Friday, August 11, 2017

The Purple Piper Plays His Tune

While I was on hiatus or in Purgatory or or whatever, I didn't write much. However I did still listen to a lot of music, and it helped to do so. The last year and a half or so, when I was on the mend, I was still pretty fucked up. To keep myself from turning into a gibbering blob, I conjured various games and activities. In doing so, I created an illusion of order in what was, really, a very muddled and doubtful time. Along with various other exercises, I adopted this practice of making playlists about once a month. (I had no strict time frame—it just worked out to about 1 per month.)

I kept the lists "short"—around 30-45 minutes—because I lacked an attention span. Let's face it: it's kind of hard to listen to a longer playlist, unless you're road-tripping or something like that. (Which I did, last Summer, and I made a longer list for that outing, and maybe I'll get into it here at some point.) Anyway, there was a time when most really good albums were 30-45 minutes, and they worked just fine. (Something that short is less common, nowadays, especially when so many albums are clogged up with guest appearances, alternate mixes, and bonus tracks.)

Since I used to post a lot of dullsville pontifications on here about this music or that or the other and why it was such hot shit, I figured it might be a good way to get back on the horse to share a couple of my skimpy lists with you. They're short, and I'll try to keep it pithy, like Bill O'Reilly once said. (The ladies said the same thing to him.) It may even be over before I bore you! (If I haven't already!) And if it goes well, maybe I'll post some more!

I should note that I didn't give as much thought to these playlists as I sometimes have in the past. The point, to me, was to mark a moment, and to do so without much self-consciousness. Then I moved onto the next list, and with any kind of luck, maybe a better day. To the extent that I really considered what I was doing here, I made it more about sound and vibe, than idea and theme. Soooooooo…

Ready????? Here goes:


1) Side B (Dope Song) - Danny Brown - Old: Danny Brown can be viciously funny, but sometimes he's just vicious. This song hits and hits hard, as a crushing bassline collides with a demented midget backing track. His vocals range from panicked to furious, as he spits out anecdotes that are much darker and much more vivid than the average urban hip hop claptrap. It may not be documentary, but it feels like emotional and musical truth.

2) Black Diamond - The Replacements - Let It Be: There is a hilarious anecdote about this song, which you may very well know, involving Gene Simmons walking into a club where the Replacements were covering this Kiss number. They were playing with such sloppy, reckless abandon that he was appalled and stormed out. Not only is this a hell of a lot of unselfconscious (unlike Kiss) fun, it's sort of pleasant to think of that pretentious asshole throwing a fit.

3) Last Call - Elliott Smith - Roman Candle: From Elliott Smith's very first record, which is unlike any of the other albums in the way, it sprawls. It's more of an exploration of what someone can do with a prolonged groove, a sustained atmosphere, and a focused approach to storytelliing. Often the songs do away with verses, choruses and bridges, and instead follow a twisting, hypnotic path.

4) Run to the Hills - Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast: One of the best riffs ever ushers you into this mini-epic morality play. At first blush, this song may sound like hair metal cheese. Really though, all those squealing throwaway acts—from bubble gum like Motley Crue to gas bags like Yngwie Malmsteen—are just parasites. Iron Maiden is above and beyond their progeny. In retrospect, their music can sound like a happy marriage of Sabbath and speed metal, which is a pretty cool sound indeed.

5) 123 - girlpool - Powerplant: An awesome song from an awesome record. This one works off of bittersweet endorphins. It is not be "profound" in some weighty critical sense, but it is one of those experiences that feels very large, when you're in the middle of it. It has the elevated anthemic feel of arena rock, but it manages to stay intimate somehow at the same time. Really addictive stuff.

6) Draag - Brainiac - Smack Baby Bunny: It is now 20 years since the death of Tim Taylor, the lead singer of Brainiac. He, and the band, are missed. The world could use more unique and exciting rock music. All the more reason, I guess, why we may have to hold onto the really weird, really edgy stuff from the past. This one skitters about, unleashing little manic rock explosions and skittering electronics. It's from the first Brainiac record, when they were just starting to emerge from a 90s rock chrysalis to become something stranger.

7) The Court of the Crimson King - In the Court of the Crimson King: Hahaha. Oh my. Did someone just belch? Oh wait, that was just King Crimson, in their grand, original form, cutting loose on the prog-rock shot heard…around the headphones? What other song noodles through jazz, rock, and dinner theater in such a glorious, bombastic way? The ambition here is towering! The song teeters, but doesn't quite fall. (Depending on your taste.) Amazing.

8) The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton - Mountain Goats - All Hail West Texas: There's somehing really… sublime?… about hearing John Darnielle intone "Hail Satan!" in his characteristic adenoidal way. Then there are the familiar folksy chords banging out behid this whistful but angry tale of metal, friendship and the tyranny of adults over the young. It's funny, but it doesn't trivialize its subject matter. 

9) A Spoonful of Blues - Charley Patton - Charley Patton, Volume 1: Listening to delta blues can be an exercise in frustration, if you try to understand the lyrics. The recordings are low quality, and the vocals are drawled in a nearly archaic dialect—all of which is too bad, because the stories and emotions that you find in these songs are just as powerful as they were in their day. (I suspect. My time machine's busted, so I can't verify.) With Charley Patton, you almost forget that you're missing out, because the sounds themselves are so compelling. Here, the harmony between the riff and the vocal is so off the wall, but so memorable that I can't get them out of my head half the time.

10) Blue Suede - Vince Staples - Hell can Wait: It isn't enough that Vince Staples writes some very powerful lyrics and delivers them with a level of intensity you rarely hear elsewhere. (The dude sounds almost laid back, at times, but he turns on a dime and spits in your face.) He also assembles some of the most unique and hard hitting backing tracks out there. The songs are catchy, generally, but they serve up a ferocious sound that you will not find anywhere else.

So that's it for now… I've been cranking these lists out about once a month—though I don't keep track—so likely I'll have another one up here soon. (If I get around to writing about it.) Hurrah!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Chips & Dips, Part 3 in 3D


Where were we? Oh yeah…

So, hey! This implant stuff all worked pretty well for Pa Patrick, right? He may've lost a non-vegetative daughter, but he gained a subhuman race car driver! Maybe nothing's perfect, in nature, but Danica is perfectly good unnaturally gifted hot shot! 

Still, not everything is so great in the implant biz, because meanwhile back in Hollywood, where all the really important stuff happens, my sources tell me that Kari is feeling sort of insecure and blue about having regular-sized jugs again. Ever since that mishap with her own implants, life just doesn’t have that zing, so she’s decided to super-size again. The girl’s not getting any younger, and the boobs aren’t getting any more buoyant. 

(Don’t think yourself any better. Your tits are going to sag too. Your pubes are gonna grey up and dry out till they’re like the furry stuff on a used-up dish sponge. Your nuts are gonna dangle around your knees, but they’ll be virtually useless, because even if you still have your prostate gland, and are therefore able to splurt out a weak, geriatric squab of off-white slime, you won’t be able to get it up to do so with anyone else. So when you mock Kari, obviously, you mock yourself.) 

But here's where things take a turn for the, um, best? Because Kari's new implants don't just give her better boobs. They have an unforeseen and really cool side effect! 

Remember back there when we were talking about how Kari got implants and became a hot shot jet pilot? Well, fake-Kari did anyway. Real-Kari just went scampering off to some other dimension with the rest of the Sliders. And real-real-Kari got implants also! And they made her into a hotshot actress! Aaaannnddd… and this part's really going to blow your mind! (If you haven't already blown your head off while reading this.) Real-real Kari's new implants have also made her into a hotshot fighter pilot—just like fake-Kari! See, according to the Transitive Property of Acting, fake-Kari and real-real-Kari cancel out real-Kari… and well… 

Consider the equation below:

Real-Kari minus Implants [because they blew up] = Fake-Kari ^ Real-Real-Kari


Real-Kari + Implants


Let's just cll this new entity "fer-real-Kari." Because she's for real. And she's a for real hot shot! 

I refer any of you who doubt my math to Aristotle's Poetics. And, lucky us, Aristotle was all about the philosophy as well! So if we're wondering what all this crap about modifying bodies really means—beyond arithmetical and structural nuts and bolts—all we have to do is apply Aristotelian logic to figure it out. 

So now Kari's got implants again, and she's a hot shot pilot. But so is Danica. So where does that leave us? What do you do when you have two hot shots with implants??? 

That's right! Wacky Races! Wow, Thanks, Aristotle! It's so obvious! An elegant solution…what streamlined logic! Beauty through simplicity. 

Except nothing about building or modifying people is ever simple. And wacky races are even worse! It's their convoluted nature that makes them so entertaining. (Look at how many of them there are on TV these days!) The goals and the format are always somewhat cloudy—just like in real life—all you can really do is hold on with both hands and see where the race takes you! 

Um hmm. So let's see…Oh yes! Hear that VROOMING? That's good ol' Danica making her approach in a souped-up soapbox sedan! Just when your ears have recovered from that unholy racket, window glass starts breaking all around you..a screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but it was never so big a surprise as it is to see ol' Kari's jet coming in for a three point landing at 40gs! Ouch! 

Anyway, so both our girls pull up to the starting line in their respective rides. And from their respective driver's seats, they stare at each other in what appears to be a confrontational way—until you notice that Danica is really just glassy-eyed and drooling into her vinyl racing outfit. So sitting way up there in her cockpit, Kari has to lean way down to point forward, dramatically, through the windshield to indicate that it's on. Danica's head just kind of lolls to one side, as though her neck were broken. (And it may well be. Cranial implants are trickier than you might think—at least if you want to patch them into the neural system of someone's body, with its spinal column and other yicky stuff.) 

Then some chick in a vinyl cop outfit waves an MIT flag, and the girls start moving! Except but for that they don't! Because Pa Patrick runs out into the dust, waving his arms, to make an instant replay challenge! 

Fat boy refs in black muumuus trundle out, strap on elaborate headsets, cast bird entrails, wait for verdict from NYC. Crowd snoozes. Danica drools more. Kari adjusts makeup and bosoms. Eventually, one of the refs decisively pumps a fist—as tho he were, well, fisting the North Star. He's saying that there's a technical foul on the entire endeavor. Everyone involved has to stop and consider what he might mean…Technical foul on life? Reality? The race? All are reasonable objections, but there's this pesky victory thing to be determined. 

Fat ref—who just happens to be Country Joe West—which means if you're a baseball fan, you need to either get out yr fiddle and start sawing, or get out yr squirrel-shooter and start aiming, depending on yr disposition and denomination and whatnot…Well, that be-joweled motherfucker informs all the squares that there is, indeed, a foul afoot. Seems two requisite vehicles are in play—but there's a bitchy objection at work—the one that Dan's Da hath made: The particular vehicles here aren't requisite to the same sport! 

You big sillies! A race car can't run up against a jet plane! What kind of contest would that be? However badass Danica is—and she is A-1 badass—she's going to come up short! And it won't even be her fault. It'll be the fault of corruption. Unless Country Joe West has something to say about it—and he does, albeit as presented around a mouthful of wattles! 

Fowl! He cries, his snood standing at attention… And Danica and Kari retreat to neutral corners to do some Xtreme vetting of another type of vehicle… 

(Note: "In anatomical terms, the snood is an erectile, fleshy protuberance on the forehead of turkeys. Most of the time when the turkey is in a relaxed state, the snood is pale and 2-3 cm long. However, when the male begins strutting—the courtship display—the snood engorges with blood, becomes redder and elongates several centimeters, hanging well below the beak…" As per Wikipedia.) 

So. The umps come up with the certifiably brilliant idea that if neither plane nor car is equivocal—vis-a-vis vehicular hilarity—then an intermediary medium will have to be arrived upon, which is, obviously, jet skis! Yep! If you're a hot shot pilot or driver or whatever, why not slide your fine ass over into the Posture-Pedic driver's seat of a hardcore jet ski? I mean, for purposes of leveling the playing field and whatnot? 

So. Like. Danica and Kari both scamper over to a couple of state-of-the-art water sport rides. Hop in, turn ignition, motor rumbles! Off they go! 

The crowd roars! It is mostly made up of middle aged men in rain coats, whose hands are conspicuously concealed somewhere inside. They leer at Kari and Danica, who can't see them anyway as they go streaking by! 

The race is so intense that they pass the finish line, neck and neck, without even seeing it! Their wakes trail behind them like aquatic contrails, off away from spectators and commentator, and through the interconnected network of our great nation's lakes and rivers. 

Pretty soon, they're whipping across the cold waters of Lake Superior, right over the sunken remains of the Edmund Fitzgerald, (for all you Harry Chapin fans out there—god help you). They hit the Soo Lochs pulling about 600 knots, shifting left and right as they fight both gravity and wind. In other words, they struggle with nature itself! To fall off your ski here, while moving this fast would be like hitting the pavement after falling from a hurtling hover-car. However pneumatic your body may be, there'd only be so much bouncing and padding to protect you from pancakery. Or worse—just flying off your ride and finding yourself with an internal orifice injury. 

(Note: The most traumatic internal orifice injury "occurs when a female rider falls off the back of [a jet ski] and into the path of the craft's high-pressure water jet. The jet thrust is powerful enough to push water into the rider's orifices, which can result in severe internal injuries to the rider's vagina, rectum or anus, and possibly death…" As per Wikipedia.) 

But not our girls, no! Remember that they're real hot shots, so it shouldn't surprise you one bit to find them whipping right into Lake Fenton, Michigan and hurtling toward the shoreline. The only way for them to avoid an unimaginable catastrophe—one featuring, say, property damage, decapitations of charming local families, and a final spectacular fireball…BWOOM!… (This is starting to sound sort of cool. I almost wish they would crash…) The only way to avoid such a nightmare, is for both ladies to show off their chops! 

Lake Fenton is small, and the skis are moving very, very fast, so about all Kari and Danica can do is move into a circular formation, right in the middle of the lake. They spin round one another, trying to slow their rides down without colliding. Waves spring up around them, pushing pontoon boats away like the great hand of Neptune himself! But here's the thing: Kari and Danica have been moving at such an outrĂ© clip that even as the motors throttle down, centrifugal force picks them up and carries them in a mighty waterspout, first up into the sky and then down, whirlpooling, into the depths of Lake Fenton! 

And so they sink spectacularly. But in doing so, they don't find death…They find transformation… Danica's shiny eyes—like a kid's prize marbles—find Kari's intense gaze. (No, you perv…they are not going to lez out!) The tremulous limits of terror recede, like the surface of the water above. Both women feel a strange pull, leading them, without fear, deeper into the unknown depths of the lake. 

Yes, without fear, but instead with a strange giddiness. They find indescribable wonders stretching out in front of them, as they begin to swim, without need of air. They move down, away from the drunken weekend speedboat antics above, then out, like salmon to the sea. Deeper, through stygian chasms to the alien architecture of sunken Rl'eyh, where they will shed implants and human skin. Glorious and ageless now, they shall live amidst the ancient splendor of the Deep Ones forever. Ia! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'leyh wgah'nagl fhtagn! 

Or something. 

I can't tell you what'll happen to Kari or Danica—or to their implants, really. And I can't tell you if it's better to achieve apotheosis through technology or genetic/occult sidestepping. I can't tell you what's monstrous or marvelous (or both at the same time). As a matter of fact, I can't tell you much at all. You probably should ignore pretty much everything I say, except this: chicks and speed don't mix, and that is so hot.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Chips & Dips, Part Deux

(See the beginning of Part 1, below, for some exciting disclaimers! They apply to this entry as well!!!)

OK...So where were we? Chips. Brains. Entertainment. Right...

Look at how entertaining that episode of Sliders had been! Just imagine if you brought those pulse-pounding thrills to real life stuff, like the Blue Angels? Or, even better, to NASCAR! And NASCAR is really perfect, because if you had to find a real-life-fake-Kari to replace fake-life-real-Kari, who would you get? Danica Patrick, obviously. She’s a real hotshot, just like Kari was a fake hotshot in “Slide by Wire.” 

And while I have to confess that I’ve never found Danica hot—no matter how many provocative commercials with lesbian-dominatrix cops they stick her in, nor how much more they keep tarting her up with sleeker makeup and/or bodysuits. But see, here’s where implants come in. Take a look at Danica. Cosmetically speaking, she could probably benefit from the cold caress of science…but then it hit me that maybe she already has! She’s in NASCAR (or whatever). She’s a real athlete (heh heh)… Athletes use whatever edge they can get to get over the top. And while Danica’s rack isn’t anywhere near as spectacular as real-Kari’s, she certainly can pilot her hot rod as well as fake-Kari could pilot her plane… after she got implants!

That’s right. While lawmakers and various regulatory agencies have been writhing their hands over performance-enhancing chemicals, maybe they should have been worried about performance-enhancing implants. Here’s a means of really altering your body’s ability to compete: restructuring it! Feeling a little mediocre? Try an implant! How about grafting a star discus thrower’s arm onto a bullpen pitcher’s body? Or shark’s teeth into the gums of some hotshot pool player?

I’m sure you can see that the possibilities are limitless, and once you start looking at Danica and thinking about Kari, (in Sliders,) and if you consider how women never excelled at being race car drivers, (or as just plain drivers…sorry, ladies…) you start to get suspicious, don’t you? Like, just how does Danica make all those spiffy hairpin turns whilst pulling 50 Gs at 400mph? (Or whatever race car drivers do?) Nomenclature aside, I don’t think it’s her hairpins. 

You know how really great athletes always seem to have those tyrannical fathers? The ones that tirelessly dog their children all through their joyless childhoods to grasp some athletic brass ring or other? (Woods, Jeter, et. al.) Well, since all of society has agreed to consider race car driving a sport, for some reason, doesn’t it seem possible that maybe Danica Patrick has one of those imperious fathers as well?

Here’s how obsessed I became with the pattern I saw forming in front of me: I actually looked up Danica Patrick and her father! And it’s a good thing that I did, because otherwise, I wouldn’t know that her paw drives all her rigs around for her—when she’s not racing in them, I mean. That’s what he does for a living! Is that what you’d do with your time, if she were your kid? No matter how close you are, it’d be fucking embarrassing. Everyone can see that your sum total worth is wrapped up in the identity of your progeny…like some ontological mummy. Proud of your kid? You wouldn’t dream of leeching off another human being like that, unless you had no pride at all…or were one of those monomaniacal athletic dads!

(The distaff version of these guys is the showbiz mom, obviously, which I bring up because Danica has one of those too. Her mother handles her business affairs full time. What luck! Not every mother can find her child a spot in a commercial where they get to make out with a stripper/cop…)

So say you are one of those obsessive dad’s, and you have a dint of simple intelligence… you can see that the climb to the top of the heap is treacherous. Arms and legs wave out of a cluster of competitors, who are also climbing, and you have to grasp and clutch them and scramble over everyone else. You become part of that ugly writhing mass, like some nightmare out of Dante. Most of the climbers never see Purgatory—forget the Divine Apex of sooper stardom. To reach that next, highest level, you might need a little boost.

An elite sports dad, can see that need for a helpful push—however dim he may be otherwise. Presumably, Danica’s dad is one of these guys, so it’s likely he found out that destroying his child’s ego just wasn’t enough. It was time for some outside help—outside of nature even.

But let’s credit him with a little more intelligence than the average sports dad. After all, Danica made it all the way. (Close enough to be famous anyway—I don’t know or care what the top of the race car biz is, exactly.) So he must be one of the elite sports dads, right? Savvy enough to know that the powers that be have become pretty savvy as well. They’ve tightened the PED net so that it downright smothers fakers and juicers. So what’s a dad to do?

I bet I know what Danica’s dad did, and I bet I know just how he got the idea. I bet. 

In 1999, the episode “Slide by Wire” aired for the very first time. Danica would’ve been around 17. (She’s 35 now.) And that’s probably right around the time when a kid’s competitive potential has peaked. For Danica, the writing was on the wall, and maybe it wasn’t not quite spelling out what her dad wanted. He’s been cajoling her to race around since she was in swaddling cloths. Maybe it was Big Wheels first, when she was so little that her legs could barely move the pedals. (He probably strapped little motors to one of those silly plastic trikes…Hang on tight, Dani! VROOM! Off she goes! Wave bye-bye!)  Then when she reached her toddler years, he probably moved her to motor scooters. She’d wear Xtra Tall pimp platform shoes, so she could work the pedals. In grade school, she’d get a ’73 Buick LeSabre, and then, finally, her very own stock car when she graduated to adolescence!

By now, she’s good! But her reflexes are a little dull here and there. Once in a while, her courage wanes, when it should be hot waxin’. And worst of all, somehow, she’s just not fast enough! Sure, she wins every single race she’s in, but she’s got to be ready to face the Big Boys now…The Gordons! The Andrettis! The Speed Racers! And her time is just not good enough!!!

And Danica’s pa can only work elite sports dad magic on her so for so long. He’s already yelled at and humiliated her for her entire childhood. He’s already denied her friends, romance music, television (except racing programs)… He doesn’t even let her finish high school! (She did eventually get her GED. True fact.) He’s running out of ideas!

Then one night, he’s watching SyFy. (which had a much less idiotic name back then: “The Sci-Fi Channel.”) And it comes to him…an erection…because he’s watching Sliders, and Jerry O’Connell’s looking mighty fine. (What is with people and their inexplicable attractions to frogs and race car drivers?) But he watches a little longer, and he actually gets caught up in the inane story line…And sure enough the featured episode is “Slide by Wire” with all of its muddled meanderings on the subject of sticking chips in chicks craniums to turn them into super-pilots, and well…

He starts whacking off to Jerry O’Connell…

But then it hits him! Chips! Not the potato or nacho kind, but computer chips! Danica! Her head! It’s perfect!

So he runs out to the garage, where all his race car tools are, and starts soldering together some sort of primitive circuit board-type thing, but it comes out looking less like the chip on Sliders than it does like a transformer for a toy train set. (It’s actually from a Hot Wheels set that he got Danica when she was a kid, and it’s now badly melted from all that soldering.) But hey, you have to start somewhere. So he’s all ready to saunter into Danica’s bedroom, knock a wedge-shaped hole in her head with maybe an XL flathead screwdriver or something, slip the chip into her, and then watch the magic take place. But then it occurs to him that proper scientific procedure requires torturing animals before you try something on a human being. (Even when the tests you perform on the animal are manifestly idiotic and just confirm something you already know, e.g. squirting oven cleaner into the eyes of rabbits.) 

So there’s Mr. Patrick. With a hardon. Because he’s thinking about Jerry O’Connell. But then he remembers what he was doing with his chip. And with Danica. And with the family cat.

So he goes to where the cat sleeping on a pile of dirty laundry. He pounces on  the unsuspecting critter, and it rightfully bites him on the hand. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, he’s had the foresight to don garden gloves. So he’s able to drag the animal out to the garage and dope it up with some spare Rohypnol he has lying around somewhere. He yanks out a hammer and chisel, makes a wedge-shaped slot in the cat’s head, and plops the microchip in.

Right away, he can tell he’s onto something, because the cat dies. He starts calling pest control corporations, trying to interest them in a new “stray cat removal device,” but no one will even talk to him, so it’s back to the drawing board.

So it’s trial and error. And more error. And more dead pets. And winos. And he still can’t figure it out. Guess he should’ve got that GED, like Danica did.

Eventually he puts 2 and 2 together—figuratively speaking anyway. He’s thinking about computer chips, and it occurs to him that maybe this Silicon Valley place he’s been hearing could help him. Like many industry-based towns, it derives its name from the #1 local commodity—the stuff they build computer chips out of! And maybe his soldering iron and workbench just aren’t going to cut it, so long as he can’t get his hands on some of that stuff they have out there in Silicon Valley! Why didn’t he think of it before? He wants a computer chip that’s also a human implant, and both things are made out of the same material! Silicon!

A sound idea, I’m sure we can all agree. Unfortunately, it’s derived from a not-so-sound sense of spelling. (Again we witness the blessings of a GED.) Nevertheless, he grabs Danica by the wrists, yanks her out of her practice Spitfire or whatever, and pretty soon he’s hauling her to the local plastic surgery emporium so they can look into some specialty implants.

And the implant people are all like, well where should we start? And he’s like, can you get me something in a microchip? And they go, um what? And he goes, you know like the chips from Silicone Valley? And they go, oh! you mean a computer chip made out sil-icon! And he’s all like, huh? And they’re like, sorry dude, we do silicone implants, like, you know, tits and asses and things. And you know, if your daughter needs help with that, we’re totally here for you, but like all those other “implants” made out of silicon don’t really happen in real life, except but in the movies and stuff. And Danica’s dad goes, yeah it does, ‘cuz I saw it on Sliders once. And they go, dude Sliders is just a show. And he goes, yeah but Kari Wuhrer’s real and she’s got real implants and a slot in her head for them on the TV show. And they nod sagely and go, mmmhhmmm…true. And he's all like, see in this one episode of Sliders, she has this chip in her head and it makes her fly a fighter jet really good, and I want my daughter to win Nascar, so can you whip up an implant that we can shove in her head, please, pretty please? And they go, oooohhhh, well now that makes sense!

So pretty soon, PETA activists start turning up dead all over the country—their bodies missing various glands and organs an stuff. They’d all been last seen headed for demonstrations at some plastic surgery “clinic” called “A Better Vue of Yew,” located in Pimsqwat, West Indiana (or wherever Danica’s from). The place has been consuming vast numbers of test animals, only to barf them back out with microchip-sized slots in their heads. Truckloads of furry little critter corpses roll away from the place, which now has dark clouds boiling over it. Distant thunder rumbles. Eerie lights spill from the shuttered windows—all coral pink, laced with ochers and greens. The local townsfolk tremble and mumble. They sharpen their pitchforks and oil their torches and then turn back to another episode of Dancing with the Stars.

Then a commercial comes on, and they remember there’s something unnatural happening at the plastic surgery place—like, something involving the simulation of reality. So they get outraged, turn off Dancing with the Stars, and rush off to the “clinic,” which just happens to be located on this jagged, towering rock formation just outside of town.

But when they get there, it’s too late. The giant oaken doors of the plastic surgery place burst open, revealing its sleek, mod interior. (As sleek and mod as interiors get in burnt out, blighted mid-Western suburbs anyway, which basically means that there are potted plastic ferns and M.C. Escher prints scattered about. On a cheap end table, there are handfuls of outdated gossip, travel, and interior design magazines—the latter of which have nothing to do with the room in which they rest. And there’s spiffy linoleum tile in a pale, lime shade everywhere. It’s stained and dingy from years of use and negligence, and it doesn’t match the dismal manilla paint on the walls.)

So the doors burst open, as I said, and out shambles Danica—pretty much in the form you know her today. Her stare is a little bit more glassy. She’s a little more obviously in need of a drool cup. For Danica, a living state—in the traditional sense—has given way to highly attenuated bondage to the brand new implant that rattles around the slot in her skull. This transition challenges the very reptile stem of her mind. A synethesiac funnel cloud spins over the bedrock of her brain pan, twisting scents into shades into whispers and then back again. Satellite radio signals latch on to her chip and then toss 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny” into her ear canals, where the song’s bass lines fall like rocks down a bottomless well.

Danica lets out a tittering cry that none of the townspeople will ever forget. They recoil from the fathomless despair that flashes from her eyes, there, in the torchlight. And then they bolt out into the night—the persecutors now persecuted by a recognition of something much larger than themselves—something more ineffable than their own sense of righteousness.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chips & Dips, Part 1

(Translator's Note: Most of what you read here was written a while back--like 5-10 years ago. Many of the references are dated, and I would not write in this voice at this point exactly. I have done what I could to clean up the entry without ruining its spirit. (Or whatever.) Inevitably, that approach will probably lead to some inconsistencies. I even had to write some new shit to glom it all together! Anyway, I had this lying around, and it seemed like as good a place as any to try to resuscitate this blog...

I've divided this into multiple entries--the others soon to be published--as its length was unwieldy. Keep an eye out, diehards! All 2 of you...

One more thing: I actually do like Kari Wuhrer and feel a little bad about some of what's written about her here. So--to Kari, or anyone that loves her--my apologies. It probably won't seem like it, my intentions were somewhat affectionate, if kind of opportunistic...)

In these days of cyber-blankout, it seems like every time you turn around some bundle of nerves is agonizing over how quickly society is evolving. (Or devolving.) They're all a-twitch with angst over the possibility that we've lost our moral, or biological, or theistic compass. Like we ever had a compass to begin with.

And one thing that really seems to yank their cranks is the possibility that we might be "playing god"—and in particular, how we might be trying to build people. I don't get it. If god didn't want us to build people, why would he/she/it/you/whatever have given us the capacity to do so? It's not as though people haven't had all kinds of time to get used to the idea. As far back as the Middle Ages, they say, cabalistic rabbis were running around making misshapen people out of clay! They'd send these golem things out to beat the shit out of anti-semites throughout Europe. And you know those rabbis were down with god, so if there were doing it—and today even educated MD's are doing it—why shouldn't anyone make people?

Another thing that happened a while back there—though not quite so long ago as golems and all of that other pottery shit—was Mary Shelley wrote some book about a dude building a dude out of other dead dudes. Apparently, she was a "Romantic," which at that time was code for "free-loving hippy," and just as you might expect a hippy to do, she made up all sorts of ludicrous shit about recycling (as in building new guys out of dead guys) and "green" energy. Dr. Frankenstein—the dude that she made up who made new dudes out of dead dudes—he used lightning to bring his homunculus to life. (Though, to be fair, that actually only happened in the movie, over which Mary Shelley probably did not have script approval, being as she'd been dead for around 200 years or so at that point. In the book, the dude used chemicals or some shit to build a dude, just like they do in real life now.)

So as I said, we've all had plenty of time to digest the idea that making people of our own is not only OK, but that it's probably what god wants us to do. It's only right and natural, as they say. (I mean, at least if we occupy ourselves with making people, we won't have the time to do something really bad, like making it so we can't get each other pregnant—or harvesting stem cells from the castoff fetuses that result from unwanted pregnancies so that millions of people wouldn't have to suffer from various godawful ailments. Because that would be immoral. Right?) 

All That moralistic agonizing seems to have given the endeavor of people-making a bad name, which is ironic. Not only is it another expression of human imperatives —to know and to do—it's encouraged social progress. Consider, for instance, feminism. Did Frankenstein just make a guy? Of course not! For every Monster, there is a Bride, and where he may be a drooling idiot, she is a lightning bolt of feminine defiance! Hell, half the time the story gets told, or adapted or ripped off, or whatever, the Doctor doesn't even make a dude. He makes chicks! Now you even get more progressive variants wherein the Doctor is a chick! So see? Often in making people out of nuts and bolts, and bones and clay, and clods of meat, and mats of hair, and sutures and cardboard and whatnot, we find ourselves practicing social egalitarianism—without even trying! Yay, us!

Look at The Stepford Wives! Everyone (that is, everyone who's just escaped from a time capsule from the 1970s) is always talking about what a feminist classic it is… How it is the true successor to Rosemary's Baby, which makes sense, being as both stories were written by the same hack, utilizing the same "Mad Libs for Writers," apparently. In that movie, a whole bunch of dudes make a whole bunch of chicks! So it really must have been feminist, right? Um, ok, well I'll grant you its feminism may seem sort of dubious, in retrospect, but it's still less questionable than the feminism of Rosemary's Baby, wherein Mia Farrow behaves as though she's both completely stupid and completely pathetic.

But OK. I'm getting off topic. (Which means I'm going to skip my insightful discussion of plants making people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, thus promoting a green agenda and other progressive stuff.) Because the topic is, actually, Sliders. You know, that Quantum Leap ripoff TV show from the 80s. (Or was it 90s?)

The great thing about Sliders—even better than all the great stuff about The Stepford Wives, or Rosemary's Baby, or maybe even Frankenstein—is the way in which it makes you think. It contains boatloads of social commentary, and lots of hardcore scientific fictionalization. But it's not all boring and Asimov like. It knows just when to titillate you with some reconstituted jizz jazz from somewhere or other. (It ripped off Jurassic Park twice.) And that's why I'm not embarrassed to say that I watched the entire show in order on Netflix recently.

You probably think you're above Sliders, I'll bet… And that may be a valid point. However excellent it may be, paradoxically, you have to've reached a pretty degraded point to actually feel OK about watching it. Aside from the fact that Sliders is a big memory quilt of high concept script ideas, it's also full of affable, cute young folks, especially by Season Four, when it'd decisively reached its formalist period (if a show like this one can even have a formalist period). They’d just dumped John Rhys-Davies from the cast. You know, that racist pig who played Gimli in Lord of the Rings, and who will probably be elected president of the US any day now. (So what if he's British? That didn't stop Boris Johnson from being elected POTUS.) Getting rid of him was a pretty good idea anyway, but it really marked the point when the show got good. It was a Jump the Shark moment in the classic sense—not so much the thing that showed that the show was now bad… (er, uh,) but rather a sign that the show had just hit its apex. Sure, there’s nowhere to go but down, once you've hit yr apex. But no one says you have to take that plunge right away!

Sliders sure didn't. Without that porcine Professor character, there were nothing but young pretty people left—especially Kari Wuhrer. I'm told that a lot of people do (or did) find Jerry O'Connell dreamy. Speaking for myself? Well… I kept waiting for the Sliders gang to teleport to a world full of giant, sentient frogs, so Jerry O'Connell could slip down into a big ol' pond, with just the top half of his head sticking out of the water. He'd just peacefully float around there till some nice, fat dragonfly flew by, and then PLAT! His giant gooey tongue would flick out like a fishing lure! Gulp goes the dragonfly! Then Jerry O'Connell could go back to tranquil semi-somnolence. Occasionally he might hop across some lily pads, or swim speedily and nimbly, pushing himself about with surprisingly long, spindly rear legs… And the other Sliders would feel real sorry to have to leave him there, on Frog World, but they'd recognize that it was for the best, because now ol' Jerry was in his Real, Happy Place. Y'know?

But that's me… You, apparently whack off to him, despite his overinflated head, weird amphibian features, lobster red complexion, buzzing nasal voice, etc., etc….

My fave spank material was Kari. I'm pretty naive. I didn't even know she was surgically, uh, augmented for a long time. I mean, they'd done some really nice work, and you got plenty of chances to ogle it during her time on Sliders. They were pretty great knockers. I mean, they were big, but not too big. I know: for some of you out there, there is no "too big." Boobs, schlongs, guns, cars, nuclear payloads… If you're baseball fans, you probably just want fast balls and home runs—damn the small ball and strategy and all of that.

Speaking of baseball, once or twice I’ve thought about it while whacking off to Kari. Otherwise I explode too soon, and the fun's over too fast, and speaking of explosions and altering the human body, did you know that one of Kari's boobs exploded? Yep. Pop! Can you imagine how embarrassing and traumatic that would be?!!? Here we have a very poignant dramatization of the whole "Why Thou Shouldst Not Play God By Messing Around With The Human Body" spliff! I mean, I feel sort of dirty even writing about it—for Kari's sake, and my own, because I'm probably blaspheming something or other.

Kari's personal, explosive disaster was laced with metatextual irony. She'd already hammed it up in an episode of Sliders called "Slide by Wire." (From Season 4, in case you wanna go toss it in your Netflix queue.) In it, Kari made oodles of (possibly self-deprecating) references to "implants." I'm not sure if she was delivering them with a straight face, because her acting isn't good enough.

Still… Here's a quick summary of the important stuff for you: The Sliders gang barely escape a humorless, militaristic world with their wormhole-generatin' "timer" that looks suspiciously like a Betamax remote control, circa 1982. (Interestingly enough, the wormhole looks like the video game Tempest, also circa 1982. I'd see a pattern here, except the other exponent—The Sliders gang—looks like the dinner theater troupe that they've probably mostly become, circa the present day.) I have to say, I found it really special that the Sliders writers started the episode in medias res. (Latin for "right in the middle of some shit.") Just like they do in every other episode of the show. I was even more impressed when they threw in a curve ball. One the Sliders gang had actually been left behind when they slid out Military World! And they'd slid off with her doppelgänger! Guess which gang member it was! Go on—guess!

Well, I think it's pretty obvious what happens from there on out… A bunch of soldiers show up and grab real-Kari, who they believe is fake-Kari. (They probably also believe her tits are real, just like I did.) And they take her back to one of those military labs, where everything—from the linoleum to the lighting—is as glaringly white as a Baldwin in a snowstorm. And this mad scientist chick shows up, who also thinks that real-Kari is fake-Kari. And she's a real-bitch—probably because she's jealous of just how spankworthy both the real and fake Kari’s are.

And it turns out fake-Kari is some hot shot fighter pilot. And now, to survive—because everyone in this parallel militaristic universe is paranoid about “the enemy” attacking and/or stealing state secrets—real-Kari has to make-believe, convincingly, that she's fake-Kari, which would be a challenge on a good day, because, as I was saying earlier, Kari's acting is, well, a little fragile. I mean, it's probably very difficult for Kari to play real-Kari, let alone fake-Kari. And then to have to play both of them at once!?!

Eat your heart out, Michael Fassbender! thespian-Kari does an adequate job here. And that's a good thing, because the plot is a challenge as well—for everyone from writer to actor to viewer… It turns out that in this dark, militaristic universe, the U.S. is gaining an edge over the Russians. Or maybe it was zombies. Or aliens. I really can't recall. Maybe it was these inter-dimensional wannabe Klingons called "Cro-Mags" that serve as recurring villains in the show's late, great episodes. They run around in shitty latex makeup, waving laser guns and ranting about "honor," as they try to enslave humanity throughout the multiverse. (Yes. This high-tek conquering species is called "Cro-Mags." How retro-futurist is that?) (Don't check me on the spelling though.)

So in the alternate, militaristic-universe, the U.S. is gaining a strategic edge over “the enemy” (whoever the fuck that may be). And the way that they're doing it is by sticking implants in people. And—get this—now real-Kari might be in trouble, because the paranoid, militaristic Powers that Be are going to discover that real-Kari has no implants, like fake-Kari did—and is therefore an impostor. 

So. Kari. Implants. Real/fake. If we're not dealing with self-reflexive humor, then, well, everyone involved—from writer to director to actor—is as oblivious as Oedipus. (Pre-Colonus.) All of this "implant" stuff is played with not the slightest nod or wink, which, given what a self-consciously cornball show Sliders is, seems beyond significant. The usual gags— that at best lead to groaning, at worst to apathy—are conspicuously MIA or AWOL. (Let's use militaristic vernacular here, since this is World of the Wars or whatever.)

What we have here is a jet-flying, adrenaline-pumping episode that is so overwrought and weighed down by a sense of gravity that it only sort of ever gets off the ground. In particular, there is this hand-wringing over implants. Bad old implants! Man wasn't meant to alter man—no matter the necessities! Global endgame is no excuse. Only god gets to alter man. But is it really hand-wringing? Maybe it’s nudging and winking…

Whether or not the writers’ had subversive intentions, I'm probably making the ostensible story sound more churchy than it really is. I will say—flat-out—that I find the episode's moral objections re: implants to be outright hypocritical. Look what implants did for Kari. (Real-real-Kari, I mean…the actress.) Until they exploded anyway. She's cute, but those altered jugs were, you know, were a fine embellishment on what god did…a (relatively) small artist's touch that, nevertheless, elevated The Cute to the The Sublime…or The Spankworthy anyway.

When you get down to it, all the bad guys in this episode of Sliders are trying to do is stick wires and chips in people's heads to make them better than god made them. What's wrong with that? They shove all these wires or whatever into the skulls of fake-Kari and the other pilots, squash down their craniums so nothing is sticking out, and then they turn the little spitfires loose! Presto! These pilots are even hotter shots than they were before! And they're not just doing loads of corny tricks like the Blue Angels do. They're saving lives. (Well, not Soviet lives—or alien, or "cro-mag" lives or whatever—but like, who's counting them?)

In other words, these scientists are not contradicting god's purpose; they are achieving it. One of god's big slogans—as we all know—is "thou shalt not kill." (It's as ubiquitous as "we have the meats"!!!) And isn't saving lives the opposite of killing? It's, like, putting lives back that would have been taken. Or something.

I know what you're thinking at this point: hardcore porn. But despite all the cyborgasms, this isn’t West World. Not a pant, nor a pint of unmentionables happens here. Instead, the scientists on militaristic world get greedy and fuck everything up. They want the pilots to be too good too much of the time, and the human resources department of the individual pilots, aka their bodies, start to suffer severe trauma. They get sick, delusional, and mean, just like my dad!

And then some Poindexter or other comes up with a really dumb idea. He thinks the scientists should start taking stuff away from god's creations to alleviate unnecessary stress. Any moron that understands this augmenting nature stuff could've pointed out the logical error this guy was making! When mucking around with Creation, you don't simplify… you elaborate! You don't streamline… you embellish! A lot!

It almost makes you think these idiots haven’t read Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau, or Re-Animator! Or at least seen the movies. Remember that part in Re-Animator where Jeffry Combs says, "Parts…I've never done whole… parts…" And then decides to stop trying to resurrect corpses, but instead to bring life to dead arms, legs, and, of course, heads. How did that go for him? He mistook amputation for success, and the goal always, always has to be glomming. What else can bring you super pilots? Or super boobs?

And these scientists don’t just mess around with a little nipping and tucking here and there—you know, remove a hand here or an anus there, because they think it makes the human body more attractive, or elegant, or funny. They toss out the whole body. And now we’re really in Lovecraft territory, because what we’re left with is a bunch of jars full decapitated heads, floating in some amniotic crud. Each jar contains the noggin of a hot shot fighter pilot who’d supposedly died in a past mission. And there are electrodes stuck all over the jars, which apparently allow the pilots to control these super-jets as thought they were right there in the driver’s seat! But even better! Because the brain-wave-to-jet connection is direct—it skips the pilot’s body with all its fallible reflexes. In a sense, the pilots become the planes. (Well, their brains do anyway. The rest of their head is still floating in a jar, and the rest of their body is medical waste.) 

And so that bitch scientist who runs the whole operation wants to decapitate real-Kari (who I think she now knows is real—or fake from her perspective—I guess—but I don’t remember for sure, because, let’s face it, this whole thing was getting sort of convoluted at this point). She wants to stick her head in a jar too. (One shudders to think what she might do with the rest of Kart’s smokin-hot bod. Visions of Ed Gien scamper about like sugar plum faeries with sewing machines. See, that’s the fun of creative homonculizing. It’s not just about science. It’s not just a perversion of nature and desire. It’s not merely a disturbed and disturbing art form. It’s a fun arts-and-crafts project! ) 

But meanwhile, we rejoin the rest of the Sliders gang, who are off in a parallel universe full of technophobes. And they’ve discovered that fake-Kari isn’t real-Kari right at about the same time that the scientist bitch is figuring out real-Kari isn’t fake Kari! (Talk about parallels!) They notice that she has this sort of slot for a SIMM card in her head, and it’s malfunctioning and giving her these really bad migraines. And they decide to take pity on her and bring her with them when they leave the luddite-universe to go back to the militaristic-universe. At first, I wondered why they’d forgive fake-Kari and trust her after she pulled that switcheroo, causing them to ditch real-Kari. That’s when I noticed that this Kari—fake-Kari—was in heat!

Real-Kari’s pretty much always flirting with Jerry O’Connel, who seems oblivious to her, uh, openings. (Maybe because he’s waiting for her to deposit a sac of eggs on a nearby log so he can splurt all over it and make tadpoles—or whatever else frogs do to have sex.) But fake-Kari’s no wallflower. She drags Jerry onto the floor of some club where luddites dance cheek-to-cheek, and she dry humps him and asks why they’ve never made the Beast with Two Backs. And he says, well gosh, our work’s too important to let sex get in the way of it. And the whole time he stares off into space like he so frequently does (maybe at a fly buzzing over a plate of buffalo wings that someone left behind). 

And of course it doesn’t really matter, because once they figure out that fake-Kari has a defective chip, they drop the idea of any sort of coupling. (Though I figure that’s why they don’t ditch fake-Kari now: because she might put out later.) And they escape Luddite-World in a hilarious bit where Jerry O’Connel pretends he’s a wizard and puts on a light show with their oh-so-deathly-important but always misplaced dimension-changing remote. This Tetris-inspired display scares the technophobe simpletons off. And then they go back to Military-Word and get real-Kari and dump fake-Kari so she can reconcile with her kindly husband from whom she’d bitterly separated because she cared more about planes than pricks. (No wonder she’s so horny at this point!) It warmed my heart to see how the spouses made up in the space of 30 seconds after years of acrimony. And it never would’ve happened without the Sliders gang. They do good work!

So the Sliders go zipping off to another exciting adventure, and I went slipping off into another alcoholic coma and dreamt of a parallel world wherein I could bang Kari till the cows came home—no matter how many implants she had or where they were. But here’s the thing: in the shower the next morning, I found myself forming the first waking thoughts of my day, and they were all about last night’s TV—as they pretty much always are. And I abruptly had a really good  idea: What if somebody threw chips into the heads of real life hotshots—only not to suit some dark, military agenda—because that always goes badly—but to entertain people?

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review - You're An Ambulance Driver

2012 in Review - You’re an Ambulance Driver

Here we are again. Another year, another playlist. I can see where, if you peruse this blog, (which makes it statistically impossible that you are anyone other than my cat or my split personality,) you might’ve thought this wan’t going to happen. And I’m sure you were verrrryyy glum about that, right??!!!??

Me too. Sorry bad, busy year. First there was that injury. (See past, uh, recent entries.) Recovery from which went on (has gone on far longer than I expected). (Dig that grammar! It’s wrong on at least one level that I can think of, and probably many, many other, but I’m too fucking lazy to figure out how to say it right, and honestly, I’m sorta smitten with its spectacular awkwardness!) I’m trying to get myself together, but I’ve had some setbacks in that area recently that were frustrating. Then there’s friend of mine who’s self-publishing a book of short stories, and who’s also gradually drawn me further into helping him edit, assemble, etc. that. (I may be posting links at some point, if we ever finish it.)

Anyway, you don’t need these excuses! You are not my high school English teacher! You are either my cat or my split personality! (I’m not sure who/what my split personality is, but he/she/whatever is definitely not an Englsih teacher, ‘cuz the grammar and spelling in the creepy notes he/she/whatever uses in the notes he/she/it leaves for me is fucking awful, like along the lines of “slet yoor throot uf yoo try too not tape Gelligans eye land agin!” I mean, a split infinitive for fuck’s sake!)

All you need to know are three things--and the first thing you only need to know if you care:

  1. Despite my recent habits, I do not intend to abandon this blog. Rather I’m hoping to start updating more frequently once I get a break from my friend’s book, which should be in late January.
  2. I’m changing the format of these playlists as follows: I will no longer maintain an 80-minute/CD length. (Anyone who is committed to CDs can figure out where to break this for him/herself, I guess. After all, we live in a democracy. Just like Egypt.) Instead, I’ll be including 24 songs in my lists. That’s 2 songs per month, though I won’t be linking them to any specific months. It just seemed like a good round number.
  3. A change to the playlist writeup format, ‘tho this one may be temporary: Certain readers have brought it to my attention that, while they enjoy my writing, they feel I tend to ramble too much. I take feedback well, so when I was done crying and throwing things at them, I thought about it. I guess I’ve always felt that there’s something to be said for digression. Some of my favorite writers deploy it with great facility, and often it’s more revealing of personality, insight, emotional truth, or just plain fun than a stolid adherence to the point. On the other hand, my word counts get high, I sometimes lose my point, and I never finish some of my writing. (For example, my Hawaii opus!) So I’m gonna try to stay focused on my playlist write-ups. Keep ‘em short. No-nonsense. This particular go-around, I shot for 50 words or less per song, along with two expanded “featured songs with no word count. Guess what. I couldn’t do it. Then I tried 60. It went OK till I hit the EMA song. Fucking shit! So I’m going with 70. Hope that’s not too much. Look at it this way. It’s way less than you usually get!

OK. So with all that out of the way, here goes... My year in review playlist...

1. Time to Find Me - Seefeel - 26 Mixes for Cash - Aphex Twin remix of a British dream-pop/electronic group. Here, he's fairly restrained. You can recognize the source material, though he gives it a good twist. I listened to this a lot over the summer. Now it puts me back there, walking on the shady streets, thinking about writing.

And now for our first (of two) Featured Songs, written free form, with now word count.

2. Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue) - Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps - Stark, ingenuous guitar lines house an impressionistic linking up of death and artistic irrelevance. You have two choices, the song sez, curl up and enjoy your curdling, or keep moving. Maybe a little simplistic, but what do you want from a rock lyric? In my early 20s, when I went to art school, Rust Never Sleeps was one of my favorite albums. Songs like this one and “Thrasher” focused on a search for and commitment to a way of life as an artist. They seemed to open my eyes to who I was, who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to live the rest of my life. They were a part of an important change in me--it’s almost embarrassing how large a part. But then music has always been important to me. Recently I listened to Rust Never Sleeps, (mostly) attentively, all the way through, for the first time since I can’t remember when, and when I did realized all this was true and that I hadn’t really considered it so thoroughly before. It was a trick of perspective--I could only see it from a distance. Now. Whether I should be grateful to Neil Young or not is another question. I have my suspicions my parents wouldn’t be.

3. The Grey Ship - EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints - Another one of those albums wherein the artist's attempts to bludgeon you with her genius leave you so bruised and disoriented that you almost miss how good most of it is. It makes your neck snap as it caroms from lil' girl lullabies to singer/songwriter confessionals to the almost industrial punk howl of "Milkman" to this folksy death epic.

4. Give Me the Cure - Fugazi - 13 Songs - It starts with a faint guitar line and a nervous voice chanting over it. The sense of menace is palpable, and it grows quickly, but it’s not clear if the threat’s from inside or out, even after the song finally explodes. Intense and cathartic. I’m having bad luck with doctors lately. And for some strange reason, I keep getting hooked on songs like this right before the next unlucky thing happens.

5. Generation - Liturgy - Aesthethica - It was probably inevitable that some pompous intellectual would stumble onto the quaint anthropological archipelago of Black Metal, but Liturgy’s frontman did so with tongue so firmly in cheek that he wrote a mystical/academic manifesto about what he found there. It's online, if you care. Meanwhile, muddy sludge attains new levels of tedium and thereby transcends. Go figure.

6. New Brigade - Iceage - New Brigade - Contemporary dumb semi-hardcore punk music played by 17 year old Swedish kids that sounds pretty much like dumb semi-hardcore music played by 17 year old kids as it has always been worldwide, but here it’s done with a little more enthusiasm and imagination. Note, for example, that bizarre, melodic break at the 1:30 mark. Not something I’d expect to find when listening to this sort of shit.

7. The Other Shoe - Fucked Up - David Comes to Life - A stand-out track from a sprawling punk rock opera about a guy, a girl, and a bomb. Like the best concept albums, David’s an overstuffed mess, but some of the most remarkable stuff that’s crammed into it are simple elements like sweet female singing, lyrical guitar lines, and catchy (if unrelentingly barked and scarcely comprehensible) vocals. Rewards repeated listenings.

8. Dr. Jekyll - Miles Davis - Milestones - After reading John Szwed’s biography So What this year, I found myself delving into Miles Davis’s music with even more passion. The famous sextet arrangement, with Miles flanked by Coltrane’s volatile tenor and Cannonball Adderly’s bedrock alto made some of the most dangerous music of its day, and its energy remains undiminished and undated--as fierce as anything recorded today.

9. Comfortable Home (A True Story) - Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread -  When he's not re-creating the 60s and 70s, Ty Segall dedicates himself to re-creating the 90s, apparently. I was alive in the 90s. I've also owned couches. Both had their moments. But it's pretty easy to get too comfortable and get your ass stuck. Worth noting. Anyway, a smart, funny song that rocks. It’s not even the best one on the album. It’s just...I got a new couch this year.

10. Kurt Vile - On Tour - Smoke Ring for My Halo - Singer/song-writer who critics erroneously compare to Lou Reed comes out of the closet as a Cat Power impersonator. Cat Power circa 1998, I mean--you remember--when she was still good. You can’t see his face behind his stringy hair either. And while he does mumble a lot, his sadness and uneasiness seem a little too authentically human to remind me much of Reed.

11. Neighborhood #2 (Laika) - Arcade Fire - Funeral - Flatulent arena rockers deflate themselves long enough to junk the rococo and perform one really simple, heartfelt song with a backbeat and some urgency--despite the fact that its lyrics spin out on an elaborately referential bit of poetical pap about domestic abuse, cosmonaut dogs, and spoiled brat hippie icons. (That somehow works.)

12. Strange Fruit (1939 single) - Billie Holiday - The Complete Commodore Recordings - Iconic Billie Holiday song that still possesses the power to sadden and shock. The vivid lyrics were written by a school teacher, but it's the vocal that makes them inescapable. This is the original 1939 release, which was banned by many radio stations, but found popularity in the jukeboxes of some establishments. Read a lot about her in the Spring.

13. Jump Monk - Charles Mingus - Mingus at the Bohemia - A friend of mine passed through Chicago this year. I hadn’t seen him in 15 years, and we’d spoken only a little since. While it was a bit awkward, something we latched onto right away was this song. I put on the album, which he gave me way back in Ann Arbor, and he recognized it right away. I felt it deserved inclusion here--to mark a memory of a memory, and because you really never can listen to Mingus too much.

14. A.D.H.D. - Kendrick Lamar - Section.80 - A rising hip-hop star who’s getting up there by virtue of his obvious intelligence, individuality--and in no small part thanks to flowing, melodic production. The album moves along organically, and Kendrick’s voice, warm and edgy, is the central element. It’s a singer-songwriter album--no different from, say, Nick Drake--but with the layering of the best hip-hop albums. 

15. Happy Colored Marbles - Ween - Quebec - Quebec’s morose and muddled explorations were troubling. Not only did it seem somewhat lifeless as a “comeback album,” there was a feeling of insularity at its heart. By the time you get to “Happy Colored Marbles,” you’ve moved past claustrophobia and agoraphobia and on into a kind of insane escapism that is downright...uncomfortable... And yet, a pretty great song.

16. Dance of the Morlocks - DJ Spooky - Songs of a Dead Dreamer - Prominent turntablist takes a moment to focus on just one eerie, hypnotic groove. What he’s building here is atmosphere, obviously, and he does so simply and suggestively, which makes this song stand out on an album of dense soundscapes. Another favorite of mine while taking walks this year.

17. You Trip Me up - The Jesus and Mary Chain - 21 Singles - In this classic, influential track, unassuming vocals and a pretty little pop melody get dipped in a vat of molten feedback. It’s as if some polite British lad were wooing you, while some sadistic bastard electrocutes him with cables from a telephone pole. It’s exhilarating to hear music like this produced in such a primal way, without the self-conscious “noise” you’d probably get today.

18. Pussy Galore - Dick Johnson - Dial ‘M’ for Motherfucker - A cadre of smug hipsters who went on to form or contribute to various, generally inferior "bands" take turns at grunting and banging on things in an attempt to show their contempt for the idea of music and anyone who plays or listens to it. Actually that makes them sound cooler than they are. So why include this song here?

Hmmm... That’s a good question. Well, since I’m trying to keep my considerations short, clear and focus only on the essentials, let’s try to be even more disciplined by using an even more concentrated written form: the Japanese poetry form known as  haiku. As appropriately defined on the TV show South Park, a haiku is “just like a normal American poem, except that it doesn’t rhyme, and it’s totally stupid...haikus have five syllables, then seven, then five.” Boy, doesn’t that seem like a fine way to focus your descriptive writing?!!?!!

So where were we? Oh yes...In the form of a haiku, here’s why I included Pussy Galore despite their manifest cynicism and irrelevance:

best lyrics ever
killer percussion as well
best guitar part too

Wow! That was fun. And efficient. And poetic. And clear. And short. Why didn’t I just say that in the first place? I mean, even though, again, it does make them sound cooler than they really are. Who cares?!?

OK, let’s stick with this haiku thing. Discipline. Efficiency. Clarity.

19. Real Crazy Apartment - Winston’s Fumb’s - Nuggets II: Volume 4 - Oryginal Artifacts from the British Empire and Beyond 1964-1969 -

soft green cheetahs cradle me
would you like some ludes?

Still with me? Isn’t this great? Way better than before!!! I’d go back and re-write the whole thing this way if it wasn’t so much work!!! And if I cared more!!!!!

20. Convertible Balloon - Wavves - King of the Beach -

video game trance
a home is now a hideout
unplugged from the world

Jeez. That one was kinda a downer... and the song sounds so happy! Haikus were so fun up until now! Maybe I’m losing my clarity or poesy or something. Here, I’ll try again.

21. Film - Aphex Twin - Film (LP version) - Come to Daddy - 

Moody electro
‘Ambient Works’ with a beat
Bipolar EP

Well that went better I think! A pretty efficient lil’ bit of poetry, if I don’t say so myself. Clear, but vivid. Sorta limpid or something. Let’s try another!!!

22. July - Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

pretty keyboard plays
agoraphobic wuss sings
liberal reverb

Wow! That might be my best work yet! A little obscure maybe, but... C’mon! It’s all about the haikus... Screw the music!

Are Pitchfork “Best of” lists about music? Do you have the slightest idea what any of it sounds like or relates to when you read ‘em? Of course not! They’re just a bunch of laudatory impressionistic hackshit some music writer threw together to frame “sample” tracks (conveniently linking you to places where you can buy the music). As there, here... (minus the links to places where you vcan buy the music, sorry...) if you really still care about that, you’ve got the song. Go listen to it.

So... onto the next, which unfortunately, can’t be brought to you in haiku, because it is our second free form extra long Featured Song... (Bonus points if you make the Kurdt/Neil suicide note connection!)

23. Nirvana - Sliver - Incesticide - I do not like kids--which is not to say that I dis-like kids--only that I’m one of those adults who’s ill-at-ease in the presence of them. I don’t have many (any really) friends that have kids. So it’s easy for me to remain on an archipelago where I am only distantly aware of the customs of some mainland where people have children. Sometimes I catch glimpses of it--a strange foreign place--parallel, but often incomprehensible. It’s sorta like watching Telemundo.

I don’t understand kids, ‘tho I was one once, and I remember some things about what it was like to experience the world as a kid. Many of these recollections are not cute n’ wacky or tender n’ sweet, like the dross you see in the movies or on TV. A lot of my memories are shadowy and mysterious--the products of an intelligence that existed in a whole other state of being. (How much is a caterpillar like a butterfly, really?) I remember, for one thing, coming to understand that once you were a certain age, that there was a war on, Us vs. Them. And the Them were the Adults.

Kids are deceptive, weird-looking little runts with disproportionately large heads. They shriek and laugh at inappropriate moments. They speak to invisible entities. They are physically violent--sometimes to a degree that, if they were adults, it would seem perfectly appropriate to pepper spray them.

How come none of you who have children or are planning to have them sees this? 

Truth be told ‘tho, I do actually remember some pleasant things about being a kid, which is at least part of the reason I included this Nirvana song, an uncharacteristically sunny, if noisy, reflection on childhood. (Another reason being that I re-read Charles R. Cross’s tepid Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven this Spring, which led me back to my Nirvana albums.) (In what kind of thrall did Courtney Love hold that dude while he was writing this book? Did she actually allow him to doink her--which, I know, is a repulsive thought at this point, but y’know, back then? I more like picture her perched, regally on some Victorian armchair--one of her fungal-toed feet extended as he crawls forward to lick it slavishly like a dog. No actual sex, just that kinda thing.)

The other reason I included this song is more remarkable: I have it on good authority that this was The Worst Song Ever, but is now The Best Song Ever.

To know what the Worst Song Ever was? Well, that would put list-makers like me, my old blogging friend Jarrod, and more spurious hunks of crap like Rolling Stone a little more at ease. One of our ongoing tasks at least would be fulfilled, and we could all go drink a beer (if one of the former two,) or layout more condom ads (if the latter). But to know what The Best Song Ever was?

Well, I guess I already said what it was somewhere back there--”I Wanna Be Black” by Lou Reed, but then someone pointed out to me that I was being sarcastic, I guess. In this case, the person who was speaking, my 5(??? I think she’s 5, maybe 6??? see I really am not good with kids) year old niece said these things with such absolute certainty--without a moment’s hesitation--that I have to believe her.

I mean--let’s be honest here--one adult to another--how often in your life do you believe something with absolute conviction? Without a shadow of hesitation? Really.

Given the attitude toward children I expressed above, you may be wondering why I was discussing Nirvana with her. I assure you, it was not, in any way, my idea. It went something like this: despite the fact that I don’t like kids, I somehow ended up with two of them--my sister’s--in my home for a couple of nights this Summer. If you’ve read very much of this blog, you are probably shuddering, as you imagine two kids (he’s a boy--8 or so, I think--if that’ll help you flesh out your nightmare image) hesitating on the threshold of some gloomy alcoholic hovel. But don’t worry I cleaned up, aired out, hosed down. I scraped off, carried out, and threw away objects and substances that I can’t or won’t describe here. I cleaned--because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that while kids aren’t supposed to narc on each other, they’re perfectly happy to narc on an adult, and I’d be damned if I was gonna give the little snots any information they could pass along to my sister.

Ah yes, but where were we? Well, he being a little older and therefore more like an adult, asked where my computer was and immediately fell into a narcotic haze induced by some video game or other. She, on the other hand, was more of a pain in the ass and wanted to do things that involved interacting with her physical environment and/or other human beings in a more dynamic way. For some reason. Weird shit. 

I mean, I kept picking up my beer to take a drink, and she’d say, “Let’s play hide and seek!”

And I’d have to set my beer down, without taking a single fucking sip and come up with something for us to do, ‘cuz like I’m gonna play hide and fucking seek!

So my beer sat there, basically full, getting more and more tepid, and I’d look at it longingly, as she’d drag me from one humiliating activity to the next. And then she started asking me about my paintings.

Another embarrassing fact: I paint as a hobby--like fine art stuff. Oil sometimes, acrylic others. I picked it up in college. I’m not very good at it. I have no delusions of doing anything with it. I never show my paintings to anyone, but I have a few hanging on my walls. It’s just a way to blow off steam or whatever. Anyway, one cool thing about my niece is that she seems like she might have sort of a creative streak in her. She tends to gravitate toward music, drawing, writing bizarre little stories, unlike most of the other people in my family, who are stolid, rationalist type people, who not only can’t draw, but don’t understand why anyone would want to.

So my niece asked me what the names of some of my paintings were, and, well, none of them have names, since, as I said, I am not inclined to show them to anyone. So she started assigning them names along the lines of “Ugly Stupid Man,” “Stupid Lonely Man.” This is one area in which her imagination appears to be underdeveloped--at least for the moment. In fact. when I told her the name of the one painting I have named, ”Swamp Thing Plays Basketball with the Mock Turtle,” (because it’s just some abstract blobs that just ended up looking like Swamp Thing playing basketball with the Mock Turtle,) she just blinked.

Anyway, her interest in my painting had the effect of increasing my interest in her--of course--since one’s interest in someone else grows exponentially in relation to the interest shown by the other person in oneself. It also gave me an idea. I looked at the cheap boards I had sitting around. I looked at my beat up old brushes. I looked at her cherubic little face. I looked at my acrylic paints. Most of all, I looked at my untouched beer.

“Hey, do you wanna paint?”

The mysterious little globes in her head glinted. Her smile, already suggestive of madness, grew larger. She smiled.

I thought about how creepy kids are as I went to get her an old T-shirt that was too large for me. On her, it was a friggin’ hospital gown. I set her up with paints, an easel board, and--most of all--a drop cloth.

I mixed colors for her. She demanded blues, yellows greens, in varying shades, and a desert scene took shape, with a pyramid in the distance. I think.

Ah, beer. Back to the beer. I watched her paint, to make sure she didn’t mess herself up somehow, and because, in a way, it was interesting. Still, if I was gonna sit there, I needed music. When I paint, I always have to listen to something.

“Hey, how about we have some music?”

She said, “OK, but it’s got be really creative! She turned and gave me this look of considerable gravity that was only somewhat undermined by the paint on her face. “When you paint, it has to be something creative.”

So I thought, well, OK, Mingus. There you go. All towering emotion. Bam! Pow! And, like, we’re kids pretending we’re beatniks or something creative like that...

But when I put on Mingus Ah Um, she turned around and gave me a look of exasperation.

“Creative, I said!”

“Oh. OK.”

She stared at me. Her gaze was a threat.

I turned back to my music. OK, something loud, upbeat, but more contemporary. She likes Katy Perry but thank god she wasn’t asking me to put that on. So what’s creative? I’d been reading that Cobain book, and he painted, drew, made sculpture all the time when not working on music--or doing drugs. How about Nirvana? It seemed like a dumb idea, but you never knew what a kid was gonna like. Their thinking is so...alien. Worse than cats. You know, you get your cat some toy, wave it around, and then the cat plays with a paper bag or something instead.

So maybe Nirvana. Then it hit me! “Sliver.” It was just too perfect. Kurdt singing about being a kid and getting hauled off to his grandma’s place and wanting to go home. What could be better?

So I put it on, and she just kept painting, so I thought maybe I’d made an OK--if not good--pick. I’d rather have her paint and stay quiet--even if it meant she wasn’t gonna enthuse over my choice--than I would have her start needling me again. 

By the second chorus though, I knew I was in trouble. She looked up, just as unhappy as before.

“Take it off! Agh! That’s the worse song ever!”


She started singing and dancing in place, but sorta as though she had a dislocated jaw and hip. “Grandma take me home, Grandma take me home...That’s stupid!”

“OK, OK.”

Fortunately, it was getting late. So once I got her cleaned up and my nephew pried away from his game, fed them, etc., they went to bed.

Then I drank more beer.

So the next day, after I tried to make them do other edifying activities that my sister had suggested, and after we’d ground out the rest of the time in other mutually awkward ways, we had some McDonalds, which I had been told was adequate dinner fare. My nephew settled in to play video games, and I was stuck with this little blond dwarf again.

“OK,” I said, unenthusiastically. “Whadda ya wanna do tonight?”

“Let’s paint!”

“Oh. OK.” I wasn’t sure how to feel about her new interest. On the one hand, it meant that I was gonna have to clean up a bunch of paint later. On the other hand, as her uncle, it was nice to see her indulging in this activity--one that I enjoy myself--because it meant I could mostly sit around, listen to music, and drink beer.  

So I set her up again, just as I had the night before. The XL shirt was back in service as a young artist’s smock. My crappier brushes were again at her disposal. A fresh board was in front of her on the easel. And without a thought, she was at work. I couldn’t help but marvel at it--aside from boundless energy, (for short periods of time,) she seemed to possess absolute confidence and unmitigated imagination quo this art stuff. Half the time I sit there, staring blankly for five minutes, before I can make a single movement toward paper, canvas, guitar, orifice...

But while it was interesting to watch her up to a point, it got kinda dull pretty quickly.

“Hey,” I said, “Do you want some music?”

“Yeah,” she said without looking up from her painting. “Put on that one song...” and here she started singing in the same stupid voice from yesterday: “‘Grandma take me home, Grandma take me home...”

“What? I thought you hated that song!”

Now she was smiling at me. “No... That’s the Best Song Ever!” She said it with the conviction that one imagines the Enlightened might speak--if they existed.

I put the song on.

So there you go. That’s how I found out what The Worst Song Ever was, which was profound in and of itself. Then I got to see it become The Best Song Ever, which was even more profound. Even ‘tho I still don’t really like kids, I think it was a worthy trade off.

Now lest you think that my niece was evaluating the song in a shallow and/or capricious manner, lemme tell you something: we tested it thoroughly in the following manner: She made me play the fucking thing over and over again for about an hour, while she continued to paint an Angry Bird in space, until I absolutely couldn’t stand it anymore. At that point, she still maintained that “Sliver” was the Best Song Ever. As for myself--as much as I like the song, I was pretty sure I never wanted to hear it again.

But you know, maybe she’s onto something... Because not too long after she left--with a CD I’d burnt her containing only that song--I sorta wanted to listen to “Sliver” again. Besides, who am I to argue with someone who has such strong taste in music? I love music, but I never could say with such unshakable conviction what the Best or Worst anything is--unless I’m being sarcastic. (Damn it! Guess I blew my cover there.)

OK, well. That was a Featured Song, but really long-winded. Even for one of those. It kinda abused the “free form” form! It was exactly the sorta rambling, self-indulgent claptrap my critics--both of ‘em--(my split personality and my cat)--have said derails my writing and especially my blog entries, as I’ve said. And obviously I’ve had an epiphany with this haiku thing, which will improve my writing for the rest of my, uh, career. (In fact, I may just give up every other sorta writing I do from freelance porn work to this blog and become a poet--one who writes nothing but haikus--as I am so inspired.) So let’s close out by describing my final track with one last haiku:

24. Easy Ryder - Ty Segall and White Fence - Hair - 

wiseguy slackers join
a used record store pillaged
vinyl walks the earth

Holy crap! See another piece of brilliance that reveals the essence of the song in simple, evocative, beautiful language. Way better than short blurbs, and certainly better than that long, windy personal crap I used to write! Who needs it?

I hope you’ve enjoyed everything that’s happened here as much as I have. I hope you’ve been OK with the change in the format of the playlist--I mean the abandonment of a CD length. I also hope you appreciate the shorter descriptions. (I can’t see how you wouldn’t be touched by the haikus.) If anyone misses the long rambling descriptions of yore--if you have any thoughts about any of this just lemme know...

See ya next year!!!!!

p.s. Ambivalent apologies to Pitchfork... I came across a lot of the music on this thanks to their reviews, and in fact, I think I stole the transitions of tracks 5-7 from a playlist they put up. (Not sure.) Regardless, I do think there’s a difference between exposing people to music and selling it to them, and in some cases that line gets real, real blurry.