry about money they aren’t making. Till the hits dry up, of course. Then it’s too late.

Q: Doesn’t downloading sound the death knell for record stores?

A: Yes and no. The big chain stores have market analysts who spotted the trend years ago and advised them to pull out before they started losing too much money. Even I was shocked when Tower Records closed its doors. I never shopped there, but I kind of thought it was one of those places that would always be around, like McDonald’s.

So, having the big boys out of the way is beneficial for independent mom-and-pop stores, who are free to mark up their stock as high as they want, now that most of their competition is gone. And people still like to go shopping, that hasn’t changed.

Oddly enough, digitizing music has caused a resurgence in popularity of the format it was meant to replace, the 12″ long-playing disc. You can download thousands upon thousands of CDs, both legal and non-, but you can’t download a record album, you need the actual artifact, and this requires buying it from somewhere.

Raising the sticker price of LPs above that of CDs was a masterstroke. Whatever corporate toady thought up that one deserves a fat raise. He’s got vision. The industry is happy you’re still buying what they’re selling. They don’t care what shape it comes in, as long as they can keep jacking the price up every five years or so.

Q: You still listen to cassettes? What’s the point in that?

A: Why not, I’ve got HUNDREDS of ’em! They still sound fine, and I’m not going to get rid of them just because a bunch of fat cats decided it was a dead format. I have a suspicion that the very public “Death of the LP” malarkey from 20 years ago was a smokescreen for what the industry really wanted killed: recordable cassette tapes. Small, portable, decent sound, you can fit close to two hours on ’em … and if they break, there’s a pretty simple mechanism inside that’s easy to fix. How the hell do you fix a CD? Answer: You don’t. You just throw it away and buy another. And another. And another.

Keep in mind why CDs were forced into being the industry standard over LPs: at that point in time, YOU COULDN’T DUPLICATE THEM. You had to understand digital encoding, and the only manufacturing plants were in Germany and Japan. Nowadays it takes less than a minute to make a perfect digital copy of a compact disc, and the music business sees this as lost revenue.

But the problem has gone beyond that: more and more consumers are storing their fave jams on hard drives and portable MP3 players. The music itself is just data, it’s invisible. There’s no longer any need for a delivery agent, a thing you can hold in your hand like a CD or tape that costs money.

The industry’s PRODUCT has been eliminated; it’s a marketer’s worst nightmare. They’re trying to sell you something intangible, something only your ears can pick up. Sure, they still want you to pay for music through iTunes and such, but why bother when you can go to any number of websites (or a friend) and get it for free?

You can bet that right now, someone somewhere is trying to figure out a way to charge you every time you LISTEN to a song they own, whether or not you’ve legally paid for it. The next time your neighbors or roommates complain about the volume of your stereo, tell ’em you’re saving them hundreds of dollars.

The entertainment industry has traditionally dragged its feet and tried to block any technological developments that have been beneficial to consumers, usually by virtue of affordability. Cassettes. DAT. Burnable CDs. I-Pods (Read up on the VHS vs. BETA wars for more tales of the customer getting screwed). All they have to do is lay on the guilt by calling it theft and people will roll over. I’m an American, I don’t steal. I do what my daddy did: pay for everything through the nose.

They have famous mouthpieces like Metallica’s Lars Ulrich or Gene Simmons of KISS, who said in a recent interview that anyone who downloads music should go to jail because he needs that money to take care of his wife and kids. Never mind the fact that his wife spends $40,000 to have her hair and nails done and his kids get Hummers for birthday presents. And they have their own TV show.

The music business dug its own grave. If they had just kept prices low … but no, they’ve been at it too long, no one’s about to take a salary cut even if this ship is sinking faster than the Titanic. All that shameless greed is finally catching up with them. They’ve never been a friend to the consumer and we don’t care if they lose their cushy jobs.

Ha ha. Kiss my lily-white ass, you fuckwads. This aint 1979, but twenty bucks is still a lot of money for some of us.