It’s Halloween, so what better time to talk to you all about the masks or mask-like uses of make-up that annoy, upset or absolutely terrify me.
One of my earliest memories is of a television commercial promoting an Alice Cooper concert in Dallas. I must have been three or four at the time. I was absolutely terrified by his appearance, with the heavy eyeliner that appeared to be running down his face, the wild hair, the marks around his mouth that might have been blood for all I knew – our old television was in black and white.
My parents decided that the best way to help me overcome my fear of this horrible man on the TV was to force me to watch it every time it came on. My father would prevent me from running from the room when it aired, holding me there and telling me over and over that it was just a television commercial, it was just a man in make-up, that none of it could hurt me. It didn’t work. I screamed and cried and still he and my mother persisted, convinced they could reason with a frightened child. I had similar reactions to KISS, mostly Gene Simmons.
Interestingly, I am not particularly unnerved by clowns. I look at a clown, and I know it’s some asshole wearing a bunch of make-up and a wig and maybe some stupid clothes. I know what the intent is behind clown make-up – to delight or terrify. When I know the intent, it’s hard to be afraid, and that is where my parents, as well meaning as they were at the time, missed the mark. I didn’t need to know that it was a commercial and couldn’t hurt me. I needed to know why the man was dressed that way, what his intent was, what he planned to do in that get-up. And of course I could not express this so young and of course my parents had no idea what was at play in my terror. Variations of not knowing the reason behind the disguise fuels my adult uneasiness around masks, I think, though surely there are other explanations, from Jungian collective unconsciousness ruling my response to just plain jitters.
There are a lot of explanations as to why it is that people wear masks and costumes at Halloween and I am loath to discuss them because to do so means I have to cover every potential reason going back to early recorded history or someone will show up and leave a very long comment schooling me on Samhain-this and Pope-Boniface-that and how it’s racist for a white woman even to say Dia de los Muertos, let alone discuss the purpose behind sugar skull make-up. But this is a time of the year that makes a woman who finds the purpose behind masks very important somewhat uneasy. And perversely, because it makes me uneasy, I expose myself to it in ways that make me even more unnerved. But I can’t seem to avoid it, and since I can’t stop poking at this canker sore in my psyche, I’ve decided to drag you all down with me.
She’s also linked to two other accounts associated with her videos that may be serving as back-up in case she ever loses content on YouTube again. Over on Vimeo, she’s Atrocity Exhibition (a suitably Oddbookian name to be sure) and she’s MrsMisanthropy on Google+. Several people had found a Google+ account for “MrsMisanthropy” but there was not enough content to know if it was her or not (and again, no idea if MrsMisanthropy is really female but I think of her as a women and will until told otherwise). Bookmark the other links in case she leaves again. I will update my links to her videos sometime today.
While she was gone, I spent time looking for other fan video makers whose musical and cinematic tastes were interesting and I found several. For now I feel I must share one specific video-maker and the films behind his fan videos because one of his videos triggered a month long endeavor that I feared was going to be a godless one. I feared I would not be able to find the originals behind the clips used in Piperbrigadista’s fan video for “Synthetic Potion” by a band called Noir for Rachel.
As I was sifting through the videos on this channel, I was immediately drawn into this one because there is something about the woman’s face that makes me want to keep looking at her. She appears as if she was confronting a voyeur, or maybe just a run of the mill Peeping Tom. Her face is so serious and beautiful in a manner that reminds me of Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Lauren. So I watched and listened and became entranced by the song and even more so by the video.
The song reminds me of what would happen if you crossed early Duran Duran with early Cure and made it all instrumental. I loved the song “Synthetic Potion” so much that I did something I’ve never done before – I bought an album off Band Camp. The album, entitled Witches, is a righteous purchase.
The video created a strange obsession in me to run to ground the movie these clips were taken from. The scene beginning at 1:05, ending at 1:48, was incredibly compelling. The woman was not confronting a voyeur, but if she was, the experience became something else entirely for her. She sees this disheveled looking man standing outside the window of her home as she is wearing a dressing gown and underwear. After looking at him for a moment, she reveals her lingerie-clad body to him and waits for his reaction.
The woman in this scene conveys so much with her eyes, mouth and a simple tilt of her head. Before she opens her dressing gown, she steels herself up. She raises her chin and takes a small step back, never taking her eyes off the man. She waits for his response. Seconds pass, and you see a bit of trepidation pass over her face and she begins to list very slightly as she stands. She takes another small step back and tilts her head in what looks the beginning of a shrug, an expression of disappointment and rejection. Then before she completes the dismissal, he steps forward and she does too, leaning toward him. Her expression only changes a bit but that bit is expansive in its depth. Her lips show a minor, almost imperceptible sneer of power, her eyes focus on him with even more intensity as he touches the glass. She’s received the reaction she wants and she wanted this reaction because she wants him at least as much as he may want her.
It was so compelling that I spent a month trying to find this film. And I finally ran it to ground but only after hours spent searching.
I’ve been consuming a lot of media on YouTube lately, mainly in the form of various “creepypasta” channels. Various people with good or interesting voices read short stories and vignettes written for online readers – Reddit’s nosleep is a good source of creepypastas – and sometimes put in appropriate sound effects. I listen to hours and hours of such readings as I sew or iron or do repetitive tasks that don’t need my full attention to perform. It reminds me a bit of old radio serials – I wonder if my grandmother did the same, listening to assorted radio dramas as she ironed or cleaned the bathroom.
Creepypastas are fun but ultimately most are pleasant diversions as opposed to something that inspires me to write about them, but the last few months I’ve found myself combing through a couple of accounts that have proven to be far creepier than story recitations that have creepiness as an actual goal. Of course, both accounts aren’t shying away from presenting unpleasant, upsetting or gross content but when it’s not the goal and it happens sort of organically, it’s all the more interesting, I think.
I used to have dreams about Lemmy Kilmister that were Christ-like in nature. In the dreams he was always a force of moral and chaotic good, leading me to sound decisions and peace of mind. I can’t really explain why I assigned to him this sort of leadership role in my subconscious and it probably doesn’t matter. He and Christopher Walken have both been Jesus-like figures to me, Christ mixed with Loki. We all have our personal gods, and, if we dont, we should.
It seems impossible that this cigarette-cured, whiskey-soaked, womanizing rock god could possibly be dead. Surely he will rise again in some way. Until he does, check out this documentary about him, worth watching not only because it’s about Lemmy but also because the scene with Scott Ian’s reaction to Lemmy going commando in cut-off Daisy Dukes is the sort of thing you need to see. He was larger than life, badder than bad, yet had no problem with his balls falling out of his shorts. It’s hilarious, but it’s also a sign of a man who was so badass he couldn’t be bothered with social niceties like underpants. Such matters were beneath him. As well they should have been. Better to live balls-out than to become neutered and self-conscious.
God, I really loved him. “That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever!”
I’m a woman who enjoys the holidays despite being somewhat anti-capitalist, and, though I love a wholly just society, I tire of all the extraordinary analyses of why Thanksgiving is “problematic.” Columbus was a madman and there’s nothing I can do about it now. There were pioneers, now we’re all here, some of us are queer, get used to it (and over it)!
As I prepare dishes to take to a family celebration tomorrow, I will use the mental space I receive from performing repetitive tasks to plan Yule gifts I need to make or acquire. I’ll think about where we need to put the tree this year since Boo Radley is what cat experts would call “a complete disaster.” Boo will be frightened of the tree and will become so startled he will leap up into the air, crap at the apex of his ascent, and his poop will hit the ground before he does. Alternately, a strange madness will overtake him and he will race up the tree toward the ceiling, loosening every ornament as he goes, destroying hours of decorating. He will then become afraid of the tree again and this cycle will repeat itself until New Year’s Day. And let us not even speak of Grendel and the Infestation of Two and what they can do to a fully decorated tree in under three minutes of concentrated mayhem. I often feel that had we let wolves into the house it would have been more hygienic and less chaotic.
But as I fret about all the piles of glittery cat yak that are my yuletide fate and the chores I must do before 12/25, I am also thinking about those who have come and gone, the people whose lives were spent in service to their families, who spread joy to their loved ones. Who sacrificed for those they loved. My grandparents, my mother, my step-grandmother, Mr OTC’s grandparents and his step-father. These people served their countries on the home and war fronts. They raised their children to be independent and ethical. They worked jobs for decades, in some cases using skills that were forgotten for a while only to be rediscovered when we realized complete modernity wasn’t quite the utopia we had hoped.
We’ll never have a utopia. Philosophy always beckons, reality always fails. In the meantime we just need to remember those who sacrificed for us, all those people now consigned to a history that is often remembered with mawkish sentimentality or demonized as a whole. In the middle is the truth, and it’s something to be proud of.
What’s our sacrifice? Or rather, what’s mine? I don’t know yet. I don’t think we ever know, most of us, because sacrifice is seldom dramatic. It’s the scope of a life lived in service to others and to ourselves. I have no idea if the scope of my life will be remembered or if it is worthy of remembrance.
But as I ponder historical and familial sacrifice, there are pies to be baked, and I’m going to enjoy baking them and hope that others enjoy eating them. And Tony, if you are reading this, yes, there will be rice krispies treats. Lots of them. Let’s be thankful for that, if nothing else.
I’m going to do my best to post a lot before Halloween because indulging in creepiness is one of the things I do best. I have so many creepy books, favorite creepy movies, and creepy sites to share that it would be a shame not to take advantage of this time of the year and write about all the eerie weirdness rattling around in my head.
This entry came about in my typical circuitous “getting lost on the Internet” method of gathering information. I wanted to discuss some really disturbing, dark songs about child predators, and had a specific song in mind, two songs, actually, about a predator assaulting a child and the child seeking revenge, but couldn’t remember the name of the songs or the band that performed them. In my attempts to run the song to ground, I fell into a YouTube hole that completely distracted me from my original goal. I’ll eventually discuss songs about child predation but not today because I found mystery wondering how many songs there are that are inspired by Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM. (By the way, the band I was originally searching for is G.G.F.H. and the songs are “Little Missy” and “Missy’s Revenge” and while the songs are still outre and upsetting, they aren’t as viscerally disgusting as they were to me when I heard them years ago. I fear I am becoming jaded…)
Discussing Art Bell’s influence on music is really apropos for me this time of year because I always listen to his Ghost to Ghost episodes right before Halloween. I was putting together a playlist earlier this month but when I was searching for G.G.F.H.’s body of work, I found a title that piqued my interest and it turned out to have an Art Bell sample (the Venetian Snares song I discuss below – that is the song that linked me from child exploitation to Art Bell). After listening to the song with the Coast to Coast AM sample, I decided to see how many songs I could find that were influenced by Art Bell in some manner. Art Bell is interesting and somewhat weird in his own right, a man whose life has taken several unexpected turns, and he has been a personal hero of mine ever since he sued Ted Gunderson (who is hopefully right this very minute encountering the Satan he insisted was lurking in every daycare and influencing every politician since Washington) for slandering him as a pedophile.
Art no longer hosts Coast to Coast AM (and while George Noory is okay enough, he lacks a certain edge, I think, that Art brought to the table) but his long tenure on the AM and online radio program featured many bizarre and memorable shows. One of the most memorable was the night a man who claimed he was a former Area 51 employee called into the show in a panic, revealing that the US government was being duped by inhuman creatures posing as aliens from outer space, and that these creatures meant mankind harm. He claimed to be on the run from the federal government and sounded to be completely unhinged by the gravity of his discovery. In the middle of the phone call, something happened to the satellite and at least 50 separate radio stations went dead for around half an hour. Understandably, this caused Art and his listeners to freak out, assuming that indeed the feds were tracking the frightened caller and had interfered with his attempt to share his story. The man behind the Area 51 call eventually called back to Coast to Coast and explained it was indeed a hoax but that he had no idea what had happened in regards to the satellite failure. That, evidently, was just a coincidence. There are some who still believe the Area 51 caller was real and that the later call revealing the hoax is the real hoax, but that is the nature of conspiracy. This episode is called either the “Area 51 Caller” or “The Frantic Caller.”
However real or fake the Area 51 call may have been, it’s now a part of Area 51 lore and anyone who has much interest in fringe or conspiracy culture has likely heard of it. It’s definitely influenced some musicians, famous and obscure. One of the more famous bands to sample the Area 51 call is Tool, in the song “Faaip de Oiad” from the album, LateralusFaaip de Oiad means “the voice of God” in “Enochian” (the supposed angelic language recorded and likely invented by John Dee and Edward Kelley) – Maynard Keenan is a sort of Renaissance man of the weird and I think he runs a winery now, of all things.
“Faaip de Oiad” doesn’t freak me out the way it does many Tool fans. I think that’s because I’ve heard the source material too many times, and had heard it many times before ever hearing this song. But I can see how this would be jarring or alarming to someone who might not know the source of the jangled, frightened man talking in the middle of the song. I link to this particular video because it has the “lyrics” in the upload notes section.
Most death metal is dead to me these days. When I was younger I could tolerate indecipherable growls because the genre was still new and interesting enough to offset my neurotic desire to understand what was being sung. Though some of the bands were understandable to me, like Hypocrisy, Opeth and Amon Amarth, for me the growls were more of an instrument than actual vocals. These days not so much. The genre has suffered a sort of recursive plague wherein all the bands seem to blend together to me and the growls no longer seem like a deliberate attempt to evoke chaos and darkness as much as they seem aggressively derivative. Worse, much of the content in death metal has taken on a cartoonish slant, so bludgeoning and over-the-top that it no longer seems outre but rather seems ridiculous bordering on tiresome. I find myself listening to more melodic death metal, which means I also find myself listening to folk metal and, god help me, prog rock hybrids.
All of this exposition hopefully explains why I haven’t been paying attention to death metal and how the band Job for a Cowboy and, more specifically, their video for “Tarnished Gluttony” are just now coming to my attention. I need to listen to more of the band’s songs to see what I think of them as a whole but I was really impressed with “Tarnished Gluttony” as a song and especially as a video. The singer(s?)’s vocals are completely unintelligible to me but there is a theatricality to the music that renders a lack of understanding far less important. The growls verge into screams that harked back to the days when black metal didn’t fill me with despair. But before I praise the band’s style overmuch, I need to track down more of their body of work. Until then, let’s discuss this video.
Warning: This video is violent, gory, and features the death of a child.
I watch this video every night before going to sleep because I’m sort of obsessed with it. It’s almost like a bedtime story, and given how much an homage it is to Lovecraft, it’s a creepy story, too, though no creepier than anything Perrault wrote as a fairy tale.
When I first discovered this video I watched it several times in a row and then forced Mr OTC to watch it too (and he actually enjoyed it, no small praise for a song when a man is mostly into old country, zydeco, and, inexplicably, the Talking Heads). We both have read Lovecraft but of the two of us Mr OTC is the far bigger Lovecraft fan and it took him a couple of goes before he had a handle on what was happening.
Of course now it is clear that a Lovecraftian Deep One sired a child with a human, and that child appears fully human (though in the literature Deep Ones could maintain a completely human appearance until they reached adolescence and sometimes even later). It seems as if the Deep One is sacrificing his human child to Dagon, returning the boy to the sea. And the only reason I even wanted to find out what exactly was happening in this video was because of the nuanced and emotional acting skills of Morten Klode, the actor who portrayed the adult Deep One.
His grimaces and hesitations show he is not a particularly willing participant in this sacrifice. His tender stroking of the boy’s cheek shows affection for this child – this isn’t some random kid a Lovecraftian horror is killing to appease an Old One. His rushed hurry to begin once he realizes the child may be awakening shows he has no wish to cause this child pain. His anguished scream at 4:01, after the sacrifice has begun – it was deeply affecting the first time I saw it.
But there are some seriously creepy elements to this video. The undressing of a small, unconscious child in the woods is unnerving. And of course eviscerating said child is difficult content. The most unsettling part of this video for me was when the Deep One licked the needle before he began to stitch up the child’s abdomen. Anyone who has sewn much knows that sometimes a blunt needle or pin needs lubrication before it can penetrate certain cloth. It’s unlikely that this needle needed any help with the first stitch into the child’s stomach but that lick of a blunt needle or pin is often the reflexive action of a person well-accustomed to old-fashioned diapers using safety pins. A quick lick of the pin ensures it goes through the thick flannel quickly and there’s less chance of pricking a squirming child. You don’t see that too much these days with prefolds and velcro tabs and the like and I am very likely assigning a motive to this action that is not part of the directorial intent but for me this small action was fatherly, showing a man who had, at some point in the past, cared for this little boy, a man who knew his way around the more visceral elements of child-rearing taken to an extreme. And the way he blankly threw the needle away. Just the numb disgust and misery written all over his face. It was a mild devastation when he tossed that needle into the leaves.
It’s remarkable when a music video engages in such attention to detail, and all the more remarkable when it is a death metal video engaging in such nuance. I’ve become accustomed to the aforementioned club-across-the-face approach of songs and videos like Cattle Decapitation’s “Forced Gender Reassignment.”(Jesus Christ, this link is NSFW and NSFL). I get and sort of approve of the intent behind the song and video but if I want to assault my psyche that way I can just watch Human Centipede II: The Full Sequence and at least then I know what the hell everyone is saying.
(For the record I had to look up the lyrics for “Tarnished Gluttony” and the song is kind of up my alley, lyrically, but the video is not related to the song’s content in any manner that seems obvious to me.)
Morten Klode reminds me of someone. I don’t know who but his face is damnably familiar to me. As I saw him acting in this video my mind was clicking away in the background as I tried to determine where I had seen him before. I looked him up and he has only three credits on his IMDb page and I’ve only seen one of them, this video. Yet each time I watch it a feeling of familiarity washes over me. I hope Klode finds himself with more work in the future. You don’t expect to find acting chops of this caliber in a music video – I’m actually rather surprised to see that he doesn’t already have a feature-length film under his belt.
Any other videos or bands you think will impress me this much? If so, let me know. And let me know what you think of this video (and if you have any work for which Morten Klode would be a good fit, hire him – we need to see more of this man in film!).
Wes Craven died this evening. Evidently he had brain cancer. He was 76, which still seems far too young for him to die.
Everyone knows him from the Nightmare on Elm Street films. The first in the series was quite good, but eventually Freddy Krueger became too campy, the intensity of the horror lost among cringe-inducing puns.
Less acclaimed but, in my opinion, far superior to the Elm Street series was People Under the Stairs. That film managed to include just about every hot button that comes up in horror films – sick secluded family, racist abuse, incest, child abuse, among them – and combined them all into a film so creepy that, were it not for the fashions involved, still seems very modern in its approach to real horror.
Mostly I will remember Wes Craven for being the architect of a film that absolutely destroyed me when I first saw it. In Last House on the Left, an update of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, Mari and Phyllis are waylaid during their attempts to find drugs before a concert. Their abductors take them into the woods to torture, rape and eventually murder them. Their murderers end up needing assistance from Mari’s family and Mari’s parents realize the people in their home killed their child and seek violent revenge.
There is a scene in this film where Mari, after she has been raped and mutilated, walks into a lake to clean herself. Once she is out into the lake, her captors shoot her to death and she begins to float, her long hair clinging to the surface of the water, spreading out in a corona around her. Of all the horrible images and acts in this film, that image of Mari in the water is the one that stays with me and there’s no wonder why. Young women floating dead in water is an image that has been with us for centuries. Ophelia instantly comes to mind. So does the Lady of Shallot, though she was in a boat. Most relevant for me is L’Inconnue de la Seine, a beautiful young woman found dead in the Seine in the late 1880s. Her death mask became a collector’s piece and her image now graces all Resusci Annie mannequins used to train people to perform CPR. She was considered an example of perfect female beauty. Her story was told over and over in literature and art and I’ve linked her with Mari in my mind, two lost young girls, killed vilely but washed clean.
Though dubbed an exploitation film, Last House on the Left appalled 1972 moviegoers with its audacious and all-too-real violence, but the movie was far more than just a vehicle for splatter and gore. It tugged at the primal needs of mankind to protect the young and vulnerable among us, and reminded us how quickly the suburban family can become atavistic killers when their own are threatened or harmed. It taps into the very fairy tales that make up our earliest introductions to literature, telling us of little children lured into the woods and those foolhardy enough to walk into danger on their own. In so many ways the film harked back to the gruesome violence of the early, unsanitized Grimm tales that we’d forgotten after so many Disney reinterpretations, tropes that we glossed over because we felt we were far too civilized to share with our children the real danger of following breadcrumbs, or, in Mari and Phyllis’s case, knocking on the witch’s door.
Wes Craven was a genius who understood the primal violence that threatens us and how easily we shed our modernity and squeamishness when we need to protect those we love or seek vengeance against those who harm us.
Wes was also a man who understood so well the tropes of the genre he helped create that he seamlessly subverted them in the Scream series, an almost intolerably self-aware and clever look at how we again all learned the danger of going into the woods – horror movies showed us the danger – but we end up in the woods nonetheless. Knowing rules saved few from the knife.
There is so much more that can be said about Wes Craven but I am going to leave it alone now, and perhaps watch The Serpent and the Rainbow again this week. God speed, Mr Craven.
This entire entry is NSFW. And in some regards, NSFL, but if you’re reading here you’re probably made of stern stuff. But be warned – most of this entry could get you fired if your IT team at work is on the ball.
Peter Tägtgren (of Hypocrisy and Pain fame) teamed up with Til Lindemann from Rammstein in a project called Lindemann and the first single, at first listen, was a paean to sexual frustration and complete misanthropy. I’m always up for that which is sexually uncomfortable and I sort of loathe most of humanity, so “Praise Abort” was up my alley. It was also deeply funny and we need more humor in music, I think. God knows “Praise Abort” would be a complete mental massacre without some humor.
I’ve not followed Peter Tägtgren’s career that closely. When I was but a wee lass, I listened to Hypocrisy from time to time. I checked out Pain on YouTube and the first video that came up was for a song called “Shut Your Mouth.” Tägtgren is obviously not a dude adverse to humor in his music, and the video for “Shut Your Mouth” verges into silliness. But whether or not you like humor in your metal, how can you not like a song with a chorus like “Just wipe your own ass and shut your mouth!”
And because I am a hopelessly shallow woman, I can say that now that I know that Peter Tägtgren is no longer a metallic ringer for Johnny Depp
and is transforming into Christopher Walken, I find him far more interesting and can see myself checking out more Pain once this discussion is completed.
So sorry for the silence on my end. I’ve been writing quite a bit, so much in fact that I have written myself into a corner. Every Cradle Is a Grave came into my life as I was experiencing death and the rage and depression death brings with it. I have written over 20,000 words about the book and, though I am well-known for my wordiness, that is a wholly inappropriate number of words to use to discuss a book. I am self-indulgent but luckily I still have a bit of self-awareness and now I am spending time editing so that I can present my frame of mind regarding the book without substituting my frame of mind for the book. I will have the discussion up early next week.
I will also have another “middle of the road” discussion up either tomorrow or Thursday.
I’ve been immersed in some interesting media and topics this week, one of which turned into a rabbit-hole. I follow the “Unresolved Mysteries” subreddit and a German user posted about a murder I had never heard of and as a result I have been scouring the Internet, reading crappy translations of old German news articles, finding every detail I can about it. In 1998, thirteen year old Tristan Bruebach was murdered in such a sexually specific and audacious manner that I cannot believe I had not heard of this murder before and I also cannot believe this was the sole time the murderer performed such a killing. But against all logic, it seems like that is the case. Seriously, three decades of reading and studying and I have never heard of a murder like this, and there are so many strange details about Tristan, his activities before his murder, and the way he was killed that even seasoned professional criminologists are baffled by the case.
I’ve also been listening to the Michigan band His Name Is Alive almost non-stop. I don’t know how to describe this sort of music and the band has continually evolved since the late 80s so it’s hard to pigeon-hole the effort. The only constant member of the band is Warren Defever, with different musicians and singers coming and going.
A friend of mine in college gave me a mixed tape with “Baby Fish Mouth” on it but it was the early 90s, no iTunes and precious little Internet outside of university labs, and tracking down small, indie bands was harder then. I finally got a copy of the album, Mouth by Mouth, and every song was worthwhile, which seldom ever seems to happen. The singer on this track, Karin Oliver, performed with HNIA for several years but evidently is now an account manager at a marketing firm.
“How Ghosts Affect Relationships” is from the album Livonia, released in 1990. It wasn’t until this album got uploaded to YouTube that I could access it. I don’t know if it’s rare or if it’s just that I wasn’t thorough. This is the best song on the album, I think, and it’s a little musical knife in my heart.
“How Dark Is Your Dark Side” is not the best song on Xmmer, a 2007 album, but I listen to it over and over because I love the singer, Andrea Morici. There is something sweetly hypnotic about her voice on this track. I think she may be the best vocalist to work with Defever.
So that’s where I am. Buried in hyperemotional reactions to a book about antinatalism, searching for information about a savagely murdered child, and listening to experimental rock. See you soon with a short entry about two short story collections that disappointed me sincerely.
Just talking with you guys. “I think the young people enjoy it when I get down verbally, don’t you?”*
–I had a really good entry planned for today but it required a scanner and evidently our scanner is no longer a scanner. Maybe it’s a toaster now. Maybe it’s a small space heater. It is a mystery, but we do know for sure it’s not a device that can capture an image. So Mr. Oddbooks will be purchasing a new scanner this weekend and I will have a nice discussion about death photography up on Monday.
–Think Progress had a very interesting article about how one can consume good content created by horrible people. Roman Polanski and Orson Scott Card are the focus of the article but I see this question come up a lot in regards to black metal, specifically Varg Vikernes. On the other side of the coin that I explore more often is how to ethically handle really morally upsetting content that comes from people who are not bad people – like Peter Sotos’ works. I’d love to know how y’all handle such issues. I can’t see ever giving a single penny of mine to a man like Card, who opposes equal protection under law for roughly 10% of the people in this country, but this article gives a full story of what hinges on the success of the upcoming Ender’s Game movie, issues that go beyond not giving one’s money to a bigoted man.
–There will be some changes coming here on IROB. We are going to begin monetizing the site and it makes me nervous. I’ve built up a respectable body of work over here and I don’t want to taint it but, at the same time, site ads are so ubiquitous at this point that it’s hard to claim they do any harm to a site. The problems arise, I think, when bloggers begin to engage in sponsored content. That doesn’t happen much with book bloggers, unless you consider review copies a form of sponsoring. Which I don’t.
I am also going to start accepting ads from writers who are in the position of having to publicize their own books. The cost for a monthly will be super-cheap. I will be offering ad space once I have a solid track record of posting at least two book discussions a week. I don’t have extraordinary traffic on this site, but I do have a solid readership of people who often buy books as a result of my discussions. At any rate, that is coming up sometime during the summer.
If you guys notice anything amiss with the ads, probably strictly Google Adsense, please let me know. If anything we add screws up your experience on this site, we need to know.
People have mentioned tip jars and subscriptions and the like. I feel more uncomfortable with that than ads. Some people’s blogs are like magazines and worth subscribing to, but this site is me, me only and I don’t ever see having guest or co-bloggers. I’ve also grown disgusted with the antics one sees from uber-feminist-blogger-beggar Melissa McEwan, who routinely berates her readers for money so she can get a living wage from blogging, going so far as to have one of her co-mods tell a woman with five dollars left from her child support moneyto fork it over to help support Melissa, a comfortable, middle-class, childless woman with a husband who supports her. I’m a middle-class childless woman with a husband who supports me and the only time any of you should part with money because of anything I said is when I recommend a book you decide you want to buy. And though I know she is an extreme example, McEwan’s antics (and the antics of others like her who failed to make a viable business plan before making blogging their source of income) have forever tainted the tip jar for me. The fact is that magazines don’t make much money from subscriptions – they make money from ads and it’s a piss-poor business plan to expect readers to pay your wages just because you think it taints you if you take corporate money.
–I got an e-mail from a guy in Croatia who praised IROB, but also told me that when he watched the video for “Ride” by Lana Del Rey, he thought of me. I watched the video and was baffled. I asked Mr. Oddbooks what part of my online persona would make anyone think of me when they watch a video about a biker prostitute with borderline personality and a daddy-complex. He watched the video and he understood immediately what my Croatian admirer meant. Though this is clearly in the Southwest somewhere, like Arizona or Nevada, this is likely how a lot of people look at Texas. Wild landscape with lots of sand, people in fringe wearing boots with shorts, lots of beer bottles, lots of guns. I replied and asked him if he meant the landscape and rather than the girl in the video, but never heard back.
For what it’s worth, here’s the video:
As melodramatic videos go, this one ain’t bad. If I was 18, I bet I’d be all over this. Sadly, the middle-aged me mentally told the pretty, drunk girl in the middle of the desert with a bunch of bikers to take off the war bonnet, put the gun away, and sober up and that would be good step toward not feeling fucking crazy. But the American cinematic and literary experience she’s grooving on was built on the backs of pretty, drunk, fucking crazy people. Where would we be as a country without attractive people who are out of their minds. So thanks, Croatian Man, for leading me to this video. It was a hoot, of sorts.
*Though I in no way resemble Lana Del Rey’s daddy-biker girl in this video, I was told frequently in my teens that I reminded people of Jordan from Real Genius, which is the movie from which this quote originates. I’m way fatter now and talk a little bit slower but my neuroses are far more Jordan-eqsue than the languid lunacy Lana Del Rey brings to the table. But ending up with the dorky genius was a far better fate for me than wearing a white dress and screaming at bikers. Mileage, as always, varies.
I used to be a fan of black metal, and I guess I still am, but now it’s more appropriate to say I’m a fan of specific black metal bands. It always helps to be specific, I think.
So in the spirit of specificity, let me tell you I rather like Ulver. I think even more specifically, it’s safe to say I like Garm, the former singer for Ulver. I love his voice, and I like the idea that if Mr Oddbooks were to start lifting weights again and decided to get some ink, he and Garm could pass for brothers. Maybe cousins.
At any rate, Ulver’s 2000 release, Perdition City, is in my top ten albums of all time. And the best song on that album is “Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses.” At 4:00 one morning, I wanted to listen to it in bed, but iTunes was having “issues.” I was forced to go to YouTube, which was not as an appalling a choice as you might think because it just so happens that there is a fan video for “Porn Piece or the Scars of Cold Kisses” that is my favorite fan video ever. Yeah, the video is stretched and skewed but ultimately, the video is very, very good. I don’t think I could ever have thought of “Porn Piece” and Lost Highway as two media elements that went together, but that’s the beauty of this kind of thing, I suspect. Also, I tend to think that imposing one’s will on popular culture is all that’s left to us people who can’t sleep and yet can’t concentrate on anything productive.
So beautiful. “On the stairs, before I left, one of the girls had surprisingly given me a kiss. Stung in the cold long after.”
But it was Youtube at 4:00 in the morning. It couldn’t end in a great mashup of an achingly beautiful song. It never does.
It never does.
You know how Youtube has all the related videos over to the right in one endless and godless lineup?
I looked at those related videos. I learned something. I learned that David Lynch released an album late in 2011. It is called Crazy Clown Time.
I’ll let that soak in for minute.
And it sounds exactly like you think it would and you should not listen to this before the sun comes up. You should not listen to this as your Garm-like husband sleeps with his hands closed across his chest, an elderly cat at his feet, your house quiet, your neighborhood dead. You should not listen to this song even now, but you probably will because the curiosity will force you.
Here it is. The thing that currently haunts me.
I just don’t know. Words fail me. That was horrible. I kind of want to cry.
But because he is David Lynch, in the midst of the grotesque, there is also something truly beautiful. “Pinky’s Dream” is slightly jittery and mildly horrible, but still has lovely moments
But like much of Lynch’s body of work, you have to make a conscious choice: do you focus on the lovely or the grotesque? Do you focus on Isabella’s lips and her accent or Dennis Hopper and his fucking nitrous mask?
I think my off-topic entries I had previously called “Media Dump” will now be called “This Is Not An Odd Book Discussion.” My media dumps were really just media trickles. Better call them what they are: “This Is Not an Odd Book Discussion.”
With that out of the way, let’s talk about a mild but still unsettling musical experience I had recently. I was listening to “Diane” by Hüsker Dü and though I have known of and played this song since I was 16, there was something new to it. I could hear something in it I had not heard before. I am not a person who has a wide musical vocabulary so bear with me if what I am saying sounds amateurish and if you have a better explanation for what I am trying to say, please speak up.
The weird feeling of hearing something new focused around Bob Mould’s guitar work. The clearest example of the part that started niggling the back of my head happened around 0:22 – 0:33. His guitar work is sort of shrill and desperate. You hear those chords throughout the song.
Because I have a touch of OCD in my genetic makeup, once that feeling that I was remembering something hit me, I had to listen to the song over and over until Mr Oddbooks begged me to give it a rest because some people have to get up in the morning, dammit.
And I was lucky he was so desperate for sleep because putting it aside for a day or so enabled my brain to clear and it became apparent what I was thinking of when I was listening to “Diane.” It was a song I have already and recently discussed, “We Are Water” by Health.
I do not know what the instrument is that makes the upsurge of noise that occurs at 0:41-0:46 and again at 2:06-2:13. And the tempo is not even similar to Mould’s guitar work in “Diane.” But there is something about that shrill noise from both songs that caused me to link the songs in my brain.
But then the obviousness of it settled in. I said in my last discussion of “We Are Water” that the surge of noise I delineated above reminds me of screams after seeing the video. Mould’s guitar work is shrill, a sort of on-edge sound that I now also associate with screams because “Diane” was written about a woman, Diane Edwards, who was killed in 1980. She was a waitress in St. Paul, MN, and she was 19 when a man named Joseph Ture abducted, raped and murdered her.
Having heard that jangling noise in “We Are Water” and associating it with screaming after seeing the video of the young woman or man being chased down by a demented killer, I think I had that association of discordant noise as a female scream implanted in my head. And now all of Bob Mould’s guitar work in “Diane” sounds like screams, too.
I wanted this to be a synchronous event. I wanted there there be more coincidence to it than there was. Eric Wareheim (yes, that Eric Wareheim) directed the video for “We Are Water” and was once in a sort of punk band himself. I looked him up, certain he was born in Minnesota and had grown up on Hüsker Dü. Perhaps he felt the same sense of being screamed at as he listened to both songs and had “Diane” in his mind when he created the video.
No luck. He’s from Pennsylvania. It’s all just in my brain. As usual. I bet people reading this and listening to the songs at the appropriate places will not hear a damn thing I did. And that’s cool. I often go through these weird musings wherein I see connections that a normal person does not hear. I’m used to it. And really, given that “Diane” is about a murder victim, had I any sensitivity, I should have heard the screams before. Regardless, I can’t listen to these songs again for a while because now I hear a real woman screaming at me and I have enough really horrible stuff going through my head at the moment.
So, dear readers, are there any songs that began to fuck you up in ways you didn’t expect when you first heard the song? What’s your version of suddenly hearing a woman screaming in a guitar part in a song you had heard for years?
I am not a big fan of most modern R&B, and hip hop has never been my bag. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given that I am a middle-aged white woman from Texas. But also bear in mind that I detest most pop and cannot bear country music that does not involve people named Cash or Carter. So it all sort of evens out.
But despite not being a fan of R&B and hip hop, I rather like Erikah Badu. She and I are age peers and we both grew up in the same area, though in completely different worlds. She went to the Booker T. Washington Magnet School for arts, which is a big damn deal. The school has produced singers like Edie Brickell and Norah Jones. There was something amazing about her voice, a reminder of Lady Day that was not forced and hackneyed like so many singers whose only claim to talent is an ability to emulate Billie Holiday. I also liked her style. Her poreless skin, her interesting head wraps, the graceful way she moved her arms as she sang. Even if I had little cultural allegiance to what it is that Erikah Badu represented, she certainly seemed special in her talents.
And she writes and sings songs like this:
You need to call Tyrone. But you can’t use my phone. I love this song.
My favorite song of hers is “On and On”:
I am lyrically oriented in music. And while some of these lyrics appeal to me, I found them difficult to pin down. Like the sections where the singer is discussing being born under water with three dollars and six dimes. Somewhat puzzling was the chorus:
“If we were made in his image then call us by our names.
Most intellects do not believe in god but they fear us just the same.”
I always took this as a demand for respect – call us by own names, the real names that some black people take on when they achieve a level of spiritual and social awareness. But intriguing was the idea of “fear us.” Not fear him. This was not just Badu addressing the intellectual speciousness of some who claim atheism while still superstitiously fearing God, because she very clearly says those who may not believe in god (lower case) fear us. Interesting.
“On and On” came out in 1997, before the Internet was overrun with lyrics sites and places where people pontificate song meanings, so I never really pursued my ponderings. But I heard the song on the radio coming home last week and my questions rose again. I’m in another insomnia cycle, so at 4:00 one morning, me and my smart phone got to the bottom of my bafflement.
I have taken a very shallow dip into a very large and deep pool so my discussion and analysis may be incorrect, and I welcome anyone with a deeper knowledge to correct me if they read anything wrong here. The Nation of Gods and Earths began when a man named Clarence 13X, who had studied with Malcolm X, left the Nation of Islam because he held differing opinions about the nature of Islamic godhead. I think it is a mistake to consider Nation of Gods and Earths to be an offshoot of the Nation of Islam, though some may consider them a sect. From what I managed to glean from various sites, Nation of Gods and Earths is far less dogmatic than Nation of Islam, asserting that Nation of Gods and Earths is less a religion than a natural way of life. Allah is God, or possibly god, but each follower is in his or her own sense a god as well.
The term Five Percenters comes from the idea in Nation of Gods and Earths that in the black community, 10% of the people know the truth of the world and how it works but hide this truth for their own personal gain, 85% have no idea how the world works and through their ignorance are manipulated by the 10%, and 5%, the members of Nation of Gods and Earths, know the truth and share their knowledge. Some of the truth that the Five Percenters share stems from Afrocentrism, the notion that all life began from black people. The descendents of these creators of the world are gods themselves. Southern Baptist refugee that I am, this reminded me of Thomas in the Bible, insisting that the light of Jesus is within us all, and that the only true path to salvation is to find the god that has always been within us.
But to me the most interesting Judeo-Christian corollary found in Nation of Gods and Earths are Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet. Supreme Mathematics, not unlike the Kabballah, teaches that within numbers there are specific concepts and essential universal truths (and realize this is a gross generalization of both concepts). For example, in Supreme Mathematics, the number seven equates the concept of god. That puts Erikah Badu’s decision to name her first son Seven into a whole different perspective and not just one of those wacky names that celebrities often give their kids. Her son’s name conveys both the notion of Supreme Mathematics as truth as well as Badu’s belief that her son, like all black people, is a god. In all those lists of strange names celebrities give their children, Seven really shouldn’t be lumped in there with Apple, Pilot Inspektor and Audio Science.
And though I hope I make it clear I have only the most basic idea of what it is the Five Percenters believe, the tiny bit I was able to grok made “On and On” much clearer to me.
Obviously “Most intellects do not believe in god but they fear us just the same,” makes a lot more sense. Badu’s belief that black men and women embody the creator concept of their forebears, that they are gods themselves, shines through here. Those who do not believe in god may fear god, and if blacks are gods, then they fear her and those who believe as she does.
I’m still not wholly clear on the lines “I was born under water with three dollars and six dimes. Yeah you may laugh but you did not do your math.”
Obviously she is mentioning Supreme Mathematics here, because “you did not do your math.” And water, outside of the Five Percenters, is a universal symbol of life, from amniotic fluid, to baptism, to just the ancient notion of water as a force of life. But what about the 3 dollars and 6 dimes?
My first idea is that this is a representation of the number 360. 360 degrees implies a circle, a perfect circle, again leading me to the idea of perfection of man and man as god. It also implies experience, a perfect orbit of the Earth around the sun, a 360 degree trip. This section also includes Badu singing the lines, “Na qua 2..3. Damn, y’all feel that? Oh… Qua 2..3. The world keeps turning.” No idea what the Na qua section means because attempts to find out lead me down a rabbit hole, but the idea that the world keeps turning fits in well with the notion of 360 degrees and orbits. (See the comments for this entry – I myself and others misheard the lyrics as the lyric is “Like one two three, damn, y’all feel that, oh one two three.” Which adds a lot to the discussion as feeling the impact of numbers recited feels very Supreme Mathematical. Thanks to those who corrected me!)
But in Supreme Mathematics the number three means understanding, a deep understanding of all knowledge. The number six means equality, but from what I could read, that equality is the equality that the Five Percenters give other people as they explain their beliefs, not the American belief that all people are created equal. Only through knowledge of their role in the world can black people become equal, according to the beliefs of Five Percenters. So it may be the passage of dollars and dimes means a rebirth wherein Badu discovered the Nation of Gods and Earths and came to a perfect understanding and now wants to encourage equality through education.
There is so much more to this than just the little bit I have read and then applied to a song I like. I found a book called The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-hop and the Gods of New York by Michael Mohammed Knight that I will read probably sooner rather than later. There’s likely an ocean of information out there on this sect.
I just found it deeply interesting that running to ground some interesting lyrics led me to an entire religious sect to which some very famous musicians belong (Ghostface Killah, Badu, Rakim and Busta Rhymes, among others). But then, I had no idea Opus Dei existed until Dan Brown wrote about them. Us Protestants who grew up in the American South were seldom let in on much that was Catholic – we were told even less that was Muslim in nature. This is one of many reasons why I snert in the face of people who reject popular culture as being without merit. You can learn from anything if you are so inclined. Had it not been for a popular song, I’d still be in the dark about the Five Percenters.
So that is this week’s Media dump, a whole religious sect that flew under my white radar for many years that I discovered through a song. I’ve got some other interesting dumps in February, including an odd book zine out of Australia and hopefully Friday I will have up a Jim Goad discussion. If not, look for it Monday.
(And because these days writing about anything is seen as an open endorsement, please be clear that I write about all kinds of things that I don’t believe in. I am an atheist who finds religion interesting. And if you want to discuss this sect in a negative manner, stick to the actual beliefs of the sect that you can verify via research you can share or stick to what I have written. I am so sick of Islam-bashing that if you act the fool and I don’t ban you, I will be very unkind to you, and I hate being unkind. So stay on topic, all you Islamaphobes who came here for Breivik and stayed for my many, obvious charms, namely that I don’t ban you at first sight.)
Increasingly I find myself wanting to share the non-oddbook media I consume or become obsessed with. Some of it is left of center, some if it isn’t, but if it appears that others like posts like this, maybe I’ll do this more often.
I think in addition to simply wanting to share these things that often accompany my odd book journeys (because it is a strange, circuitous route at times that gets me to the bizarre books I read), I hope others share whatever their most recent media obsession is. Nothing like sharing the love.
This week I have been listening to two songs a lot online. One is Nouvelle Vague’s cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division:
I love listening to the singer’s voice, hearing touches of her French accent as she turns this song about the frail rage of love into something that seems far sweeter than it ever seemed possible.
Then there’s this song that’s been all over the radio lately:
The song is a little quirky and such, but I like this song mostly because I want to watch him sing. I literally just watch his mouth. I hadn’t realized how common perfectly spaced, uniformly-shaped, completely even, blindingly white teeth had become and how uninteresting they are to look at. The absence of perfect teeth in his mouth is almost sexy. I really like his cuspids. They give his mouth an interesting sort of sneer. If this guy becomes quite famous, I hope he never lets himself become another boring-mouthed Everyman.
And then there’s this. Yep, an analysis of bestiality and pedophilia in The Simpson’s Movie. Yeah, 90% of it borders on being unhinged. But at the same time, when Mr Oddbooks watched the movie I turned to him at one point and asked, “Is Homer gonna fuck that pig? What the hell?” So the author is sort of on to something. And the lunatic deconstruction of the film is, even when it is completely wrong, not entirely unlike some of the writing I have engaged in (:cough:breivik:cough:) so I appreciate the attention to detail. I just have to say that he lost me at Ned Flanders. No one should impugn Ned. Ned is the man. Ned rules. Never bad-mouth Ned.
Generally, when exploring the underbelly of the Internet, I find far more disturbing things than an unsane look at the Simpsons but give me time. I’ve only just started sharing what I find on my phone at 4:00 am when insomnia is ruling my sorry ass. Perhaps next week will be better. But for now I come with pretty French covers, amazing eyeteeth and Masonic hysteria in cartoons.
So, tell me anything you consumed this week that impressed/appalled/fascinated you.
I’ve been a bit busy lately. I know, that sounds weird to read because it is well known that I am the least busy person on the planet. If I run an errand, I need a nap and a diet soda upon waking. But since about December I’ve had a lot of energy. Lots of hobbies, errands, cooking, interacting with Mr. Oddbooks, and absolutely neurotic levels of cleaning have been going on. This burst of energy means my backlog of books to discuss is about to become not so backed or logged.
And it means I want to write here more, even when I don’t have book-related content. I will have book content Monday – a discussion of Wrath James White’s Population Zero – but until I post it, I want to discuss the music/noises I have been obsessed with lately. I’ve been resurrecting old writing of mine, looking at it and seeing if it is worth salvaging. Some of it is and one of the pieces I want to work on is deeply disturbing. When I work on disturbing stories, I cannot listen to my usual music. I find myself listening the most discordant, horrible sounds because my usual tastes may cause me to think of old friends, old activities and I end up reminiscing more than working. I need things that jangle my brain in an anonymous way.
Nothing I share below is new, though some of it is new to me. I’m sharing it anyway because I feel like sharing, dammit. And it’s not like this site is devoted to the latest in media anyway.
I’ve always been very interested in numbers stations. There’s just something very creepy and intense knowing that you may be listening to a coded order for a spy to kill an enemy agent or to take the cyanide pill. Yeah, none of that probably happened, but it’s still unnerving to listen to a form of communication and know you cannot now and will never know what was being communicated. So I’ve been listening to numbers stations recordings.
When that gets tiring, I listen to the Siberian Sounds of Hell. Anyone who has ever listened to Art Bell knows of them. Utter bunk, but distressing noise is distressing noise. I most often listen to a 20 minute loop of this I have on my computer, but this little video gives the “origin story” of these sounds.
And if you were an Art Bell junkie for any length of time, you probably already know of the call Art Bell got from a supposed frantic man who claimed to have worked at Area 51. Tool turned the call into a song called “Faaip De Oiad.” There’s something about this one that sort of messes with me if I listen to it long enough. I have absolutely no idea why.
Then there is this little gem. I found this one several pages back on a Google search for “horrible noise.” I’m not really into noise rock so that may explain why this has been out for two years and I never heard of it until recently. I play this one in a loop for hours as I think. And again, for whatever reason, there is something about this noise that is troubling to me. Much of the this song is distressing, especially the line, “Our bones won’t grow in the dirt.” That was enough on its own to be unsettling, but then I looked up the band and found this video. Now I associate all of the noise surges with screaming and the line about bones has a more sinister meaning. And then there’s the whole story in the video. Is the victim a girl or a boy? How long was he or she held in captivity, because the smeared make-up and dirty socks convey the idea of a lengthy abduction. The madman is in his underwear. Did the victim thwart a sexual attack and flee? Is the camera pan comparing the legs of the running victim and the madman telling us something? How about the manner in which the victim knew the exact place to hit the femoral artery? What does that tell us? Anything? Nothing? In a way this video encapsulates all that is amazing in story-telling – giving enough information to draw us in and leaving out enough so that we are forced to think. This one is gory as hell so if you are easily freaked out by such things, don’t watch.
I never really liked Aphex Twin but this was part of my background noise when writing long before I saw the video.
And then there is the always horrifying “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide. The screaming, oh the screaming. The relentless drum machine. This is madness in the form of a song.
There’s more but six videos for one entry is more than enough, I think. Please share with me the music that helps you work, the music that terrifies you or the music that fills you with nauseated dread.