Archive for July, 2011
Dissecting CARCASS’ “Heartwork” – Fourth Incision…Heartwork
Posted by Keith Spillett in Notes on Carcass Heartwork on July 29, 2011
This is the fourth in a series of articles analyzing the lyrics from the 1993 Carcass album “Heartwork”.
Works of art, painted black
Magniloquent, bleeding dark
Monotonous palate, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited
Food for thought, so prolific
In contrasting shades, forcedly fed
Abstraction, so choking, so provocative
A canvas to paint, to degenerate
Dark reflections – degeneration
A canvas to paint, to denigrate
Dark reflections, of dark foul light
Profound, aesthetic beauty
Or shaded, sensory corruption
Perceptions, shattered, splintered, mirroring
In deft taints, diluted, tinted
Spelt out, in impaired color
Denigrating, going to paints to pain – not a pretty picture
Works of heart bleeding dark
Black, magniloquent art
Monotonous palate, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited
Prolific food for thought
Contrasting, fed with force
Abstraction, so choking, so provocative
Bleeding works of art
Seething work so dark
Searing words from the heart
Heartwork is a statement of purpose. Its story belongs not only to Jeff Walker and Carcass but also to anyone who has ever spent a significant stretch of time staring into the abyss. Why do we gaze into the darkness? What are we looking for? What is it that makes some people gravitate toward existential questions that are presented in extreme music? Heavy metal, for all intents and purposes, is a death factory. Trying to find ten songs on your hard drive that don’t deal with some form of horrific strife, violent rage or terrible suffering is a nearly absurd task for those who are obsessed with The Sound. Even power metal, with all of its uplift and ecstatic jubilance, often contains elements of profound sadness and pain. To spend your life pondering terror, strife and human suffering hardly seems to be time well spent, but its appeal, at least for me, is undeniable.
There seems to be a popular school of thought that encourages people to “think happy thoughts”. The idea of perseverating on horror is felt by many to be a recipe for dangerous feelings of sadness and detachment from the world. On one level, there is something that seems correct about this idea. Good vibes in, good vibes out. Perfect equilibrium. Yet, no matter how much goodness and light we choose to bathe in, we still suffer and we still die. Spending life trying to fill ourselves with the beauty around us may be the best way to live for some, but it feels disingenuous to me. Death and suffering are all around us. We are, in fact, all living out a slow motion disintegration. I cannot hide from it; I cannot pretend it isn’t there. My fear of the eventual fate that awaits me is a critical element of who I am.
There is an authenticity that comes with accepting one’s fate. Beyond that, there is a strange feeling of liberation that a person can achieve by coming to terms with the worst elements of existence. Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a samurai whose insights were collected in a book the Hagakure in the early 18th century, makes a fantastic case for this sort of thinking. One of the most stirring passages of the book says, “Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.”
This meditation on death seems like a morbid exercise, but how else is a person supposed to rationally process the mortal terror that comes with the recognition of one’s finiteness. We cannot change it, but we do not have to run from it.
In the song Heartwork, Walker is stating the necessity of recognizing the dim, murky reality of our being. The artist, coming to terms with this awareness, can do nothing of value but create an art that reflects the degeneration of our spirits and bodies. The goal is not to shock people, nor to frighten people, but simply to state in no uncertain terms, that everything is not okay. This type of dark art can provide the audience with the gift of catharsis. We are not alone in our terror. We may have to accept the terrible terms of our existence, but we don’t have to do so by ourselves.
Here’s the video…..
American Burlesque or I Just Flew In From Vaudeville and Boy Are My Arms Tired
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing, General Weirdness, The Politics Of Catastrophe on July 25, 2011
Last Christmas, my wife bought me one of those human cloning machines that they sell on TV for 129.99. At first, I didn’t have much of a use for it and it stayed in the back of my closet. However, I started getting some wacky ideas in June and began sending away for samples of the DNA of famous Borscht Belt comedians. I got an excellent mixture of Milton Berle, Shecky Greene, Mort Sahl, Buddy Hackett, Henny Youngman (his even came in a small violin case!) and a dash of Rodney Dangerfield. At a local DNA shop in downtown St. Paul, I purchased the DNA of several 1960s radicals like Huey P Newton, Abbie Hoffman and George McGovern.
Two days ago, I took all the DNA, threw it into the machine and, as per instruction, simmered for 12 hours. I just wanted to see what the combination would create. I wanted no trouble. What came out of the machine yesterday morning was beyond my worst nightmares. It was around 7 feet tall, had a cheap looking tuxedo and a blown out afro. It looked like a bizarre cross between Strom Thurmond and Julius Erving. It told me that it must find a club and do stand up comedy. I tried to stop it, but it tossed me aside and ran out the door. Minutes later, this creature burst into the VFW Hall located down the street from our home and began doing its routine for the 15 or so semi-drunken patrons. I was able to get there in time for the second half of the act. The following is a transcription of what took place.
Creature: What’s the difference between an American and a gorilla?
The gorilla won’t tell you it’s proud to be a gorilla.
Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
Woman in the Audience: YOU SUCK!!!!
Creature: Thanks, you’re a dear. I wish I had my hunting license.
Man in the Audience: Get OFF THE STAGE, Idiot!
Creature: All right, all right! What has 600 million legs, over 1 million guns and an IQ under 70?
The American Public
Bartender: Shut UP! Please!!! I’ll call the police if you don’t get off of the stage!!!!!
Creature: How do you get 200 million Americans to vote?
Turn on American Idol
Thanks! Tip your servers!!!
Woman in the Audience: YOU SUCK!!!
Creature: Yeah, George W Bush, George W Bush…..The other day I asked Bush where’s the 20 dollars I loaned him. He said in the other room under the weapons of mass destruction. He went to get it and I never saw him again. But, hey, you re-elected him!!!! I LOVE THIS CROWD!!!!
Audience: BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! (bottle smashes behind The Creature’s head)
Creature: What’s the best part of voting in Florida?
Knowing it won’t count
Take My Wife, Please!
Man in the audience: Come back when you’re funny!
Creature: Hey, I forgot you were all Americans. Do you want me to repeat any of these slowly?
Audience: BOO!!!!! (three more bottles smashed against the wall behind The Creature)
Creature: What do you call an American who works 60 hours a week in order to pay off 25,000 dollars in credit card debt?
Free! Ya get it! Free! You guys are the best crowd I’ve had in months!
Man in the Audience: (over a chorus of boos and bottles smashing) SHUT UP! We’ll tear your eyes out!!!!!
Creature: Ahhhhhh….what are you going to do? Invade Iraq again!
A mob of angry patrons began to storm the stage. I ran up and grabbed The Creature by the arm and pulled it out of the bar. A group of three raging men ran after us as we sprinted down the street. After a few blocks, they stopped chasing us. We were both exhausted and safe….for now.
I realized later that night that this creature simply couldn’t exist in our world. It was too jaded, too unwilling to accept compromise, too hateful, too cynical. I had created a monster that did not belong in today’s America. It was just going to cause trouble and incite riots wherever it went. I knew what I had to do. I crept into the room where The Creature was sleeping and pushed a pillow over its face. It struggled and screamed, but after a minute or two, it stopped thrashing around. I went back to my room, turned on the television and fell asleep. The problem had been solved.
Posted by Keith Spillett in Blithering Sports Fan Prattle, General Weirdness on July 16, 2011
Some people dream of having their own twenty-room mansion, some fantasize about owning a yacht, others imagine purchasing their own tropical island. If money was no object and I could buy anything I wanted I’d immediately purchase the Colorado Rockies. Here’s the thing, I’m not even a Rockies fan and I’ve never been within 300 miles of Colorado. So, why would some multi-billionaire Mets fan want to purchase the Rockies? Because it would allow me to put into play a baseball system that would forever revolutionize how the game is played. I like to call the system Moronball and it could be the greatest innovation in how the game is played since the creation of the curveball.
Moronball is a system that utilizes several idiosyncrasies within the game to the greatest possible advantage. It is similar to the Oakland A’s Moneyball system in the fact that it tries to achieve success without spending a large amount of money. The difference is that instead of creating a team built around a boring, clichéd goal like winning; Moronball is built around creating the most bizarre and entertaining possible experience imaginable.
The first and most obvious question is, ‘Why Colorado’? The homerun is the most critical offensive component in Moronball. Therefore, we will try to create a team that will hit the most possible homeruns and in the process sacrifice nearly every other important offensive category. The thin air of Colorado can offer a possibility of a nearly endless stream of homeruns if the fences are moved in a bit. Right now, you need to hit the ball 415 feet to get a homerun in straight away center. That’s ridiculous! Nobody wants to go to a game to watch long outs. We will move that that to about 350 and put a 275 foot short porch out in right and left field. As Founding Father and diehard baseball fan James Madison once said, “Chicks dig the longball.”
The next step is finding players that fit the system. Homerun hitters tend to be a bit overpaid unless they lack speed, the ability to hit for average and anything approaching average defensive ability. The Moronball Rockies are going to resemble a 35 and up beer league softball team. My outfield will feature athletes like Wily Mo Pena (5 HRs in 46 AB this year), Andruw Jones (14th on the active list of homeruns per at bat with 1 per every 17), and Matt Stairs (25th on the same list 1 HR per 19 ABs). I’d even talk to Barry Bonds about coming out of retirement to roam the outfield. Granted, what I have just outlined is the worst defensive outfield in the 150-year history of baseball, but the point is to win games 22 to 17, not 3 to 1.
At third base would be Russell Branyan (7th on the active AB/HR list with 1 per every 15 ABs) and our first baseman will be Cubs power hitter Carlos Pena (anyone who can hit 26 homeruns with a sub .200 batting average like Pena did last year belongs with us). Pena would cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million per season, but, honestly, we’re not really paying anyone else all that much so why not shell a little money out for a guy who could potentially hit 75 homeruns in our ballpark. Many, many records would fall in Colorado.
It gets a bit tricky when you get to shortstop and second base, because the bloated power hitters are either making too much money for us or have been moved to the outfield. However, keep in mind that we are not committed in anyway whatsoever to playing anything that would even remind a baseball fan of defense. Therefore, I would use Spring Training to convert some Triple A power hitting phenoms who can’t make the show into middle infielders. Mike Hessman, who is currently playing in Japan, is the active minor league homerun leader. I bet that he’d be willing to play second base if I promised him an everyday gig. Shortstop would be manned by power hitting journeyman Bill Hall who is, ironically enough, actually a shortstop. Our catcher would be slugger Miguel Olivo who does almost nothing but hit the ball out the park.
Our starting pitching staff will be another unique facet of Moronball. 3 knuckleballers. That’s it! Tim Wakefield, R.A. Dickey and Charlie Haeger. Jim Bouton once said that knuckleballers pitch better when they are tired. These starters are going to be looking at logging something in the neighborhood of 40 starts so they will be completely exhausted. One of the most entertaining things to watch are knuckleballers, so I say, give the people what they want to see! We’d then carry 9 relief pitchers who could come in and throw hard in order to capitalize on the fact that seeing knuckleballers all day long will cause the opposition’s timing to be a bit off. They can all be flame-throwing journeymen; I really don’t care. We could even have a contest and put a fan on the roster as a middle reliever for the entire season. As long as our team ERA is somewhere below 15.00 we are going to be competitive or, at the very least, fun to watch.
The Rockies have a great amount of talent. I’m sure I could get the players I’ve mentioned because I strongly doubt teams like the Red Sox are going to turn down an offer like Troy Tulowitzki for 44 year-old Tim Wakefield. With the players I’ve mentioned and a few bench players, I think I can keep the payroll somewhere around 35 million per year. I will invest an additional 5 million in order to find the best steroid doctors in the world. If it means forcing our players to inject substances that would have made Mr. Ed win the Kentucky Derby, we will do it.
Baseball purists will hate our team. The commissioner will threaten to close us down. Announcers will lambaste us every time they watch us play, but a Colorado Rockies game will be the most exciting 6 hours the fans have ever seen. We will put hills in the middle of the outfield, place a giant sinkhole between first and second base and even mine the infield grass, whatever we need to do to make Rockies baseball the greatest show on earth.
The Howling Man
Posted by Keith Spillett in The Poetry of Death on July 12, 2011
The following is an account of what took place on the evening of Sunday March 14th, 1996 in New Paltz, New York. It was the most frightening night of my life…
I looked at the alarm clock. 3:14 AM. What on earth was that horrible noise?
BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!
Loud thumping from the front door. What on earth?!?!?
“AAAAARRRGHRGRHHRRAAAA!!!!! HELP ME!!!! AAAAAAAAARGHTHHTERGG!!”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
What could it be? I stared at cracked wood paneled ceiling above me. Eyes pinned open. Was someone banging on my door? Why would someone be banging on the door at 3:14 in the morning?
BANG!!! BANG!!! BANG!!!!!!
The bleariness of sleep quickly disappeared from my mind. Cobwebs melted away and were quickly replaced with horror. What on earth? ‘I should go downstairs’, I mumbled to myself.
BANG!!!! BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!!!! BANG!!!!!!!!!
I shot out of bed and grabbed the 36-ounce aluminum Easton bat from my closet. I threw a shirt on, took a deep breath and started to walk to the hallway that connected our living room to the front door. I lived in an apartment with two other people who were both out of town. It was just me. The hallway led to a creaky wooden door that probably couldn’t handle much more of the pounding that whatever was on the other side was inflicting on it.
It didn’t even sound human, whatever it was. Some filthy, snarling beast on my front porch. Why? Maybe it would go away if I…..
BANG! BANG!!!! BANG!!!!!!!
Pounding with two fists! Screeching! What was on the other side of the door?
Only feet away from the door handle. Now, the door handle in my hand. NOW!
I flung the door open and I’ll never forget what I saw.
No shirt, covered in some red substance that was either blood or strawberry syrup, dark bruises on his body, a deranged, confused expression on his face. Only feet away from me. I knew him right away from the moment my eyes met his. It was Bill Clinton.
He began looking at the sky and howling a sick, miserable shriek.
“Mr. President, are you alright?” I asked filled with astonishment and terror.
“I know…..I know……I know……I know…….FEAR!!!!!”
“Are you hurt?”
He stared blankly into my face. His body was no longer filled with electric, crazed energy. An empty vessel. Eyes filled with nothing as if he was listening to a song that only he could hear. He was covered in blood and chicken feathers.
“I know pain,” he whispered to me in a voice that projected complete sadness and desolation.
“I KNOW PAIN!!!! ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAGHRGRHRGRGGG!!!!!!!!!” he screamed.
The next thing I knew he began running away…..howling. The way his body moved was not even human. Like some combination of an eel, a toad and a man. He disappeared into the woods on the side of the house. What had just happened? The howling faded into the distance and I was left alone in the oppressive darkness.
I tried to call the police. They told me I was crazy. I told my friends. They didn’t believe me. I tried to find news reports about the whereabouts of the President on that evening. The newspapers claimed he was in France on an official visit. I knew better.
I never have figured out what happened that night. I will probably never know. For a few moments, Clinton became a vulgar, demented beast. Maybe it was who he was all along or maybe he strayed from the light for just one evening. That night he was a monstrosity.
It’s not the screaming or the banging or the look in his eyes that I remember most. I remember his howl he let out as he disappeared as if I heard it yesterday. It was the noise an animal made when it sensed its own demise. It was the repugnant terror of existential emptiness and complete alienation all pressed together in one terrible, resonant sound. In that moment, he spoke from a horrific place that I hope I do not ever see. I never looked at him the same way again.
Solutions Are Not The Answer: Political Communication For Toddlers
Posted by Keith Spillett in General Weirdness, Pointyheaded Highbrow Stuff, The Politics Of Catastrophe on July 8, 2011
It has often been said that you can learn a lot from listening to a child talk. People tend to mean that you can learn a great deal about the beautiful simplicity of life and the importance of innocence. These are valuable lessons, but certainly not the only things children can teach you. What I have found from listening to my children is that they have an amazing understanding of how political communication works. It’s not that I am one of those parents who think their children are so smart they can handle molecular biology in the first grade, but my two year old and four year old have given me remarkable examples of arguments that are popular in the realm of American political discourse. Carter could have gotten a third term with some of the things my kids say in passing.
Fallacy of Extension or The Strawman Argument
My 2-year-old daughter looked at me yesterday and announced, “It’s not night daddy, it’s the morning.” She was certainly correct, it was 10 o’clock in the AM and the sun was shining brightly. The intriguing part about her statement was that I had never said anything about it being nighttime. She had ascribed to me a position that was both irrational and, more importantly, not mine. She had used this to make her own case for the fact it was daytime. Somewhere, Roger Ailes was smiling. This argument is the backbone of much of the political debate that goes on today.
In the “non-toddler world” it works like this. I accuse you of saying something you have never said and do not believe and then make my case in opposition to the illogical premise that now belongs to you. You look like a lunatic and I look like my argument is not only correct, but a common sense response to the weird stuff that you have said at another time (even though you never said it!) Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech is the most famous example. The man was accused of misusing 18 thousand dollars and ended up making an argument over how his political enemies were asking him to give a dog back that his children really loved. No one had said anything about the dog except him. Even my two-year-old couldn’t pull that off with a straight face.
Misdirection or The Old Red Herring
This one is common among children when the subject of bedtime comes up. My four-year-old son has this down to a science. He is a naturally curious boy, but this curiosity comes in spades right around the time he’s looking to stall the natural forces of parenthood.
Me: “It’s bedtime.”
Son: “Why do the leaves fall off of trees?”
Me: “Let’s talk about it tomorrow, it’s bedtime.”
Son: “Where do the stars come from?”
Me: “We can talk about that first thing tomorrow, it’s time to go to sleep.”
Son: “Why do people sleep?”
Politicians often use this one when they get in trouble. The same sort of change the subject magic can be seen at many a press conference. Here’s a made up example that should look familiar to anyone who spends more than a half hour a month watching the news.
Reporter #1: “Is it true that you took illegal contributions from the law firm of Screwed, Over and Often?”
Politician: “The question of what makes a contribution illegal is an important one. Political contributions have been the bedrock of our great political system. Without them, many great Americans wouldn’t have had the chance to become President. Lincoln took contributions from great Americans like Cornelius Vanderbilt. Lincoln was one of our greatest Presidents. He took a stand against the evils of slavery.”
My son hit me with this one yesterday and nearly ruined what was left of my barely usable brain.
Me: We’ll be here for 18 more days.
Son: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11…uhm. Daddy, it can’t be 18, 18 isn’t a number.
Basically, he was saying that if he doesn’t know what it is then it simply can’t be true. In politics, there are many bizarre variations on this hustle. The most surreal is the use of the absence of something to prove its existence. Future Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren ran this one out back in the early 1940s to justify some of the post-Pearl Harbor, anti-Japanese sentiment in California “I take the view that this lack (of enemy subversive activity in the west coast) is the most ominous sign in our whole situation. It convinces me more than perhaps any other factor that the sabotage we are to get, the Fifth Column activities are to get, are timed just like Pearl Harbor… I believe we are just being lulled into a false sense of security.”
If you observe children enough, you’ll see all sorts of interesting political communication going on. The argument from personal charm is another standard. “I’m cute and harmless, therefore, even though I have a chunk of my brothers hair in my hands, I couldn’t possibly have done that bad thing you are thinking I did.” This explains much of the political career of Ronald Reagan. The argument ad infinitum is a common tool used when politicians repeat the same expressions thousands of times to try to cement them in the minds of voters. When your 4-year-old asks you for the six thousandth time for the Thomas the Train Misty Island Rescue Set, understand that they are exhibiting traits that may one day allow them to lead this great nation.
If you are interested in more of the great strategies used to obfuscate truth and contribute to the further cheapening of language, check out this link…http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html
Dispatches From The Democratic Convention September 7th, 2040
Posted by Keith Spillett in The Politics Of Catastrophe on July 4, 2011
Last night, the 2040 Democratic Convention came to a boisterous end. President Juan Jose Herrera gave a rousing speech to the conventions nearly 90,000 spectators who were crammed into Phoenix, Arizona’s newly built Cardinal Arena. Phoenix, which some have taken to calling The Capital of The New Southwest, has been a leader in the recent nanotech boom that has revitalized the American economy and brought unemployment below 15 percent for the first time since 2019. Herrera’s popularity has been on the upswing in the last year after a string of positive economic reports and an end to the nearly 10-year war in Ethiopia. “A new day has dawned in America,” announced Herrera to the galvanized crowd, “and we are on the forefront of becoming great once again!”
The convention has not been without its difficulties. Herrera, a master campaigner, led his party to victory 4 years ago by uniting a unique coalition of Hispanic Americans, Social Conservatives (SoCons) and Weather Watchers. His ability to woo SoCons by connecting traditional family values and economic equality brought a new base to the Democratic Party and allowed them to win states that had traditionally gone Republican like Georgia and Utah in the 2036 election and in the 2038 midterms. In the last Presidential election, nearly 78 percent of people who considered themselves SoCons voted for Herrera. As President, Herrera has been able to pass several SoCon initiatives including a Constitutional Amendment mandating a moment of silence or prayer at the beginning of the school day. He has been less successful with legislation banning the abortion pill and outlawing human cloning. Pundits have predicted that he will have a difficulty carrying that high a number because of the challenge in his party from breakaway SoCons like Reverend Marcus Falwell-Guzman. Falwell-Guzman, who famously quipped during the 2036 race that the only thing SoCons ever got out of the Republican Party were “prayer breakfasts and lip service”, is still considering a 3rd Party Presidential run, but insists he is firmly behind the President “for now”.
The Weather Watcher movement has also had issues with President Herrera. The movement, started as a response to the Great Northeastern Flood of 2028, is firmly committed to strong environmental protection legislation including the bill to end the use of coal by 2050 that stalled on the floor of the Senate last month. Herrera has embraced many of the Weather Watchers core issues but has not been successful passing many of their legislative priorities. Still, the No Government Regulation by 2055 pledge issued by the Republican Party last year has forced most of the remaining Independent and Republican Weather Watchers into supporting the Democrats.
Then, of course, there is the Problem of The Moths. In his speech, Herrera gave special attention to the issue stating,“The Problem of The Moths is not an easy one to solve. It will require patience and commitment. I see it not as a Problem…but as an opportunity. We can add thousands of jobs by putting together task forces and work crews to deal with our Moth problem. As your President, I will continue to call on Congress to spend whatever it takes to put an end to the Problem. Together, as a nation, We Will Stop The Moths!!!”
The Problem of the Moths, now entering its 12th year, was a major issue Herrera used to help defeat Republican President Leland Jackson in 2036, but Americans have seen little improvement. However, as of right now, voters seem to be willing to look past the issue in this election. In a recent RGE Poll, 72 percent of Americans think that The Problem of the Moths will not hurt Herrera’s re-election prospects. Still, some Americans are wary. “He’s had 4 years to fix it and it isn’t getting any better!” shouted a Republican protestor in a moth costume arrested out in front of the Convention. If the Problem doesn’t improve between now and November, the voters might just have a change of heart.