Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Green Slime

Where can I get a copy of this movie? It's not on Netflix. I remembered watching it as a little kid and laughing at it even then.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

New Yamato Metal Video by Animetal

I don't think this was on Youtube before. This version has the full song by Animetal. The band looks like if KISS and Voltron had children.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alligators Vibrating Water

Alligators bellow when they're mating. I've never heard this in person but want to. Look at how the water above their backs vibrates when they do this:

Early 70s Rock and Chaco Canyon

I finally saw Chaco Canyon in New Mexico yesterday (pictures here). One of the main complexes is called Chetro Ketl. I don't know what language the name is from, but just the sound of the first word* had me wandering around the ruins, humming Aqualung.

The Anasazi sites were abandoned by ancient Puebloans around the time (but not necessarily because of) the arrival of Na-Dene speakers (i.e. the Navajo/Apache common ancestor). It's thought that maybe the Na-Dene speakers contributed to the end of classic Pueblo civilization with warfare and cannibalism - here is a book whose title begins with "Man Corn". Can a book with "Man Corn" in the title really be bad? Consequently I edited the lyrics to "Sitting in a kiva...Eyeing Puebloans with bad intent". See, there's your rock-n-roll anthropology crossover reference for the day.

Cheeri-o then old chap!

*I do this a lot and I have become concerned that this constitutes clanging.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oh What Fun To Ride and Sing a Slayer Song Tonight

When I thought of that I had to use it as the title of a post. Holiday Seasons in the Abyss! Clearly the Middle Eastern theme of the video is meant to evoke Bethlehem and the three wise men. See? You can almost smell the myrrh:*

If you're unconvinced that Slayer is the Reason for the Season (even after the National Day of Slayer), check out this gentleman's holiday light display.

*I always thought frankincense was like common sense, but for Frankenstein. Such an august body of knowledge could be rendered succinctly: walk stiffly and run from angry villagers. I'm high.

The Great Filter: Why All This Talk of "Civilizations?"

In discussions of filters and Fermi paradoxes, questions are often asked with the word "civilization". Why, we wonder, do we not see evidence of non-human civilizations?

The concern for the absence of evidence of civilizations has been that it is probably unreasonable to assume that humans are special (the self-indication assumption), and that, since the evolution of life elsewhere in the galaxy seems more and more likely (more planets discovered, more ways of making heredity chemicals), it's worrisome that we don't see evidence of other civilizations. Why worrisome? Because it may mean that the "filter" that stops civilizations from filling the sky seems less and less likely to be between the primordial chemical soup of young planets and the evolution of living things, and therefore more and more likely to be after the evolution of life and their surviving long enough to colonize the galaxy. That is to say, whatever it is which seems to have consistently stopped the others' expansion is probably still ahead of us in time. By this argument, any observation which makes it more likely on average for planets to get at least as far as humans are on the way to intelligence and interstellar diaspora is bad news, because it means the filter must still be in front of us.

There are two assumptions here which, if falsified, break the logic of these arguments. One is that the sky really is empty. We've only just started looking and it's not at all clear we know what to look for, or where (related posts here.) Second is that at this point it is totally
unwarranted to insist that matter-based replicators which move between stars must necessarily have, or be the product of, a "civilization". The provinciality of such an assumption cannot be over-stated. Certainly with most Earth organisms, there is no conceivable way to move between star systems without a specialized representational tissue that allows behavior-changing information to be cooperatively shared by large numbers of entities. This is what we call "civilization" in the one species that we know has developed it. But if it is indeed possible for non-intelligent replicators to spread between stars (even if slowly; see calculations here) there's still a good chance we'll find it. If it's possible for non-intelligent life to spread, and we don't find it, there's a good chance that the filter is in fact the evolution of life in the first place (despite all mounting findings apparently to the contrary), not the stability or longevity of "civilizations" that would otherwise be thought necessary to help intelligences escape the quarantines of their solar systems. In that case, we're out of the woods, and we're on our own.

Area Woman Sets Microwave To Wrong Power Setting for Pizza, Creates Higgs Boson

PADUCAH, KY - Area woman Susan Tyson got more than she bargained for when the distracted mother of three accidentally set her microwave on POPCORN when heating a chicken-and-garlic pizza for dinner, CERN sources report.

"I don't know what happened," she said. "I pressed START and all of a sudden all matter de-cohered from the subatomic level on up. At first I thought there had been an accident on the interstate next to our house but then I thought, 'My goodness, that wouldn't collapse the metastable vacuum now would it.'"

CERN scientists Holger Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya had argued that the universe would disallow the creation of the Higgs boson through a reverse causality mechanism that sabotaged the accelerator, and that this explained the project's repeated snafus. [Note: go back and click on it. That part actually isn't parody.] When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the universe stated it had no knowledge of Ms. Tyson but that this oversight would be investigated promptly.

As off press time the world had ended.

Megadeth at the Stone in San Francisco, 1984

Here's Megadeth with then-member Kerry King, at the Stone in San Francisco in 1984. I have heard tell of this legendary show, often from a friend who was actually there and works it into conversations to reinforce his metal cred. Enjoy:

Science Fair Humor

I once had the privilege of attending a middle school science fair at a somewhat rough California public school. The displays were in the usual "HYPOTHESIS", "METHODS", "CONCLUSIONS" format (hand-written with magic marker on cardboard) that we try to get budding scientists to adopt early on. Except for the magic marker part.

So it was that browsing the exhibits, one of the students' projects caught my eye: two young gentlemen who were clearly excited about high-end electronics; namely, speaker technology. Their exhibit proclaimed:

"HYPOTHESIS: Our speaker's hypotheses be real loud."

The two kids were nowhere to be found or I would've tried to set them straight. What's most interesting to me is that they got the plural right. Colorless green ideas indeed.

Good Old Pennsylvania Christian Death Metal: Believer, Extraction from Mortality

A few weeks ago I was going through and digitizing my remaining cassette collection* and realized I still had Extraction from Morality, by Believer. I had saved it because these guys were good but obscure, and it's aged well enough that I took the time to do a digital transfer song-by-song, so I could put it online for this post. Little did I know some other cats had already posted them on Youtube. Enjoy:

Believer was (in?)famous for being a Christian death metal band in the early 90s when death metal itself was still fairly novel, and Christian death metal unheard of. Whatever else I might have thought of them, I've always thought that Believer was one of the most original and talented early death metal acts out there. I wish more Pennsylvania boys would have had the cajones and drive to get out there and create something new and technical like they did. In 1991 it was much braver to include non-conventional, genre-defying content on death metal records. It's a very mature style now, but two decades ago the genre was still forming its identity and deciding on the rules, and as such, style solidarity was valued, and dissent was not well-tolerated. Since Believer was Christian maybe they reasoned they were an outgroup anyway so who cares.

In any event they put this composition in their title track; in all honesty, most of the time extra-genre inclusions on metal albums are low-quality filler, worth more as signaling than real content (i.e., "Look! We're talented because we can compose in in this other respected format. Now you must acknowledge that we're legitimate and metal is legitimate!" The same thing happens in other genres too. Was Body Count really a good metal album, or was it just novel for Ice-T to show that he could do metal too?)

Believer didn't stop with the classical part. There's a reggae bit pasted into a song that sounds more like Suicidal Tendencies-style hardcore ("Stress"; listen here) and a screwy but intense lead-in to Not Even One.

*I have Quarteto da Pinga and IR8 too. Yes I'll be posting them. And I had to go to Singapore to get them (yes, really) back before you could download things. The internet ruined tape trading conventions.

Uchuu Senkan Yamato Word of Mouth good. Firsthand reports from a discriminating Japanese liker of Yamato confirm it's a solid flick. U.S. release! Come on, marketers have to see there's a least a straight-to-DVD market for this!

The Brazilian Metal Invasion

Guess who. Of note: having recently completed the histology portion of my preclinical med school education, I was disappointed that we did not learn to identify...(wait for it!) dead embryonic cells. Perhaps this awaits us in pathology.

On the issue of whether a laboratory sickness will infect humanity (or whether there is, indeed, no hope - for cure) opinion is still divided. In the meantime, die by technology! i.e., yes there's a commercial.

Commentary: Arise is one of the most underrated metal albums ever. I say this knowing that it's already held in pretty high esteem. They have an odd but catchy melodic sense that goes well beyond merely an obsession with diminished fifths (although they do have that) that makes them analogous to a kind of metal Gershwin and puts them in the company of other melody outgroups like Carcass and Opeth. (Anybody can write amodal noise; the trick is to write strange parts and have them be catchy.)

It's also worth pointing out that the transition they underwent from Arise to Chaos A.D. that was curiously similar to the one Metallica underwent a few years before that, between Justice and
Metallica (The Black Album): the first album in each pair is a highly technical, modular, riff-based approach to writing music with a production that does the drums no favors. The second has a better all-around sound (particularly the drums) with a more holistic approach to song-writing that nurtures regional influences (think Metallica's transition from metal to nylon strings to get a subtly more country sound and Sepultura's expanded use of Latin percussion; listen to Territory from Chaos A.D. for an example.) The vocals also both underwent somewhat of a parallel evolution, if only in the sense that on the second album of each pair they don't seem treated as just another instrument.

In the early aughts I was expecting the next wave of metal post-Sweden to come from Brazil and Argentina (NWOBaADM?), based on my experience in the Southern Cone in the late 90s, but this has so far failed to materialize.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Unexpected Philosophical Positions in Metal

I ran across this bit at Agent Intellect when looking for (of all things) a post about religion and psychoanalysis. In it the author notes a surprising preponderance of Christians in metal. I was interested to find this because this is an observation I have also made. I should note that the blogger in question fills his blog(s) with an odd assortment of topics, among them metal and science fiction, a conjunction which may seem familiar. Consequently I emailed him to congratulate him on the obvious excellence of his character. I recommend you visit but don't stay too long, or the Christians will get you. (This is the kind of thing I plan to tell my children to make them do their homework.)

Mr. Intellect mostly discusses the curious case of Megadeth, and Dave Mustaine specifically. If I'm recalling my metal history correctly, just prior to Rust in Peace Mustaine went through rehab and not surprisingly produced his best album to date at that time (because the production budget didn't all go up his nose or into his veins; BTW, some of the best metal ever written is on that record and especially on Countdown to Extinction, Youthanasia, and Cryptic Writings.) Perhaps also not surprisingly, after his twelve-step program he found religion, which is controversially associated particularly with AA. You might imagine my chagrin when James Hetfield also went through rehab a few years ago. On that front, despite the influence of an infamously Cosby-sweater attired therapist on the lyrics, the give-it-up-to-a-higher-power kind of themes seem not to have unduly influenced later Metallica lyrics. Hetfield is still writing lyrics about Lovecraft stuff at least.

I had long thought that Mustaine's Christianity was common knowledge, especially since Megadeth fans have never tired of informing me of it, like the pleasant mob in the beer line I talked to at Gigantour in Sacramento in 2005, but particularly one Catholic metalhead college girlfriend (is there anything hotter than a smart female who's into metal? Yes, exactly one thing: a smart female who's into metal and went to Catholic school. Grrrr. I debate whether to include these little sexist comments but Zaphod told me I had to make my blogs more personality-driven. Yes, Zaphod is a real guy, not one of my voices. My voices give much better advice.) In any event, I would not have expected Mr. Intellect to be surprised by this.

The traditional lyrical subject matter of metal - the end of the world, taboo topics of violence and anger having to do with negative masculine emotions - would certainly seem on its face to put off modern Western Christians, who (even at the cynical reading many of us take) at least work hard to appear to eschew these associations. In fact I would argue there are underlying reasons why metal's draw to young Christian males should not be at all surprising. But before we worry too much about whether it's surprising that metalheads are ever or often Christian, first it's worth stepping back for some cultural criticism. Shouldn't it seem odd that we assume this kind of association between artists and any philosophy or religion? For example: are we concerned with Lawrence Welk's position on Zoroastrianism? Or Cezanne's position on the bimetallic standard? Or whether Mozart was an adherent of the phlogiston theory? I personally blame this association between musicians and pseudo-intellectual/supernatural belief-systems on the Beatles' going to India; that's really the first time you see it. No one especially cared whether Elvis read Nietzsche. At least this gives us a potential Monty Python sketch: imagine if surrealists and futurists developed certain hairstyles and styles of dress to mark themselves apart from the general public, and then they regularly got into fistfights at museums. Seriously: is that really any more ridiculous than punks and metalheads fighting at clubs in the 80s, identifying each other by short and long hair? The anesthesia of the familiar is powerful stuff.

A second observation is that we not only associate musicians with philosophy and religion at all, but we associate them with specific controversies in those realms, i.e. morality, theology, and eschatology. (Eschatology is the study of the end of the world. E-scat-ology is the study of the end of the world ending because of poop. HA! Get it? I try to keep things light.) That anyone, even young people, looks to musicians to explore these kinds of questions is weird, but metal isn't the only place where such an odd conjunction exists. To take two personal favorites, many libertarians assume implicitly that politics is largely the province of economists, and many atheists believe philosophy is the largely the province of biologists. Whether these arrangements are true and useful is a separate question - my point is that they're rarely recognized explicitly.

In my experience there are quite a few Christian metalheads, and this isn't strange at all. Why might this be? A large fraction if not the majority of metal lyrics take the form of moral outrage, either against some perceived moral infraction of a black-and-white moral principle, or regarding a specific abstract moral issue. There's very little real nihilism or amorality in metal. It's mostly angry idealists whining that the world and its inhabitants don't conform to their moral categories. Consider: how many metal songs take the form of second-person missives about some vague moral affront by a friend or ex that is clearly infuriating-to-the-singer, even if you don't really know what happened? It's no surprise that second person is so common in metal but not in other prose or verse: it's the most confrontational way of writing, and metal is largely a musical threat display, right down to reinventing war-paint. What's strange is that we pay for songs and concerts where the singer stands at the microphone telling us in second person he's angry at us and is going to hurt us. That said, second-person moral anger is more compelling art than nihilist shock-artists, be they in-jokes like GWAR or unfortunate souls like Seth Putnam; either way they're good for a laugh but that's about the end of it.

Considering all of this, some of metal's angry idealists, among both composers and consumers, are bound to be Christian. Any direct, simply-structured art form with a sense of clear moral principles and outrage at hypocrisy would likely be appealing to many young Christians - and young males in general. There is further theorizing to be had here, namely that the reason this kind of thing appeals to young males is that they are high-testosterone and this leads to underwired frontal lobes and temporal-lobe dominance resulting in quickness to anger as well as a more rule-based and less socialized understanding of morality. In even the most stunted males (like your blogger) by the late 20s the frontal lobes finally catch up and all the posturing and moral anger in the lyrics becomes harder to take seriously. Geschwind syndrome and autism can both be thought of as hyper-male personality phenotypes - and both are exhibited by strongly religious or anti-religious people. But now we're more in the domain of my atheist or cognitive science blogs, if you're interested in that sort of thing - I wrote there recently on many of the cognitive similarities between atheists and principle-oriented (rather than tribe-oriented) Christians.

I must confess I feel a little dirty after all that Christian talk. So this year, remember the reason for the season: Slayer!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Am A Recognized Authority(tm) on Star Blazers/Yamato

Reader Matt K. notes that when he was recently searching for a picture of Derek Wildstar aka Kodai (if you believe the nonsense that Star Blazers was originally in Japanese), he ran across my most recent Star Blazers/Yamato post. Turns out it was featured prominently in the Google search results. It's good to know that my geek cred is getting recognized by the machines before they become fully self-aware.