Wednesday, September 30, 2009
One thing I've learned over 43 years of chronic pain (and other unpleasantness) is that for most of us, life sucks.
You can drown your sorrows in drugs, sex, religion or television but you can't avoid the fact that you're stuck on a planet that wants nothing more than to kill you. Or that you're living cheek-by-jowl with a whole host of organisms that would suck the marrow from your very bones had they the opportunity. And we are infinitely fortunate compared to the huge swathes of humanity that live in poverty and squalor.
But hey, I'm philosophical about it. One of the ways I take my mind off of it all is immersing myself in pop culture, mythology and other various and sundry forms of enlightened escapism. And I predicted in Our Gods Wear Spandex that as things get more difficult for everyone in the brave new world order that the superhero meme (and its witch/vampire/alien variants) would become increasingly popular. We're all vulnerable now- we're all geeks and wimps in the eyes of the schoolyard bullies of Wall Street and the City of London, as well as all of the other power centers around the world where our destinies are being decided and inflicted upon us.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that in 2009, no one wants to see rich and powerful people with amazing superpowers. They already have the ultimate superpower, ie., money. The producers of Heroes made a terrible mistake in giving the Nathan Petrellis and the Lindermans all of these powers- hell, even having Claire being the sheltered daughter of a gov't spook was too much to bear. No, in 2009 we want to see a UPS delivery guy or a truck stop waitress develop superpowers and blow the brains out of vampiric CEOs and their pet politicians with the power of directed mind-beams. Any aspiring screenwriters reading this, there's your cue.
So as I was saying before, Heroes is awesome again for many reasons, and I hope it stays awesome. We're seeing people with dreary lives being touched by the gods and it's what we need to see right now. We also need to see a lot less characters than those who cluttered the screen in seasons 2 and 3, and we need to see those left struggling and scraping and suffering, just like the rest of us.
Of course, the best things about this season are A., Sylar is stuck in Parkman's head and is a lot more interesting for it (nothing is more boring than omnipotence). And B., Mohinder and his tedious voiceovers are MIA (so far). And then there is Gretchen and Claire's blossoming 'friendship,' but that's for another post. Californication fans, you got my back.
Bonus geek factoid: Kai Winn guest stars in this ep, who some of you uncool people may know better as Nurse Ratched.
More feverish rants on Heroes here, here, here, here and here.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I've been hearing that V is running into production problems (which is a nice way of saying the network thinks the writing sucks) but I am so there for this pilot. It's being exec produced by The 4400's Scott Peters, stars Firefly's Morena Baccarin as the bad alien (alas, no Jewel Staite- yet) as well as Joel Gretsch (aka Tom Baldwin) of The 4400. I'm sure there'll be a whole host of Canada's finest filling out the cast, plus that bizarre Vancouver mist and lighting. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess, but I'll be Hulu'ing that sucker at the very least.
My strong feeling is that all sci-fi and genre TV shows should be filmed in Vancouver. There's something about the misty, overcast atmosphere and the weird afternoon sunlight in that city that lends an otherworldly - or alternate-reality - air to that kind of storytelling. Indeed, as much as I appreciate The X-Files in its entirety, there's no arguing that the series belonged in Vancouver. It basically lost one of its major "stars" ( ie., the city itself) when it relocated to LA, not to mention all of those great Canadian character actors.
And hey, Scott -you got a problem with the writing? Give me a call, I'll work up some kickass treatments for you.
Monday, September 28, 2009
If you asked me to sum up the over-riding concern of ancient Pagans in one word, that word would be "fertility." Ancient people lived and died on that year's harvest, so abstract concepts like "faith" and "salvation" were never really at the top of their agenda. Human fertility was always an issue as well, given the high rates of mortality. That and the fact that the size of your tribe in relation to your neighbor's often determined its survival. Over time, agriculture became a more developed science and explicit fertility rites gave way to a more symbolic mode of worship. Well, mostly.
Now don't blush, but the fact is that veneration of a divine phallus has always been part of Pagan fertility religion, from the Maypole of Germanic and Celtic cultures to the obelisks of Egypt to all of the mounds and columns and all the rest we see in pre-Christian civilization. In the 60s, the Ren-Faire crowd revived the Maypole (after an unfortunate revival in Germany a few decades before), which became part of Beltane celebrations with the "NeoPagan" revival that rose in the late 60s, which inspired The Wicker Man, which in turn probably inspired displays like this...
I'm sure they're having fun there, but let's just say I don't really see this kind of Maypole celebration catching on. We do have obelisks scattered around, but generally not too many people openly worshiping them. I mean, seriously- we've left that sort of thing in the Bronze Age, right?
I love the "we believe in the Sun" line.
So I don't want to hear any of you smart alecks out there bringing up the 'See You at the Pole' movement, in which Evangelical high schoolers gather at a flagpole - at sunrise- and around the time of the Autumnal Equinox ( the event is set every year for the fourth Wednesday of September) - and pray against 'threats' like abortion and gay marriage. It's totally different (even if abortion and gay marriage are seen as threats to fertility)! And don't give me any of that Matthew 6:5-8 stuff either!
I mean, just because these weirdos gather in a circle at Stonehenge on the Autumn Equinox sunrise, doesn't mean those kids praying in circles around giant poles near the Autumn Equinox sunrise are unwittingly aiding in the revival of old pagan rituals (or pagan symbolism) that are creeping into Christian churches. What are you, some kind of communist?
OK, I will admit it's a little odd to hear hyper-sexualized, Britney Spears-type music given a vague lyrical varnish and marketed as "devotional" music, as if the music in its entirety weren't based in the pelvic thrusting of the sex act itself, not to mention the whole praying around a giant phallic symbol at sunrise thing, but they're taking it back for the Lord, OK?
And just because surveys repeatedly suggest that these kids are probably almost totally biblically illiterate, that doesn't mean that shadowy interests are using the "culture war" and the corporate megachurches with their fireworks and stage shows to bring a bunch of old heathen rituals back into practice.
What are you smoking, son?
Friday, September 25, 2009
Here's a surprise- I expected the TV adaption of The Witches of Eastwick to be a Point Pleasant-type cringefest, or at best, "Desperate Housewitches." It's actually pretty entertaining, for what it is. It doesn't hurt that it stars the radiant Rebecca Romijn and features a cast that's easy on the eyes but can act a bit better than your usual network dregs. Bonus factoid: This is actually the third version of a TV Eastwick.
Interesting to note Romijn played Mystique in the X-Men films. And appropriate, because Eastwick is presenting us with yet another spin on the superhero. This time we have witches as superheroes, which seems to appeal to adult women, just as the new superhero vampires are marketed towards their daughters. If nothing else, studying the archetype will keep me watching.
The movie version of Eastwick is a hopelessly-dated relic of the go-go 80s, when the Baby Boomers were using big budget films to celebrate themselves and their ascendancy in Tinseltown. It was typical of the star-driven formula of Warner Bros., get a bunch of stars together and essentially have them play themselves. The story was always less than a trifle; an excuse to sell the cult of celebrity. John Updike probably enjoyed cashing the check but probably didn't much enjoy the rubbishing of his fairly dark novel.
But there's a hearty dose of Secret Sun-chronicity here: The Witches of Eastwick was filmed in my literal home away from home- namely Cohasset, Mass, where my dad moved when my folks split up. Actually, the only reason I saw the film in the theatres was because I wanted to see the town on screen.
Cohasset was a kind of Hollywood East- back in the 70s the South Shore Music Circus was a big deal and all of the stars stayed at the hotel across the street from my dad's house. I would sit on the porch and see stars like Hal Linden or Donny and Marie (I will say that back in 1978 Marie Osmond was probably the most radiantly beautiful woman I ever saw in person in my youth) or Robert Preston or Charo walking back and forth from Hugo's to Kimball's (both now renamed) by the Sea. It was kind of surreal, come to think of it.
The exterior for Cher's house was a decrepit old boathouse around the corner from my dad's house- we used to jump of the bridge and ride the rapids there. What's more, my grandmother used to attend the church that Veronica Cartwright had her big freakout in. My maternal grandmother lived in Milton, where some scenes for Witches were shot as well.
The town of Eastwick is fictional, but Updike may have based it on Eastham, which was established by my ancestor John Doane and settled by all sorts of Knowleses. I didn't notice many syncs in the Eastwick show, which may have a lot to do with the fact that most people working in TV these days don't seem to be much use as sync conduits.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I've yet to really explore this series, but based on this episode the writers seem to know their symbolism, which is refreshing particularly for a SyFy show. It's yet another in the endless string of X-Files knockoffs, but more importantly it's also a big-time knockoff of my beloved Friday the 13th: The Series, now out on DVD. Same concept- a M/F team and their crotchety old sidekick have to recover magical items and lock them away. Warehouse 13 has slicker production values and the now-requisite ensemble cast, but F13 was there first (it also ran into a lot of trouble with censors and media watchdog groups as well).
But as with F13, I get the feeling that these W13 people have either done their homework or possibly approach the material from a neopag/wiccan POV. I'll be digging into the whole series and will report back on what exactly is being manifested at a later date. I still need to dig into F13 here, especially for you younger readers. The missus and I watched that religiously - Saturday nights we'd get cheap beer and Chinese takeout and watch F13, War of the Worlds and Star Trek: TNG. We didn't have cable and yet were perfectly content to watch what was on Fox or in syndication. The more channels you get in your fibre optic cable, it seems the less there is actually to watch. Or maybe our standards were lower then...
Bonus sync: My chiropractor at the time looked exactly like F13's Louise Robey.
Bonus factoid: W13 features XF/Millennium alum CCH Pounder, doing a role quite similar to her Amanda Waller character from Justice League.
UM, AN UPDATE: I tried watching another episode and couldn't make it past 15 minutes. I really don't dig jokey sci-fi- I'm old school like that. I'll stick with F13 for now.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Click here for Part II.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Heroes got my attention in the first season and then lost it- badly- in the second and third. Way too many storylines, way too many powers and way, way, way too much Sylar and Nathan Petrelli, neither of whom I found interesting as characters. Worse, the plotting was soap opera-slow and the stakes got too high, too quick.
The good news is that they seem to have done a serious rethink and gotten back to basics. The appeal of the show to me wasn't over-the-top comic book Armageddon rehash, it was extraordinary powers manifesting themselves in ordinary reality. It seems like that mandate is back in effect. Not only that, but they seem to be paying tribute to the late, lamented Carnivale with a batch of carny characters ( of course, Heroes itself is a tribute of sorts to The 4400). And if that weren't all enough, the lovely Madeline Zima (Californication) is on board as Marcie to Claire's Peppermint Patty. That looks promising...
Unfortunately, the last two seasons killed the buzz and ratings were weak. Hopefully, the suits will let the series play out its string and go to DVD. I'd like one more solid season out of this show before it's put to bed. Keep your fingers crossed.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Mitch Horowitz is the author of the new book Occult America, subtitled The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation. I hung out with Mitch at Esalen in May and came away greatly impressed with the man and his scholarship. I also have a copy of the book. I've read almost all of it now and it's a corker.
Actually, I should say that the book reads itself, since Mitch is one of the few writers who can tackle these kinds of topics and do so in a cogent and extremely reader-friendly style. Mitch clears away the hysteria and the nonsense and focuses on the individuals who influenced the mainstreaming of esotericism, most of whom come across as somewhat tragic eccentrics, ultimately undone by their idealism and naivete. Most tragically in the case of Manly P. Hall, who in a more enlightened age would be seen as an preeminent scholar.
Go check out Mitch and Greg throw it down in part one and part two of their interview series. And definitely pick up Mitch's book if you're looking for a very fun read on a poorly-understood part of American history.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I don't know what to make of the season finale of True Blood. Given the setting, the Dionysus storyline is an obvious satire of snakehandling-type histrionics, but I really don't want Michelle "Ensign Ro" Forbes off of this show. Interesting that Anna Paquin plays a variation on Rogue, given the chick-lit spin on the superheroic nature of these post-modern vampires. And seeing the former Mrs. Marilyn Manson as the Vampire Queen is just more referential casting in a show with lots of it already. You might have to futz a bit with this player- just keep hitting the play button until the ad comes up.
CLOWNSHOW UPDATE: Speaking of Fox and science fiction, Glenn Beck claimed there was 1.7 million people at his 9/12 rally. Reviewing footage from the march, I was wondering what obscure Russian Trotskite theorist devised the strategy of creating a phony opposition composed almost entirely of the dangerously mentally ill. Because after Beck's folly, Obama's (deservedly-weak) approval ratings went up. Cui bono?
Speaking of the never-ending Clownshow, 17 Democrats did not support whatever resolution (either voting no or present) was passed on Rep. Joe Wilson. Two of which were Barney Frank (who's been teaming up with Ron Paul on issues like hemp farming and auditing the Fed) and Jim McDermott (who really stuck his neck out opposing the invasion of Iraq), as well as some other relatively-principled people.
Maybe there's more than meets the eye here. Actually, bet on it.
UPDATE II: Cheers to JR for this bit.
UPDATE III: Yes, Huffpost.
UPDATE IV: Wow, Fringe was hitting the X-Files vibe HARD. A new Monica Reyes character, a Doggett-like backstory for Bishop, 'One Breath' type scenario for Olivia, shapeshifting bounty hunters and was that Ken Camroux as the Senator talking about the "X" designation? There've been rumors of a Scully/Mulder guest shot this season- I'd say the likelihood of that is very high.
And for the freaky Secret Sun sync bonus-round- a very similar double-entendre to the Lost in Space joke from a few days back. Check out the full ep here, which will probably go Friday afternoon or thereabouts...
UPDATE V: Another of those Secret Sun moments- Yahoo has a story up today on cash machines in London that speak Cockney.
UPDATE VI: Andre at Alien Project points us to this: "Miami puts emphatic end to Tech hex, 33-17." That's U of Miami vs Georgia Tech (itself on 33rd parallel). Interesting wording, no?
Monday, September 14, 2009
In the meantime, continue watching this space for announcements, links, news and other ephemera...
Being a hopeless geek, I watch a lot of old sci-fi stuff. Not only out of nostalgia but also keeping my open for little bits of semiotic insanity or hints of high weirdness and parapolitical mayhem. I'm building a little sub-file of obscure anecdotes from UFO history that have worked their way into old sci-fi shows, The Outer Limits being the most remarkable source for that ( I have a new OL mindblower coming up for you, btw).
But I'm also fascinated by how writers used to work around Standards & Practices through the use of double entendre. Which brings me to Lost in Space. It started out as semi-serious sci-fi (with Jonathan Harris playing Dr. Smith as a villain), but got goofy pretty quickly when the producers realized that Jonathan Harris was an absolute master of camp.
The show then became centered on Smith, young Will Robinson and the Robot, himself given to moments of epicene excess. Looking back on this tableau, you can't help but wonder - what the hell were they thinking? No one could pull it off today, no double entendre intended.
But once in a while, Lost in Space dropped some high weirdness on you, as with this episode, 'The Wreck of the Robot'. The story starts with Dr. Smith bowling with his inexplicably pink ball, which unseen aliens replace with a bomb, then again with a solid gold bowling ball. It's so bizarre and incoherent, you can't help but wonder if there's some hidden meaning behind it.
The aliens lure Will, Smith and the Robot into their secret cave hideout, where they turn out to be classic Men in Black (well, almost-they don't have faces). What's more, their black hats are adorned with sun pendants. Hmm, black, sun- yes, I'm thinking Saturn cults and all the rest of that too.
And yeah- I picked up on the Will and Smith thing too. Fascinating.
The story then takes a darker turn when the MIBs break into the Jupiter II and abduct the Robot. They plan to reverse-engineer him to power their solar-themed god-machine that will control all machines on Earth, or some such nonsense. Black Sun vs Jupiter. Interesting as well.
Note the tagline- sound familiar? Golly, all sorts of foreshadowings here.
Their machine sabotages all of the Robinsons' equipment, which leads to this interesting scene; Professor Robinson and Major West sitting on the bridge by candlelight, giving the scene a distinctly ritualistic flavor. And whatnot.
In fact, the MIBs first contact Robinson when he and West are playing chess. They speak through the Black King, which makes no technical sense, but may not have to. Remember too that caves are an important motif in these traditions, stretching back to Mithras and the Baptist as well. But the King is also distinctly phallic as well, right? Let's go out of order a bit here...
...to one of the most hilarious double entendres I've ever heard in my life.
Doubly so since Mark Goddard, the actor who plays Don, is himself from Boston (as if you couldn't tell from his chowder-thick accent) and never lifted a hand in the kitchen on the show before.
Smith helps himself to Don's Boston cream. Is this some kind of message that Smith and West's constant bickering was the result of sexual tension? Probably not, but there's your cue, Slash/Fiction writers.
Which brings us to... oh, never mind.
Getting a little more esoteric here, we have to remember that lettuce was a prominent phallic symbol in Egypt (for reasons I won't go into here), which only someone who did his homework would associate with the rest of the memes in this episode.
That's Judy, in case you've never seen the show.
Anyway, the Robot then smashes the MIB's contraption, which neither man nor machine was supposed to be able to destroy. That in turn leads to this strange non-sequitur, the Robot seeing himself as "something in between." The Professor nods sagely, even knowingly. Don's just thinking of serving up some more cream pie to Judy. Or whoever.
Quite an fascinating symbolic stew for a mindless TV show, no? Really does make you wonder. I'll definitely be paying closer attention to future episodes.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Believe it or not, Goth wasn't originally about sensitive art students posing drearily with their clove cigarettes- it was pretty fierce back in the day. Originally a subgenre of Punk, Goth was for fans who thought the Pistols and the Clash were too conservative. The godmother of it all is Susan Ballion, aka Siouxsie Sioux, the long-limbed, omnisexual ice queen who formed the Banshees with then-boyfriend Steve Severin. Siouxsie had a very clear vision in her mind, combining the Velvet Underground's more extreme musical adventures and Grace Slick's twisted sensuality with Hammer horror movies and a heaping helping of witchery. The guitar sound of John's McKay and McGeoch was explicitly influenced by the shrieking string sections in horror flicks like Psycho.
This is a Goth two-for: Cure guitarist Robert Smith during one of his stints as a Banshee. This song, "Painted Bird," is off A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, which also features "Slowdive," one of Rock's greatest paeans to oral sex.
Then there was the mighty Bauhaus, one of the greatest singles bands of all time. Essentially a Bowie tribute band at heart, as evidenced by this awesome clip. Bauhaus added the requisite dose of Hammer horror and post-punk yowling and then broke up way too soon. They have since reformed a couple times to remind young pretenders how it's done.
Then there's this band, who longtime Secret Sun readers are well-acquainted with. Killing Joke brought a serious interest in occultism to Goth, as well as heavy doses of metal guitar, dub bass and tribal drums. Probably one of the most influential bands of their time. As with Bauhaus, their early concerts were not for the faint of heart.
Goth waxed and waned throughout the 80s. The second wave came with the Batcave scene, which peaked in 1983. Note that alien themes started to blend in with the usual vampire imagery.
As with this band, Alien Sex Fiend. As with Goth in general, the Fiends were heavily influenced by Alice Cooper and similarly made up for their lack of chops with their extreme exuberance. In many ways, the Fiends were the definitive Batcave band. For some completely inexplicable reason, some journalist tagged the new Goth scene "positive Punk," which sort of stuck even though it made no sense to anyone.
And speaking of aliens, the Cocteau Twins caucused with the Batcavers before their camomile-and-patchouli makeover in the late 80s. Liz is almost unrecognizable here in her Goth gear and Siouxsie-esque warble. But it just goes to show that the Banshees seemed to strike a particularly strong chord in Scotland (see Altered Images, Shirley Manson, etc.) Bonus factoid: The Twins were opening for Killing Joke at this gig.
Goth made a big impact in Europe as well, eventually having a major influence on the Black Metal scene of the 90s. This is Germany's X-Mal Deutschland, who were signed to 4AD, along with the Cocteaux and Bauhaus. Listening to their early records you'd have no idea their lead singer was so ridiculously hot.
Australia's Dead Can Dance were signed to 4AD as well, and brought a heavy dose of Medieval mysticism to their Banshees/Cocteaux knockoffs. They dropped the postpunk in pretty short order, but ultimately morphed into another tedious world music outfit before their initial brekup. Singer Lisa Gerrard co-wrote the soundtrack to Gladiator, among other films.
Cock-rock journeymen The Cult began their career as Southern Death Cult, eventually dropping the "Southern" and the "Death" along with every band member save Ian Astbury. For me the entire enterprise peaked with Love, which I still count as one of the greatest albums of the 80s.
With bands like the Cult, All About Eve and the Mission, Goth went mainstream in the UK and Europe. One of the bands keeping the old faith was Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, who were heavily influenced by proto-Goth post-punks Joy Division. A good thing too, since JD survivors New Order were warbling monotone disco songs at the time.
Then there were the Sisters of Mercy, who started out as a parody band, got serious, went through several reformations, then ended up as an unintentional parody, working with Sigue Sigue poseur Tony James and Meatloaf maestro Jim Steinman in 1990. Here's their greatest song, one of the crucial cuts from Goth's Golden Age.
As with Punk, Goth took hold in the ostensibly hostile soil of LA, and pretty early on at that. Punk bands like TSOL, 45 Grave and Christian Death all traded in leather and guyliner, but for my money this Kommunity FK track was the definitive LA Goth anthem. FK singer Patrick Mata had an amazing voice, and they get extra authenticity brownie points for naming their debut LP after Crowley's memoirs of his fiddling with Enochian magic.
What do get when you cross Siouxsie Sioux with Eddie Van Halen? Why, you get Jane's Addiction, whose best numbers were all built around Eric Avery's Banshee-esque basslines. Jane's paid their debt to their forebears when they brought the Banshees along on the first Lollapalooza.
Brooklyn's mighty Type O Negative took one part Black Sabbath, one part Sisters of Mercy and one part old-school 4AD and have put out a lot of killer music with that recipe. This video is interesting because it shows how Goth left the Punk/Art sphere and moved into the RenFaire/Fantasy/D&D realm and never looked back. Not necessarily Type O themselves, but certainly the movement.
Since the mid-90s Goth has itself splintered into a number of different permutations, and even launched a retail chain. In the interim we saw Marilyn Manson and the expected hysteria and rumor panic in the wake of Columbine. And as mentioned before we now have all of this vampire stuff out there, a lot of which is inspired by The Hunger, which featured not only Bauhaus in the opening credits, but proto-Goth godfather David Bowie. But it's the underpinnings of that archetype that fascinate me, as well as its antithesis- the zombie archetype. Both have their roots in deep sociopolitical mass psychology, as I'll rant and rave about sometime.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The first numbers we heard from the New Tut were 700,000 and 1943 (=17). 17 is the 7th prime number.
UPDATE: Yep, 2009 is the Year of You Gotta Be Kidding Me -
"Report: 17 Senate Dem. Caucus Members Called to White House to Discuss Health Care"
ABC News is reporting that President Obama has summoned 17 members of the Senate Democratic caucus--most of whom have expressed some degree of skepticism over President Obama's health care plan--to the White House for a meeting late this afternoon.Read The 17 President and Celebrating the 17th for context.
ITEM: Speaking of ritual cycles, it turns out Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval were right after all about the architectural agenda of the Shemsu Hor. From a news story from yesterday in the New Scientist:
ITEM: Yesterday was 9/8 (do the math) and where Egypt leads, NASA is sure to follow. Yesterday the space agency revealed its plans to skip the Moon and set its sights on Mars.
ANCIENT Egyptian temples were aligned so precisely with astronomical events that people could set their political, economic and religious calendars by them. So finds a study of 650 temples, some dating back to 3000 BC.
For example, New Year coincided with the moment that the winter-solstice sun hit the central sanctuary of the Karnak temple in present-day Luxor, says archaeological astronomer Juan Belmonte of the Canaries Astrophysical Institute in Tenerife, Spain.
A NASA strategy proposal shifts the U.S. human space program away from returning to the moon in favor of a stepping-stone approach aimed at reaching Mars, including using commercial space launch services, according to a document seen by Reuters.Between this and the LCROSS system failures, UFOlogist claims that aliens have declared the Moon off-limits don't seem quite so crazy.
ITEM: Speaking of 17s, there are plenty in the news today, including a new set of images from the Hubble Telescope, released fresh for 9/9/9, including that butterfly nebula there. But that's not all:
Among the first images – a closely guarded secret until today – is one of galaxy NGC 6217. The picture was taken with NASA's newly refurbished Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).Remember that the butterfly is a universal symbol of transformation.
ITEM: In less happy news, this:
A truck packed with explosives has been detonated in a Kurdish village in northern Iraq killing at least 17 people, Iraqi police say.ITEM: And this curiosity:
Mexican police have arrested at least six hijackers who seized a passenger jet flying from Cancun to Mexico City.
More than 100 passengers and crew on board the AeroMexico Boeing 737 were released unharmed, officials confirmed.
And this about the hijacker - no mental giant, obviously:
He told flight attendants that he had three accomplices, "the Father, Son and Holy Ghost". He said that he acted on 9 September 2009, because the numbers 9/9/9 were the inverse of 6/6/6, the number linked to the Anti-Christ.ITEM: Where 17 lurks, 33 often follows. This story:
"Christ is coming soon," Mr Flores told journalists. Mr Garcia said that Mr Flores was a former drug addict, with a conviction for armed robbery in his native Bolivia. He has lived in Mexico for 17 years.
Federal regulators on Wednesday defended their proposed $33 million settlement with Bank of America over bonuses paid by Merrill Lynch. But the Securities and Exchange Commission said the bank didn't waive attorney-client privilege, making it impossible to establish if its executives knowingly breached securities laws.A real news story, or simply a reminder of the hidden 33 in BoA's logo? I report, you decide.
ITEM: Wal*Mart used 9/9/9 to unveil its new plan to become America's sole retail outlet. Called "Project Impact," the chain is using a showcase in the UFO hotspot of Gloucester County, NJ to demonstrate its new agenda. And speaking of 17s:
Despite the company's consistently strong financial performance, Wall Street hasn't cheered Walmart's growth rates. During the 1990s, the company's stock price jumped 1,173%. In this decade, it's down around 24% (Walmart's stock closed at $51.74 per share on Sept. 3)Now Wal*Mart's switch from the five-pointed star to its new Solar logo (with its own 3-3) makes more sense.
ITEM: Speaking of Solar logos (and 999), this is the flag of the Commonwealth of Nations. How did I not know that?
ITEM: And speaking of the Octopus, that's apparently how Yahoo! sees itself now. Not sure if this image made its debut on 9/9/9, but I wouldn't be surprised.
ITEM: Finally, the ever-reliable HuffPost gives us this story on 9/9/09. I can't wait for 9/17- that's sure to be a corker!
UPDATE: Tommy of Kozmikon points us to this- a remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Did we really need one?
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
ITEM: The Fourth Kind apparently makes use of Sumerian motifs, bringing a little AAT to the abduction party. Nothing new for hardcore UFOlogists, but as far as I know only The X-Files has fused the two memes. But speaking of Vancouver, a little film somehow escaped my attention last year- it's a Canadian horror epic called Ba'al: The Storm God. Apparently, I didn't miss much. And identifying Ba'al - a title meaning "Lord," and not necessarily a proper name - as a Sumerian god is not a good sign, considering there's a two-thousand year gulf between Sumer and the various Ba'al cults of the Phoenicians and the like.
But taking other people's gods and turning them into demons is a time-honored tradition. Ba'al later became the name of a demon in Christian mythology, as did most of the gods of the ancient world. After all, you can steal a people's land and treasure, murder their women and rape their children, but you haven't truly destroyed a people until you steal their gods. Just ask the Saxons.
ITEM: Art imitates life which imitates art again. We're all supposed to have a hearty chuckle at those New Age flakes in The Men Who Stare at Goats, but lo and behold, the Noetic sciences are alive and well in the military:
Warrior Mind Training is the brainchild of Ernst and two friends, who were teaching meditation and mind-training in California. In 2005, a Marine attended a class in San Diego and suggested expanding onto military bases. Ernst and her colleagues researched the military mindset, consulting with veterans who had practiced meditation on the battlefield and back home. She also delved into the science behind mind training to analyze how meditation tactics could help treat - and maybe even help prevent - post-traumatic stress disorder.I've been keeping my eye on the latest developments in the professional military (read: the mercenary army), wondering when the Supersoldier will finally emerge. This Samurai wrinkle is interesting- I wonder if future recruits will learn the ancient Samurai art of nanshoku.
Rooted in the ancient Samurai code of self-discipline, Warrior Mind Training draws on the image of the mythic Japanese fighter, an elite swordsman who honed his battle skills along with his mental precision. The premise? Razor-sharp attention plus razor-sharp marksmanship equals fearsome warrior.
I've heard theories to this effect and I think they're pretty interesting. Astronomers gnash their teeth and pull their hair, claiming that such an object would be one of the brightest objects in the sky, but I've also heard some more adventurous astronomers claim that Planet X has much longer than a 3600 year orbit. Anyhow, I recommend taking a look at Bara's post and Lloyd's site. If for no other reason than it will probably manifest itself in our pop culture fairly soon, given how ravenous the appetite for ideas for new CGI blockbusters is.
For my part, it all ties into the secret sun meme, with the Sirius symbology and all the rest of it.
ITEM: I've been watching episodes of True Blood and I'm digging it. It ties into a major theory I've been nursing- the ensemble cast as a precursor to a new kind of cultural polytheism. It's interesting to note that not only did the relentless attacks of AAT parallel the rise of the Religious Right, the revival of movie superhero as savior did as well.
Think about it- Rambo, Terminator, Conan, Batman, Dirty Harry, James Bond- all are based on the ludicrous fantasy that one man can defeat extremely well-armed armies of Other. It was the same mythos that put Ronald Reagan into office. Note how that meme began to wane with the Bush II era and the superhero team and ensemble cast (think Battlestar Galactica) came to the fore. Ironic how a liberal variant of the messiah mythos seems to be dissolving in front of our eyes today.
I'll be writing about it in-depth, but I'm fascinated how True Blood picks up where my lamented Blade: The Series left off. Unlike the feature films, I saw Blade as a nuisance in the series and was a lot more interested in the dynamics in the vampire families (I'm pretty sure the writers were as well).
As with Twilight, the vampires in True Blood are nothing less than superheroes for aspiring goths. True Blood's Erik, Twilight's Edward Cullen and Blade's Marcus Van Sciver are the same exact archetype- the vampire as cultured, vaguely-effete godling and nearly-omnipotent sex object. But even these formidable characters are themselves are beholden to a Byzantine network of councils and figureheads. Fascinating dynamic, there. Strangely enough, there's some monotheist bashing in True Blood, though it's poor, blameless Dionysus that's taking all the lumps. Weird.
More on all of this in the days to come. There's a whole psychosexual component to all of this as well, but that's a bit outside my ballywick. At least for the time being.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Dragon*Con is this weekend (as is Burning Man) and I'm stuck at home, working all holiday weekend. But it's all right- it's been another rough summer and I don't know if I'm up to the rigors of a con.
Thousands of people spend their entire lives planning for these pilgrimages, their only relief from the dreary oppression of consensus reality. And although the drama queens and agony aunties of this cosmic prison wring their hands and gnash their teeth at these isolated outbreaks of individualism and blissed-out imagination, both may yet be spoiled by success.
San Diego Comic-Con once offered a weekend getaway for the world's dreamers (there was nothing quite as soul-crushing as returning to the real world after a glorious San Diego blowout), but now it's simply a display case for Hollywood and Silicon Valley. And every year the weirdos and misfits are sent further and further to the back of the bus. It's cultural gentrification of the most depressing kind.
But misfits and weirdos are a resourceful bunch by necessity (they invented this technology we're using here, after all), and a new generation is pursuing more idiosyncratic routines and visions at venues like APE and MOCCA. And unlike geeks of my generation (X), the daycare generation takes to socializing and confabbing like ducks to water. So anywhere you have a few thousand determined fans within a 300 square-mile radius of a decent-sized city, you'll probably see a viable con pop up and put down roots.
CNN took note of D*C (and with big ups to my main man JML*) this weekend, and as much the sad little geek in me appreciates the validation, the sober adult in me is terrified of the unwashed hordes that may descend upon it (as if long-time con-goers there don't look at people like me as one of the despoilers, but I digress). But since D*C is more a lifestyle con and less a media showcase, it may be a more-the-merrier situation. We'll see next year.
Fan conventions have been around since at least the 30s (Jack Parsons was a regular at the LA sci-fi con) but it was fallout from the 60s counterculture that really kick-started the modern phenomenon. The need to create alternative spaces and the do-or-die entrepreneurial spirit of the post-hippie era converged with the incredible explosion of new mythology (Star Trek, Marvel Comics, Lord of the Rings) and the new thinking inspired by the drug cultures to imagine a new generation of geek gatherings.
But it wasn't until the rise of more female-friendly memes like cosplay, Manga and vampire culture that cons really exploded. Back in the early 80s you could go to a comic con and count the women there on your fingers, but girls may yet outnumber boys in the future megacon reality. A lot of fan culture is still literary, and we live in a society where boys are subtly but inexorably discouraged from reading.
It's amazing how similar to the ancient festivals some of the cons are - never mind Burning Man and its clones. But our new mythologies are so incredibly potent and so many people are so incredibly passionate about them (or against them- longtime SD con-goers are in open revolt against the Twilight 'tweenies) that getting together to share them becomes inevitable.
Fandom is becoming a de facto, worldwide religion in all but name (it's amazing to see how people take what are essentially corporate properties and bend them to their needs, exactly as Medieval saint cults did). And fan conventions may well become future generations' furlough of choice from the grinding, Black Iron Prison of 21st Century life.
UPDATE: Here's a big old photofeed from this year's con. The problem with these things is you can't appreciate the hugeness of it all. Dragon*Con is like walking into Oz. But as you can see, cosplay is not the sole province of the sedentary and well-nourished. No, not at all...
* That Dawn/Two-Face pic is synchronistic for me. Back in my hippie days, I had a weird reaction (that fungi allergy thing) and broke out in hives, but only on my left side. It was really bad on my face- I literally looked like Two-Face. My new age guru friend was delighted by it- he said the rash was revealing my "dual nature." Sure enough, I later became friends with Dawn's creator and found that he was also friends with some of the people I was running around with back in those days.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
The Posies' Frosting On the Beater drilled a hole through the center of my skull like a laser beam. My exposure to this album also coincided with a major synchronistic eruption of signs and wonders that changed the course of my life forever, starting on September 5, 1993. It's no accident that The X-Files would hit the airwaves later that week.
The lyrics on this album are enigmatically charged with mystical ambiguity. They mix cosmic references with poignant memories of the dreams of childhood, seemingly at random. They also seem to have both double meanings and ambiguous pronunciations, even (is he saying "crown of thorns" or "crowd or thorns?" Is it "everyone is laughing, all expensive painful" or "everyone is laughing, all expenses paid for?"). The first single was about dreaming all day. One tells of a time "when mute tongues can speak," another warns of a "definite door to another dimension." This album helped take me to one, for sure.
When I play this record I can still smell the crisp morning air of the September Sunday that my last remaining shred of belief in consensus reality melted away. I think every paradigm shift needs a musical soundtrack to help imprint it onto your consciousness.
It's really high time our culture rediscovers Rock 'n' Roll. It can be so much more than simply a soundtrack for a rad video game.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Each of us has at least 100 new mutations in our DNA, according to research published in the journal Current Biology. Scientists have been trying to get an accurate estimate of the mutation rate for over 70 years.Interesting; science or subliminal social conditioning? And is there a difference?
However, only now has it been possible to get a reliable estimate, thanks to "next generation" technology for genetic sequencing. The findings may lead to new treatments and insights into our evolution. - BBC
The obvious YouTube tie-in is The X-Men, but since I'm still smarting from The 4400's cancellation I thought I'd put in a plug for the series, just in case some readers aren't familiar with it. Here's how the pitch meeting went: "It's X-Files meets The X-Men."
UPDATE: Some of you have heard the Japanese First Lady's claims of "alien abduction." I was going to do a bit on it in a news post, but Andre's got it covered.
UPDATE II: Andre also points us to David Icke's worst nightmare: "DNA Research & Fossils Links Human Ear Evolution to Reptiles."
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Well, the muses still haven't struck me to write a big workup on District Nine, even though we've all seen it by now. I loved it, thought it was magnificent entertainment, but also spent a lot of time wondering how much of it was a commentary on post-Apartheid South Africa, what with the AIDS metaphor and the controversy over the government's heavy-handed treatment of economic migrants. Not being overly familiar with the country or its troubles, I felt like I was just there for the cool robot fight.
As many commenters have noted, there was the Black Oil riff borrowed from The X-Files, but it gleefully ripped off any number of movies and whatnot, so the more the merrier. But I was more interested in the whole theme of the Other and becoming the Other and all of that, which is one of the reasons I did that monster post on Invasion, a movie which apparently no one who reads this blog has seen. But take my word for it- watch that frickin' movie. The worst that can happen is that you'll be hypnotized by Rebecca Gayheart's lips .
So, in short District Nine was great entertainment, probably more salient for South Africans, but an interesting entry in the ongoing alien movie meme, which to tell the truth is already starting to wear out its welcome with me.
Well, at least until The Fourth Kind comes out. They played the trailer for it at D9, but I was thinking it looks like it would play a lot better on the small screen. Seeing lumberjacks get all freaked out with no obvious stimulus looks a bit silly in a theatre. But it planted the 3:33 meme in my head, thanks for nothing. I went to sleep with my Ipod on last night and woke up as "Home" by David Sylvian was playing and I had one of those unconscious revelations about life and the ultimate meaning of everything and I looked at the clock and it was 3:33 AM, which it seems to be a lot lately. And of course, my grand revelation evaporated as soon as I woke up.
The good thing about my job is that I can kind of half-watch movies while I work. My wife had rented 17 Again, which I thought I'd take a crack at and see if there were any semiotic goodies on hand. There may have been a million, but I couldn't make it past the 15-minute mark. I will say that with all of the money Hollywood wrings out of geeks, it should probably be a little less mocking of them. But then again, the teenaged girls 17 Again was made for think sci-fi fans are all icky closet cases, so maybe it's just good market research.
But I did do a bit of musing on people as archetypes, inspired by Leslie Mann. Doesn't it seem like you've known her all your life? Same with the entire cast of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, come to think of it. Go re-read my monster post on it.
I rented Race to Witch Mountain, but haven't really got the chance to pore over it frame by frame like a mental patient. I half-watched half of it, and I gotta say it played better on the big screen. And of course, there's the ridiculing of UFO "buffs" while presenting aliens as a self-evident reality. That's getting pretty tired. More self-loathing, maybe?
What else- GI Joe? Haven't seen it. Might rent it, might not. 9? The missus is interested- me, I can RedBox it. Men Who Stare at Goats? Awesome, but I'll probably rent it. Or maybe not- I need to get out of the house more often.
Then of course there's the ridiculous Pythonesque farce called the Obama Administration and the so-called "health care debate," but my suspension of disbelief has its limits. If I want to watch a stupid cartoon, I'll put on American Dad.
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