18 07 2010

I just went to the Mayhem Festival in Phoenix. This is a metal concert tour making its way around the US right now with Korn, Rob Zombie, Lamb of God, and Five Finger Death Punch on the main stage, and Atreyu, Hatebreed, Chimaira, Shadows Fall, In This Moment, Winds of Plague, 3 Inches of Blood, and Norma Jean on secondary stages. With all the fees our seats at Cricket Pavillion (which I hate) were $75. When I first found out about this 9-hour outdoor concert, I was seriously annoyed that someone had determined it would be a good idea to do this on what would probably be one of the hottest days of the year in Phoenix. Sure enough, it was forecasted to be 116°F, thought it could have been 150° as far as I could tell. It floors me that year after year, big ass concerts are scheduled for the hottest time of the year in one of the hottest cities in the country. It seemed like every band we saw felt the need to mention the heat and tell us how awesome we are for coming and dealing with it. Some insisted we congratulate ourselves. I can’t seriously clap for myself.

I missed Winds of Plague, though I would’ve liked to have seen them. As expected, 3 Inches of Blood was obnoxious with their painfully high-pitched vocals. In This Moment was pretty cool, except that their pretty blonde girl singer doesn’t seem too terribly talented. Shadows Fall and Chimaira were solid, though neither played my favorite song of theirs. Shadows fall covered Ozzy’s “Bark at the Moon”, which was pretty cool. I don’t like Atreyu, and didn’t pay much attention when they were playing. Hatebreed was fucking awesome. Their pit was insane. I don’t know if Norma Jean played at all. I think they got bumped for time.

Five Finger Death Punch was first on the main stage. I became an instant fan when I first heard their first album, The Way of the Fist. However, I wasn’t too terribly happy with the tracks that were later added to that album nor with their follow-up album, War is the Answer. This was the third time I’d seen them, and the most disappointing by far. Previously, I’d seem them play “White Knuckles“, their best song ever, with a great deal of audience participation. It was like their theme song. This time they skipped it. The only notable song they played from their first album was “The Bleeding”. Of course, they played their cover of “Bad Company” (by Bad Company), which has been getting plenty of radio play around these parts. The crowd loved it. I was annoyed.

Lamb of God was great. They are the reason I went to the show. They were awesome, and I wished their set could’ve been longer. They didn’t play all my favorite songs of theirs, but they did play “Walk with Me In Hell“, “Redneck“, and “Laid to Rest“. Randy Blythe is an amazing vocalist. My only complaint would be that the timing of the pinch harmonics in Laid to Rest wasn’t quite right, but I’m one the few who notice and care about shit like that. These guys are just amazing live. I hope they return soon to play a GA venue.

Then, it got dark and Rob Zombie came out. I think I can safely say he had the most elaborate stage I’ve ever seen. At one point there was a guy in a 10-foot robot suit dancing with Rob. It was rather surreal. There were tons of video screens showing crazy shit, lots of dudes in costumes, lots of props, and a lot of fire. It was pretty fucking cool. The downside was that Rob Zombie can’t sing like he used to. I’m not just talking about pitch or tone, but during the older songs he skipped a lot of lyrics catching his breath. The older the songs were, the more noticeable this was. I recall him playing just two White Zombie songs: “More Human than Human” and “Thuderkiss ’65”. I’m torn on whether he should just stick to making movies or maybe work on his lung capacity. I suppose it was worthwhile. I did enjoy the show.

Korn came on last. Their set was elaborate, but not quite as crazy as Rob’s. They had two 20-30 foot flaming oil derricks and two life-size oil pumps. I was a huge Korn fan through their first three or four albums, but at this show they started off only playing songs from later albums. They started going back in time a bit right when my friends decided to leave to beat traffic. I started to head out after they played “Blind”, only to hear the bagpipes begin for Shoots and Ladders, the very first Korn song I ever heard. I was happy enough with what I’d seen. If you didn’t know, Korn is down to 3/5 of their original members. They now only credit one guitarist on their albums, but there was a second guitarist on stage. Jonathan Davis looks kind of old and silly in his Adidas track suit and dreadlocks. He’s balding and his face seemed to have a sort of fat-oldness to it. However, his vocals are tight. The whole band was tight, and I learned that I’m still a Korn fan.

A final note: I seriously hate the Cricket Pavillion, and I will do my best to never go there again. A 20 ounce bottled water was $4.50 and 24 ounce PBRs were an inhumane ELEVEN-FUCKING-DOLLARS. Although the real reason I hate this place is because it’s big, outside, hot, and full of seats. The floor under the seats slopes downward which makes my legs hurt if I stand for very long, and toward the end, you pretty much have to stand to see anything. I like general admission.

No Free Speech for Soldiers

7 07 2010

I spent four years in the US Army, and remember finding it more than curious that we were prohibited from speaking to the press without permission. I never really had an occasion to do this, as I was never involved in anything too terribly interesting. I got out well before our current wars began. Several years ago, I saw a news story where US Army Arabic linguist Sgt. Erik Saar, someone I once served with and knew personally, became a whistle-blower for Guantanamo Bay. I presume he was already out, at which point it’s legal to talk as long you’re not divulging classified information. The thing I remember from the story was that he was writing or had written a book about his experience and would have to wait for government approval for it to be published, to make sure it was free of classified information. This is what you get to deal with when you get a Top Secret security clearance. Until today, I hadn’t heard anything about him since, but it looks like his book was published in 2005. Saar didn’t like the interrogation methods he saw there, particularly in light of the fact that the bulk of the detainees where clueless men of no particular importance. My point isn’t to go on about Guantanamo interrogation methods, but simply to point out that he had to get permission to speak and that it’s possible that details had to be removed from his book before it could be published.

Fast-forward to 2007 when US forces in Iraq engaged and killed a group of men, some known Reuters reporters, with big cameras and no apparent weapons. In April of this year, video of this incident from one of the helicopters’ gun cameras was uploaded to Youtube by WikiLeaks and embeded on their website. This is that graphic video:

I found it very interesting that defenders of the military took two very different approaches in reacting to this video. The first and obvious reaction was to claim that this was an “isolated incident” (there is no such thing) and that it is not representative of the US military in Iraq. The second reaction, more popular among people who’ve actually served in Iraq, is to claim the opposite – that there’s really nothing controversial about what happened here – that these men had large devices that could’ve been weapons and you really can’t be too careful when your life may be in danger. One thing I would keep in mind when watching the video is that there are forces on the ground and another helicopter involved in the conversation. It’s possible that things occurred outside the view of the gun camera. Having said that, it’s a bit disturbing how quickly US soldiers decide to err on the side of caution, how they can look at cameras and see guns.

Now, fast-forward to a month ago when “hacker” Adrian Lamo turned in US Army Intel Analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning as the source of the video. Lamo claimed that Manning had leaked a great deal more classified material and that he felt that lives might be in danger, and that was the reason he turned Manning in. Whatever, everything this Lamo guy says is suspect. It could be that Lamo gave this guy up to keep himself out of trouble for something else or simply to keep in good standing with uncle sam. It could even be that the FBI or some other government agency leaned on him to find this information.

One month later and Manning is being held on eight charges for leaking the video.

Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, is being detained in Kuwait and faces charges on eight violations of the U.S. Criminal Code for allegedly illegally transferring classified data, according to a charge sheet released by the military.

It accuses Manning of “wrongfully introducing a classified video of a military operation filmed at or near Baghdad, Iraq, on or about 12 July 2007, onto his personal computer, a non-secure information system.”

Of course, his actual crime is making the US look bad, not via libel or slander, but via the truth. I find it indefensible to maintain that such information remain classified. It helps the Army’s case to charge him with a violation of Information Security occurring so soon after the incident.

The military said it detained Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst deployed with the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade, in June. The website identified Manning as the one who had leaked the video of the helicopter assault. reported that Manning confessed to the leak in a series of online chats with a former computer hacker. He allegedly owned up to leaking other items to WikiLeaks, including the classified Army document assessing the threat level of the website, as well as State Department cables, according to the article.

I can’t begin to understand why would throw this kid under the bus. Are they afraid of the big bad government? Do they hate whistle-blowers? At this point, I trust neither Adrian Lamo nor

I’m of the opinion that free speech is for everyone and that the leaking of classified information ought not be a crime if it turns out to be of no immediate consequence. Loose lips sink ships, except all those times when they don’t.

Why does my…?

6 07 2010

These are my own personal screen shots. You can find more such stuff on FAILBLOG.