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Dharma Beatdown

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'Pervasive appropriateness,' fuck you Alanis.

On my way in to work today, I came around a bend on the expressway and as I neared the traffic signal, I saw that a semi truck had laid on its brakes- hard, as it had arrived at the red light. There were long skidmarks and HUGE cloud of mephitic smoke. Lots of smoke.

As I pulled up alongside and stopped, I took a look at the cab of the truck. Guess who it belonged to?


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Haters: Eat a bag of dicks

You know, as a man of very modest intellectual powers, and as an artist, a disciple of philosophy, and lover of mental stimulation, I must confess to a certain desire. I want to argue. I want to debate, to exchange barbs and quips and bon mots, to engage in some mutual shit-talking or a healthy round of the Dozens. Unfortunately, like some jaded gourmand with limited restaurant choices at hand, or a libertine who can sense the inhibitions that lock every sweaty curve away from him, I realize that it is not easy to get what I want. Most people are not up to the task. They assume that the idea of conflict, of opposition, is a negative one, and in their shallow understanding, their fear, we see a crude mimicry of the graceful forms that aesthetic debate can be. The haters- these rude commentators- are like untaught martial artists angry that the master has effortlessly counted coup on them, now losing control and striking out to wound.

But just as these martial tyros end up on the floor, embarassed and unharmed, so the haters are going to get called out for their bullshit. I've tried to be nice, to make allowances for ignorance, but at this point it's not helping anyone. These haters are absolute shitheads, and they're not even good at it.

In Zen, we have a concept called 'dharma combat.' It is from this idea that I took the name of the blog. Simply explained, dharma combat is some combination of masters and senior students engaging in dialogue to test each others' understanding and experience. Its nature is variable. The dialogue can run from cryptic to mundane, the language can be refined or scatological, and dharma combat can end in tears, laughter, frustration, or enlightenment. But as I have opined already, it is not for the rank novice. I'd like to take dharma combat as a model for modern oppositional discourse and critical response, with the idea that everyone can join in eventually and no whiny pee-pee pants get their feelings hurt.

Now, on to the good stuff.

In a previous post I critiqued, honestly, a local band. It turns out that they are good friends of my little brother's, so I know I can't be accused of cronyism. As can be easily read in the comments to that post, a representative of another local band responded in a rude and childish way to this criticism. The commentator was friends with the first band, and they play together, so I will call cronyism on her. My response was sharp, yet I tried to retain some humility and harmony, and I further went on to make a seperate post reviewing her band in an honest and actually flattering way. Make note- the important thing here is honesty, to yourself and the rest of the world. We'll come back to that. The point is, I have been really good to these people.

So now that the ashes are cold, along comes some anonymous douchebag to have a go at me. I'm starting to feel like Gene Wilder's character in "Blazing Saddles," laying my guns down undefeated and then getting shot in the ass by some young punk. Let's take his comment apart bit by bit, together, shall we.

Anonymous said...

Well, there's your first red flag. If this douche had really wanted me to understand his points, or to initiate some sort of dialogue, he would've at least left some way for me to contact him, instead of hiding behind the Intarweb anonymity that so perfectly matches his mediocrity. At least use a fake name with a dump email attached. I'm sure Eazy-E had a PO Box for Dr. Dre to send letters to in between albums.

welcome to the northwest. it gets chilly so people put on a flannel.

First off, already in the Northwest. Been here 18 years and counting. Your point? And my point, with the flannel, was that it was obviously a fashion choice, and a poor one. It looked like crap, and IT WAS JULY. The opposite of chilly. I used to wear a suit and trenchcoat at gigs sometimes. That was silly. But there were gigs where we all wore hipwaders, or we all wore masonic robes. It was part of the overall aesthetic. People wondered what crazy shit these guys were going to have on. While the flannel might have matched the WIBG aesthetic, nobody told the bass player that. So I don't see any consistency.

you attacking some guy for his body type/ appearance is pathetic.

Show me the attack. I reviewed the performance, which I liked overall, and talked about the parts of it that bothered me. That's my prerogative. I am the one putting my opinion out there. Everyone has an opinion. Anyone can express it inarticulately over PBR with their hangers-on or in an anonymous web post. But to expose your opinion for every douchebag with an aggregator, and to do it in a consistent and philosophically honest way that leaves you open and vulnerable- that's hard. One could easily say that the singer of WIBG doesn't say anything bad about me, so why pick on him? Well, that's kind of the point. He behaves in an extraordinary manner (getting on stage, using affected mannerisms), which takes courage, but if it had come off as being beneficial instead of detrimental to him and his band, I would have applauded him in an extraordinary manner instead of riffing on him in one. I don't know the guy, there is nothing personal in it. And if he wants to check out my band and review it, he's welcome to. I would hope that his criticism would display as much integrity and dedication as mine does. Criticism is egalitarian. Anyone can do it. It's even easier these days, but we must set the bar higher.

and, judging by yr comment to ms hatkin, it seems like you need to ditch the ego bullshit

Well, you sir cannot judge by my comment because you clearly did not comprehend it. I don't believe you read my followup post either. I assume by 'ditching the ego bullshit' you mean me talking about myself and what I've done. Well, you may recall, had you actually understood the things you read, that she challenged me with "WHO ARE YOU?" I did not take that as rhetorical. The rest of her comment seemed to indicate that I was not an artist myself, but a soulless critic lambasting other people out of feelings of inadequacy for being able to do what they do. I responded to that challenge. Not only is the field of criticism enriched by the experience of its practitioners, I feel that the sterotype of the cloistered, hateful critic is unfair. Do you want a realtor who's never bought a house? A doctor who's never been sick? Neither of those examples stay in business very long. Speaking in a strictly reductivist fashion, I believe that academic criticism that is uninformed by experience ends up as a fruitless discussion of qualia. Which sucks. Like you, Anonymous. Stop giving 'ego' a bad name. For better or worse, without ego there would be no human consciousness, and we don't need to ditch the ego, simply reconcile it.

quit explaining how yr projects are more legit than 'hipster' trends and ahead of some imaginary cultural curve

Don't put words in my mouth, motherfucker! If you're going to come up with your own ill-informed meanings for my statements, then use your own 'I' statements. Don't be a coward. And if you are going to be a coward, at least don't be complete-ass wrong. My explanation of my own projects' legitimacy is a response to Ms. Hatkin's prejudicial attempt to discredit me. Her own statements about how hard it is to play her style of music in a town that loves it are incorrect, at best. If I am independent of 'some imaginary cultural curve,' not ahead of it as you say, then it only signals my freedom from faddishness and my ability to have a broader perspective. And someone in this dialogue definitely needs to have that.

go back to buddha for some enlightenment.

Oh, snap! This was what set it off for me. I have to wonder, since you are clearly so insensitive and intolerant, do you tell aboriginal people to "Go back where they came from?" Do you really want to go there? Atheism is a core doctrine of Zen Buddhism, and like pretty much everyone in the world I was born an atheist. Remaining one makes me one of the last officially persecuted minorities in this country. Is that what you want, to make religiously inflammatory comments without any clue of what you're talking about? Again, you did not try to initiate a dialogue with me, but made a foolish drive-by comment without any sort of class or grace or wisdom. All this- the art, the learning, the critique, the philosophy, is part of my yearning towards enlightenment. I don't need to go back to the Buddha for that.

And that's that. Ignorant motherfuckers need to chill. Or, step up. And thanks to Louie CK for the title of the post. I'm not stealing your act, don't kill me, man...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why "Spartan" may be the best movie ever written

This is a repost from myspace from a while back. Kayla and I had dinner with her old roomies, who I had never met. They seem like pretty cool kids, but after I was dissing "Fargo" they seemed to think I was some sort of cinematic reject. We also got to the subject of "All The Real Girls," a David Gordon Green movie that is one of Kayla's favorites. I hold it to be the counterexample of the movie I'm about to review, and wrong in every place that "Spartan" is right, a pointless piece of cinema about a whole town of timewasters where the smartest person is a five-year-old with Down's. So, here it is, in brief. I was really just starting to get rolling with being a critical philosophy douchebag, so I didn't have all that much to say. I mean, I was a minimalist.

Heh, it's the movie you've never seen. The one you picked up next to "Syriana" and said, This looks interesting, but George Clooney...

"Spartan" is the one that got away, but the other day I watched it. No shit, I really did. Now, I had put it down in favor of "Syriana," so don't think I'm bragging. I wasn't sure what to expect, really, and what I got was a revelation on the nature of art. I won't fuck you with the banality of a plot review, or anything like that. The basics of the Mamet-written-and-directed "Spartan" is thus: a competently shot and acted spy thriller, with dialogue that sounds as if it came from some occult ritual. It's offputting at first. You think you've stumbled onto a Special Forces unit made up of Asperger's sufferers. As the movie goes on, though, you realize that every single person speaks with the ritual cadence of someone on the continuum from novitiate to adept. In fact, the only naturalistic lines are uttered when characters are actually giving spy code phrases. How 'bout that, motherfuckers? Weird, huh? Here's a sample, with faceless agent Val Kilmer saying something to his protege:
Scott: In the city there is always a reflection, in the woods always a sound. Curtis: What about the desert? Scott: You don't wanna go to the desert.
I was taken with this movie and what it represented, but I didn't realize what it meant until I hit the right chapter in Theodor Adorno's landmark "Aesthetics." Schizophrenic Adorno's organization may be, he has the right ideas, and his judgement on effective art recognized the harmony or nonduality, the imposition of opposites. The visuals and plot of "Spartan" are the mechanical, realistic portrayal of life as we know and live it. Were you to extend this to the dialogue, it would either become a documentary or a cheezy sentimental... Hollywood film. Instead, the dialogue and acting of "Spartan" represent a formal pure artistry, ideas and expressions for their own sake, removed from conventional ideas of reality. What Mamet has done is blend them like oil and balsamic vinegar, distinct in each dip of the bread. Genius. And don't even begin to try and understand some of the things people say. They are ultra-Zen, with no rational iron bridge between islands in hell. You have to jump, and you will feel the meaning burn deep down in the cockles of your liver.

Now, I'm no Mamet whore, but I will declare unequivocaly that "Spartan" may be one of the best movies ever written in a formalist critical view, a la the Frankfurt School.
At least, that is, until your next step in the initiation...

Friday, February 20, 2009

I got a fucking book contract

So, it's not exactly news that I have a book deal with Evil Nerd Empire for a trilogy of short novels. We're in the final stages of book one, "Antipaladin Blues," just waiting on the illustrator. However, I got my contract in the mail yesterday, and I'm very excited. This is a big deal for me. It's a lot of fun, and I have enthusiastically picked up working on book two, "Archlich Hotel." Characters are already getting stabbed, a wizard has been called an asshole, and it's shaping up to be sheer wall-to-wall awesomeness. I'll take some pictures of me signing the contract and acting like a buffoon.

Also, in some other fun news, I sent off the Coeur Machant demo link to a few labels. I heard back from one of them, Central Contol, which is Barry Adamson's label. They liked our stuff, but the roster is full up, so they want us to check back with them later. And I looked at alonetone, and sure enough, the guy I talked to had listened to a few songs. Woot!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Morrissey- 'Years Of' Brutal Asskicking begin... now.

I was going to write a full review of Morrissey's new album, "Years of Refusal" which is due to be released Valentine's Day. Instead I'm going to share this actual conversation with my wife which happened this morning on the way to work when she plugged her iPod in.

Me: Hey, we could put my iPod in instead and listen to some of my music.

Kayla: Uh, no thanks. (the volume comes on very loud.) Jesus Christ, how loud do you listen to music in the car?

Me: The new Morrissey is pretty awesome, I had to turn it up.

Kayla: ...

Me: We should put it in. I think you'd actually like this one, it's pretty hardcore.

Kayla: I doubt that.

Me: It starts rocking and does not let up. He's crazy, like stabbing people and cutting off heads.

Kayla: Morrissey is not stabbing people! He sucks!

Me: Seriously, he's out of control. Morrissey's tearing shit up over there. (I listen to the Third Eye Blind coming out of the speakers.) It rocks much harder than this crap.

Kayla: You're ridiculous.

So, I heartily recommend it. Morrissey is rapidly becoming the Slayer of brit-pop- instead of wimping out over the years, the music keeps getting tougher and more brutal. For the rare opportunity to hear an artist who has actually matured in his work, check out "Years of Refusal." Just remember to check your Smiths nostalgia and kneejerk Morrissey hatred at the door.

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Bradley Sands is Nicholas Murray Butler's Ass"

The "Bradley Sands Is A Dick" anthology is now available. Check out the official announcement from official editory Andersen Prunty here, and don't forget to vote for the best segment (mine) in the sidebar.

Not sure how to explain this antho... it was for short stories, and I submitted an acrostic. It was so full of win, that I was rejected. Andersen said that it would be included in a foreword to show the breadth of weirdness in the submissions, though apparently, to continue the meminess, it was so full of fail that it was admitted into the main body of work. The winner will be named Bradley Sands' archnemesis, and I do think I can fit the bill. I did threaten to "crawl inside [Sands'] ass and bust out all [his] teeth when I'm reborn through [his] ugly face." So read it... there's great stuff here... Jordan Krall, Garrett Cook, Kek-w, Cameron Pierce, and many more. And Mandy Moore.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My winter vacation

Just returned from a week visiting with Kayla's fam down in the Paso/SLO area in California. A decent little break from the work grind, and great to have some time basically alone with my lovely wife and baby. A few things occurred to me through the week, and here they is.

Right before I left, I did karaoke with Tim, Robin, Sarah, and Edweird. It was a good night, and one of our previous haunts has come back better than before in wake of the smoking ban. The notable thing about this, apart from their acquisition of a sizeable number of Morrissey songs, is the fact that I managed to get semi-Rickrolled during karaoke. What? How is that even possible? Let me explain. I decided that in the wake of my Rick Astley halloween costume, I should try to do "Never Gonna Give You Up" at karaoke someday. So, I put it up that night as my very last song. Karaoke was about over, and I had two songs up, that one and "Ride On" by AC/DC. "Ride On" should have been the last song the way the timing went, so when I got called up for the last time, I was expecting that. The kj told me she loved the song when she was a kid, and she seemed like a rocker type, then...

We had a lot of down time in Cali. This was more of a family visit trip, and of course Amelia is just a wee baby. It's important to read to little children, and not just board books and Dick and Jane horseshit. So while we were there I was reading Richard Dawkins to her. As I was reading the chapter on computer-simulated life in "The Blind Watchmaker" I realized something. Not only is he probably one of the most important people in science and philosophy, but he's a cool motherfucker. There's a perception that Dawkins is a douchebag, perhaps because he is so tenacious when it comes to the religion issue, but that perception is not really based on anything. I've talked to him before. I called in to the Infidel Guy show years back when he was on, and while I knew who he was then, in the sense of him being an influential evolutionary biologist, I didn't know that this was the godfather of fucking meme theory. He just sounded like a cool dude. Dawkins and Reg were discussing atheism and evolution, and I had a legit question about using current advances in artificial life simulacra as a philosophical stepping stone to breaking the ice with our less enlightened creationist friends. Dawkins was a complete gentleman and discussed it with me. He didn't say "Hey, I wrote some of those programs, there's a whole chapter devoted to it in my book which you can buy on Amazon!" So kudos to you sir.

I also finished "Last Call" by Tim Powers. I was going to comment on that but have decided to devote a seperate entry to that, because it's a bigger literary issue, entitled 'What the fuck is wrong with Tim Powers?'

We had dinner with Kayla's cousin in SLO, a fun little college town during the height of its farmer's market. This was my only small world moment of the whole trip. I've been a fan of Michael Helm's photography for a while, since I've seen him featured on DA. So, it was pretty easy for me to notice that fetish model Natalie Addams, a favorite of his, was sitting a couple tables across from us. What's that, you say? Of course I didn't say anything? That would be gauche! I didn't say anything to Wallace Shawn when I ran into him in downtown PDX... just gave him a dignified nod. And for that I received a saucy wink.