Books


VIDEO: MOVIES: CARTOONS: REVIEW: The Lorax (2012)

Clio: 2.8/5 stars, 5.4/10.
Carolyn: 3/5 stars, 5.6/10.
Native ratings: 4.1/5 stars Netflix, 6.3/10 IMDB.

Based on the Dr. Suess book. Very generic. Too many songs. It’d probably be more enjoyable for a young kid, but didn’t have nearly as much to offer to adults.

Worth it to be able to visually explore a CGI instance of a Seuss-inspired world. For a lot of these Seuss movies, that’s really the sole point: Seeing what it looks like a grander scale.

Worth it, but I’d like more.

Directed by:
Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Kyle Balda.
written by: Ken Daurio (Despicable Me, Horton Hears A Who, College Road Trip, The Santa Clause 2).

Starring Danny DeVito (Taxi, Penguin in Batman Returns, Twins, The War Of The Roses, Man On The Moon, Mars Attacks!, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) as The Lorax.
Ed Helms (Andy Bernard in The Office, The Hangover movies, 3 eps of Arrested Development, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay) as The Once-ler.
Zac Efron (Anakin Skywalker in Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III, 17 Again, High School Musical, 1 ep of Firefly) as Ted.
Taylor Swift (the singer) as Audrey.
Betty White as Grammy Norma.
Rob Riggle (P.O.T.N. in NTSF:SD:SUV, 4 eps of American Dad, The Hangover, Step Brothers, Human Giant, Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby) as Mr. O’Hare.
Jenny Slate (2 eps of Bob’s Burgers, 1 ep of Ugly Americans, Saturday Night Live) as Ted’s Mom.
Nasim Pedrad (87 eps of Saturday Night Live, The Dictator, 7 eps of Allen Gregory) as Once-ler’s Mom.
Elmarie Wendel (Mrs. Dubcek in 3rd Rock From The Sun, 1 ep of American Dad, 5 eps of General Hospital) as Aunt Grizelda.
Danny Cooksey (5 eps of Invader Zim, Kung Fu Panda, 2 eps of G.I. Joe Renegades, Tiny Toon Adventures, Terminator 2, Static Shock, Dave The Barbarian) as Brett / Chet.
Stephen Tobolowsky (Bob Bishop in Heroes, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Boxboarders!, Buried) as Uncle Ubb.
Chris Renaud (he’s the director of The Lorax, Despicable Me) as Forest Animals.

 

Christie: Agreed. Liked it, but too many songs.

 

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1482459/combined

VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: Cloud Atlas (2012)

4.6/5 stars, 9/10 from both of us.
Native rating: 3.7/10 stars Netflix, 8.0/10 IMDB.

I don’t normally like the movies of several different unrelated/barely-related lives, but then, this isn’t that. Everything is connected. The editing and execution was magnificent. They said this book could never be made into a movie, but they were wrong.

Six stories in six different periods of time, all linked, all being told simultaneously. And it’s actually pretty easy to follow, with the exception of the future-English spoken in the post-apocalypstic one. I’m sure I didn’t realize all the linkages between different stories, but it was absolutely watchable and not a scattered mess like some thought it was going to be. It was quite interesting!

Basically, Wachowski siblings FTW! As always!

It actually took me a few seconds to realize which characters were Tom Hanks… And Halle Berry as the male asian doctor was one of the most deceptive makeup jobs in the movie. Basically, each actor was several characters. David Lynch probably really liked this movie.

Carolyn: “I felt like I felt with Benjamin Button, a wholesome love-conquers-all feel, but then also revolution, going against the norm, speaking/fighting for what’s right, not accepting the status quo. It was a good movie.”

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371111/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

VIDEO: TV: SHOWS: REVIEW: Dirk Gently (2012) (UK)

5/5 stars from both of us. Clint: 9/10, Carolyn: 8/10.  [7.7/10 on IMDB]

… The only Douglas Adams book I ever actually read was a Dirk Gently novel I read in 1987ish, not that I remember books I read in the 80s the way I remember movies watched in the 80s.

Anyway, it was nice to be reminded just what the hell that was all about.

I wish the British didn’t have such tiny series. Waiting 2 yrs after a series pilot to get just three more episodes is a bum rap. Do 26 of these, please! And that’s the problem I have with British TV. You can barely spend as much time on a series you love as a series you hate, because by the time you’ve watched enough episodes to really know the difference, it’s over anyway.

But yeah…. Complaints aside, this was awesome. Dirk Gently is kind of an asshole anti-hero, and the relationship between him and his reluctant partner has a really good on-screen [non-sexual] chemistry.

[Carolyn netflix/imdb ratings for each ep: #1:4.6/8, #2:4/8, #3:4.2/8]

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2303367

Read on for today’s interesting stories. (more…)

I got the Marvel “1602” graphic novel for Christmas this year. It is Neil Gaiman’s first comic series in a while. He was just about to start a project, then 911 happened. He didn’t want any planes, skyscrapers, or guns. So he moved all the Marvel characters to England/Europe in 1602.

The result is very interesting. Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, Dr. Doom, The X-Men (headed by Carlos Javier), The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man (who has no powers as Peter Parquagh), even Uatu The Watcher is featured in this. And The Watchers interfere, for once! It’s rare, but when all of creation is threatened, they interfere so that they still have something for watch.

It’s 8 comic books converted into a hardback grahpic novel. Excellent artwork — I really think digital painting has vastly improved the quality of comics, though purists will always disagree. I’m sorry, but old comics look amateur compared to today. Digital painting, gradients, and such, vastly improve how cool everything looks.

The story is decent. I read the first of 8 parts one night, then read all 7 parts in a row when my prescription kept me up all night. It took about 5 hours to read it all.

Good stuff. My comic reading has been on hold for years. A nice side-effect of pneumonia is not being able to sleep, getting bored, and wanting something light to read that wont give you a headache.

This was just what the doctor ordered. (more…)

Literature Vs. Film
People often repeat the fallacy that “film is a passive medium”. The statement is usually elaborated like this: “When I read a story in a book, I have to use my imagination to conjure up what the characters look like, the sound of their voices, the appearance of their surroundings, the house, the landscape. When I see a movie, those things are all nailed down for me, so I don’t feel as involved.” What the person is describing are the most obvious aspects of a given story, that is, its physical properties. They are, in fact, the least interesting and least important components of a story. I do not read books in order to imagine the physical appearance of things.

Conversely, there are things which are typically spelled out in a book, but which must be imagined in a film. These are the intangibles, the important stuff; what are the characters thinking and feeling? Novelists have the advantage of being very explicit about the internal experience, and they indulge it, often to the detriment of the reader’s power to infer. Good writers are the ones who maneuver around this pitfall. A book’s ability to describe thoughts and feelings is a liability, not an advantage, if used to declaim its themes rather than evoke the desired consciousness in the reader.”
-Peter Chung, The State of Visual Narrative In Film And Comics (which I linked to before) (more…)

FANTASY ANTHOLOGY SERIES: Thieves’ World. Robert Lynn Aspirin JUST died, and it reminded me of how much I absolutely LOVED this fantasy-anthology-series growing up as a kid. I have the original printing of the first 10 or so books. And now they are going to maybe make movies?!?!?! That would be SO awesome.

I never actually read any Aspirin, other than his contributions to the Thieves’ World books (Which were comprised of stories written by many authors, the only other name I remember being Diane Duane,I think.)

But Thieves’ World stuck in my mind growing up… a LOT. Though it was hard to get a hold of the “final” book(s).

It was like a mature Middle Earth. It was where I first heard of anti-rape devices being vaginally implanted, which, when raped, would close sharp teeth onto the invading penis, cutting it off. That haunted me in 8th grade, hehehe.

I remember the “Vulgar Unicorn”, which was an awesome name for a tavern… And I remember some of the characters names, such as Shadowspawn, Enas Yorl, etc. I really don’t remember much, come to think of it. But it was so freakin’ awesome at the time that I read it (middle school!)

(more…)

Well be thy one, and wisdom too. And grew, and joyed in my growth. From a word to a word, I was lead to a Wyrd. From a deed, to another deed.

I wish I had time to fully review this amazing album by Sabbat (official website HERE) (buy the album HERE). I wish I had time to speak of the extent to which it has, at times, affected me more than any other album. I wish I had time to speak at length about my long search for the book it was based on, and the experience of finally finding and reading that book some 12 years ago.

And oh, Nic Cage used this book as inspiration for his acting in Ghost Rider. (WTF?!)

I’ll at least try: This is perhaps my favorite thrash metal (speedmetal) album of all time, and it is definitely the album that I have spent the most cumulative effort to understand. The only album that ever made me read a book, something I am both weary and wary of. Musically, there are an amazing amount of good riffs on the album, some of which I would play on my guitar obsessively in high school. The songs do not adhere to any traditional structure — they often have multiple choruses and bridges. Really the only thing limiting their music in any way, shape, or form, is the somewhat narrow style definition of thrash metal itself, and the fact that all songs sound alike to an untrained non-brutal ear. It plays like 1 long song with an intro, intermission (an acoustic song, the only song ever sung by Sabbat), and outro. I used to play along with the outro; it’s classical guitar, and thus can’t be played with a pick, and that’s always a fun challenge. The book is quite amazing too. Later on in this post, I am going to attempt to analyze every song with respect to the album and the book. THIS IS A LONG POST.

THE ALBUM (SUMMARY)

It is a concept album, telling a spiritual story based on the novel The Way Of Wyrd by Bryan Bates (official book website HERE, and a thread by people who found the book via the Sabbat album can be found HERE), who is considered (by Wikipedia) to be England’s “foremost authority on Anglo Saxon Druidry, shamanism and mysteries”. It is best listened to while reading along with the lyrics, preferably with timed highlighting (EvilLyrics), because it is easy to get lost. There are a LOT of lyrics and a LOT of riffs in EVERY song. (Their previous album was called A History Of A Time To Come and is a concept album with a central theme, but no central narrative. Songs could be played in any order, whereas this album should be listened to sequentially.)

PERSONAL HISTORY

It hasn’t been non-stop, but I’ve been listening to this album since it was fairly new. I picked it up within a year of its release in 1989, based on liking the album cover, and listened to it heavily during the cassette and mp3 era, but not during the CD era, because it was basically unavailable on CD from ~1992-2002. My best friend Sam eventually figured out the story, and once the internet came around in 1994, I managed to find (crappy) lyrics online. Around 1996, Carolyn & I spent MANY, MANY, MANY hours in college listening to the album together, and editing the lyrics until they actually seemed to actually match what was said. The book was employed during some hard-to-decipher parts as well.


cover
I now own it on vinyl and cd, autographed by the 5 current members (4 originals):
20080419 - Sabbat concert at Jaxx - 155-5501 - All of our stuff
20080419 - Sabbat concert at Jaxx - 154-5494 - Clint & his autographed albums
20080419 - Sabbat concert at Jaxx - 154-5498 - Clint & Andy Sneap
20080419 - Sabbat concert at Jaxx - 155-5502 - close-up of autographed vinyl album
20080419 - Sabbat concert at Jaxx - 154-5495 - Autographed albums & Power Metal magazine

NOW I GET TO SEE THEM IN CONCERT!!!!
[UPDATE: Read my review of the concert, with videos, HERE]

Tomorrow, at Jaxx! It looks like I will have another bandname to add to my list of concerts I never thought I’d see in my life. I can’t believe that in the space of 5-10 years, FOUR bands (S.O.D., Celtic Frost, Carnivore, Sabbat) that have been broken up for 15 years or more have all toured where I could catch a local show! Suddenly, I feel a bit less old. But then the Sabbat singer says, “Raise your hand if you were alive in 1989 when our album came out” on a live bootleg, and I realize some of the kids at the concert might not have been born back then. Ugh.

MONEY: The most I’ve ever cumulatively spent on a single album!

This album is also the album I’ve paid the most for. $8 for the cassette (no lyrics). $15 for the vinyl (which included lyrics) at Record Convergence. Then, I downloaded crappy mp3s made from a cassette, where the songs were split into separate tracks incorrectly. Then, I got a friend to make new mp3s from my cassette. Then, after many searches, CDs became wanted enough by fans that they sold for exorbitant prices on eBay. These high prices meant hardcore fans could still buy a copy, and I did: for *** $54 ***, which was the going rate 5 years ago. (A live 2005 show includes the Sabbat‘s singer saying, “160 quid? That’s fucking disgusting! Well, those people on eBay will be put out of business, because we are re-releasing the album!) Then, it was remastered and re-released in 2007 (re-release reviews from Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, and Terrorizer can be found HERE), but it still cost $25. (Their first album was re-released as well.) Count that up: That’s no less $102 spent on one album. It was released by Noise Records, who was my favorite record company in high school, releasing bands such as Coroner, Celtic Frost, Kreator. Unfortunately, Noise Records is basically defunct. The website has been reclaimed, and I made one order for them (Coroner CD) around 2000. When it arrived, it came with a receipt: The people at Noise Records had to go shopping in California record stores to find their own album so that they could sell it to me. Pathetic.

THE POLITICS

In the grand scheme of things, the album is politically about how the christians wiped out the pagans, and stole aspects of their religion to help subvert people into christianity. I think the religious movement that wiped out paganism is largely responsible for many of the world’s current problems, and wish the pagans had one. But all the politics is just subtext; the actual album and book basically tell a fictitious and magical story of a christian’s journey into newfound spirituality. And I’m pretty anti-spiritual, so the fact that I’m into this is pretty significant.

THE BOOK
(AND POSSIBLY A MOVIE?!?!?!?!?!!?!)

The book is an extremely interesting fictitious, magical, and spiritual journey. Of course, national library searches for that book failed in ~1992 and ~1994, and it wasn’t until ~1996 that a copy of this novel made its way to American libraries. Reading the book also helped me figure out some of the lyrics that weren’t in the inlay cards, like the ending “prayer” of the song Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares?. Anyway, I just found out today that New Line Films (Lord Of The Rings) is working with Brian Bates to adapt this tale into a film. I could not be more stoked. The summary at at the official site HERE says: “This unusual story documents the physical and spiritual journey of a young man into the vast forests of pagan Anglo-Saxon England – the historical setting of Middle-Earth. Through his experiences the book reveals the teaching of a remarkable Western path to psychological and spiritual liberation; a way of being in the world that challenges many of our current notions of mind, body and spirit. Wat Brand is a Christian scribe sent on a mission deep into a pagan kingdom; a landscape full of alien terrors and mysterious forces. His guide, a sorcerer and mystic named Wulf, demonstrates awesome healing powers, and leads Brand through lessons in plant lore and runes, omens, fate and life force, and into direct encounters with the spirit world. Brand becomes an apprentice, seeks the help of a guardian spirit and eventually journeys to the spirit world to encounter the true nature of his own soul.”

THE STORY, AS TOLD BY THE SONGS IN THE ALBUM:
(this is the long part!)

The Clerical Conspiracy:

Basically, the first song The Clerical Conspiracy details how the christians deliberately conspired to invade and destroy the pagans. The lyrics: “There is no way to fight a foe who strikes from the inside, / and once within we can begin to smite this pagan pride. / We shall take their graven images and grind them in the dirt, / for that men can live in paradise must be the Devil’s work.” Yes, as usual, the christians are all pissy about anyone (including themselves) having any sort of fun, and they want to assimilate the enemy into their own.

The chorus goes on: “The Clerical Conspiracy begins, we wash away your sins; we come to purify / To purge you of your liberty, absolve you of all sanity, the ‘truth’ you want to hear we shall provide.” Such words strike my heart closely as being an accurate depiction of the worst of what organized religion has to offer (which is, unfortunately, enough to make organized religion cumulatively evil; the Crusades, World War 2, and The War On Terror all demonstrate.) Their desire to purify reminds me of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry Of Vice & Virtue. “We shall greet them with a velvet glove, and crush them with an iron hand.” I think this speaks of the hypocracy of christianity (islam, too), whereby a religion can preach peace but cause wars at the same time.

I particularly like the 2nd chorus (a lot of these songs have multiple choruses that are repeated multiple times): “Christian soldiers armed with virtue / hearts afire with blind obsession / cannot see the difference ‘twixt / compassion and oppression.” However, main character Wat Brand goes on to tell us that this whole thing was a mistake. How could he have known what was to follow? “Those who had preceded me of pagan devils warned- With fearful tales of christian souls since martyred on their horns.” Finally, Wat Brand concludes: “And so soon would I learn what a fool I had been, / there is more than one side to a coin- life is not what it seems … It’s no more than a dream.”

Advent Of Insanity:
(only soft Sabbat song ever)

The second song, Advent Of Insanity details Wat Brand’s sea voyage to southern england. This is the “acoustic, soft” song of the album, and the only Sabbat song ever sung. The title and a few lines of the lyrics imply that this is where he begans to lose his sanity, but for the most part the song simply laments the fact that travelers [especially at sea] are pretty much in the hands of destiny. The softness of the song, coupled with the sounds of a sailing ship, it’s ropes taut, but still tightening and loosening, make you feel like you are on the ship. And it goes on for a bit after the song ends, creating an incredibly dramatic pause before the incredibly hard-hitting opening of Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares?: “Standing on a strange shore- this desolate coastline, / it offers cold comfort. / Very little more than the sky for a blanket- / The earth for my bed.”


Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares?

Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares? is an absolutely incredible song. It covers chapter 2 of the novel, “A Forest Of Phantoms”. In the book, Wat Brand lands on shore, but has not yet found his guide, Wulf. Meeting up with someone in ancient England was not trivial. The meeting place was not a city, and there are no cellphones, GPS devices, or landmarks. Wat Brand had to wander the country side, hanging out at certain highly visible hilltops during certain times, and in the end, I think one of them saw the other’s torch from another hilltop during the night. I can’t remember [10+ yrs since reading the book], but I want to say he had to wander the countryside for several days. So this song captures the insanity and terror that Wat Brand experiences, trying to find his guide, while being tormented by spirits. “Childhood terrors return to me now, / from the rand stench of fear in the sweat on my brow. / Deceit and despair are to me kith and kin, / seduced into slumber- my nightmare begins.” There is a chorus “sung by” Woden, welcoming Wat Brand to his web, and it is not long before he is drowning in insanity and terror. The same insanity that started on the ship in the previous song Advent Of Insanity.

Then there is a 2nd chorus “sung by” Wat Brand, when he realizes all this is a test (as christians are wont to ascribe everything to god): “Now I see that this quest is a test of my fidelity – has God forsaken me? When madness sings his lullaby – a nightmare filled with unknown things – to cast aspersion on my sanity…” His dreams are invaded, he is in a foreign land, with a foreign religion, paganism, prevailing. He is filled with terror, and now his faith is being tested. It only gets worse for Wat Brand. “Shapeless forms surround me casting shadows in the night, / I feel their breath upon me- catch their faces in the light. / Somnambulistic hunters come to prey upon my fears – / as peals of psychopathic laughter echo in my ears.” He is going crazy, but not really. I’ve read the book, and the spirits he sees are real. In the end of the song, he futily evokes a prayer to try to make it stop, but of course this does not work, as one of the morals of the story is that God is not the Jehovah as christians see it. This prayer is not included in the lyric sheet, and a significant amount of energy was expended listening to it over and over. In the end, the only way to figure out those lyrics is to read the book: “Oh you wretched, perverse spirits, your power is seen and your might is made known. Now I command you in the name of the eternal Lord, who made you and flung you from the height of Heaven, to cease from this disturbance.” There is a middle part only in the book, but it is less interesting. Finally, in the next song, Wat Brand meets his guide Wulf.

The Best Of Enemies

The Best Of Enemies starts off with music-less dialog: “Who are you that walks across the graves of giants at this late hour?” Wat Brand meets Wulf. In the book, the words were slightly different: “May I ask who you are, walking by moonlight over the graves of giants?”. This entire song is “sung by” Wulf, representing the pagan point of view, and what is seen wrong with christianity, as well as guiding and warning Wat Brand of what he must face. This song covers Chapter 3 (Tales Of Pagan Power), Chapter 4 (Unleashing Life Force), and Chapter 6 (Living Like A Warrior).

The first sung lyrics are “Oh instrument of God force – Fed on ignorance and lies, / so blind and narrow-minded that you cannot compromise.” I think it’s a pretty accurate depiction of religious dogma (and not just christian). Wulf’s lyrics go on to talk about how Wat Brand has as strong a life-force as Wulf does (“the difference is what you hold captive, I set free”). These 2 men are indeed “the best” of their breed, as the song title implies — and that’s why they were both chosen for their tasks.

Wulf’s role is that of both an enemy and a guide. As an enemy, he explains that nobody really wants him there (“mistake your making / overlooking the fact that we might not want to be saved”). He mocks his christian faith: “These teachings that you deem so sacred / become words devoid of meaning, / when compared unto a faith / that preaches something worth believing”. And he does it more than once: “The values that you hold so dear…they hold no more sway here than the mutterings of fools” and “your devil seems so mild, a relic from the faerie-tales my mother told me as a child.” He also asks Wat Brand “Why do you carry your God like a weapon – a dagger drawn ready to strike at the heart of a foe / when you don’t really know the reason that you fight?”, a reference to the fact that in old times, priests would have daggers embedded in their crucifixes, for the purpose of killing people. Whether this was for self-defense or forced conversion is beyond me.

As I said before, Wulf’s role is that of both an enemy and a guide. So as a guide, they discuss The Way Of The Warrior, and the fact that people in pagan England did not at all fear death. In the book, I believe this is where Wat Brand watched a bar fight — to the death — and was a bit traumatized by the fact that nobody wanted to stop it. Wulf provides various warnings to Wat as well: “These spirits aren’t your enemies – but neither are they friends, / do not dare insult them lest all nature you offend.” As the song closes, Wulf laments “Perhaps one day mankind will see the error of it’s ways, / and in it’s future glimpse reflections of our yesterdays”, a reference to Dreamweaver‘s subtitle: Reflections Of Our Yesterdays. Wat should have listened, because things are about to get much worse for him.

How Have The Mighty Fallen

SIDE B: Finally, you flip the cassette (if it’s the 1990s), and get to side 2, with the song How Have The Mighty Fallen?, clocking in at over 8 minutes (most of the songs are about 6 minutes). This song parallels chapter 8, “The Wyrd Sisters“, and chapter 9, “The Spirits Steal My Soul”. I may have had a brush with the Wyrd Sisters once, but it was too unbelievable even for myself. Suffice to say, you don’t want to mess with those three. They are troublemakers. Wat Brand really should have listened, but Wulf was not really being helpful in the traditional, christian sense of the word. The Wyrd Sisters appear to him as a swarm of bees in Chapter 8, stinging him repeatedly. In the album, it seems that he has been poisoned and strangled to death, with the prime suspect being his guide (and spiritual enemy) Wulf. I’m not quite sure what happens in the book, but the lyrics where he die go like this: “Icy fingers grasping madly get a grip upon my throat – / and slowly squeeze the life out of me / on my dying words I choke, / a frantic prayer in desperation / cannot hope to make me whole, / a moment’s lapse of concentration / and the spirits free my soul / Drugs and potions surge within me – / slowly paralyze and kill me, / terrified I stumble blindly / Into the unknown.” And that’s death. A blind stumble.

Weird Sisters, as featured in the cartoon Gargoyles - ask me about my supernatural VCR sometimeAt this point, he should be in heaven, right? That would make sense, if this book was written from a christian perspective. But it was not. In the framework of the Way Of Wyrd novel, there is a god/gods, but (s)he is not Jehovah. So no — he did not go to heaven. The story’s only halfway through, and the rest of it pretty much all takes place in the spirit world. In the book, his soul is stolen, but the album just makes it sound like he dies. It’s a matter of editing the story to fit the format it is in; much like adapting a book to a movie, you must sacrifice subtle plot elements in the name of keeping the story cohesive.

How Have The Mighty Fallen? is perhaps one of the most fatalistic songs on the album, because at the beginning, during his “death”, as far as Wat Brand is concerned, he is completely fucked and not at all happy with the situation. Near the beginning of the song, the lyrics remarks “The fetters that bound me are broken / by words that were best left unspoken / for now I am shackled to sadness / by chains that are tempered with madness.” No doubt that may be what it feels like to literally have your soul ripped from you, while still being conscious of this fact. (I would like to ask the children from The Golden Compass, who underwent “intercision”, if these lyrics captured how they felt. Then again, they were still in the real world, and not the dream world.)

Not having your soul is not pleasant. In fact, it is downright creepy. It goes a bit like this: “Once light hearted I departed – on my quest hope courted me, / now a new love is my true love / and her name is misery. / Eyes as dark as midnight-ravens / gems that filled my mind with awe, / enthrall my heart – distract me / from her milk-white hands / stained red with gore.” Wat Brand watches his life-force die, and wanders in mad confusion. Being dead/soulless, he finally sees things as they really are: “The latch has now been lifted on an ever open door, / and peering through I see things as I never have before.”

Anyway, it is around this time (in the album, and in Chapter 12 of the book “The Dwarf Of The Underworld”) that his soul is literally rebuilt in spirit-world forges, as the shroud of his remaining consciousness float up to the ceiling of the room, watching. In the book, this is described as “ringing out rhythmically like hammers on metal in some gigantic smithy.” In the song How Have The Mighty Fallen?, the lyrics describe his soul being rebuilt as such: “The hammer and the anvil meet / in synchronicity they chime / a sound so simple and complete / it needs no melody or rhyme. / Reforging all that I once was / they make me into something new / no longer trapped within this world / but transient and passing through.” The lyrics really help me imagine what it must feel like to be in Wat Brand’s predicament.

Wildfire

Next up is the 2nd-to-last real song on the album (I haven’t been counting the intro and outro tracks), entitled Wildfire. This song roughly parallels the end of Chapter 11, “The Cauldron Of Power”. This is perhaps the song that I have the least understanding of. Wat Brand’s soul has been rebuilt, and he went back to his earthly body, resurrected. But Wat Brand and his soul are still not together! In the book, he only had about 12 hours of “shadow soul” before he would cease to exist; they had to act fast to get his soul back.

The title of the song, Wildfire, is a mystery. I am guessing that it is about the fire of his soul, soaring on the flames of what I can only ascertain is the spiritual awakening Wat Brand (or anyone) must have experienced upon having a firsthand glimpsed of the underworld. This is knowledge that no mortal consciousness is supposed to have, and such knowledge can be maddening: “Awakened from my troubled sleep – / where dreams once lost as nightmares creep, / to steal my soul and suffocate what sanity remains. / My anger mute – my anguish blind / within this sad fragmented mind / your eyes the spark to light the fire / that burns away my pain.”

He then goes on to great anger over the whole experience, especially in Wulf’s betrayal, and causing him to lose his soul. Most people don’t take to kindly to being killed. I don’t. I can only assume these lyrics are directed at Wulf: “Protected by reality- / yet you still fear the beast in me, / your reckless tongue could be the key, / you’ll be
the first to die if it breaks free. / The first to die!” It sounds like Wulf is protected by pagan sorcery and/or his knowledge of the underworld, and Wat Brand is quite willing to kill him if given a chance. “Wildfire – Hallucinations fill my mind / with a love so strong that it is blind. / A dream of such intensity, / it verges on insanity.”

The irony of this is that it’s just another example of christian intolerance, because Wulf was right, Wat Brand was wrong, god is as pagans see it, not christians (in the framework of The Way Of Wyrd book). So Wulf was actually doing Wat Brand a big favor by allowing him the opportunity to collect enough evidence to see the truth. And Wulf was also serving his people by undermining the christian incursion planned so carefully in the first song, The Clerical Conspiracy. Plus, Wat Brand now needs Wulf to help him reclaim his soul.

Well played, Wulf. Sour apples, Wat. You don’t need to kill the guy. He was trying to do you a favor!

But Wat Brand is no run-of-the-mill person, he has a strong life-force, as pointed out before. He possesses the passion, fury, and “fire” to think things out critically, and to eventually come to terms with the fact that Wulf was right. He’s still mad at Wulf… Y’know, the murder… But he acquiesces nonetheless: “How could you be such a fool, / to dare to break the golden rule? / Yet in the light of day I see / that you were right – / the fool is me… / The fool is me!”

Realizing the truth — realizing that he was a christian fool — only exacerbates Wat Brand’s soulless insanity. It was bad enough in the beginning of the song, but by the end of the song he is nothing short of nervous wreck, panicking in a frenetic bout of the purest terror known to man, a living hell: “I seek a release from this web of deceit – / now my terror is growing. / There is no escape from my fate – it’s too late – / all my fears are showing. / I’m running from something that just isn’t there – / the panic is real, / and you must be blind for my words cannot hide the heartache I feel … Please God help me now.” (God doesn’t help him. Not the christian god, anyway.) And that’s how the song ends: Please God Help Me Now.

Mythistory
(the end)

Finally, we get to Mythistory, the climax of the story and final “real” song of the album. This parallels Chapter 13, “In Search Of The Guardians”. Face with soulless insanity and spiritual holocaust, Wat Brand must now finally act on what he has learned, and he must act soon. But it seems quite futile without a soul: “I’m standing at the crossroads of my life / nothing to lose. / Each path leads to oblivion, / whichever one I choose.”

But Wat Brand perseveres, and seeks out the Wyrd Sisters again. He finds them, and begs for his soul: “Sisters of servitude- / fearful and fair, / Who herald good fortune / and mete out despair. / Take pity upon me / and give back my soul, / so that I who am ’empty’ / may once more be ‘whole’.” The sisters respond, the only time they ever speak on the album (and there is a production effect of multiple voices to empasize this): “Mortal be silent – take heed as we speak, / not lightly will we return that which you seek. / True wisdom walks hand-in-hand with adversity, / knowledge exists on the brink of uncertainty.”

And I always listen to the Wyrd Sisters when they speak — their words were quite profound. True wisdom probably does indeed walk hand-in-hand with adversity. I don’t see how anyone could achieve true wisdom without some adversity, trials, and tribulations to teach them lessons that would ultimately impart them with wisdom that they would not have otherwise encountered. Sometimes something has to slap you in the face before you learn a goddamn thing, and adversity — and losing — help us grow far more than complacency and victory. The second part of what they said — that knowledge exists on the brink of uncertainty — is an even deeper statement that probably defies my abilities to decode. But I can certainly understand that everything we know, everything we find out — be it science, philosophy, religion, or even art — only opens up new questions. So all knowledge is surrounded by unknowns, and more questions. Perhaps the biggest question of all is what is the meaning of life, and what ultimately happens when we die? And perhaps the truest knowledge of all is that which comes from those who have peered over the precipice — and come back.

Once the Wyrd Sisters have spoken, Wat Brand sees the form of the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. She awakens feelings which his christianity had required him to suppress: “The moment that I saw her face / my lust I could not hide. / She knew me as no other – / viewed me through a lover’s eyes.” This is analogous to the beginning of Chapter 14, “A Sorcerer’s Soul”. Her beauty was more than skin deep — she knew him like no other. The lyrics go on to express this even further, as Wat Brand finally gives in to temptation: “A vision of sensual delight / pervades my senses – and ignites / new feelings that I can’t define, / desire for this succubus sublime. / Sister, mother, virgin, whore – / she is all these and yet still more / that I could hope to understand, / she takes my heart – / I take her hand …”

Walking into temptation, forsaking his christian sensibilities, and his virginity, Wat Brand willingly takes the hand of… a hot chick. He justifies it as such: “And can you blame me? / Is it such a crime? / To crave for one small piece / of heaven that I can call mine?” Love is heaven indeed, and why should he be denied it? “All my life I have yearned; how my spirit has burned / to taste of the fruit that my tonsure forbade. / Yet here was a beauty so pure she could truly / outshine any star that the Lord God has made.” BAM! SACRILEGE POINTS! FROM THE MOUTH OF A PRIEST!

But he still has no soul. He repeats his plea to the Wyrd Sisters to return it. “Sisters of servitude, fearful and fair…” It is then that “The Fairest Of Them All” (as described in the lyrics) speaks. That is, the beautiful woman he just met speaks. There is a two-voiced production here; a male and female voice at the same time. “Brand look no further – / for that which was lost / can be found in me if your / distrust becomes troth. / I will bestow you with riches untold, / for I am your ‘harvest-home’ – I am your soul.” M. Night Shyamalan would be proud — What a twist! The woman was his soul! I hope my soul is a hot chick I can lust after! That’s definitely a lot less gay of a way to interact with yourself than the gay handjob that is called “masturbation”. :) Seriously, though… It was like this in the book too. He finds his soul, and it’s a hot chick. It really does remind me of The Golden Compass in the sense that your soul can actually be external to your body, with its own consciousness and will. But nobody in The Golden Compass was lucky enough (unless they were into bestiality) to have a soul that they were sexually attracted to!

The book concludes at some point after this, with Wat Brand realizing that the true god is not the christian god. However, this is not a rejection of his faith; Wat Brand actually realizes that he had been worshiping this god all along, but simply had an incredibly narrow-minded view about what god was. Now he had more information, and could make a new decision about what to believe.

The lyrics of the album are a bit unclear as to what happens to him, but basically — He has no desire to return to where he came from. It sounds geographical, but I think the comment was spiritual. And she still comes to him: “Many a cold Winter’s night she has come to me – / easing my sorrows and soothing my fears, / in the dreams of this old man, a soft voice still comforts me, / made young once more by the words that I hear.”

And with that, we hear his soul say the same words that she said when he first took her hand: “Come walk with me / through the vale of eternity, / for you must know / ere you go I will go with thee…” A very dramatic fade, followed by the acoustic classical guitar Outro, Happily Never After. Later, at the Sabbat concert, someone asked Martin Walkyier about that woman’s voice, and apparently she was the receptionist at the recording studio!

(more…)

WAR ON DRUGS: Federal marijuana decriminalization bill introduced — tell your congressman to support it here. Surveys tend to show that around half of Americans support decriminalization of marijuana. Since this is not a direct democracy, and you don’t get a vote, letting your congressman know what to do is the only way you will be represented. So speak up. Of course this wont make a real difference, as only 1% of marijuana arrests occur at the federal level. But federal penalties are draconian and extreme. (tags: marijuana Democrats BarneyFrank)
  • More stories past the jump —> (more…)
  • http://wikinews//Church_of_Scientology_Operating_Thetan_documents_leaked_online

    The 612-page manual for Scientologists written by L. Ron Hubbard contains instructions for the eight different Operating Thetan levels including ‘clear’ and OT8.

    Most of the manual is typed from a computer, while the packet contains some hand written notes by Hubbard himself who also signed them. The manual also contains letters by Hubbard to individuals who have passed the according levels.

    A link to the actual 17-meg PDF is HERE. Everyone grab this. This includes stuff that was only kept on a ship, because it was considered too dangerous to Scientology to keep this information on land! But now we all have it, muahahaha. ALL HAIL XENU. (more…)

    http://www.acm.vt.edu/~clint/download/imagedump/arthur-c-clarke-quote-by-giselagiardino23-at-aka-gi-flickr.jpg

    I am sad to hear that my favorite creative mind in science fiction, Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, has died.  It was just a few hours ago, after suffering breathing problems. It’s not like I’ve read more than 6 or so of his books … and it’s not like I even enjoyed the 2001 movie.  But some of his works brought me great joy as a child, to the point of remembering them above all other books that I have ever read.  It is truly regretful to lose such a great creative genius.
    http://www.acm.vt.edu/~clint/download/imagedump/arthur-c-clarke-c!ty-and-the-starrrs.jpgThis is the cover to The City And The Stars, my personal all-time-favorite Arthur C. Clarke book. And considering I don’t really read these days, and he was my favorite author way back when, that definitely puts it in my top books ever. But hey, I like science fiction & fantasy. You can click through to the wikipedia page and read about it if you are so inclined, but basically… In the future, there are only 2 small cities of humanity left, and neither one knows of the other. The main character lives in a city that is so eternal that even the people are recycled. You are born as an adult, able to speak and walk, and live for 1000 yrs. Then you go back to the chamber, get assimilated into the eternity crystals, and are stored for a million years or so. At around age 20, you begin to remember past lives. The society is pretty much timeless, to the point of having a designated jester born every 40,000 years, just to keep things interesting. The jester has little to do with the story, but all that basically just paints the backdrop for the actual story. I loved this book as a child — even more than Childhood’s End and Rendezvous With Rama, my other two major favorites.

    If there’s any 3 Clarke books to read, it would be those 3.  Don’t fall for the 2001 trap; you’ll have to read at least 3 books to get out of it.

    http://www.acm.vt.edu/~clint/download/imagedump/20080214-matt-gr0ening-life-in-hell-books.jpgHow often do I make a book recommendations? Not very. But of course, I am a huge fan of The Simpsons, and also Matt Groening’s Life In Hell comic (est. 1977). I just ran into this photo on flickr, and realized that I own every one of these books.

    And, with the exception of A&JGL, every one of these books is sheer brilliance at levels equal to or greater than The Simpsons. In fact, The Simpsons were created in 15 minutes when Matt Groening realized that he did not want to sell the rights to his Life In Hell characters. The “Bongo” character is basically “Bart”.

    Bongo Comics also publishes some excellent Simpsons-based comic books, which are perhaps 50-80% as witty as the series. These include Simpsons, Futurama, Treehouse Of Horror, Radioactive Man (which spoofs hero comics in the same way Futurama spoofs sci-fi), Itchy & Scratchy (surprisingly violent for still images!), and Bartman.

    My point is basically: The Simpsons world is not limited to the 400 or so animated episodes and the movie. There is a wealth of Simpsons-related humor out there, and we need not wait for annual television seasons or writer’s strike conclusions to get our dose of Simpson-esque humor. But above all, GET THE LIFE IN HELL BOOKS. THEY ARE HILARIOUS. And they are insane.

    Many of the Life In Hell comics are full-page spreads divided into 9 (3×3) or 16 (4×4) or 25 (5×5) squares. Each square covers a topic related to the grand theme. Expressing humor in graph form just makes it that much easier to appreciate; the way Groening classifies things is very much the way I would do it, and very much appeals to my specific sense of humor.

    My favorite quote is from “Love Is Hell”, which on page 1, has a 3×3 (or 4×4) spread of different characters telling us what love is. My favorite one?:

    Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.

    Also, there are a few scanned online: HERE and HERE. But they aren’t as funny as reading a whole book; you have to get into the groove to really appreciate the humor.

    Buy all of Matt Groening’s amazing stuff at Amazon. And go to your local comic store and ask to “open a box”. They will put your comics in it each week, usually for 10-20% off, and then you can pick them up as often (or as infrequent) as you like. Just make sure that they have your credit card on file; they don’t like to lose money.

    Remember all the shitty RIAA lawsuits against (so far) 35,000+ people for downloading mp3s? Ones where it’s cheaper to settle than to defend yourself? This is to protect the artists’ revenue, right? Then why does the RIAA want to lower artist royalties?? The lower the royalties, the more each purchase exclusively goes to the RIAA and not to the artists. And remember, royalties are only based on the vinyl price — not the CD price. The fools who signed a record contract gave their souls to an entity that now wants to lower their royalties from 13% to 8%. THAT’S A 39% DECREASE, by the way (8/13=.6153). Pirate now. Don’t give a penny to these fuckers. And remember, they are already talking about taking concert revenue as well. If you are a band, don’t sign with them.

    Also: get Smith County Justice – banned book released by Wikileaks – now the public no longer has to pay the *$500* used “street value” (from Amazon). Now it’s free. This book, documenting corruption in Smith County,TX, was withdrawn by publisher, removed from all bookstores after publication–due to pressure from the very authorities exposed in the book. Some of whom are alleged to have “made some people disappear”. Spread the book.

    CELEZBRITIES. Tasers. Sexual Fantasies. HAHA: guide to enjoying straight pr0n in the company of other heterosexual males. (more…)

    I’ve been grabbing a lot of episodes of “cartoons that never should have been” lately. Not for watching, but mostly for having. And laughing at. And fast-forwarding through. And getting a feel of how bad they were. I present you with screenshots from “Where’s Wally?”aka “Where’s Waldo?” (1991) (imdb). Sadly enough, it was nominated for “Outstanding New Animation Series” in the 1992 Young Artist Awards. Have they no shame?

    https://i0.wp.com/clint.sheer.us/download/imagedump/whereswa11y-vlcsnap-5588883.png (more…)

    Amazing news today. More medical marijuana evidence — some of the most compelling ever. Legal drugs kill over 520,000 people a year, while all illegal drugs kill only about 3,000 people a year. Meanwhile, this particular brain cancer kills 7,000 a year, andcan be treated by the THC in marijuana. It’s no wonder our brains evolved neuroreceptors that have no known use other than to receive THC. Obviously, some of us actually need it. Also amazing: Man charged with disorderly conduct for standing on a sidewalk in Times Square. And, of course, the fact that Dumbledore, from Harry Potter, is actually gay. (more…)

      Also: nutcase swat team cop kills six 17-20yos at a party, manhunt ensues, cop shot dead by other cops.  … And remember “The Anarchists’ Cookbook”? Now kids are going to jail for having it.  WTF?!?!?!  This whole planet sucks.  Beam me up Scotty… there’s no sign of intelligent life here. (more…)

        Funny stuff today.  The bible translated into lolcat speak? A youtube video of Jimmy Justice harassing a meter maid for parking in front of a fire hydrant. DumpR, which lets you do really cool things with your flickr photos (much like FD’s Flickr Toys), another YouTuber talks smack about Celtic Frost, and YouDeparted.com – interesting idea. (more…)

        Glen being Glen. And he put it up on YouTube for us all to see.  Anyway, this is what it’s like going out in public with him.  You be the judge.

        ^^^ There are 5 videos. That one was the first. To see the rest, click more. (more…)

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