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Friday, July 14, 2006

Avenged Sevenfold

If I were to base my views of music purely on image, there’s no way I’d like a band like Avenged Sevenfold.  I can’t say I dig the whole goth punk look, the faux-tears or junkie make-up schemes, painted nails, uniform black, jewelry and weird piercings.  It’s all so…affected, which I suppose is part of the appeal, but really not my thing.

But it’s the hot new thing, apparently, this emo metal goth thing.  (Other bands like Atreyu and My Chemical Romance spring to mind.)   But like Sprite used to say, Image is nothing.  The rock is everything, and Avenged Sevenfold rise above it.  Fuck their image.

I like their music.  For an old thrash guy who doesn’t really dig death metal cookie-monster vocals or the strange symphonic sounds of most Euro-metal, these guys have what I need.  Pounding drums, shredding riffs, and blistering guitar solos.  So what if they go in a little emo chorus now and then.  At least it’s harmonized.

(All song samples taken from the song, The Beast and the Harlot.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Job

I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for the announcement. I thought it would come yesterday, but here it is:

I got the job!

You know what that means, right? Drinks are on me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Magic Mushrooms

This just in, ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms can cause mystical experiences. In other news, water evaporates and the earth revolves around the sun.

I thought we had already established the mystical aspects of hallucinogens some forty years ago, with Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna. Granted, those guys could be a little “weird,” but obviously they were onto something.

McKenna, for his part, posits the “Stoned Ape” theory of human evolution, in which psilocybin plays a crucial role. Taken from his wiki page, it can be summed up like this:
McKenna theorizes that as the North African jungles receded toward the end of the most recent ice age, giving way to grasslands, a branch of our tree-dwelling primate ancestors left the branches and took up a life out in the open—following around herds of ungulates, nibbling what they could along the way.

Among the new items in their diet were psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing in the dung of these ungulate herds. The psilocybin -- which in small doses provides an increased visual acuity, in slightly larger doses a physical sexual arousal and in still larger doses full-on ecstatic hallucinations and glossolalia -- gave evolutionary advantages including the rearing of off-spring to reproductive age amongst those tribes who partook of it. The changes caused by the introduction of this drug to the primate diet were many—McKenna theorizes, for instance, that synesthesia (the blurring of boundaries between the senses) caused by psilocybin led to the development of spoken language: the ability to form pictures in another person's mind through the use of vocal sounds.
Kind of sounds like that movie Altered States, doesn’t it? (That’s no coincidence, I assure you.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Deadwood Blogging

*Spoiler Alert*
If you haven't seen this week's Deadwood and don't want to know what happens...skip this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

First a few criticisms:

While I'm glad to see the Hostetler/Steve the Drunk story line come to a close, I didn't like how they ended it. It didn't seem to be in Hostetler's character to blow his brains out after being called a liar one too many times. Here he is, an entrepreneur presumably used to being judged by the color of his skin, routinely called a "nigger," routinely having his manhood and integrity impugned, and routinely rising above it all, proving himself through his actions to be both a man and a man with integrity.

After being bought out by Steve, he had $1200 worth of gold (a fortune back in those days and nothing to sniff at even now) and a one-way ticket to Oregon. And I'm to believe that Steve's big mouth pushed him over the edge? It seemed to me like the writers saying to themselves, "Well, we're not sure how to end this particular story thread, so let's just kill him off." And that's what they did. I'm hoping there are some repercussions in later episodes, but as it stands it just wasn't believable.

Another thing that struck me watching last night's episode was the very unlikely situation of Ellsworth and the Widow Garrett hooking up. They developed that very well in the previous season as being a marriage of convenience rather than one of love, and it seemed that though Ellsworth was struck by Alma's beauty and was fiercely protective of her, there just wasn't any chemistry. Last night, you saw it first hand as Alma got a little randy with him. Who knows what will happen there, but I can assure you, it will be nothing good.

Now for the good stuff.

I let out a clap and an exultant YES! when Dority plucked out the Captain's eye and then proceeded to bash his skull in with a log. The Captain was one of those characters that I had grown to hate, not only because he was a silent lackey for Hearst (the most despicable character in a cast full of despicable characters), but because he was a huge bully with a taunting mouth. Seeing Dority take him out was highly satisfying.

Also seeing Bullock walk into the Bella Union and arrest Hearst for having the union-organizing Cornishmen murdered was great, too, especially when he grabbed Hearst by the ear and dragged him out. It seemed entirely fitting that Hearst, known as "The Boy the Earth Talks To" would be led out by the ear just like a child.

I don't expect Hearst will be castrated for long, though...

Don't Count Your Chickens

Just got back from my job interview, and I have to say...I'm really excited about the possibility of getting the position. It sounds like a great company, a great job, great people, everything a guy could ask for.

The recruiter said I looked the best on paper out of the four candidates she submitted, not only because of my job stability (9 years with the same company) but also because I showed some development in my career. (The NOC experience didn't hurt either.) I'm sure she says that to everyone...

But, and this is a big but, the guy who interviewed before me only took about 15-20 minutes. Mine took over an hour. What that tells me is that the other three candidates better be purdy special.

As for the company itself, it sounds like a great place to work. It's a small company (about 400 employees) that's been growing, and most of the guys in the NOC have been there a while and had a hand in building their network, giving them a stake in the work beyond their paychecks. It seemed really informal, laid back even, which is my style.

The supervisor even dropped the F bomb during the interview, which instantly endeared me to him. (Yeah, I'm weird.)

I should know how I fared tomorrow afternoon, and hopefully after that, this brief stint of unemployment will be over and I'll have a real job. A real good job.

So keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Scanner Darkly

You might have heard about a new movie coming out called A Scanner Darkly. I say "might have" because chances are you haven't seen it. It opened this week...in 17 whole theaters, none of which are near me. Not surprising considering it's an indie flick that's partially animated (rotoscoped is the proper term, I believe) and based on one of Philip K. Dick's more paranoid drug screeds.

I've been looking forward to seeing the flick since I heard about it, but I decided that I wouldn't rush out and see it before I read the book. The movies love Philip K. Dick, but they haven't exactly been kind to his work. His heroes never resembled Harrison Ford, Arnold Swarzenegger, or Tom Cruise. (They don't resemble Keanu Reeves, either, but that's a minor point.)

Now it looks like I had no choice in the matter. I couldn't see the damn thing if I wanted to.

I do, however, have the book and have even cracked it open. I'm only a few chapters in, but I can tell you that it's not one of Dick's best works. If you want to know anything about the man behind Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, et cetera, you should know these three things:

1) Dick took lots of speed. And this was before the meth epidemic.
2) Being fueled by speed, Dick was extremely prolific, over 40 novels and hundreds of short stories, not to mention his own unpublished journal, written in longhand and numbering over a thousand pages.
3) Dick was a little crazy.

All three things are connected, obviously. The speed he took gave him the stamina to write his novels in weeks, rather than months or years like most novelists. The speed also drove him nuts.

In his later years, he thought that he had been contacted by some extra-terrestial intelligence called VALIS (short for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) that revealed this world to be an illusion and Dick to be one of its patron saints. The whole story is quite complicated, and quite nutso, but Dick didn't believe he was visited by aliens. He thought he was in direct contact with God.

A Scanner Darkly dates from this period, where the bats were swooping around in the belfry, and is a much more flawed work than some of his best science fiction, like Man in the High Castle, which won the Hugo, or Eye in the Sky, which I read in a single day.

It's not even science fiction, per se. It's an accurate description of how Dick saw the world, a police state where the freaks and the straights are engaged in a clandestine civil war, a society where paranoia is taken to such absurd lengths that you can't even trust yourself.

It's definitely Phildickian, but don't take it as the definitive Phil Dick story. That would probably be Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. But don't expect a movie out of that one anytime soon.