Archive for October, 2011
I wanted to make it so that clicking on the title would trigger a fart noise, or that “wah-waaaaaa” sound that only game shows in Ecuador still use, but I’m not what one would describe as “techno-savvy”. Anyways, let’s talk briefly about the Super Committee, since I haven’t heard much from them lately. Must be “return to dry-dock season” on the Potomac – that, or the Lodge family is hosting one hell of a quail hunt. So is this one of those cases where the adjective really means the opposite of what it typically does, i.e. “phat” or “sick”? As far as I know, we’re still waiting for these nobly-intended, concerned-for-the-greater-good visionaries to lop a meaty trillion-dollar chunk off the deficit. I know a trillion dollars is a lot of money to anyone not living within 300 miles of The Beltway, and that such a delicate operation could take time (more time than it takes Congress to vote themselves a raise, apparently) but for the “rainmakers” in DC (I love this word “rainmakers”, by the way – it’s a new, hip entrant in the world of biz-speak crap. It makes me long for the days of “paradigm shift”, “download” — as in, “I’ll download you on my meeting with Reggie once I get my ducks in a row” — and any reference to “putting a hat on”, as in, “let me put my Operations hat on and give you this month’s production figures”), it’s probably less than Congress’s petty cash fund.
Since the Committee seems to be having about as much success as a prop plane flying instruments-only in the Bermuda Triangle, I’d like to rehash the situation for my own edification: these guys are part of the same cadre of irresponsible maroons who got us into this position, and they’re all members of the same two parties that can’t agree on anything, right? I love it. Forget hiring an “independent auditor” or a “privately funded think-tank” – then we’d have to pay someone else! In the business world, this is the equivalent of giving a company who thought square wheels were a good idea the chance to launch a new line of barbed-wire bustiers.
Genius. Pure, unadulterated genius.
Rainmakers, my arse. Here’s the only “Rainmaker” I care about:
John Petrucci has eight fingers on each hand
What’s that you say? You don’t understand?
I’ll say it again – John Petrucci has eight fingers on each hand.
He played “Under a Glass Moon” like an octopus with long hair,
He played “Hell’s Kitchen” like a squid with a stare
That causes lesser guitarists to go weak at the knees,
And reset their sights on solos from Squeeze.
My Grandpa George once said, “John Petrucci? Bah! He’s really just fair.
He’s not Clapton, or Satch, or anyone in Slayer.”
My only reply was a shake of my head,
And a heads-up to Gramps that it was eight o’clock — time for bed.
Up he went for the night, but he came down not long after
With a spooked look on his face and an odd kind of laughter.
He said, “John Petrucci just visited me in my dreams.
He flew down on an Ibanez possessed of golden strings.
Then he played a solo that plucked the hair from my chest,
And conjured up three leprechauns in green leather vests,
Followed by unicorns, and dragons, and wizards galore,
And a topless biker chick who came and kicked down my door.
It was the most beautiful thing, you must understand,
And at the end of it all he showed me his hands.”
With a smile on my face I said, “Let me guess – eight fingers there were?”
To which my grandpa replied, “Yes, my boy, yes – and then it became quite a blur.
For all of the guitarists I ever did see,
The Vais and the Johnsons and even guys named CC,
Rushed into his pinky and pulled up a chair,
While John Petrucci played every solo they’d ever shared,
Only he played them backwards – and on one leg.”
Three years ago I recorded my “first” prescient dream. I put first in quotes because my hunch is that we have these types of dreams throughout our lives, but most are either unintelligible (especially those occurring during our youth, when the symbols/events of the dream have no correlation to our current reality) or irretrievable (having occurred during the deepest part of our sleep). I think that prescient dreams and déjà vu are related, in the sense that prescient dreams, at least in my experience, result in definite, tangible evidence of the dream soon after it happens, whereas déjà vu is, in my opinion, the residue of a prescient dream which comes to the surface weeks, months or maybe even years after the dream occurs. To loosely paraphrase H.P. Lovecraft, while the majority of dreams are most certainly a reflection of our daily experiences and feelings, there are some dreams which defy categorization in this way, and must instead be looked upon as a sort of window to the past/future, a glimpse of things to come or things that have been, things that perhaps we were once a part of or will be a part of in this life or another one.
The only proof I can offer you that my dream actually happened is that it is written down in my journal and dated the day it happened, and as such is sandwiched between other entries from the day before and the day after. Aside from that, I can’t provide any concrete evidence that what I’m saying is truthful – only my words, which you will have to choose to either believe or disbelieve. Now, don’t get too excited — what happened was nothing that could remotely be considered “groundbreaking”. I wasn’t made privy to a set of winning lottery numbers, or the hidden secrets of Billy Ray Cyrus’s mullet. No, it was simply a weird, random, prescient dream, one that bolstered my belief that there is more to us and the universe than is visible to the naked eye.
On to the dream:
The night of Saturday, November 1, 2008, I had a dream about the characters from the game Clue. Understand that up until this point I hadn’t played Clue in years, didn’t own a copy of it, hadn’t seen an advertisement for it and hadn’t talked about it. Nevertheless, there these characters were, just kind of “hanging about” in my dream. We weren’t doing anything cool, like free-diving off the Matterhorn or wrestling alligators with our bare hands – no, we were just in a bathroom, talking and doing our business. I recall interacting with two characters – Colonel Mustard was one of them, but I forget the other one. The dream went on for a few minutes and then it ended.
The next morning I got up and puttered around the house. At one point I decided to turn the TV on and stopped on Meet the Press, a show that I don’t watch regularly. I came in about two-thirds of the way through, so I was watching when the ending came on, where each of the show’s featured panelists gives their final thought. I watched as the first two panelists gave their thoughts and continued watching as a third person, a woman, started hers. I don’t know her name and I can’t remember what she looked like – but she started talking about government transparency. At one point – I shit you not – she said (and I paraphrase), “getting a straight answer from this administration is like playing the board game Clue. You’d have a better chance of learning something from Miss Scarlet or Professor Plum.” Needless to say my first reaction was one of utter shock, and the weirdness stayed with me for the next couple of days.
Is the subject matter innocuous? Yes. Is the dream on the same level as, say, the dreams Whitley Strieber has claimed to have as part of his ongoing experiences with extraterrestrial entities? Absolutely not. But is it weird enough to make you think that our brains might be wired to something a lot more powerful and mysterious than our spinal cords? You decide.
On a side note, I should point out that before bed that night I was randomly going through the channel guide (yes, this was a lazy, TV-friendly November Sunday) and stumbled upon the movie version of Clue, on Bravo. I’d never seen the movie before, so I watched three minutes of it and then went to bed hoping for another prescient dream. It didn’t happen. Unless you’re a Peruvian shaman, they’re totally unpredictable – which is why there is a great responsibility on the dreamer to write them down when they do happen, and think long about what role they might play in the grand scheme of things.
There are simple, easy-to-follow songs which are categorized as “odd” only because of their lyrics – for example, King Missile’s “Detachable Penis”, and anything by Weird Al Yankovic or GWAR – and then there are songs whose oddness is the product of an exceptional level of musicianship, where the arrangement, the tone of the instruments, the abnormal time signatures and the complexity of the composition comes across as bizarre and borderline unlistenable to the pop-trained ear. In this category exists the likes of King Crimson and Frank Zappa.
And then there’s Ayreon, whose musical influences hail from somewhere between Pluto and Sitchin’s Planet X. Honestly, if you delved deep enough into the patents of nobility of Ayreon’s founder, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, I guarantee you would find three Neptunians, a Vulcan and probably a Kryptonian or two as well. I won’t go into too much background on Ayreon, for I shall cover them in more detail sometime in the near future – in short, it’s one Dutch guy (Lucassen) who from time to time invites a handful of Europe’s best prog metal musicians to his Yurt compound outside of Eindhoven for a weekend filled with peyote margaritas, Phillip K. Dick readings and naked séances, all of which somehow lead to an album chock-full of songs which make the Star Wars Cantina Band look like Hanson.
Best classified as “space rock” or “space metal”, many of Ayreon’s songs are odd and wonderful – perhaps none more so than “My House on Mars”, from the album Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer (yes, you read that right). Here are three reasons why I love this song:
- Only a minute into my first listen, I experienced a panic attack which lasted roughly 47 seconds, during which I found myself questioning whether the mustard on the sandwich I’d just eaten was laced with LSD. In fact, I was so weirded out by this song that for a fleeting, bittersweet-memory-of-my-youth moment I found myself back in the swimming pool in Colorado where I’d spent the first four hours of a thirteen-hour acid trip staring up at the moon and thinking I was in some sort of interstellar “aqua pod”.
- The lead singer sounds like the love child of Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravencroft, and he fronts a Goth metal/doom metal band called Tiamat – which, I don’t need to remind you, is the same name as the antagonistic dragon in the cartoon Dungeons & Dragons. A word of caution, though: I tried listening to a couple of Tiamat’s songs, but they’re a little too, um, “doom-ish” for me. I’m warning you, if you’re sad for any reason, you should immediately switch over to something a little lighter, like Sepultura or Nailbomb – if not, you may find yourself trying to jump in front of a dump truck.
- The quality of the singing voices possessed by the two Dutch female backup vocalists on this tune is surpassed only by their hotness. They’re both regular players on the Ayreon scene, and I’ll talk more about them when I touch more specifically on the band.
Alright, here we go. Time to switch on your black lights, pull out your signed 8×10 glossies of Richard Hoagland and fire up 2001: A Space Odyssey — here’s the album version of “My House on Mars”. Alas there’s no live version, as a live performance by Ayreon is a rarity – getting eight in-demand musicians together to record an album is probably a colossal pain in the ass, never mind the idea of assembling more than once a year to play live.
I’ve never been to Greece and I’m not a student of European fiscal policy. However, I’ve read enough Greek history and mythology to develop a personal fondness for the country, and I’ve digested enough current news to understand that Greece is on the verge of an economic and social disaster of epic proportions. Lined up right behind Greece and ready to bare their asses for the whacking stick are Portugal and Spain, two more countries with rich cultures, colorful histories and in inability to maintain a productivity level anywhere near Germany’s.
While this is a highly complex issue from a financial/economic/banking point of view, I don’t think it’s that difficult to comprehend from a cultural point of view – and what bugs me is that while we hear every day about another bail-out package for Greece and another meeting of Europe’s “top economic minds” to discuss options for halting the proliferation of default – which, to date, have all involved throwing more money at the problem, always a great option — it seems no one has taken the time to consult a cultural anthropologist and ask him/her for their two cents. And since this is the first time I’ve ever used the term “cultural anthropologist” in a sentence (and now I’ve done it twice), I figured I’d take it a step further and offer up my simple, sort of-unique take:
In the name of Pan, get Greece, Portugal and Spain off of the Euro immediately! Who are the monocle-wearing, fox fur muff-sniffing, Perrier-swilling nut jobs that thought it would be a good idea to ask these countries to maintain economic standards similar to Germany and France? Before it’s too late – before Europe implodes from a severe case of societal angst — let’s get these countries back to focusing on what they’re best at: tourism, service, fishing, shipping, and some damn fine cuisine thrown in for good measure. It is my opinion that the citizens of these fair lands are possessed of a joie de vivre unmatched in most of the world – and it’s being squashed by this 21st century idea that everyone and everything on God’s green earth needs to be ultra-modern, ultra-fast and have a 3.0 attached to it. Look, if a Greek or a Spaniard wants to be the first to clone an octopus, or desires to revolutionize the biopharm or energy industry, great – but continually trying to shove a square peg in a round hole is a recipe for pissing people off, not encouraging them to do great things. Diversity, in my opinion, is one of the keys to advancing our race. Not everybody needs to be the same, nor should they want to be the same.
I understand this isn’t an easy fix, that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that removing Greece, Portugal and Spain from the Euro will lead to head-spinning destabilization and cause the handful of people in these countries who have actually benefited from the Euro plan to cough up a few million dollars from their nine-figure bank accounts. But sometimes you’ve got to take two steps backs before you can take three steps forward. I’d like to get back to the “old Europe” – a collection of countries with their own currencies and cultural identities, their own quirks and quandaries, their own advantages and disadvantages – and most importantly, their own desire to be the best people they can be, in their own way and at their own pace. Things went a bit sideways the day money became more important to the ruling/banking elite (yes, the two terms are synonymous these days) than the flesh-and-blood capital that keeps them in business, and this vexes me.
Somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania, a steel worker is being dangled by his legs over a pool of molten ore for admitting he likes the movie Tootsie. In defense of him, and men everywhere who, like me, own a copy of this exceptional Sidney Pollack-directed comedy, I offer the following:
The titular cross-dressing character is played by Dustin Hoffman, for God’s sake. Is Dustin Hoffman an accomplished thespian? Yes. Is he one of the best actors of his time? Absolutely. Is he a loving father and noted philanthropist? Probably. Is he in the Top 1000 of Hollywood’s hunkiest men? Er, probably not. Look, people don’t rave about Tootsie because it’s a chance to watch a Hollywood heartthrob embrace his feminine side by dressing up in 1982’s hottest fashions (which is one of the many funny aspects of this movie – seeing how people dressed in 1982. Good lord – it was like everyone was wearing either a purple leotard or my grandmother’s drapes). Also, to my knowledge the celebrity rags weren’t exactly abuzz with excitement about Hoffman’s sexy shower scene, during which he exits the bathroom shirtless and displaying the body of a malnourished10-year-old boy. No, people love Tootsie because it’s legitimately funny – not because it’s about “stupid gay stuff”.
Secondly, Bill Murray is in this movie. Granted it’s a small part, but it still puts a giant wrench in the whole “Tootsie is for gays” argument. If someone said to you, “hey, you’ve got to check out this movie that Bill Murray has a role in,” you wouldn’t reply “does he play a conflicted transvestite in a movie about a gay couple that opens up a record shop on South Beach?” Bill Murray is a man’s actor who does funny stuff and says funny things that guys dig — if it doesn’t have a proton pack or a summer camp full of horny teenagers, chances are you won’t see Bill Murray in the credits. I mean this with all respect to Murray, who’s one of my favorite comedic actors. The one notable exception to all of this is Lost in Translation.
Lastly, anyone with homophobic tendencies who finds himself compelled to watch this movie against his will shall no doubt be put at ease by the presence of gruff, hard-drinking, no-nonsense Les Nichols, played by Charles Durning. Though the movie’s writers may see it differently, I can assure the “gays are the devil” audience that Durning’s character was included as a “beacon of hope” for those who may have trouble understanding why a movie about a male actor who dresses up like a woman to get a part in a soap opera is so effing hilarious. See, Les doesn’t tolerate any funny business – he likes beer (cold is preferred, but sun-baked is ok too), he likes Ukranian Rules kick boxing, he loves ECW ladder matches, and he prefers that his partners have tits and a vagina. I know, I know – it’s unfortunate and borderline traitorous that Les and Hoffman’s character Michael Dorsey make up in the end, when everyone knows Les should have broken his bottle of Blatz Dark over Dorsey’s head and tied him to his back bumper, but that’s Hollywood for you – they’re all suckers for happy endings.
IOH: – 4,344 (for people who think that liking Tootsie is a “gay” thing to do)
IOH: + 7,329 (for the movie itself)
Yes, this is a lob ball. Everybody loves Weird Science, and how it garnered a “rotten” (granted, it’s only 2% away from fresh — but c’mon!) aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes is as puzzling a question as “what’s Kingdom Come up to these days?” I have no idea how Weird Science didn’t win a Best Picture Oscar. Sure, it came out the same year as Out of Africa – but did Out of Africa feature two catatonic septuagenarians stashed away in a kitchen pantry?
Weird Science had several things going for it: two “hot, funny, up-and-coming young actors”, one of the most beautiful women on the planet in 1985, an animatronic toad-thing which still makes me laugh every time I see it and, most importantly, it came out at the height of the personal computer craze. The plot is so preposterous, it’s hilarious – and I’m sure David Lee Roth was on the studio’s payroll as a creative consultant:
“Maury, babe – Johnny and I have been talking, and we’ve got it: a movie about two dweebs who cut out pictures of chicks’ faces, asses and legs, feed them into a computer and create a sex slave.”
“DLR! Johnny! Break out the Seagram’s – this baby’s gold!”
I never figured out what the gizmo was that processed the “data”. A primitive scanner? A modified flux capacitor? A homemade Babe-u-Lator constructed by a young Bill Clinton and endorsed by a still-virile Wilt Chamberlain? No clue. However, since Weird Science appeared soon after the Commodore 64 had taken the world by storm, the plot was eminently believable – especially for anyone younger than 15.
A tragic, personal side-note regarding the Commodore 64: my 6th grade teacher somehow acquired a piece of the Space Shuttle’s heat shielding and passed it around in class one day. It was a black square, sort of foamy, and on one side had a sequence of numbers and letters printed on it. I knew right away the sequence wasn’t just some useless gibberish printed by NASA or the manufacturer. No, it was a code which had been left on the square by mistake – one that would allow me to access NASA’s mainframe (Weird Science came out only two years after War Games – so the idea of hacking into someone – anyone’s – mainframe was still fresh in the public consciousness) and view all of its secret files, including those regarding Cydonia, Jupiter’s Red Spot and Edwin Meese’s sex life.
That night, I went home and plugged the code into my “personal computer”. Shockingly, none of the aforementioned information was revealed to me. Instead, all I got was a string of carat symbols gained by slamming my finger down on the “enter” button 313 times. When I finally gave up, I attributed my failure not to a delusional mind, but rather to the fact that I didn’t have an effing Commodore 64 with the Wico joystick and the dial-up modem. You see, my “personal computer” was made by Texas Instruments — which meant that while my neighbor was playing Summer Games and The Hobbit all day, I was playing Parsec — a cross between Defender and some title you’d expect to find at an EB Games in Belarus.
Anyhooter, let’s wrap this up. Weird Science is a funny movie that stands the test of time, a stalwart in John Hughes’ pantheon. The plot is so ridiculous as to be great, and there are dozens of quotable lines from a cast of quirky, memorable characters. In fact, for a nickel you can call me up and I’ll regale you with the “Chet as Mini-Jabba” laugh until you’ve had your fill.
Even the Japanese WWII soldier found living off of seaweed and snozzberries on a remote Filipino island a few years back (ok, it turned out to be a hoax – but it still works) knows the Cubs are the most inept franchise/business in the history of, well, anything. I can’t think of another business – sports or otherwise – which has sucked for as long as the Cubs have. Actually, only in the sports world would a business not integral to our current political power structure be allowed to embrace perennial ineptness like the Cubs have, thanks in large part to mindless drones like me who have pumped countless dollars into the organization, only to be rewarded with a laughable string of playoff chokes jobs and an assembly line of lazy, incorrigible deadbeats like Todd Hundley, Mel Rojas and Milton Bradley.
Now comes news that boy wunderkind Theo Epstein has decided, for reasons known only to God and Joe Tinker, to get in on the fun. In doing so, he has effectively put his hands on former General Manager Jim Hendry’s hips and joined the conga line of possibly well-intended but certifiably insane men who’ve shared the same warm Old Style-induced hallucination of being the first GM in 103 years to lead the Cubs to a World Series title. It’s a phenomenon reminiscent of the “El Dorado craze” which captivated the Spanish conquistadors in South America for two centuries, and so before latching on to Gentleman Jim’s love handles it may behoove Theo to channel the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who could in turn channel the spirit of Gonzalo Pizarro, and ask the latter how things worked out. The answer, as you might have guessed, is not well.
The Cubs are cursed and they shall be cursed as long as they’re in Chicago. I stopped spending money on them two years ago, and if you love your spouse and value your sanity, you will do the same.
IOH: – 0.3
I get up early enough to catch the first half hour of The Today Show every morning. Yesterday came news that Lindsay Lohan missed another court-ordered appointment for something and then her lawyer said something and then the judge gave her a “stern tongue lashing” (figuratively, not literally) about something and then Lohan drove off in her Porsche. My thoughts are twain: 1) we’ve seen this act at least twelve times now — why does this continue to be news, let alone national news covered by a reputable (I guess) television program? Maybe I’ve been asleep for seven years, but has Lindsay Lohan done something since Mean Girls? When did she shape-shift into Natalie Portman? 2) Upon hearing of Lohan’s latest bout with selective amnesia, my mind conjured up an image of her swinging like a stripper from Justice’s scales, her cocaine-caked fingers curled around the handle of a briefcase containing a 12-year contract with Lifetime, a seven-figure endorsement deal with Victoria’s Secret for a line of sassy-yet-refined underpants targeted at twelve-year-olds and a sticky note for the legal system’s refrigerator that says “Hollywood, baby. Hollywood.”
IOH: – 1,032