Friday, March 28, 2008

Las Vegas 2008

This shall be a regular blog entry (first in a couple weeks) but for those who don't care to indulge my over-writing ... here's the trip in five words: "wheelchair, ATM card suspended, propositioned."

The 2008 Spring Break Trip to Las Vegas began Easter Sunday with a quick stop at the ATM for a couple hundred bucks and relatively good karma—hardly any traffic except for an asshole who weaved through the two-lane section of I-15 at 90-plus mph. In a potentially tragic sense of karma, a few miles after he passed me I saw a car flipped off the side of the road. I'm not positive it was the weaver, but I'm about 80 percent sure.

First stop: Primm, Nevada. This town just over the Nevada border has become a must-stop for me either as the I-can't-wait-to-get-to-Vegas gambling stop or the I-have-to-play-just-a-few-more-hands-before-going-home gambling stop. Coming into this trip I had never lost at Buffalo Bill's. One of the benefits to playing blackjack here while driving to Vegas is that I am often picking up someone at McCarran Airport so I have a set time allocated for gambling. Helps me have the discipline to get up from a hot table while I'm still up. Or in this case for the first time, leave a cold table before I get into too big of a hole. I lost $40 in about 40 minutes. Of course at one point I was up about $20 (after about 10 minutes) but as is always the case, money you hand back to the casino does NOT count.

Fortunately, I've gotta get to the airport so I leave, even though my wallet is magnetically drawing my hand toward my ass to grab another $20 and make back my losses. This would be virtually the only time I had enough sense to ignore my ass-magnet.

After a two-wrong-turns airport pickup and 4 p.m. stop at Wendy's for Bill and Andy to get a late lunch (I PASS ON LUNCH HAVING EATEN AT 1:30 p.m.), we get to the Stratosphere Hotel, which is located on north end of the Las Vegas Boulevard. This is kind of a dead spot on the strip far away from the Pirates of the Carribbean shit and Rock n Roll grunge tip.

We immediately get to gambling. The Strat has a few $5 blackjack tables, which are perfect for our group of two teachers and one non-profit employee. We find a table for all of us and I get $60 in chips. I start off exchanging wins and losses with the dealer.

"Cocktails?" the waitress asks.

"I'll have a Glenfiddich, neat."

"What's that?" she asks. Not a good sign.

"That's a single malt scotch," I reply.

"Yeah, we don't have that. We have Dewar's, Johnnie Walker Red," she says naming off the blended whiskeys.

"Johnnie Walker is fine," I say, just wanting to start getting my free drink on. For probably the only time on the trip, the service is prompt and I start downing these things. The only thing evaporating faster than the whiskey, which is being served as doubles practically, is my money. I was down a C-note in about 45 minutes?

Then it's off to play some Paigow Poker — this is a game of two-handed poker with seven cards. Bottom line, most bets are pushes so you can play for a long time without losing too much money even when things are going badly. Theoretically for the sober at least.

Things aren't going great with the cards here either. I am quickly at the ATM for another couple hundred. And then I settle into a routine of drinking a lot, winning and losing and still having a very Vegasy time, as far as I can remember.

The rest of this story has been told to me ...

I keep drinking and drinking getting up to about 8-9 virtually double shots of whiskey in about two hours. At one point I push all my chips to the betting circle, while wearing a goofy grin that's a combination of confused and mischievous. Bill and Andy don't know what to do with me. The dealer assures them though that she's been taking care of me by watching how I play. She was great, even changing a hand for me (back when I was sober) so that I won (with her pit boss's permission of course).

After a bit more playing Bill and Andy decide they've had enough of the Strat and want to hit some other parts of the strip further south. Bill changes my remaining chips ($75) for cash because I'm not feeling up to conducting that simple transaction. In retrospect Bill and Andy realize that this was probably a strong sign that they should have taken me up to the hotel room for the night, even though it was only like 9:30ish.

Instead Bill, who has known me since college and seen it all, assures Andy that I'll "rally" and they stuff me in a cab with them. I immediately start feeling sick in the cab. I'm not sure how sick, b/c of the blacking out I'm writing about through conveying others' story, but sick enough that I'm a puke-threat. Immediately after getting out at the Mirage (I think), they know that they gotta get me back to the hotel.

Andy immediately goes off to get another cab. Cabbie No. 2 is hesitant to put me in his cab. After some assurances from us all, including me yelling "I'm not gonna fucking puke in the cab," we get in. He also says that "if he pukes, he pays" just to be clear. Somehow I manage not to puke, but then again I hardly ever puke. Once we get back the Strat, they get me out of the cab but I collapse onto the sidewalk and I will NOT move.

Fortunately, this is Vegas. A uniformed security guard comes out with a wheelchair and they get me in. He tells Bill and Andy that they see this pretty much every night. I am taken back to the room and Bill takes off my shoes, Andy pours water on my burning up head and I am done for the night by 10:30ish.

I wake up the next morning at 7:30 pretty much fine except feeling a little cobwebby in the head and extremely dehydrated. But honestly, so less hungover than I deserve. Bill and Andy wake up briefly enough to recount the previous night's events. And express their admiration/anger at my non-hungoverness.

Day two was really tame, except that I kept getting killed at the tables, leading me to another $200 withdrawal from an ATM. That's three in two days, two of which are not in my city of residence. I get a call from my bank the next morning telling me that they've noticed irregular activity with my debit card and want to verify the transactions. I later learn that my card had been suspended until I cleared these withdrawals.

Day three was detox day. We rode the Big Shot at the top of the Stratosphere Tower. Basically, the tower has a large round observation/restaurant/thrill ride area, like the CN Tower or Space Needle. But the Strat's big antenna type thing is a four-sided tower that has the scariest ride I've ever been on. There are four seats on each side of the square. And basically they lock you into the chair, which has no bottom so your legs dangle and then rocket you up the tower so that you feel as though you'll shoot off and out into the air and then fall about 900 feet to your death. I've ridden this before so thought I remembered what to expect—the worst thing seemed to be the waiting for it all to happen.

Not so this time ... this time it was the peak of the ascent, when you feel weightless and a weird silence came over me or perhaps the ride's motor was still or something, b/c I couldn't hear anything at that instant so combined with the view of the city from 900 feet up, I felt like I was a goner for that instant. And then there was the descent which felt like I was about to become Wile E. Coyote and plummet to the Earth and flatten, only to be "caught" by the ride and shot back up to terrifying weightlessness and then descend to bone-chilling fears of flattening. After about 1 minute it's over. And I have to pry my fingers free from the steel harness.

But that wasn't the worst ride. The newer X-scream prays on the most primal of fears. In this ride, which we didn't have the balls to try utimately, you get in a fairly standard looking rollercoast type train (though shorter) and slide down a track over the edge of the Strat's upper structure. At the farthest point, you're extended well over the edge and just staring down at the street. While we were watching this and I am honestly sick to my stomach thinking about it, a guy turns to us and says that his friend who is a welder said that he'd never ride stuff like this. I'm sure his granddaughter/daugher who was riding was glad not to hear that. Her leg was already thundering in its shaking. The best part, like the Big Shot, this ride is lather, rinse, repeat.

After that we decided we needed another fixed cost, but non-sensory-overload experience and we went to Red Rock National Park. It's gorgeous, about 20 miles outside the city and a great way to have smoke-free air and escape the ambient noise, which is Las Vegas.

That night I lose another $100, but then finally win a whopping $27!! And oh yeah, one last story.

We're walking through the Excalibur (medieval themed, family friendly casino on the strip. it has a HUUUGE arcade in the basement which is filled with dad's trying to buy the giant stuffed animals from the carnival game operators) when a woman with bleached-blonde hair and dark roots about 32 and pretty approaches us (three dudes together).

"What are you guys up to tonight?" asks the woman with the huge rhinestone-encrusted beltbuckle in the shape of the letter G. That things a giveaway.

Not much we reply, just looking for a good time.

"Where are you guys from?" whether it's gangbangers in Los Angeles or an attractive woman alone approaching three dudes in a casino in Vegas, this is not a good question.

Portland and Los Angeles we answer. Bill asks her where she's from to extend the courtesy.

"I'm from Vegas."

"Well," Bill replies, "you don't ususally see a lot of locals at the Excalibur."

She raises her left arm to look at her watch, "I'm kinda on the clock."

And there's the confirmation of a prostitute. We politely decline, though wish her well. Afterward we wonder whether she's a cop. I mean why would a pro be at the Excalibur which is so family-friendly. And be soooo forward? Doesn't seem smart. Prostitution is not legal in LV, just in Nevada outside of LV. Granted it happens constantly, but still they at least pretend to be against the outright solicitation so that johns and prostitutes have to pretend to be using escort services.

So that was my trip to Vegas, more or less.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I have a random question for you

One of my students sent that in an IM to me last night. In my head, I was pretty psyched, since random questions are often the most fun.

"Of course," I replied.

She ended up asking if I'd make a mixtape for her. Answer there is obvious. I find myself extremely excited by this challenge. I'm not sure what songs I'm going to choose. My gut right now is telling me to go with a mix of songs of my high school life and college life primarily—Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Spirit of the West, older Sarah McLachlan, Single Gun Theory, Curve, Belly, The Tragically Hip, The Sundays, Black 47, Juliana Hatfield, The Cranberries, 10,000 Maniacs. Most of my students know the adult me, but as I'm always trying to tell them to chill I think that they should get to know the Type A me who took a Tums almost every night in high school. I think I need to shut down the computer soon, or I'm going to start it now.

Today was a good day for music a former student and I got to talking about what makes the way you listen to music as a teen different than other times in your life.

As an adult I listen to music prepared to have reservations and in some ways fighting the urge to be the so-cool-he-dislikes-it-first guy. I also am less willing to unapologetically love a CD. For some reason I think I've felt a need to appear more intellectual with how I evaluate songs and albums. When I was younger, I felt like these songs, like Nightswimming by R.E.M. and All I Want Is You by U2, were written for me and now I rarely feel that way. But Rilo Kiley and Stars and to some extent Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes have resurrected that.

So on that note raising a glass to now ...

To the past ...

And to the future ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Math is great,1,5861820.story
From the Los Angeles Times

At L.A. school, Singapore math has added value

By Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 9, 2008

Here's a little math problem:

In 2005, just 45% of the fifth-graders at Ramona Elementary School in Hollywood scored at grade level on a standardized state test. In 2006, that figure rose to 76%. What was the difference?

If you answered 31 percentage points, you are correct. You could also express it as a 69% increase.

But there is another, more intriguing answer: The difference between the two years may have been Singapore math.

At the start of the 2005-06 school year, Ramona began using textbooks developed for use in Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state whose pupils consistently rank No. 1 in international math comparisons. Ramona's math scores soared.

"It's wonderful," said Principal Susan Arcaris. "Seven out of 10 of the students in our school are proficient or better in math, and that's pretty startling when you consider that this is an inner-city, Title 1 school."

Ramona easily qualifies for federal Title 1 funds, which are intended to alleviate the effects of poverty. Nine of every 10 students at the school are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. For the most part, these are the children of immigrants, the majority from Central America, some from Armenia. Nearly six in 10 students speak English as a second language.

Yet here they are, outpacing their counterparts in more affluent schools and succeeding in a math curriculum designed for students who are the very stereotype of Asian dominance in math and science.

How did that happen?

It's a question with potentially big implications, because California recently became the first state to include the Singapore series on its list of state-approved elementary math texts. Public schools aren't required to use the books -- there are a number of other, more conventional texts on the state list -- but the state will subsidize the purchase if they do. And being on the list puts an important imprimatur on the books, because California is by far the largest, most influential textbook buyer in the country.

The decision to approve the books could place California ahead of the national curve. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel, appointed by President Bush, will issue a report Thursday that is expected to endorse K-8 math reforms that, in many ways, mirror the Singapore curriculum.

The report could also signal a cease-fire in the state's math wars, which raged between traditionalists and reformers throughout the 1990s and shook up math teachers nationwide. Fundamentalists called for a return to basics; reformers demanded a curriculum that would emphasize conceptual understanding.

Mathematicians on both sides of the divide say the Singapore curriculum teaches both. By hammering on the basics, it instills a deep understanding of key concepts, they say.

Kids -- at least the kids at Ramona -- seem to love it.

Ramona, which received a grant to introduce the Singapore curriculum, is one of a sprinkling of schools around the country to do so.

Not all teachers like it, and not all use it. The Singapore books aren't easy for teachers to use without training, and some veterans are more comfortable with the curriculum they have always followed. But you can tell when you walk into a classroom using Singapore math.

"On your mark . . . get set . . . THINK!"

First-grade teacher Arpie Liparian stands in front of her class with a stopwatch. The only sound is of pencils scratching paper as the students race through the daily "sprint," a 60-second drill that is a key part of the Singapore system. The problems at this age are simple: 2+3, 3+4, 8+2. The idea, once commonplace in math classrooms, is to practice them until they become second nature.

Critics call this "drill and kill," but Ramona's math coach, Robin Ramos, calls it "drill and thrill." The children act as though it's a game. Not everyone finishes all 30 problems in 60 seconds, and only one girl gets all the answers right, but the students are bubbling with excitement. And Liparian praises every effort.

"Give yourselves a hand, boys and girls," she says when all the drills have been corrected. "You did a wonderful job."

Reinforcing patterns

What isn't obvious to a casual observer is that this drill is carefully thought out to reinforce patterns of mathematical thinking that carry through the curriculum. "These are 'procedures with connections,' " Ramos said, arranged to convey sometimes subtle points. This thoughtfulness -- some say brilliance -- is the true hallmark of the Singapore books, advocates say.

After 10 years of studying the Singapore curriculum, Yoram Sagher, a math professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he still has "very pleasant surprises and realizations" while reading the books. Sagher, who helped train Ramos and the other teachers at Ramona, said he is constantly amazed by "the gentle, clever ways that the mathematics is brought to the intuition of the students."

The books, with the no-nonsense title "Primary Mathematics," are published for the U.S. market by a small company in Oregon, Marshall Cavendish International. They are slim volumes, weighing a fraction of a conventional American text. They have a spare, stripped-down look, and a given page contains no material that isn't directly related to the lesson at hand.

Standing in an empty classroom one recent morning, Ramos flipped through two sets of texts: the Singapore books and those of a conventional math series published by Harcourt. She began with the first lesson in the first chapter of first grade.

In Harcourt Math, there was a picture of eight trees. There were two circles in the sky. The instructions told the students: "There are 2 birds in all." There were no birds on the page.

The instructions directed the students to draw little yellow disks in the circles to represent the birds.

Ramos gave a look of exasperation. Without a visual representation of birds, she said, the math is confusing and overly abstract for a 5- or 6-year-old. "The math doesn't jump out of the page here," she said.

The Singapore first-grade text, by contrast, could hardly have been clearer. It began with a blank rectangle and the number and word for "zero." Below that was a rectangle with a single robot in it, and the number and word for "one." Then a rectangle with two dolls, and the number and word for "two," and so on.

"This page is very pictorial, but it refers to something very concrete," Ramos said. "Something they can understand."

Next to the pictures were dots. Beginning with the number six (represented by six pineapples), the dots were arranged in two rows, so that six was presented as one row of five dots and a second row with one dot.

Day one, first grade: the beginnings of set theory.

"This concept, right at the beginning, is the foundation for very important mathematics," Ramos said. As it progresses, the Singapore math builds on this, often in ways that are invisible to the children.

Word problems in the early grades are always solved the same way: Draw a picture representing the problem and its solution. Then express it with numbers, and finally write it in words. "The whole concept," Ramos says, "is concrete to pictorial to abstract."

Another hallmark of the Singapore books is that there is little repetition. Students are expected to attain mastery of a concept and move on. Each concept builds upon the next. As a result, the books cover far fewer topics in a given year than standard American texts.

Skilled at math

Singapore is a prosperous, multicultural, multilingual nation of 4.5 million people whose fourth- and eighth-grade students have never scored lower than No. 1 in a widely accepted comparison of global math skills, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. U.S. students score in the middle of the pack.

When the U.S. Department of Education commissioned a study in 2005 to find out why, it concluded, in part: "Singapore's textbooks build deep understanding of mathematical concepts through multi-step problems and concrete illustrations that demonstrate how abstract mathematical concepts are used to solve problems from different perspectives."

By contrast, the study said, "traditional U.S. textbooks rarely get beyond definitions and formulas, developing only students' mechanical ability to apply mathematical concepts."

Many eminent mathematicians agree. In fact, it is difficult to find a mathematician who likes the standard American texts or dislikes Singapore's.

"The Singapore texts don't make a huge deal about the concepts, but they present them in the correct and economical form," said Roger Howe, a professor of mathematics at Yale University. "It provides the basis for a very orderly and systematic conceptual understanding of arithmetic and mathematics."

The Singapore curriculum is not strikingly different from that used in many countries known for their math prowess, especially in Asia and Eastern Europe, math educators say. According to James Milgram, a math professor at Stanford who is one of the authors of California's math standards, the Singapore system has its roots in math curricula developed in the former Soviet Union, whose success in math and science sent shivers through American policymakers during the Cold War.

The Soviets, Milgram said, brought together mathematicians and developmental psychologists to devise the best way to teach math to children. They did "exactly what I would have done had I been given free rein to design the math standards in California. They cut the thing down to its core."

The Soviet curriculum was adopted by China in the mid-1950s, he said, and later made its way to Singapore, where it was rewritten and refined. The Singapore texts could easily be adapted for use in the United States because children there are taught in English.

"American textbooks are handicapped by many things," said Hung-Hsi Wu, who has taught math at UC Berkeley for 42 years, "the most important of which is to regard mathematics as a collection of factoids to be memorized."

One might think that school districts would be lining up to get their hands on the Singapore texts, but no one expects many to take the plunge this fall.

"Maybe in seven or eight years, but not yet," said Wu. For now, he said he'd be surprised if the Singapore books claim 10% of the market.

In part, that may reflect the inherent conservatism of the education establishment, especially in large districts such as Los Angeles Unified, whose math curriculum specialists said in December, a month after the Singapore texts were adopted by the state, that they hadn't even heard of them -- or of the successful experiment taking place in one of their own schools.

But there is also an understandable reluctance to rush into a new curriculum before teachers are trained to use it. Complicating that, experts said, is that most American elementary school teachers -- reflecting a generally math-phobic society -- lack a strong foundation in the subject to begin with.

The Singapore curriculum "requires a considerable amount of math background on the part of the teachers who are teaching it," said Milgram, "and in the elementary grades, most of our teachers aren't capable of teaching it. . . . It isn't that they can't learn it; it's just that they've never seen it."

Training is key

Adding to the difficulty is that the Singapore texts are not as teacher-friendly as most American texts. "They don't come with teachers editions, or two-page fold-outs with comments, or step-by-step instructions about how to give the lessons," said Yale's Howe. "Most U.S. elementary teachers don't currently have that kind of understanding, so successful use of the Singapore books would require substantial professional development."

Although some U.S. schools have had spectacular results using Singapore texts, others have fared less well. A study found that success in Montgomery County, Md., schools using the Singapore books was directly related to teacher training. At schools where teachers weren't trained as well, student achievement declined.

Sagher, the Illinois professor, said that he would love to see Ramona Elementary become a training ground for L.A. Unified teachers and that Singapore math could radiate out from its Hollywood beachhead. Districtwide, only 43% of fifth-graders last year scored at grade level or above in math, 33 points below Ramona students. "If LAUSD is smart enough to do it, it will be a revolution," he said.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Speak truth to power

This Washington Post blog post awards the Pinnochio Awards for 2007 to the liars, obfuscators, deceivers, prevaricators, cheaters, shaders, overnuancers, non- denier-deniers, halftruthers, assumers, faulty premisers, myth-perpetuators, et al.

As an atheist and Constitutionalist this is my favorite (and it's coincidental that it's from the presumptive Republican candidate for President):

  1. "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."
    --John McCain interview with, September 2007.

    A number of Republican candidates have made erroneous statements about the Christian underpinnings of America. According to Mike Huckabee, most of the Founding Fathers were clergymen. Duncan Hunter repeated an old myth about the personal prayer book of George Washington. But McCain's statement seemed the most egregious. Anyone who wants to be president should be intimately familiar with the constitution. Article Six states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A bad record

I recently decided that fewer, but better, blog posts would be a good thing. And not like once every 10 days, but more like aiming for twice a week (rather than four times) could make this a better-written blog. And since aside from me, this blog doesn't hold much "interestingness" I at least want it to be decently written.

However, that doesn't explain my dearth of posts lately. That's laziness and stupidness (I stay up too late playing Tiger Woods 08 for the Wii). But in the meantime, here's an amazing article that ran in the Los Angeles Times this weekend about how members of hair metal bands keep fighting for their slice of the band's name.,0,7844401.story


Battle of the bands

The hair-metal heyday is long gone, but the fight for ownership of the groups' names (and the nostalgia-tour money to be made) goes on.

By Neil Shah
Special to The Times

March 2, 2008

STEVE RILEY is a survivor. At 51, he still plays the drums for L.A. Guns, a biker-themed hair-metal band famous mostly for once featuring Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose. Riley and first mate Phil Lewis, who sang L.A. Guns' only Top 40 hit, "The Ballad of Jayne," toured Australia last fall before joining Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil for a show in St. Paul, Minn.

But Riley and Lewis are finding life on the exurban nightclub scene harder these days. Promoters want them to play for less. That's because lately there have been not one but two L.A. Guns bands milking the nostalgia circuit -- locked in a mutually destructive price war and consequently dueling, like a growing number of their shred-ready brethren, over the band's name.

Guitarist Tracii Guns, who formed the band in 1982 and was the original "Guns" in Guns N' Roses, says his crew is the real deal since it includes one of the band's earliest singers, Paul Black. "Phil and Steve were not even the original members of the band," Tracii wrote in an online post after declining to be interviewed for this article. "Now they . . . say that I am not the 'real' version of L.A. Guns?"

The standoff persists because Guns and Riley each own 50% of the L.A. Guns name. Riley discovered in the mid-'90s that their manager had never secured the rights to "L.A. Guns." With the other founding members gone, Guns and Riley trademarked the name together.

But Riley says the guitarist forfeited the name when he left the band in 2002 to work with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. At the time, L.A. Guns was close to securing a tour with Alice Cooper, but still supporting lesser acts such as Warrant and Firehouse, which irked Guns. The band urged him to stay.

"We said, 'We got bills and families, we have to take jobs like this,' " recalls Riley, whose son is now 16. "He looked us right in the eye and said, 'I don't [care] about you or your families.'

"He shot us down completely."

It's the same old song sung in recent decades by members or affiliates of such early rock and R&B acts as the Drifters, the Platters, the Temptations, the Doors and the Byrds, a mournful tune that's been showing up with increasing frequency in the repertoires of the hair-metal bands of the 1980s.

Taime Downe faced a coup similar to that of L.A. Guns last year, but -- unlike his friend Tracii Guns -- he prevailed. Downe, who made a name for himself as the leader of late-'80s sleaze-rock group Faster Pussycat, sicced his lawyers on fellow founder Brent Muscat after the guitarist started touring as Faster Pussycat without him.

Without Downe's knowledge, Muscat had trademarked the name in 2002, after it had lapsed, Downe says. Threatened with a lawsuit, Muscat settled out of court last summer. (He could not be reached for comment.)

Downe says because of the dispute he had to put off 60 or 70 potential shows in the U.S., Europe and Japan, at $3,000 to $5,000 a pop.

Downe, 43, says he rejected an overture from Muscat to share the band's name. "It's my company. Someone from Starbucks is not going to go out and form another company called Starbucks."

When Downe won, Muscat, booked for last summer's four-day Rocklahoma hair-metal festival in Pryor, Okla., was booted from the bill. By the time Rocklahoma rolled around in July, his version of the band had folded.

It's a jungle out there

FASTER Pussycat and L.A. Guns aren't alone. Key members of White Lion have jousted for years, as have the guys in Welsh glam-band Tigertailz. England's Saxon, part of the new wave of British heavy metal in the early '80s, still has a doppelgänger. Even Ratt has been plural at one point.

So why all the fuss over band names?

Cold, hard cash, obviously. But these groups' bizarro melodramas also take something else for granted: the enduring power and profitability of the "brands" the music industry created for them back in the '80s and early '90s."I don't think [the hair bands] could do it otherwise," says Mark Strigl, co-host of "Talking Metal," a popular pod-cast and new fuse TV show. "They're still riding off that initial marketing push."

Indeed, many top-shelf acts are living on more than a prayer these days.

Poison and Cinderella grossed a healthy $6.3 million during their North American tour in 2006, selling almost 7,000 tickets per city on average, according to Pollstar editor-in-chief Gary Bongiovanni. "Of the top 200 touring acts [in 2006], they were 106," he says. "Right behind the Strokes."

Queensrÿche made more than $3 million that same year, finishing at No. 167 on the same list, while Styx raked in $5.6 million and came in at No. 113.

Rock 'n' roll feuds over names aren't new.

Early R&B heavyweights squabbled over names, usually after splintering into multiple versions of themselves. Flaps broke out over which members of the Byrds could use the name on tour. Mike Love is the only member of the Beach Boys legally permitted to use the group's name on the road. Roger Waters lost his battle with David Gilmour over which could call their latter-day groups Pink Floyd.

Like some of the early groups, hair-metal acts were often known by name more than by face, so it's hard to know what you're getting when you see a name on a club marquee.

But hair bands add a funnier (albeit, sometimes also sadder) twist to the story, since what's at stake is bubble-gum metal.

"There's never been another musical form like hair metal, that sold so much, and evaporated so fast," says Steven Blush in his 2006 book, "American Hair Metal."

For second-tier metal bands, there's enough cash out there (almost) to make a living, but not enough to warrant bringing in a bunch of expensive lawyers, who presumably could resolve the split ends.

"If you did a ton of coke back in the day and bought Lamborghinis, and [frittered] away every penny you made, and all of a sudden you're sitting there at 45, 50 years old, nowhere to turn, you certainly don't want to get a day job," says Eddie Trunk, a radio personality who hosted the Rocklahoma festival.

"You're going to put together some version of the only thing you ever knew," Trunk said. "That's all you know to survive."

It's a business

BUT rock's Dark Age also spawned stars who have been downright obsessed with making sure they don't spend their professional after-lives in legal limbo.

Consider Axl Rose. Most of the media coverage of Rose's comeback shows in 2006 was critical of his decision to call his band Guns N' Roses when it lacks prime-period members Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler.

Greed? Perhaps. But a more mundane explanation is that GNR is not just a rock band, it's a company, and Rose is its CEO.

In the mid-'90s, Rose pressured Slash and Duff, the two remaining GNR originals at the time, to sign a contract stating that Axl "would retain rights to the band name and was allowed to start a new band that he could call Guns N' Roses" if the band broke up, according to Slash's new autobiography, "Slash."

"I was naive about the whole thing," Slash writes in his book. "I didn't protect myself legally because I didn't think I had to. In my mind, what was the name without the players?"

Pop music and big business may be more obvious about their marriage of convenience these days, but rock bands are, and always were, just small businesses.

When a band signs a record contract, it often creates a limited liability company (LLC), divvying up cash from royalties, merchandise and touring based on specific percentages for each member.

Ideally, band members sit down and decide what happens to the name if various members leave.

But sometimes, that doesn't happen.

"I'm the kind of person who signs anything without ever looking through it," says Mike Tramp, the 47-year-old singer of White Lion, which recorded three albums for Atlantic Records before breaking up in 1991.

Donald Passman, an attorney and author of "All You Need to Know About the Music Business," has seen this movie a few times.

Passman says one of his cases lasted more than nine years and cost $1 million in legal fees. The band died over it. "Some bands don't have any agreements at all," he says. "They just start playing together, and everything's cool until it's not."

The few disputes consummated in court have revolved around who was more essential to the band's sound.

"If you go see a band you grew up listening to, whether it's Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath or anybody, the one main thing you really, really have to hear is that original vocalist," says Steve Riley, whose version of L.A. Guns performed at the Whisky in January.

Hair metal was never about innovation or art, let alone social commentary or politics, so why would it be about original members?

Quiet Riot was missing half its early '80s lineup when it performed last summer. Warrant's current front-man is not Jani Lane, but Jaime St. James, the former lead singer for C-list band Black N' Blue. Even '70s bands as big as Foreigner have outsourced most of their labor.

In a way, hair bands were always cover bands, an entire generation of rock musicians animated by the boyish dream of being Led Zeppelin or the Stones. What's more, many of these bands have always been revolving-door outfits: More than 30 people have cycled in and out of L.A. Guns over the years.

Perhaps today's culture of hair band "reunions" is something akin to what's happening with newer "collective" bands such as Canada's Broken Social Scene.

Both embrace the rock band for what it really is: an ever-shifting group of opportunistic individuals crystallized in our imagination as a fixed, organic whole.

A brand, in other words.

Battle tactics

TRACII GUNS and Steve Riley, though, are still doing the same old song and dance.

Riley's team has been trying to coax promoters into dropping Tracii from concert bills. Guns, who played West Hollywood's House of Blues in January with Skid Row (minus singer Sebastian Bach, of course), says he could quash Riley's band but won't.

Most of these bands, in the end, will always be smaller than their brands.

"There's a huge, huge misconception out there that this stuff is back," Oklahoma radio man Eddie Trunk says.

"The reality is this though: There is no pot of gold out there for these guys. They can all make their money, and they can all have some level of success, but the glory days of playing these arenas and stadiums is over."