My apologies for missing my post yesterday — I spent a great weekend in Austin, hanging out with my Wild-Ass NeoPagan Tribe(TM) at the ScotchtoberFest party and seeing Zombieland with She Who Is Awesome and her thrall, Jesse. Then I rode back to CS in a cold, wet miserable drizzle. I’d neglected to bring my foul-weather gear with me because weather.com said there was a 10% chance of rain this weekend. I felt like a drowned kitten by the time I slithered off the bike. Weather.com can go screw themselves.
Anyhow — I’ve always been a total sucker for orchestral rock. Except for prog-rock, which generally sucks. Saw the Moody Blues live three or four times, and the Metallica thing with the London Symphony Orchestra is also a fav.
Symphonic Goth Metal takes it to new level for me. Tonight we have Within Temptation’s magnum opus, Black Symphony, on the turntable. They got the Metropole Orchestra and a bunch of monks who’d given themselves over to the dark side to play with them one night.
They’re a Dutch band with a long and apparently happy history as a family. Sharon den Adel, their lead singer, has some amazing pipes on her. She’s also a major hottie. Unfortunately, she’s hooked up with her lead guitarist — as all chick singers do — and has even gone so far as to have a child with him in a futile effort to convince me to quit sending her those letters professing my undying adoration.
I had a difficult time deciding which cut from the album to present to you. They range from pretty-damn-metal to pretty-damn-symphonic. I have the album, and highly recommend it to you, especially the version that includes a DVD of the concert.
Click the pic at the top of this post for Jillian, which opens the album after the overture.Â I encourage you to surf YouTube for other excellent songs from that night. The cut for Jane Doe isn’t on the US version of the album, and it was the one that got me into them to start with.Â It does rock harder than Jillian. The big Frankensteiny guitarist who chases her across the stage in this vid is her main squeeze. I just don’t know what she sees in him.
You can also hit their site. It leads with Utopia, a ballady new song that isn’t metal at all, but is kinda-sorta heart-breaking. It’s a pre-sale song for their upcoming An Acoustic Night at the Theatre. It’s got an orchestra in it, so I’ll have get it, too.
Iâ€™ve been spending much too much time lately moving across our Texas highway system trapped inside the damnedest repeated clusterfracks. (Yes, thatâ€™s the technical linguistic term for a group of Texas drivers who have bunched up at high speed.)
Iâ€™m a gentle old man, but Iâ€™ve had too many recent inner visions of flames, explosions, and the deployment of my personal bazooka, to be satisfied with the current state of affairs.
Therefore, Iâ€™m posting so that everyone who drives in Texas will know how to better keep Rory alive and happy on the highway.
Hereâ€™s the One Rule to Rule Them All: Get Out of My Way.
Here are the Three Laws of Velocity:
If youâ€™re driving faster than me, youâ€™re a maniac, and should be removed from the road.
If youâ€™re driving slower than me, youâ€™re a granny, and should be removed from the road.
If youâ€™re driving the same speed as me, youâ€™re pacing me, and should be removed from the road.
This set of rules is simple, elegant, and results in me having the highway entirely to myself, which is as it should be. However, we live in an imperfect world, so Iâ€™m willing to put up with you as long as you Get Out of My Way.
There are, of course, some behaviors you shouldnâ€™t indulge in, unless you want to make me suffer from Road Annoyance.
To be perfectly clear, Iâ€™m not doing this for your own good. I donâ€™t care if you kill yourself and all your loved ones by driving stupidly. Darwinism in action is what that is. I just donâ€™t want you to kill me, okay? Iâ€™ve already got enough problems with that whole natural selection thing as it is.
Though, since Iâ€™ve already passed my DNA along, I suppose it really wouldnâ€™t be that wrong to run over me. And I know it wonâ€™t really upset you to kill a feeble old man whose life is practically over with anyhow, for more than a few hours, or until youâ€™re distracted when the next episode ofÂ â€œJon & Kate Plus 8â€ airs.
But what if you hit Jon & Kate and the eight cute little kids and smushed them all? That would make you sad for a long time, wouldnâ€™t it? Okay, maybe not about Jon and Kate. I mean, who cares about those two idiots? But the kids for sure, right? I bet that would make you sad for a loooong time.
So â€“ remember these things Iâ€™m about to list, because you might kill a bunch of adorable little soon-to-be-adoptees instead of me, if you donâ€™t.
Hey, guys â€“ Go visit any of the major news web sites. Cool stuff today. According to the CDC, the Swine Flu Pandemic is going to slam into us sometime in the next few weeks, slaughtering the population and destroying civilization as we knew it.
I mean, just between you and me and the pigs, I was beginning to doubt that civilization as we knew it was going to end at all. It sucked to find myself being pessimistic about my pessimism.
Some days, I just wanted to smash my forehead into something, hard enough to hurt, but not hard enough to actually damage my brain. You know?
That Bird Flu thing just never seemed to be able to get off the ground. And it looks like Apophis is going to stubbornly refuse to smash the earth into molten flinders.
The Global Warming thing was coming along nicely, after we convinced Bush and his crew that it was all a liberal conspiracy against Hummers â€“ and you know how insanely freaked out they were with Clinton and his hummers in the Oval Office. Then we messed up and elected an administration that actually believes in science. Who knows what the hell theyâ€™ll do to demonize GW the climate like they demonized GW the Bush?
Nuclear war? Well, the Soviets were a great disappointment to me, personally. They had the capability for about thirty years, and could never sober up from the vodka binges long enough to push the red button. North Korea and Iran are just laughable wannabes.
Iâ€™ve got a small bet going that Pakistan will fall into the hands of the Taliban next year and, maddened by the presence of infidels somewhere on the rest of the planet, will launch their hundred nukes at somebody. If they hit India, then my job is less likely to be outsourced, so this is a two-fer. Theyâ€™ve got enough bombs to trigger at least a Nuclear Autumn.
But thatâ€™ll be offset by the damn global warming that weâ€™ve been trying so hard to cause. Unless Obama or Steven Chu or Paul Krugman fix it first.
Iâ€™m immensely cheered by todayâ€™s news, though.
I went out this afternoon and bought my survival kit. Here are my top ten items:
Three boxes of Kleenex â€“ Will need them if I get the flu, and the allergies have been really nasty all year anyhow.
Three containers of Crystal Light no-cal drink powder â€“ I already got a bunch of iodine pills for purifying water, at Rachaelâ€™s insistence. Now I can drink both safely and deliciously.
Three boxes of wet kitty treats â€“ Little Tex and Secret Kitty are likely to get grumpy while trapped in the house for a month or so, and this will help. Iâ€™m contemplating buying some more catnip toys tomorrow, before thereâ€™s a run on them.
A pound of Kraft Mild Cheddar cheese â€“ It was on sale, and I like cheese.
Two pounds of Skinner Vermicelli â€“ Yummy and nutritious and would survive a nuclear war, I think.
Two glass containers of Ragu Roasted Garlic spaghetti sauce â€“ To make the Vermicelli taste even yummier. Also, the Ragu has catsup in it, which, as Ronald Reagan taught us, is an essential vegetable.
Four pounds of Folgerâ€™s coffee â€“ Life isnâ€™t worth living if I donâ€™t get my coffee in the morning. Also, itâ€™ll be worth its weight in hummers after the apocalypse.
Lots of cans of Dinty Moore beef stew and microwaveable plastic lunches of various types and brands â€“ I think I forgot to get crackers to go with these. Dammit.
Four pounds of Imperial Pure Cane Granulated Sugar â€“ Screw the Splenda if civilization ends. I want real sugar in my coffee.
A 1.75 liter bottle of Bacardi Gold â€“ Should make a great internal antiseptic to help me avoid getting infected. I forgot to get the Coke that potentiates its healing effect. Dammit.
Personally, I think I did pretty good, considering how off-the-cuff and panicky this was. I already had plenty of toilet paper. And you can use the Kleenex that way in a pinch, in case you didnâ€™t know.
I think Iâ€™ll be able to survive in my apartment all through the Great Dying. Surely they won’t disconnect the Internet. It’s all satellite communications these days, anyhow, and the satellites will keep on working fine for years and years.
Then I can come out and the glorious dream of my childhood will begin â€“ me, being one of the last ragged inhabitants in a post-industrial nightmare wasteland. Kind of like moving to Detroit, only more fun.
Iâ€™ll have my gun with me. I bet I can find some bullets for it, somewhere out there. Unless they’re all buried in some Teabagger’s back yard.
Rachael and Jesse will survive, as will all of you, and my sister and her husband, and all of my Goddam Neopagan Tribeâ„¢. Weâ€™ll form the nucleus of a new and intrinsically pessimistic society, as Iâ€™ve always hoped for. With motorcycles.
Itâ€™ll be great!
We should all meet at that filling station right outside Bastrop, where you turn to go to or from Austin, depending on the direction youâ€™re traveling in. You know the one.
See you all in a couple of months!
….I just had the inevitable thought…
The CDC says the Swine Flu is mutating. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll mutate into —
This is what confronted me in the parking lot when I was desperately trying to escape from work this afternoon.
I’ve lived in BCS for a dozen years. I think I saw a few sprinkles in the sky once, that first year. Nothing since then.
We had an actual snowstorm this evening, which meant that the ground was completely covered for awhile. It was an unexpected pleasure to ride through it. It was trippy, man.
It’s mostly gone now, as I noticed when I went out a few minutes ago to stock up on survival BlueBell Homemade Vanilla.
It’s supposed to get down into the twenties tonight. This, of course, does not affect my plans to ride into Austin this weekend to hang out with She Who Is Awesome and her concubine, since weather.com says the temps will be in the seventies by then. Gotta love that fickle Texas weather.
Two Headed Baby played a special gig last weekend.
It was a good weekend for me, in many, many ways. Iâ€™m planning to post in more detail on that later today or perhaps tomorrow.
I set up a laptop to record the gig as best I could through a single mic off to the side, and seem to have caught about two-thirds of it on disk. Iâ€™ve just finished processing a couple of the songs, and thought you might enjoy listening to THB in full fury.
Rachael was there, and told me that we sounded awesome, but she was being especially kind to her Papa last weekend, because I was suffering a great loss. The audience danced their asses off, and didn’t throw anything sharp or too hard at us. I figure that we probably didn’t suck, much.
As you may know, our old drummer got bored with just hitting things and wandered off to try to learn how to be another goddam dime-a-dozen guitar player. Bob Yeager, who still enjoys smashing the hell out of everything, has gracefully taken his place.
Caroline Spector on bass, cello, and vocals, Warren Spector on rhythm and lead guitar, Gilda Ginsel on vocals and keyboard, my nice friend Bradley Denton on vocals, harp, and rhythm and lead guitar. I was up there, too, mostly played rhythm guitar.
However, we made the mistake of allowing both GreyLion and Bulky Jones to sit in. And they wanked endlessly. Please forgive them.
Iâ€™ve whined repeatedly about the Loudness Wars, but â€“ I smashed the hell out these recordings, just because it seemed the rock â€˜n roll thing to do. Another mea culpa for that. I tried to leave a few dynamics in place.
This stuff is meant to be played loud, though, so you should turn the volume knob all the way to the right. I hope your neighbors donâ€™t find it too painful to listen to.
Pics credit to Cheryl Collum, who, incidentally, happens to be my baby sister.
You know how I amâ€¦ Itâ€™s all a blur to me. I kinda almost remember stuff. Sometimes.
Lesseeâ€¦ what did I do this weekend? I remember riding into Austin on my Shadow on Friday evening. She Who Is Awesome and Jesse and I ended up eating dinner at the all-you-can-eat place, because the upscale places were all overloaded with those people who are about three cuts above my normal social class and prefer the restaurant music to be so GODDAM LOUD that you canâ€™t hear your own intestines explode when the salmonella kicks in.
I normally donâ€™t like the all-you-can-eat food places, but this one was quieter than usual and the food was extremely tasty, and apparently did not contain any salmonella. Jesse was taking us out to celebrate because he just got a new job installing cutting-edge solar technology to power laser-beam death rays on peopleâ€™s roofs. I spilled ice cream on my shirt and licked it off, but it didnâ€™t get really clean, actually.
Jesse had to go to bed early because he had to go in the next morning to start collimating the death rays. Me and Rach rode over to the nearest movie plex and saw â€˜The Dark Knightâ€™. I kinda remember it being pretty good. It was long, but didnâ€™t seem that way at the time. I didnâ€™t have to get up to go to the bathroom even once during the movie, which was nice.
Slept very late Saturday morning. Washed clothes, as I had forgotten to bring any clean underwear with me. Took a shower, and got back into the sweaty underwear, as the clean underwear wasnâ€™t dry yet. Yeah, I know â€“ gross.
Got to band rehearsal after the scheduled begin time that afternoon, as usual. We jammed out until about nine. We were mind-blastingly great, as usual, and everybody even seemed to enjoy it, despite the mandatory bitching and whining. I got to play loud, some. Carolineâ€™s cello solo on the not-quite-last song (which is a secret song for the wedding gig, so shush!) was sublime.
Jesse was out shooting pool with friends when I got back to the apartment, so me and Rach wandered off and had TexMex at this quiet place tucked away in the wilderness that is Pflugerville. It was late, so we were the last customers to leave before they closed. I left a larger than usual tip, because I felt guilty about that.
We werenâ€™t tired yet, so we rode off down I-35 looking for trouble, andâ€¦ What did we do then?..
I’m excited to be posting today because Iâ€™ve stumbled upon an idea that I believe will solve multiple problems that have proved intractable up until now.
First, thereâ€™s a terrible organ donor shortage that grows worse each year. People are dying needlessly, and Iâ€™m getting old enough that Iâ€™m fearful that I might be one of them. Considering the damage Iâ€™ve done to myself over the past decades, Iâ€™m likely to need a full-body transplant before much longer, and thatâ€™s not going to happen unless a lot more organs become available.
To begin, we need to make it so that organ donation is an â€˜opt-outâ€™ situation rather than â€˜opt-inâ€™. Currently, you need to file paperwork to consent to being an organ donor, and preferably to have this stated on your driverâ€™s license, in case something abrupt and unpleasant occurs. This is completely ass-backwards. Research shows that shortly after death, most of us become unconcerned about what happens to our bodies. The default state should be â€˜strip me to the bone, and then suck the marrow outâ€™.
Also, according to the Mayo Clinic link above, about a third of consenting organ donors have their wishes over-ridden by relatives. These poor families are in the throes of grief, and shouldnâ€™t be forced to make such important decisions at this juncture. Itâ€™s too much of a burden for them. Cut them out of the decision-making loop, I say.
According to this CDC table, about 0.8% of the US population dies each year. Since our population is a bit over 300 million, this is 2.4 million bodies, almost all of which are going to waste.
Letâ€™s admit that many of these wonâ€™t be suitable donors, as a result of extreme age, endemic disease states, and so on. A quick glance at the CDC info indicates that probably only a third of the bodies will be usable. However, just this simple change to â€˜opt-outâ€™ will provide a massive oversupply of donors.
So, what to do with all those extra bodies, you ask?
And there seems to be a crack hidden in its base thatâ€™s sucking the remaining liquid from it as I watch.
Youâ€™re a smart, reality-based person, or you wouldnâ€™t be reading this. So you have the same problem that I do â€“ which is that all the research indicates that pessimists have a firmer grasp on so-called reality than do optimists. It really is as bad as we think it is, and itâ€™s going to get exponentially worse. Thatâ€™s the fact, Jack.
So — Would you rather be delusionally happy, or would you rather be right? Yeah, me too.
I donâ€™t know how I got to be such a pessimist. Oh, sure â€“ George Bush. As with the rest of us. But my world darkened long before his evil shadow spread beyond Texas.
Perhaps it started the day I realized that Iâ€™d probably never be an astronaut, which was my secret ambition when I was 12. Worse, being an astronaut became less cool than it should have been. NASA screwed the pooch when they didnâ€™t make Chuck Yeager an astronaut. Dammit, he should have been the King of the Astronauts. If Yeager couldnâ€™t be the poster boy for space exploration, the world was a dismal place.
I also stayed in a marriage that made Satan laugh, for about twenty years longer than I should have. If Iâ€™d been smarter, Iâ€™d have just stolen some eggs and created Rachael in a castle tower hidden in the Carpathians.
Pessimists generally blame themselves when things go badly. If Iâ€™d been a better, smarter, more disciplined person, the world as we know it would be much improved. If only I could have persevered and built my time machine and gone back and strangled all those bastards in their cradles! You know the ones Iâ€™m talking about, the ones whoâ€™ve wrecked it for everybody else. It would have kept me busy and happy and productive for a dozen years. And my allergies would trouble me much less today, too.
The weight gain might have been inevitable, though I suspect I could have avoided it if I was a better person. It was a mistake to move to College Station, because itâ€™s completely full of Thems, and has almost no Uses. And whatâ€™s with all that white hair? Especially in my ears?
Here are the two cognitive mistakes that I constantly make, which trigger my worst bouts of pessimism:
I canâ€™t tell the difference between events that I can affect in some way, versus those that will crush me no matter what I do. It all feels the same, and this completely immobilizes me on occasion, because thereâ€™s ALL THAT BAD STUFF thatâ€™s unmanageable.
I focus on the wrong time periods. I experience negative emotional and cognitive internals because I frequently dwell upon the mistakes Iâ€™ve made in the past, and fear whatâ€™s going to happen in both the near future and the much farther-along End of It All.
Swirl these two bad mental habits together, and itâ€™s tough to even keep looking at the glass. Stephen Petranekâ€™s sorrowful TED presentation makes for a perfect example of the combination punches that can be created with this mix. I just want to crawl off and hide in a culvert somewhere, hoping to avoid the worst. Of course, itâ€™ll rain then, and the culvert will quickly become more than half full.
So, Iâ€™m going to try to make some changes. I’m going to focus on issues where I have some chance of at least optimizing my outcomes in an uncontrollable environment. And I’m going to try to stay in the present mostly, and then plan for the intermediate future, right beyond all the terrifying near-term future events that I’ll struggle to survive.
Religious belief has always been a painful subject for me, sometimes quite literally. I like to think that my beliefs are grounded in rationality, but the end of my belief in a present and attentive deity ended abruptly and for entirely emotional reasons.
When I was eleven years old, I was helping my Dad lay down stripes in a parking lot, a fun and profitable side-business that he maintained for many years. We were in downtown Houston, and I have a clear snapshot memory of this.
I was standing at the edge of the parking lot when a lost baby bird wandered out into the street. I had taken a couple of steps to retrieve it, when a car flashed by, and there was suddenly only a messy brown splatter where a second before had been an innocent infant life.
At that exact moment I decided that, if there was a God, and he actively made the universe run, the way I had been told he did, he wasnâ€™t a guy I wanted to hang out with. I can still remember how I thought that, if God had a purpose for that brief life and death, I didnâ€™t want to fathom it. Maybe it was to test my belief in an infinitely-powerful and infinitely-loving being. If so, I failed the test.
I already understood that things die. It wasnâ€™t the first time that Iâ€™d seen that. But the utter callous meaninglessness of this particular tiny death also killed the Christian God for me, because He was all about meaning. It was an instant conversion to an unpleasant Existentialism.
I mentioned my apostasy to a couple of people at West University Elementary in the following days, and got beaten up a couple of times by small gangs of pre-adolescent boys as a reward.
As I got older, I continued to be surrounded by hard and soft Christianity, and some occasional Judaism. I couldnâ€™t respond to the emotional appeals, and any attempts at logical argument in favor of the existence of an involved God simply fell apart under even the most cursory examination. I did try to follow the reasoning presented to me, because it would be important if there was an underlying purpose to everything.
But the arguments always boiled down, sooner or later to: My religion must be true, even though wrong-headed people interpret the details differently than I do, because our Holy Book says itâ€™s true. And our Holy Book is unquestionably the word of God, so it must be true. Completely circular logic.
So, letâ€™s continue to talk about emotion rather than logic. Many people find comfort in their religious belief. They make what is commonly called the Leap of Faith, and then they get to turn their attention to predicting which football team is going to win the Superbowl this year. It helps them cope with the on-going struggle that inevitably leads to the end of Superbowl predictions.
Me, I just deal with the struggle and the darkness as best I can — which isnâ€™t always graceful or attractive. I canâ€™t and wonâ€™t make the Leap of Faith, not because Iâ€™m too damn smart (though I am indeed too damn smart), but because it feels cowardly and dishonest. I decline to adopt a deep belief simply in order to be comforted. My universe is an uncaring, unmanageable enormity.
My mother tried to do some religion with me and my sister, briefly. Hereâ€™s my memory of it:
Last night me and Rachael and Jesse had dinner at La Feria with Brian â€˜Dr. Mojoâ€™ Robertson and his delightful spice Melanie.
I met them out in the parking lot, and he pulled this thing out of the back seat and gave it to me. I was stunned, to say the least. It may well be the coolest musical instrument Iâ€™ve ever owned. Or seen, for that matter. Itâ€™s effing gorgeous; my pics donâ€™t come close to doing it justice. You can click on them to see larger versions.
Itâ€™s a personally autographed cigar-box slide guitar, made by the man hisself. Itâ€™s got three strings, and is tuned E â€“ B â€“ E. Itâ€™s got the coolest acoustic on-the-porch blues tone imaginable. And itâ€™s also electric â€“ has a piezoelectric pickup, a $2.99 special ripped from the Radio Shack. The mahogany neck goes all the way through the body, and the amplified sound will cut your head off. Gen-u-wine Macanudo wooden box, for the resonator.
Pure blues perfection. I was going to record a few licks and post them tonight, but â€“ Ghod, I suck at playing this thing. Iâ€™m going to have to learn slide all over again.
Brian was casually tearing off licks on it at the restaurant, and we ended up having a bunch of people wander over and talk with us about it, including a couple of sweet little hippies who had a gig that night at Ruta Maya. The young lady was into making cookie-tin banjos, which is another fascinating subject for another time.
Hereâ€™s his website on the subject: www.3stringmojo.com. He just got it up, so itâ€™s only got a few tunes on it, including a re-recording of his hit, â€˜Big Ass Buickâ€™. â€˜Long Distance Callâ€™ does have more of that killer slide featured on it, though.
Like us, Brian gets obsessed with the damnedest things, and this is a neat one. The one he gifted me was the sixth that he did, and he said it was the one where he first got everything right. Itâ€™s sweet. I’m humbled and grateful. Not to advertise or anything, but people are actually paying him to make them now, in case youâ€™re interested. Jesse, whoâ€™s mostly into Black Metal, was apparently hypnotized by it, and is saving his pennies for one as we speak.
It was a most excellent evening â€“ great company, great TexMex, and great cigar-box guitar.
Iâ€™m going to add some links and more info here later. But, frankly, though I had a wonderful weekend with loved ones, after those hours on my bike back and forth between College Station and Austin, Iâ€™m completely deep-fried right now. Gonna go soak in the tub and read some gritty urban fantasy and ponder the things Iâ€™ll need to do to not suck when playing this cool new instrument.
This isnâ€™t about something obscure, but weâ€™re all really smart people here at EOB, so I thought it might be as obscure for you as it was for me.
Last night, while I was staying with She Who is Awesome and her intended, Jesse, she made me watch â€˜Idiocracyâ€™, the Mike Judge (heâ€™s another Texas boy! Yee-haw!) movie about a future where the stupid people have so completely outbred the smart people that the worldâ€™s average IQ is somewhere around 50. Or maybe 20.
I normally despise stupid movies about stupid people. Couldnâ€™t even finish the commercial for â€˜Dumb and Dumberâ€™. But this is a smart movie about stupid people. I suspect that it has metaphors and stuff in it. Maybe even some satires. Even though Iâ€™m ashamed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Itâ€™s not for the faint of heart; I had an almost continuous cascade of â€˜WTF! They canâ€™t really be doing thatâ€™ moments while watching it.
The only drink in the world of the future is Brawndo. It now is a real drink, and hereâ€™s their web site.
They have a bunch of video commercials and theyâ€™reâ€¦. wellâ€¦ damned if I know how to describe them. But they make me laugh.
The same guy who did the voice on the first Brawndo commercial also did the voice on this commercial for Power Thirst. It made me want to eat my own head. I almost fell out of my chair when we came to the line about God and lemons.
None of these are safe for work, incidentally.
Try not to hate me for this post, guys. Itâ€™s our future, and it’s already here. We just have to learn to accept it.
(There’s probably an extremely serious, meaningful conversation to be had about some of the issues presented in this movie and these commercials, but I may not be the guy to have it with.)