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Another School Shooting, Another Reminder That Democracy = FAIL [Nov. 9th, 2007|06:08 pm]
[Tags|, , , , , , ]
[mood |bemused]
[music |At the Gates - Kingdom Gone]

The basic problem is that we've got this alienating disconnect between the institutions of liberal democracy and the basic structure of reality.  Nowhere is that disconnect more blatant than in our educational institutions.  From an early age, we shortchange our best and brightest.  We cram them in overcrowded classrooms with assorted mediocrities and failures, holding back their educational progress to the snail's pace that  can be maintained by whichever stupid nigger or 'mainstreamed' mongoloid is the dumbest fucker in the class.  By the time they reach the later years of their secondary education, they might get the opportunity to participate in 'advanced' classes, free of the most malign of the idiots, perhaps, but only marginally better off because they're still being warehoused and still saddled with 'peers' who lack anything like their own capabilities.  Our 'democratic' educational institutions are a sick joke, designed to 'level the playing field' between the truly intelligent elite and the merely industrious mediocrities who have advanced on the strength of 'participation' grades and other devices designed to cover up the fact that they lack the ability to achieve actual excellence.

The intelligent are, well, intelligent, and, as a result, they know they're getting screwed.  Worse, they get to experience a childhood of torment at the hands of every high-level cretin whose claim to fame is an ability to manipulate a ball (you know, something that a fucking seal can do), egged on by those busy, overachieving beavers who resent the ease with which the truly intelligent excel at things they have to bust their inadequate asses (and churn out the b.s. 'extra credit' assignments) just to get by in.

We've created whole generations of intelligent, alienated, tormented youths, so why are we surprised when, every year, one or two of them turn out to be emotionally unstable and have access to firearms, with predictable results?  The tragedy isn't that some ball-toters/beavers/future-shit-shovelers eat a parabellum, the tragedy is that we've built a society that makes it pretty much inevitable.
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The Thinking White Man's Approach to Jihad [Jul. 27th, 2007|09:52 pm]
We support the actions of Islamic freedom fighters acting within their own lands and among their own peoples in resistance to technocratic global liberalism.  And, if they want to come here, well, that's why the gods gave us gas chambers.
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Point to Ponder [Jul. 23rd, 2007|05:15 pm]
Any moral system in which Mother Teresa is seen as a saint and Adolf Hitler as a monster is a moral system that has failed.
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Marijuana and Messageboards [Jul. 19th, 2007|12:29 am]
You ever burn a couple down, get on the 'nerd and write out what seemed at the time like a masterclass in messageboard tactics, only to come down a little and realized your glorious attempt was just high-ku?  Yeah, well, andway, check this 'beaut out...


Step away, for a moment, from your impulse toward reverse snobbery, and think about Shakespeare.  Not the 'Shakespeare' of dry and dusty folios, and concordances, and indices of every kind, nor, certainly, the 'Shakespeare' of English class, the skinny one with a bee-colored jacket, mind you.  I mean the real Shakespeare, the Shakespeare that Shakespeare himself would want you to experience when you experience Shakespeare.  
I mean Shakespeare heard aloud:
in a theater
and seen on a stage
with actors
and costumes
and props and scenery
like in a play?
and stuff
Shakespeare without glosses, or helpful hints in the margin, or even the ability to flip back to Act II.
Shakespeare experienced as direct experience,  and not mediated from word to mind and back again.  
Doing it for real, seeing it performed - with all the subtle nuances of emphasis (aural or visual), interpretation, and memory performance implies -  can very often have the effect of rendering what reads in black an white upon the printed page a good bit greyer in reality.

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Film Review [Jun. 27th, 2007|11:52 pm]
Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Werner Herzog has been called a madman, a dreamer and a maverick of cinema. An eccentric and driven filmmaker, his drive and eccentricity often crossed the border into obsession. Not surprisingly, his films have often been seen as explorations of the depths of obsession, and his masterpiece of masterpieces, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, is no exception.

Aguirre is a fairly accessible film, considering its pedigre, and one that eschews the temporally disjointed structures and arcane avant-garde-isms more typical of earlier German art cinema (including Herzog's own previous work). Instead, Herzog relies on simple narrative filmmaking to tell a story that is on one level a chronicle of a Quixotic yet doomed quest, on a second level, a meditation on the descent into madness and death, and on yet another level, a scathing rebuke of the cultural zeitgeist of Herzog's age.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God begins with one of the most visually stunning shots in cinematic history (and ends with another), as conquistadors under the command of Gonzalo Pizzaro (brother of the conqueror of the Inca), guided by Indian slaves, pick their way through the fog down an impossibly steep mountain terrace toward the jungle below. Soon, a small force leaves this main body to scout down a river in the search of the fabled city of El Dorado.

The rest of the film follows the course of this scouting party as it floats to its inevitable doom, done in by starvation, disease, the decidedly unfriendly attentions of the natives, and, most of all, by the madness and boundless ambition of the expedition's second-in-command, Don Lope de Aguirre (the incomparable Klaus Kinski).

In telling this story, Herzog makes use of a minimalistic cinematic style in which both dialogue and action are sparsely distributed. Instead, the plot unfolds primarily through a series of visual metaphors - the descent into the jungle, the river, a fully rigged sailing vessel somehow stranded in the forest canopy - which, combined with the brilliant soundtrack by ambient music pioneers Popol Vuh, help to create the trancelike dreamscapes for which Herzog is justifiably famous.

One of the highlights of Aguirre, the Wrath of God is the simply stunning cinematography of Thomas Mauch. The fluid, languid movements of Mauch's camera mirrors to the agonizingly slow progress of the expedition (shown to particularly brilliant effect in the film's opening shots), and serves to lend an epic sensibility to a film that clocks in at a spare 94 minutes. The supersaturated colors of the jungle backgrounds become at once beautiful and suffocating - a choking, endless emerald sea, swallowing all human presence and endeavor, rendering them futile and meaningless.

Special attention should also be paid to the Klaus Kinski's performance in the title role, which is not only magnificent, but must be counted among the greatest performances in film history. For a lesser actor, the sparseness of dialogue and plotting in Herzog's largely improvised script could have presented an insurmountable obstacle, but in the hands of a master like Kinski, that very lack of dialogue and action becomes an opportunity to fill the empty space with the edges of a character created from the fragments of gesture. Kinski renders the madness of Aguirre all the more frightening by cloaking it in mystery and only allowing us to view glimpses of the beast within. Instead, we are left to intuit his insanity from subtle cues of movement and expression: his curiously bent walk; the inhuman detachment he shows in the face of the suffering and fear of his men; the way he simply materializes in front of the camera, drifting in like fog (a feat he contrived through a contorted sort of pirouette); the calculating silence into which he frequently falls. That his madness is only hinted at makes the unnervingly whispered moments of rage even more terrifying.

On the surface, Aguirre is an exploration of the romance of the Impossible Dream, yet another sign of his obsession with obsessions, perhaps the central concern of Herzog's art. On a deeper level, it is perhaps best understood as a blistering critique of the 1960s counterculture. The Enlightenment conceit of the 'noble savage' which the hippie movement adopted as its central tenet is ruthlessly dissected, and the hollowness made manifest by the Summer of Love, Altamont and the Manson Family is given concrete expression in the form of the Indians. These, far from being the peaceful sages of hippie lore, appear in Aguirre as faceless demons of fear, invisible except for their handiwork, which is no less than death itself.

Herzog's Jungle, his emblem of Nature, reinforces this critique: Herzog's Jungle is not the counterculture's garden of delights, it is Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Here, the hippies' peaceful paradise is consumed by Kipling's 'nature, red in tooth and claw.' Though the Jungle teems with life and beauty, it is in the end a cradle of madness, and the triumph of the Jungle is a meditation on the triumph of Death.

But it is in the character of Aguirre himself that Herzog's critique of the counterculture achieves its most complete form, for Don Lope de Aguirre can be fruitfully read as the film's hippie stand-in (he conveniently even sports long hair). It is Aguirre, conquistador, and ex officio, agent of civilization, who descends into the Jungle (and into madness), stripping away the last vestigial remnants of his own civilized veneer in his pursuit of the Impossible Dream of El Dorado. What emerges is, in a sense, the Natural Man. But the Natural Man is not a man at peace and harmony with other men and nature, but a man reduced to a state of madness and endless, unquenchable desire. In Aguirre, the great lie of the Enlightenment and counterculture is made manifest: divorced from any civilized impulse, he is only a savage, vicious, ruthless and subject only to his own impulses and wishes. Instead of Rousseau's Noble Savage, the Natural Man stands revealed as nothing more (or less) than Hobbes' Leviathan.

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Apparently, I'm a Real Weirdo... [Jun. 7th, 2007|07:49 pm]
So, laeth_maclaurie, your LiveJournal reveals...

You are... 0% unique and 4% herdlike (partly because you, like everyone else, enjoy poetry). When it comes to friends you are normal. In terms of the way you relate to people, you are wary of trusting strangers. Your writing style (based on a recent public entry) is intellectual.

Your overall weirdness is: 54

(The average level of weirdness is: 27.
You are weirder than 92% of other LJers.)

Find out what your weirdness level is!

I guess nothing demonstrates just how much I buck the trends as posting quizzes to my LJ...
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At the Gates - The Red in the Sky is Ours [May. 28th, 2007|04:53 am]

Within the history of any artistic genre or movement it is often possible to discern a discreet and predictable developmental pattern.  Its initial emergence is murky and indistinct, with multiple artists groping awkwardly around the edges of what it will later become.  Soon, the inconsistent fumbling gives way to a second stage in which new artists emerge to consolidate and codify, emphasizing the essential and discarding the dead weight the genre founders had carried over from the previous generation.  Finally, yet more artists arrive to build upon the now settled foundation, expanding upon it and ushering in a ‘golden age.’

In death metal these three eras correspond roughly to the years 1983-1986, 1987-1989 and 1990-1993, respectively.  It was during the last of these periods that the overwhelming majority of death metal’s greatest albums were released.  Bands like Deicide, Atheist, Incantation, Amorphis Demilich, Fleshcrawl, Dismember and Necrophobic emerged to push the genre to new heights, but perhaps no band pushed the limits further or faster than Sweden’s At the Gates did with The Red in the Sky is Ours.

At the Gates are often considered the ‘fathers’ of melodic death metal, and while the term itself may be of doubtful utility as a genre tag, it certainly provides a reasonable starting point for understanding The Red in the Sky is Ours.  While its basic approach to instrumentation clearly marks it as a death metal album, there is an underlying awareness of the emerging black metal movement in the fluid tremolo picked melodies (sometimes consonant, sometime dissonant, sometimes built just from the fragments of the chromatic scale - always with the chill of the Void in their depths) that form that compositional backbone and chief vessel for meaning in these songs.

Often these melodies are accompanied or embellished with strings.  In fact, The Red in the Sky is Ours frequently resembles nothing so much as string concerto emerging from the depths of the inferno.  Here, the guitars evoke the demonic, lightning-fingered cadenzas of Paganini (the title track), there a melancholic adagio for cello and double bass (“City of Screaming Statues”).  At other times, the melodic lines are juxtaposed disconcertingly with dissonant counterpoint (“Through Gardens of Grief”), bringing to the mind to dystopian visions of the darkest of Modernist nightmares.

Technically, The Red in the Sky is breathtaking.  While it doesn’t aspire to the nth degree musicianship of, say, Cynic, the instrumentation is considerably more complex than one would find even among many technically accomplished bands like Deicide or Morbid Angel (and certainly far more advanced than the viscerally primitive bludgeoning of the then preeminent Stockholm scene).

But what really catches the ear is the vast array of techniques at the band’s disposal and the calculated precision of their employment.  The Red in the Sky is Ours makes use of everything from keyless modalism to polyphony to radical dissonance to elements of serialism and set theory to construct, enhance and complement (and sometimes deconstruct) its central melodies.  The Red in the Sky is Ours may very well be the most compositionally aware album in death metal history.  Still, none of these techniques are applied indiscriminately, and in their seamless incorporation into the broader context of song we are made more aware of the central experience of the whole of the music itself, rather than experiencing it as a series of constituent parts.

For this reason, The Red in the Sky is Ours distinguishes itself not just in the epic breadth of its vision or the diversity and innovative vigor of its technical execution, but in the totalizing holism and lucidity that mark it a master work among master works.  The mastery of tactical detail is matched and more than matched by a strategic mastery of metastructure in which each brilliant detail is rendered more vivid and powerful through its placement in the overarching narrative of song.  Similarly, each song is enhanced by its placement within the larger context of the album.

Equally impressive is the seeming effortlessness of the whole project.  For all the studied precision of its instrumentation, The Red in the Sky is Ours exudes the sort of intuitive genius that can neither be taught nor achieved through rote practice.  The Germans call it Fingerspitzengefühl – the ‘finger sense.’  It’s a term that strikes exactly the right chord, evoking both the sheer magic the album conjures, and the deft and nearly undetectable touch of the band’s skillful manipulation of the listener.

Despite the labyrinthine complexity of much of the music, there is very little of the jarring discontinuity the characterized the work of many of band’s contemporaries.  Where artists like Deicide and Atheist built tension through abrupt rhythmic dislocation, At the Gates achieves the same goal through subtler manipulations of dynamics, texture, harmonic shading and melodic development.  As a result, The Red in the Sky is Ours retains a certain grace and fluidity of movement that aestheticizes the violence, rage and alienation at its core without diminishing or obscuring them.

It was perhaps inevitable that excellence of this magnitude would prove unsustainable, at least in the strike-while-the-iron-is-hot world of modern recording.  While At the Gates would go on to release three more albums, none even remotely approached the rapturous levels reached with The Red in the Sky is Ours.  However, the greatness of this album is such that even subsequent mediocrity can in no way dim the glory of a band that once stood at the very pinnacle of their artform.

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Fragments and Aphorisms [May. 21st, 2007|06:05 pm]
Dirge before the dawn

Whence the death of music?
Where is the poet’s pen
in a world where golden dreams
still the silver tongues of men?

The beauty and the laughter
Are lost behind the rage
For who can utter soft words
Unto an Iron Age?

Our Fearless Leader

Today a monkey danced across my screen
In the Land of the Retarded, the Average Man is king!

The Mirror Never Lies

I once fancied myself a suffering Poet
Drowning in a Sea of Guilt
But the mirror said:
"You're just a kid, adrift in Sea of Filth"

I once fancied myself a Warrior
In a battle I could never win
But the mirror said:
"Lose some weight, you're not quite in fighting trim!"

I once fancied myself a Leader
Misunderstood by his own
But the mirror said:
"You're a fucking slob, sitting there alone."

I once fancied myself a Destroyer
Hammer in my left hand and a sword clutched in my right
But the mirror said:
"You've got a hammer, today I guess you're right!"
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Moral Democracy Fails to Enforce Morality [May. 14th, 2007|06:30 pm]
Olympic Bomber Taunts Victims From Prison

Once again, the internally incongruous nature of democracy deconstructs itself. Democratic government, in upholding a flawed ideal of liberty and justice, cannot enforce meaningful respect for either liberty or justice. How predictable.

In related news:

Supermax has a capacity of 490 and holds some of the nation's most infamous inmates, including Unabomber Theodore Kaczyinski and September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.
Sounds like the coolest neighborhood in America, to me. I bet you can even get Andy Griffith re-runs there...
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The Pattern Repeats [Apr. 18th, 2007|03:23 pm]
You know, after almost every school massacre, I find myself a couple of days into the coverage realizing that the only sympathetic figure in the whole fucking mess is the shooter.  Two days after his Blacksburg rampage, the picture that is emerging of Seung Cho is that of a troubled young man, abandoned by society and abused by his fellows.  The picture that emerges of the victims is that of cowards huddling in fear.  Not one person in the entire building thought to take advantage of their numbers and rush Cho (a situation that has ended many such events before the death tolls could mount to catastrophic proportions).  The 'victims' behaved like craven dogs, and I'm supposed to feel sorry because they were shot down like dogs?  I don't think so.  If they'd been worthy of life, they'd have at least tried to do something to stop the killer.  But they didn't, and they weren't.  The contrast between the worthless pansies at VA Tech and, say, the heroes who saved hundreds and possibly thousands of other lives by deliberately sacrificing themselves on United Flight 93 is striking.  If the best my generation can do is hide under desks and wait for some skinny Asian kid to methodically execute them, then this nation is doomed.  We are a broken race of broken people, and if this is our measure, then I hope the terrorists win, because we simply do not deserve to continue to exist as a people.  Let the mantle pass to some other, more worthy people, because we are not fit to bear it.
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