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Friday, March 17, 2006
TODAY'S AUDIO BLOG
or, SUCH A PARCEL OF ROGUES IN A NATION
Here is the piece heard on KOPT AM 1600 this (Friday) morning.
It's a 1.4 meg download. The (hilarious) piece runs exactly 2:59.
As a Welshman with Scotch/Irish blood, I thought I'd celebrate St. Paddy's day with a traditional song. It's Scottish, but recall that Scotland was originally a colony of Ireland. They, like Ireland, lost their independence to the British crown, and haven't been entirely grateful for the honor.
George I, a German, and his supporters shoved aside the rightful Scottish heir to the British throne in a "disputed election." The Scottish poet Robert Burns immortalized the theft in 1791, although the music dates from at least 1752. Funny how the passage of two centuries seems to have brought us round full circle with another "King George."
File is MP3, 64 kbs, fake stereo (mono)
Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):
The music itself is from the album "Parcel of Rogues" by Steeleye Span (1973, Chrysalis Records).
Happy St. Patrick's Day.
FAREWEEL to a' our Scottish fame,Courage.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
THIS GENERATION OF SERPENTS
or, WHERE HAVE ALL THE COJONES GONE, LONG TIME PASSING?
First things first. Yesterday's blog was an homage to (or a mild parody of) the works of one Howard Phillips Lovecraft (as he's known in literature, "H.P. Lovecraft," and to fandom, "HPL"), mainstay of WEIRD TALES, and father of the Cthulhu Mythos, which includes the fictional book the Necronomicon, which was such a potent literary forgery that several publishing houses have printed up bogus copies. I have one from a certain 'reputable' American paperback publisher, which is, I am told on good authority, the spurious "fourth" book of Cornelius Agrippa, a medieval alchemist.
Lovecraft references in the story include Frank Belknap Long, and August Derleth, both of whom wrote mythos stories; Margaret Brundage, whose scantily-clad maidens in B&D situations (i.e. chained to pillars, etc.) were the staple of many WEIRD TALES covers, and responsible for much of the magazine's popularity. Miskatonic University is located in the equally fictional Arkham, Massachusetts -- whose Lovecraft-invented "Arkham Asylum" was later stolen by Batman comics, and figures prominently in the many Warner Brothers "Batman" cartoons of the last decade or so. This is akin to the wholesale theft of Superman's "Fortress of Solitude" from Doc Savage's North Pole retreat of the same name. Both Batman and Superman are, of course, mainstays of D.C. Comics.
"The Mouskateric College of Dark Arts" is my own invention, but, I am told, may well be a sister school to Hogwart's School in England. Ed Waldo is a mysterious character of my own hallucination who tends to show up randomly in my writings. And, the carniverous daffodils are, again, my own invention ... I hope.
Abdul Alhazred, the "Mad Arab" is Lovecraft's extremely culturally insensitive creation, and was the author of the Necronomicon, whose only known copy is kept under lock and key at Miskatonic University:
"Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know, but we recognised it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia. All too well did we trace the sinister lineaments described by the old Arab daemonologist; lineaments, he wrote, drawn from some obscure supernatural manifestation of the souls of those who vexed and gnawed at the dead." (from "The Hound")It was actually a "forbidden Latin translation" by one Olaus Wormius that was housed at good ol' Miskatonic U.:
"... and worst of all, the unmentionable Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, in Olaus Wormius' forbidden Latin translation; a book which I had never seen, but of which I had heard monstrous things whispered." ("The Festival,")The Eugene City Council is also a work of fiction, and any resemblance to Eugene City Councils either living or dead is wholly coincidental. Any rebroadcast, retransmission or other use of the words or images in this depiction without the express written consent of the National Football League, and the Baltimore Ravens is strictly prohibited, evermore.
Now, to today's thrilling installment ....
The breathless macho prose erupted last night. Operation Smarmy was launched with simultaneous attacks on several fronts:
U.S., Iraqis Target Insurgents With Operation Swarmer, Biggest Air Assault Since 2003 InvasionOnly a cad would note that the timing of Operation Swarmer exactly coincides with a series of speeches Bush has planned to "explain Iraq to the American people."
No: We learned from Fallujah that these craven murderers aren't above using military operations overseas as tools to accomplish domestic political ends. And US soldiers died needlessly, to protect the alleged "balls" of an usurper demonstrably without any.
Face it, NSA: George is such a pussy that he can't even handle admitting a mistake. That kind of thinking gets people killed, and represents a criminal abrogation of responsibility. There is not any justification for ONE single death by a soldier in the name of political expediency.
Because now this war is utterly confused in the Usurper's mind with his own bloated, bullying ego, and men and women in uniform will now die to defend his arrogant denial of facts in the face of cold, brutal realities.
No: This has the oily palmprints of a "psyops" operation all over its leprous hide. Yesterday, phase I was launched with simultaneous strikes by Alberto Gonzales and the FCC. Heavy bombardment of easy targets commenced at a press conference with Gonzales bringing forth Prosecutor Fitzgerald, and, in front of the navy blue John Ashcroft Memorial Breast Suppression Curtain at the Justice Department, with a Justice Department seal hanging to the left of the oddly inappropriate Department of Homeland Sekurity Shield (more prominent against the dark design), Gonzales announced the breakup of an international Kiddie Porn Ring. 27 persons had been arrested in several countries.
And, the FCC levied millions of dollars in "indecency" fines against scores of CBS affiliate stations for "indecently" broadcasting an episode of a cop show that had been the subject of massive, targeted "complaint" campaigns by Religious Right astroturf TV censorship groups.
Make no mistake, the cultural war is on.
We need to start with the Gonzales dog and pony show.
Kiddie porn is something that no rational person can be in favor of. Let's get that straight right up front. It's wrong. Period. But, to the sort of mind that sets up "in your face" military operations, getting troops killed to play John Wayne, do we really believe that Kiddie Porn is the grave blight that requires instantaneous national attention? In the decade prior to the advent of the internet, there were years in which less than a dozen "kiddie porn" busts made, with one memorable year in which ALL the busts were made by one Postal Inspector "stinging" another, who was, in turn, "stinging" the other. Like "partial birth abortion" it is a self-serving battle against a threat which is more theoretical than actual.
It is a P.R. stunt, in other words. If we're all against Child Pornography, then Alberto "The Torturer" Gonzales can reap the warm fuzzies as he announces himself as the Defender of Children from the evil exploiters thereof.
And, you will note, all the prose in every story is directly from the breathless legal pens of the Justice Department's P.R. office. At best, the obligatory legalistic nada quote from the attorney of one of the defendants is added for "balance," of course, but the story is of, by and for Alberto. Or, more accurately, his handlers. The Public relations blitzkrieg rolled across the media border at 0300 Zulu.
Child pornography is the new snuff film. Neither has ever been in real evidence, save in the imaginations of those who inevitably end up using these straw men. Twenty seven persons with kiddie porn on their computers, and, allegedly, at least one kiddie pornographer in an international sting ain't exactly Al Qaeda. But, to have watched the media orgy of the last decade over kiddie porn would be to swear that there was a child pornographer on every block, and a child molester in every chatroom on the "internets."
Just as for a decade, in the Seventies, "snuff films" were constantly in the news -- and provably were nothing more than an urban legend. But -- and here's the but -- the myth of the snuff film was extremely beneficial to all sorts of demagoguery. The news hounds and the political whores marched in the lock-step of self interest. Stories on snuff films sold magazines (the first recorded instance of a "snuff film" reference appeared in an interview in ADAM magazine, and was subsequently turned into urban myth by a TIME magazine reporter, who later confessed that he'd made it up).
So, the Kiddie Porn blitz began it.
And, there was good news in the Justice Department's attempt to stomp wholesale through Google's searches. The purported reason was to resurrect the overturned "Communications Decency Act" that comprised a couple of paragraphs in the 128-page overhaul of the 1934 telecommunications act, passed in 1996.
I was watching CSPAN when it happened, as the Republican leadership of the house demanded an up or down vote (although they hadn't come up with the catchphrase yet) early in the morning, when the final, conference version had only been dropped off at Congressional offices late the night before. The Democrats had pled for a day to read it, but this was not allowed, and the act was passed, including the offending "Communications Decency Act" fathered by Democrat (?, Nebr.) James Exxon, and stripped from the house version by Oregon's then-congressman Ron Wyden (in collaboration with the Republican representative from Microsoft, the Redmond, Wash. fellow whose name escapes me) by a three-digit to low two-digit vote. Three-hundred and something to eleven, I recall.
Wyden then got to the Senate, who ALSO stripped Exxon's censorship provision from the act, and Exxon was named to the House Senate Conference Committee, where he stuck it BACK in. The congress slipped it in.
The courts struck it down.
In a landmark 1997 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Internet is a unique medium entitled to the highest protection under the free speech protections of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This gives the Internet same free speech protection as print. The Internet is the first electronic media to achieve this because of low barriers to access, abundance, many speakers, no gatekeepers.But, there was a small loophole, and it had to do with filtering technology, and that's the loophole that Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department is attempting to exploit, back at the Philadelphia court, to "prove" that filtering technology doesn't work, and, therefore, the CDA ought to be reinstated.
The attacks seemed clearly coordinated, with the hideous maraschino cherry of having Patrick Fitzgerald (he of the Scooter Libby Indictments and the Outing of Valerie Plame investigation) present to co-opt any symbolism of Fitzgerald as being NOT an administration stooge.
And the air cavalry attacks, Vietnam-style, and in a most highly cinematic manner in Iraq, as the happy news releases -- directly from the Pentagon's Public Relations press releases -- floweth over as George the Usurper "campaigns" with a pre-planned "series of speeches" on Iraq.
Couldn't have anything to do with Bush's 33%-37% (low/high) approval ratings in all national polls, could it?
How do you explain to the mother of a dead soldier that her boy died to kick off a P.R. campaign?
Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which has shielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilant sailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinking whilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come - but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.Courage.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESShart williams
or, BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH
The blood-drenched daffodils at Miskatonic University are in bloom, finally. It has been a strange winter, with peculiar extremes of ice and fire. For a long time, we had despaired of ever seeing our own mutant species poke gory flowers above the sterile white of the snow -- here in this, the only place on Earth that they will grow. They are, to us, the final harbinger and proof of incipient spring.
In the bell of one flower, I could see some large bug -- perhaps a giant death's head moth or a tarantula -- struggling as the stem swayed to and fro, rhythmically, a silent pendulum of entomological doom.
Here at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Psychosis, I had just been finishing a study on brain changes brought on by reading the disturbing works of Abdul Alhazred, and, as I was tending the Belknap Long high-speed MRI, I admired the daffodils poking their grisly heads above the snow.
That much I recall clearly.
These sessions go late into the night, and, to filter out the hideous screams, I like to listen to talk radio, with my Derleth Podcast-receiver -- an amazing little device that functions like a radio version of a TIVO.
This morning, as the sinister and foreboding dawn's feeble rays cast their eldritch and sinister highlights on the crimson-stained daffodils, I found a morning radio program emanating from Eugene, Oregon, whence our sister institution -- the Mouskateric College of Dark Arts -- parallels our MRI experiements, monitoring us via T-1 lines.
I paid keen attention to the program as the blood-curdling screams of "Yog-Sothoth!" began, as they always do (never underestimate the value of a well-written release form, nor what student volunteers will do for minimum wage), and I was able to separate myself from the inevitable horror that invariably unfolds whenever the last, and most sinister chapter of the Necronomicon is finally translated, by prosaic alchemy from the digitized manuscript page into the perceptual mechanisms of the student's brain.
His name was Ed Waldo, a big, strapping kid, with certain pretensions at a career in writing. A sample short-story is in his case file, which I have read: pulp trash, essentially, entitled "The Lurker at My Dryer." Anyone who writes so atrociously arguably deserved the fate that courted Waldo, as has happened to countless predecessors here at the Miskatonic campus over the years. Certainly I was infused with no presentiment of guilt.
Still, I was mildly stunned at the matching between my work and the spontaneous symptomatology exhibited via the radio program: Eugene, Oregon has found a way to exhibit all of the precursor symptoms of Brundage's Syndrome (as we have termed the inevitable psychotic breakdown of the higher mental faculties in readers of the Mad Arab's necromantic tome), significantly, WITHOUT the necessity of READING the manuscript.
Certainly, I recognized the incipient signs as I turned the volume knob ever higher, in parallel with the student Waldo's noisome paroxysms. He had, as would later be proven correct by the MRI records transposed against the video recordings, come to the invocation of He That Shall Not Be Named. I was reminded of Waldo's feeble attempt at a horror story.
However, there was one rather clever bit in Waldo's story, as I recall. Attempting a parody of a certain all-but-forgotten writer of weird tales, he was using that arcane and cramped prose density of the time, and had half-constructed a story about a man who made the mistake of trying to, finally, understand why an even number of dirty socks inevitably comes out of the clothes dryer as an odd number of clean socks. But the story swayed to and fro, arrhythmically, a syncopated pendulum of etymological doom.
I had had great hopes that Waldo would be able to finally overmaster the Necronomicon's hideous prose, without descending into that inevitable, final incurable madness that has so far stymied our best efforts to unlock the secrets of that most dangerous of all books.
Thank a grim and despairing providence that the only copy known to exist is kept under lock and key here at the Institute along with its unique digital facsimile. Were some unscrupulous publisher, talk show host or political party to disseminate Alhazred's writings, civilization would surely descend into chaos and mordant insanity.
For long hours, Waldo read, and the MRI scans showed none of the anomalies that have thus far attended the reading of the final chapters, and then, beginning at approximately 13:52 UT, the telltale images of violent and chaotic cerebral activity began.
There was a brief pause. And a hushed silence, But soon the screaming began, as always, a low, ululating moaning, rising through a scale of ascending psychosis, and I knew that dark symphony all too well.
But learning to tolerate that hideous cacophony of hideous shrieking is not the same as becoming inured to it, and I slipped on my headphones and scanned the unused bandwidth for any talk radio -- because music does not mask the shrieks, only horribly and mockingly amplifies them.
The program on the radio was a long discussion of a parking garage that was going to be built or not built, according to a crucial vote of the Eugene City Council. The issue had riven the normally placid city into warring camps.
There was a health food store that was coming to their town. This was, seemingly, a direct outgrowth of a former council's directive to create a plan to "revitalize" the downtown area. A local developer had approached the Austin, Texas-based chain to locate a store in Eugene.
(It was all rather hard to follow, but, neither driving an automobile myself, nor being dogmatic in matters of diet, I nonetheless found it fascinating, if only in a theoretical sense. Following the torturous twists of the argument was a way of drowning out the sounds emanating from the cubicle whence Waldo was strapped into the reading machine.)
The developer had thence approached the city about "partnering" to build a parking garage, both to handle parking for a new federal courthouse being built and as an adjunct to parking for the health food store.
Some of the callers were outraged that a "corporate box store" would be given preference, and would undoubtedly put local health food stores out of business.
The host had a strong opinion on the matter, but I cannot state with any certainty what it was. But at a certain point, she stated that she had shopped at one of the corporate box health food store's locations, and they had a very good cheese section. Cheese, the audience was reminded, was easily ruined through incorrect handling, and it needed to be fresh.
At some point, it was revealed that the new health food store had not, in fact, approached the city at all, but, rather, that the local developer, who had brokered the original deal to bring in the health food store based on the city's plan to revitalize the (evidently comatose) downtown area, had originally approached the city about going halvsies on a parking structure, and that the health food store was angry that they were being characterized as a rapacious giant holding the city hostage unless the city agreed to partner with them on the parking garage.
At this point, Waldo's MRI images were following strict precedent, and I was forced to conclude that what would follow was inevitable: Another experimental failure and its consequent and unassailable descending arc. The sounds were hideous.
A caller called in to explain that cheese is a dairy product, that dairy farming is an "unsustainable" practice, and polluted the environment and that the health food store should not be allowed to come to the city because it would be carrying dairy products.
A former congressman came on the radio and explained that the parking garage should not be built because it would allow cars to park, and he was against cars. (His strategy, as I took it, was that if one does not build parking for cars, they would die off for want of forage.)
A local journalist and commentator who regularly debated the former congressman claimed that it was all a plot by Zionist elements within the city council.
A city counselor was interviewed, explaining that he was weighing the prose and cons of various cost/benefit schema in a seemingly-arcane variant of Jeremy Bentham's Hedonistic Calculus, and would not reveal whether he had obtained an answer or not.
The mayor explained that the health food store would be "sustainable."
I noted that the word "sustainable" was bandied about as freely as, in earlier eras, "proactive," "co-dependent," "chauvinistic," "empowerment," "win-win," and other obscure buzzwords had come into and gone out of vogue. I presumed that "sustainable" was in vogue, but obtained no indication -- as with its aforementioned predecessor terms in the public debate -- as to what it might mean.
Evidently, however, it was good, unlike "co-dependent," and "chauvinistic," which I had eventually ascertained to be bad.
A city counselor complained that there were much more important issues and priorities than parking garages and that the whole matter was, therefore, unworthy of consideration.
Another counselor complained that the question of whether a health food store should be built had not been subject to open and competitive bidding by our local health food stores and was, therefore, a 'sweetheart' deal concocted, by implication, in non-smoking back rooms by a good old girls' network.
Yet another councilor had recused himself because of an arcane financial interest in the project, either by a relative, or by himself, or his connection to local contractors or the private trash service that services the city.
At an evening session earlier in the week, the hotly debated health food store issue had been commented on by the citizenry late into the night. It seemed odd that, while the anti-war protests, and the rallies against the Patriot Act had been exercises in passionless restraint, the question as to whether the city would partner with a health food store to build a parking garage had inflamed passions to the point of a storming of a Bastille -- which, alas, undoubtedly required the prior existence of a health food store to properly build.
From the sound of the voices on the podcaster, sleepy Eugene, Oregon was on the verge of bringing back the guillotine. (We have a very good example in the Miskatonic Museum of Natural history, but it is not a model that could be induced to work without months of restorative work. It is merely an historical curio).
At this point, the debate became somewhat garbled, as my assistant came on, and attempted to speak to me over Ed Waldo's hideous screaming.
One thing that all seemed to agree upon, however, was that the vote in the city council would be close. But the city swayed to and fro, rhythmically, a pendulum of epistemological mood.
Since I despise so-called "health food," I could not sympathize with any side in the debate. I much prefer to feast on the raw flesh that the Horror Out of Time, the Nameless Dread, and Those-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named provide us, their supplicants.
Waldo was dead now, and we had to flense the caked blood from the walls of the reading room. The results of the MRI scans would then have to be analyzed, and, of course, it would be time for lunch, from our portion of the offering that remained after Waldo's translation via Alhazred's abominable writings. And the leftovers would then be fed to the daffodils.
I turned off my earphones, no longer needing the calm of the Eugene debate over a parking garage to drown out Waldo's final, ghastly screams.
All hail Cthulhu.
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