Imaginary Brazilian Revolution

Brazil is a state of carefree serenity. Brazil is attained by forsaking sanity.

Return . . . I will . . . to old . . . Brazil.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Bliss of the Absurd

It's come to my attention lately that we are enchained by the labels of what we call reality. The area of study that has been instrumental in my theories of chaos is "string theory," the theory that all matter is eternal outward and inward, infinitely and infinitesmally. Check out the wikipedia about string theory, or check out http://www.msnbc.com/news/201650.asp?cp1=1. Basically, all matter is composed of things called super-strings, little pieces of matter a about one billion billion times smaller than a proton, far too small for silly human machinery to detect.

Tyler is in the process of recovering from a broken heart. I've been literally shattered this past few weeks due to the demise of a relationship that was quite lovely for quite some time. In the midst of this, I've discovered this theory. All matter, whether it be animal fecal matter or human eyeballs or refined plutonium, is composed of the same fundamental elements, and all of those elemental strings are only different because they are situated at different frequencies and vibrations. Initially this discovery, coincidentally with the break-up, created within me an existentialist. I was Sartre or Hegel for an entire day. At work, as a Customer Service Manager mind you, I spoke at length to customers and subordinate employees and co-equal middle management retards about the reality of our impending doom, about death stalking us at every meander of life. Whenever any problems arose, I would reply, "Does it really matter?" And it didn't. For an entire day it DID NOT matter. Customers were frightened. Associates, already acknowledging me as a fount of absurdity, were less startled but still concerned for my sanity. One associate even advised another, "Don't talk to Tyler today. He'll just talk about death." That really happened. The way I was thinking, if I am the same as everything else, nothing is really real, and imminent death makes life laughable and absurd.

But now, after a few days to reason out my personal philosophies concerning the discovery, I have decided that I *am* the same as everything else, nothing really is real, and imminent death indeed makes life laughable and absurd: how beautiful! If we're all going to die anyway, we may as well love ourselves, we may as well love life, we may as well love every person we meet. All we really have are these moments we perceive. Therefore, it is our duty to our own souls to treat every moment as if it is the most sacred moment we've ever had the opportunity to experience. It is our duty to treat every stranger as if they are the most sacred person we've ever encountered. And while it is true that everything is chaos, that we are composed of infinitesmal vibrating strings, and that there is nothing we are going to do to escape eventual death, it is also true that this specific coagulated mass of vibrating strings known by some as my hand, has been given its very own serving of divine energy, and has been given the divine mandate to manipulate the tiny strings around it into aesthetic splendour.

Note: My roommate just read my rant and called it "new agey." EFF THAT! It is not.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Four Things I Learned From the Olympics

1) I still harbor a grudge for the Cold War. I want Russians to fail and I want Americans to be the ones to beat them.

2) I take personally the anti-American and even anti-Bush attitudes of Europeans, even if I don't care for Bush all that much myself. I rejoice in American victories over the snooty Europeans and I hate hate hate when Europeans beat Americans. I imagine that Italian speed skater who beat Davis and Hedrick in the 1500 m thinking, in a ridiculous pizzeria Italian accent, "Those-a fat-a lazy Americans think-a they can-a compete against-a a son of da Roman Empire? Fat-a chance." Pisses me off.

3) I don't have much of a problem with Asians or even Canadians beating Americans. I think it's because Americans are clearly superior to Asians and Canadians in every way that matters (math and science aptitude don't matter, in case you were wondering).

4) I love sports because you don't have to have good reasons, or any reasons at all, really, to dislike certain teams or athletes. Watching sports is like a little vacation from politeness and civility. I can rejoice without guilt when Slutskaya falls on her butt. Who cares that she has a sick mother and adorable chubby cheeks? She's Russian. It's ridiculous, I know. I was barely conscious at the end of the Cold War. But that's the beauty of sports: it doesn't matter. I can boo Dirk Nowitsky just because he's German (in fact, I did once). When the competition is over, of course, I go back to accepting people for who they are and not holding irrelevant characteristics against them. Except for the Dutch. There's something about those pot smoking, shroom eating, secularists that gets to me.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Opting Out

Every once in a while I get this strong desire to just opt out of the whole damned rigamaroll that is modern life. You know, like when Kramer tried to opt out of mail, but full scale. The most recent trigger for me was thinking about what a freakin' mess our system of health care is. I don't need to go into the details of how screwed up things are, but I'll just say that it is a source of great angst to me that the insurance and health care industries encroach so extensively into my life. It's like they've been allowed to levy a very heavy extra-governmental tax. And health insurance is nearly as compulsory as government taxes because, due to the insane cost of health care, if you opt out you run the risk of complete financial ruin should something unfortunate happen.

Health insurance was the trigger, but it's not my only source of angst. I also hate that I have to own a car, that I have to depend on people who want to kill me for fuel to heat and light my home, that the people that make the decisions that shape society are jackass aristocrats, that clocks are more important than the sun, and so on. So my dream is to just opt out of the whole dang thing and move somewhere near the equator to hunt and gather.

The problem is that, like Kramer discovered, there are goons with clubs that keep you in the system. Imminent financial ruin is the goon that keeps me paying health care tax year in and year out. There's also the internal goons of greed and materialism that loom large. And some of the goons even have some valid points, like the fact that there is happiness and fulfillment to be found in being part of society. I'll never escape, you know. I'll never have a solar panel and I'll never stop dancing for the man.

Oh well. At least I have Brazil.

~Breaking the Waves~

When watching a few other Lars Von Trier movies, (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville,) I almost felt as though I was receiving some sort of punishment, like a higher power was striking me with divine discomfort, holding me personally responsible for the ugliness of the films, (for I truly enjoyed them both.) Breaking the Waves, to me, was much less shocking and exploitative than the others and with a much subtler delivery. It was released in 1996, several years earlier than the other two films, so maybe Von Trier just hadn't finely tuned his ability to provoke.
However, Breaking the Waves, with it's religious subtext and a pristine conscience toward faith and it's ability to counter the scowls of the worldly, was superior to the two later films.
The basic premise of the film is that a naive girl brought up in an orthodox village decides to marry an outsider with whom she falls in love. The simple girl, named Bess, and her newfound husband Jan discover the joys of intimate love and love-making. But in an industrial accident Jan is paralyzed, and Bess is left to take care of him. One day Jan requests that she begin making love to other men and telling him about her encounters, that he will be happier and his condition will improve if she complies.
A compelling attribute of Bess' faith is the way she prays. She delivers her part of the prayer in a small, childlike voice, and replies in the voice of God, patriarchal and strong. When she asks God about Jan's request, the powerful voice exclaims, "I have commanded that you honor your husband."
So Bess begins making uneasy love to men that she meets. Many of the scenes are difficult to watch because you feel terribly for her. Through her faith though she begins to see progress in Jan's condition. Her demeanor becomes like a professional prostitute as the movie runs on, seeing every man as an opportunity to help the condition of her beloved husband improve. But as she sees him growing stronger, the community around her begins to persecute her and deny her privileges, and children even begin throwing rocks at her and calling her "tart" and "whore." After a bad sexual encounter upon an oil tanker she stumbles up to the church and collapses. When the priest, the supposed example of Christianity, sees who it is who has fainted, he walks along as if he had never seen her.
It was a great movie Tom. It really was. 5 stars in my book. I'll tell you how it ends if you'd like. Let me know.
"Von Trier makes us wonder what kind of operas Nietzsche might've written."
--Roger Ebert

Friday, February 24, 2006

My Music for 2005

After repeated recommendations, I have yet to check out Destroyer, (sorry Tom,) so Sufjan's Illinois is probably my pick for '05. While not every song on the album takes me to the higher plane I seek when listening to music, a few of them take me higher than *any* music has taken me in a long time. "Chicago" just might be the greatest song ever composed. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is an almost perfect example of what songwriting should be. "They are Night Zombies!" gracefully creates a hypnotic lull, enchanting me into an unspeakable world. Many of the songs on Illinois feel like a journey to a new continent never explored in music before. Almost perfect. As far as I can tell, the only 5 star album to be released in 2005.
(Note-- In Blender Magazine, Illinois ranked as the 37th best album of last year, unfortunately being beat out by the A-Team of the craft of songwriting, such as Shakira (ranked 19th) Mariah Carey (ranked 12th) and, of course, Coldplay. (8th) Way to go Blender!

4.5 Stars
Broken Social Scene- Broken Social Scene
Bright Eyes- I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
The Mountain Goats- The Sunset Tree (almost 5)
Stars- Set Yourself on Fire
My Morning Jacket- Z
Bloc Party- Silent Alarm
Metric- Live It Out

4 Stars
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
The Go! Team- Thunder! Lightning! Strike!
The New Pornographers- Twin Cinema
Beck- Guero
Wilco- Kicking Television
Feist- Let It Die
Sigur Ros- Takk

3.5. Stars
The White Stripes- Get Behind Me Satan
Fiona Apple- Extraordinary Machine
The Decemberists- Picaresque

3 Stars
Gorillaz- Demon Days

2 Stars
Wolf Parade- Apologies to the Queen Mary
Devendra Banhart- Cripple Crow

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Favorite Music of 2005

This is a post in progress. I will update it 'til it's done.

Here are the albums from 2005 that I have listened to, listed in order of preference.

5 Stars
Low The Great Destroyer Alan Sparhawk's songwriting is varied and consistently impressive on this album. The straight-up(ish) rockers ("California," "Just Stand Back"), the slow builders ("Pissing," "Cue the Strings"), the dynamic loud/softers ("When I go Deaf," "Silver Rider") are sequenced in a way that makes for a really riveting listening experience--the sunny opening hook of "California" breaks through the minor key menace of "Monkey;" at the end of the album the loud, distorted guitar climax of "Pissing" is followed by the simple acoustic, "Death of a Salesman," which is followed by the relatively peppy "Walk Into the Sea" to close out the album. It's an enjoyable, intriguing ride start to finish. The Great Destroyer beats Illinois basically because it's more concise, and it avoids repeating itself. I go back and forth, though. Sometimes I think Illinois beats The Great Destroyer.
Sufjan Stevens Illinois What more can I say about this album that hasn't already been said? The drama! The pageantry! The horns and banjos! Irresistible.
Okkerivl River Black Sheep Boy Will Sheff sings the crap out of these songs (especially "For Real," one of my favorite songs in a long time). Like The Great Destroyer this album has a nice variety of songs sequenced in a way that keeps it interesting. The fuzzy keyboard, the horns, and the occasional strings, synth and electronic effects, and steel guitar blend into a rich, versatile sound that serves these songs very well.

4.5 Stars
Deerhoof The Runners Four I love the adventurousness and unpredictability of this album. Satomi Matsuzaki's voice hasn't gotten any less hideous, but it's an integral part of the Deerhoof sound, which is unsettling and shrill in all the right ways. The songs have gotten bigger and more complex, and more rewarding. I'm a sucker for manic noise, so a lot of these songs do the trick. "Running Thoughts" puts me in a trance.
Spoon Gimme Fiction The funnest Rock n' Roll record of the year. There's enough going on and enough weirdness to keep it from being conventional, which sets this album apart from the other rockers on this list like the White Stripes, the Black Keys, and Sleater-Kinney, but it's not too smart for it's own good. It's still a lot of fun. This album has some of the coolest jagged guitarwork I've heard (see "The Beast and Dragon Adored," and "My Mathematical Mind").
Wilco Kicking Television There are so many perfect moments on this album. Like near the end of Via Chicago when Tweedy quietly sings the melody while the band alternately bursts into chaotic noise and remains silent. Or like when Tweedy and Nels Cline go wild on the guitar near the end of Spiders. The choice and sequence of songs was great. The few country-tinged mid-tempo songs that they played were a nice respite from the aural assault of the surrounding material. Nels Cline's guitar adds a lot to the bands sound. I can't wait to see what he brings to the studio. Kicking Television's only flaws are that Tweedy's vocals on the up-tempo songs were kind of lackluster and I would have preferred that the album were a straight recording of one performance instead of selected songs from a few performances.

4 Stars
The Mountain Goats Sunset Tree "I am a babbling brooooook!" I was surprised by the sonic depth and variety of this album.
Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs Richly orchestrated pop. Well-crafted songs. Not quite on Par with Sufjan, but in a similar vein. Hands down, the best whistling of the year.
The Decemberists Picaresque Great songs. Great stories. Great characters. Great fun.
My Morning Jacket Z
Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
Wolf Parade Apologies to the Queen Mary
The New Pornographers Twin Cinema
Stars Set Yourself On Fire
Magnolia Electric Co. What Comes After the Blues Jason Molina has the best voice for singing country since Jay Farrar. This album has several really beautiful down tempo alt.country tunes and a couple of Neil Young-esque rockers. The sound is not exactly novel and the songs don't do much that is too exciting, but this is well-excecuted and beautifully sung music. The album would have benefitted from one or two more high energy songs.
Animal Collective Feels Animal Collective put together a good bunch of novel noises and textures. The songs themselves don't move much, but the energy and inventiveness of the sounds make for an enjoyable listen.
Fiona Apple Extraordinary Machine

3.5 Stars
Death Cab For Cutie Plans
Broken Social Scene Broken Social Scene
The Black Keys Rubber Factory
Sleater-Kinney The Woods
The Mars Volta Frances the Mute
Antony and the Johnsons I Am a Bird Now

3 Stars
The White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan
Nickel Creek Why Should the Fire Die?

2.5 Stars
Neil Young Prairie Wind
The National Alligator
Devendra Banhart Cripple Crow

In Limbo
Eels Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah