How Apocalypto Relates to the News

When I watch the news I often think of the movie Apocalypto.   This is a Mel Gibson directed movie that deals with the Mayans.  The movie is an insane spectacle filled with ideas and blood.  The characters speak in ancient Mayan dialogue, but the movie is brilliant because it manages to tell the story in ways that are mostly visual.  It is an extremely intelligent piece of entertainment, an action movie with ideas.  It is barbarous, batshit insane, kinetic entertainment.  

Now why do I think of this movie when I see the news?  This is not due to the themes of the movie.  The Mayan empire is depicted as a civilization on the verge of collapse due to environmental calamity and human exploitation.  It came out during the Bush years and the Iraq War.  Gibson even commented that the Mayan rulers were very similar to Bush in his boys.  Sure, the invading Europeans put the nail in the coffin of the Mayans, but the Europeans are aided by the Mayan leaders’ tyrannical rule.  That is not to say that is true in history, but Gibson is trying to draw a parallel through art.  He is saying if we don’t quit oppressing people, if we don’t protect the environment, history shows that we and our way of life is in trouble.

However, none of that crosses my mind when I watch the news.  The greatest emotional quality of Apocalypto is insanity.  When I watch the news and they focus on the trivial and ignore the important, I feel emotionally like I do when I watch Apocalypto.   When I see war and oppression trumpeted as normal, when I see global warming treated as not real, when I see celebrity eclipse the common good, I feel the same as when I watch Apocalypto.  

There is intellectual truth and emotional truth in art.  Even if you argue that the movie doesn’t have the former, it has the latter in spades.  It feels like what happens when the world turns upside down.  It’s why the movie makes me happy, even though it is largely an action movie and a quite dark one at that.  Someone connected to an emotion that is all too common in the modern world.  It’s always uplifting to know someone feels like you do.  If there are others, you might just stand a chance. 

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10 Dumbest Things Right Wingers Said in 2014

10 Dumbest Things Right Wingers Said In 2014

I don’t know how I missed this Rolling Stone article.  It is a hilarious/scary collection of insane things that right wingers said last year.  I know that to some degree it is like shooting fish in a barrel, however, I think it is important to constantly remind people how far the right wing is right now from being a responsible governing party.  These people, and this does not mean all Republicans, don’t just have different opinions about how things should be done, they are tuning into radio frequencies that aren’t even there…

Batshit Insane Vol. 5: Straight Outta Compton

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Anyone that knows this record doesn’t need me to explain why I included it.  However, I see this as a great comedy record.  Like many comedies it takes horrible realities to such extremes that it exposes truth, while at the same time making you laugh at the absurdity.  Lets take the famous, or infamous, song Fuck tha Police:

You’d rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
Beat tha police outta shape
And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape

Those four lines both expose truth and take violence to a comedic extreme at the same time.  It’s the fact that many white people would rather see black males in prison than driving around in a Mercedes Benz.  And then in the next two lines Ice Cube is bragging about beating a cop to death with maniacal glee.  So it is truth hidden in the guise of absurdity.  (And unfortunately this song still seems relevant to our daily headlines.)

For all of this records violence and insanity, I have a hard time taking it too seriously removed decades from its release.  Ice Cube is in children’s movies and Dr. Dre is a respected CEO.  I think of it along the lines of something like George Carlin’s Life is Worth Losing, where he talks about some of darkest subjects ever and twists them until they become funny.  But while Carlin is making you laugh, he is again making you see truths that evade us in everyday conversation.  (It’s not as smart as Carlin is, but then no one really is.)  Unfortunately many of the groups that were influenced by this seemed to lack NWA’s knowing sense of humor.  For all this records absurd violence and gritty reality, there is the sense that they are having fun.  And it is precisely that fun that makes this record fire on all cylinders for me.  They’ve driven straight over the edge, and are having a laugh in free fall.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Random Thoughts During Exodus: Gods and Kings

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Exodus: Gods and Kings Review

About a week ago I stated that a negative review, of which I have linked to above, made me want to go see Ridley Scott’s new movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings.  The reviewer was trying to slag the film, but instead made it sound so over-the-top that it looked like fun.  What follows below is not my own review of the film.  Whether or not you like this movie depends on how much you love batshit insanity, actors that chew up the scenery, and ridiculous spectacle.  I love all those things in films, so I loved this one.  However, if those things aren’t your deal, then you might not like it.  Here are ten thoughts while watching Exodus: Gods and Kings:

(I should add that there are some spoilers, but given that most of you know the story of Moses, I don’t think that this will ruin the movie for you.)

1.  Unless a planet explodes in a sci-fi movie, there have never been more random human and animal deaths onscreen.

2.  God is played as a petulant psychopathic child.  If you think of all the smiting he does in the Old Testament, it is kind of fitting!

3.  You don’t hire Christian Bale unless at some point he is going to scream with incredible intensity.  He delivers, many many times.  At least twice for every dollar that I spent.  I got my money’s worth.  Even when he isn’t screaming, he plays Moses with a quiet intensity that lets you know another insane outburst is coming.

4.  I don’t think that a river full of giant crocodiles eating thousands of people is in the Bible, but it sure is an entertaining addition.

5.  I know some people were complaining that most of the main characters were cast as white.  However, there is really no male in the film that doesn’t resort to senseless bloodshed at some point, not even God, especially not God, so maybe it’s best to sit this one out on the protest front.

6.  Do people really believe that this story happened?  If so they have lost their minds.  This story is about as realistic as Conan the Barbarian.

7.  The Hebrews cannot fight the Egyptians face to face because they lack superior numbers.  Because of this they resort to attacking the Egyptian people by blowing up their food supply, etc.  In a sense the Hebrews are “terrorizing” the Egyptian populace.

8.  Moses gets a victory bang at the end when he is reunited with his hot wife.

9.  Why would anyone want to worship a god that kills every first born child, including many babies?  Even Moses ain’t down with that.

10.  Is someone cooking a dog in the background?

Extra credit:  The sharks eating a dead horse in the Red Sea after the big action sequence is over was totally unnecessary, and yet totally welcome.

My friends and I were laughing the entire way through this movie, but more with it than at it.  I got the sense Ridley Scott, who is a really intelligent guy, knew what he was doing.  This movie, as insane as it was, was not without ideas.  If you really think about many of the stories in the Old Testament, you can’t deny that they are full of completely insane over-the-top violence.  Even if the movie changed certain things, which it most certainly did, it did do a great job of showing that aspect of the Bible.  If you want to see a movie that doesn’t neglect Old Testament vengeance, game on!

Total Insanity

One of the books I’m picking my way through is Henry Rollins’s Get in the Van.  The book is a tour journal of his time in Black Flag.  In between a very realistic depiction of life on the road he expresses his inner thoughts.  Many times these thoughts border on insanity from the constant exhaustion he faces.  He is not only touring with Black Flag, but often going on spoken word tours in between those tours.  They also have no money and are often touring under horrible conditions.  Anyway, I read a couple pages with my morning coffee and what follows are a few excerpts that I took from about a five page portion of the book.  This section actually takes place between all of the constant work when he is finally at home living in a shed.  Yes between tours at this point he lives in a shed.  He seems particularly adrift when he is not working.  As insane as his schedule is, he seems to feel even more lost when he is not working.  I recently put up a post about how there was a certain poetry to insanity.  I also have a dark sense of humor and found  a certain parts of what follows to be great.  As my brother commented, “He’s got a real sweet mind.”

No one would understand that I see jungle on Prospect Street.  Always jungle.  Napalm falling through the polluted sunset.  A village up ahead.  People have been poisoned.  Something was stolen from them in the night.  

I wonder if there are people who destroy themselves without anyone else around to see them do it?  Of course there are.  People who cry alone.  People who sit in silence with the lights off, silently burning.  Not seeking seeking attention, but falling apart on their own.  These people are heroes to me.  Someone with enough stuff in them to take and not seek attention.  I’m not saying that waving one’s arms for help is bad or weak.  I’m sure there are thousands holed up in hot or freezing apartments, tool sheds, basements, just simmering.  Ready to explode or cave in.  Pressing their eyes to the keyhole.  Scratching a clear space on a dirty window to have a look outside.  Going to work.  Waiters, dishwashers, grinding through shifts, punching out.  Walking to a fast food place for dinner then going home.   Living in a custom tailored hell.  

I saw a couple of beer commercials.  Fuck, they must have a lot of idiots watching.  They make a drunk slob look cool.  Why can’t they have Hitler ads?  Ads with mushroom clouds going up with people riding motorcycles and drinking beers.  That sounds nice and gross, just as gross as the ones on the box today.  

The DNA in his semen could automatically code with any animal he put it into.  Didn’t matter what he mated with, it would bear his children.  He built an army of beasts, half-human, half-whatever.  He lead them into the city.  They put on clothes and blended in.  No one seemed to notice until the moon was full.  

The Poetry of Insanity

Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep…he should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No panther claws should rip open his throat–that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It’s no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me. – Klaus Kinski in Kinski Uncut.

Your god is a mushroom cloud.  The Church of the Nuclear Christ.  Mushroom Cloud Messiah.  The fallout mission.  That would put the real fear in you.  Yes, forget this Christ guy.  He died for you.  Now you die for me.  That would be real cool to see you praying to an ICBM missile.  Watching you on television, kneeling to a perfect, gleaming warhead.  Now that’s a real idea.  Guaranteed destruction.  Forget the second coming.  You give me the missiles and I’ll melt heaven.  I’ll blow your saints to Lawndale.  That would be great to see you grovel in front of a god that you could see, that you could touch.  Only an idiot would believe that some god in the sky is going to wreck the place.  Let me give you something that you could really believe in.  Don’t you want, don’t you really need something to believe in?  Something solid?  Something to calm your nerves?  Yes, look to me.  Let me supply you with your faith.  The Church of the Real Deal.  Have mercy?  Why?  You’re into destruction.  Forget needles and suicide.  I am offering you something better.  You love to be controlled.  You dig ownership and control inflicted upon you.  Now you can kneel and confess and pray and grovel to something that offers you ultimate carnage without judgment or concession.  Isn’t that what you want?  Yeah it is.   Henry Rollins from Get in the Van

Oscar was not into serious street-fighting, but he was hell on wheels in a bar brawl. Any combination of a 250 lb Mexican and LSD-25 is a potentially terminal menace for anything it can reach – but when the alleged Mexican is in fact a profoundly angry Chicano lawyer with no fear at all of anything that walks on less than three legs and a de facto suicidal conviction that he will die at the age of 33 – just like Jesus Christ – you have a serious piece of work on your hands. Especially if the bastard is already 33½ years old with a head full of Sandoz acid, a loaded .357 Magnum in his belt, a hatchet-wielding Chicano bodyguard on his elbow at all times, and a disconcerting habit of projectile vomiting geysers of pure blood off the front porch every 30 or 40 minutes, or whenever his malignant ulcer can’t handle any more raw tequila. – Hunter Thompson on Oscar Zeta Acosta in Rolling Stone Magazine (As a side note I wanted to find something on Oscar from Revolt of the Cockroach People, one of his autobiographies and a masterpiece of insanity, but I found nothing online that suited my needs.)

I love the poetry of insanity.  I love it when a writer writes as if they have no concern of how they are perceived by the general public in their lifetime or after their death.  There is some kind of noble truth to letting all of your perversions and impulses hang out.  But it is more than this.  Vulgarity and insanity, when pushed far enough, become a kind of poetry.  The show Deadwood understood this.  Although Deadwood used Victorian language at times, it also trafficked in in a kind of vulgar language that reached the heights of art.  Total commitment.  It is taking the crude language and taboos of the day and making something beautiful out of them.  It is the language of freedom, giving up the most important earthly possession of all, your ego, and the willingness to be liked, and casting it aside.  I want peace and justice and love to become a reality for mankind on a daily basis.  However, this kind of language serves a purpose in that no matter how counterintuitive that is.  It frees the mind to go beyond the norms of everyday groupthink.  The writing itself might not be more than a personalized truth, but it allows for a wider circle of exploration.  Out there in the deep dark woods of the night might be a glimmer of truth that sets you free.