Much of what happens on OTC is the result of me falling down a rabbit hole and writing about it, and often if there isn’t a rabbit hole, I’ll dig one, just to cover all the bases. But if you’re new here, hi, sometimes when I consume media, a brain switch gets tripped and I end up worrying the piece of media like a dog with a bone, obsessively gnawing on details until I wear myself out and move on to the next little or sometimes massive obsession. It’s hard to predict what will flip the switch but when it happens I just have to roll with it until the obsession ends and I can move on to something else. My most recent obsession is with a song, and it seems fitting to share it during Odd-tober because while it isn’t wholly Halloweenish, the more I looked into it, the creepier it was. An Odd-session, as it were.
I have to assume that most of you have encountered the often wretched and frequently bizarre recommendations that happen when YouTube algorithms try to predict your tastes. You listen to, say, an acoustic set from a Finnish doom metal band, and helpful YouTube suggests you follow it up with a Halsey video wherein she both spits blood and features Debbie Harry in a random but charming cameo. It’s baffling, and I have no clue what I watched that caused YouTube to throw up the video for “Evil in Your Eye” by a band called Church of the Cosmic Skull. Not complaining – it was a righteous recommendation, and I liked the song enough to look into the band, which led me to a solo project the guitarist and lead male vocalist, Bill Fisher, recently released. (As an aside, this is the golden age of the solo project. All these bands, unable to tour due to Covid-19, restless and waiting…)
I watched the video for Bill Fisher’s song, “Celador,” at three or so in the morning on Saturday and am beginning this entry three days later, having thought about it in my usual spiral of insomnia-laced (un)focus. As soon as I realized I was going to write about Bill Fisher, I stopped opening the emails I got after joining his site. The emails are fun invitations to try and understand the mission behind the album. I almost wish I hadn’t signed up before posting this discussion because just knowing the title of the album Fisher released has probably colored how I look at this video, though I like to think I’d have reached the same conclusions regardless. I really hate knowing too much before diving into a rabbit hole but sometimes you get in your own way, I guess.
You may want to watch the video for “Celador” before I begin.
This particular rabbit hole led me to three small warrens, wherein I considered the reason behind the video concept, Fisher’s use of euphonia and dual meaning, and how I think this song is, in a way, an updated fairy tale. Join me beneath the cut, and let’s gnaw this bone together.
Type of Book: Graphic novels, adult comics, horror, music
Why Do I Consider These Books Odd: I don’t know. They just are.
Availability: I have no idea if these are in print or not. I couldn’t find them on the Verotik website. I purchased mine from the Verotik store on eBay. I found the Verotik website to be marginally less helpful than a Geocities site, circa 1997, so if this discussion causes you to want to look into Danzig’s comics, the Verotik store on eBay is probably your best bet.
Comments: When George Tierney of Greenville, South Carolina, showed his extraordinary misogyny, his complete misunderstanding of how the Internet works, and his ass, I checked to see what the Twitter response was to his delightful antics. Lots of moral outrage, but the best Twitter response came from an account ostensibly belonging to Glenn Danzig. Danzig’s response was the perfect: “I’d like to get @geotie2323 alone in a room.”
Of course I had to retweet that, as I am only human. Later I came to find that Glenn Danzig doesn’t even have an e-mail address (BOO!), so it was unlikely he had a Twitter account. Still, it was a nice moment in time.
Later I had a bizarre dream wherein a shirtless Glenn Danzig, as he looked in 1992, beat the hell out of the current model of Bill Maher. I have no idea what such a dream means because I like Bill Maher and have no desire to see him beaten up. So as I pondered what the hell that dream meant, I searched on Glenn Danzig. Goodness. He’s a polarizing dude. And he has cats, and a book collection and a cabinet of curiosities that I totally want to rummage through, though in a wholly respectful way.
I have all the books he spoke of in that video (are his books next to a pool? what the hell?) and I understand what he meant when he said “all documented, all true” in reference to Montague Summers’ book on werewolves. I feel like Glenn Danzig and I would find a lot of duplicates if we compared book collections.
I have to explain, however, that I am not that familiar with Glenn Danzig’s body of music. I was a bit too young for the Misfits, I sort of liked Samhain but they got zero radio play in Dallas, and by the time Danzig, the band, was on the rise I had sunk into a weird place of radio alterna-pop and black metal. (In spite of my ignorance of Danzig’s music, I can say this: the current, Danzig-less incarnation of The Misfits released one of the worst songs I have ever heard. “Helena” is both an homage to one of the crappiest and most unintentionally hilarious movies ever and also seems to be a rip-off of a much better song by Acid Bath. Seriously, don’t test me on how much I loathe that song.) I say this because I need y’all to know I can’t speak intelligently about Danzig’s music beyond just dying a little inside when I watch the video “Wicked Pussycat” because those clawed gloves Danzig wears reminds me of when Dwayne on the cartoon Home Movies played Mr. Pants, the fearsomely violent but easily flattered kitty cat.
Here they are for your comparison. Note that the above is NSFW in a major way.
What I guess I’m saying is that for me Glenn Danzig’s music career, while definitely impressive, takes a back seat to the fact that he clearly has the same taste in books as I do and that he is also fond of cats. It was hard for me to see the humor in the macros generated from a grocery store trip wherein Danzig was buying cat litter. Honestly, we buy Mr. Oddbooks’ body weight in cat litter every month. What’s the interest in a man with a cat making sure it can crap someplace other than the floor?
The problem, of course, is that he is Glenn Fucking Danzig. I guess people would feel the same sense of shocked mockery were Lemmy Kilmister found carefully cultivating a butterfly garden. Men like Danzig, who at times seems like a Frank Frazetta character come to life, are not supposed to be caregivers or nurturers. But being who I am, knowing he has a couple of cats he takes care of made me like him so much I was willing to pay a substantial price for two of his comics, a price that Mr. Oddbooks, the real comic aficionado in this house, found shocking for something with a cover that to him was essentially an extended van mural as imagined by a 15-year-old dirtbag as he sketched on his Trapper Keeper in biology.
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.)