Music is a form of art, and although there are many ways to define art, one definition is “intentional specialness”. We live in a universe ruled by randomness and chaos, and things that aren’t chaotic (meaning they have elements of planning, intention, predictability, uniqueness, etc underpinning them) register in our minds as interesting.
Put another way: the universe is a random series of numbers (1, 4, 2, 7, 9, 3, 6, 4, 1, 2) while art is a non-random series (1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4).
Art is a man-made island of reason in an ocean of stochastic chaos. Even works of art that seem chaotic (like a Jackson Pollock painting) have “intentionality” behind them. Pollock wants his paintings to look that way. It’s not an accident.
Listen to the sounds around you. Bird chirps. The humming of an air conditioner. A passing car. All of it’s just a boring canvas of random noise. But then, consider music: a series of frequencies carefully arranged in time by a composer. A steady beat. A steady rhythm. An E superimposed over a C# to create a sad minor third. A submediant (VI) resolving back to the tonic (I). All of it planned, all of it deliberate.
The power of music isn’t that it sounds pleasant (noise rock, death metal, etc). It’s that it’s special!
So why does music sound empty to you?
Assuming your brain is neurologically undamaged, my guess is that you’ve listened to so much of it that the “specialness” has gone away. That it’s been a part of your life for so long that your brain has totally habituated to it and you no longer perceive it as distinct or different to the rest of the background noise in the world.
William S Burroughs said that the new addicts shoot smack to feel good, while old addicts shoot smack to feel normal. And eventually you stop feeling anything at all.
We rely on specialness to give our lives meaning, but it’s short lived and easily destroyed. The first act of sexual intercourse on a movie screen was a transgressive, outrageous statement. The 2,436,734th act of sexual intercourse was just lazy button-pushing.
But people still keep trying. Much of our lives are spent shuffling around in the dark, trying to recapture the ghost of specialness that was exorcised long ago.No Comments »
An internet celebrity would probably read the poem and think Ozymandias had it easy. He lost his empire, but at least he left behind two trunkless legs of stone and an inscription. A Vine star can disappear entirely. There are no low and level sands: the internet in 2016 is more like an ocean of quicksand in 9-magnitude earthquake riding a subducting tectonic plate straight into the asthenosphere. Changing trends, changing media, nobody having any clear idea what works and what doesn’t…Fame achieved on the internet is only slightly longer-lasting than fame achieved by starring in an ISIS beheading video.
Time for my quarterly Maddox check-in. Yep, still alive.
I’ve written before about how I obsessively check everyone I’ve ever heard of to make sure they haven’t died. In Maddox’s case, I check to make sure he hasn’t committed suicide. He just seems like he’s on that road. He updates his website with bitter rants with zero jokes. He alienates friends and business partners. He actively repudiates much of his early writings – you get the vibe of an aging musician insulting the hits that brought him fame. His last book failed. His next one will probably do the same. Everything I see from him depresses me.
When I first found him in 2004, he was at the top of his game. He had a hilarious shtick (which I’d describe as “smart person pretending to be stupid person pretending to be a smart person”…read his stuff and you’ll get it), a series of wildly popular viral articles, and rabbit ears for internet culture of the time (SomethingAwful, bash.org, etc). His site was getting monstrous amounts of traffic, with zero promotion. He inspired countless imitators.
Around 2005, gaps between articles started going from weeks to months. From September 2007 to September 2010 he published a whopping six articles. And this was around the point where you could no longer afford to do that – the internet was changing, and it went from “charismatic writers with loyal followings” to “clickbait writers dangling shiny objects in front of your face, and hoping you weren’t distracted by an even shinier object”. By the time Maddox finally came “back” (sorta), he’d lost all the momentum he’d built up. His articles now get tens of thousands of hits. It used to be millions.
He’s still an interesting person. Not so much for the content he’s putting out (which is sporadic and shitty), but for the brief glimpses behind the curtain.
He seems to be trying to rebrand, to “pivot”, as political wonks are saying now. This video has been edited to include a grovelling “explanation” of why he used the word “gay”. His rejection of his first book is a calculated move to deflect blowback from a passage that appears to recommend sexual assault (if you’re an idiot with no understanding of satire or humor). I don’t know why he even bothers. The people who are offended by such things are intractable to apologies. They don’t want him to grovel, they just want him destroyed.
To be fair, he’s always been a conflicted guy. What I liked about his occasional forays into politics was that he’d be so unpredictable in his stances. On some topics he’d lean left, on others right, on still others he’d take a view shared by no political ideology I’m aware of.
But now he’s virtually repudiating his edgelord past. It’s a shame, but it’s not surprising. People get older, and people change. Tucker Max is now an entrepreneur. Thilo Savage took down his site after it apparently caused problems for his professional career. Robert Hamburger…god, I don’t even know. If I think too much about him I’ll read Real Ultimate Power one last time.
A shattered visage.No Comments »
“Nothing taught by force stays in the soul.” Plato
“Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” Samuel Johnson
“According to a rule of thumb among engineers, any tenfold quantitative change is a qualitative change, a fundamentally new situation rather than a simple extrapolation. ‘More is different.'” –Philip Warren Anderson
“I remember asking a wise man, once . . . ‘Why do Men fear the dark?’ . . . ‘Because darkness’ he told me, ‘is ignorance made visable.’ ‘And do Men despise ignorance?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he said, ‘they prize it above all things–all things!–but only so long as it remains invisible.” ? R. Scott Bakker, The Judging Eye
“The cognitive functioning of a human brain depends on a delicate orchestration of many factors, especially during the critical stages of embryo development—and it is much more likely that this self-organizing structure, to be enhanced, needs to be carefully balanced, tuned, and cultivated rather than simply flooded with some extraneous potion.”
? Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence
“The original is unfaithful to the translation.”
? Jorge Luis Borges
“Was it you that killed me, or did I kill you?” Abel answered. “I don’t remember anymore; here we are, together, like before.”
“Now I know that you have truly forgiven me,” Cain said, “because forgetting is forgiving. I, too, will try to forget.”
? Jorge Luis Borges
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
? Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“It reminds me of a story that Ulysses S. Grant tells in his memoirs about a night he spent on the wild prairies of East Texas. He and a fellow officer were near Goliad when they heard “the most unearthly howling of wolves” directly in front of them. They couldn’t see the wolves through the tall prairie grass, but the men knew they were near. The other officer asked Grant how many wolves he thought were in the pack. Grant, not wanting to seem afraid, tried to lowball the number at twenty […] The men arrived to find just two lone wolves sitting on their haunches. These were the sole animals who had made all the noise that had scared Grant so badly, that had convinced him he was overwhelmingly outnumbered. Four decades later, after a full life in public service and politics, Grant would relate that he often thought of this incident when he heard of a group changing course due to criticism or someone giving up because they were deterred by an unseen enemy. The lesson in such situations, he concluded, was this: “There are always more of them before they are counted.” – Ryan HolidayNo Comments »
There’s a pianist joke that goes something like “When [butt of joke] started to play, Steinway himself came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.” Some works would are improved by an attachment to their creator, others degraded. Thomas Pynchon and JD Salinger are/were notorious recluses who feel/felt that nothing about them should reach the wider world, except their books. This might be the polar opposite, a boos that’s almost worthless on its own merits, but gains a degree of interest through its connection to Kathy Acker.
In short, it’s the story of the author going to Haiti and having sex with several people there. I don’t know if it’s autobiographical, or intended as a riff on Cole Porter’s “Katie Goes to Haiti” (I suspect the latter).
It’s easier to say what it isn’t than what it is. It’s not experimental, and not particularly Burroughs inspired. There’s no cut-up prose. There’s sexual content, but no violence. It’s short but still overlong, with many pages detailing Kathy’s transport and lodging arrangements, as well as uneventful conversations with natives.
Kathy’s descriptions of carnal knowledge read like stereotypical male pornography. No “and then our HEARTS became as ONE”, just hyperbolic and florid descriptions of erogenous zones grinding. Towards the end, she abandons the “sexcation” angle and strays into political and social commentary.
If this wasn’t written by Acker, it would probably be instantly forgettable. But coming from one of the most notorious and difficult Beat Generation artists, you’d start to speculate on the whys and the wherefores. In other words, Acker’s name was a treasure map, so I was inspired to dig in barren soil.
The boring longeurs might be a parody of holiday writing (sun-kissed people giving you the blow-by-blow real estate dossier of their hotel suite, under the impression that this is as interesting to you as it is to them.) The male-oriented pornography might be a statement on…something. Cameras as phallic objects. Male gaze.
The political angle at the end is the most interesting, particularly in contrast. At the start, everyone she meets is happy, welcoming her with open arms and open legs. On the strength of her first few hours, Haiti is paradise on earth. But the further Kathy strays from the main tourist towns, she encounters other things: poverty, disaffection, and fear. Don’t forget, this book was written during the auspice of Papa Doc and Baby Doc. I heard someone say “Minnesota Nice is when you wait until someone’s left the room until you backtalk them.” Likewise, I’ve always thought that extreme, showy openness of much of the third world is often a mask for something.
It’s not much of a book no matter how you judge it, but it’s interesting. The Beat Generation was like Monty Python: most of their juice comes from surprise, and their defiance of convention. Here’s the ultimate and most cynical execution of that: a book that’s almost completely normal. Probably hard to find, but the things Acker wrote about aren’t. In fact, they’ve probably become even more common since her day, for better or for worse.No Comments »
Once, I heard a description of Family Guy that cuts right to the heart of the show’s failings. “The Simpsons, if every character was Homer.” Everyone’s crazy, everyone’s a clown, everyone’s the Lord of Misrule. Everyone’s a Punch and nobody’s a Judy. It’s a common failing in comedy: “the straight guy is boring. The screwball gets the laughs. So if we eliminate the straight guy and have two screwballs, it will be twice as funny!”
The straight guy provides ballast, you fool. Comedy’s like a game of table tennis. You can get pretty creative playing it, slamming balls off the wall while standing on your head. But it only works if you have a stable, unmoving net.
Ichi the Killer is not quite a comedy but has a similar weakness. It draws us (or perhaps anti-draws, given that it’s an adaptation of a Hideo Yamamoto manga) into the world of sadistic yakuza enforcers, and asks us to bask in the sangfroid of one particular sadistic yakuza enforcer, who is different to the others to the extent that he has scars on his face.
I don’t know what’s supposed to be shocking and awful and Ichi. Everyone in this film is a repulsive person. Gangsters crack jokes while scraping bloody remains off ceilings. Sociopathic prostitutes manipulate their johns. The movie sets gray against a backdrop of slightly lighter gray. It’s a good setting, but it needs some contrast. It needs a “straight guy”. It’s Family Guy all over again. If Homer’s the baseline, then Homer stops seeming shocking and funny – he’s just just the way things are.
I like the scars on Ichi’s face. A “Glasgow smile”, as they call it a few thousand miles away. The film’s best scene comes early on, where we see Ichi blow smoke through the cuts.
Elsewhere, the film’s aesthetic is less successful. The violence is undercut by the fact that 1) the effects are cheap and 2) the acting doesn’t sell us on the brutality. There’s a scene where Ichi tortures a man by puncturing his cheeks with an alarmingly huge pin…and in between bouts the man speaks calmly and lucidly. It’s like watching a WWE pay-per-view where wrestlers bounce back up after getting chairs smashed over their head.
Later, the effects team just gives up trying. CGI looked better in 1993. The remaining wheels fall off the movie’s wagon when we get to horrible special effects that look like a SyFy movie made in an antifreeze lab.
I haven’t read the manga, although I read Yamamoto’s other big work: Homunculus. It was fascinating, for what it was, but he doesn’t seem to be very adaptable as a mangaka. That might have been Ichi the Killer’s undoing. Generally, there are two schools of adapting manga: the first is to capture everything, the second is to try to capture the “spirit”. Both of them can fail horribly, but in unique ways. Judging unseen, this feels like the first case. You can’t shove ten volumes of manga into a DVD player, and you shouldn’t even tr
This was crying out to be something like that Cronenberg film, Eastern Promises, particularly that scene in the bathhouse, involving linoleum cutters. That moment was what this movie dreams of being when it grows up. Now, it’s just blowing smoke.No Comments »
Contemplate Rivers Cuomo, of Weezer used-to-be-fame. Does this look like a man who diligently checks his groupies’ IDs before letting them on the tour bus? It’s doubtful.
RHCP’s Anthony Kiedis was recently sighted sporting a combo of pedostache + pedoglasses (or “molestacles”, as they are sometimes called – check your Funk & Wagnalls). In the 90s, RHCP had a hit with “Love Rollercoaster”. Be advised: Kiedis’s own Love Rollercoaster is conspicuously missing the “You Must Be This Tall To Ride” sign.
Slipknot’s vocalist Corey Taylor has also gotten on to the trend of hanging a “free candy” sign on the tour bus. The truly disturbing part about this man is that sometimes he can be heard performing vocals for Slipknot.No Comments »
Films such as The Cabin in the Woods are often described as “a love letter to horror.” Monolith’s 1997 first person shooter Blood is more like a rambling, 50 page Unabomber manifesto stuffed into horror’s mailbox at 2:00am, complete with the final line “ps: nice view thru yr bedroom window ;)”. Conceptually it’s one of most ridiculous and nebbish games ever made: the dialogue consists of groan-worthy riffs on famous horror movies, the levels are themed off places like the Overlook Hotel and Crystal Lake, the game shoves references to Lovecraft and George Romero under your face with such obsessive frequency that you almost want to pat it on the shoulder and say “Relax, I get it. Stop trying so hard.”.
But it’s also one of the most fun shooters ever made. There’s just no cohesive direction to any of it, and strangely, that completely works.
You have 1) a brainless “shoot everything that moves” gameplay, 2) paired with a complicated set of RPG -style damage modifiers (as a simple example, stone gargoyles repel fire attacks). You have 1) a nonsensical throwaway plot about an old west gunfighter (with anachronisms galore), and 2) a very detailed mythos, right down to the fact that the enemy cultists speak a constructed language (there was a dictionary on the now-defunct Blood site, revealing said language to be the product of hurling Sanskrit and Latin at each other in a Participle Accelerator.) You have 1) shitty graphics (the Build engine was dated in 1996, and even more so in 1997), and 2) fairly groundbreaking use of 3D voxel imaging (for tombstones and such). Blood’s an anomaly.
The game’s a mess, in the best way possible. It’s like it was made by two different teams living on two different continents who could only communicate by carrier pidgeon. “Throw a bunch of interesting ideas together” seldom works, but here’s the exception.
I’ve played through it several times, at various difficulty levels, and I still find it capricious, challenging, and occasionally brilliant. The Build Engine isn’t the prettiest whore on the waterfront, but it allows for destructible/deformable environments and the game takes those features and runs like they’re a pair of scissors. E1M3, “The Phantom Express”, takes place on board a moving train – it’s stunning as a visual effect, and the level design perfectly complements it: you have to fight tense gunbattles in narrow train corridors, etc. The only bad thing is that none of the later levels quite match it in creativity.
The weapons are savage and visceral (though I never figured out exactly how the voodoo doll work), and the level design fun, flowing, and filled with endearing human touches. Duke Nukem 3D was the anti-Quake. This is the antier-Quake. This is the final and complete triumph of content over technology, and nobody in gaming realised it, either then or now.
Not even Monolith did – Blood II was an inexplicable attempt at remaking this game with zero character or charm. And of course, the game still has a modding community.
Blood isn’t perfect. The final boss is the easiest one in the game. The weapons aren’t balanced all that well (generally, the cooler a weapon seems, the less useful it is in the game) and some of the enemies are truly ridiculous bullet sponges. It’s bimodal nature means it has daring creativity paired with cloddish FPS cliches – there’s the old “shoot a crack in the wall to reveal a secret area” wheeze…again…and again…
But it’s classic, and the rarest type of game: one that is impervious to time. To preserve a human body, you generally extract all eight litres of blood – and I guess this is where it all ends up. Duke Nukem 3D came out a year before and laid the ground for this type of game (gory violence + campy irreverent humor), but between the two of them, THIS is the one to play first, and perhaps last.No Comments »
People who fight social change do so for two reasons. The first is that sometimes society changes in a bad direction. The second is that sometimes society changes in a good direction. Yeah, think about it. How terrible would it be to spend your life fighting eugenics or whatever, have society adopt eugenics anyway…and then society doesn’t collapse. Wouldn’t that just be the pits and the shits? Why were you even alive?
On a related jag: lots of famous men use prostitutes.
Charlie Sheen. Tiger Woods. A-Rod. These are wealthy, high-status men. They could have consensual sex with any number of women. Yet they choose prostitutes.
I think it’s because sex prostitutes is explicitly transactional. You fuck them, you pay them, and they leave. They don’t expect you to talk or be entertaining, they don’t gab about you to their friends or the tabloids, they don’t try to move into your house or poke holes in your condoms. THEY LEAVE.
Economists talk about revealed preferences, where peoples’ true desires can be triangulated through their buying habits. If men, given unlimited money and status, choose prostitutes, does this mean that this represents some kind of…ideal preference? I heard someone say that a communist sees a mansion and thinks “nobody should have this much” while a capitalist thinks “everyone should have this much.” Are prostitutes the mansion in this scenario? In the future, will there be social welfare so that every man can afford prostitutes?
I think there’s more to famous men using prostitutes than it just being more convenient. It’s an upgraded form of love, love made efficient.
Love is traditionally haphazard, rambling, impenetrable, irrational, awkward, and (to an extent) based on deception. From the male end, it looks like this. Make yourself attractive. Approach women. Hope they don’t write blog posts about how creepy you are. Court a woman over months or years. At any stage in the proceedings, things can fall apart for any reason at all, or even no reason at all, and you’ve just wasted four whole years putting the toilet seat up and pretending to like Michael Bublé.
In its natural form, love is like crude oil, filled with grit and sand and byproducts. Sometimes it’s still usable. When the Japanese occupied Tarakan island they found that the crude was light enough to pump directly into their ships’ boilers. But why not refine it? Why not strip out all the stuff you don’t need?
Prostitution is refined love.
A working lady can fulfill any need you can possibly have, whether you want carnal knowledge, emotional intimacy, or even just someone to hug. Is it fake? Yes. For a whole lot of us, fakeness is all we need. I don’t need to actually IRL kill people in Battlefield 4. I don’t need rappers in music videos to actually own those expensive cars. All that matters is that the illusion is real enough, and thanks to technology, it either is or soon will be.
Soon, we might be looking at people who get married the way we look at people who churn their own butter. It will be a bucolic hipster lifestyle choice.
There’s nothing wrong with living in the past. Look at the NES gaming console, and how people fondly remember it. Some people build shrines to the NES. We have to do this, because the console can’t speak. It lacks a voice, so we commemorate it.
The human race is in a similar but different predicament. We’re coming obsolete…but unlike every other product in history, we can talk about our own obsolescence.No Comments »
Consider artistic obscenity. Even the United States’ famously permissive free speech laws have vague, ominous carve-outs where speech can be disallowed for things such as affronting “contemporary community standards” You can look up guys like Mike Diana and Peter Sotos in your own time. Suffice to say, are people who have gone to prison for lines on paper.
This, in the words of John Locke, is “a bummer, man.” Why can’t we stop it? Nobody wants to live in a world where art is criminalized. You can almost hear the clocks striking thirteen. This should be the sort of thing that attracts huge public support.
There’s one problem: you’ll be waving picket signs alongside pedophiles.
Child pornographers consider their work to be art. Or even if they don’t, that’s their cover story. I don’t have any particular opinion on whether child pornography should be considered free expression (yes I do!), but this is a burr in the saddle of the radical free speechist: his position puts him in confederacy with some of the most reviled (and Savile’d) people on earth. Remember when someone launched voat as an “anything goes” competitor to reddit? And they were naive enough to think that reddit limited speech because they were mean old jerks? Then they lost their Paypal account due to all the pedophiles using the site. The gay rights movement had/has a similar problem – pedophiles hijacking “free love” for their own NAMBLAtastic ends.
I feel like a lot of groups end up with this problem.
Punk rock. “Fuck the system, burn it all down” = a pheremone for Nazis.
Men’s rights activism. “Stop screwing men in court” = a pheremone for rapists and domestic abusers.
Communism, of course, is a pheremone for communists.
It’s ubiquitous, and unavoidable. Any public stance other than “pie is good” will attract some element of socially undesirable people to your side, and this is the sort of thing that can permanently discredit your cause. Years ago, there was a “anti-speutering” movement, which opposed the spaying/neutering of dogs over health concerns. Were they a well-intentioned group at the start? We’ll never know, because, zoophiles require intact animals for their purposes, and soon this movement became a rallying cry for people who want to fuck their housepets. For example, James Greathouse. “I advocate close, even sexual, relationships between human and non-human animals, so long as they are honest, mutually enjoyed acts of love.” Now, nobody really remembers them for anything else.
This is kind of why I feel like there should be a pro rapist lobby, and a pro pedophile lobby, and a pro-Cthulhu lobby. Why? Because it might keep jerks safely isolated away from all the sane groups. Forget inclusion. Sometimes you just need quarantine.
There was a journalist called Malcolm Muggeridge, whose parents belonged to a commune of socialists. One day, in a fit of working class spirit, they tore apart the deeds to their property. No chains on me! Viva la revolution! Unfortunately, this noble gesture soon meant that squatters started settling on their land, and they now lacked the means to remove them. Excess freeloaders made the project unworkable, and eventually they ended up resorting to capitalistic oppression (throwing the squatters out by force).
Bat signals are great for attracting Batman. Unfortunately, in real life they usually just attract actual bats.No Comments »
Imagine you have a friend who tells you a joke about their prolapsed rectum. You laugh. It was sort of funny, and also they’re your friend. Their eyes light up, and the next day they come back with an entire notebook full of prolapsed rectum jokes, and the expectation that you will listen to and enjoy all of them. At what point do you stop laughing? At one point do you say “look, I’m at saturation point. Enough about your stupid rectum. I liked the first one but I don’t want to hear them for infinity.”
This is how I feel about Sabaton.
It’s a mistake to think this band makes music. That would be like saying Adam Sandler makes movies. This project is just Joakim Broden, pulling a lever over and over and over, until his fucking hand falls off. It’s cynical. It’s formulaic. It’s artless. And it’s all our fault. We rewarded laughed along with the joke once, and now we get to listen to Sabaton forever.
You know what’s coming. The Last Stand is another plastic collection of charmless Nuclear Blast Metal, filled with horrible forced-catchy singalong choruses, and the band buried underneath a mountain of choirs and keyboards. If you’re wearing a Pewdiepie shirt and need a score for your next gaming marathon, go and make your day. If you have a brain in your head, you’ll hate this with every fiber of your being.
This album has some of the worst choruses I’ve ever heard – we’re talking Dream Evil shitty. Lead-off song “Sparta” has Broden singing (which is obviously a Platonic bad idea) and a stupid “HOO-HA” gang shout that gives me douche chills. Several songs like “Rorke’s Drift” and “Hill 3234” don’t even have chorus melodies, just Broden belting some lines in that staccato manner of his (nice to see Sabaton writing double-bass songs, though). “The Last Battle” is just irritating AOR gloop. Battle Beast does this better. Battle Beast does everything Sabaton does better.
The production is slick and clean. The songs are hobbled around the three minute mark. The album is short, and padded with bonus tracks nobody gives half a fuck about. The military theme is hampered by the fact that they’re running out of good battles to write about: on their next album they’ll be down to writing about the time Gene LeBell choked out Steven Seagal and made him shit his pants.
This review is dogshit, but there’s just so little to talk about. It feels like trying to analyse elevator music. Listening to The Last Stand just makes me feel sad and empty. The music’s a nonevent, but did they have to steal Tommy Johansson? Forget getting a new Reinxeed album any time soon.
The Last Stand will keep Sabaton on the festival circuit a little while longer, and all the critics listen to a few songs then copy+paste their “7/10, gives the fans what they want” review from the last album, and meanwhile, the genre keeps spinning its wheels. Power metal isn’t a magical unicorn. It’s a rotting donkey carcass with a novelty dildo glued to its head, and every day, the stench becomes harder and harder to disguise. There’s going to be a shakeup soon. This is exactly the sort of stagnation that led to the overthrow of metal by grunge rock in the 90s. Until then, enjoy the rectum jokes.No Comments »