Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Healthy Pessimism

The problem with generalized optimism is that it will inevitably lead to generalized disappointment. Placing faith in forces beyond one's control, whether people or forces of nature, is bound to boomerang into faithlessness. This isn't true for everyone - certain lucky souls are capable of adjusting any circumstance into their belief system - but most people have a breaking point beyond which resignment rules. Resignment then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a defeatist attitude leads to defeatist results. Rather than try and transcend expectation, expecations merely shift from one extreme to another.

The solution, difficult as it may be, is to turn unwilled resignment into a wilful detachment. Remain optimistic about the things you can control but lose any expectations of the realm of chance. Two examples: the weather and strangers. It's not that you shouldn't welcome good weather and friendly strangers, it's that you shouldn't be surprised at rainy days and downcast assholes. Jean-Paul Sartre once said "It disturbs me no more to find men base, unjust, or selfish than to see apes mischievous, wolves savage, or the vulture ravenous." That may be a slight exaggeration, but without even the inkling of such an attitude one is likely to remain permanently disturbed.

It may seem counterintuitive to blame the Iraq war on optimism but that, more than oil or imaginary weapons of mass destruction, was the main cause of the current catastrophe there. Plans for a peaceful and democratic Iraq mistakenly assumed that because such a scenario was in Iraq's best interest, the Iraqis would work to make it happen. Yet even the people of the West, conditioned by an Enlightenment tradition extolling reason above all, are liable to work against their own perceived interests out of spite or romance or faith or all three. To expect any differently from a people without the benefits of such a nobly failed heritage is like being disturbed by a ravenous vulture.

This is not to comment on the destructive or redeeming irrationalism of any particular culture, but of the capriciousness of humanity in general. History is full of glorious exceptions, but for the most part man prefers the spectacle of a crucifixion to the possibility of salvation. It is within the limits of reason to be optimistic of particular people, but to expect the best out of people in general is to surrender those limits entirely. If modern history teaches us anything, it is that if people expected less from human nature, real humans would be better off. Have faith in yourself by all means, but don't mistake yourself for the world.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ten Wholesome Pieces Of Advice From Ministry

10. Rape yourself. - Worthless
9. Try your best to choke the very meaning from my life. - Useless
8. Wage war on the eye which cannot see. - What About Us?
7. See the sunset as an endless warning. - Worm
6. Ask if you're alive or just pretend that you died. - Dead Guy
5. Release yourself where the predator preys. - What About Us?
4. Cum in the name of the lord. - Psalm 69
3. Make a mess and fuck all the rest. - So What
2. Get out of my face and watch me die! - Burning Inside
1. Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long. - Jesus Built My Hot Rod

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween Playlist

1. Gallon Drunk - The Funeral
2. Ministry - Everyday Is Halloween
3. The Damned - Grimly Fiendish
4. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead
5. David Lynch & Alan Splet - In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)
6. Slayer - South Of Heaven
7. Black Sabbath - Children Of The Grave
8. Tool - Merkaba
9. Aphex Twin - Come To Daddy (Pappy Mix)
10. Einstürzende Neubauten - Die Interimsliebenden
12. The Doors - People Are Strange
13. Bauhaus - Hollow Hills
14. Killing Joke - Night Time
15. Siouxsie & The Banshees - Candyman
16. Course of Empire - Minions
17. NoMeansNo - Graveyard Shift
18. The Cramps - I Was A Teenage Werewolf
19. Bauhaus - Stigmata Martyr
20. Dead Can Dance - Black Sun
21. Joy Division - Dead Souls
22. Marilyn Manson - I Put A Spell On You
23. Einstürzende Neubauten - Die Interimsliebenden
24. The Birthday Party - Release the Bats
25. This Heat - Twilight Furniture
26. Killing Joke - Sun Goes Down
27. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
28. Tricky & Gravediggaz - Tonite Is A Special Nite
29. N.W.A. - Approach To Danger
30. Babyland - Mask
31. Tool - Faaip de Oiad


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mythopoetics & The Rebirth Of The Austro-Hungarian Empire

Mythopoetic history is the future. It provides the concrete symbols the abstract modern world needs. Beyond the irony, the commercialism and the boredom of the driftless present is a desire for a grounded future. A future based on historical fact but postmodern in its recognition that what matters is what we think matters. For instance: the modern Assyrians. What matters is not so much whether these people are direct genetic and cultural descendants of the ancient Assyrians - they're probably not - but that they have revived an ancient symbolism to create a newly-inspired communal vitalism. Through the recognition of ancient foundations, they are able to gain possession of symbols powerful enough to forge a community.

The power of an emperor or king is the power of an idea. It is based on the recognition that men in business-suits will never inspire the imagination. For as long as the subjects of the Hapsburg monarch believed in his power, he was powerful. Austria-Hungary only fell when nationalists overcame his sovereign myth with their own. Phoenicia will always hold more mythopoetic power than the modern state of Lebanon, so why shouldn't Lebanon embrace its distant Phoenician legacy? Why shouldn't a futurized past openly compete with an ungrounded present? Why shouldn't Austria and Hungary throw their lots in together? Why shouldn't Gavrilo Princep lay down his gun and bow to the Archduke? The bloodline may have dried but the power of the idea remains.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Brief Definition Of Insanity

It is 3:00 AM and you can't get to sleep. The sound of your watch ticking is keeping you awake. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick. You try to focus on something else, anything else, but the ticking only seems to increase in volume. You lie there helplessly as your ears start to ring. By 4:00 AM it occurs to you: you're not wearing a watch. But the ticking still continues.

Decibels Rising

Quietly whisper—

All is at peace.
Decibels rise to
A gentle breeze.

Conversations start—

Words on repeat.
Decibels rise to
The baaing of sheep.

Caught in heavy traffic—

Cars start to beep.
Noise levels rise to
A steady creep.

Drills, alarms, sirens—

Tension increase.
Noise levels soaring
Seeking release.

Jet planes, thunderclaps—

Please let it cease.
Unable to think,
Pressure won't ease.

A loud gunshot blast—

Again all is peace.
The final silence,
Decibels complete.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Midnight Dispatch

When sleep isn't forthcoming and the day has been spent, what to do? There comes a point where it's the same circular motions, the same tics, the same dimensions. Escape into Brazilian sunset! Isn't that worth running towards? Life sometimes sweeps you along a conveyor belt unless you stop to shift the gears. And then you stop to shift them but you get bored or distracted and it starts again. It goes on like that for a while until you're at the end of the belt and have been fully packaged. Then they ship you to Guatemala as an exploding soccerball for the right-wing death squads. I fully believe in the non sequitur and the unconscious logic of an absurd turn of phrase. It comes back to absurdism and anarcho-anything because that seems to be the world's default position, if you stop to think; a danger in the eternal rush hour.

Even Nietzsche realized this when he went mad at the sight of a man* beating a horse and started signing his letters Dionysus. Take this sample: ". . . this time however I come as the victorious Dionysus, who will turn the world into a holiday . . . Not that I have much time. . ." Indeed he did not, so it is up to Someone Else to carry on that legacy of revolutionary fiestas. Is that Someone Else me? Only if I become Dionysus, which can only happen if I move to Brazil. And so Brazil it is, to found the first Dictatorship of Fun and Bread n' Circuses. This is my dream and I must have it so I can avoid sleep. Once there comes a foul temptation to push me off my course. Call it love or constipation or the Yellow Menace. A certain urge to trail back to trail's beginning. In the meantime it's work and read and approach the dawn. Killing Joke sang "I'm in love with the Coming Race" and its comes back to me as something worth mentioning. So delightfully ominous. The problem or, fine, occasional benefit of minds is that they categorize and quantify and otherwise dam the holy menstrual flow of thought.

So sometimes I say you must lose that dam and break the bloody red seal. "Push, push, struggle!" Between the grind of tectonic plates fucking for centuries we are a drop of semen. A drop in the slow flood. Seek ye a lubricant for the social soul and converse and forget this the next morning. There are tests and assignments and maybe even dates! That will keep you occupied. A sentiment from the incorrigible Yevgeny Bazarov: "You see what I'm doing: there was an empty space left in the trunk which I'm filling with hay; that's how it is in our life's baggage; no matter what we stuff it with, it's better than having an empty space." I prefer fruit to hay but a similar principle applies. Worship an Almighty Anything, just choose that Anything wisely. A book, an idea, a person, a song, twelve seconds of orgasm. Twelve!? As long as it takes. Ian Curtis asks, "So this is permanence?" Well it isn't but as long as it feels that way it'll have to do for now - which is forever.

* I was that man.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Forward Regret!

Shit happens, two and two don't always make four. Little annoyances lodge themselves like splinters in the mind. That concert you missed, that opportunity you dashed, that jacket you lost, that plan that came to naught, that moon landing you slept through: principles lose their balance in a hail of cumulative and entirely regrettable debris. So what to do? How to forget? There are the simple options of course: bury your worries in material objects, drink yourself under the table, commit seppuku, blame the Jews. There'll be some short-term satisfaction there, and surely it beats a killing spree, but still: is it enough? Won't those tendrils of doubt still find a way to stick it to you? Can't you still hear them declaring victory over your well-concealed but pockmarked soul? Won't the nagging voice of ill-reason turn louder the more you try to drown it out? Regret is a siren call that turns to a hammer blow the closer you get, so...

Get your mind out of the past! There are books to read, books to write, people to meet, people to fuck, drinks to drink, drinks to spill. Regret is an unholy head-drain. To paraphrase Virginia Woolf talking about something else entirely, regret is an arid scimitar bleeding attention from present concerns. A mind divided cannot stand, especially when facing a foe as implacable as the outside world. It takes all concentration, all resources, all self-control to truly inhabit each moment. The distraction of an intractable past tears a hole in the mental fabric, allowing energy to leak out and bile to seep in. The only way to stop the wound is to give it no time to bleed. Every false scab it tells you to pick is the wound begging for allies. Left alone it will heal over, the intimations of pain only potential energy to be harnessed for worthier tasks. When pain becomes an energy source it starts to turn to pleasure. Regret becomes a catalyst for a future devoid of it. Thus even the worst of the past can be made to serve the present.

This is all a very fine way of saying get on with it. I'm struck by the occasional bout of regret, which my mind sometimes reverberates in an echo chamber of anxiety. Regret of the past turns to doubt of the present turns to forfeit of the future. This cycle must be stopped where it began by challenging the very notion of regret. Regret is simply the reminder of a past temporarily unredeemed. Once it is redeemed, once the future subsumes it into something greater, the scab recedes and clear skin and thoughts return. Regret leads to bitterness, regret leads to doubt, regret leads to a nasty road which presents an infinite number of crossroads that only take you down even nastier roads. If there must be a spiral it will be a spiral of my own devising; pressing me onward into productive action, not backward into pointless rumination. I accept the inevitability of the occasional pang from the past only on the condition that like any good hunger pang, it portends a future meal. That I will only get hungry again won't stem my enjoyment.

Despite the best efforts of mothers everywhere, messes inevitably accumulate. Entropy is a motherfucker that way. Dust settles, milk goes bad and memory fades. These things get me down but they won't keep me there. Regret can undermine a foundation but that doesn't mean a structural collapse. Rather it can encourage greater fortification, the raising of new heights, steel in place of styrofoam. It took Nietzsche to say "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," but surely there's been some premonition of that notion in every human mind since the dawn of history. To grab hold of that premonition, to suss it out, to realize it and revel in it and will it to truth: this is the act of redemption. The past hath no fury to match the joyous scorn of a present bent on reclaiming the future. It starts now, whenever that might be, if not eternally. The way out is forward, a thousand generations have discovered. The exit is not found by searching vainly for a way to return to the womb. It is found by continual motion, in spite of and in honour of every pernicious regret that demands you turn back. A little reminder to my regrets, past present and future: There is no turning back.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Eazy-E Non Sequitur Of The Day

I'm kicking it the hardest, so give me my shoes back!
- Eazy-E, O.G. and AIDS victim/spreader of

Friday, October 13, 2006

Panic Release

An upswelling of panic may occur from time to time. Symptoms may include an inordinate thudding of the heart, shortness of breath and panicked glances at any available exit. The only remedy is a rebooting of the nervous system, to be accomplished through brazen acts of release. Recommended acts of release include enlisting on a Viking longboat, wailing at walls (long favoured among Jews), writing furiously without edit and plunging head-first into the unknown. If panic does not subside, it can at least be sublimated into more productive uses. Rome may not have been built in a day, but that's because its builders lacked the nervous energy of the modern age. With the nervous energy of an ape trapped in a cubicle, modern man is capable of unparalleled feats of engineering before imploding into an ulcerous breakdown. Until that time: sublimation, sublimation, sublimation! Work at your chosen task with the intensity of a high-BPM industrial rock track. Shape those bricks till they turn to clay, then make yourself a clay idol to worship. Become that idol! Enshrine your nervousness in relative permanency as a monument and warning to the future. Having been justified through an act of creation, the upswelling of panic should then subside.

If it doesn't? Riot. Smash windows of expectation, tear down the golden arches of routine, claw at the eyes of narrow visionaries. Carry a banner of hysterical freedom up and down the streets. Kiss an enemy, challenge a friend, speak in tongues, tongue in words. Panic exists to be justified, so justify it. Repress the urge to repress your urges. Strike a blow for beauty, the kind of beauty that hurts. Beautiful like a canal of fire or a dog stopping traffic. Beautiful like the ruins of Babylon or its foundation. Remember that perfect moment lost and resurrect it in a new and grander form, a futurist Eden. Be that new and singular Adam or be that new and singular Eve, God's one and only. You won't be chosen till you choose yourself first. Point that finger inward before launching it outward. Then and only then will it be time to riot. What is a riot if not collective panic unleashed, an explosion of nuclear nervous energy, a civilizational orgasm? Someone's got to push that big red panic button and if not you, who? An exit suddenly appears and with it a queue. A queue is just the embryo of a riot. Of course birth is painful, but think of the rewards. Now stop thinking and grab them.

We are all responsible for our own justifications. If I am to live I must feel justified, and if I am to live I must sometimes feel panicked and dulled and improperly wired. If extreme measures must be taken to justify such extreme feelings, so extreme I must become. Accordingly the volume goes up and limbs move erratically and words are committed which may be regretted. Alas, such is living, and if you can't take the electricity there is no returning to the stone age. This is the era of too much information, and heads that can't absorb it are bound to roll. So I absorb it as a lightning rod and like almighty Zeus in exile, throw the bolts back at the sky. Some may lose course and and some may slip and burn my fingers, but a burn is just another blemish to justify. All goes toward the panic bank to be withdrawn and spent on works of life and art. If some are more expensive than others so be it. It's no reason to panic, or at least to panic unjustifiably. What's taken to heart must be taken to the streets, and if panic strikes take it as a cue to strike back. Untangled nerves make a formidable noose. Just don't hang yourself - that's the wrong kind of release.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Five Most Boring Article Titles In My Social Canadian History Textbook

5. "Dislocations: Changing Experiences of Time and Space in an Industrialising Nineteenth-Century Ontario Town"
4. "Cartoons and Commissions: Advice to Junior Farmers in Postwar Ontario"
3. "Young Men and Technology: Government Attempts to Create a 'Modern' Fisheries Workforce"
2. "Renovating the Canadian Old Age Home: The Evolution of Residential Care Facilities in B.C., 1930-1960"
1. "Memories of Métis Women of Saint-Eustache, Manitoba, 1910-1980"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ten CDs I Have That You Probably Don't

10. Herman Dune - Not On Top
Swedish freak-folkers with offbeat lyrics and and an endearingly eccentric sensibility. Album recorded entirely in mono!

9. Truly - Fast Stories From Kid Coma
Psychedelic lost grunge masterpiece featuring former Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Highlights include the delightfully titled "Leslie's Coughing Up Blood."

8. Chris Connelly - Phenobarb Bambalam
Affecting album by alternative singer-songwriter dedicated to his fiancée, who committed suicide. Also a former member of the divinely named Ministry side-project, Revolting Cocks.

7. Bark Psychosis - Hex
Defining post-rock album from 1994, featuring subdued vocals and sweeping atmospherics. Perfect for being lulled to sleep.

6. Plexi - Cheer Up
Glam-goth troupe from L.A. with a predilection for melodic noise-rock and zappy sound effects. CD features "Forest Ranger," one of the few songs to reference both Phyllis Diller and Huey Newton.

5. New Fast Automatic Daffodils - Body Exit Mind
Early-90s Mancunian indie stalwarts featuring a unique, heavily rhythmic sound and declamatory vocals. Album includes the wonderfully titled instrumental, "How Much Longer Must We Tolerate Mass Culture?"

4. Young Gods - Only Heaven
Inspired Swiss industrial-rockers who sound anything but neutral. A heavy but sleek-sounding acid trip of an album.

3. Lifter - Melinda (Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt)
Affecting and catchy alt-rock inspired by a bad break-up. Feel the angst!

2. Godheadsilo - Skyward In Triumph
Barely listenable noise-rock band featuring two bassists and no guitarists, bought in a bargain bin for 3 bucks! Worth it for the CD art which depicts a monkey sucking a penis.

1. Course Of Empire - Phone Calls from The Dead
Live album from undeservedly unknown Texan alternative-industrial rockers, available only online. Features a brief, semi-sarcastic cover of "Sweet Home Alabama"!

Honourable Mentions: Unwound - The Future of What, Deconstruction - Deconstruction, Atmosphere - The Lucy Ford EPs, Califone - Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People

Monday, October 09, 2006

"What's THIS Joke...!"

"what's THIS for...!" is the premier post-atomic statement by the premier post-atomic band, Killing Joke. The overarching theme of the album is the madness of late twentieth-century man, linked by primordial rhythm to his savage progenitors. These are anthems for the coming apocalypse, universal in their retro-futurist horror--as atomic as they are biblical. They're also fun, at times resembling The Knack on a bad acid trip, quintessentially eighties yet timeless in their intensity. The name Killing Joke sums up the dichotomy: this is music that walks the line between horror and hysteria. Or is there a difference?

What does the term "The Fall of Because" possibly mean? The rhythmic thrash and seething energy of the song always grabbed me, but the title seemed meaningless. Then I thought--the fall of reason, a time when excuses like "because" become unnecessary. An already immense opening salvo then doubled in intensity for me. This is the sound of civilization slipping beneath the surface, all distant wailing and hypno-manic drumbeats and dissonant guitar churn. The meaning is there is no meaning, and that's the most horrifying meaning of all.

"Tension" is a nervous breakdown you can dance to, tribal funk for tribeless modern man. There is no better description of an obsessive-compulsive nightmare--"How do you grow as you stunt your growth?"--and I say this having had my fair share of them. "Tension" is no less intense than "The Fall of Because," but the sound shifts from pounding proto-metal to pounding molten disco. "And the tension builds..." goes the chorus, but the sound of the song is tension being released in an emotional cataclysm. An emotional cataclysm with a funky bassline.

"Unspeakable" is a sinister dance around the heart of darkness, hypnotic enough to turn any Marlowe into a Kurtz. Who can deny the arch-hysteria of "I wonder who chose the colour scheme, it's very nice - Unspeakable!"? Sure it sounds meaningless, but it's a self-aware meaningless: how else can oblivion be expressed? This is a song about falling off the edge of reason: "Facts and figures--the clocks turn backwards, facts and figures turn anticlockwise." After the fall of reason all we're left with is rhythm, a horror and beauty that can only be spoken as "Unspeakable!"

"Butcher" is an atmospheric dirge on modern evils, offering slim hope with the mantra of "Out of the virus immunity comes." Lyrics like "Drilling for oil they were bleeding for gold... Butcher the womb and expect her to bear" are socio-political without being dated. As with the next song, "Follow the Leaders," Killing Joke paint modern pictures of primeval horrors, eschewing rote propaganda in favour of a universal persective on the recurrent degradations of human nature.

If being a lemming was as awesome as "Follow the Leaders" sounds, I'd be first off the cliff. It's the political flipside to the personal horror-funk of "Tension," linking the external and internal to the same deranged current. The emphasis is on the Joke instead of the Killing this time: "Come inside boy - they call this fun! Music to please the adolescents!" Of course the sentiment is deadly serious, and the droning chorus reinforces the theme of blind conformity--but the euphoric disco adds sugar to bitter sentiments like "Man killed man and blood was shed--yawn!" History repeats itself and all you can do is dance. Fascism never sounded so funky.

"Madness" returns the emphasis to the Killing, though again the danceable rhythm hints at the Joke. This is a return to the heart of darkness explored in "Unspeakable," finding only madness in post-modern sentiments like "God is dead and you are god." Again, no answers are offered, simply the delirious cries of a soul crushed between machines. It is as repetitious as the society it reflects, but cursed with the burden of historical and self-awareness. Luckily that burden still comes with a devastating rhythm section. The vocals are subsumed into the instrumental rumble of "Who Told You How?"--a question as devoid of surface meaning yet instinctively powerful as the album title itself.

"Exit" begins with the sound of dogs barking. They're always barking outside civilization's gates, and at times you question whether Killing Joke are barking at or with them. Or is the distinction mute? The final song on an album usually offers some degree of closure, but "Exit" is a summation rather than a conclusion. "Outside the legions multiply, by and by I'm still alive," is the final growling gasp of the hoarse narrator, but the fading martial rhythm that ends the song speaks louder than words could.

Killing Joke are the pied pipers of the apocalypse, and "what's THIS for...!" is the sound of civilization leaving town. It is funky, it is morbid, it is primitive, it is modern, it is madness and revelation. Singer Jaz Coleman described the mission of Killing Joke as to "define the exquisite beauty of the atomic age in terms of style, sound and form," and they undoubtedly achieved this mission with "what's THIS for...!" Words only hint at what the rhythms express. There is no punchline to the Killing Joke--their message is simply, magnificently and horribly simply: ...!


Friday, October 06, 2006

Irony Of The Day

Three of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebells' favourite films (Sergei Eisenstein's Potemkin, Vladimir Gardin's Anna Karenina, Fritz Lang's The Nibelungen, Luis Trenker's The Rebel), were directed by Jews.

Source: Irresistible Empire by Victoria de Grazia, pp. 320

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Seven Mind-Bludgeoning Workout Albums

Why seven? Why not!?

7. Helmet - Meantime
Martial hammer-blows for the hardiest of skulls!

6. Tool - Undertow
Sinister progressive metal from the depths of society's burial grounds!

5. Godflesh - Selfless
Pulverizing scrapyard fireworks to crush the sky!

4. Ministry - Greatest Fits
Gargantuan industrial-metal fit for the coming apocalypse!

3. Big Black - Rich Man's Eight Track Tape
Screeching noise-rock ejaculations from the underside of Middle America!

2. Killing Joke - What's THIS For...!
Tribal adrenaline madness for dancing 'round the atomic bonfire!

1. Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality
Cosmos-crushing riffs to bludgeon the galaxy!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mad Scheme Of The Day

While many have searched for lost continents, few have had the mad genius to design a new one...

"In Sörgel's plan, a bridge from Tunisia to Sicily would divide the Mediterranean into two different parts, creating a continuous automobile and train connection between Africa and Europe. By converting the Congo Basin into an enormous dammed-up sea, Africa would be turned into a "territory actually useful to Europe," he wrote. Sörgel followed a social Darwinist and colonialist school of thought, declaring, "The fight for survival is a fight for territory." Uninhibited by compromises or scruples, the engineer concentrated on reinventing the Mediterranean as a huge power plant. On its western side, the remaining water was to be dammed by gigantic constructions near Gibraltar and between Italy, Sicily, and Tunis. In the eastern half, the sea was supposed to be shaped by the Tunis-Sicily-Italy dam and further dams close to Galipoli and near the Suez Canal. At these points, large power plants were planned to ensure energy and economic security for Europe, Africa, and the Arabian peninsula. This new continent, which Sörgel named "Atlantropa," was to assume the role of a counterweight to America and Asia."

- From Cabinet Magazine article