Archive for May, 2011
Posted by Keith Spillett in Mr. Spillett's Academy Of Film Study For The Mentally Tormented, Pointyheaded Highbrow Stuff on May 30, 2011
Charlie Wilson’s War is a highly entertaining film. It is funny, fast-paced and extremely well acted. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is captivating as Gust Avrakoto, the cynical, highly skilled CIA agent who helps Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) finance a covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Apparently, you can make a good-natured, romantic comedy out of nearly anything nowadays.
The film sets out to make “Good Time” Charlie Wilson, the hard drinking, womanizing Democratic politician from Texas, out to be the greatest American hero since Abe Lincoln. Sure, he’s got some character flaws, but when it comes down to it he worked hard for the cause of freedom and democracy. Blah, blah, blah. I personally could care less about his love for whiskey, his multiple girlfriends, his cocaine use or whether he was a good juggler or not. His decisions as a Congressman are what disturb me. The halo simply does not fit.
Afghanistan was not Wilson’s first crusade. He spent much of the late 1970s championing the cause of Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza Debayle, Nicaraguan dictator and serial human rights abuser. Somoza’s reign of corruption was legendary. He was best known for stealing millions of dollars that were supposed to go the victims of the devastating 1972 Managua Earthquake. To Wilson, Somoza was not the evil bucket of slime that tortured and murdered just about anyone who disagreed with him publicly while robbing his country blind. Somoza was a great representative of America in the fight against communism. The dictators big mistake was to get drunk and attempt to make a move on Wilson’s girlfriend, Tina Simons. It was only at that point that Wilson decided that Somoza was, in fact, not a great representative of truth, justice and the American Way. This is not to say that Wilson was entirely awful. He was a very complex man who made some important contributions while in office. He also gave aid and comfort to a monster. The second part was apparently not significant enough to make the final cut of the movie (the book by George Crile does cover this in detail).
The movie focuses on Wilson’s role in arming the Afghan rebels against the Soviet Union. The film uses the familiar Russians=Evil theme that was quite popular in Cold War propaganda movies. At least in Red Dawn we saw the Russians doing something beyond killing innocent people for a few frames. The only Russians in this film are the ones shooting unarmed peasants from the sky or getting shot down by American supplied Stinger missiles.
It’s easy to find fault with what the hideous actions taken by the Russians in Afghanistan. The problem with how the Russians are portrayed in this film is two-fold. First of all, it is mindlessly simplistic and creates the idea that the war was an easily understood battle between good and evil. It was not. The second problem is that it supports the widely accepted narrative that the Russians were solely at fault for the war. In fact, evidence exists to the contrary. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter, has stated that the United States began arming the mujahedeen fighters, who were trying to overthrow the Soviet backed government, months before the Russian invasion. The goal, according to Brzezinski, was to “knowingly increase the probability” that the Soviets would invade. Can you imagine what the reaction of the United States would have been if the Russians were caught doing the same thing in Mexico? This is extremely significant because it clashes with the official story of how the war began. Through the lens of Brzezinski’s comments, Charlie Wilson was not simply helping out a group of people fighting to free themselves from the Soviets, but rather was continuing a pattern of expensive and wrongheaded U.S. intervention into sovereign nations that wreaked havoc across the world.
The film ends with a strange postscript. Wilson is recognized as a hero for getting weapons into the hands of the mujahedeen and helping to end Soviet dominance in the region. However, when he tries to get a million dollars in aid to the Afghans after the war he is rebuffed. A Wilson quote about us winning the war but messing up the endgame runs across the screen right before the credits. The message seems to be that it was totally justified to give over a billion of dollars to arm a group of Islamic radicals, but we should have built some schools. Are you kidding me? The largest covert war in American history is fine as long as we build a few schools at the end? As if throwing a few bucks into rebuilding the infrastructure of the country can somehow compensate for the untold damage that arming and training many future Taliban members caused.
The idea is reminiscent of some of the crackpot schemes hatched by Kennedy/Johnson advisor Walt Whitman Rostow. He was the guy who decided we could win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese by taking them off of their land and moving them to fancy, new, isolated towns called Strategic Hamlets. The Vietnamese didn’t want our makeshift Levittowns, they just wanted us to leave. The common thread in this logic is that United States intervention is justified as long as the people get something that we deem valuable out of it. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give a country is to leave them alone. Unfortunately, this message is entirely absent from Charlie Wilson’s War. It is replaced with the twisted idea that the U.S. can plant its flag anywhere it wants as long it brings “civilization” and modernity with it.
The second song on the record “Carnal Forge” is one of the more lyrically challenging songs I’ve encountered. When I first got a copy of the record, I sat there with a dictionary for an hour trying to figure out what on earth Carcass was talking about. Jeff Walker is known for having a remarkable vocabulary and this song proves it. Unless you scored in the top one percentile on your college boards, you are going to need help with a few of the words he uses. As a service to our readership with IQs below 160, I took the lyrics and clarified them a bit.
(A massacre that takes many different forms)
(A vulgar, disgusting display of death)
Sublime enmangling steelbath
(A glorious, destructive bath)
Of escheated atrocities
(Of things lost to the State through terrible acts)
Enigmatic longanimity of ruminent mass graves
(Quiet graves that show a mysterious ability to suffer without sound)
Meritorious victory, into body-bags now scraped…
(A great win worthy of recognition that is shown by a high body count)
(The authority and power of piles of dead bodies)
The dead regorged
(The dead shot out of their graves)
Osculatory majestic wrath
(A union of beautiful anger)
This carnal forge
(Human forms beaten and molded like a blacksmith working with metal)
Desensitized – to perspicuous horror
(No longer able to feel the awfulness of horror)
Dehumanized – fresh cannon fodder…
(Humans reduced to objects and killed on the battlefield)
(Something awful being praised for its greatness)
(An obvious massacre)
Dehumanized – cannon fodder
(Murder in a way that is clean and neat)
(Murder made holy)
Desensitized – to genocide
(No longer capable of feeling what is wrong with mass murder)
(Piles of dead bodies ruling over the land)
(Death shot upwards)
(Being drenched with blood)
(Bloodshed and death turned into something else)
In the cold, callous dignity of the mass grave…
(Respectful mass graves without feeling)
(Violence taking different forms and leading to a massacre)
Cruel, mendacious creed
(Evil, lying system of belief)
Sublime, murderous bloodbath
Of fiscal atrocities
(A massacre having to do with money)
Inexorable mettle in redolent consommé
(Unstoppable courage blended into a pleasant smelling soup)
An opprobious crucible of molten human waste…
(A disgraceful furnace of melting bodies)
(Bodies piled up to the sky)
(Endlessly shot upwards)
The smelting butchery
(A process of separating metals, a process of slaughtering animals)
Of the carnal forge
Desensitized – to pragmatic murder
(No longer feeling the horror of murder which is committed for practical purposes)
Dehumanized – into cannon fodder…
(Turned into non-human form and destroyed without feeling)
“Carnal Forge” is a searing study of the horrific nature of war. The whole “war is bad” theme has been done to death in heavy metal, but through the use of clever language and Joycean puns, Carcass is able to breathe life into a hackneyed lyrical concept. The major motif in the song is the monstrous merger between mechanized and human form. The effect is that the listener has a difficult time distinguishing between the two. This melding of forms stresses the concept of dehumanization in an even more immediate way. When Walker sings of “inexorable mettle in redolent consommé” he is giving the image of a soup made from mettle (courage) but also a soup made from metal (the human form turned into scrap). “Fiscal atrocities” means the destruction of capital, but also is meant to imply physical atrocity (the destruction of the human form). In these puns, we see a world where the lines blur between the animate and inanimate. When this line is obliterated, so are we. Our willingness to see humans as objects makes it possible for us to murder those who share our likeness. It is in the Carnal Forge of war that our human characteristics are lost.
The ultimate irony of this destruction through desensitization is that it is so engrained in some circles that it is not greeted with horror. Instead, it is celebrated. Soldiers who return are feted with parades; those who do not are given dignified, stately memorials. The dead do not care about these things. They do not care about the flags that cover their caskets, they are not interested in the soldiers firing skyward in their honor, and they do not gaze proudly at their names etched into stone walls. They cease to feel anything in the name of country or God or safety or resources or land or whatever-reason-was-given-to-them as they take their final journey into endless night.
There is no honor in death. The dead only know coldness and silence. Yet through a stroke of pure madness, many believe that the great wrongs that have been committed can be righted through ceremony. The louder we shout our love for the soldiers, the easier it is to forget the great waste of life that has been sacrificed in our names. Even the veneration of the dead is an act of objectification that makes future suffering more possible and even more likely.
Remembrance of their anguish does not wipe the slate clean. It is not for them; it is for us. A genuine act of contrition would be to create a world where massacres are entirely unacceptable, no matter who commits them. We do not live in that world. Instead, we live in a world where idle actions and traditions absolve us of our responsibility to stop the madness of war.
(Special thanks to Metal Matt Longo for his brilliant edit of this. Thanks to his fine work this article is being simulcast by the good folks over at MindOverMetal.org. Stop on by. Tell’em Keith sent ya!)
Vladimir: So….you take a watch and you put it in a bag….
Estragon: What type of bag?
Vladimir: It doesn’t matter.
Estragon: Well, what type of watch is it?
Vladimir: Again…not important. You put the watch in a bag. Now, you take a hammer and you smash it.
Vladimir: Just see if you can follow me here. You smash the watch into a hundred pieces….
Estragon: Is it a digital watch or a nice one?
Vladimir: It doesn’t matter….You take the watch and you smash it into….
Estragon: Well, why are you smashing the watch?
Vladimir: Okay, that’s really not important! The important thing is…
Estragon: What kind of lunatic would break a perfectly good watch?
Vladimir: It’s a metaphor. Nobody is really breaking a watch with a hammer. The idea is to prove a point.
Estragon: But how can you prove a point using an example that is completely unrealistic.
Vladimir: I don’t know. It’s not important! Just listen.
Estragon: Well, if it is a digital watch with one of those plastic bands it’s not going to break with a hammer
Vladimir: Fine. It’s a Rolex. A really nice gold Rolex.
Estragon: A Rolex is really expensive. Why would you want to break an expensive watch? And I don’t know if a hammer will break a Rolex into a hundred pieces.
Vladimir: Fine. It is an inexpensive magical watch that magically will break into a hundred pieces. Can I get back to my point?
Vladimir: Okay, so you break the watch. You shake it up in the bag?
Vladimir: Does it re-form into the same watch?
Estragon: Well, of course not!
Estragon: See what? I’m not sure I follow.
Vladimir: Evolution is impossible.
Vladimir: Something has to be there to assemble the watch if it’s going to come back together, right?
Estragon: I guess.
Vladimir: And the watch has been reassembled into a perfect whole, right?
Estragon: That is what you said.
Vladimir: Well, then there has to be a watchmaker who has a plan, right?
Estragon: Uhmmm. Okay. So, who is the watchmaker?
Vladimir: God is the watchmaker! Otherwise the watch would still be in pieces.
Estragon: Wait…so God reassembled the watch?
Vladimir: What do you mean why? He’s God. He doesn’t need a good reason.
Estragon: So, God just goes around putting broken watches together? We’re not sure why. That’s just what he does.
Vladimir: Exactly. He loves us. Maybe he wants us to have a nice watch. Maybe he wants us to be happy. That’s for Him to know.
Estragon: If he wanted us to be happy, why didn’t he just stop us from breaking the watch in the first place?
Vladimir: Free will!
Estragon: So, wait, he loves us so much he is willing to fix the watch, but he won’t stop us from breaking it?
Estragon: That’s not a very efficient system.
Vladimir: Well, He doesn’t have to be efficient. He’s God. He doesn’t have to explain anything.
Estragon: Well, if he’s going to go around smashing watches, I think he owes somebody an explanation. That’s pretty rude. If he smashed my watch I’d be really angry!
Vladimir: Okay…forget the watch. We’ll use another example. Pick something.
Estragon: A piece of ham
Vladimir: So, you put a piece of ham in a bag…
Estragon: Ham….in a bag?
Vladimir: Yes! And you smash it into a million pieces.
Vladimir: It still tastes like ham and smells like ham and looks like ham. RIGHT?!?!?
Estragon: Yes…I think.
Vladimir: So there has to be some kind of ham designer, right?
Estragon: Yes…well….maybe…I guess….
Vladimir: Evolution couldn’t have designed ham.
Estragon: Wait…why not?
Vladimir: Because it is perfect.
Estragon: What is perfect?
Vladimir: Ham! Ham is perfect!
Estragon: Compared to what?
Vladimir: To a universe without ham.
Estragon: How can you tell?
Vladimir: God wouldn’t have created it if it weren’t perfect. Ham is in our universe. Therefore, ham is perfect.
Estragon: Okay, now I’m really confused. If God is perfect and created a world that is the most perfect possible world for us, why does he create people who smash ham and watches in bags?
Vladimir: To test us.
Vladimir: To see how much we love him.
Estragon: Oh…so we show him we love him by not smashing things in bags?
Estragon: I see. So that’s the point of the whole thing!
Vladimir: YES! That’s the point. We have the choice whether to smash ham or watches or even possums in bags. If we choose not to, we do it because we love God. And if we do that we will be rewarded.
Estragon: With a nice watch?
Vladimir: Maybe with a watch. Maybe with eternal happiness. We’re not exactly sure. We just know that the reward is going to be REALLY good.
Estragon: And if we smash things in bags?
Vladimir: Then bad things happen to us. REALLY bad things. Things like sickness or eternal suffering or boils on our face.
Estragon: Boils on our face?!?!?!
Vladimir: It won’t be a problem for you if you just do what you are supposed to.
Estragon: So these are the rules?
Estragon: And if I follow them, I’ll be…………happy???
Vladimir: Unless God has another plan for you. But eventually you’ll be happy. At some point.
Estragon: Will I get a watch?
Vladimir: If that is what you desire and that is God’s plan and you follow the rules then, yes, you will get a watch.
(At this exact moment, a giant meteor hits the earth obliterating smashing it into a million pieces. The entire human race, including Estragon and Vladimir, are destroyed in a firey, horrible instant without warning)
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing, Health Tips for An Early Death on May 21, 2011
Stage fright is a truly terrible feeling. Many people confront it, but usually they manifest their experience in different ways. Some people cry, some talk louder, some simply feel a vague sense of dread as they move through the speech. What I’ve noticed in talking to people about it over the years is that the experience of it changes dramatically from person to person, but it is always quite miserable if you feel it.
I have an awful fear of speaking on stage. As a teacher, I never feel nervous speaking to a roomful of high school students, but once a year in May I am asked to speak in front of a large audience on a stage with a microphone. The speech itself is something I’m honored to give, but the fear I feel starts around January and becomes nearly debilitating by the end of April. It is only a three-minute speech but my fear of it consumes months of my life.
People are always very supportive and try to be compassionate but usually the advice I get doesn’t help all that much. If you mention you have this fear you will get a lot of guidance, but often I’m not sure if the people who give it really understand the parts of it that make it so terrifying. It is an irrational feeling and most rational suggestions fail to address it in a way that is practical. You get advice like “Try to imagine them all naked”. If everyone in the audience were naked I’m sure I’d be even more terrified! How could the thought of hundreds of naked humans staring at you be even remotely comforting? Other people ask you “What’s the worst that can happen?” They have no idea of the circus that your brain becomes for three minutes. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be on stage giving the speech. People simply can’t comprehend why a relatively simple act like this can cause such suffering. I don’t really understand it myself.
The following is an attempt to describe the experience in real time. Some of this will sound silly, but every single thought written down has gone through my mind on stage. The goal of this piece is to create a running record of what stage fright actually feels like for me.
Alright, here we go. Need another sip of water. If you act confident, the fear won’t come. Okay, time to stand up. They just called me. Fix my jacket. Three buttons…how many should I button? I need to keep it buttoned cause my tie is too short. I look like Oliver Hardy. Someone once told me leave the bottom unbuttoned. Okay. Here we go. Don’t look up. Don’t look up. Just read. You should make some arm gestures. Just hold the podium. Don’t fall. Hands sweating. The podium is see through. Are the spots around my hand fogging up? Do they see me sweating? Act confident. Here it comes. Here it comes. I should have left them all unbuttoned. I should have acted more confident. Now IT is HERE.
Hot. What if I pass out? Falling, hitting my head. Would someone catch me? I’m too big. Where am I? Did I just miss a line…no, no, I’m okay….page one is over. Don’t look up. They are all looking at you. They are all looking at you. Is my fly zipped? Don’t look up. Fast. Dizzy when I look up. Falling, hitting my head. IT IS HERE.
Does what I’m saying make any sense? Do they hear me? I didn’t practice enough. I practiced wrong. Fast. I practiced too much. What if I forget how to read? Sweating. Pain in the top of my head. Antler pain. I feel like antlers are going to sprout out of the top of my head. Stay focused. Where am I? I am reading, but I don’t know how. There is another me reading. I don’t even know what the other me is saying. Why are they laughing? Did I say something funny? Did I do something embarrassing? I didn’t write that to be funny…what’s happening???
FOCUS!!!! Antlers. Sharp, sharp pain in the top of my head. Halfway done. Sweating. What if I can’t breathe? Slow down your breathing. What if I can’t? I don’t control my breathing. Long way to go in this speech. Lots of words left. What if I start saying weird things? What if I start shouting random nonsense? NO CONTROL. What if I burp? What if I start cursing? What if I lose control of my body? Sharp pain in my head. Antlers are growing inside. Will they pop out?
One page left. Downhill, downhill, breathe, another minute…..breathe. If I can just get one more page. What am I talking about? Where am I? DON’T LOOK UP!!!! THEY are watching you….breathe….breathe….you are going to fast…..no one understands….breathe….one paragraph now…..look up once…try it…..try it….dizzy….FOCUS….DON’T LOOK UP…..clapping…no more words….handshake….get to the chair….don’t fall….don’t pass out…get to the chair…..sit down…..breathe….
The Year is 2223. Reverend Scott E. Pippen the 29th stands in front of his congregation of 24,000 with his arms raised high in the air. He is a tall man, about 6 feet 8. He is wearing a gown with the number 23 embroidered on the front in gold. He is up on a stage with a golden basketball hoop mounted behind him. A hush falls over the capacity crowd.
“Today, I’d like to talk to you about greatness. Many religions have valued different things over the years. Some of the religions praised self-restraint, while others loved commitment and dedication. These qualities can be very good things, but their followers seemed to miss the bigger point. Trying really hard is not enough. In order to truly be worthy of God’s love you must win!”
“AMEN!!!!” screams a parishioner.
“The people of olden times used to worship martyrs! Do you believe it? They would cast their lot with people who tried really hard….but lost! Those martyrs were great men, but they couldn’t figure out how to triumph over evil. Sure, they would say that some of their martyrs rose from the dead, but many people had trouble believing that part. There wasn’t enough proof. Maybe they were successful, but they weren’t able to pull it off on the big stage! I mean, most messiahs wouldn’t make it in the NBA as a 12th man for the New Jersey Nets. For years, we could only choose between this losing messiah, that losing messiah or sometimes a messiah that hadn’t even shown up yet! Can you believe it people?”
“NO!!!!!” shouted the crowd wildly.
“Thankfully, on February 17th, 1963, that holiest of days, Michael Jordan was born in a barn in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, Jordan was a good player, but certainly not the messiah we know him as today. Everyone by now has heard the story of how he was cut from his High School basketball team. This was the first in a series of setbacks for His Airness, but each time he was given an obstacle, he learned how to climb over it and most importantly HOW…..TO…….WIN!!!!!!”
The crowd bursts into thunderous applause.
“When Georgetown tried to slow him down in the 1982 NCAA Final…HE WON! When the Pistons and Celtics stopped him early in his career he came back and….HE WON!!!! When the Knicks attacked and beat him game after game he rose up and….HE WON!!!!!! When Jordan retired for the third time, after his sixth NBA title everyone thought that was finished. Then, as a 60 year old man, Jordan returned to the NBA and led the Chicago Bulls to four more titles. Age tried to beat him down but…..HE WON!!!!!”
“JUST DO IT!!!!” screams the crowd.
“Those old-fashioned religions used to talk about an afterlife. They were preaching the gospel of weakness. Today, we know that the dead are just quitters! When Jordan turned 100 he proclaimed that he would never die. He went up to his basketball court built on the side of the greatest mountaintop and that is where he is still today. No one has talked to him in years, but he has promised that one day he will not only return to us, but return to the NBA. One day, when you go to your weekend sports temple to show your commitment to God and your home team he will emerge from the tunnel and HE…..WILL……PLAY………….AGAIN!!!!!!!!”
“YES!!!!!” “JUST DO IT!!!!!!” “AMEN!!!!!!”
“Those old fashioned religions told you that God loved everyone. Jordan taught us that they were wrong! The truth is that GOD LOVES A WINNER! You prove your devotion to him not by being beaten down by the opponent but though VICTORY! God has no time for losers. He will not give you a trophy just for competing. He has no time for lesser men. He is not going to hold your hand and tell you it is okay to fail. God values results! The simple truth is that God Hates Losers!!!!”
“PREACH IT!!!!” JUST DO IT!!!!”
“Jordan came to save us all from the pain and humiliation of losing. Whenever there is someone buying a pair of His Sneakers….HE’LL BE THERE! Whenever there is a team the overcomes the evil of losing….HE’LL BE THERE! And when we buy His shoes and praise His name and WHEN WE WIN……….HE’LL………BE……….THERE…..……TOOOOOO!”
The crowd erupts into a screaming, howling frenzy.
“And now I present to you the top ranked choir in the entire world….The beautiful and talented Jordan-Airs!!!!!!”
The choir begins to sing and basketball players in different throwback Jordan uniforms dunk golden basketballs into the hoop above the stage…
“To The Temple of Jordan Our Savior Went One Day,
And We Read That Phil The Baptist Met Him There,
And When Jordan Scored 60 in the Finals Versus Philly
The Mighty Power of God Filled The Air.
I’m On My Way
To The Temple of Jordan
Were Going To Win
At The Temple of Jordan
And Victory Will Cleanse My Soul”
We, at The Tyranny of Tradition, are proud to present today’s guest writer, Jonathan Winthrop. Winthrop is a conservative columnist, syndicated talk radio host, all-around great American and a proud parent of four boys (McCarthy 12, Reagan 8, Goldwater 6, and Huckabee 2). He is the President and co-founder of Americans for Progressive Corporal Punishment, a group committed to teaching family values to bad parents. He is the author of several New York Times best-sellers including “12 Easy Steps to Teaching Your Child To Fear and Respect Authority Figures” “Attila The Huns’ Strategies To Being a Better Parent”, and “Look Mom, No Values: A Parents Guide To Living In A Fallen World”.
I know, I know, your young children are learning lots of bad habits from television and from that Odd Future Wolfgang Kill’em All rap album you just bought them. Parenting can be a tough job. But, parenting is the most important job in the entire world. After all, without children there wouldn’t be adults. If there weren’t adults, who would be there to produce a lasting supply of inexpensive consumer goods. Without inexpensive consumer goods, what would drive our economy? As you can see, without children, our world would quickly turn into a communistic hell on earth. I’ve put together a list of six really important lessons that you should be teaching your children so that they don’t end up hooked on crack-cocaine or becoming a “community organizer”.
Don’t Talk To Strangers
It’s the oldest piece of advice in the book. Strangers are a threat under all circumstances, particularly when they dress like they are in 1970s cop films or have foreign accents. If your child doesn’t know a person, chances are that person is looking to cause them terrible harm. Strangers have done terrible things throughout history. John Hinkley was a stranger to Ronald Reagan when he tried to assassinate him back in 1981. Had Reagan died there is no doubt that an Iron Curtain would have descended on the United States stifling freedom for the next thousand years. Be a good role model for your children by ignoring anyone who asks you for help and not saying hello to anyone unless you have known them for at least three years.
Don’t Be A Sucker
Lots of people are trying to take your money from you all the time. Sometimes, they want to give you valuable things in return like toaster ovens or televisions with picture-in-picture capability. Sometimes, they are looking to take your money and use it on drugs or food. Most people on the street simply can’t be trusted. If they are behind the counter at a reputable store in a good part of town, that’s one thing, but according to a study done by the Heritage Corporation 97 percent of people who are who live in bad parts of town are either “highly dangerous”, “just can’t be trusted” or are “too lazy to go out and earn a living.” Do not give them money under any circumstances. It will contribute to a vicious cycle of poverty and Islamic radicalism.
Don’t Let Other People Blame You For Their Problems
Just because you were born in the greatest country in the history of the human race doesn’t mean you should feel bad about it. Most people are looking to blame you for their problems when their suffering is actually caused by the fact that they have made bad decisions. Everyone starts equal in this life. Don’t let their statistics about people being “born in poverty” confuse you. According to a study done by the American Freedom and Values Council For A Freer America, 96 percent of Americans who are wealthy have better morals and make better decisions than those who make less than 50,000 dollars a year. You are where you are because you worked harder than anyone making less than you. Teach your children to be proud of what they have achieved and scornful of those who haven’t achieved as much.
You’d Be Better Off If It Weren’t For Them
Social programs like affirmative action and gun restriction laws have weakened most Americans’ ability to live a happy, free and safe life. Teach your children to be active participants in government by stopping the government from taking your money and giving it to other people just because they are “hungry” or unable to provide themselves with adequate shelter. Thomas Jefferson once said something like “Government is the enemy of free people everywhere, particularly when it gives the money of hard working people to undeserving losers.” He was right. Teach your children that government and special interest groups like illegal aliens are responsible for most, if not all, of their problems. That way, when they become adults they will have absolutely no problem getting rid of government organizations that are slowly rotting America away like the Food and Drug Administration.
Without Math We Would No Longer Be Free
America has fallen behind in math test scores around the world. According to a study done by the Americans For a Freer Society With Better Test Scores, 103 percent of American 8th graders can barely count up to five. If this trend continues our children are going to become adults who are unable to figure out how much of their weekly check goes to building important tools of peace like stealth bombers and aircraft carriers. They will never be able to experience the joy and pride one feels when counting how many more nuclear missiles we have compared to the rest of the world. Then, they will never know how truly lucky they are.
Heartwork, the 1993 release by Carcass, is easily one of the most compelling metal albums ever recorded. First and foremost, it is an explosion of monstorous guitar riffs, frenetic drumming and raging energy. The music is captivating and overwhelming. Heartwork is a remarkably powerful lyrical album that deals intelligently with issues like globalization, dehumanization and existential dread. The music has been widely praised by many music journalists. The lyrics, however, have been given scant attention. Jeff Walker, the band’s singer, bass player and chief lyricist, envisions a world that is entirely devoid of human feeling or empathy. Walker’s adept use of language, particularly double entendre, lays bare the man’s inhumanity in all of its baseness. His world is an empty one, filled only with sorrow, guilt and deep-seated hatred.
The album behaves like a book, each song a chapter examining a set of widely held beliefs and contrasting them with his vision of a world gone completely insane. Over the next few months, I will attempt to analyze the themes and ideas song by song in an attempt to convey the inventiveness of Walker’s lyrics as well as the perspicacity of his message.
Welcome, to a world of hate
A life of buried dreams
Smothered, by the soils of fate
Welcome, to a world of pain
Bitterness your only wealth
The sand of time kicked in your face
Rubbed in your face
When aspirations are squashed
When life’s chances are lost
When all hope is gone
When expectations are quashed
When self-esteem is lost
When ambition is mourned
…All you need is hate
In futility, for self-preservation
We all need someone
Someone to hate
Buried Dreams is a nightmare vision of a world completely unconnected to its humanity. It serves as an overview of the themes that are addressed in each song and is a great starting point because it contains the most unambiguous lines on the record. In Walker’s “world of hate”, humans begin their journey in life filled with hope only to see that hope slowly eroded by the fixed nature of reality. This reality is the death and pain experienced by all humanoid beings. It is immovable, unchangeable and constant. Humans search blindly in the dark for some reason, some deeper meaning that will connect the dots and make the pain they experience intelligible. We fill ourselves with illusions in order to soften the blow of this horrible truth. As the truth becomes more real, we grasp harder at the illusion but ones commitment to an illusion will never make that deception a reality. We slowly come to terms with the understanding that there is no connection, there is no one tending the fire and the center simply does not hold. Once this veneer of meaning has been stripped away there is nothing left to hold onto but pure visceral hatred.
By experiencing hatred for something, we are given the ability to overcome our basic alienation from ourselves all the while connecting to the other beings around us. Love would be another way to connect, but the drawback of love is that it is fleeting. Its initial joy is snuffed out by the understanding that our basic existential problem, death, will cause love to one day give way to sorrow and despair. If you connect with hatred you never have to feel loss because the eventual vanquishing of your foe will be greeted with a feeling of joy and accomplishment. No one mourns the death of their enemy.
On the surface, the lyrics could be read as a simplistic explanation of the rise of fascism in Europe in the 30s and 40s. A society like Germany, which was drowning in debt and filled with impoverished humans recovering from the insanity of years of mindless trench warfare, was ready for the message of hate that Hitler brought. I believe the song is meant to have much more of a timeless message with broader overtones about the human condition. The line that universalizes this song is “in futility, for self-preservation, we all need someone…someone to hate.” This is a Hobbesian view of a world of beings so frightened of death that they are willing to do anything to avoid it, even if they know that their actions are eventually pointless. We are willing to create a Leviathan that may kill us for our disobedience in order to be safe. The wall each of us run into is death and we are willing to embrace any idea that allows us to fully avoid thinking about our eventual consequence. We are willing to embrace ideas that are self-destructive in order to escape the fear of death. If this isn’t true, then how do you explain war? This horrible irony of our basic condition is that we long to avoid death, but we do so in a way that often hastens its coming.
And so our dreams are buried as we are carried kicking and screaming to our own certain demise. We mask our fears with delusions of enemies all around us. We think that we can stop the inevitable if we bomb that thing or execute this thing but with our last dying breath we are reminded of the futility of all of it. Even hate cannot save us. The final, horrible irony of our Buried Dreams is that we will eventually be buried next to them.
(I am pretty darned excited to announce that this series will also be running at MindOverMetal.org, one of my favorite metal sites. Special thanks to my homeboy Metal Matt Longo who not only agreed to run the thing, but even gave me a fantastic title for the series and some killer editing ideas. Anyway those dudes speak truth and wisdom over there, check’em out)
Probably my weirdest hobby is rifling through the trash of my neighbors. They seem to find it annoying and even frightening, but I think it’s important to get to know the people around you. One of my neighbors happens to be Radric “Gucci Mane” Davis. Mr. Zone 6 and I haven’t spoken much, although he once complemented me on the azaleas we are growing in our garden. He tends to like to keep to himself.
I have been going through his garbage regularly for about a year and a half. I haven’t found much worthwhile. I can tell you he eats a good amount of pimento cheese and is a regular user of Rogaine. Beyond that information, the only thing I ever found in there that was worthwhile was this copy of the original lyrics from his hit song “Lemonade”. I like this version much more than the original, but Gucci knows a lot more about making hit music than I do.
Anyway, here’s a Tyranny of Tradition exclusive! The original lyrics from Lemonade….
By Gucci Mane
Patent Yellow Leather Garanimals
Yellow Baby Pandas
Yellow Fin Tuna
Bacon Lemonade in the Cheese Cup
Bag of Shoulder Blades in a Periodontal Disease Cup
Baking Lemonade in a Cheese Cup
Military Blockade of the Sleaze Pluck
The Romans invented Yellow
Yellow was a verb until 1943
Yellow is a mixture of blue and green
I painted my house Yellow
I painted my cat Yellow
My wife and I paint each other Yellow
I cleaned my sink with Yellow Drano
Donovan sang about Yellow
Bacon Flavored Waves in a Sneeze Cup
Feeling Vague Unease at Seeing My Wife’s Lung
Bag of Frozen Peas and a Pork Chop
Drinkin’ Mayonnaise from a Tea Cup
My uncle comes from a planet where all the women are Yellow (BURR)
They ride on Yellow hovercrafts that are made of Yellow Martian flesh (BURR)
The capital of Ottawa is Yellow (BURR)
I’ve seen the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by Yellow
What rough Yellow beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be Born
The square root of 27 is yellow
Yellow, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar, bartender says “Is this some kind of joke?”
Lemon Yellow sun, arms raised in a V
Yellow was the reason they passed the 28th Amendment
If it weren’t for Yellow all the settlers at Jamestown would have died (BURR)
Yellow was the third Vice President of the United States and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel (BURR)
15 General Lee’s in a Pigs Skull
I Feel No Burning Need for the Speeze Guck
Missed The NBA Because My Knees Suck
Boiling Bag of Fleas in A Pink Lung