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The Black Laser

In Memoriam – Butt Fuzz, “Son” (2007-2008)

Last night we laid our hamster Butt Fuzz to rest between two trees in the Grand Street Ferry Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I remember the day that Juli brought Butt Fuzz home. It was a bitingly cold day in March as she rushed home with a tiny new addition to our family nestled in her arms. She called me at work to tell me that she had purchased a hamster. I asked what she was thinking of naming him. She said that she was thinking of naming him either Linus or T-bone but that she wasn’t sure what she would name him. I replied that we would have to just see when I got home what his name was going to be. As soon as I saw him and the ridiculous mud flaps of fuzz coming off his butt, I knew that he had to be christened “Butt Fuzz”. It was only appropriate. Juli let me know that she thought that was a silly name and that he should be called Linus or T-bone, but later in the night when she asked me, “What do you think Butt Fuzz is thinking right now?” I knew that the issue of his name had been settled.

My favorite memory of Butt Fuzz is the first time we ever gave him a Crispix. He was a spoiled little guy, but he was a hamster, so what does it matter if they are spoiled? Anyway, while begging for a treat we gave him a single piece of cereal. He was so overwhelmed by the sheer deliciousness of the cereal that he keeled over backwards onto his back with his little hamster legs kicking int he air. Refusing to let go his prize, he struggled to right himself for a moment but never took his little hamster hands off the piece of cereal in his mouth. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

Butt Fuzz was a kind and gentle hamster who never bit anyone and only peed on the sofa when he got nervous. When he heard me come home, he would rouse himself from his tiny pink igloo and come and dance on the edge of his little house to greet me. In all likelihood it was because he knew I’d give him a treat, but sometimes he would ignore the treat and just dance there, saying hi. Everyone who came to knew Butt Fuzz liked him. Some hamsters are mean or surly and bite, but Butt Fuzz was a jovial, silly little ball of fluff who constantly had his bedding wrapped up in his fur. He lived his life, like his father, with bed head. How could you not love that?

Juli called me yesterday to let me know that the hamster had passed away. She had placed a small piece of apple by the mouth of his igloo and would have usually disappeared as soon as you turned your head, but this little piece of apple sat untouched. Worried because Butt Fuzz had been looking pretty old and threadbare recently, she pulled the igloo up to find him laying there, still. He died as he had lived—covered in bedding, nestled in his food, his wild hair going every which way.

We took him to the park by the East River where we had buried Peach, our last hamster. It is, of course, all sorts of illegal I am sure to bury a hamster in a public park in New York City, but that did not deter us. We just made sure we kept an open eye for police cars. We found a lovely spot between two saplings where the soil was tender, and, with the trowel Juli keeps for gardening on our fire escape, I dug a little hamster coffin sized hole and placed him in. We said a few words and then covered him up, spreading dried leaves over the spot so that he blended in.

I took Juli to dinner then, and I broke hiatus in memory of our lost hamster.

Son, you were a good little hamster and a special little guy to both of us and you will be missed. I hope that wherever it is that little hamster souls go you have as many peanuts and Crispixes and corns and carrots and piece of apple as you could ever hope for in your little hamster heart. You were a happy addition to our household. There will never be another hamster quite like you, Butt Fuzz. Requiescat in pace, son.

The Metal Claw, and why I love it.

I have no doubt that many of you are familiar with the Metal Horns, the typical hand sign associated with heavy metal appreciation. I have no problem with the horns on principle. They serve to show how fucking into the music you are. When the metal gets so fucking intense that you just can’t take it anymore, the extended index and pinky fingers are excellent heatsinks for all the metal intensity built up in your frail, human form. God knows that I threw the horns more times than you could believe when I was a teenager. I love the horns. The horns are awesome.

Here are a couple of examples of the horns being used appropriately.

Ronnie James Dio - Popularly considered the inventor of the horns
Ronnie James Dio - Popularly considered the inventor of the horns
Nergal of Behemoth throwing the horns
Nergal of Behemoth throwing the horns

Nevertheless, the horns are subject to rampant abuse. Watch the MTV music awards sometime and notice how many kids in the front throw the horns for all sorts of random bullshit, none of which falls under the “metal” header. You’ll see pop stars and country music stars and assholes on American Idol throwing the horns. What the fuck? Don’t you fucking dipshits get it? The horns are not for you and your bullshit music; the horns are an expression of metal. Yet sometimes the horns aren’t sufficient. And the horns are expected, practiced. The horns, for as great as they are, leave something to be desired these days.

For this reason, I am a supporter of the Metal Claw. When the horns just can’t do it, then you must make the claw. Where the horns send metal from only two fingers, the claw sends metal from all five. That’s 150% MORE METAL.

Typically associated with Satan, though not actually so, the horns can be divisive. The claw on the other hand promotes unity across all metal genres. Here is an example of my favorite Christian as Fuck death metal band of the moment making HEAVY use of the claw. I mean, seriously, check out his Jesus t-shirt.

In contrast, we have Nergal of Behemoth, a profound believer in Darkness, making the Claw while recording.


See the difference here? In the first photo he is on stage, performing, throwing the horns to a photographer. In the second he is focusing on the task at hand in the studio, feeling the slaughter erupt in his veins. Thus the Claw is made.

You might say, “But Joe, this claw you speak of is a new phenomenon. Was not the almighty Dio throwing the horns in the early 80s?” This is a good point, but I have evidence to the contrary. Here is 1995’s “Slaughter of the Soul” by At The Gates.

Too new for you? How about some proto-Claw throwing by Bruce Dickinson? Check it at about 1:30 into the video.

And so, it is with this incredibly persuasive argument in mind that I am pleased to unveil The Official The Black Laser Seal of Approval. Check it out:

How sweet is that shit? My Photoshop skills are legendary.

In conclusion, let us agree that while the horns have their rightful place in the Metal culture, the Claw is a true and brutal expression of what metal is and should be to the true aficionado. If I ever see the Claw thrown on American Idol—I don’t watch the show, so I guess I never will, however—then we’ll have to reevaluate its stance in my heart. But really, I think it’s as likely as hearing blast beats and harmonized growls in pop music, so I feel secure in the Metal Claw’s status as niche expression of intense metal power.

A funny passage from Peter Carey’s Theft.

I am reading Theft by Peter Carey right now and I must say that I am enjoying it. I like how he bounces between two imperfect narrators to reveal aspects of the story that might not come through just one narrator’s internal filter.

Anyway, I was reading on the subway as I do, and I read something that made me laugh aloud. Here you go. A passage from the book used completely without permission.

The taxis in New York are a total nightmare. I don’t know how anybody tolerates them, and I am not complaining about the eviscerated seats, the shitty shock absorbers, the suicidal left-hand turns, but rather the common faith of all those Malaysian Sikhs, Bengali Hindus, Harlem Muslims, Lebanese Christians, Coney Island Russians, Brooklyn Jews, Buddhists, Zarathustrians—who knows what?—all of them with the rock-solid conviction that if you honk your bloody horn the sea will part before you. You can say it is not my business to comment. I am a hick, born in a butcher’s shop in Bacchus Marsh, but fuck them, really. Shut the fuck up.

Vitamin – Christmas in Paradise

I have an admission to make. I love Christmas music. There is something so sublimely cheesy about all of it that I can’t help but like. And now that December has officially sprung, I have license to play my collection of quirky Christmas music for the next month. Awesome!

Then you won’t be surprised that I thought it was a surprise and true pleasure last year when my brother Charlie recorded an album of hi favorite Christmas tunes in a way only he could. They are rather nontraditional takes on classic songs. Check them out. I think you’ll dig them. A download link for the whole record is at the bottom.

[audio:vitamin-xmas/01.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=God Rest All Ye Gentlemen] [audio:vitamin-xmas/02.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=Angels Have We Heard On High] [audio:vitamin-xmas/03.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=Jingle Bells] [audio:vitamin-xmas/04.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=Come All Ye Faithful] [audio:vitamin-xmas/05.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=Oh Christmas Tree] [audio:vitamin-xmas/06.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=Hark! The Herald Angels Sing] [audio:vitamin-xmas/07.mp3|artists=Vitamin|titles=Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas]

Download: Vitamin – Christmas in Paradise

Guess what arrived today!!

After some strange misinformation from a UPS robot and an inquiry on my part to a UPS human being, my long-awaited package has arrived. Yay!

Here are a couple of photos of the box taken with my unbelievably shitty phone’s camera. Ironic!

The Box.
The Box.
The camera on top of the box.
The camera on top of the box.

I actually have my old camera here at work with me because I need to take photos of the insides of some arcanely constructed wooden boxes filled with wires of cyclopean dimensions. But, you know what? Fuck taking pictures with the old camera! I’m using my new one.

I guess I could have taken photos of the new body with the old one, but that would not have been nearly as funny taking photos of my new hot-shit camera with my miserable camera phone.

Look for photos in the next few days!

Now, where’s my Lightroom update?

I spoke too soon.

Welllllll, all my excitement the other day about my camera showing up today was a little premature. Unfortunately, the thing that shipped was not the camera, but the paper outlining the terms of my extended warranty. Stupid banana.

However, the camera did in fact ship today via UPS. I expect it tomorrow at best, Wednesday at the long end. Living in New York is great for getting mail. Everything gets here so quickly!

I remain patiently excited. I promise to trample no one.

Black Friday Embarrassments

Dear America,

Do you remember my last posting?

I thought I was annoyed then, but now I am truly mortified.

Did someone working at Walmart really need to die so that you could get discounted Dora The Explora’ merchandise for your kids? Are you kidding me? Not only is this tragic, but it makes me so fucking sick I could throw up all over everything. I’ve said this before, but they are just things, people. That TV or whatever will be there tomorrow. No one needs to die for you to fulfill your consumer tendencies.

Look, new TVs are cool. I get it. I have a TV. I like it. It allows me to watch films and nature shows at home. It also allows me to waste time and sleep killing Super Mutants in Fallout 3 on my 360. I get it. That stuff is good. But no one needs to die for you to get your Rachel Ray fix. The worst part about it is that the guy died at a Walmart which means that he didn’t even die for a luxury item like a Ferrari or something, not that it matters, but come on. I walked into the store casually, purchased the television and had delivery arranged. NO ONE DIED. Amazing, right?

Call me crazy, but I don’t think saving 10% on some crap I don’t need anyway is worth the stress induced by massive swarms of people like wasps attacking someone who has violated the sanctity of their nest. It brings to mind a day last year when Juli and I went to Macy’s to buy some plates because we were going to have people over for Christmas dinner. We were in the basement and carefully tried to select plates without any chips or nicks. When we got home, she discovered a plate with a minor chip on the bottom lip and she suggested I go back an get my money for it. I nearly flipped my shit at the prospect of wading through the thronging mobs at Macy’s on 34th Street just to return a fucking chipped plate. Maybe I overreacted (just a tad), but there is a reason I do most of my shopping at off hours and online. I cannot take the crowds and craziness.

So believe me when I say I cannot comprehend the mindset that drives people to stampede a big box store on Long Island and kill someone working the door. Just crazy. In the end I am not surprised; people have tremendous potential for idiocy and mania. It is sad that something so utterly trivial prompted such bad behavior.

And India? Wow. I don’t even know what to think about that yet.

Humanity, you need a time out.

My new camera

On September 17th, I preordered the new Canon 5D mkII. That was the first day it was available to preorder at Adorama, my photo supplier of choice, and only the second day after it was announced. Frank at Adorama called me last week to let me know that the camera would be shipping either Friday 11/28 or Monday 12/01. Well, it actually shipped Wednesday 11/26 (YES) and they’ve already tried to deliver it to the office according to the tracking information on the UPS site.

Do you know what that means? That means that I will receive the damn thing on Monday which means that I will have it not only in time for the Metric System party, but I will have some time before hand to dick around with it. How great is that? I am mega excited. There is nothing quite like a new toy to get the old creative juices flowing.

I had e-mailed Adorama a few weeks ago to try and get an ETA for the delivery of the camera and all they could tell me was that they anticipated having it shipped by the end of December. That was not exactly wonderful, but not entirely horrible either. There was no tentative ship date when I ordered, so there was nothing to be disappointed about with an end-of-December ship date. But now it feels like I’m getting it a month early! AWESOME.

Expect more posts in the coming week.