Sunday, September 30, 2007

Speaking of Michael Scott...

No, I'm not talking about Steve Carell's character from The Office. I'm talking about the guy who currently distributes free and for sale audiobooks at ThoughtAudio.com. While I wholeheartedly support the open-sourced, creative commons of Librivox, some of the volunteers - bless their hearts and intentions - oftentimes don't maximize the potential of the literature in terms of reading performance. That's where Michael Scott's intense delivery comes in; he is especially good while reciting an adaptation of Greek myths, as well as Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

The intense effect is sadly minimized when he tries to reenact the Socratic dialogues of Plato, as he uses a pitch shifter to make his voice higher and lower for the characters. His natural voice with another voice-over person would sound better.

So check out these free sources of audiobooks. Listen to the books while reading the same books, or just let the narrator speak to you while multitasking (whenever safely possible).

Bamboo book photo credit: Vlasta2.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NBC Thursday Was Once "Must See TV"...

...and somewhere along the way, it just became Thursday. The stronghold created by Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, etc., simply dissolved during the reality TV boom. Joey failed before it could do the old "friend" per for Sweeps routine, a la Frasier.

And now, the three-camera, laugh track sitcom has all but disappeared. Good riddance? It's more of a cyclical thing, I believe. When I was a teenager in the 90s, there was an aversion to all things 1980s. Now it seems, there's a lot of 80s retro happening in terms of music, fashion, and whatever else...

I digress. Here are my reactions to season premieres for My Name Is Earl and The Office. Yes, I know; I'm two days late.

Apparently Karma is giving Earl a bigger purgatory in which to redeem himself: Prison. The season premiere was a delightfully feel-good episode that involved Earl wheeling and dealing amongst the prisoner population to help a someone he had wronged. It's kind of like the first season (and possibly third) season of Prison Break, but not really.

The fourth season of The Office started out with a bang! Literally, as Michael Scott (Steve Carell) negligently hits one of his employees (Meredith, the red head) with his car. She turns out to have rabies (from the episode with the bat), and Michael holds a fundraiser/5k run for rabies. Yep. Michael Scott is totally inept and a jerk at times, but he's so endearing because he's a fictional character that you love to laugh at (not with). Of course, if you watch the show, you already knew that.

It's also interesting what might unfold this season: The Ross and Rachel of 2005 and beyond (Jim and Pam) have finally started dating. We'll see what happens. Ryan the Temp has become Ryan from Corporate - and is now Michael's superior. Poor Michael, but not really.

I think 30 Rock is premiering next week, and I can't recall the fourth show to round up the pre-ER comedy lineup. It just might be "Must See TV" again...minus the laugh track.

Photo of B.J. Novak credit: Gaelen Hadlett.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Brother Likes Flat Buns

Okay, so this was a momentary break from the healthful lifestyle that I had been trying to pursue. The other day, my brother Jon and I ate a late lunch (around 5 PM) at the local Carl's Jr. We ordered...you guessed it...their new Patty Melt (of "I like flat buns" fame). While I enjoyed the burger, fries, and Coke combo, it was a slight shock to my relatively new, low-calorie digestive system. In other words, I didn't eat for the rest of the day, until about 2 o'clock in the afternoon the day after.

I'm not a big fan of patty melts, but my brother is. He found Carl's Jr.'s new burger - with the standard ground beef patty - similar to Coco's patty melt. So I'm guessing he's given it, if not a resounding seal of approval, at least a passing grade. A 'Butt Minus' is technically a passing grade, I think...

According to my brother, the perfect patty melt (an 'Ass Minus'?) would still contain the standard ingredients of a patty melt: two slices of toasted rye bread, grilled hamburger patty, melted cheese, and sauteed, diced onions. However, the cheese needs to specifically be Swiss Cheese (unlike Carl's Jr.'s use of American). Additionally, sauteed mushrooms must be added to the mix.

The only time he remembers having such a masterpiece was at an obscure family-owned diner in Arcadia, CA.

All in all, though, we both liked the Carl's Jr.'s Patty Melt.

I do have to call Carl's Jr. on a technicality. Their "flat buns" aren't literally flat buns; they are actually buttered slices of toasted rye. Sliced bread from a loaf are not individually baked buns. I'm just sayin'...

Anyway, here's the original "Flat Buns" commercial, complete with the controversial TILF (think 'teacher' + 'MILF' - the 'M' part...got it?):


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Immortality

There are exactly four routes to achieving immortality, but don't quote me on that:

1. Spiritual immortality. Virtually every form of religion from civilized societies preach about some form of postmortem paradise/bliss, in one form or another - heaven, Valhalla, Nirvana, etc. By the same token, there's also a form of punishment for those who didn't quite make it - hell, Tartarus, never-ending rebirth, etc. Of course, the specifics of which have long been debated - and by debated, I mean there have been tens of thousands of holy wars waged during the past ten thousand years of civilization.

2. Physical immortality. Ah, yes - such is the stuff that which supervillainy is made. Am I correct, Lord Voldemort? Unless you are a Scottish Highlander from the clan MacLeod or an Elf from Rivendell, it would be advisable not to attempt to attain such a fate. The possible outcomes include Dark Lordship (where you'll certainly be overthrown and lose said immortality by an alliance of heroes), eternal wandering, and/or intense boredom. Buyer beware.

3. Genetic immortality. Be fruitful, multiply, and make sure your children do the same - survival of the fittest. If your entire bloodline is diligent with this singular duty, then most of the genes that you carry will last until the end of the human race, or possibly beyond Homo sapiens! Since we're stuck on a world with a finite sun, make sure your descendants get on a space station to proliferate the anthropomorphic way to the edges of the universe...and beyond! How can you make sure of this? Through supervillainy, of course (see #2)!

4. Electromagnetic immortality. Your knowledge, wisdom, and art can potentially survive to the end of time (and beyond?). It's not enough to write books: Paper rots and ink disappears. It's not enough to create giant monuments: They will eventually crumble into ruins and dust. To achieve this form of immortality, one must encode one's legacy into electromagnetic waves, i.e. broadcast to the universe. Those precious radio waves need to escape the Earth (by not bouncing back and forth from atmosphere to ground) and travel at the speed of light to the farthest reaches of the Universe. Barring the Big Crunch, your legacy should outlast all life as we know it - that is, when all particles are evenly dispersed in a Cold Universe.

So what are you waiting for? If you can think of other routes, please let me know (comment!).

Image credit: "Hortus Deliciarum: Hell (Hölle)" by Herrad von Landsberg (about 1180).


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Re: Gluttony

As a response to past history of gluttony (exhibits 1 and 2), I've begun cutting calories...

I don't know the definitive long-term affects of diet soda consumption, but I've finally given everyone's zero-calorie friend a chance. Let me first say that I prefer Diet Coke to Coke Zero, even though they are probably the same but packaged in different colored cans. Even still, I have to add a packet or two of Splenda to minimize that awful, awful aftertaste. Okay, it's not that bad.

The thing is, you need a glass full of ice to make the aftertaste less noticeable. Drinks taste better - even if it is cheap beer, cheap booze, or antifreeze - when they're cold. How cold? Ice cold.

In my opinion, Caffeine-free Diet Coke actually tastes better than both caffeinated zero calorie, Aspartame-sweetened Coca Cola products. With a glass full of ice, which hasn't melted yet while I write this blog, Caffeine-free Diet Coke is my choice of diet cola. I didn't even have to put a packet or two of fake sugar this time. If you take into consideration that Caffeine-free Diet Coke has neither caffeine nor calories, it's pretty much like drinking water polluted with non-digestible chemicals. It's like fizzy dark brown water that hopefully won't give me diarrhea anytime soon...

With all of the above already stated, I would have to crown Sprite Zero as my personal choice of zero calorie Coca-Cola product, cola or otherwise. It actually tastes like Sprite and the bad aftertaste is minimal (even without adding a packet or two of fake sugar). Again, ice is necessary. I don't think a cold aluminum can will cut it. At all.

Now my new healthful way of life isn't just replacing bad sodas with even worse kinds of soda (albeit calorie-free). I've amped up on my consumption of digestive system Drain-O, i.e. fiber in the form of whole wheat. Now, I still dislike whole wheat bread. It's very abrasive to my system. But I do highly enjoy whole-wheat tortillas. Not abrasive so far, wheat tortillas make for great wraps.

So that's my rant.

Aspartame structure credit: Cacycle.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Doctor Who's on First?

I've always been fascinated with the idea of time travel. I've studied it somewhat, and I've written about it on several occasions.

One late night a few days ago, I was watching PBS and stumbled upon an episode of the long-running BBC series Doctor Who. Actually, it's the renewed series from 2005, with the ninth incarnation of the otherwise nameless Doctor. No, I am not an expert on Doctor Who; I am just regurgitating what the Wikipedia tells me.

Anyhow, I caught the last few minutes of one episode where the heroes fight a slug alien that was controlling a bastion of humanity living in a space station. (Say that three times fast.) For those few minutes I watched, it seemed to be an all right episode, but nothing prepared me for the next episode that PBS broadcast that night.

The next episode was entitled "Father's Day," which involved changing the past, the consequences of changing history, the shattering of idealized memories of the past, and a sacrifice to make things right again. It was smartly written and had the right amount of emotional acting. It currently ranks up there as one of my favorite stories involving time travel.

Check out the first six and a half minutes of the episode. If you want to watch the whole thing, either buy the season on DVD (series 1 of the rejuvenated Doctor Who franchise) or search Youtube (shh...I didn't just write that!):


(You can always use the menu function on the above Youtube widget to see if the other six parts are available for viewing.)

I do have one complaint for this episode, and it doesn't involve the different eye color of adult Rose (the Doctor's companion/student) and baby Rose from 1987. It does, however, involve the paradox that the Doctor asserted, that adult Rose shouldn't hold baby Rose since they are the same person. I understand that Time Travel X and Time Traveler X from five minutes before shouldn't touch each other because they are mostly the same matter. However, Time Traveler X and baby Time Traveler X from 20 years before have different skin cells, and therefore if the two were to touch, matter wouldn't touch the same matter. And thus, Rose holding baby Rose (having different skin cells) wouldn't constitute a time travel paradox for that reason alone.

Am I right?

Wormhole credit: User:Benji64.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A New Season of Fox Primetime Cartoons

Last night, Sunday the 23rd, was season premiere night for three Fox television animated sitcoms: The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Family Guy. I was quite pleasantly surprised that each show brought something slightly different than usual fare for their respective premieres.

The opening sequence of The Simpsons' 19th season opener shares continuity with last summer's The Simpsons Movie. I'm pretty sure virtually everyone who watched last night's show, whether or not they also saw the film, got the joke. The episode pretty much focuses on Homer's trials and tribulations of wanting to relive the jet-set experience and failing to do so. This episode is unusual in that it lacks the dramatically large plot drift (the Mr. Burns-to-Homer shift is not as drifting), and there aren't any noticeable subplots involving the rest of the family.

"He Loves to Fly and He D'oh's" is basically this (spoilers for those who missed the episode the first time around): The Mr. Burns and Smithers beginning sequence is much too short to consider the rest as plot drift. Homer saves Mr. Burns from a water fountain. Burns rewards Homer by letting him experience the life of a jet-setting billionaire (a man date with Mr. Burns to Chicago). Homer is sad because he'll never have that experience again. Homer tries and fails to get a new job that would grant him access to a private jet. Homer tries to hide this failure from his family, until Bart stumbles onto the truth and persuades Homer come clean to Marge. Homer hires a private jet to tell Marge the truth, but an emergency gets in the way. In the end, Homer resolves to return to the status quo at the beginning of the episode. The theme of wealth (and the lack thereof) remains constant throughout the episode, unlike, say the usual progression of Blockoland to Homer, defender of the underdog to hunger strike Homer in "Hungry, Hungry Homer."

I don't watch a lot of King of the Hill, other than the occasional weekday syndicated episode. In those episodes, Hank is arrogantly insensitive, Bobby is a disappointment to Hank, and Peggy Hill! is an annoying moron. Needless to say, I don't really find King of the Hill to be pleasant viewing, other than during the usual happy resolution. However, this episode was especially pleasant viewing for the entire 22 minutes, as Hank has a growing pride in his boy for taking interest in watching football, and thus his characteristic arrogance and insensitivity aren't really directed at anyone during this episode. And Peggy Hill's not really stupid in this episode, as she is paired with the even more obtuse Luanne. She's just a really destructive football fan, which was actually funny without being annoying.

Finally, the Family Guy Star Wars parody was hilarious. For once, the usually non-sequitur humor of the show ("That reminds me of the time when I forgot how to sit down...") is actually focused, more logical, and suits the setting and story - while maintaining some degree of absurdity. While an homage to Star Wars, this parody episode pokes fun at plot holes in the original film. It's such a well-written episode that there's a slight chance that Eric Cartman might approve this episode and this episode alone of Family Guy. Okay, probably not.

Real-life Kwik-E-Mart photo credit: User:SchmuckyTheCat.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Review of Pearl Jam’s “Immagine in Cornice” DVD

Pearl Jam’s latest DVD Immagine in Cornice is less of a concert video and more of a music documentary, in the vein of Nirvana’s 1994 home video Live! Tonight! Sold Out!

Immagine in Cornice
, translated as “Picture in a Frame,” is a combination of Super 8 film footage and high-definition video. The combined aesthetic of media (especially the footage on film) and location (Pearl Jam’s one-week tour of Italy in 2006) is amazing! Anyway, let me break down the film into its main parts: Music and documentary.

The Concert Video

As far as the presentation of Pearl Jam’s live music goes, not much has changed since their quasi-bootleg, three-chip digital video productions Touring Band 2000, Live at the Showbox, and Live at the Garden – except most of the concert footage was shot in hi-def video. There’s an added clarity to the visuals, and the brief moments of Super 8 in concert are just fantastic! I had initially feared that higher production values would somehow culminate into a Coldplay Live 2003-type of franticness and over-slickness, but director Danny Clinch let the music speak for itself (for the most part). The pacing of edits was relatively natural to the tempo of each song. The fancier shots – dollies, cranes, and overheads – were kept to a minimum or less noticeable than other bands’ concert videos.

It is worth noting that the music is part of the whole documentary, and not representative of a Pearl Jam concert. If you want the two-and-a-half to three-hour Pearl Jam church service: (1) Go to their next concert in your neck of the woods, or (2) check out either the Showbox or Garden DVDs. Touring Band 2000 is just a composite concert from multiple venues, so it lacks the true flow of a real concert. In fact, Immagine in Cornice’s setlist is a composite of various Italy shows, so it is closer to Touring Band 2000 than the other live DVDs. I do have to mention that a few song sections here and there were edited out of the movie, such as part of “Better Man” and “Rockin’ in the Free World,” and that was a bit disconcerting for a quasi-concert video.

The Music Documentary

Like Nirvana’s 1994 music documentary/artistic statement, Pearl Jam’s 2007 effort is a mix of the surreal and the real. At times, the surreal, hi-def / Super 8 interludes between songs get a bit too much, but sometimes it’s pretty cool. The additional soundtrack music by lead guitarist Mike McCready is spot-on. Near the end of the documentary, there’s a great accordion and guitar interlude that’s basically an adaptation to “Alive,” set to slow motion visuals. It is incredible.

The “real” sequences are also quite interesting. Obviously, it revolves around the life of the band on the road. While there quite isn’t enough Stone Gossard (guitar) and Matt Cameron (drums), there are great sequences featuring the other four band members. I particularly enjoyed vocalist/guitarist Eddie Vedder’s Italian lessons from an interpreter. Forty-something bass player Jeff Ament reverts to a skateboarding teenager in another vignette. There’s another great sequence where Boom Gaspar (organist and keyboardist, albeit unofficially official Pearl Jam member) plays an ancient pipe organ in a cathedral in Pistoia, Italy. There are some great Mike McCready episodes, too, with him walking about Italy with a backpack.

I feel privileged to have received the DVD three days in advance of the official, Tuesday the 25th release date. While I didn’t get that same privilege with Ed’s solo album (released last Tuesday), the Ten Club made good this time around. As far as the content of Immagine in Cornice, it’s a great music documentary with good concert footage. Danny Clinch made a great film. I would have loved it if the DVD was simply a Touring Band 2006 of Italy, but it is a good effort nonetheless.

Here's the trailer for the DVD:


Saturday, September 22, 2007

To Be Omnipresent: Social Networking Websites

Here is a shortlist of social networking websites I have joined in the past ten years, with the bulk of them just recently. This is by no means a complete list, as I think I might have forgotten a couple along the way. This actually reminds me of the first few days of junior year in high school, when my friend Daniel and I joined pretty much every school club and then quit nearly all of them the following week. Anyhow, the list:

MySpace. Duh. It's ranked...wait...please hold for a brief interruption...

I have not signed up for Windows Live Spaces, but it actually outranks MySpace at number five on the Alexa Top 500 worldwide websites.

MySpace. Duh. It's ranked number six on the Alexa Top 500 worldwide websites.

Orkut (owned by Google). It's big in Greenland, Brazil, and India. It's ranked number seven.

Facebook. Now that they've opened admission to college has-beens (i.e., those who've forgotten their official school email), I've joined, it has a quieter vibe than MySpace. It's ranked 10 on Alexa.

Hi5. It's big in Central and South America, and a few other pockets of the world here and there. It's number 11 on Alexa.

Friendster. I joined in 2003 and abandoned it around 2004. I logged on again to spread the word about Mutiny Universe, The Society of Gloves, DeRamos.org, etc. It's number 16. In 2003, it used to be at the top of the social networking ladder. Google wanted to buy Friendster at one point.

AOL. Speaking of used to be at the top, this one was at the top TOP in the 1990s. We had to pay about $20 a month to use AOL's chat rooms, Instant Messenger, and a bunch of other stuff. I'm just glad AOL's reduced the price of their non-service appropriately: It's free for the most part now. AOL is number 53 on the list. To reminisce of my old buddy list...

LiveJournal. I opened an LJ account in 2004; it has all of about three posts on it. It ranks at number 57. Yes, this is more of a blogging site, but the last time I checked, there's also a buddy list aspect to LJ. That's what makes it both a social networking site and a blogging site (like Blogger!).

Xanga. I opened a Xanga account in 2003. The last real post was around 2005. I recently returned to install a widget that feeds DeRamos.org (and my other current blogs) to my most recent Xanga post. Xanga ranks at number 91. This is yet another blogging site with some buddy list code intertwined in the structure.

I'm not on Bebo, but it's number 95. I might have to join soon.

ICQ. I joined ICQ in 1999. I had no idea what it did then, and I have no idea what it does now, ranking at 106.

LinkedIn. It's like MySpace for faceless business people. It's ranked 139.

And the sites that currently miss the 500 cut...

Twitter. If you also sign up for TwitterFeeds (or a similar service) and link that to all your blog RSS feeds, you're set. Just set it and forget it, as they say on a cooking informercial. Twitter is ranked 620.

Shelfari. Books. 20,761.

Tribe Hollywood. For the NYU diaspora in Hollywood. Somehow, my MU compatriots and I ended up there too. 734,205.

Et cetera. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam.

While this isn't a term paper or an academic essay by any stretch of the imagination - this is a BLOG - but here are my sources: The ever-present and not quite accurate Wikipedia, and the ever-present-for-those-who-know and reputable Alexa.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Matt Ritchey's Shakespeare (Matt's Pentameter)

Mutiny Universe, a company of which I am one of the owners, has just released the first of Matt Ritchey's vlogs on Shakespeare - Matt's Pentameter. Check it out:



Otherwise, if you're looking for Shakespears Sister:

Disclosure Policy

This policy is valid from 20 September 2007 (Updated 11 December 2007)


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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Concert Videos

While I am patiently awaiting the release of the latest Pearl Jam concert DVD, Immagine in Cornice (translated: Picture in a Frame), let me muse for a while on concert videos. By the way, Immagine in Cornice will be released September 25th. Okay, here's my rant:

When it comes to concert videos, LET THE MUSIC SPEAK FOR ITSELF.

Case in point: Pearl Jam's 2003 DVD Live at the Garden. This selection is actually from the extra features, from a concert in Australia, it's Ed and special guest Mark Seymour (from Hunters & Collectors) singing "Throw Your Arms Around Me":


Let the music speak for itself. It's a beautiful song. The editing isn't too flashy, just a good selection of angles - nothing fancy. There are even several flaws, if you want to get technical about it. Let the music speak for itself, and it does.

So let's be slightly scientific about this. Here's an equally mellow song, and a great song by Coldplay called "The Scientist." (Pardon the pun.) This selection is from Coldplay's 2003 DVD, aptly entitled Live 2003:


In my opinion, the excessively slick videography and editing detract from an otherwise poignant song. There are too many camera angles, too many cuts, and the shots are way too fancy. The idea for a concert video is to feel like you're there, but maybe have a slight advantage of some choice angles and closeups. An excess of sweeping crane shots gets nauseating after a while. When was the last time you rode a sweeping crane during a concert? If so, how much did THAT ticket cost?

The overproduction effect worsens when the song is more upbeat. Here's "Yellow":


And this is when you let the music speak for itself. Here's Pearl Jam with "Lukin/Not for You," from Touring Band 2000:


Ideally, you're not supposed to notice the camera work (too much), and you're definitely not supposed to notice the editing (too much). A few oops-what-can-you-do-about-it zooms and some well-placed fanciness is fine, but anything done ad nauseam is, well, nauseating.

It's the same complaint I have with the Foo Fighters also-released-in-2003 concert DVD Anywhere But Home. It's - and I say this as ignorantly as possible - too MTV. I've directed my share of music videos, but concert videos inhabit a different realm. Music videos are okay when they're surreal concepts, but a concert video is inherently a document of realism, is it not?

Here's "My Hero":


Alright, alright...that particular example isn't as excessive as the whole Coldplay madness. Moving on...

I'm both optimistic and preparing myself for Immagine in Cornice. It apparently is a "film by Danny Clinch," so it might be tastefully artistic or sadly gaudy. Who knows? Right, we'll know in about a week.

Anyway, here are the points I've been trying to make:
1. If the music is good, LET THE MUSIC SPEAK FOR ITSELF. Excessive fanciness in concert videos detract from the music, which is the most important part of the deal.
2. If the music totally blows, then no amount of video wizardry can make the concert video any good.
3. Since I've been on the record as despising dichotomies (here and here), maybe there are ways to make a good concert video, using more-than-basic techniques that actually complement the music. In about a week, we'll see if Mr. Clinch does it or not...or in between or transcending the extremes.

I guess I like the near-bootleg quality of first three Pearl Jam concert DVDs because I was already a fan of the music, and the music resonates regardless of the videography. By the same token, I get frustrated and nauseated when the concert video takes away from otherwise good music, or music that I would enjoy from time to time. I like the fact that Touring Band 2000, Live at the Showbox, and Live at the Garden were shot by members of the touring staff, with just basic coordination and the right amount of coverage. These are the kind of videos that would say "no would-be auteurs (who should be working in other forms of visual storytelling) or commercial hacks were hurt in the making of this film" in the end credits.

Maybe I'm a bit harsh on singling out the video production. Maybe my antipathy with overly extravagant performances, with excessive stage design and/or the rowdiness of a given audience also factors into my rant. It probably does.

Okay, the rant is over. As a musician and a filmmaker, I stand behind my rant.

Immagine in Cornice cover art was taken from the Ten Club merchandise store. Theft = bad; backlinking and crediting = good; outcome = zero.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Prison Break III: Beyond Thunderdome

"Two men enter. One man leaves."
- Tagline for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

The third season premiere of the Fox network's action-drama Prison Break is somewhat of a non-sequitur. True, it does follow what happened during the second season finale: Michael Scofield, T-Bag, that FBI guy, and the ex-prison guard all wind up in the same Panamanian prison, thus promising to bring the show back to its own name Prison Break. It's a new prison, to presumably break free from.

Here's the strange curve ball: This new prison, called Sona, is apparently some sort of post-apocalyptic hell in a pre-apocalyptic world. There are no guards within the prison, other than a military tower on the outside with a soldier to shoot any would-be escapees. There is an order maintained by a sole alpha male prisoner, who evidently feels threatened by Michael's charisma and smarts - something that could destroy the alpha male's utopia.

Anyhow, the episode culminates in the prison's only form of justice system: Michael must fight a large drug addict in a death match - THUNDERDOME (sort of)!


The themes of loyalty and sacrifice are a couple of reasons why I liked the first and second seasons of Prison Break. Out of loyalty for his brother Lincoln Burrows, Michael descends to the hottest fires of Tartarus to rescue his brother from an unjust execution. That's the stuff right out of Greek mythology and Christian symbolism and several places elsewhere. It's the story that's been told several times before and is just as timeless with every new telling of it.

While we are only one episode into the new season, we learn that Michael has to free a man also imprisoned within the new prison. Unfortunately, there's only a secondary, almost indirect motivation for Michael to do so - not from any direct loyalty to save a doomed brother, but as some form of blackmail to save Lincoln's son and Michael's love interest from certain doom (outside of the prison).

At the same time, there's an inkling that Lincoln needs to return the favor to his brother. We're in for another season of complicated plans, with the tattoos rendered useless. Otherwise, Lincoln can go the easy way:

Lincoln and Michael's late father has a small army, presumably still loyal to the memory and kin of their fallen leader. Lincoln can call them up on his cell phone, and do two things in any order:

1. Track down the kidnappers of Lincoln's son and Michael's woman, engage in a gun battle, and rescue them.
2. Go to the Sona prison, engage the guard tower in a gun battle, and rescue Michael.

Then again, that's as much fun as flying on the backs of giant eagles all the way to Mordor and casting the One Ring into the fires of Mt. Doom without any fatalities, battles, and heartache.


Well, that seems like fun to me!

Wentworth Miller photo credit: Jannah Hair.

Monday, September 17, 2007

More Hype? Or Hope for Bloggers?

Yesterday, I signed up for something called BlogRush. In theory, adding the BlogRush widget (you can see mine somewhere on the right-hand column) will create links to various articles from your blog onto widgets on other people's blogs. At the simplest, if your blog gets 10 hits a day, then you'll be linked from 10 widgets somewhere in the World Wide Web during the course of a day. It doesn't guarantee people clicking on the widget links, but you get at least some extra visibility on the Web, and that could translate into site traffic, readers, and subscribers.

So far, I am hopeful that it'll work on an all-over-the-road topical website such as DeRamos.org. However, many of the links that appear on my BlogRush widget go to blogs that don't have the BlogRush widget installed on their page. This is some new technology, released only a couple of days ago, so there needs to be the weeding out of bad users and other bugs in the system.

So here's the orientation video for said cult...I mean, for BlogRush:


Na na na na na na na na...LEADER!!!


P.S. Apologies for the excessive affiliate linking. Also, I'll try to write something meatier tomorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Zeitgeist of 2003

"Remember this, take this to heart, live by it, die for it if necessary: that our patriotism is medievel, outworn, obsolete; that the modern patriotism, the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it."
- Mark Twain, from Wikiquote, probably out of context but fitting for this blog's purpose.

Do you remember 2003? Do you remember the extreme jingoism that seemed to pervade the entire United States of America, such that any voice of dissent against the administration at the time was deemed not only un-American, but anti-American? It was the same zeitgeist that rallied against the Dixie Chicks, accusing them of treason. It was the same zeitgeist that was so Francophobic, that Belgian-invented French fries were rechristened as freedom fries and the American mustard company French's was unduly persecuted.

I remember 2003. I remember those who either did the research or had the foresight to oppose certain misguided actions by the administration. I remember the vitriol of those who wanted to monopolize the meaning of patriotism: You're either with the administration, or you're with the terrorists. I remember 2003, when a specific network of terrorists were heavily based in South Asia and not the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

I also remember 2004, when the polarization of the United States of America was overwhelming. No side was willing to concede to the meaning Twain's maxim, that each side was so loyal to the nation, that their point of view actually reflected a love of the nation - a vision for the nation. Of course, I had long been on the side devoid of any recognition of patriotism, angry because those who hijacked the title held it so close to themselves, just enough to extend their administration's reign. Too often were our cries of "I too am a patriot" had fallen to belligerent ears, whose ludicrous replies of reductio ad communistum and reductio ad terroristum were only matched by some of our equally illogical rebuttals of reductio ad Hitlerum and reductio ad fascistum. (Forgive my pseudo-Latin.)

As much as everyone wants to think of themselves as individuals (ironic clause indeed), if you stand back and look at population - the masses - statistics ring true. Individual decisions culminate into an ever-changing zeitgeist because I remember 2006. I remember November of 2006. Enough people made these seemingly individual choices (albeit influenced by the world and people around them) to actually express their disapproval, and to recant their feelings from the past three years.

Now, 2007 is about three-quarters over. What is the spirit of this time? Where are the grand jingoists from 2003; are they still around, insisting on their monopoly of patriotism? What will be the zeitgeist in the coming year, of 2008? All I know is that I am a patriot, regardless of whatever mob of jingoists, whatever rabble of nationalists, and whatever Fox News has to say otherwise. Never again should we even allow our fellow Americans to accuse other fellow Americans of disloyalty or treason, just because of a difference of opinion. Opinion. Not action. Action means blowing up medical facilities, ironically killing in the name of life. Action means blowing up fellow believers, ironically killing in the name of God. Opinion. Everyone needs to form one. Question. Everyone needs to ask one or more when the need arises.

Anyhow, Little Steven has it right in his song "I Am a Patriot":

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Haves and the Have Mores

Check out this alternate version of the reformed Smashing Pumpkins' single "Tarantula," edited and composited by Levi Ahmu:



I want to make two observations about and around the video:

1. Congratulations, Levi Ahmu! This is visually superior to the retro-ish official music video for "Tarantula." The compositing is awesome, and so are the key-framed effects.

2. This was part of a music video-editing contest sponsored by the Pumpkins, where the winner received a Mac Pro. Obviously, Levi Ahmu won the contest. By the same token, Levi probably doesn't need a Mac Pro...unless the new computer can be doubled with whatever system was originally used for the re-edited video...then THAT would make it a more-than-fully operational Death Star, I mean, editing bay.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Is My Education Who I Am Now?

Within the next few hours, I will post the latest episode of Radio@MU (go to FeedBurner or iTunes if you want to subscribe), where I rant further and more incoherently about education and, I guess, alternatives that would be more beneficial. I actually don't remember what I recorded last week, so it might be a surprise to myself as well. The rant is part two of three, that much I remember, and it is part of episode #16, along with some great music.

If the recent DeRamos.org entries aren't as meaty as it sometimes is, The Society of Gloves blog might have more interesting entries. It's more of a tug-of-war kind of thing between the two blogs for content, as this site has evolved to be more philosophic (and sophomoric?) and The Society's blog seems to be more about music and sometimes esoteric things, like bizarre dreams that I need to preserve. And all that is subject to change, too.

I'm glad that my reader base - according to FeedBurner - is slowly but surely growing. I'd like to know who exactly reads this thing (or my other blogs), so I can find out if you have a blog too, so I can post a link on the Recommended Reading list on the right-hand column of this page.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Either/Or

Here is a list of dichotomies that seem to ring true in the United States of America, and possibly lots of places elsewhere, but couldn't be farther away from the truth (or could it?): Black/white, red/blue, independent/mainstream, with us/with the terrorists, wrong/right (but I'm sure there's good and bad), natural/artificial, science/religion, Republican/Democrat, love/hate, work/play, LGBT/straight, foreign/domestic, protesters/patriots, 1st Amendment/2nd Amendment, Elvis/Beatles, public/private, East/West, etc.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Forgive My Naïveté, Six Years Ago Today

I wrote this journal entry a few days after September 11, 2001 - September 16th - on an old website of mine, writing under the pseudonym Jeffrey Champ. I was about 19 at the time, so please forgive my naïveté...

#0023: The One Without a Title
By Jeffrey Champ

This one is serious this time. Gravely serious. I just could not think of an appropriate title.

I could have written about the events of September 11, 2001, on, well, September 11, 2001. But I felt I needed time to take it all in. I needed time to watch the news. I needed time to feel the whole spectrum of emotions associated with something that is not often associable.

Something to think about: The continent could have been easily folded diagonally.

Tuesday

September 11, 2001. I woke up early that day. I am not going to bore you with specifics of my day, but there it was. The television was on. New York City. Smoke everywhere. Like a really bad science fiction film? Yes. At that moment, I could only think of one word: epic. There it was, the greatest city in the world--Rome itself, as John Lennon once put it--on fire. Epic. In a perverse way, the camera shot showing the City from the sea--miles removed from the actual chaos--seemed serene. Why? I do not know. I do not even remember why I felt that way. Maybe it was Step One in the evolution of my emotions for the whole week.

If you have any exposure to the current events, you probably have heard it all. Four planes crashed. The Towers collapsed. The Pentagon. The souls lost. Their loved ones desperately seeking to find them. This day became more real to me. Real. With names. With faces. Very human. Very fragile.

Heroes
Then there is all the heroism. All the emergency employees--police, fire, medicine, volunteers, etc.--just doing their job. Heroes by just doing their job. By putting their lives on the line--and past the line--all in a day's work.

And then there are the hijacked hostages who fought back. I seriously wonder if I would do the same. I would like to believe that I could, and that I would. If I could only have a pinky finger's amount of whatever they had--

It has been said before and will be said often in the future: God Bless America.

Friends
I have been reading what the Internet community has been writing on this subject. People with websites who have updated recently. From personal homepages to what the World Wrestling Federation has to say. I personally recommend recording artist Moby's website. He lives a stone's throw from where the Towers used to stand. He updates his thoughts regularly, speaks his mind, and has many regretful afterthoughts for posting too hastily. Just click on "Moby Updates."


Speaking of community, the streets of America seem more friendly, more empathetic. I guess it is true that an extreme event usually brings out the extremes of human nature, for better or for worse. Good people are better people; bad people are worse people. I can only cling to the hope that good people outnumber bad people. I truly hope I am correct.

I am going off on a tangent, but here goes: A few months ago, I wrote this song. Without going into much detail, it seems really ironic in light of recent events. Maybe I will perform it one day, if and when I do perform music in front of people again. But then again, it is not much of a song. Not really a good song, either.

Enemies

"Don't feel like Satan / But I am to them," wrote and sang Neil Young in the song "Rockin' in the Free World." Terrorists. Allegedly Islamic fanatics. What I am about to say might bite me in the ass later, but I feel like going out on a limb here. I believe that the Allah of these 19 dead hijackers--and their very much alive co-conspirators--is not the same Allah that the innocent Muslims worship and serve. Why do I say that? Think about it. If you are a Christian, is the Jesus Christ you follow the same Jesus Christ that hate criminals obey? Is the God that bids you to love the same God who bids them to hate? Oh, hell no. (I am assuming that you, the reader, have chosen the side of love and all the positive qualities of humanity. Please prove me right.) Bold statements? You bet your ass. Short-sighted? Probably. Stupid? It's your opinion. It's a free country. God Bless America.

And that is how I feel about the subject. Remember to be kind to each other. Love your loved ones. Give blood. Give money. Give prayers. Give. Thank you for reading.

God Bless America,
Jeffrey Champ


"She is Liberty / And she comes to rescue me"
- U2, "In God's Country"
(AP Photo/Stuart Ramson)

This is a follow-up journal entry, written the next day, September 17th. I call these "journal entries" because I had no idea what a blog was six years ago. And what was the deal with these Friends episode-inspired titles?

#0024: The One With a Title
By Jeffrey Champ

The last time I tried my hand at being humorous was late at night on September 9, 2001. I posted the script of "Remember the Hey, Yeah?" on September 10, 2001. It had been a long time since I wrote an "episode," so it surely was not reflective of my best work.

But I digress. I wrote a bizarrely somber piece yesterday (the 16th)--"The One Without a Title"--and I really do not know how to make of that Thought. Sometimes it makes sense to me; other times I don't remember what the hell I was thinking at that moment. But this Thought, this one right here, will have a little more life to it. I still have a lot to say about Tuesday's tragedies (plural because the singular cannot justify the amount of pain handed that day). But I still have a lot of laughter in me, and I hope you do too. But I apologize in advance for any inappropriate sarcasm.

Friday the 7th
Interstate 10. Eastbound. Rush hour (which also deserves the pluralized treatment). Looking around, looking around. All sorts of people in all sorts of automotive vehicles, talking on all sorts of cellular phones. I am not here to talk about safe driving habits. No, I just realized, at that moment, how silly mass culture had become. Everyone needs a cell phone. Everyone talks on a cell phone. Talking on it. Into it. All the livelong day.

I thought back to when times were simpler. Back to the time before I knew how to use a PC. Even before then. Back when the cassette tape section of the record store was prominent. When only people named Zack owned a cell phone, a big ass one at that. Bigger than Jeffrey Champ's "I'm happy to see you all the time when I put my cell phone in my pants pocket" cell phone.

Again, I digress. Y'know, the time when no one had cell phones. I became a little nostalgic of apparently simpler times. Oh, how sweet the past was when you don't quite remember how the past really was. Sure cell phones are convenient, but I was thinking at that moment that maybe too much of a good thing wasn't that great.

Sing it, Stevie!
And so four planes were hijacked. Yeah, you know where I'm heading with this. People onboard the doomed airplanes--with their wireless telecommunicators (not a real word, or so my spell checker would have you to believe)--called their loved ones for the last time. "I just called to say 'I Love You'" kind of thing. People in the Towers, on the highest floors, did the same when the people in the planes disappeared. They shared their final emotions with the people they actually cared for via phone and/or email. Those trapped in the rubble in the aftermath used their little Nokias and their little Qualcomms and their big ass Zack Morrises. For some, it lead to their rescue and subsequent safety. For many, it was one last call. One last "Hello." One last "I Love You." One last "Goodbye."

So I've done maybe not a 180, more like a 143 (or any other arbitrary number that does not equal 180 degrees). Technology gone bad is technology gone bad, but technology is not inherently bad. Nuclear power? Heads says energy, tails says death. That's all I have to say about that one, for now. Thanks for reading.

So that's that. Thanks for driving down memory lane with me.

Cheers...alright,
Ryan

Monday, September 10, 2007

False Dichotomy

Inform me if I am perceiving America strangely, having been an American for more than a quarter century, but I get the impression that the American political (false) dichotomy generally says this about the environment:

Many of those on the right seem to believe that man is meant to dominate the world, drilling for oil wherever he pleases, driving whatever vehicle he wants, denying global warming, and expanding his territory wherever he pleases. Basically, it's cultural comfort at the cost of natural resources.

By the same token, many of those on the left seem to believe that humans should live as if they never existed on Earth by creating nature preserves, legislating environmentalism, encouraging the development and proliferation of machines that emit zero waste products, replanting a tree whenever a tree has been cut down, etc., in hopes to wipe out several millennia of the aforementioned attitude. It's really a reactionary attitude, often labeled as a facet of liberal guilt, but more accurately a cultural guilt, treating the humans of our civilization more like a virus and less like talking mammals or intelligent life or beings with souls (take your pick).

All right, this is the analysis of my perception. My perceived right is wrong because that attitude's pretty much depleting the Earth, eventually to a point beyond hope. My perceived left is wrong because there is no divide between humanity and nature because we are a part of nature, as (again, thanks to Daniel Quinn's analogies) we are subject to gravity and the law of thermodynamics. There is no divide.

So the ideal end of all this is to both drop the greed of resources and the guilt of cleaning the crime scene. The lesson, or yet another pipe dream, is for our global culture to take just what we need and nothing more. The world might look like a buffet, but too many people have piled their plates high, more than they can eat.

Then again, as long as there are resource hogs, we need more and more reactionary cleanup crews. It's sad but true.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I'm Questioning My Education

Well, not mine, specifically, so please listen to part one (of three) of my My Ishmael-inspired rant on education at Radio@MU. If you subscribe to the podcast, you'll get parts two and three delivered hot and fresh in the next couple of weeks.

Just so you know, the podcast isn't just me ranting, it's 30 minutes of music 'n stuff. My ranting happens to occur in the realm of 'n stuff.

Anyhow, Ed and the band know what I'm talking about, with their performance of "Education" from this year's Lollapalooza:

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How to Reduce the Population without Resorting to Genocide, Eugenics, and/or Any Megalomaniacal Policy

There are more than 6.6 billion people on Earth, and apparently, that's putting a strain on the Earth's resources. Anyway, here's a slightly Utopian (eu- or dys-, you decide) vision to try to solve this problem.

LIST #1. These prerequisites are otherwise impossible, but they'll actually make the second list easier to do:

1. All nations, and all people within all nations, must have relatively equal access to food. In one of the lectures in The Story of B, there's a good argument that people are made of food, and not any other substance in the universe. And here's what I think about it: Generally speaking - and I detest generalities - underdeveloped, developing, and/or otherwise poor countries have higher birthrates than more affluent countries, and by the same token, these poor countries have a larger starving population than more affluent countries. If food creates people, then I can assert that while there is enough food to sustain a high birthrate, there isn't enough food to keep those same people alive long enough, relative to richer nations.

2. Racism must end. Impossible, yes. At least racial/ethnic/religious/sexist/etc. paranoia must end. There's a feeling in many varying localities around the world of present and historical majorities feeling threatened by the influx of present and historical minorities to a given locality, through immigration and/or a higher birthrate. In which case one or more of the minorities would become the new majority, thus creating a new social dynamic one must adapt to. It's basically the "They took our jobs!" mentality (or the hilarious reduction of it in South Park). That attitude needs to stop. While it doesn't directly affect this entry, we've resolved not to resort to genocide or eugenics or any generally evil thing to do to humanity. Besides, a successful living thing learns to adapt to his/her environment.

3. The people of the United States of America (or U.S. Americans, according to an infamous beauty pageant contestant) need to stop eating in excess.

LIST #2. Okay, let's assume the prerequisites have been achieved: No one starves, people learn to adapt to changing environments and societies, and we U.S. Americans aren't so generally overweight. Great. Here's how we reduce our population without resorting to evil:

1. If we want to cap the human mass to, say seven billion, we need to produce only enough food for seven billion people.

2. Each human must only replace themselves with at the very most one human. That is to say, a human couple an choose to create zero children, one child, or at the most two children during their lifetime. The same thing applies for a king and his harem of 999: They can produce zero to at the most 1000 heirs. Various cultural and/or religious mandates prevent this from becoming a reality, but I'm just throwing it out there, knowing that food will ultimately be the decider of population.

3. This is pretty much a reiteration of B's teachings (Daniel Quinn's writings), less effective with my words, so read The Story of B. Anyhow, if in 2010 we produce enough food for seven billion, and the world's population in 2010 is seven billion, seven billion it will remain. What if we produced enough food for 6.75 billion in 2011? If food is distributed evenly amongst all humans, it would only amount to a slightly smaller sandwich, not noticeable to the least bit. What about food for 6.5 billion in 2012? Food for 6.25 billion in 2013? Food for six billion in 2014? All the while, the outgoing humans (sad but true) are perpetually replaced by incoming humans, though the birthrate would slow down due to less food. Thus suggestion #2 of list #2 would be achieved in spite of dogma and cultural traditions.

Anyhow, this is a pipe dream for many, to be achieved in either of two ways: (1) a worldwide dictator to force this plan at first, only to become corrupted by power and resort to crimes against humanity, and not achieve the goal, or (2) enlightening the world, simultaneously in several minds and localities over a period of time, similar to the Industrial Revolution, sans the Luddites. But you know that whenever a change is a-comin', whenever a peaceful revolution happens, Captain Ned Ludd and his cronies will resist. It happens.

Obviously choice (1) is satirical, so there really is only one way to lessen the strain of the world, or I daresay, to save the world.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Use the D'oh!

Check out this fan-created mash-up of The Simpsons and Star Wars, with characters from Springfield depicting characters from a long time ago in a galaxy far far away:



And check out an official clip of The Simpsons, parodying the climactic final duel in the less-than-climactic Star Wars sequel trilogy:



Also check out the exact same thing, but with composited lightsabers:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Resist Temptation!

Check out this compilation of Beatles knowledge: http://www.stevesbeatles.com/songs/default.asp?sort=leadsinger.

If you click on each song, you'll see a section entitled "What Goes On? Anomalies," which itself was taken from a Beatles user group back during the Golden Age of the Internet. Anyhow, the "Anomalies" section highlight mistakes and accidents that happened during production, due to the Beatles being human musicians - flubbed notes and bad timing - and their recording equipment being righteously analog, with edits that make noises and so forth.

I'll have to keep in mind that The Beatles, one of the greatest bands ever, made mistakes that remain today in their classic songs - it'll keep my head straight from succumbing to the temptation of being totally dominated by Pro Tools, or Photoshop, or Brand X Perfectionizer Doo-Hickey.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ready for More Exhaustion

I'm just taking a break from my labor in the salt mines of creativity. So it's not so bad. Anyway, here's a list of presumably unintentionally funny URLs. Click on the link. Do it.

Apologies for the low-calorie, low-carbohydrate blog entry. A filling one is just two posts previous...and then some!

Back to work I go...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Exhausted...

3:45 in the morning...
Workaholic on Labor Day yesterday and today...
How appropriate...
No time for meaty blogs...

Read yesterday's news.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Review of "The Story of B"

Maybe if I had read The Story of B to its conclusion before writing a four-part rant (I, II, III, and IV), the rant would have been more coherent. But as a writer with some sense of self-worth, I stand behind my rant.
:-)

Anyhow, Daniel Quinn's The Story of B feels a lot different at first than the books directly involving the telepathic gorilla sage Ishmael (the books Ishmael and My Ishmael). Without giving too much away - as there are a couple of decent plot-twists along the way - the story involves a priest named Jared, of a fictional Jesuit-like order, whose task is to find out if the lecturer called B is the Antichrist. Conspiracy-like behavior ensues, but probably not to the degree of a Dan Brown novel, but who am I to say that, as I have never read a Dan Brown novel. I've seen The Da Vinci Code movie, though.

So scratch my ignorantly smug Dan Brown novel references. :-)

B, being one of Ishmael's former students, pretty much reiterates a lot of Ishmael's syllabus in the section called "The Teachings of B," at the back of the book. While you're reading the story, there are asterisks and footnotes that lead you to the appendix. They're integrated quite well, as you'll read a blurb from Jared's journal (the section called "The Story of B" at the front of the book) detailing the story events, and after Jared sits down to hear one of B's lectures, there will be an asterisk that refers to "The Teachings of B," which are fictional transcripts of the lectures.

Sometimes, though, flipping back and forth between the two sections of the novel gets a bit tedious. And if the teachings of Ishmael are fresh in your mind (preview 1, review 1, and review 2), the Leaver and Taker lectures get a bit redundant. The conversational flow that occurs in the Ishmael and delightful occurs in My Ishmael, is stunted in many parts of The Story of B.

That might be all for the best, on the other hand, if you have the foreknowledge that "The Teachings of B" appendix can be redundant. If you're well-versed in Ishmael-ology, by all means, the flow of the book gets better if you skip the appendix. You can always go back to that later.

Once you get past the flipping back-and-forth momentum killer, you'll see the similarities among all three "An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit" books. As Jared gets closer to B, there will be Ishmael-esque Socratic dialogues - or at the very least, one-on-one tutorial time between the priest and the teacher. That's why I stated earlier that the book feels different than the other two books at first.

Storywise, you can probably make a movie from the parts. It might not have a creepy, offensively albino monk, but the religious deconstruction that permeates throughout the novel is potentially controversial. Without giving too much away, there is some antagonizing/romantic chemistry between the priest and B's right-hand woman. You'll have to read how far that goes in the book, but the love interest storyline could definitely be amped up by an unscrupulous Hollywood bigwig producer, much to the chagrin of the fans of the book. Wow, how many film adaptations of books have done that?

All in all, for the above reasons, The Story of B was actually a more difficult read than the two books directly involving our friendly neighborhood telepathic gorilla. I suggest the obvious of reading Ishmael first, as a primer or litmus test, then either going on to The Story of B (technically the second book and a possible primer for the last book) or My Ishmael (chronologically concurrent with the first book but builds upon the ideology of both books).

On a slightly related note, there's a misprint in my copy of The Story of B, as there are two divisions entitled "Part Two." Basically, in "The Story of B" section, it goes: Part One, Part Two, Part Two, and Epilogue. Fortunately, the second "Part Two" reads like a "Part Three."

A commenter suggested to read Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization, which I think is a collection of essays further developing Quinn's neo-tribal, animist philosophy (or ideology or even theology). I'd like to thank Howard of SystemsThinker.com for the suggestion, and one day, I hope to pick up that book. But for all intents and purposes, for the time being, I'm moving on the the next author. Any suggestions?

Postscript: I personally have a suggestion for you, the reader, as well as for myself. Speaking of interesting characters named Jared, there's a scholar and author named Jared Diamond. A couple of years ago, he appeared in a documentary based on his book Guns, Germs, and Steel. I watched the documentary, which covered similar ground to the "An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit" trilogy. My suggestion to the both of us is to check out the actual book Guns, Germs and Steel. (On a hilarious note, call me crazy but Jared Diamond's voice sounds like a Bostonian Ray Romano. Again, call me crazy...)

Post-postscript: I still highly recommend Pearl Jam's Yield. The band apparently passed the first Ishmael book around during the writing and recording process of the album. Plus, it's my favorite Pearl Jam album.

Post-post-postscript: The film Instinct was apparently "inspired" by Ishmael. I'll have to check that movie out eventually. I personally think that the two books Ishmael and My Ishmael combined and adapted can make a good movie, but there I go - being the unscrupulous movie producer mentioned earlier.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Comparative Storytelling IV: Produced by Flood

This is the current conclusion to my four-part rant considering three slightly different - but very much the same - stories we've been told and have shared alike. If you haven't already, please read parts I, II, and III.

"History"

The world after Eden became increasingly wicked, and God had to put a stop to this. So he told Noah to build a ship large enough to fit himself, his wife, his three sons, their three wives, and every species of land animals and birds, in either pairs or seven pairs for kosher animals. Noah tried to warn everybody, but to no avail, so only those who rode in Noah’s Ark survived the Flood.

After the water drained from the land, the Ark settled on Mt. Ararat, in the Caucasus region. The six human survivors and all their animals soon descended the mountain. Noah built a vineyard, grew grapes, made wine, and got drunk. His three sons, with their wives, repopulated the Earth.

As the Silver Age and the Bronze Age progressed, humans became increasingly wicked, due to Pandora’s box. Zeus had to put this to an end by sending a great Flood to kill all of mankind. Prometheus, who was chained and suffering on Mt. Caucasus, warned his son Deucalion about the coming flood. So Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha fled to Mt. Parnassus, or they rode a boat that eventually settled on Parnassus, when the Flood came.

In the end, only the peaks of Parnassus and Olympus survived the Flood. Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only two humans left on Earth. Interpreting a riddle from the goddess Athena, the couple threw rocks behind them as they descended the mountain. The rocks became human beings, and that’s how Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulated the Earth. Also, their biological son Hellen became the forefather of all Greeks.

In Daniel Quinn’s books, Ishmael in particular, the totalitarian agriculturalist settlers of the Fertile Crescent came from a land slightly to the north of the Crescent – the Caucasus region. These original Caucasians (whoa, heavy implication here!) went to war against the nomadic herders and foragers of the region as the Agricultural Revolution began. As was stated previously, the cultural children of Cain the Farmer have populated nearly the entire world, save only a few pockets of Eden.

If you want further context, read Ishmael and its sequels. Read Malthus. Read the Bible (without the blinders of dogma). Read every other holy book. Read Brave New World. Read as many of the contradicting Greco-Roman myths as possible, then go to the stories of other peoples East, West, North, and South. Read all the other flood myths, like Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh. (And I’ll try to do the same.)

Anyway, it was a fantastic exercise – for me, anyway – to find several similarities among several cultural, historical, and ideological stories. I want to close this four-part series with something clever, something that incorporates the clause and live in the hands of the gods.

Unfortunately, oftentimes things aren’t that neat in real life.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Comparative Storytelling III: Fight Like a Farmer

Welcome to part three of a (for the time being) four-part series of rants highlighting the commonalities of three supposedly different storytelling traditions. Be sure to check out the previous two entries: "Comparative Storytelling I" and "Comparative Storytelling II: Jupiter's Lament."

Murder!

Eve gave birth to a son, whom she and Adam named Cain. Soon after, she gave birth to a second son, named Abel. Cain became a farmer, while Abel became a nomadic sheepherder. After a dispute between the two brothers concerning God’s favor, in which God accepted Abel’s offering of his flock over Cain’s fruit, Cain murdered Abel. God soon confronted Cain of his crime, but showed mercy on the farmer. Cain then built a city called Enoch, named after his son.

Romulus and Remus, twin sons of the god of war Mars (Ares), were left for dead and their mother buried alive for breaking her priestly vow of celibacy. (Thanks, Ares!) Surviving the wild, the twins were nursed by a she-wolf. Later, a shepherd named Faustulus took the boys home and raised them as his own.

When the twins reached adulthood, they started to build a city together. After a dispute between the two brothers concerning the favor of the gods, Romulus murdered Remus. Romulus suffered no consequence for his crime; instead Romulus completed the city called Rome, named in his own honor.

According to Daniel Quinn’s novels (and nonfiction, so I’m told), the singular tribe of totalitarian agriculturalists – farmers – needed more land to grow more crops. They spread their culture, often by force, to their nomadic and foraging neighbors. The culture of Cain the Farmer gave their brother – and father – cultures a “choice”: (1) be assimilated, or (2) be annihilated, since their way, totalitarian agriculture, was the one correct way to live. True to form, the totalitarian agriculturalists either assimilated or annihilated most of the cultures of nomadic sheepherder Abel and forager Adam. And with the flourishing of totalitarian agriculture, cities were built, then city-states, then nations and vast empires…

To this day, most of humanity ultimately belongs to Cain’s culture and only a few scattered tribes and peoples hunt, gather, and live in the hands of the gods.