Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ode to the Muppets

I was very excited to hear a little bit ago that a sequel to the Dark Crystal was in production and set for release in 2007-2008 (directed by Genndy Tartakovsky who created the awesome Samurai Jack). I perused a few Jim Henson fansites and forums in hopes of learning more and found this ambiguous phrase, "[Jim Henson Co.] being 'Muppet-free.'"

What the hell did that mean? Luckily I stunted some Google-fu* and found what it meant.

Awhile back, Disney bought everything Muppets from Jim Henson Co. Now, the company has lots of muppet/puppet categories such as movie muppets (goblins from The Labyrinth) or the Sesame Street crew. But, the Muppets were a huge part of the magic of Jim Henson.

So, Kermit is now owned by Disney.

On one hand, this is a good thing. Jim Henson Co. can now work on other products, such as the sequel to Dark Crystal. The Muppets franchise was probably huge and weighty, and when combined with Sesame Street it probably took most of the resources of the company. Now Jim Henson Co. can make Labyrinth manga (sigh).

The other hand is that much of the Muppet magic is gone. Kermit is selling cars. Miss Piggy is fighting Jessica Simpson over pizza. God knows what Gonzo is doing (probably porn). It just isn't the same. Disney owns Mickey Mouse and Friends. Isn't that good enough?

It strikes even further because Kermit was one of my role models to enlightenment. His attitude towards life is one I would love to emulate. But, now he is in it for the green, and it aint easy being green.

It is a sad, sad day. I would've much rather Jim Henson Co. expand or form another company or something instead of selling it to a corporate monster. My stuffed Kermit that watches over my bookshelf will never look the same. Thanks Disney. Thanks a lot.

*The art of using a Google search in a masterful way.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yit-chit Embarks

Here's a bit of convoluted nonsense in episodic format. Enjoy!


Yit-chit emerged awkwardly from the cool clay walls of the hole and heaved himself out onto the the soft damp grass. The mattress he rested upon was so green he was sure it would wipe off on him like paint. He couldn’t check, however, because he was hypnotized by the white wisps in the nitrogen-blue space above him, enveloping him. The clouds were so thin they were almost invisible, he mainly relied on his intuition to just know they were there and a part of it. The sky stared back at him, patiently, reminding him that it had all the time in the world and to his business it paid no never-mind, no how.

So he did lay there, but didn’t think at first. He didn’t doze either, he just took in the situation. He was in the earth no more. He was prone on it instead. It was comfortable but he could detect already the soil’s dampness, no longer kept at bay by the blades of grass, seeping into his linen breeches, maneuvering the short purple fur of his posterior. It was pleasant here, for a time, just staring awe-struck at the infinite blue while lounging caressed in the loamy field. But to remain here, devoted to this arrangement, would lead to mushrooms growing on him and mites chipping away at his substance until he too was loam to finally be munched on by the soft supple grass as it merrily aspirated.

That may be a kind alternative, for the grass at least, but it was a charity that Yit-chit decided he was unable to currently tender. If he was base bits of matter, he would not be capable of the things he assumed he was about to do. So he laboriously bent and flexed and leveraged himself up onto his legs. It was at this time that the horizon came into his perception. The grassy plain flowed out in all directions, undulating in cyclical hills and dells. He wriggled his toes in the grass. The grass was obligingly fettered. He supposed that grass like this would be around for many miles, but to this grass he was going to have to bid farewell. Over one of the hillocks to his right he saw something darker green, and coarser, but further away.

As he turned the stark openness of the environment enveloped him like a heavy wet blanket. He lurched on his spindly legs and reached for a wall or rock to clutch but there were none, and he toppled. As it happened he toppled towards a gully and, therefore, he rolled. But his instincts disapproved of this form of locomotion and so his limbs were jutted outwards in the least-streamlined configuration he could conceive. His dubious progress was summarily halted and he once again found himself reclined on the grass, once again faced with the sky who’s eternal visage tried quite determinedly not to look amused or piteous.

Very soon, Yit-chit had repeated the standing procedure and this time stood with a little more ingenuity: arms and legs further apart, torso just at a slightly lesser elevation than before. He established himself in a stable format and saw to dusting off his pants and vest, and dislodged the particles of dirt that had worked its way under the fur of his arms, neck, and feet. He plucked a piece of straw from between his small horns that had been dangling between his eyes and tickling his nose. With that irritant removed he felt much more focused and prepared to take a forthwith approach to his embarking. He leaned forward and pushed himself through the air, focusing particularly on pushing his feet against the ground since his arms swam impotently through the surrounding gases. He soon found them useful, however, for maintaining his body in a sort of gyroscopic bearing of upright. Before long he had trudged up the nearest hill and could see quite a ways.

Right in front of him, however, not two furlongs away he saw a blue man. The man stood quite still and seemed very solidly put there. His meat was wrapped around his bones much thicker than Yit-chit’s and he had no hair whatsoever, though he did wear clothing. The man’s pants and shirt were smooth and looked like they could be made out of skin, rather than woven fibers, and he had some sort of extra part to his pants that apparently completely wrapped around his feet. The man’s clothing was brown, while his skin remained quite blue (not as blue as the sky… darker and a bit cooler) as he and the not-a-little-wobbly Yit-chit silently regarded each other. The silent man leaned on an implement. It was a wood grained shaft with a sizable hammered-flat slug of metal at the top. It was an axe, though the full meaning of such a thing would not soon be reckoned by Yit-chit.

“Hello,” said Yit-chit to the man after he had fully realized and accepted the fellow’s existence. The blue man nodded in acknowledgment. Yit-chit looked around and at the sky and then back at the man. A flurry of activity had not resulted from the exchange, and yet the possibility of such did not seem in any way restricted by it either. Yit-chit opted to continue pursuit of conversation. “What is this place?” he asked and involuntarily squinted his eyes and nose in an expression of curiosity.

The man looked at Yit-chit until the question was completely asked and then he looked down at the ground (otherwise without extraneous motion). For a moment he remained and then he returned his attention to Yit-chit. “It is a world,” he said with certainty, “a world here that you are now in.” His reply was definite.

Yit-chit understood that his question had been answered and felt no need for futher debate at that time. He looked in the direction of the coarse dark green area and saw it was quite large if far away. A bit of brown separated it from the grass that swam up and around it. “What is that?” he asked and gestured one of his fingers in the direction of the object of his query.

The blue man watched Yit-chit point and looked at the distant forest. He then looked back at Yit-chit and his dirty pants and bare, purple, furry feet. He looked at the gully behind Yit-chit. In a voice that was equally innocent and deliberate, he asked Yit-chit, “Where do you come from?”

Yit-chit let his pointing-arm drop to his side and breathed a bit. He looked back at the direction from which he had toddled and then to the blue man. He did the pointing thing again but with less accuracy and said, “I came out of a hole. I was underground. I… I don’t remember what was down there.” He found the urge to scratch the back of his neck, even though it didn’t itch. As he did he concluded that, “I wasn’t supposed to be there, though. That’s why I came up here.”

It was plain to see that the blue man considered these words and thought a bit about them before he spoke again. “I see,” he said eventually. “That,” he said, as he pointed (much more efficiently than Yit-chit had) with one hand while the other held still the axe, “is a forest. It is unlike the plains on which we now stand and speak, but there are similarities.”

Yit-chit nodded with gratitude for the morsel of knowledge, though he could not deny a pang for more. “What is it like?” he asked.

“You can see,” replied the blue man. “I am going there and you can go with me. I will be wary of danger while we are there, so that you may be free to see what the forest is like.”

“Very well!” said Yit-chit, feeling more than a little comfort in companionship (which was of course its primary purpose). “I will follow you,” he added, “since it would seem you would be the more skilled of the two of us at going from here to there.”

In response the man lifted his axe and started walking towards the forest while carrying it. Yit-chit followed behind him and kept up well enough.

Just Shutup, Pt. 2

a.k.a. STFU Donny!

So the detective finally gets enough probable cause to arrest Donny, BUT NOT BECAUSE OF DONNY'S REFUSAL TO ANSWER QUESTIONS! (I will not even touch probable cause, a whole blog could be written on those two words. For now just take probable cause to mean "a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed.") What has to happen next?

When someone is arrested, the law requires that the prisoner is given a Miranda warning. A typical warning is as follows:

You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost. During any questioning, you may decide at any time to exercise these rights, not answer any questions, or make any statements.

This education of rights is very interesting because it goes against the old adage "ignorance of the law is no excuse." In this case it is an excuse and many confessions and heaps of evidence have been excluded from a prosecution because of a failure to give a Miranda warning.

If Donny is not given a Miranda warning practically nothing he says can be used against him. He can confess, explain where the drugs are, name names, etc., and the law acts like he said nothing. Furthermore if Donny confesses at the behest of police questioning and is then later given his Miranda warnings, the warnings "clean the slate" so to speak. The law still acts like Donny never confessed! This prevents officers from "beating" out a confession that circumvents the Miranda requirement.

If that weren't enough evidence that is gained from information violative of a Miranda warning is often voided as well. Let's say the detective does not give Donny his Miranda warning. Donny explains that Tito is the neighborhood drug lord and he has 20 kilos of cocaine in a nearby dumpster. The detective checks out the dumpster and finds the drugs. This evidence cannot be used against Donny or Tito in this manner. The law makes sure that the Miranda warnings are a gate, not a speed bump to swerve around.

Well now that you, avid reader, have a slight understanding of the Miranda warning's power, what should Donny do when he is given his Miranda warning?

First, a police officer can continue to talk and reasonably question Donny after the Miranda warning is given. Badgering out of the question, but guilt trips, etc. are allowable. This is in the hope that Donny will "waive" his Miranda rights (a very stupid thing to do). If Donny says "I invoke my right of silence," or a similar iteration, no more questioning is allowed for a reasonable period. Furthermore, let's say the first question the detective asks after the Miranda warnings is, "Have you sold drugs?" Donny replies by invoking his right to silence. Nothing can be inferred from this, no evidence can be taken from this, and it is as if the question was never asked for court purposes.

The most powerful thing Donny can do is immediately ask for a lawyer. If this happens the detective can do nothing until Donny sees his attorney. If he even questions Donny whole swaths of evidence may be voided and the detective may get in trouble or set Donny free. The attorney, later showing up, will then counsel Donny to shut up and all will be well.

The reason Donny wants to keep his Miranda rights is bargaining power. If he waives his Miranda rights thinking now that he is being good they will go easy on him, he loses out. If he says nothing until his attorney can plea bargain with the prosecutor, Donny might get a much better deal. Especially in Donny's situation where the cops really want the drug dealers, not the friend of one.

The right of silence when questioned outside a courtroom is not one to simply throw away. Police officers do excellent jobs, but their interrogation powers are very limited. Now, the best deal would be for you, avid reader, to not break the law. But if you do, just shutup.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Creatures (For A While)

Lyrics: N. Hexum, D. Martinez

Restlessness. Thank GOD for it. This song is epicly life affirming. I'm not the type of person to have favorite anythings. I like a little bit of everything. I hate to miss out, I want it all, and I want every perspective there is. I don't have a favorite food or drink or tennis shoe or human being. But I do have a favorite movie and a favorite song.

They are my favorites not because they are quantitatively the best constructed or executed works of art (though a fair enough case could be made). They are my favorites because they are the most important to me. They have truly impacted me, that is to say left a permanent impression. They are not simply things pleasantly experienced; they are active in their influence. Through deft engineering they seize me in stages ensuring that I hit every stop they have prepared for me.

The movie we'll get to later (my counterpart has stopped in there already on this page, though he didn't take me with him). The song, is this song: Creatures (For a While).

(By the way, I love parenthetical addendums on song titles. Right there, right at the get-go, you've got a multi-layered experience. This song is about Creatures first and foremost... And that's got plenty to ponder right there. It invites the imagination to run where the wild things are immediately and wonder about what fascinating, necessarily exciting things are in store.

But the second part of the title steps in in the second instant to swiftly temper the subject. This is not a subtitle. Movies have subtitles. Subtitles make the subject more specific. "This movie is about the Star Wars, sure, but it only covers the portion in which the Clones Attack."

No. The parenthetical portion of the title is the rest of the title. It's the subtext of the title; the underlying essence. Why is it in parentheses though, and not simply "Creatures For a While"? Well that's what I'm getting at. It's not just a song about being a creature for a while. It's about being a Creature, first and foremost but shed in the light of the fact that it will only be for a while.)

Now that was getting a bit wishy-washy so I put the cap on it. Close parenthesis.

Here's the thing...

Restlessness. Why? Why not be at peace? We've had years of mischief. Is that not enough? Apparently not. After these weeks of thrift the energy once again gets the best of me. But it's a continuous struggle. Sometimes I get crazy (just like you I do). And yet.... Is there ever a time when the state of sleeping willingly leaves my mind?

There's a compulsion that acts outside of a natural ebb and flow. This isn't the tide coming and going... This is lightning striking in a forest, starting a blaze that will make way and nurture a wave of new growth. Wildfire, followed by the luscious frantic swarming green, finally settling into the peaceful sylvan serene... Only to begin again.

We are creatures. We LIVE, we MUST live. It is the definitive state of us. But that state exists in contrast. Our mortality looms, of course. We are only creatures for a while and the cold hard fact of our end is the frame in which we must view our life. We will meet that end, it is our fate, it is our destination, it is what our entire life is leading to. It is the result of life. And so it is easy to skip ahead. Stop living for a bit. Rest, relax, take it easy. Now there's nothing wrong with enjoying the serenity of a peaceful moment in a beautiful world, but don't linger...

I land on Earth's hard face. No legs could keep that pace. Highly frustrated want to feel elated.

But, don't buy the fear. Don't by that, my dear. The things you love, you must keep near. Carry on and you won't feel withdrawn, even if you're coming down.

Sometimes it's wearable. Sometimes it's bearable.

I careen towards balance 'til the glass is full.

Life is hard. Life is frantic and stressful. But, life is beautiful. But more urgently: life is a limited time offer. So no matter how difficult it gets to appreciate what's going on don't you dare stop. Because, the good comes on the heels of the bad and we're just creatures, just creatures for a while. And that's what I learn from this beautiful anthem every time I hear it.

PS: Of course.......... it can hardly be done justice without the music. ;-} You'll have to see to that yourself, though.

Ravious: This link should suffice. Just head to "Media" >> "Music Videos" and scroll down to Creatures.

Don't Forget...

You've never seen anything but photons.

Prison Break: Evil Superman Teabag

Fox Network's Prison Break is an absolutely suberb show, and except for ABC's Lost, I think it is the best TV show out there right now. The premise is that Lincoln Burroughs was framed for killing the Vice President, and his brother, a genius structural engineer, goes into prison to break him out. The end of the first season was a blast where eight prisoners did manage to escape. Do to inter-party rivalry (and hatred) one of the escapees, T-Bag gets his hand chopped off by an axe. In season 2, we find he survives. And that is what this post is about.

First off, let's just take the part where his hand is chopped off by a wood axe. The escapees have been running like prey through the night, and then you loose a hand (and all the nerve endings that go with it). I would bet good money that a person would easily pass out and never wake up again if his hand is just chopped off. Add that on top to loss of sleep and exhaustion, and you have quite a combo. Well Ol' T-Bag doesn't pass out (at least not for long), and quickly picks up his hand and runs off before the search dogs come get him.

So anyway, T-Bag has his radial artery and ulnar artery bleeding for a few hours... while he runs. Let's also suppose that he was lucky enough to have his blood clot on two major artieries (which people use to commit suicide). That is a lot of blood loss. When you lose blood, bad things happen. You pass out. You become delerious. Dizzy. Keeping away from search dogs on your blood scent is quite a feat when your fucking hand has just been chopped off.

At daybreak, a few hours later, T-Bag stumbles upon a campsite with a cooler full of ice. He carefully wraps his bloody hand in the cooler and carries it off. Before he runs off, the young couple camping come out of their tent. T-Bag threatens them that if they call the cops he will kill them. Just for sake of argument, I will attribute this stupidity to extraordinary blood loss and exhaustion. If he just ran off, the probably would not have had a good look at T-Bag, but now they have. More importantly they now know his condition.

T-Bag finally gets to a small town with a veternarian, and he forces the vet with a screwdriver shiv to sow his hand back on. This is where it gets stupid. No. I am serious.

You are a doctor. A man with a hand in a cooler comes in and forces you at knife point to sow his hand back on. He won't let you call an ambulance to take him to a proper facility. He also won't take anesthesia when you operate. Do you: (a) act like you are gathering supplies and bolt out the door or through a window hoping that a man without a hand can't catch you, (b) slice the fucker's throat when you use the scalpal to cut away the dead, infected flesh, (c) use an acid, caustic, alcohol, or even hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound and throw it in the psycho's eyes and then run away, or (d) do what the psycho says and sew his hand back on.

Well the vet decides to be a good samaritan and carefully take a few hours to clean the wound and sow T-Bag's hand back on. T-Bag of course moves around like his bone and flesh do not have a gap between them, and then again holds the vet at knife point. Now I will give the vet this credit: he did try and run away when T-Bag told him the vet was going to die, by running backwards, trying to place a small metal cart in between them, and backing up against a sink (in his own fucking office). Give me a break, even a fat kid could get away.

Now before we kill the vet. Let's just compare the campgoers to the vet. Neither know who T-Bag is. Both have reason to call the cops. The campgoers gave T-Bag ice and lived. The vet took hours to sew his hand back on, and gets to die. Let's add another piece to this. If T-Bag kills him most likely he will get a head start for a couple hours until the dead vet's wife wonders where he is, calls the cops, etc. The cops come and find T-Bag's fingerprints everywhere. If T-Bag just ties him up. The same thing happens. Sure, the identification might be a little quicker, but still T-Bag only gets a few hours head start, especially since he stole the vet's truck. All in all, it feels like "evil" was just added for the sake of adding shock factor and evil.

Then the vet gets tied down on his operating table and is lethally injected. The End.

I have to say for such a good show, they really just added all sorts of fantastic to T-Bag's my opinion, to the point of ridiculousness. I get that sometimes a railroad of stupidity is needed for one theme, T-Bag is indeed evil, but come on. The Fox intern that came up with this shit could have done better. At least the others' stories make a whole lot more sense without adding such nonsense.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Prologue to Appreciation

My proudest accomplishment of recent times is finding less and less stuff to complain about. I'm still entirely available to criticize at the drop of a hat, no fear! You need the flaws in something found, I'm on the ball. But that's a different critter from complaint. Criticism is productive, especially if reserved for an appropriate occasion.

Complaint, on the other hand, at best simply points out that something is wrong. No advice is usually given beyond a stern, "You'd BETTER fix it, buddy! Or else!" I'd say the reason no recommendations can be given with a complaint is because no understanding of the problem has been undertaken by the pissed off complainer. I'm not saying complaining is 100% badwrong, either. After all if my taco doesn't have any meat on it, simply pointing that out to those responsible should be sufficient to have the problem rectified.

What I'm saying is that folks tend to complain as a first and last resort and then just be more pissed off that the world does not magically become a better place. But, ultimately... That's not even my point, only the prelude to my point.

Everything is flawed. Expectations are rarely met. It ain't all bad.

I'll try not to sound too much like a damn dirty hippy from here on out. But, in essence what will follow is my take on the theme of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and even, if you must, "Don't Worry. Be happy." (As always, however, I make no such promise to avoid the inherent pretention that comes with blogdom. This stuff's on the shelf.)

What keeps me sanest these days is that I've been finding a lot of wonderment lately. Really great stuff. And it was really always there, its that I'm just now receptive to it (a little desperation for positive stimuli aids this process). Rather than approaching a work of art with a particular expectation or demanding desire, I plop down and see what it has to bring to the table. Maybe it won't have much, but odds are it has something and that something will be worthy my while. But that something is likely something that's oft neglected by an on-demand public.

Basically I'm crying out against the crime of ignoring here. Ignoring the beauty of a beautiful day or a funny movie is a crime against yourself and by extension everyone who then has to put up with your grumpy ass. For the record I frown on ignoring faults as well (because if checked they could lead to more positives!)

Specific examples to follow over the course of this site's lifetime. I hope to cast a new light on certain works and experiences that will hopefully let them be seen in a new much more enjoyable way.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Just Shutup, Part 1

Myth 1: When a police officer questions me, I must respond.

First, I want to disclaim: Thank god for this myth. If every petty criminal were intelligent enough to know that this myth is not true, our criminal system would buckle. Police hands would be even more tied than they are now. However, knowledge is power and since our Byzantine legal system requires that knowledge, this post remains.

Donny lives in a shady neighborhood. He is a good, mostly law-abiding citizen, but has friends who he knows are law-breakers - let's just assume they are drug dealers. Donny is not a model citizen because he doesn't rat out his friends, and he does this for a few reasons, the most important being his safety. An intelligent detective comes to find these drug dealers and the old lady landlord says Donny has information and may even be one of the drug dealers. The detective stops Donny in the street to question him. What are Donny's options?

He can tell all he knows. He can talk minimally to try and get the detective off his back. He can lie and try and throw the detective off the scent. He can shutup.

The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is more powerful than most people know. Let me just quote the pertinent part here: ...nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law []. Now, anybody who avidly watches Law & Order, or any other courtroom drama iteration, will understand the first part of the quoted Amendment. If you are asked a question in the courtroom that makes you either implicate yourself (or commit perjury and lie) you can raise the protection of "the fifth." The latter part, which most people don't understand, are the protections outside of the courtroom.

Let's get back to Donny. There is a binary question that must be answered. T he question is whether Donny is in custody. Now you answer will obviously Donny is not in custody if the detective just walks up to him in the street. This is usually true, but take these additional facts. Donny steps under a doorway to get out of the rain. The doorway is locked, and Donny has no access to the lock. The detective stands in the doorway so that Donny cannot easily get past without pushing the detective, and when Donny tries to push past politely the detective physically stops him. Many courts would consider this custody. Donny is deprived of liberty momentarily. Custody does not require handcuffs.

If Donny is taken into custody, his rights change (this will be discussed in Just Shutup, Part 2). But, out on the street not in custody of the detective the Fifth Amendment allows Donny to just walk away.

The detective's job is to root out the truth and find the perpetrator. To do this he might question Donny in a way that makes it seem as if Donny is a suspect (and he may as well be for this scenario). Most detectives know how this works; they have to get the person to speak of his own free will. So as Donny is walking away, the detective is chasing after Donny and telling him how Donny is on the chopping block, do the right thing, or any number of fish hooks.

This is where most stupid criminals may trip up. Now they have been implicated. The detective asked him, "Donny, are you dealing drugs?" If Donny says "no," but is later charged as a knowing accomplice, this evidence may be used against him. If Donny says "yes," the detective is going to handcuff him and definitely take him into custody. But, most Donnys feel the need to answer. If they don't, most people feel like then they are practically saying, "yes, I deal drugs." The reasoning goes if you don't have anything to hide.

This is not the case. The detective cannot assume guilt from silence. Sure, the detective may feel that Donny is hiding something and use other means of finding out the information. But, nothing can be assumed from choosing to hide behind the rights of the Fifth Amendment. If every Donny out there knew this, the efficiency of detective and police work would plummet.

So what should you take from this, good citizen? Am I saying never tell nothing to nobody? No, obviously the police and your neighborhood can benefit from your help. Say a neighbor murdered his wife a few doors down. Your answers to the police may help a lot, and you might really want to help them. On the other hand, there might be times when nothing you say will help that person's case and it might make things worse for you (a portrait I tried to paint with Donny).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Out of Context

I was spun into wonder today as to why it is that songs I love from albums I love sound so much cooler as singles on the radio. I think in large part it's the fact that that thing I love is being broadcasted to my fellow wanderers so that they may share in the experience that had such a notable impression on me. I like to share. *ahem*

But, I think it's also something to do with the fact that on the album the work is soaking in a sea of itself. I may thoroughly enjoy a track but the more I enjoy each of the tracks the less any of them "pop". On the radio, however, these orchestral orcas are rising out of an ocean of dirty dull dishwater. Such brilliance lusters all the more when in contrast and out of context.

Audioslave is a good example of this. On the radio they wake you up and shake you up out of drooling on yourself from another goddamned bland whine-fest from some kids wearing black nail polish. On the album, however, the songs tend to bleed together and produce a kind of burnout from overstimulation.

What set me off on this subject today, however, was hearing The Pot from Tool's new album 10,000 Days on the radio. No one can scream and still be singing as beautifully as Maynard. This song is a vicious lashing of fury. Of course what I find most awe-inspiring about Tool (and A Perfect Circle for that matter) and what leads me to start tossing around words like genius is their ability to not simply call upon but CONJURE emotions in the listener. Everything about the structure of the songs: the pace, the rhythm, the melodies, the intensity, and especially the vocals, are a thousand tiny fingers punching the critical keys in your neural receptors in just the right sequence to illicit the desired response.

What does The Pot conjure? As I said certainly a righteous fury, but also shame. This song is a scolding, and it's so masterfully constructed as to make you genuinely feel like you deserve it. And... In a way we all do. Even if we don't it does a world of good to be MINDFUL of the crimes we owe our world to. Awareness is the only medicine for the world's meta-diseases.

The album is full of indictment. Every song has a bitter or at least lamentatious angle and it's a beautiful experience. But it's also exhausting if you really go into it for the long haul. Despite the varied sounds, it remains thematically of one context. And each track is like an invigorating act of mortification that one volunteers for.

On the radio, however, it plays differently. It plays more like a scenario where some guy in a crazy cool jacket walks into your convenience store, drags you out back, and at gunpoint and under threat of execution convinces you to go back to community college.

BRISK! To say the least, this song rocks... Hard.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Race of the Nimhir - A Story

Father Thunder held court for the occurring storm in the gigantic thunderhead cloud. His ascendant form was a hawk-headed giant sitting upon a blue-gold throne. The excitement of the coming race caused the god to leak hints of his other great forms (especially the Thunderbird) out into the massive cumulonimbus thereby causing quite a commotion in his court. The world below was already huddled in terror praying that the storm pass quickly.

The Nimhir, Father Thunder’s lightning spirits, were gathered in front of the throne. Some wore the forms of courtesans fashioned with period clothing. The clothing itself was adorned with peacock feathers that glowed with static electricity – the current fashion of this spirit court. Other less refined Nimhir with little power to retain multiple forms were lashing electrical storms barely outlining a humanoid figure. The rest of the spirit court stayed safely in the wings of the great room concentrating on their part of the storm below.

Azani wore the form of an African-goddess, track star (believe me, avid reader, it could be pulled off in this chaotic spirit court). Her shoes were pure white and left blurred trails when she moved her feet. Azani’s skin was steel black, bound sometimes by shifting blue clothing. The most striking feature of her form was her hair: braided dreadlocks with thousands of platinum rings tinkling every time she moved her head. Each ring denoted a victory for the races Father Thunder held regularly.

Rau, Azani’s only true competitor, wore a form to mock Azani: an African male wearing only a ragged loincloth with thick, platinum nails puncturing his body. Each nail represented a victory for Rau, but there were less of the nails than Azani’s rings. The mockery was complete with the inclusion of hundreds of static spirits, of the lowliest mote rank, constantly hammering the nails through Rau’s body. The whole of the court understood this affront was directed directly at Azani, but she ignored the insult.

Father Thunder sent his messenger, Dibala, down to the earth below to proclaim the race (Dibala, in ages past, was one of the Nimhir, but his victories were so great that Father Thunder raised Dibala to a greater spirit rank). The power of Dibala’s proclamation caused all of the spirits of electricity bound to the ground to still in anticipation (causing one of the most widespread blackouts ever recorded for that city). Every other thing hid in fear; although the races were a beautiful thing to watch, they were also very destructive.

With a flick of his taloned hand, Father Thunder called forth his staff, Wakiya. The court grew quiet knowing that in mere seconds the race would begin. The ancient god roared his decree and slammed Wakiya into the ground turning the area in front of his throne from marble tile to translucent cloud.

At first the Nimhir fell as if unprepared, but actually, this showing was another insult to the competition. A lightning spirit who stayed in his or her court form longest but also won the race was considered a great victor and received greater prizes form the storm god. Azani and Rau stayed in their prior forms the longest staring each other down as the other Nimhir shifted into bolts of pure energy and raced past them. Finally both of the great Nimhir blinked and shifted into screaming blue arrows of light racing after their brothers and sisters.

The first part of the contest was a form of brutal tag. A Nimhir could grab the essence of a fellow racer and use the power for their own, sending the other now-exhausted Nimhir back to the spirit court. This part was not simply a game of touch but rather a battering, and eventual crushing, of wills. The only way a Nimhir could guarantee not being party of the game was to stray far off from the straight racetrack. Few straying Nimhir had enough of their own essence to reach the ground in such a way.

Azani and Rau shifted the slightest degree away from one another; it was a waste of one’s own essence to battle an equal. The speed at which they overtook the other Nimhir was frightening, and before many got a few hundred lengths away from the thunderhead, their energy was already consumed. A few of the Nimhir felt the approaching champions and veered off the track, never to touch the ground. And, again it was Azani alone with Rau.

The first part being over, the second part is to stay on the track, all the remaining competitors in a straight line, and use the expanded essence to rush to the ground. The best way, both knew, was to jump from raindrop to raindrop before slamming into the object on the ground. Azani’s raindrop dance method was slower than Rau’s. She would thank each raindrop spirit as she bounded off of them hoping they would give her some of their negligible essence to boost her speed. In stark contrast, Rau would rip the essence from the little motes and burn it up for more speed as they dissipated into nothingness. Azani always hated hearing the motes’ screams as they rushed toward the ground – the raindrop’s dreams of the ocean being obliviated to nothingess. The only reason Azani was able to keep just behind Rau was because after the first thousand raindrops, they tried to help her and also keep away from Rau.

Flashing down to earth, they found the target, a lonely, old oak in the middle of a city park. Rau was first to reach its branches and blazed all of his remaining essence to burn through the resistive oak. Azani was second and immediately contacted the oak spirit, having to skirt more slowly around the battle between Rau and the tree.

“Heart of Oak,” Azani bowed, “please stop Rau’s descent.”

“Little spirit,” the oak spirit replied, anger mixed with the sound of burning leaves, “I would prefer his descent be quick. His damage to me has already been great.”

Azani could feel the great spirit faltering away as it concentrated on mitigating the damage caused by Rau, feeding him to tree limbs and bark that would not kill the tree.

Before the disconnection, Azani shouted, “I offer this ring. Forged by Father Thunder, it contains the epic saga of his adoration for the Sister Rains. After my seventh win it was bestowed upon me. I offer it now.”

There was a pause in the race as Rau stopped his battle to the ground to stare at his sister. Never before had a Nimhir used anything but essence for the race. It had never been won with an oath.

“I accept.”

The old oak, far more skilled in spirit battle than Rau, the racer, expertly feinted to bring Rau directly into the center of the tree. Azani, being concurrently guided by the oak, circled to the ground burning spiral streaks outside of the oak’s skin. The light was blinding as the great oak split in two from the rush of essence that Rau gave off to try and escape. The vengeful oak tore at the trapped Nimhir, and caught flame as Rau dissipated (it would be quite awhile before he could cross the shadow again).

Azani placed the platinum ring where the oak had split and felt herself returning back to Father Thunder’s court.

Father Thunder bellowed her name as she arrived and it rang out across the horizon. She was the victor, and had ensured she would be for quite some time with Rau recovering in the spirit world. He smiled and gave her another ring as he proclaimed her victory to the spirit court. She saw sadness and relief in the face of the god at the loss of his memory of the failed courtship, but it was her gift to give.

Years later a sheep herder felled the dead oak, it had not wanted to persist holding the tale of such sadness. As the tree landed the young man saw the ring, and used it to marry a daughter of a tailor in town. The magic, by then, was gone but the wife cried every time a storm came. Their lives were, however, long and happy.

The End.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

E-Violence is A-Ok

Keep in mind, this is a blog. It's opinion not fact. One might expect an informed opinion but I consider that entirely optional. What I'm going to say here is what I think is the case because it makes sense to me, not because some insubstantial statistics back it up. Like the ancient Greeks I have no qualms about reaching conclusions through simple logic. Empirical data is over-rated.

Ok, well maybe I don't need to resort to Colbert-esque "Truthiness" to justify my espousal. I should be able to fall back just fine on the excuse that empirical data (meaningful data that is) is often pretty hard to come by. Sure we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that water flows downhill, but how much data can we actually accumulate to prove that violence in media increase violence in the person viewing it? I'll leave the wishywashyness of "proof" of such matters for a different tirade and for now just stick to getting on the topic at hand. The data I'll be using is just my personal observations of humans being human.

Violent video games are not responsible for violent behavior. Primarily I say this because all games are definitively separate from life. They can act as practice for life, but that's not to say that what you do in play is preparation to do the same things in life. The concepts of in-game activities and in-life activities do have a connection but it's abstractly ciphered in transit from one to the other.

The football player, in playing football, learns strength and determination and can apply that to life. He's not applying his throwing and tackling skills to life. I be he hardly throws and tackles in his every day life at all.

So why expect something different from the kids who play a game about soldiers shooting each other? There is no difference. Why? Because ALL games, from the dawn of humanity have been simulation of the same 3 themes.

Fighting, Chasing, and Resource Managment.

Think of any sport or board game. They all revolve around the combination of these concepts. Why these concepts? Because those are the things we, as animals, need to do to live. Many sports are physically violent. Hell, a game of Hearts can by psychologically violent. But the activities are kept in a frame and the rules provide a structure and also a goal that the player is handed over to. In real life that structure doesn't exist, nor does the clearly defined goal.

Such a frame could be artificially constructed in a person's mind, however only through mild psychosis. Perhaps if someone's life literally was playing games they would adopt the mindset of the game in their outside, the way a career businessman completely absorbed in being Mr. Big-Shot CEO will handle all of his problems, even personal ones, with a businesslike approach.

But the Boxer doesn't go around punching everyone just because (Mike Tyson not withstanding... Again, psychosis doesn't count). However, if he needed to punch someone he'd be VERY well prepared to do so. Likewise, if the Counterstrike junkie needed to gun down some terrorists... Using a mouse and keyboard, that is... He'd have much better hand-eye coordination than the average Joe. But being capable of something doesn't give you new reasons to do it (unless you're just looking for attention, Mr. "I can open a beer bottle with my armpit!").

Now the only thing is... Violent video games let you play at things that other games haven't allowed for. Althetes may hit each other plenty, and other games may focus on deceit and betrayal and predatory bloodthirsty instinct, but video games actually let you shoot people in the face. The abstract concept is focused down into a very concrete cause/effect. This is a difference, but a subtle and somewhat complex one.

I've proposed that games do no inspire behavior but they do allow for a level of expertise to form. Well with such graphic depictions of horrific things (such horrific things which have always been implied in games is now actually portrayed). The expertise this gives the game, unfortunately, is a strong stomach against things that should be repulsive.

So like a boxer who happens to be a psychotic rapist is aided by his strength gained from boxing, the gamer who HAPPENS to be unhinged and in the mood to strike vengeantly at the bullies of his highschool will be aided by having practiced taking life.

Yeah, that's what I said, and I still say that there's nothing wrong with the games. Like any item or activity it is their ABUSE that becomes a problem. In normal use these games provide a fantastic diversion that could even be an outlet to do things one would never do in real life. But these experiences can be abused by someone who has become psychologically unstable due to MANY factors in their life.

Blaming an object for a person's behavior remains ridiculous. I could crush your skull with a rock. Rocks greatly enhance one's ability to crush skulls. Can't censor or restrict rocks, no matter how much we want to. (And man I really really want to.
Damn dirty rocks.)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Feel Good Hit of the Fall

Do you know who Jason Statham is? He's the guy who's never heard of Chuck Norris. Why? Because every time some internet geek (or drug lord) tried to tell him, he kicked a gun in their face and knocked them the hell out. He's the star of The Transporter franchise, and perhaps a cute little indie movie you might have heard of called SNATCH (no, he did not play the role of Brad Pitt).

He's been called the British Bruce Willis, just now, by me. It's not totally accurate but it points you in the direction of the ballpark. He's gritty, he kicks ass, he kicks charisma's ass, and he's somewhat balding. Basically, he and his films, whether they be high or low brow, are entertaining as all get out. And in just a few weeks what may well be his masterpiece- his opus of ass-kicking, if you will- will hit theatres. It's called Crank and here's the plot...

Jason Statham kicks everyone's ass.

Well... In a nutshell. I haven't been to any pre-screenings or anything. But the idea is that he plays a hitman who's been poisoned, and if he lets up on the adrenaline for just a second he'll die. So not only must he go on a rampage to seek revenge, he must go on a rampage just to keep going on his rampage! Oh, drama! And he won't JUST be kicking ass (as if that wasn't enough to sustain a major motion picture), he'll also be mainlining liquid crack into his eyeball (I assume) and getting it SO TOTALLY ON with Amy Smart in the middle of the street (I need not assume!).

Man. Sounds like another mindless Hollywood piece of action tripe, eh? Not your cup of tea there, Mr. Snooty McSnooterson film critic? Need something to give this epic the indie cred you and your tweed jacket and ascot wearing friends demand? Two words.

Dwight Yoakam.

Now get your butts to the theater or I'll kick a gun in your face.

Why Coke is Better Than Pepsi

One word: sweetness.

That's right. Coke is better than Pepsi because of sweetness, and I'll explain.

As a soda vs. soda (or pop vs. pop, etc. this link will show you who is right), they are damn close. Coke has a deeper flavor with hints of spices and isn't so much in your face. Pepsi on the other hand does not have that deep symphony of flavors, but when you want something sweet to drink it beats Coke hands down. It is really a matter of taste which you want to drink. (I'll be honest, I am drinking a 20 oz Pepsi as I write.)

However, as far as refreshment goes... who wants sticky sweet when you are sweating like a short order chef using his face salt to flavor the burgers? I don't. I want something that cleans the palate. Bubbles the phlegm away and leaves me with a clear fresh taste in my mouth. Not something that stickily sugar coats my whole mouth, sucking the moisture away. However, most people don't consider this because when you add ice it cuts that sweetness almost in half. So, Coke barely edges Pepsi out for when you want to drink something to quench your man-thirst, but you will only notice it if you are anal retentive (or writing a blog, which probably is not that far off).

Well dipshit, you, most-excellent reader say... where the hell is the soda smackdown or pop punishment? Cooking, I retort.

You cannot cook with Pepsi. It is too damn sweet. Ever heard of Pepsi BBQ sauce? Put that shit on any meat and it becomes trash worthy. What about as a marinade? Coke offers a multitude of flavors with a spicy, earthy tang. Pepsi just gives you sugar. Want an excellent crock pot roast beef? 3-4 lb. beef, a bottle of ketchup, a can of coke, and an onion dip packet are all you need. Try that with Pepsi...and you have meat that comes out of the closet as candy.

I like Pepsi; like I said I am drinking some now. The only thing I dislike about Pepsi are its Britney-esque ads that it seems to think will have you drink it more (of course Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite commercials aren't much better, arguably worse). But, I will always have a can of coke around.

Rav's Rockin' Cola-Q Sauce
1 can Coke
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp ground hot mustard
2 cloves garlic
2 cloves
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp white pepper

Put all in the sauce pan. Simmer for an hour (don't even come close to boiling). Cool to room temperature. Eat.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Book Review: House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (brother of songwriter Poe) wrote an excellent book that can cause extreme headaches, but as with any type sado-masochism, it is well worth the pain. The book can be seen as horror, but the creepiness is not as apparent as something by Stephen King or John Carpenter.

The book is a written "doctoral" thesis of a very intelligent man, Zampano. Zampano writes about a documentary that never existed, The Navidson Record. The other "author" is a junky named Johnny Truant who tells you his story throughout the footnotes. Finally the "editors" fix mistakes, etc. also in the footnotes.

The Navidson Record does not exist in our world as a documentary, nor does it exist in the world of the book. However, when Zampano discusses the documentary in his thesis he cites reviews about the it, discourses on it, interviews from the people documented, etc. In other words, it feels like Zampano is creating the documentary as he writes (and the horror to go along with it). This is not giving away anything as the prologue explicitly states this fact. However, it disturbingly adds to the realism when you read the footnotes and you desparetely want to read (or watch) some of the material that is cited.

The Navidson Record is about a legendary filmmaker who buys a house that has more space on the inside of the house than the exterior should allow. In other words, on the inside it measures X feet long, but on the outside it measures Y feet long where X is greater than Y. After living there a few months a hallway appears. This hallway does not connect to any other part of the house, and instead leads off to a space that should not exist. Zampano likens it to the Labyrinth. The documentary is so unreal and the horror so fundamental that the thesis that is created from it sucks you right in as if you were watching the documentary.

The Dan Z. also adds another interesting effect to his book (on top of the experimental writing style). Every time "house" is written it is blue. Anything written about a Labyrinth or Minotaur is in red and struck-out (sorry I can't figure out how to strikeout text). This is perfectly catches you. You will search for the word house in a sentence and even re-read it to make sure it is blue, and the text in red seems all the more important. The book also has a few warping effects where there will only be three words on a page or the text is upside down, etc. Sometimes this effect really took the theme and mood home, other times it was annoying.

Other reviewers have commented that Dan Z. uses a writing style that mocks the current doctoral paper system. The thesis is written with an air of pugnancy and Zampano cites so many things (some real) that it gets to the point of ridiculousness. Some of his string cites are 5 pages long. Because of this writing style, you will find yourself skipping large sections discussing tangents that really make no sense. I think this was the point, i.e., the section was written in hopes that the reader would skip it because it makes it all the more real.

I highly recommend the book but beware that it does take some measure to read. The pain received from it is well worth it, and when you walk away you might have a slightly different view of things.

Without the Expressed Written Consent of Major League Baseball

Broadcasting. Free range opinions. Message in a bottle. Imagine a trucker on his CB just yammering on and on and on to anyone tuned in on frequency channel 27. Now we've got the internet. In a space with no geometry the opinions and ideas flow like water on a flat surface. Be careful! Someone could slip on that puddle. Put up an orange rubber cone for crying out loud.

I did feel obliged to post an introductory message. A prologue or a mission statement you could say, if you wanted to point out the lameness of it... Or even if not. My partner in this endeavor did much better to just dish up something arbitrarily awesome and tell you, "Chew on this, invisible monkeys. I'll feed you more later."

But if I'm insisting on writing something for you I should at least try to make it interesting, if not insightful. I hereby pledge to you that I will do this... Try, that is.

So, therefore, back to Blogs. They're all the rage these days and I'm obviously really late to the party. Everyone's kicking back and spouting off. Folks have always had great ideas. They have them all the time. But they're not necessarily big enough ideas to get up, literally, on a soap box in the middle of the town square and just start hollering at the passers-by. Well that no longer matters. Now if you have an idea there's no excuse not to immediately present it in full access of the public. It's practically an obligation.

Because the thing about the internet, is that it's public and it ain't... Like I said, no geometry. If you want to know what some dude thought about Alien3 right now just turn to your left and clickity-click there it is, instantly. If you don't? Then it never existed; it's not right there. The score of the Dodgers game is there instead.

Humanity's opinions are now being poured into one giant bargain bin that we can each sift through at our leisure. Find a gem in there! -buried in a bunch of bullshit. But still, there's plenty of shoppers looking for bullshit too, and their needs must be met one way or another.

So here we all are now, you, me and everybody except the millions (billions? I honestly don't know... Research is going to the top of the priority list!) of folks who aren't surfing the net. All strolling around the general store of the internet... Usually in the middle of the night. We came here because we needed something, but there's so much other JUNK here that we've never seen before.

TV, DVD, CD, and well... Books, magazines, and newspapers too! They deliver you ideas but they cost and the ideas in them may be lovely but they're never quite the right size, shape, or color that you were looking for. Of course not. They didn't make it just for you after all. They have their market to consider. Admit it. You don't always want a steak dinner. You don't always want a decent hamburger, even. Sometimes you just want some cheetos. Well imagine no one sold cheetos because you're the only one in the zip-code who likes 'em. All the junk that you like (which is a completely different product line than the junk those other bozos like) was never in demand enough to be put on the supermarket shelves. Well there actually was demand but it was so tiny that the junk would have to be extreeeeemely cheap to justify it's production and distribution.

Now it is. Thanks to the internet, ideas are cheaper than every before in human history. ROCK BOTTOM PRICES! Hell, we're practically giving the stuff away.

In fact we are. Free ideas on our blogs. Here's my thoughts on stuff. You didn't ask for it, but hey, I'm not a traveling salesman knocking on your door or a tele-marketer calling you during dinner. Naw, I'm just a humble corner-store proprietor sticking my ideas up on the shelves and manning the counter. Stroll around, look at what we've got. See anything you like? Your satisfaction is important to us so your feedback is important!

You are here, after all, in the middle of the night and in your bathrobe. Maybe you needed that pint of rocky-road, but it's melting while you're standing there in your slippers checking out the shelf-full of our ideas. You'll stop in at the store next door too, on your way home. Take what you want, leave the rest, tell your friends, and of course...

Thank you! Come again!

Thursday, August 10, 2006