(Spoiler Alert)

Before I write anything else, I want to say that I am genuinely a fan of Robert Downey, Jr. as an actor. I think he’s great, and he’s been in a lot of great movies.

This isn’t meant as an insult to him or his acting ability, please don’t misconstrue it as such. 🙂

Getting to the point, I watched “Oppenheimer” today, and if I were given the “Oppen-tunity” (sorry, couldn’t resist) to re-cut the film, I would limit his presence to the scene where he invites Oppenheimer to come to his retreat or whatever for physics geniuses, the one where Albert Einstein is living, and maybe one or two quick scenes toward the end.

A quick thought on that:

When Robert Downey Jr’s character — a politician who (according to the film) was behind a McCarthy-era smear campaign against Oppenheimer some years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — watches Oppenheimer approach Einstein (who is childishly tossing rocks or something into a pond) we the viewers see the two cinematic representations of these two physics icons from a distance. As Einstein turns to greet Oppenheimer, the wind blows his hat from his head, and causes his — that is to say, the actor portraying Einstein’s — hair to blow upward, momentarily reminding us of any number of photographs we have all seen of Albert Einstein, with his notoriously unkempt white hair going every which way.

As I watched the film I felt I was (perhaps) being condescended to: I mean for example instead of a few quips about relativity or (God forbid) a little more explanation about why Einstein didn’t endorse quantum mechanics (other than a reference to the famous “God does not play dice” quote), all we the viewers are given to identify this actor as Albert Einstein is a quick shot of his hair (which was probably a wig) blowing in the wind.

But with regard to that scene, as well as the one at the end where the conversation between Oppenheimer and Einstein is revealed, I think that if I were given the Oppen-tunity to re-cut this film — not remake, not recast, not redirect, merely to re-cut — I would leave both those scenes in, and leave in most of Robert Downey Jr.’s parts in those scenes, but remove most of the rest of every other scene he is featured in.

Here’s why:

His character in the film provides a frame through which we the viewers can see J. Robert Oppenheimer, in that Oppenheimer is being interrogated and asked to justify many aspects of his professional and personal life, and (as we learn near the end) Robert Downey Jr.’s character was (according to the film) the reason Oppenheimer was being interrogated.

In that sense, his presence is necessary, and I wouldn’t remove him from the film entirely… just mostly.

And again, this isn’t meant as an insult to Robert Downey Jr., I am a fan of his work.

But what happens is that the center of focus of the film’s narrative arc is shifted from the sense of guilt we might imagine Oppenheimer feeling at being responsible for the deaths of a couple hundred thousand people to some vague, poorly executed pissing contest between Oppenheimer the political figure (as opposed to the physicist) and some McCarthyist politician who (according to the film) held a grudge against Oppenheimer, and because of that grudge tried to smear Oppenheimer in the political sphere in order to advance his own career.

The reason you lost interest in that last long, convoluted sentence is the same reason I honestly almost got up and left the theater midway through the post-Trinity test anticlimax of the film, one which lasts somewhere between half an hour and ten thousand years, as cliched “suspenseful” music builds and builds in the background, getting louder and louder until the characters (most of whom aren’t even physicists) have to scream in order to be heard over it.

That reason being, it’s flipping boring.

If I were given the Oppen-tunity to re-cut the film, all of this would be removed, because (in my opinion) it transforms what could have actually been a very good film about the moral implications of inventing the atomic bomb into a political pissing contest.

That said, visually (Albert Einstein’s hair included) “Oppenheimer” is a stunning film. It’s just way the hell too long.

There is a scene where Oppenheimer is making a speech to Los Alamos scientists and employees after the bombs they built were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and during the speech Oppenheimer imagines that a bomb has been dropped on this crowd, and he envisions a pretty woman in the crowd having layers of skin being peeled back off her face, in the way that an atomic bomb blast might (presumably) affect someone within the blast radius.

After this vision, he finishes his speech and goes outside, where he sees one of the scientists who helped build the bomb vomiting uncontrollably, presumably because of guilt related to his participation in research that led to the horrific deaths of a couple hundred thousand Japanese people.

This is the climax of the film. What comes after is the frame of the story attempting to become the story itself, and (spoiler alert) other than the final scene where the conversation between Einstein and Oppenheimer is revealed, about 90 percent of all of this should be cut out, because it ruins the film.

And, to repeat, it shifts the moral question regarding guilt at having “become death, destroyer of worlds” to a political pissing contest between Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr’s character, whose name I don’t remember or care to look up.

The film could have been very good, and indeed is very good, in places. But there’s too much political bickering and too many shifts between time periods — and regarding that, the use of black and white for one time period is a tad esoteric, as the only reason I can guess it might have been used is to make this time period look like black and white television, i.e. to mimic news footage of McCarthy-era hearings?

I mean, black and white is often used to indicate that something happened in the past, right? In “Oppenheimer,” the black and white portions of the film take place in the middle of the overall timeline. To be clear, things that happen both before and after the black and white parts of the film are in color.

So it’s like, in terms of overall timeline:

Color —> black and white —> color again.

Why? I don’t know.

But like I said, the film is visually stunning, in places. In the first half of the film, the surround sound of the theater is also used to amazing effect, with the sounds of explosions happening unexpectedly from time to time.

But to give a completely honest assessment of the film, these unexpected explosions actually woke me up a time or two, when the film went much, much too far into the “political pissing contest” frame story of the film and abandoned both the interesting scientific discoveries briefly mentioned as well as the actual moral conflict of J. Robert Oppenheimer as a historical figure.

If I were allowed to re-cut the film and remove 90% of its extraneous bullshit, it would be an excellent film.

But honestly, I don’t think I could stay awake long enough to do that.

Apologies to Robert Downey, Jr., you are an excellent actor, in my opinion. 🙂

More Culture Vulturin’

Should have stayed home today. I have been sick, and I stayed in all weekend to recover.

Yesterday, I realized that my sore throat might be worse because I haven’t been drinking enough water. And I also realized, it may also be aggravated by the unfiltered tap water I have been drinking at home.

So, I decided to locate and buy a Brita pitcher. Not all supermarkets carry them. My beloved Hanaro Mart doesn’t, Lotte Mart (also awesome, but in a more pretentious, nouveau riche sort of way) doesn’t…

The only supermarket chain I found that supposedly has them is Home Plus. For the record, Home Plus is also awesome. There’s two of them in Gimpo (at least circa 15 years ago, when I lived there) and I went there all the time. The ramen aisle at Home Plus is one of the greatest things I have ever been fortunate enough to experience.

Anyway, I decided yesterday that in spite of needing some recovery sleep, I would make a quick trip to Home Plus and get a Brita pitcher. First I wanted to eat something, and I didn’t want to eat at home, so I took the elevator down to the ground floor and walked around my apartment complex to see what was open.

I walked a hundred yards or so and felt dizzy, so I decided not to go. I got 3 two liter waters before I did, because like I said, I didn’t want to drink any more tap water, because I have heard you shouldn’t. To be clear, I am reasonably sure it’s actually ok to drink it, but filtered water tastes better.

I decided to try Coupang. Coupang is a super-fast, super efficient Korean delivery service that can bring you basically anything, and it’s always there by the next day, sometimes sooner.

While I respect the good people at Coupang and stand in awe of their efficiency, as a visiting foreigner I am personally opposed to the service in a deep and profound (or maybe I should say “shallow and ridiculous”) way, simply because being in a beautiful country like Korea, and furthermore being in (or right outside) an amazing city like Seoul, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go out exploring every chance they got, especially since people like me are not permanent residents. But I digress.

Long story short, after a lot of phone screenshots and Google translates, complete with getting locked out of the signup process temporarily for entering something the wrong way too many times (Coupang has fantastic security features), I finally managed to place my order.

Initially, the Coupang app told me my Brita pitcher would arrive the next day (Sunday), so I watched a few episodes of Divorce Attorney Shin on Netflix and took a nap. Some time later in the day, I got another notification saying my pitcher would be there that afternoon or evening.

It got there about 4:00 pm or so. I eagerly tore the bag open, impressed with Coupang despite my deep/shallow philosophical objections to it, a bit giddy even…

And the goddamn thing was busted.

Luckily, Coupang has a fantastic return system. You request a return, repackage the item as best you can, and leave it by your door. Within a day, Coupang will replace your item and retrieve the damaged one.

It’s really a great service. But as I said, personally, I would rather go and get whatever I want to buy, simply to have an excuse to go look around a bit.

My pitcher came with 2 filters, one that’s in it now and one that I will put in there in about a month. And I resolved to go out and buy replacement filters, instead of having them delivered.

Getting to the point, today I felt better. So I decided to make a quick, 2 subway stop trip to Lotte Mart to stock up on Taurin energy drinks. Hanaro Mart (which is in my neighborhood, no need for a subway ride) doesn’t carry them.

Well, I got to Lotte Mart and it was closed. Apparently they close every other Sunday.

So, as I wandered around aimlessly, bored out of my skull, I decided to find and go to a nearby Home Plus to see if they had Taurin 10 packs, and to make sure the nearest Home Plus had the right Brita filters for future purchases.

I got back on the subway and rode another 10 stops or so, making one transfer, and somewhere along the way — probably when I pulled out my wallet to get a thousand won bill to buy a bottle of water — I lost my T-Money transit card, which had about 20,000 won on it, roughly $20.

I had to tell the security guard that I lost my card (Google Translate is an amazing tool, in case I haven’t mentioned that) because you have to scan your T-Money card when you leave the subway, as well as when you go in.

I bought another one at the Home Plus stop (Hapjeong) and followed the signs to Home Plus… and it was also closed today.

So, I went into a nearby Starbucks and had a Caramel Macchiato, and typed most of this on my phone. I left because a good looking, well-dressed young Korean couple needed a place to sit, and I was sitting at a table designed for two people.

Anyway, I didn’t get any Taurin drinks, I don’t know if the Hapjeong Home Plus carries the right kind of Brita filter, and I lost a transit card with about 20 bucks on it. Gonna look for it on the way back, but I am not optimistic about finding it.

Shoulda stayed home. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 3

This one’s gonna have to be short. I am in a crowded Starbucks near Seoul Forest. Not sure what that is, to be honest, a park of some sort, I am assuming.

I got here via the yellow line, which goes from Cheongnyangni Station to Incheon. I went to Cheongnyangni (I will check the spelling later on that one) this afternoon to sort of scout things out, because I want to make a solo trip out to Gangchon, an area in Gangwon-do I went a few times with friends years ago.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Cheongnyangni from my apartment, so I may as well figure on an hour traveling time, whenever I decide to make the trip. Might go tomorrow if I am feeling better.

Got kind of a light cold. Got it from coworkers.

Anyway, the train to Ganchon leaves from Cheongnyangni. I know it takes about an hour to get to Cheongnyangni, but it might take another hour to figure out where the right platform is, ha ha. I wandered around for a while there today and didn’t find it.

Matter of fact, I am here at Seoul Forest now because I was looking for the Gangchon train platform. I saw that the yellow line goes through Apgujeong — aka gorgeous Korean lady central — and I had originally decided to go to one of the 4-5 Starbucks there and type this, but when I heard “Seoul Forest” over the subway PA (in the English version of it), I decided to look around for a bit. Gonna finish my cafe latte and do that.

I walked all around Cheongnyangni Station. Like I literally made a loop around it. It’s a pretty big station, connected directly to a Lotte Mall.

The area around the station is more of an “old Seoul” area than anywhere I have been yet. I walked through an “open air” market where all sorts of stuff was for sale — fish of all kinds, kimchi, rice, as well as many different types of meat, many cuts of which still had feet attached to it — and it was a really cool place to walk through. I wore my mask the whole time — I’ve had it on all day, I have it off now to drink my coffee, but I am sitting alone — and I will wear it when I am looking around Seoul Forest.

The open air market is something every foreigner visiting Korea should experience at least once. What’s striking, aside from all the strange food items and interesting smells, is the way order seems to self-generate out of what could easily be abject chaos.

People walk every which way, in close proximity to each other. Buying, selling, carrying armloads of whatever they’re selling… and nobody bumps into each other.

Meanwhile motorcycles, scooters — the moped kind and the “rascal” kind, somebody on a rascal almost hit me but he yelled out just in time for me to move — as well as cars weave in and out of the mass of humanity… and nobody gets run over.

I mean sure, I am sure sometimes there are accidents. But they don’t seem to happen very often, considering how close everyone is to each other, in the purely physical sense.

It’s tempting to attribute this to “Korean people” and some unknown, exotic trait they must have… but I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s cultural. I think that people in this environment learn from an early age to be considerate of other people, while still making their way through the crowds in a self-interested and even aggressive manner.

Everybody’s got somewhere to be, and they’re making their way there as fast as they can. But at the same time, nobody’s running into each other.

Try this in south Arkansas, and there would be fistfights every five minutes.

Here, everybody moves smoothly through the crowd, ajosshis sitting off to the side under canopies, eating bossam and drinking makgeoli or soju, ajummas arguing over prices, foreigners enchanted with the whole scene, probably sticking out like sore thumbs.

Anyways, I gotta go. Gonna go look around in Seoul forest.

The Culture Vulture, Part 2

So it’s Sunday now (March 26) and i am in another Starbucks in Seoul. This one is in Myeong-dong, another fashionable area, albeit one I ended up at completely accidentally.

I got on the 705 bus near my apartment after seeing “광화문” on the bus route.

That says “Gwanghwamun,” and it’s an area I am somewhat familiar with, though it’s been 15 years or so since I spent any amount of time there.

Anyways, somehow I missed hearing the stop for Gwanghwamun on the bus — I was half-asleep for most of the ride — and when I realized we had gone past there a couple of stops, I decided to get off the bus.

Almost immediately I saw a Starbucks. Then I saw another one, and another one. Often, there would be one on one side of the street, and another across the street.

I walked a little and ended up in Gwanghwamun, and I was really hungry so I looked around for some food, specifically somewhere I could go in and eat by myself without feeling too weird about it. Lots of Korean restaurants feature at-the-table grilling, and those places generally only let you eat there if you’re in a group of 2 or more… or maybe it’s not so much that they “let you” as it is just not much fun to eat at one of those places alone. Not saying I’m above it, not saying I’ll never do it, I just wanted something quick.

After I passed at least a couple more Starbucks (and assorted other chain coffee places) I saw a Kimbap Cheonguk, which is perfect for eating solo… but it was closed.

About this time I realized that I was on a street near Gwanghwamun that I wandered to last time I came here briefly a few weeks ago, so I kept walking.

I walked through the main intersection in Gwanghwamun, passed a couple more Starbucks, saw a few other foreigners on the sidewalk, feeling more and more hungry, and I saw a bookstore that sells stickers, so I went in.

The kids that I teach love stickers, and specifically Pokemon stickers. But I haven’t been able to find any of those yet, so I went in, and… no dice.

Went back out and walked for a minute and saw another Kimbap Cheongook across the street from me, but there was no crosswalk to get there. So I went down into the subway entrance to try and come up on the side is was on, and I ended up on the wrong side.

So I went back through and ended up on another side of the intersection I didn’t try to get to, and couldn’t find the place. So I kep walking, and next thing I know I am in Myeong-dong.

There’s lots of street food vendors there, and I got some fried chicken gizzards with hot sauce. They were very tasty, but not very filling. And when I was done, I was left holding a paper bowl and a wooden stick, with no trash can in sight.

Then, lo and behold, if you can believe it ladies and gentlemen, I saw another Starbucks, about the 8th one I have seen since getting off the bus.

I got a $6-7 cold chicken sandwich that tasted like shit, and a blonde vanilla double shot latte that’s pretty good. I scarfed the shitty overpriced sandwich, wiped my fingers off with the provided wetnap, then whipped out my Chromebook and started typing this.

Gonna go wander around Myeong-dong a bit more and hopefully take the bus home. I’ve seen a couple more 705 stops since I got off of it, so hopefully I’ll find another one.

I love riding the subway, don’t get me wrong, but riding a bus (obviously) you can look out the window and see the areas you’re going through.

And the area between here and my apartment is (in my opinion) among the most aesthetically pleasing areas in Seoul, and among the most aesthetically pleasing areas I have ever personally been to.

There’s lots of trees, and they’re just starting to bud out for spring. Gonna be hell on my allergies, but it’s pretty to look at.

And there’s mountains in the background. The straight lines of ultra-modern apartment buildings set against the backdrop of mountains is something I could sit and stare at for hours, especially on a clear day like today.

And I may do that until the sun goes down, if I am back in my neighborhood by then. No sense in going home yet, my bedclothes are hung up in my apartment drying with the window open, and it’s cold in there. Plus there’s no room, small apartment that it is, with a comforter, mattress pad, and fitted sheet hanging up.

Gonna get out of here, more people coming in with fresh coffee need to sit down.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

The Culture Vulture, Part 1

So I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Apgujeong, a fairly fashionable area in Seoul, and I’m wondering whether I should call this blog post “The Culture Vulture” or something like that.

What it all boils down to is, I like Korea quite a bit. I lived here years ago (from 2006 to 2008) and almost from the moment I first stepped off the plane, I felt at home here. Like more at home here than from the place I left.

I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. It sounds dumb and cliche maybe, but there it is.

In case you don’t know me personally, I’m a white dude, I’m heterosexual, I’m cisgendered, and as such I am the beneficiary of all sorts of privileges, both back home in the USA as well as here in Korea.

I’m aware of things like that, and I don’t want to act in such a way that makes me seem like I’m not, or that I don’t take them seriously.

But at the same time, when I start writing anything like this, I feel like I might be venturing into “culture vulture” territory, like one of those people who appropriate other cultures and look like idiots.

So maybe it’s appropriate that I am writing this from a Starbucks. This is, no joke, about the 8th Starbucks I have been in since returning to Korea a little less than a month ago. And for sure, Starbucks here has a slightly different menu than Starbucks back in the US (I assume, there aren’t that many of them where I am from) but it’s an American chain, and so by virtue of that, I’m culture vulturing from a place that represents my own culture (such that it is) here in Korea.

Just to get to the point, man, I love Korea.

It’s such a great place.

Seoul is a huge, sprawling city, and it’s got one of the biggest metro train systems in the world connecting all the various districts together. Just about an hour ago, I left my apartment in Samsong and got on the subway. For about one US dollar, I traveled halfway across Seoul to Apgujeong, so I could sit in Starbucks, type this out, and steal glances at pretty Korean women.

See, here we go again.

White guy in Asia, talking about the pretty Asian women. Red flags all over the place, from a sociopolitcal perspective.

But what can I say? I like looking at pretty women. I can’t and won’t apologize for that. I’m not objectifyling anyone, I am just stating a true fact about myself. Pretty women come in all shapes and sizes, and for better or for worse, there are a lot of pretty women in Apgujeong.

There are a lot of good looking people in Korea in general. Fitness and “well-being” is pretty big here, and people (male and female) tend to take pretty good care of themselves.

Where I live — near Bukhansan, a popular hiking destination — there are lots of older people walking around decked out in hiking gear basically all the time. One of these weekends I’m going to hike Bukhansan myself. If not before, when one of my good friends from 2006-2008 comes to visit this summer. He, I, and another fellow partially hiked Bukhansan in 2007 (or maybe early 2008), but we started too late in the day. Plus I was in awful shape at the time, being more into the prominent drinking culture here in Korea than the also prominent fitness culture.

At any rate, man, I love Korea. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, and I don’t literally think this next thing I am going to write, I just wanted to record it for posterity.

A while back, I got the idea for a piece of fiction, or a screenplay, or something, about an American who, somehow or other, discovered that in a previous life, he (or maybe she) was Korean, and in this previous life, he (or she) always wanted to leave Korea and go to the US, but he never got to.

Might have something to do with Pure Land Buddhism, where adherents pray to be reborn in a “Pure Land.” As a sidenote, many Buddhists consider all lands to be “Pure Lands,” it’s only our perception of them that makes it seem otherwise.

But at any rate, this person is reborn as an American, but ends up wanting to return to Korea.

And like I said, I don’t believe any of that stuff. But I was here last about 15 years ago. For many people walking the earth today, that’s their entire lifetime, or even more.

So, in a sense, I myself was here a lifetime ago, and I wanted to come back but didn’t until now.

And anyway, I’m enjoying being back.

Man, I love Korea. 🙂

Blah Blah Blah

I think it was “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” that did it.


In case you haven’t seen it, that show is a Korean Netflix drama about the (fictional) first autistic attorney in South Korea, named 우영우.

As mentioned, she is autistic, and the only thing she likes to eat is 김밥. And anyway, I guess it was watching that show that got me to thinking about 김밥, and at first it was like “oh yeah, I remember eating that stuff, it was pretty good” and then it was like “it would be nice to have some of that some time” and then before I knew it I was out and out craving the stuff.

I mean, when I was here before, 15 years ago, I ate it every now and then. It wasn’t (and isn’t) my favorite Korean food by far, but after seeing it on basically every episode of that show, I got to thinking about it, and how it’s basically a full meal wrapped up in seaweed, and how it’s delicious basically any time of the day…

And the next thing I know, I’m sending off documents and looking for another teaching job. And about six months later, here I am.

I’m not gonna mention where I work, or even where I live. But it’s a nice area, and I’ve been eating 김밥 like crazy since I got here. Over the space of a little less than 2 weeks, I have become a regular at the 김밥나라 closest to my work. It’s like a block away.

My apartment is about 2 miles away, and there’s a pretty nice walkway between my apartment and my work. It’s about 40 minutes one way, and I usually walk to and from work. I’ll continue to do that as long as the weather permits… it gets pretty hot here in the summer, so I may start taking the subway then.

There’s a subway station close to my apartment, and from there you can go basically anywhere in Seoul for a couple bucks, and get a ticket to basically anywhere else in Korea for pretty cheap as well. So I intend to do some traveling while I am here.

Anyway, 김밥 is delicious.


I guess I’ll file this one under “Movies/TV,” but it’s really more of a continuation of my last post, which is case it wasn’t clear, was anti-communist in its politics, just in case that wasn’t clear.

That may not have been clear, since in the post I compared how communist governments tend to run themselves to how corporations run themselves: in a top-down manner, with an authoritarian leader at the top – a “great leader” of some sort at the top of a communist regime, a CEO at the top of a corporation – and with workers at the bottom. 

Anyway, I was watching some movies today (it’s Sunday, October 23 as I type this) and the first one I will mention was a Korean movie with the English title “El Condor Pasa” that I ended up turning off a little more than halfway through, because to be frank it wasn’t very good. But as you may or may not know, there’s a Simon and Garfunkel song with the same title, and it features the lyric I used for a title here, so I figured that I would at least mention it. 

The title fits better with regard to the next movie I started watching just now, a Canadian documentary called “Letter From Masanjia” that I would like to briefly discuss, with regard to the last post, which may or may not seem controversial to some readers. 

I don’t think it’s controversial, and for the record I’m glad I live here in the USA, where I’m allowed to write about pretty much anything I want to, as long as I’m not threatening violence or anything like that.

Anyway, the letter that the documentary is about was written by a Chinese man named Sun Yi, who was in a forced labor camp in China. 

Sun Yi was put in the prison camp for his involvement in a religious group called Falun Gong, one that the Chinese communist party outlawed several years ago because of their alleged – emphasis on alleged – involvement in murders in China, as well as for creating political discord in China. 

According to Sun Yi, the real reason Falun Gong was outlawed in China is that their membership (according to him) reached somewhere between 70 and 100 million people, and was beginning to have more influence than the communist party, which only had around 60 million people. 

Sun Yi was sent to a the Masanjia Labor Camp near Shenyang, China because of his involvement with Falun Gong. While there, he was forced to make Halloween decorations that would be sold in English-speaking countries, a fact he deduced from the English writing on the boxes that the decorations went out in. 

Sun Yi wrote several letters in English and Chinese – more than 20, I think the documentary said – secretly in bed, a few words at a time, while guards weren’t looking. He slipped the letters into boxes when the finished products were sent out, and hoped for the best.

A woman in Portland, Oregon found one of his letters, and the story went viral. Sun Yi – who had since been released from the labor camp, and secretly bypassed China’s internet firewall to read Western news – saw her story. He’s in the documentary, filmed secretly over Skype. I haven’t finished it, so I am not sure if he gets arrested again for filming it.

The main thing I wanted to briefly write about is how a communist government – which, remember: the stated goal of communist “revolutions” is to liberate the working class from oppressive capitalists – is using forced labor to produce inexpensive goods that will be sold in capitalist markets. 

It’s strange, how this all works out: some American company (or a Chinese company that does business in the USA) is in the business of using communist party-sanctioned forced labor to produce goods that will be sold to capitalists overseas. 

In a country (the USA) which is far from perfect, but nonetheless does not (currently) feature forced labor as part of its political system.

I point this out to illustrate that the stated ideology of the communist party does not in any way match up with its actual treatment of workers. 

And to flip it around, “forced labor” is not something that American capitalists claim to endorse. Everyone reading the story about Sun Yi’s letter was outraged, yet very few (presumably) gave a second thought about it the next time they went to buy Halloween decorations, or Christmas decorations, or any number of inexpensive “Made In China” items that may have also been produced in a forced labor camp like the one Sun Yi was imprisoned in. 

At any rate, it’s a well-documented fact: labor conditions in communist China are among the worst in the world. And it’s not just cheap decorations. Apple has been criticized often for the conditions at its factories in China, which feature “suicide nets” to prevent overstressed workers from literally killing themselves from being overworked. 

Which think about Apple for a minute. Their current CEO is Tim Cook, and he’s the bigshot who has the final say-so and all, and he’s the guy who currently does the little presentations a few times a year, where Apple trots out a slightly modified version of the same small product line and acts like they’ve reinvented the wheel every time. 

To be sure, Apple makes quality products. Not denying that. But at the end of the day, it isn’t Tim Cook who built my iPhone, it’s some working-class Chinese person who didn’t get paid very much, who was overworked, and who lives under a “revolutionary” regime that was supposed to eliminate classism and elevate the worker to a higher level in society. 

So much for the revolution, I guess. 

But think about political figures in China briefly: the current President/General Secretary of the Communist Party is Xi Jinping. But he’s not the guy you see on the big banners, any time Chinese government buildings are shown. 

That guy is Chairman Mao, Mao Zedong, the “great leader” behind the communist revolution that brought about China’s current political state. 

Strip away all the ideology, and just focus on the optics here: there’s an actual leader (Xi Jinping) who has control over everything in the country, basically, with a “legendary” type figure in the background of everything, a figure who is still viewed with reverence as being the one who started it all, everybody loves him, movies are made about him, he’s quoted often, etc. ad nauseam. 

Remember, just going on superficial optics, no ideology here: look at how Xi Jinping runs the country, with the ghost of Mao in the background, gently smiling, his “revolution” still going strong, inspiring Xi Jinping and his communist party to run China in a way that would make him proud…

And then look at Tim Cook and how he runs Apple: in the shadow of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs, who “started it all,” everybody loves him, movies are made about him, he’s quoted often, etc. ad nauseam.

And yes, I absolutely am comparing the Xi Jinping – Mao Zedong dynamic to the Tim Cook – Steve Jobs dynamic, purely in terms of optics. I.e. how it appears superficially. 

If you’re following along here – even if you think I’m off my rocker – remember that “ideology” is not being considered in these comparisons. Because the “free market” capitalist ideology of Steve Jobs is diametrically opposed to the communist ideology of Mao Zedong…

But on the one hand, the legacy of Steve Jobs requires abhorrent labor conditions to continue, and Apple is supposedly against that…

And on the other hand, Mao’s legacy requires it to do business with capitalist entities like Apple and subject it’s supposedly “liberated” workforce to conditions that capitalist countries don’t allow. 

So, what you should understand is, it’s not actually controversial or even unusual for little ol’ me to “strip away ideology” and point out similarities between two supposedly opposite systems. 

Why not? Because leaders in both systems act in ways that oppose their stated ideology all the time.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

You Want Fries With That?

Alright, so this is something I started thinking about a while back. And the basic idea here could probably be expanded into book length, if someone were to do the necessary research – for all I actually know, there might have been books written about this already – but the basic idea is pretty simple. 

Here’s the basic idea: capitalism and communism are not actually opposites, as common wisdom tells us. 

Let me repeat that: capitalism and communism are not actually opposites. 

I mean sure, in terms of ideological justification, they are opposite. But let’s strip away all the ideology and instead look at how these two seemingly opposed economic systems actually function, in a purely material sense. 

Capitalism, in a nutshell, functions through the accumulation and subsequent dispersion of capital. 

Some people accumulate large amounts of capital – i.e. money – through various means. 

As a sidenote, it’s important to keep ideology out of the language I use here. For example, use of the term “the free market” in place of “various means” would be borrowing an ideologically-loaded term from proponents of capitalism. Likewise, substituting “exploitation of workers” for “various means” would be borrowing a term from proponents of communism. 

To be clear, in my opinion, “various means” includes both of those terms, and both of those terms have a certain amount of validity, in terms of material reality. 

“The free market” does determine many different things, in any society with any type of market. But to be sure, there is no completely “free market” anywhere on the planet, due to the fact that people (and entities like corporations) have varying amounts of capital with which to influence the market and direct it in such a way as to benefit their interests. Nonetheless, consumer choice – what “the free market” generally refers to – does play a role in how markets turn out, even if there are a limited number of choices, and even if only a select few people and/or entities have access to this market. 

Likewise, “exploitation of workers” is, at the end of the day, what drives all profits in any economic system. Quite simply (e.g.) without workers to flip burgers and sell those burgers to customers, McDonald’s Corporation would not pull in tens of billions of dollars every year. This material fact cannot be denied, and at any rate, any objection to it is irrelevant to the overall point of this essay. 

Getting back to the point: capitalism and communism are not actually opposite, when you strip away all the ideological justification for both systems. 

And again, to repeat: in a capitalist system, some people accumulate large amounts of capital through various means. 

In a capitalist system, people and/or entities who have accumulated large amounts of capital can then invest that capital in other people and/or entities that need the capital for some purpose. 

If person A has 50 billion dollars, and person B has an idea for a business that would cost 1 million dollars, for example, person A can invest 1 million dollars to help person B get that business started. 

The machinations of the whole process (usually) involve many more people, and the accumulation of 50 billion dollars is rarely done without generational help, i.e. “old money” being passed from generation to generation. 

But in a very basic sense, person A has a lot of capital, and decides to invest it in person B’s business idea. This is always – *always* – done because person A believes they will benefit from person B’s business in some way. If not for a direct cut of profits, then as a tax write off, or simply for the satisfaction of helping someone they like succeed. There’s always an element of self-interest involved in any investment, is the point. 

So, in a very basic sense, this is how capitalism works: some people accumulate lots of capital through various means, and they distribute that capital as they see fit to other people, based on self-interest of some type. 

Ok, fine, we all know that, so what does this have to do with communism? 

Remember, for the purposes of this essay, ideological justification for both systems is irrelevant. So, this essay will briefly describe “communism” in terms of how communism has actually been implemented in the actual real world, as opposed to how “communism” has been dreamt of by leftist thinkers like Marx, Engels, et alia. 

The ideal version of communism involves the minimum amount of “exploitation of workers” and so on, but the reality of it requires a lot of actual exploitation with very little recompense. 

Workers under communism still have to work, but instead of working for a boss/company/corporation/whatever, they work for the state. 

To be clear, to my view, this is not inherently bad. But in actual fact, workers under communism have to answer to a state apparatus that determines whether their work is good enough for them to keep working, or if they should be replaced by someone else, or if their job is even necessary at all. 

The “state apparatus” consists of other people, obviously. A lot of other people. Functionaries, pencil pushers, “yes men,” economists, experts on various things, and so on, all the way up to an elite executive class of government workers, most often with a single leader at the very top who has the ultimate say-so over everyone else. 

What has become apparent to me is that this basic structure of a communist regime is not fundamentally different from the structure of a corporation. 

In the example of McDonald’s, burger flippers have to answer to store managers, who have to answer to regional managers, who get their directions from the corporate office, who base their decisions on the input of many different experts, from marketing/PR people to nutritionists to economic experts (as well as plenty of functionaries, pencil pushers, “yes men” and so on), all the way up to an elite executive class of McDonald’s employees, with a single leader – a CEO – at the very top who has the ultimate say-so over everyone else. 

To reiterate: on paper, the vision of “communism” that Marx wrote about is a (more or less) egalitarian sort of society. Everyone is assigned work based upon their natural abilities and/or interests, and nobody has enough “capital” to subjugate anyone else, enslave anyone else, etc. The whole thing was presented as a “revolution” against capitalism, empowering the working class and eliminating the bourgeoisie, and so on and so forth. 

On paper, “communism” as such does not sound all that bad. I mean, nobody likes being enslaved, subjugated, or anything like that, and (it would seem) to give everyone more or less the same amount of political and social influence would be a good thing. 

But in reality, no communist government has ever achieved anything remotely close to this. What communist governments have actually done – without exception – is produce authoritarian regimes where one person has the ultimate say-so over everything, who is supported by an elite group of executives, who follow and enforce everything the leader says, and delegate further enforcement duties to lower-level executives, who delegate enforcement duties to the next level down, until, at the very bottom, you have soldiers pointing guns at workers, who are forced to do what the soldiers tell them. 

To be sure, there are elements of communist economies (such that they are) that are not “enforced” directly by the state apparatus. But they are closely monitored by it, and prevented from gaining too much capital or influence over the economy and/or society. 

For example, under a strictly communist regime, there might be restaurants where people can exchange what little money they have for a meal, or a place to sit and talk for a while, or what have you. But these restaurants must follow strict guidelines as to what they serve, and no restaurant owner would be allowed (without government approval) to open up a second restaurant, or to sell franchise rights to somebody else, etc. 

For a capitalist example, let’s return to McDonald’s: each and every McDonald’s must abide by a strict set of guidelines as to what they can serve, how much they can charge for it, and so on. These guidelines – excluding health codes imposed by the government – come from the corporate office, and are strictly enforced, so that the McDonald’s brand and the customer experience of the brand is the more or less the same across all restaurants in the chain. A Big Mac in Hollywood tastes the same as a Big Mac in Peoria, for example. 

Since Hollywood was mentioned, I want to mention a relevant example from one of my favorite movies, “Coming To America” starring Eddie Murphy. In this movie, Murphy portrays an African prince who moves to Queens, NYC in the hopes of finding his own queen, who he can marry and return to his kingdom with. 

His love interest Lisa McDowell (portrayed by Shari Headley) is the daughter of the owner of an independent fast food restaurant called “McDowell’s” that in just about every way tries to mimic the menu and atmosphere of McDonald’s. At various points in the movie, representatives from McDonald’s try to prove that McDowell’s is infringing on their copyrights, resulting in some humorous scenes. 

Point being, in real life, you can’t just go open up your own McDonald’s and start selling Big Macs without buying franchise rights from McDonald’s corporate office, and once you do, you have to abide by their guidelines, otherwise they take away your right to sell Big Macs. 

These franchise rights are enabled and (to a degree) enforced by the government of the USA. If there were a real-life McDowell’s, McDonald’s could sue them for copyright infringement in a federal court of law. 

Re “communist restaurants,” there is an actual chain of actual restaurants called Pyeongyang, named after the capital of North Korea, and controlled by the government of North Korea. If a franchise location fails to adhere to the strict guidelines for these restaurants, the restaurant will be shut down. 

Similarly, if a McDonald’s franchise fails to adhere to the strict guidelines set out by McDonald’s corporate office, that franchise will be shut down. 

“So,” you may or may not be asking, “what exactly are you trying to say here?”

To answer that, what I am saying (to repeat) is that capitalism and communism are not actually opposite systems. And to explain that statement a little further, what I am saying is that capitalism and communism are – in material reality – two forms of the same system. 

In a nutshell, modern capitalism has evolved to the point where a relatively small number of corporations more or less own and control most aspects of the economy. At this point in history, it’s pretty much impossible to participate in the economy without interacting with corporations at every level of the economy. 

To be clear, I’m not saying this is inherently bad, or that we should abolish corporations, or anything like that. I am just saying that a relatively small number of corporations more or less own and control most aspects of the economy. 

As mentioned, these corporations are run in a “top-down” fashion, with a CEO at the top and workers at the bottom. 

Likewise, communist economies are also run in a “top-down” fashion, with a “great leader” at the top and workers at the bottom.

The chief difference is – as I see it – that in communist economies, there is essentially one “corporation” running everything, that “corporation” being of course the government. 

Modern capitalist economies have multiple corporations vying for influence, is the chief difference as I see it. But as time wears on, and corporations merge and take over each other, the number of corporations vying for influence will grow smaller and smaller. Eventually – it would seem – it’s possible that one corporation will own and control all the other corporations. 

And if that should happen, what then would be different about this (imagined) future single-corporation capitalist economy and any communist economy that has ever existed? 

Of course, there’s no way to know. Maybe an all-encompassing single corporation would not be as strict as a communist dictatorship. After all, the CEO and executive class of this capitalist corporation got their position through “the free market” and the subsequent accumulation of capital, and so on, whereas communist executives got their positions through non-democratic appointment, or (as is the case with the Kim dynasty in North Korea, for example), through being born into power.

What I have come to realize is that while “money” is the predominant form capital takes in a capitalist economy, and while communist economies limit the ability of individuals and/or non-governmental entities to accumulate enough capital in the form of money to threaten the state’s grip on the economy — read that again if necessary — communist economies/states nonetheless function using another form of capital: social influence.

Whether it’s being born into leadership, or brown-nosing one’s way into a position of power, this “social influence,” I suggest, is, in essence, a form of capital.

To be sure, in a communist system, certain people do ascend the sociological ladder based on their actual knowledge and/or ability. Scientists, doctors, and so on most definitely are chosen for positions based on their abilities.

But this knowledge and ability (also a form of capital, I would argue) only goes so far: if the most knowledgeable scientist in a communist regime speaks against the great leader or his “executives,” this scientist can be sent to the gulag or executed. For example.

Likewise, if someone at SpaceX were to (for example) say “Elon Musk is a grifter and a charlatan,” regardless of this person’s ability, they would not be working at SpaceX much longer. 

The similarities don’t end there. Many corporations have maintained genealogical dynasties across generations, just like the Kims in North Korea. And just like the Kims (presumably) many promotions and appointments within these entirely capitalist corporations have been made based on friendships, loyalties, and other forms of “social capital” that have nothing to do with actual ability.

And again, I am not saying this is inherently bad, or even unfair. I am just saying that “social capital” can be accumulated and cashed in on (so to speak) in both capitalist and communist systems.

Looked at in this light, “communism” as it has existed in material reality is not a “revolution” as such against capitalism, it has merely been a restructuring of it. 

The proclaimed purpose of the “revolution” is to liberate the worker from an entrenched social hierarchy that exploits labor; the reality of the “revolution” is an even more deeply entrenched social hierarchy that also exploits labor, often to much more extreme ends.

And “capital” per se has not been eliminated under real-world communism, it’s just been transmuted into a form that’s much more difficult to obtain. 

So, in short, my assertion here is that communism is not fundamentally different from capitalism at all, it’s just another form of it. To reiterate, the accumulation of “capital” is still a fundamental part of how communism actually works, it’s that the “capital” is social influence as opposed to money. 

Anyway, that’s what I have been thinking about lately. Thank you for reading.


Before I write anything, I want to say that I am a die-hard Nirvana fan from way back. Being fair, when they released their first album “Bleach” in 1989, I was only 9 years old. Which means, I hadn’t hit puberty yet, I had no inclination whatsoever to “rebel” against anything or anybody, and while I did like seeing their videos on MTV when “Nevermind” came out in 1991, I didn’t get big into them until after 1993’s “In Utero” and 1994’s “MTV Unplugged In New York” were out.

And as any Nirvana fan (or literally anyone with an internet connection) can tell you, The “Unplugged” album was released November 1, 1994, which was about 7 months after Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain took his own life.

I didn’t really get into them until after Kurt killed himself. It wasn’t morbid curiosity as much as it was simply that Nirvana was all over MTV all the time for at least a year or two after Kurt’s death.

I mean, yeah, some of it probably was morbid curiosity. But this post-suicide mass-media blitz of Nirvana coincided with me first starting to take an interest in playing the guitar. I was 14 when Kurt killed himself, and that was also right around when I first started sneaking out my stepdad’s Martin and messing with it.

And being that Nirvana’s last album was played with (mostly) acoustic instruments, and furthermore being that Kurt was playing a Martin acoustic-electric in that show, well, sitting in the living room with my stepdad’s Martin and watching Kurt’s hands to see if they matched up with my tab book took on a special significance to me. I honestly get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Nirvana was an awesome band. Their music was loud, kickass, and completely devoid of fakery and pretension. They got up on stage and rocked, and they were damn good at it.

And Kurt Cobain’s willingness to share the “Unplugged” stage with Kurt and Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets was also super badass and cool, because it introduced me to an awesome band that MTV ignored, for the most part.

Kurt’s suggestions

Had to stop and wipe away tears for a second, sorry.

Kurt talked about other bands he liked in interviews, as well as liner notes of albums. He never came across as a rock star, he was just a dude that liked listening to and playing music. The Vaselines were another of Kurt’s favorite bands, and like the Meat Puppets, they became one of my favorite bands too.

And I don’t know if I should keep writing this, because it’s sort of an angry reaction to the film “Montage Of Heck” that I finally watched a few days ago (August 7, 2022) about 7 years after it was released.

Out of all the Nirvana documentaries I have seen, I hate “Montage Of Heck” the least. I hate it less than the others because it’s more about Kurt and Nirvana’s music, and less about trying to point fingers at Courtney Love and blame her for his death.

But I still hate it, and I don’t recommend it. What I recommend is that if you’re interested in Nirvana’s music, you should listen to Nirvana’s music. Because their music kicked ass.

And it makes me sad, really, that nowadays kids (and/or adults) who are learning guitar are more likely to see documentaries about Nirvana, as opposed to watching them play on TV and trying to play along at home.

During “Montage Of Heck,” there’s an old interview with Nirvana where the interviewer asks the band to explain what their music means, and I think all 3 band members basically replied that it means different things to different people, and that’s fine. They suggested that people just listen to the music and react to the music, instead of sticking a camera in their face and asking them questions about it.

There are multiple times when Kurt (and others) express their distaste for rock journalists. And it wasn’t just because those journalists were writing about unpleasant things in Kurt’s personal life. Kurt and the rest of them disliked getting praise heaped upon them, calling them rock stars or the “voice of a generation” and all that bullshit.

Nirvana – whether you like their music or not (and it does not matter one iota to me if you don’t) – were anti-bullshit.

And that’s why I am writing this. Because “Montage Of Heck” misses some fairly obvious “truths” about Kurt as well as Nirvana, and in the spirit of Kurt and Nirvana’s zero-bullshit approach to everything, as a huge fan of the band, I feel I would be letting them down by not pointing this stuff out. Even though what I am about to write isn’t all glowing praise.

I want to make something clear about these “4 Ignoble Truths” I am about to lay out here: they are not meant to be a stain on Kurt Cobain’s legacy, or on Nirvana’s legacy.

All the bullshit documentaries are a way bigger stain on that than this little blog post could ever be, in my opinion. If there’s ever another Nirvana documentary, it should be concert footage, with maybe a backstage interview or two.

Leave all the other bullshit out, including computer animated comic strips of scribbles stolen from a dead man’s private journals.

Anyway, the reason I decided to call this post “4 Ignoble Truths” is because (as you may or may not know), “Nirvana” is a term borrowed from Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Here’s the definition of “nirvana” that Google just gave me, when I searched for “nirvana definition”:




(in Buddhism) a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.

I don’t think Kurt was a Buddhist. I’m not one either. But I would be lying if I said Buddhist philosophy has had no impact on my life, because honestly the effect has been pretty profound.

But getting back to the point, if Kurt had any sort of philosophical reasons for naming his band Nirvana, I think it might have been because (at least when the band was first getting started), he felt that transcendence when he was playing music, and all of the other bad stuff in his life was gone while he was playing music.

For him, playing music produced a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and all sorts of good stuff like that.

Or maybe not. It’s a cool name for a band, whether there was any thought put into it or not.

But since “nirvana” is a Buddhist term, and since there are “4 Noble Truths” of Buddhism, “4 Ignoble Truths” seemed like a good enough way to frame this blog post.

Here are the 4 Noble Truths, simplified somewhat:

1. The truth of suffering (all beings suffer)
2. The truth of the origin of suffering (there is a reason all beings suffer)
3. The truth of the end of suffering
4. The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

For Kurt, I think that maybe music was the path that led away from suffering. But that’s just me shooting off at the mouth.

On with the show:


1. Kurt Cobain’s infamous stomach problems were a direct result of heroin use.

The first song I ever learned to play on guitar was “Pennyroyal Tea.” The chorus of it goes:

I sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea
Distill the life that’s inside of me

And so on. Back when I was 14 or 15, sitting in the living room, watching Nirvana play this song on the VHS tapes I recorded from MTV, trying to match my fretting hand to what Kurt was doing, comparing differences between what he was doing and what was in the Unplugged tab book, as well as differences between the Unplugged tab book and the In Utero tab book, I got to wondering what the hell “Pennyroyal Tea” even was.

And maybe I read this in Rolling Stone or Guitar World or something like that, or maybe I looked it up on the internet at school (the internet not being nearly as ubiquitous back then as it is now), but somewhere I read or heard Kurt say that Pennyroyal Tea was something he drank to deal with the stomach problems he had basically all the time.

I remember reading about this back then, also: Kurt went to see all kinds of doctors about his stomach problems, and none of them ever found anything other than minor irritation in his stomach.

This was mentioned in “Montage Of Heck” as well.

And I’m not speaking from direct experience here, but I myself have personally witnessed healthy adults – for whom an alcohol hangover is no big deal – knocked on their asses, calling in sick to work with stomach problems after doing tiny amounts of recreational opiates.

Opiates cause stomach problems. Every doctor knows this, every opiate addict knows this, everyone who has seen the movie “Trainspotting” knows this.

The fact that opiates cause stomach problems is, for all intents and purposes, common knowledge.

But in the case of Kurt Cobain, every journalist and documentarian (and fan) in the damn world seems to have forgotten this.

When Kurt said things like “I started taking heroin, because it’s the only thing that cured my stomach problems,” there’s some sort of collective blindness that prevents basically everyone from recognizing that the heroin was CAUSING the stomach problems.

Doctors couldn’t find ANYTHING wrong with his stomach, other than mild irritation.

And here we have to ask ourselves: did Kurt suffer from some unknown, never-before-seen and totally unique stomach condition?

Or was his stomach condition the same pain and discomfort every single opiate addict EVER has felt?

Which is the more likely explanation?

If it sounds like I am trying to demonize Kurt for being addicted to heroin, I am most certainly not.

I am just calling “bullshit” on the idea that his stomach problems were unique in any way, because they weren’t. They were a direct result of his heroin use, and maybe on some level he knew that, and maybe on some level everybody else has always known that.

But they don’t talk about it in documentaries, and I have never seen anyone in any interview about him say that.

Addiction is a disease, not only because it physically ruins a person’s body over time. It’s also a mental disease, because it causes the victim to assign blame for every negative outcome to everything (and everyone) except the addiction.

Kurt took heroin and had stomach pains afterward. Then he took some more heroin and the stomach pain went away temporarily.

But he never made the connection that heroin was the reason he had stomach pain to begin with.

At some point in “Montage Of Heck,” an interviewer even asks Kurt whether the stomach problems helped inspire his music and art, and he said that it probably did.

And if that isn’t denial, I don’t know what denial would look like.

In “Montage Of Heck,” Kurt’s former girlfriend Tracy Marander talks about how she had heard that Kurt had started using heroin while they were still together, but that he hid it from her initially.

And incidentally, it was around this time when he started having stomach problems. Anyway, this is a good enough time as any to move on to Ignoble Truth #2:

2. Kurt Cobain exploited women.

Get mad.

No, really, get mad.

After you get mad at me for saying this about Kurt, somebody who created music that you and I both love and have strong emotional attachments to, watch “Montage Of Heck” again.

Pay extra close attention to the part where he goes over to the mentally challenged girl’s house and has sex with her.

Notice how when he’s talking about his friends that went to her house to steal liquor, they’re all presented as bad guys, and he was just along for the ride.

But then, when he goes over there alone and has sex with her, he never feels guilty about it at all, at least not in what he wrote about it in private journals.

In those journals, he talks about being made fun of at school for it. He talks about how he was the victim, not her.

If you’re still able to watch that shit without throwing up, find the part where his former girlfriend Tracy Marander talks about how she supported him completely for quite some time, while he sat around playing his guitar and/or painting.

I understand, more than you will ever know: if you don’t have time to create, you can’t create. And sure, the world owes Tracy Marander a debt of gratitude for being Kurt’s patron/girlfriend, while he wrote songs and got his band together.

But the world also needs to remember that Kurt ditched her like she was a used Kleenex when he found somebody he liked better. With no remorse or regret.

While Kurt was drawing “Mr. Moustache” in his notebook, talking about how overly masculine “jock”-type men were teaching boys how to exploit women, he was himself actively exploiting Tracy Marander. Mr. Moustache taught him quite well.

It’s not pleasant to think about, but there it is.

Incidentally, around the time Kurt broke up with Tracy, he also fired Chad Channing, Nirvana’s drummer on their first album “Bleach.”

Which brings me to Ignoble Truth #3:

3. Dave Grohl is the reason Nirvana made it big.

For the record, I don’t think Dave Grohl would ever say that, or even necessarily think it.

But without his aggressive and complex drumming, “Nevermind” would not have happened.

Don’t believe me? Listen to “In Bloom.”

If you’ve never played with a drummer (or a drum machine, for that matter), you might not know this, but when there’s a beat being played, musical ideas occur to you that you would never have had without the beat.

To be clear: I am not a rock star, or even an especially good guitarist. But I have had the privilege of playing with some pretty talented drummers here and there in my life, and I can only describe the experience as transcendent.

The drummer starts playing a beat, your body starts to involuntarily twitch around and move because of the beat, and you find places to put notes and chords that sound amazing, even if what you’re playing on guitar (or bass) doesn’t amount to much.

But you find that sweet spot to strum a chord, and that makes the drummer add something else too. And then you find something else simple to add because of what they just added, and then they add something else, and the next thing you know you’re playing the coolest shit you’ve ever played in your life, even though it’s just a chord or two.

Listen to “In Bloom.” Without Dave Grohl, that song would sound like shit. I would go as far as to say that without Dave Grohl, that song would not have ever been written.

And as I mentioned, I don’t think Dave would ever try to claim that he was the reason for Nirvana’s commercial breakthrough.

But I am here to tell you: he absolutely was the reason they made it big. Just like John Bonham was the reason Led Zeppelin made it big, just like Neil Peart was the reason Rush made it big, just like Danny Carey was the reason Tool made it big, the list goes on and on.

People who don’t actually play music – like many of the rock journalists Nirvana hated – always look at the guy who’s singing and give him all the credit. But I am here to tell you: without a solid drummer, your favorite rock band would suck ass.

And that includes Nirvana. Dave Grohl’s drumming took them from playing shitty underground clubs to playing stadiums. Like it or not, it’s the truth.

And finally, Ignoble Truth #4

4. Courtney Love is not responsible for Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

“Montage Of Heck” doesn’t say that she was, to be fair to that documentary, which like I said I hate the least out of all of the Nirvana documentaries I have seen.

But the last thing that’s talked about is how Courtney almost cheated on Kurt in Rome, right before he swallowed a bunch of Rohypnol and almost died.

“Montage Of Heck” just told what happened, from Courtney’s point of view. Unlike at least a couple documentaries that accuse her of actually murdering him, or hiring somebody to.

And I hate those documentaries way more than “Montage Of Heck,” because they’re all based on bullshit.

And the time in Rome, when Kurt couldn’t get any heroin and got mad at Courtney for talking to some other guy (or whatever “almost cheated on him” means), that wasn’t the first time Kurt tried to kill himself.

In fact, “Montage Of Heck” tells about once when Kurt got good and stoned and sat on the train tracks near his house, hoping a train would hit him. And the only reason the train didn’t hit him is because it was on the next track over from where Kurt was sitting.

There were two train tracks laid out side by side. Kurt sat on one, hoping to get hit, and the next train that went through there was on the other track.

Which means, the only reason Nirvana ever existed is because Kurt Cobain, as a teenager, sat on the wrong train track for his suicide attempt.

So don’t try and tell me Courtney Love hired somebody to stage his suicide. Don’t try to tell me she was faking, when she was squalling on MTV reading his suicide note.

She wasn’t faking, and she didn’t have him killed.

He killed himself. He had tried to do it multiple times before.

Look, I get it. You don’t want to believe that somebody you admire disliked themselves enough to stick a shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger.

Nobody wants to believe it, when that sort of thing happens.

But it happens all the time. People get so mixed up emotionally that the only way they see out is death.

And if you or someone you know feels that way, you should know that you’re not alone. There are people who can help you start seeing things more clearly.

There’s a number you can call: 988.

Here’s an NPR story about it.


If you’re struggling, just remember, you can make your life better if you try. And there are people on call all the time, ready to help you remember how to be happy again.

To sum up, I am and always will be a die-hard Nirvana fan. For my money, there has never been a more kickass band, before or since.

But as Aunt Esther always said, “The truth will set you free.”

Here’s to being free. 🙂