Archive for November, 2011
I listen to Pagan’s Mind a lot, a practice which leads to all sorts of existential thinking about who we are, where we’re from and where we’re going.
Our “material” evolution – the ability to make things smaller, faster, better – continues at light speed, just as it has for the last hundred years. The jury’s still out on the “spiritual” side of things, but recent advancements made on the material side, particularly in terms of science and space exploration, have got me wondering more than ever: where exactly is all of this leading us? To what end do we march? Maybe “end” is the wrong word – “next phase” is more appropriate. But as we reach out towards the space around us, gradually expanding our knowledge of it and in the process deepening the mystery of what it is, who/what else populates it and how we fit in, the question becomes: is it a quest best suited for the body or the soul?
“Spirit Starcruiser” is a song by Pagan’s Mind, and while I don’t know the band’s exact meaning behind the title and lyrics, listening to it always makes me reflect on the theory that the soul is the ultimate spaceship – and (forgive my morbidity) death is the ultimate launching pad. Following this train of thought, perhaps there are regions of corporeal space inaccessible to any man-made construction, and reachable only by the spirit. Of course, it also may be that the regions accessible only by the spirit are in fact not part of corporeal space. Which gives rise to yet another question: is “the beyond” simply a far-off region of corporeal space that we haven’t accessed yet, and may not have the technology to for another million years — or does it exist in a different plane/dimension of reality altogether?
So many questions. So few answers. Here to help us out are Nils, Jorn and co. “Spirit Starcruiser” has one of my favorite outros of all time – and not just because it commences with my favorite guitar technique of all time, the artificial harmonic.
Kohl’s Uses Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in “Black Friday” Television Ad – Civilization Moves within Three Inches of the Abyss
In a decision widely criticized by industry analysts and the general public alike as “stupefying”, “inane” and “who the $*@! would do that?!?”, Kohl’s featured Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” in its “Black Friday” television ad and immediately thrust civilization to within three inches of the abyss.
“Since the dawn of mankind, music has been responsible for keeping the cosmic spheres in harmony,” said Karen Treehorn, Director of the S.O.A.M. (Stamp Out Awful Music) Foundation in Everett, Washington. “Every so often, a song is released by someone who has no business singing, which can really screw things up on a galactic scale. For instance, when Don Johnson’s Heartbeat album was released in the fall of 1986, our planet was nearly targeted for extermination by a warmongering alien race known as the Cjkluggs. Thankfully, a quick-thinking producer at Def Jam Records sent the Cjkluggs a copy of Slayer’s newly-released Reign in Blood, which served to ease hostilities. Of course, when Miley Cyrus began recording music the same thing happened again – but the progressive metal scene was in its ascendancy by then, and it was a simple matter of sending the Cjkluggs anything by Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation or Vanden Plas to keep them at bay.”
According to Martin Weigarten, Kohl’s Executive Vice President of Marketing, the decision to use the song in the company’s “Black Friday” ad was made in order to “capitalize on the purchasing power of the 8 – 13 year old demographic”. When told that the purchasing power of the 8 – 13 year old demographic is virtually non-existent, and that 93% of that age group had reported vertigo-like symptoms within the first 30 seconds of listening to “Friday”, Weigarten said “Fuck!” and fired his admin.
“There exist people on this planet who simply should not sing,” said Ben Andersen, associate editor at Kerrang! “Most of these people are celebrities who become so enamored with their own success that they think they can do anything – I cite Lucille Ball, Robert Conrad and Phillip Michael Thomas as examples A, B and C of this particularly heinous form of self-delusion. My advice to anyone who can’t sing, but still feels obligated to record a song, is to follow the Mackenzie Brothers’ lead. “Take Off” is the gold standard of “celebrity” songs because Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas do nothing more than talk during the entire song, while Rush’s Geddy Lee handles the actual singing.”
Analysts confirmed yesterday that Kohl’s “Black Friday” sales were down 97% from last year, and that the company was forced to close 23 stores as a result of the ad. This comes as no surprise to Margaret van Peese, a homemaker from Rhinelander, Wisconsin who is contemplating a lawsuit against the department store chain, citing emotional distress and property damage. “I was in the kitchen the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving when that effing ad came on,” said van Peese, still holding an ice pack to her forehead. “Before I could get to the TV and change the channel, all hell broke loose. My toaster exploded, the oven started breathing fire and my two-year old son chucked a paperweight at me while mumbling something about Beelzebub the Deceiver. I’m suing Kohl’s because the assholes in their Marketing department have zero concept of the difference between “playfully cheesy” and “mind-bendingly awful”, which equates to gross and willful negligence in my book. Kohl’s can burn in hell as far as I’m concerned – I’ll be shopping at Piggly Wiggly from here on out.”
IOH: -1,543,298 (for every human being who can’t sing but does anyways and leaves a permanent scar on humanity’s psyche)
Speaking of the “abyss”, here’s a reminder of what good music sounds like:
In lieu of this year’s soon-to-be-cancelled 2011-12 Bulls season, Comcast Sports Chicago has been rebroadcasting the team’s greatest games. Last night it was Game 5 of the Cavs series in the first round of the ’89 playoffs, also known as “the day the Bulls embarked on a “rent with an option to eventually own” the NBA for the better half of the 90’s.” Two observations, neither of which has much to do with the game itself:
1) I don’t think the Cavs’ cheerleaders could have dressed more 80’s. Honestly, if you looked out your window right now and saw a woman dressed like one of those Burnin’ River sirens, you’d think it was either a) Dia de Muertos, or b) a casting call for a remake of the video for Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”. But to be honest, these cheer gals didn’t resemble a clan of aerobics instructors so much as they did female versions of Captain Freedom, Jesse Ventura’s character from the movie The Running Man.
Work those delts!
2) In his postgame interview with James Brown (who hasn’t aged a day), MJ claimed that he conquered the cold/flu that had been dogging him that afternoon with help from some inspirational pregame music. Now, back in the late 80’s the options for what that could have been are endless. So who was it? Metallica? Def Leppard? Living Colour? Any one of a slew of up-and-coming hair metal bands, i.e. Warrant or Winger? How ’bout Nelson?
Wrong on all counts. You see, MJ went out and dropped 43 on the Cavs with a little help from Anita Baker. Specifically a song called “Give it Your Best”. Huh. Well. I, uh – I suppose that’s cool. MJ was a pretty good baller in his day, after all. Whatever floats your boat, right?
Update: I cued up “Give it Your Best” on YouTube and just dead-lifted 545lbs. Now I know what the heck MJ was talking about!
IOH (Bulls + Anita + Captain Freedom): +9,019
Though I’ve only documented it twice, I have a hunch that there’ve been more occasions in my life when I’ve heard the “Mysterious Mechanical Whir”. The Whir sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard on earth – it’s mechanical, robotic and vocal, all at the same time. It isn’t painful or dissonant, and it only lasts for a few seconds. I use the word “whir” to describe the sound because the closest earthly analogy I can make is that it sounds like saw blades spinning at a very high speed — but that’s a misnomer, because it’s much more than that. There is a distinct technological component to it, as if it is processing information or conveying information in a highly irregular voice. Maybe it’s making announcement – hard to say. Whatever the case, it’s very, very weird.
My first documentation was made last year, while in Mexico on a family vacation. On Thursday, October 24, my better half, stepdaughter and I went swimming with the dolphins. Alas, our excursion took place not in the open water surrounded by mermaids and sea nymphs – no, it was at a resort with a standard-issue “aquatic adventures” area, complete with a giant gift shop where one could purchase a post-adventure commemorative DVD for $100USD (needless to say, we passed). Regardless of the “mainstream” vibe, it was still pretty cool. We’d just jumped into the water and were standing on a slimy ledge in preparation for meeting the dolphins when suddenly I was visited by a flash of déjà vu. Immediately I knew I’d “seen” my current circumstance before, and I had a hunch I’d written about it in my journal. Unfortunately, the rest of the day was a busy one and I never got around to confirming.
The next morning I was lying in bed more awake than asleep, though strands of the latter were still upon me. I was busy working out in my head what had happened the day before and thinking that I had to check my journal soon when all of a sudden I was visited by the Mysterious Mechanical Whir. In fact I heard two Whirs – the first one I knew I’d heard before and was thus familiar with, and the second one was similar to the first (in the sense that I knew it came from the same “source”), but new in terms of tone/texture. Each Whir lasted for a few seconds, and when they stopped my mind’s eye saw an airborne black “ship” with a door on its underside. Four symbols provided the key to opening this door. The symbols, which looked like check marks, collectively functioned like a bike lock combination.
That’s all I remember. Everything ended as quickly as it began. Later that day, I finally checked my journal and confirmed that while I hadn’t recorded a dream of swimming with dolphins, I had recorded a dream about swimming with sea turtles. The “turtle dream” occurred on Sept. 14, 2010 — a little more than a month before the “Mexico experience”.
After taking a year off to circumnavigate the solar system, the Mysterious Mechanical Whir visited me again – just this past weekend in fact, while I was on a mini-vacation in Union Pier, MI. Unlike Mexico, this encounter happened at night (the night of November 12, to be exact), and I was more awake than the Mexican experience – let’s say 95% awake, eyes closed. I’m not sure what I was thinking about before the scene unfolded, but in the next second I was on a path in a jungle and staring at a collage of green, swirling leaves and fronds, an amalgam of tropical foliage that lay close to the path. After a few seconds I left the foliage behind and continued walking, and a moment later came in view of a huge, snow-capped mountain some distance away. Upon seeing this mountain I heard the Mysterious Mechanical Whir. It lasted for a few seconds and was soft, but still quite audible — enough to make me open my eyes and know that it had happened and that I hadn’t fallen asleep, which told me it wasn’t the product of a typical dream.
Side note: a few months after my first documentation of the Whir, I read the book The Secret School by Whitley Strieber. It’d been in my bookcase since 1998 but I hadn’t read it, as my infatuation with extraterrestrials had subsided in the years following the purchase. The reason I ended up reading it is an odd one. My then-1 ½ year-old son liked to frequent the bookcase, and I came home from work one day to find the book sitting on our family room table. I asked his grandmother, who was watching him that day, if she was reading it — she said no, that my son had grabbed it from the bookcase and brought it to the table. Now, I probably took the whole “fate and destiny thing” to the extreme, but I said to myself, “of the twenty or so books that he can reach, he chose this one – so I’m going to read it.” Anyways, Strieber describes a similar Whir in the book. You could accuse me of being susceptible to the power of suggestion (which would only be pertinent to my second documentation, since my first one was pre-Strieber), but I assure you it isn’t so. I have no desire to deceive or fabricate, only to share. Plus, do you think I’d let a year pass and say “hey, I think it’s time to fire up that old Mechanical Whir yarn again!”? I’m not that hard-up for things to talk about.
If you’re looking for answers as to what the Mysterious Mechanical Whir is, I don’t have them. Strieber believes that they’re the machinations of the extraterrestrials he’s been in contact with for the better part of his life, but since I’ve never been visited I can’t second his claim. My gut feeling is that it’s the product of something external and intangible which is wired to our consciousness. Whether it’s the result of something “Strieber’s Grays” are doing, or any other kind of alien life, I can’t say. One’s definition of “extraterrestrial” can vary greatly, so it could be a number of things.
I haven’t done drugs in sixteen years, I haven’t had a cigarette in four years and I haven’t indulged an alcoholic beverage in eleven months. I’m not on any medication and am under no stress, so I’m at a loss as to explain why my mind would simply just “create” the Whir on its own. It’s certainly not an “ordinary” sound, like your stomach growling or your ears ringing. As I said earlier, the Whir is the oddest sound I’ve ever heard, in any capacity – be it musical, mechanical, electronic, bodily functions, etc. I’m guessing I’ve heard it a handful of times in my life, and in the last two cases it has directly preceded or followed waking images that are completely foreign to me and are in no way the end result of something I’d been piecing together in my mind directly prior to receiving the image. No, it’s more a case of the image simply appearing in my head without any efforts at pre-creation, as if someone had simply handed me a photograph.
Existence is a strange animal.
As an Aquarian who is eternally cursed/blessed (depending on your view of things) to have one foot in the future, change in the way we approach our energy needs isn’t happening fast enough for me. Every time I see a gas station, or a line of electrical towers winding its way through what used to be a forest preserve (I’m down with electricity, but there has to be a better way than spending millions of dollars on unsightly, clumsy electrical towers), I’m reminded that we’re basically at embryo stage when it comes to tapping into the Earth’s full potential. In my opinion, the Earth is more than capable of providing all of the energy we need in order to advance ourselves physically and consciously as a species. I don’t think it’s an accident that we wound up here, and I think a key stage in our destiny/evolution is using this planet as a launching pad for bigger and better things.
I cringe whenever I hear someone say that space exploration shouldn’t be a priority — that there are more important things to take care of here. My response is always the same: ask yourself how much longer those “important things” will exist unless we make a move upwards and outwards. The Earth is now home to seven billion people. Seven billion. And unless someone has figured out how to perform mass sterility procedures via a TV, computer or X-Box, the number is expected to grow exponentially in the next half-century. I don’t think the solution is to build taller skyscrapers, or start laying the groundwork for a series of floating aqua-cities. As cool as the latter idea sounds, the fact is that the idea of “personal space” on this planet is soon to be a thing of the past. Around 2032, maybe sooner, a giant “no vacancy” sign is going to start flashing over China, then India, with Europe and the U.S. not too far behind. Food production, the environment, increased hostilities due to lack of arable land – the Earth has already started to show signs of strain from an ecological and sociological point of view, and it’s only going to get worse.
I think it’s time to channel our inner William Bradford and start thinking about human existence beyond Earth. That’s right — it’s time to colonize the moon and Mars. Anything else is akin to sticking our thumb in the dike, and then our toe, and then our elbow, until the whole thing caves in. I’d like to see an all-out effort made towards figuring out how to use wind, sun, water, electromagnetism, sound waves, lasers, cold fusion, wormholes etc. as a means of fueling the next great age of exploration. Whatever the CERN folks are doing right now, they need a new set of marching orders: get the Earth working for us so we can take the next step. Along with recruiting CERN and whoever else out there has figured out how to travel faster than the speed of light, I would assemble a group of the world’s foremost experts in quantum physics and put them in charge of a new Global Department of Energy. Everyone else can take a back seat. Today’s energy companies, especially coal and oil, are living in the Stone Age. Despite what their advertising says, as long as there’s money to be made from dropping a three thousand ton rig in the middle of the Indian Ocean and drilling deeper and deeper into the Earth, they won’t give a squirrel’s gonad whether we’ve taken the next step.
Instead of sucking the Earth’s finite resources dry, we should be figuring out a way to utilize its natural resources to advance our future. Ultimately, our destiny lies elsewhere.
IOH: N/A. I can’t rate my own musings.
Kudos to you, Texan Presidential hopeful Rick Perry. Even though your Congressionally-commissioned B.S. Blaster ran out of bullets last night, I applaud you for not making matters worse by spinning some yarn about how you once shot trap with Pecos Bill, or how you own the only remaining pair of Frank Hamer’s underwear. Nine out of ten politicians would have immediately switched to their hot air reserves and gone into a spiel about how Fannie Mae employees deserve two Christmas bonuses, but you stood there and admitted that you lost your train of thought – which happens to the best of us. I, for one, am an appallingly bad public speaker, and I applaud anyone with the guts to get up in front of a jaded national audience and spend an hour chit-chatting with a group of individuals who would prefer to see you eaten alive by carnivorous jackalopes.
Last Sunday I went to Target to buy new socks. My approach to sock-buying is to buy a slew of pairs all at once and from the same maker, so that each pair wears out at roughly the same time. Then, it’s a simple matter of heading back to Tar-gé to reload every couple of years. I love Target’s socks – sure, the quality is far inferior to what you’d find at Brooks Brothers or Banana Republic, but the cost is much more reasonable. Call me crazy, but I have an issue paying more than $10 for something that’s going to be housing my leathery, un-aerated feet all day. Plus there are usually two or three striped patterns available that will make you feel borderline Dickensian. Pass the knickers and the candlestick.
But I’m not here to talk about socks – I’m here to talk about t-shirts, another of Target’s strong suits. You see, in addition to the flotilla of socks I threw into my basket, I included a sweet Captain America t-shirt. Now, I’ve been purchasing Target t-shirts for several years – since before my better half and my kids came along. Marvel superheroes, Donatello the Ninja Turtle, Led Zeppelin, Boba Fett — I’ve got a bunch. I’ve even got one that has an image of the “lock” that R2 inserts his “arm” into in order to discover where Princess Leia is being held in the Death Star. Yeah, I know. Anyhooter, yesterday I hesitated for a moment before grabbing C-America. Though it pains me to admit this, I actually thought to myself, “Whoa — I’m 37 now. Won’t people think I’m a weirdo for wearing a superhero-inspired t-shirt? I mean, if word of this gets out, it’s only a matter of time before I’m known throughout Geneva as the “weird guy who’s obsessed with comic books, smells like modeling glue and who someone is pretty sure was high up in a tree outside the junior high with a pair of goggles stuck to his face one day.”
And then I said to myself: eff it. Do I really care? No. No, I do not.
So here’s my ten-cent piece of advice for today: if you’re over the age of thirty and keen on wearing a “juvenile” t-shirt that expresses your personality, or perhaps conjures up fond memories of your youth, but you’re afraid of what other people might think — don’t think twice. Whether it says “Ram Man Roolz”, or “Thundercats 4 Life” (with a picture of Lion-O and Snarf hugging), you can’t go wrong. Ok, I might draw the line at anything with either a) the airbrushed visage of Shaun Cassidy, or b) the words “I Heart Mr. Belvidere”, but everything else is fair game.
In an effort to further drive home the benefits of individualism and at the same time plug one of my favorite bands, here’s “Follow Your Way” from Pagan’s Mind.
There are songs that make me laugh (Montt Mardie’s “Dungeons & Dragons”), songs that make me cry (“Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables — yeah, I said Les Miserables. I also like Yanni, Josh Groban, Enya and Seal – so eff off!), and songs that make me long for my youth (the theme from The Greatest American Hero, by Joey Scarbury, and anything by Orleans). And then there are songs that transcend basic emotion and bring about an existential awakening in me which causes every hair on my body – including the seven on my left big toe – to stand on end. Dream Theater’s “The Count of Tuscany” is one such song. I defy your spine – that’s right, DEFY your spine – to not exhibit a profound tingle during at least the first three minutes and twenty-one seconds, if not the entire 19+ minutes. This song will make you want to climb Mount Rainier, hug your worst enemy and take up jousting, all at the same time.
True story: the first time I heard “The Count of Tuscany”, I was driving home from work. Exactly 1:47 in, Merlin Ambrosius materialized in my back seat with a staff in his right hand and a silver chalice in his left. He raised the chalice and said, “This song pretty much kicks ass, huh?” Before I could respond, he jumped out the window, grabbed on to the talon of a griffin headed northbound and soared into the ether.
This isn’t just a song – it’s a portal to a different dimension. Rumor has it that if you stand on the second floor of an ancient tower house buried deep in the Tuscan hills at precisely 9:43pm on June 21, and blast this song at a walled-up doorway adorned with a painting of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a passage to Elysium will appear. Since I was busy chairing a meeting of the George Lynch Fan Club, I wasn’t able to make it this year. But next year, mark my words, my boom box and I will be there.
Continuing with their philosophy of rebuilding the front office in the hope that it will somehow encourage the individuals who actually take the field to play better, the Chicago Cubs announced today that the ghost of legendary baseball manager Connie Mack has been hired as a Special Assistant/Great-great-great-grandfatherly figure to President Theo Epstein. Mack’s responsibilities will include dissertations on rhubarbs and hullabaloos, seminars on coping with the loss of players drafted into wartime service and morale-boosting speeches on such topics as Frank Baker’s triumphant return from a bout of rubella in 1912, and how Jimmie Foxx once lifted up a milk truck and dropped it on a reporter who called him yellow.
Said Cubs owner Tom Ricketts: “This is a real coup for us. I know Connie’s been out of the game for awhile, but his baseball acumen and leadership skills will be a welcome addition to our club.” When a reporter questioned Mack’s ability to adjust to the modern game and its lower mounds, livelier balls, juiced-up players and absence of weird shit in the outfield like steep hills and cast-iron flag poles, Ricketts said, “Baseball is baseball – and besides, we’ve got a noodle on the premises, so Connie should feel right at home.” When another reporter joked that, for all his accolades, Mack has a losing record as a manager and thus is a natural fit with the Cubs, Ricketts ordered President-of-something-or-other Crane Kenney to take off his red vest and fez, drop his cymbals and administer an immediate wedgie.
Though terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, sources inside the Cubs organization claim that Mack will earn a salary of $500/month. When reached for comment, Mack, who was playing pinochle with the ghosts of Topsy Hartsel and Eddie Collins, said “they originally offered me $600,000 per year — to which I responded “Pshaw! I ain’t a damn Rockefeller! What in the sam hell am I going to do with all that cabbage? What do I look like – France?”
In addition to his monthly salary, Mack will also be given a lifetime supply of Falcon Creamy Root Beer, a Chanel Flapper dress for his wife, Catherine, and the right to use his otherworldly powers of telekinesis to chuck a vase at Carlos Zambrano’s nuts whenever he wants.