In The Know: Has Halloween Become Overcommercialized?
Just a reminder that costumes and candy are just a distraction from the true purpose of this holiday: to placate demons and ensure a bountiful harvest. Don't let the "War on Halloween" by our politically correct, secular society distract you from its true, malevolent and occult significance.
Hail Shoggoth, Black Goat of the Woods with the Thousand Young! May we not be devoured by invisible demons in front of screaming onlookers!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
- George the Lockheed-Martin Executive
- Kathleen the road-rageaholic soccer Mom
- Chad the C-student son of a law partner
- And finally, Zoltan the Incredible
In the interests of fairness, it should be noted that Biden has gaffed tragically all over the hemisphere, but this is less of a big deal because really nobody cares what Biden has to say anyway. The idea that the Vice-President is the fourth branch of government is a post-Cheney Republican idea without support in the Constitution. The most righteous moment of the third Presidential debate was when Joe Biden corrected Palin: the job of the Veep is to cast the tie vote in the Senate, replace the president if necessary, and that's all.
That's one thing I'm loving about the Obama campaign: it restores the Vice-Presidential role to its former irrelevance. At first it looked like Obama messed up when he picked a predictable choice like Biden (I was saying it was going to be either Biden or Bill Richardson), but it's all a part of the plan: the executive branch isn't about the Vice, anyway.
I can't wait for election night. I'm looking forward to it like kids look forward to Christmas. With talk that Virginia (!) and Georgia (!) might turn blue, we're looking at one of the biggest landslides in American history. I'm going to Bicentennial Park to celebrate; the end of the Bush years would be like the fireworks scene in "Return of the Jedi."
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I've never seen people as excited about any candidate as they are about my buddy Barry.
Critics dismiss him as style over substance that gets ahead on a silver tongue and a strong speaking voice. Actually, I'm pleased to see Obama restore eloquence to the institution of the American presidency. After years of divisive, nasty politics that revisit old grudges from the sixties that are no longer relevant, here's a candidate that really is a "uniter."
There is something admirable about the campaign, which is one the best-organized I've ever seen. My Dad gave some money to Obama, and received an email that told Papa all the people in his area that did the same, and also gave him a list of people that are on the fence and need to be convinced. Wow!
Obama dominates the debate in such a way that makes what his opponent does seem like a sorry afterthought. After Obama's Kennedy-like speech in Berlin drew the press and world attention, McCain gave a series of speeches in all the small-town Berlins in America. Obama's refusal to knuckle-under to McCoward when he rightfully figured he'd get a drubbing by Hawaiian Abe Lincoln in the debates, and tried worming out with the "I'm busy" excuse. Obama's response was as classy as it was firm: "As President, you'll have to do more than one thing at a time." By standing firm, McChicken's grandstanding scheme backfired. It was great to see that after years of liberals rolling over and giving Republicans everything they want.
Likewise, Obama had an impact on policy and world affairs just as a candidate. His plan for a withdrawl from Iraq after meeting the country's leaders was not only adopted by McCain himself (after a bumbling essay he sent to the New York Times that didn't even define what "victory" would even mean) but was incorporated by the Bush administration.
Change is important because institutions have become outmoded. The 2004 election - based on bad feelings about Vietnam - was outmoded. Obama's change isn't just a slogan, but a sorely needed attitude to a world like a too-tight sweater. There's a visionary element to his character: his Kennedy-like declaration that within ten years America would be energy-independent, and that by 2050 we'd slash carbon emissions by 80%. Likewise, institutions created during the Cold War are no longer functional or necessary, at least in their current form. Obama proposes restructuring NATO with allies.
Likewise, health care needs to be restructured, social security needs to be restructured. The bailout was legislation crafted in panic that wasn't thought through, which gives the "Finance Czar" zero oversight in buying worthless assets.
I don't mean to gloat, but Barry represents a cultural shift in the U.S. after the collective national insanity that was the Bush Presidency. Even at the Republican convention, no one defended him except poor Laura.
When I first got political consciousness in the early 2000s, it was a very scary time. There was talk that strategists like Rove would create a permanent Republican majority, by swaying Latinos. Of course, this master plan broke down when the massive campaign against undocumented workers began - a "dogwhistle" term for expressing anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment. Still, I do remember the 2000 Republican convention where they invited some goofy mariachi on stage, who scared me even more than even Darth Cheney.
Nowadays, the public has wised up. Our current cultural problems - the worst economy since the Great Depression - can't be blamed on the liberals, who weren't in power. They can be layed exclusively at the feet of conservative ideals: free market de-regulation and tax cuts, as well as the use of force and unilateralism to solve problems internationally.
In other words, conservatism failed. Let someone else have a try.
When I was in a Health Class back in high school, we received a brief test where we had to identify all the illegal drugs we had done. We didn’t have to attach our names to it, they just wanted to know how bad the problem was.
A little mischievous gleam entered my eye (one that I could see in quite a few other people in that classroom), and I started writing the most outrageously long list with every chemical substance I could possibly think of. I even wrote a few words that were meaningless but sounded malevolent, like “Chicken McNuggets.”
Being an H.G. Wells fan, I even put down “Recreational Cavorite.”
Apparently, Anti-Drug ads don’t work. Wow, what a shocker, eh? It seems to me they’ve amped up the scare tactics and unintentionally hilarious histrionics in recent times. I suppose they’re trying to get the Hannah Montana generation good and freaked, because mine is absolutely lost to them. In elementary school, we got buttons that said “I’ll Never Do Drugs” and we discovered almost immediately we could make a hilarious souvenir by whiting-out the “Never.”
Protip, guys: if you want something even resembling credibility, quit saying pot is as bad as crack.
I had an epiphany when I realized that anti-drug ads aren’t aimed at anyone that’s ever done drugs, or might do drugs. Rather, the ads are to give straight edgers and teetotalers a smug sense of superiority. They’re feel-good propaganda for the pasty virgins that go on “Teens Encounter Christ” bus trips. Your tax dollars at work!
The histrionic "say no to drugs" nonsense dovetails pretty nicely into a common experience that the children of boomers have: the way our terrorized parents gve us a sense that EVERYTHING CAN KILL YOU. This panicky overprotectiveness is one of the first things most of us remember rejecting when we reached our teens.
There was one anti-drug PSA that actually did look effective. Cannabis didn’t make you kill someone or smack a cute kid with a car or murder your parents. They did, however, make you sit around the house all the time, hang out with loser stoners, eat bugles, and watch "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." They left the part out about heading to the Taco Bell drive-thru at one in the morning.
Now there’s a painfully, tragically true anti-drug ad that I could get behind.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Each episode began with (say it with me now, fans)
“This show is based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer’s purpose is to suggest possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.”
And you always knew, without fail, that the producers’ would jump to the wildest and nuttiest conclusion possible. It’s sort of like IN SEARCH OF… was the networks’ attempt to give equal time, just like they do for Republican and Democratic politicians, to the view of reality that makes the least sense.
“Okay, you’ve heard from sane people and experts. Now it’s OUR turn!”
I laugh of course, because I don’t believe in Bigfoot, or spirit photography or the extraterrestrial origin of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia. I’m a rational, skeptical adult with a functional, built-in bullshit detector. I don’t believe in Bigfoot, but I wish I did.
The thing I loved best about IN SEARCH OF… was the the music: harrowing, bizarre synthesizer notes that lent the show a real aura of high anxiety, often done in a minor key, with buzzes and shrieks, and musical chants similar to the Gregorian. It was like the soundtrack to fear and mystery. It would be wrong to say that the music was just “spooky,” but rather, the music evoked the unknown in an almost religious way. The music lent gravitas and awe to things at the liminality of experience, and compared to its music, the “suspense” music in other documentaries and even TV shows have looked invisible and chintzy in comparison.
There was, intriguingly enough, an IN SEARCH OF... soundtrack LP, one that I've been searching for for my entire life. Listen to a section.
Leonard Nimoy’s voice, as cold and grave as the tomb, worked perfectly with the spooky music. The series began with a pair of popular TV specials hosted by Rod Serling. Only after Serling’s untimely death was Leonard Nimoy hired. Nimoy’s presence, I suspect, was what made the show so popular: six seasons for a documentary show on Network TV is unheard of. This was in the era when Star Trek became the most popular show ever, and there was precious new material coming out; Spock in anything must have been a good consolation prize.
It’s strange to imagine IN SEARCH OF… without Nimoy. It’s like imagining CASABLANCA with Ronald Reagan in the title role. This, I suspect, is why the Sci-Fi channel remake of IN SEARCH OF… didn’t really work: it was too much of a traditional unsolved mystery/paranormal show, not enough creepy music or wild speculation, and no Nimoy. I once heard Edgar Allen Poe describe the genre of horror as a detective story where God is the detective, and that’s what Nimoy’s narrator felt like.
Watch a few complete IN SEARCH OF... episodes. This one's on Dracula:
What gave IN SEARCH OF… its power is that ultimately, it didn’t resolve anything. It refused to give straight and definitive answers, because their conjecture was fundamentally unprovable. Was St. Germáin really immortal? Are Andean carvings proof that the city of Tiahuanaco in Bolivia was “Earth Base One” for space colonists? Who the heck could know, or even prove it? This fundamental ambiguity to the mysteries examined was the spookiest thing about them. At some level, I didn’t WANT any of the mysteries to be solved. The existence of these mysteries themselves was enough to set the brain on fire.
IN SEARCH OF… had a “look” that was pure 1970s. As a result of this, it has much greater potential to frighten than something slick, fake-looking, and recent. Any given recreation on UNSOLVED MYSTERIES (the show that wishes it could be as cool as IN SEARCH OF…) had the same lighting and look as the Dixon Hill holodeck episodes on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.
I can’t emphasize enough how important all these elements are. Alan Lansburg, the producer of the show, wrote a book that dealt with some of the themes of the show. Without the eerie atmosphere to provoke awe and anxiety, with Nimoy’s voice, and without the “seventies” film look, IN SEARCH OF.. just didn’t transfer to another medium. Landsburg’s book was just another paranormal casebook. Landsburg is himself an interesting figure: he created the only successful network TV documentaries, with THE UNDERSEA WORLD OF JACQUES COUSTEAU, IN SEARCH OF…, and THAT’S INCREDIBLE!
Here's another episode on the Tunguska Fireball of 1908:
My favorite episodes of the series were around religious or biblical themes in general, but specifically the episode where Coptic monks in Egypt claimed to find the resting place of John the Baptist hidden in their 1,900 year old monastery. To the best of my knowledge, the claim has been buried and not researched by any other source. Another story in the same vein would be the episode that argued that “Mt. Sinai” was actually at the only peak in the Sinai where there were Egyptian ruins – in other words, a site already sacred. At this mountain, the Egyptians worshipped Hathor, who assumed the form of a golden cow, which accounts for the Golden Calf.
My least favorite episode would be the one about the Grand Duchess Anastasia, because of the disappointment: recent genetic evidence shot down Anna Anderson’s claim to be the surviving Tsarina. It’s hard not to watch this episode with its speculation so utterly and definitively disproven. At some level, enjoying IN SEARCH OF… requires you pretend a little bit, to suspend disbelief.
All told, one thing that is interesting about IN SEARCH OF… is how, on some occasions, they were RIGHT. The very first time I ever heard the idea the Vikings landed in North America was in an episode of IN SEARCH OF… The idea Native Americans made landfall on North America was followed afterwards by an episode about “the Lake Monsters of Canada.” Nowadays, the idea the Vikings were bold enough to reach Newfoundland is now uncontroversial, a part of history. And this is a shift that happened within my lifetime.
IN SEARCH OF… was interesting in that it was a rare audiovisual treatment of traditional paranormal “culture.” For instance, they begin every anecdote about some weird creature with the ultimate “gotcha,” the Ceolocanth. They start with a statement like “If the Coelocanth survived, well then why not (fill in the blank)?”
I don’t miss being a kid. I value my independence and self-reliance. But one thing I do regret is the loss of the sense that there was something weird and miraculous in the world, that utterly fantastic is possible: witchcraft, hauntings, Yeti. A key piece to all of this is how the evidence was absent. IF ONLY someone could search under the left paw of the Egyptian Sphinx as Edgar Cayce predicted, there’d be a secret hidden library of scrolls that proved the existence of Atlantis!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone were to find a lost temple in the Andes filled with flying machines? Wouldn’t it just be every comic book dream come true? When I was a kid, I used to wonder all the time why there were no real superheroes anywhere, even Batman-types with costumes and exercise routines. That's why I enjoy IN SEARCH OF... even more as an adult. It's like someone telling you Santa Claus was real after all.
Now that YouTube exists (God bless the inventor!) I can watch the series again. What’s really surprising to me is that the product I’ve come to know and love (the A&E edited version) isn’t the original. It was actually a little thrilling to see the original opening credit sequence. I remember being a little miffed that when the show was re-aired on the History Channel, they re-cut the opening sequence to something right out of BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY. It seems I never experienced the “real” opening. Likewise, I was amazed to learn that the documentary movie I knew as THE OUTER SPACE CONNECTION was actually the original pilot special for IN SEARCH OF…, when the original intent was to have the series hosted by Rod Serling.
It’s a treat to watch ISO... again (at least the episodes I didn’t tape back in the VHS days – IN SEARCH OF… was the first show I ever used to regularly tape). It’s no exaggeration to say this show is a part of my life. There are several episodes I know by memory. When my Dad took me on a vacation to Arizona, I dragged him to see the Percival Lowell observatory because of the episode “IN SEARCH OF… Martians.” Whenever possible, I used to take dates to Coral Castle down around Homestead. When I visited Northern California for the first time, I structured my vacation video around the idea of an IN SEARCH OF… episode, with me doing my darndest to imitate Nimoy’s gravelly voice. And most importantly, while I don’t agree with their “theory and conjecture,” the show gave me awe and curiosity about myth, the past, and archeology that I possess to this day.