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Month: February 2013

A thing I love about metalheads.

A little bit ago, I was listening to the stream for Defeated Sanity’s Passage Into Deformity and reading the accompanying article. I had a thought which I expressed in a comment on the post.

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Nevermind the typo, the point is totally true. How many times have I sat there chatting with my brother or a friend or whoever and said things like, “I think The Bleeding is the pinnacle of Chris Barnes-era Cannibal Corpse. ‘Stripped Raped and Strangled’ is an amazing song.”

Or, “Braindrill’s ‘Forcefed Human Shit’, for all its brevity, is a masterful piece of death metal.”

Or, “When it comes to old school proto-grind, you can’t argue that General Surgery is basically just a very competent Carcass-clone.”

I’ve said things like this thousands of times over the 20 years I’ve been listening to metal, and I don’t foresee it stopping. As metalheads, we are so accustomed to absurd song/band/album titles that it becomes a total nonissue for us. We can talk about Once Upon the Cross by Deicide, or a band called Torture Killer, or whether or not you think Goatwhore is a solid example of the New Wave of American Black Metal without thinking twice about the actual words you are using. I am sure that an intrepid explorer of old blog posts could find tons of examples on this very site.

We can say absolutely vile things unfazed because we’re used to them. Quickly scanning my Spotify death metal playlist reveals the following song titles as perfect examples.

  • Remnants of the Tortured
  • Let The Blood Spill Between My Broken Teeth
  • Trapped, Terrified, Dead
  • Swamped in Gore
  • Regurgitation of Giblets
  • Boiling Vomit Through My Veins

That list took me about 1 minute to compile. Consider it a random sampling of bands that start with the letters A through D. A THROUGH D. THAT IS AS FAR AS I GOT THROUGH THE LIST. And I didn’t even dig into me black metal or grindcore playlists.

No one whose idea of heavy metal ends at Metallica could say the song titles above without being acutely aware that the words they’re uttering are just not normal. But metalheads? Nope. No problem. And there are lots more where those came from.

And I will say this in closing, I’ve only ever really listened to Broken Hope’s The Bowels of Repugnance, but recently gave Grotesque Blessings a listen and, man, that is a good record.

Metal for life.

Darwin Deez’s “You Can’t Be My Girl”

This is great.

Happy Valentine’s Day 2013!

If you are alone this Valentine’s Day, that’s a bummer. Make yourself a chocolate ocarina and play some “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”. If you do have someone, you’re probably not reading this right now. Good job!

Amon Tobin’s “4 Ton Mantis”

I might have listened to this album about 100 million times in college. It was (and is) perfect music for writing: lyricless, not too obtrusive, but still forward enough to block out other sounds, distractions, and thoughts. And the video is amazing. Stylish. Fitting. Unique (and I don’t use that word lightly). I seem to recall having a tiny 320×240 quicktime of it on an old 18gb hard drive. Ah, halcyon days.

Quinciple.com

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Do you live in 10023, 10069, 10014, or 10013?

Do you love farm fresh food, but you are too damn busy (or, admit it, lazy) to get yourself to the farmers’ market?

Do you struggle with trying new things because you are overwhelmed with all the choices?

Then, my dear reader, Quinciple might be your jam. What is Quinciple, you ask? A tremendous question, friend! Let me quote them at you.

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Ok, well that doesn’t really tell us how it works, does it?

Quinciple works in three, easy steps.

  1. Join! – Easy, ya dingus. Join, give them your address, and pay 49.90 per week. Simple!
  2. Get! – Your box of curated groceries is delivered to you on Thursday nights by a cargo tricycle. Seriously. Hip AND environmentally responsible!
  3. Taste! – Eat your lovely, locally sourced, organic produce. To make it easier in the case that you are not really sure what to do with one of the box’s contents, you’ll get some recipes and tips included. I was going to make a joke about not knowing how to use some esoteric thing in this month’s box, but there’s nothing in it that I couldn’t think of a at least a few uses for, so there you go. Produce you don’t have to be scared of!

quinciple cards

You are no doubt wondering why I am using my time here on The Black Laser to shill for something that seems totally unrelated to my usual topics of (one-sided) discussion. Full disclosure: Kate, one of the cofounders, is a friend and Sarah, my prewife, is working with them as outreach director promoting the hell out of the fledgling company.

Honestly, I think that leaves me in a perfect place to recommend the company to people. I believe in Quinciple, not just as a business, but as a concept and a set of values. Because that’s what it is, deep down. Ostensibly, it is a service akin to a CSA, but delivered and curated. Really though, Quinciple is an extension of what Kate and Markus value about food: getting high quality products from people they trust and sharing the food with customers in an environmentally responsible fashion. It is, in a lot of ways, diametrically opposed to the Monsanto-style, anonymous megafarm that has dominated US agriculture and food production since after the second World War. And I think that’s great. Besides, Kate has impeccable taste; there are few people I would trust as much to surprise me with some incredible food thingie as her.

And that’s what you get with a curated box: surprises! Who doesn’t like good surprises? No one. Well, maybe someone, but screw that guy, right?

I think people were excited about the samples at the launch party.

I think people were excited about the samples at the launch party.

If you care about how and what you eat, and if you care about how your food is made and where it comes from, then check out Quinciple. I think you’ll be pleased.

And if you are outside their currently limited delivery range, have faith. They will be expanding over the next year to deliver to folks all over this fine city. Which means you. And me. Since I don’t live in 10023, 10069, 10014, or 10013.

We are getting a box this week. Look forward to a write up and some photos of us enjoying the hell out of it.

Coldcut & Hexstatic’s “Natural Rhythm”

GET IT?! BECAUSE IT IS NATURE????

Actually, this is pretty cool. Conceptually, it reminds me of The Chemical Brothers video for “Star Guitar”. Enjoy.

On secondhand embarrassment.

Last week, Sarah wrote a funny, accurate article about the show Girls (and if you’ve ever wondered what talking to the girl in the dance videos is like, you now have a very good idea). She’s right too: people love to bitch about Girls. It’s the hip thing to bitch about. When the show first came out, I was actually a firm supporter the program. There was a ton of press about how the show was racist because, in the very first episode, there were no black people. Seriously? It’s a show about entitled white girls. Why does there need to be a black person in it? I’m not complaining when some Chinese kung-fu show lacks white people. Get over yourselves. It was only the pilot. Why not let the series develop a little bit before you start smearing it all over the press? Or perhaps the show was shattering a little too much of your own entitled white girl self-delusion, making you uncomfortable by revealing to you just how vapid your life is? Or maybe you are just insanely jealous of how successful Lena Dunham’s been?

Whatever the reason people had, all the negativity toward the show left a really bad taste in my mouth. I was prepared to be a big fan of the show, even though by all rights I am literally terrible at watching TV shows. Perhaps this one would be different! And then I saw an episode.

At about the 15-minute mark in the first episode, I found myself yelling at the TV. Why?

It all comes down to what I call secondhand embarrassment.

secondhand embarrassment (ˈse-kən(d)-ˈhand im-ˈber-ə-smənt)
noun

The unpleasant sensation of feeling shame, self-consciousness, or awkwardness for someone else who is too naïve, stupid, or just plain unaware to recognize that they should be feeling shame, self-consciousness, awkwardness, or some combination of the three.

I am not sure when I started calling this sensation I’d been feeling my whole life “secondhand embarrassment”. I seem to remember my brother Charlie saying it once, but it came up in conversation years later and he didn’t remember hearing it before. Maybe I got it from my older brother Mike. He’s usually pretty sharp with the neologisms. We have friends who call the feeling “the twingles”, which is a cute name, but betrays the true depth of anguish it causes me.

Regardless of its source, secondhand embarrassment is one of my most unpleasant feelings and will quickly ruin any film or television show I am watching. It is not funny when writers rely on putting characters into mortifying situations to generate laughs; it’s mean-spirited and lazy. Instead of making a joke or some clever turn of phrase, they put some hapless character into a situation for the audience to laugh at. I don’t want to laugh at someone too stupid to recognize they should be embarrassed, I want to laugh with someone because they have excellent timing and do something unexpected. It is the comedy equivalent of using an overheard conversation to create dramatic tension. Lazy lazy lazy.

The other night we were watching I Love You, Man and I spent the half of the film we made it through hiding. That movie is the perfect example of the sort of thing that fills me with secondhand embarrassment. Oh, Paul Rudd is a socially inept boob who fucks up every single conversation he has with another man! Hilarious! So clever! Give him the Oscar! Sure, I had a few chuckles, but the film was so unbearable overall that we turned it off. Right in the middle. And I didn’t care. I didn’t once find myself thinking, I wonder what is going to happen to Paul Rudd’s character? Will he make friends? I didn’t care in the slightest. I was so embarrassed for everyone in that film that I would rather die than watch the rest to find out.

Ok, I’m being hyperbolic. I’d rather cut three fingers off my right hand than watch the end to find out.

Another prime example of the sort of schlock that makes me cringe can be found in reality TV. Pretty much all of it. The first episode of this season’s Bachelor was so painful, I spent half the episode pacing around the apartment, busying myself, doing the dishes, tidying up the fridge, because I could not stand to watch the idiot women make fools of themselves in front of the blonde, white bread lead of the show. The woman who came out in a wedding dress?! Or the one who tried to do backflips—BUT COULDN’T?! Oh Christ, deliver me from that sort of hell.

A good non-tv/film example is during any poetry slam. Any poetry slam. Oh my god. Even the phrase “poetry slam” makes me embarrassed for people who take them seriously. Do people still do those fucking things or did we leave them to die in the 90s?

I can sit through just about anything else. Horror movies? No problem. Documentaries about people on death row? Easy! Ken Burns films with soft narration and banjo music? Bring ’em on. But put me in front of something where I feel embarrassed for someone who should be feeling embarrassed but does not and I’ll do anything I can not to sit through it.

Bringing it back to Girls, I spent so much of that one episode being mortified for all the characters that it actually made me angry like a parent getting angry at their child for being a fucking asshole. I shouted at them to correct their behavior. To grow up! Get real! Get a job, you lazy sack of shit! As a reaction, it’s different but ultimately similar enough to secondhand embarrassment that it’s worth lumping together. Indeed, they are close enough that Sarah’s post and a few other recent cinematic experiences got my brain churning on the topic.

Look, I know I’m not the target demographic for The Bachelor or most other reality TV. Maybe I am for I Love You, Man, but that is probably debatable. Those shows and that film are just a couple of example of this offense. I am sure that you, kind reader, have had many moments when you have experienced the shame that someone else should be feeling. The point is putting characters into situations that only serve to allow the audience laugh at them like a bully who has just pushed a smaller kid down on the playground is piss poor comedy and lazy writing. From the moment I was empathetic enough to feel embarrassed for people on the screen, I’ve been unable to sit through this crap and I don’t see it changing any time soon.

That’s it. I’m never writing again.

Because this guy obviously has the most nuts story ever. All fiction from here on out is a shallow waste of time.