Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Hallow's Eve, motherfucker!
Need something scary?
How 'bout Krzysztof Penderecki and Wendy Carlos (among others) IN THE SAME PLACE, AT THE SAME TIME, scoring one of the most genuinely scary movies EVER, for none other than Mr. Stanley KUBRICK???
1) Main Title - Wendy Carlos
2) Rocky Mountains - Wendy Carlos
3) Lontano - Gyorgy Ligeti
4) Music For Strings, Percussion, and Celesta - Bela Bartok
5) Utrenja - Krzysztof Penderecki
6) The Awakening of Jacob - Krzysztof Penderecki
7) De Natura Sonoris - Krzysztof Penderecki
8) Home - Henry Hall & Gleneagles Hotel Band
Below: Carlos (left), Penderecki (right)
(Read Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE.)
THIS WEEK'S LESSON: HOW NOT TO NAME YOUR DEATH METAL BAND
Today we learn by "reverse example", i.e. making good decisions about naming your death metal band based on bad decisions other bands have made in the past. A really bad name will absolutely destroy the momentum of your band, repelling prospective fans rather than drawing them in. No one wants that.
So this post might be a little bit of a "downer", as we slog our way through 20 bottom-feeders on the great death-metal-band-name food chain. But fear not, Professor Cobras has GREAT THINGS planned for Part 4 AND Part 5. To quote Ahh-nold in Commando, "STICK AROUND".
SUB-CATEGORY A: "INTROSPECTIVE" DEATH METAL BAND NAMES
Sorry, DECEMBER FLOWER, but being from Germany won't get you a free pass this time. The word "flower" (along with other reprehensible terms like "butterfly", "bunny rabbit", and "rainbow" -- Unless you're RAINBOW) has no place in a metal band's name, and months and seasons are off limits as well. No "February", no "Autumn", no "Springtime". The exceptions, of course, being "Winter" and "November" (and "November" is only okay if you're the obscure Canadian all-girl death metal band NOVEMBER GRIEF... Which you're not).
Although they advertise themselves as "Czech Absurd Grind Machinery", I will not go anywhere near BIG YELLOW DAY, solely based on their terrible name. What are you guys, an R.E.M. cover band? This is awful. Shape up or ship the fuck out.
Luckily, CLEARING AUTUMN SKIES broke up in 2003. I say "luckily" because they were from San Jose, California (only 45 minutes away from me), and if they were still around I might be tempted to go on a road trip just to track them down an punch them all in the face. "SEASONS" are OFF LIMITS. Your band name sounds like the title of a Jim Croce song.
Oh, look! WHISPERING TEARS are from Paaaris! They must be so sensitive and intelligent! Merci for gracing us all with your "Dark Emotion Death Metal".
Somebody needs to smack these sissies upside the head with a stale baguette. Your "emotion" has no place in MY death metal. Tres lame.
Granted, CANDLE SERENADE ("the first black metal band in all of Northern Portugal!") has an awful fucking name. But I will admit to being quite charmed by that band photo down there. They've really captured a whole "deer in the headlights" aspect of BM band photography that I've never really seen before. They're so surprised at having their picture taken. Also, they are "vampires".
SUB-CATEGORY B: JUST PLAIN STUPID DEATH METAL BAND NAMES (NOT EVEN GOOD STUPID)
Fine line here, guys. Pay attention.
Germany's ABSTINENZ would like us to believe that their inability to get laid is THEIR CHOICE. I ain't buyin' it.
"How To Fail At Death Metal" by BAD TO THE BONE, Modena, Italy:
1) Be a juggalo.
2) Wear Adidas track suits.
3) Stick your thumb out when throwing up the horns, so that your hand gesture means "I love you" rather than "Satan".
4) Hold band practice in the basement of the local Rec Center.
5) Let your uncle (second from right) play bass.
6) Name your band after a George Thorogood song.
Okay, ZOMBIE LOLOCAUST, I get it. You're only in it for the "lulz". But played out internet references have no place in death metal whatsoever. Might as well just call your band "Morbid Keyboard Cat" or stick one of ":)" these in there.
PS Zombie Lolocaust have a credited fourth member in their band, who acts solely as a lyricist. An obvious necessity, when you have song titles like "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream... Yer Mum's A Slut" and "Kick My Junk".
Possibly acceptable, BRITNEY, had your band name been a reference to Britny Fox. But the spelling implies that you are referring to a different "Britney". I don't even want to speculate on which one it might be.
Not cool, even if you're from Switzerland AND there's a girl in your band.
Wait just a minute. CRIMINAL JAMMAGE? From IRELAND? DEATH METAL? CURRENTLY ACTIVE?
There's some major cognitive dissonance going on here, possibly even a tear in the very fabric of the space-time continuum. Because last I checked, "Criminal Jammage" is a name far better suited for some sort of terrible funk/hip hop fusion project out of Fresno in the mid 90's. My mind is blown.
Okay, so "DEPRESSED MODE" was a joke me and the Bros had in high school, a play on "Depeche Mode" that we'd use to make fun of the goth kids. And it wasn't even that funny. And humor has no place in "melodic doom metal" anyways. Why? Finland can't be that far behind the rest of the world, culturally speaking. Can they?
If you're going to use a bad high school joke, may I suggest "TACO HELL"? At least it sounds kind of metal.
BAD ESL NAMES:
Almost always, the inability to speak English is a benefit for dudes naming their metal band (more on this next week). You get some great phrases out of the situation, which are far beyond the mental grasp AND creative faculties of the average native English speaker. But some guys just miss the mark completely. Two examples of this rare occurence are shown below:
Take, for instance, Brazil's SAUNTER. The dictionary definition of "saunter" is "a careless leisurely gait", and for me, at least, it conjures images of extended pinkies, Victorian tea parties, and effeminate old men wearing monocles.
Tea Party Attendant 1: "Oh my! What a lovely lace doily! By any chance did you catch the heavy metal concert in which Saunter performed last evening?"
Tea Party Attendant 2: "Heavens yes! Never have I witnessed such a clever combination of grinding blasts and br00tal fucking slamz!"
Why are you doing this to me, Italy? First Bad To The Bone and now UNCORK? Fucking UN - CORK, like a bottle of champagne? Really?
SUB-CATEGORY C (THE WORST OF ALL): "CUTE" DEATH METAL BAND NAMES
At least North Carolina's PANDA PARTY had the common decency to change their name (they are now "Fed To The Forest"). But I wonder if Panda Brandon, Panda Alan, Panda Mitchell, Panda Chase, and
Panda Niarfe still perform under their former stage names? Gee, I hope so.
Tolkien references are neither uncommon nor unwelcome in the world of metal. But HOBBITS OF THE SHIRE (above), from Austin, Texas have taken it too far. Hairy toes or no, hobbits just AREN'T METAL. Orcs? Yes. Mordor? Yes. Just not hobbits.
I've got to at least give these guys credit for writing a song called "Panteradactyl", though.
Guess what "P.L.F." stands for. Punctured Lung Fuckers? Pissing Liquid Faeces? Psychotic Lacerated Fibrosis? Portable Latrine Factory? No, no, no, and no.
PRETTY LITTLE FLOWER? Yes.
The "fantasy" element is a double-edged sword in death metal. Wizards and unicorns and elves and shit are a risky gamble, but can pay off if referenced with the right amounts of both humor and sarcasm. But Toronto's ENCHANTED FAERIES swung and missed.
BUBBLES is from New Jersey. Which is even more head-scratchingly absurd than Manowar's Hail To England. Is New Jersey the "new" Italy, in regards to bad band names? Stay tuned...
Much like their fellow countrymen December Flower, CUTE RAGE receives no quarter based on the fact that they're German. I don't care where you're from, "cute" is NOT allowed in death metal. A MAJOR "no-no". Or a major "nein-nein", depending on linguistic preference.
Closing things out today is Washington state's SUPER HAPPY STORY TIME LAND.
BONUS! UNUSED DEATH METAL BAND NAME OF THE WEEK:
Tune in next week for 20 more bands who have raised the act of naming a death metal group from mere science to high art...
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Since we're on the subjects of both immortality (see last post) and hip hop (see second to last post), what better time to feature one of the meanest motherfuckers in the game, Mr. Immortal Technique?
While his subject matter might be a bit outdated on this recording (it was released in the midst of the Bush Administration, and 75% of the rhymes are aimed at either George, his boy Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, or Fox News), you really can't deny the sheer power and lyrical artistry that I.T. puts forth, proving that he is both one of the most talented AND one of the angriest rappers out there. Like I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of rap, but this album just fucking KILLS, and can serve equally well as either a booty-shaking party accessory or a chin-stroking meditation on philosophy, politics, race, and violence. This is what It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back sounds like 15 years later, with all the same malice, hard beats, and unexpected insight -- only cranked up to 11, stuffed full of Peruvian coke, and armed with two machetes and an AK.
By far the best song on Revolutionary Vol. 2, "Peruvian Cocaine":
Immortal Tech on Myspace
Above: Another one bites the dust... And prepares to un-bite it somewhere in the unforeseeable future.
Left: Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, unofficial poster boy for the American Cryonics Society.
We are all aware, to some extent, of the emerging scientific field of cryogenics. From the cryopreserved-head jokes on Futurama to the premises of films like Alien, Demolition Man, and Woody Allen's Sleeper to the urban legends about Walt Disney (false) and Ted Williams (true), the idea of freezing tissue and/or bodies for future use and/or resurrection is a fantastic one, albeit a lot closer to science fact than you probably think.
Cryogenics (and its more specific cousins cryobiology and cryonics) is a field that came to being around the mid 60's, and was brought into the public eye with the incorporation of the American Cryonics Society in 1985. The Society actually began in 1969 in San Francisco as the Bay Area Cryonics Society (or BACS), but almost their entire body of work has been ascribed to the ACS moniker. The ACS functions based on the idea that all diseases -- up to and including death -- will someday be curable, and that humans are able to obtain immortality by being scientifically frozen until the cures make themselves apparent. Re-animation, in their eyes, is no longer the stuff of science fiction and horror films, but an actual, feasible practice, that modern science will have the means to create within 50-200 years (by most hypotheses).
But I'm getting a-head of myself (ZING!). Let us first differentiate between the concepts of "cryogenics", "cryobiology", and "cryonics". From Wikipedia: "In physics, cryogenics is the study of the production of very low temperature (below −150 °C, −238 °F or 123 K) and the behavior of materials at those temperatures." Got that? Now: "Cryobiology is the branch of biology that studies the effects of low temperatures on living things." And lastly: "Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals that can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine until resuscitation may be possible in the future. Currently, human cryopreservation is not reversible, which means that it is not currently possible to bring people out of cryopreservation alive."
Today we're going to talk CRYONICS. Human cryopreservation, resurrection, and re-animation. The REAL DEAL.
Left: A cryogenic chamber (not actually meant for human bodies).
The American Cryonics Society can be broken down into a variety of smaller societies and groups, each of which has their own distinct outlook and code of ethics. You can check out the official ACS website here and their Wikipedia page here. Closely tied to the ACS are both Michigan's Immortalist Society (whose creation actually predates the ACS) and the Immortality Institute (their mission statement: "to conquer the blight of involuntary death"), as well as several incorporated cryonic facilities, such as Florida's Suspended Animation, Southern California's now-defunct CryoSpan, and Trans Time, located right here in my beloved Bay Area. The basic idea behind the ACS and most of these facilities is to provide their clients (who, upon being frozen, are referred to as "patients") with the gift of immortality for a one-time-only price, as their upkeep is paid for via donations, member fees, and various tax exemptions. Patients are frozen with liquid nitrogen, drained of blood, and stored in their own cryogenic cylinder indefinitely, all for the price of $90,000 to $150,000 (according to whatitcosts.com). Prices are based on a sliding scale, which start with just freezing your decapitated head on the low end and increase up to freezing your entire body on the high end.
But probably the best-known subdivision of the ACS is the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, located in Scottsdale, Arizona. About half of the 150 cryonic "patients" in the world are stored at Alcor's facility (there are another 1,000 people with "pre-need arrangements"), with others stored at the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, KrioRus in Russia (we'll get to that later), and at least one guy in a shed in Colorado (another one we'll get to a little later). Alcor (website here, Wiki here) began as the Alcor Society for Solid State Hypothermia in 1972 and is named after a star located in Ursa Major. Many of the 90 or so freeze-dried folks stored at Alcor are "neuropatients" (i.e. just heads), and Alcor was also intrumental in devising an ice-free method of brain storage known as neurovitrification.
But all is not well at Alcor. An anonymous whistleblower claims that the head of baseball star Ted Williams, cryogenically frozen separate from his torso against his wishes (the request for cryopreservation came from Williams' son), is being stored improperly, resulting in cracking and severe damage to brain tissue. Fuck.
Check it out:
Others have even gone so far as to accuse Alcor of supporting a cult, known widely as 'Alcorians'. While very little evidence of their existence has presented itself on the internet or elsewhere, I invite you to read this public email that I found while researching the subject: "Atlanta Area Alcorians Stand United Against Death". I don't really know what to make of it. Scam? Probably.
Controversy has surrounded Alcor on a couple other occasions as well. In 1994, the Riverside county coroner ruled that Alcor client Dora Kent (Alcor board member Saul Kent's mother) was murdered with barbiturates before her head was removed for neuropreservation by the company's staff. In 1992, another Alcor whistleblower turned taped conversations over to the police, which revealed that an Alcor employee deliberately hastened the death of a terminally ill AIDS patient with an injection of Metubine, a paralytic drug. Charges were never filed in either case. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it...
Shit, Penn and Teller debunked the whole "cryonics" thing pretty severely, too. Harsh.
Below: The basic idea.
Short ABC News piece on The American Cryonics Society/Cryonics Institute:
Special mention should also be given to Russia's KrioRus facility (shown above, website here, Wiki here), the first ever cryonic facility located outside the United States. Although KrioRus only houses a dozen patients (some heads, some bodies), they are an excellent alternative for the bargain-hunting cryopreservationist, as their sliding scale runs from only $10,000 to $30,000. Read a lengthy breakdown on KrioRus and cryonics in general (written by "Valeija Pride, KrioRus Committee Member, Fantasy Writer, Transhumanist, and Rock Star") here.
Come tour KrioRus with us!
- If it's cheaper to just freeze your head, and the whole process works under the assumption that you will eventually be cloned from cell tissue, do you think that maybe Alcor would freeze just, like, one of my fingernails on the off chance that that would work, too? For maybe 20 bucks or so? I wouldn't need my own tank or anything. Just let me piggyback with Ted Williams.
- Isn't it kind of obvious that all of these cryonic facilities will be destroyed in some sort of nuclear war or cataclysmic event before the actual defrost cycle begins, anyways? Better off spending that hundred thou on a big-ass sendoff party, with midget waiters and cocaine for all, Freddie Mercury style. Or better yet, fund an underpriviledged blogger's dream of BLOWING UP THE MOON. firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm waiting.
- Do you REALLY want to wake up in the far future? Did you even SEE Encino Man?
Home cryonics: The future of the industry? Ckeck out the strange story of Trygve Bauge, a Norwegian immigrant who set up shop in Nederland, Colorado.
So who's to say whether cryonics is a feasible idea or not? The debunkers are many, but you just can't deny a certain romantic, sci-fi element to the whole topic. Maybe none of these patients will ever get defrosted. Maybe ALL of them will. Maybe one of them gets defrosted, walks outside, and immediately gets hit by a bus. WHO'S LAUGHING NOW, RICH BOY?!!
Not into the whole "freezing" thing? Maybe you should look into some Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (S.E.N.S.). Or just die already. I don't care.
You can also read a great article about one man's very personal experience with Alcor here. That man is the always thought-provoking Sam McPheeters (formerly of Born Against), and the post comes from his award-winning blog, The Loom of Ruin.