Ninja Turtles, Napalm, and Silly Putty

Ninja Turtles comic spoiler alert

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Somehow I stumbled upon this yesterday and it made me laugh.  It’s such a ridiculous picture if you step back from it.  (No offense meant to comic fans.  Whatever floats your boat I say.)  The imagination of man! 

George Carlin’s book Napalm & Silly Putty, the title anyway, was based on the absurdity of the human imagination.  The same group of beings that could make something to copy the Sunday comics could also create something to melt someone’s skin off from a distance. 

Image from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #44

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer Review and Overview

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer Review and Overview

Above is a link to an article at The Nerdist that reviews and recaps the book The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.   This is a book that all Twin Peaks fans should read, especially as we await the new season in 2016.  (Yes I have read it.)  22 year old Jennifer Lynch, daughter of show creator and director David Lynch, wrote the book.  It provides a view into the life of Laura Palmer leading up to the events in the Twin Peaks movie Fire Walk With Me which itself was a prequel to the series.  (I can’t remember if any events from the movie are specifically hinted at in the book.  It has been several years since I read it.)  Those that are particularly fascinated with the darker side of Twin Peaks will find much to dive into here. 

Sad Song, When Tragedy Becomes Comedy

Today I was talking to my Dad on the phone about Dante’s Inferno.  Surprisingly we both found it funny.  This is a book where people’s souls are tortured in the most horrible ways imaginable for all eternity, often for no more than religious thought crimes or moments of passion.  The religious medieval mind was sure a strange one!  When things go that dark they, at some point, go through the looking glass and pass into the realm of absurdity, and then turn into comedy.

Lou Reed often makes me laugh in the same way, though I’m almost positive that he was in on the joke.  When he was asked about his album Berlin, which many deem the most depressing album of all time, he said he was just, “having fun.”  Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I can put that album on, or any number of his albums, and find myself instantly cheered up.  The final song on it, Sad Song, is the cosmic punchline to the album.  I was going to describe it, but I found this description on YouTube by Adam Pendleton, the first comment at the time of writing, and I really enjoyed it:

So this poem is about an abusive husband, than his wife kills herself. Even so, he doesn’t really care. He half-heartedly chants “sad song.” than shrugs and moves on. Even after she’s gone he thinks of her as “wasting my time.” and that he was wrong for thinking she ever looked beautiful. He justifies his abuse, “somebody else would have broke both her arms.” At least that’s what I got out of it.

As Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”

Lawrence Wright Interview On Scientology and Religion

Lawrence Wright On Scientology

Here is an author of Going Clear, a book on Scientology, about the religion and the upcoming documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.  Even though this author’s main focus is on Scientology, he says things that are relevant to other religions as well.  What are people looking for when they become part of a religion?  What makes people believe in something that may appear absurd to outsiders?  What are things that a religion does to keep its members in line?  The author speaks of the things that many religions share, but also what separates Scientology from those other religions as well.

Under Different Deities

Heading back to Austin from a brief tour of Louisiana.   I will catch up on posting when I am home.  I did see a sign in a gas station today that said:  “Jefferson Davis Law – No Alcohol Sold Between 2 and 6am.”  So that happened.  I am glad that the ghosts of the Confederacy are attempting to keep me sober in the wee hours of the morning.  

In Denis Johnson’s book Tree of Smoke, his epic Vietnam novel, one of the characters come to the conclusion that different parts of the world are governed by different deities.  Each area operates under its own unique set of supernatural laws.  When one travels the United States, one can’t help but feel the same way.  Louisiana is not Texas is not Colorado is not wherever.  It isn’t just different cultures and economic forces shaping human behavior, but almost nature itself.  The haunted swamps of Louisiana create a different emotional context than the comforting greenery of the Texas hill country.   “God is alive and magic is afoot.”  The only question is what god and whose magic?  Anyone that claims to know is deluding themselves…

Modern Hell

I am reading Dante’s The Inferno for the first time since highschool.  If memory serves me correctly, I am actually reading it front to back for the first time.  I have been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time in Dante’s hometown of Florence.  The Inferno is clearly influenced by the people, places, and imagery of which Dante was familiar.  

Hell, even at its worst, resembles the artwork and literature of his time, which was often the work of true artists and craftsmen.  I find myself reading this out on the American highway, which often features architecture and art that’s only functions are functionality and efficiency.  Box stores and garish logos dot the landscape.  This is not to say that making things visually striking is everything, as the Nazis were quite good at that.  But often even our modern view of Hell resembles the artistry of Dante’s time, more than any true concept of what is the worst in life.  Would you choose Dante’s Hell or an abandoned K-Mart for eternity?   Dante had no concept of what modern pollution was capable of, of nature so full of chemicals that it looks like a nuclear winter in deep space. 

Overall I, like most who read this, am quite amazed at how much this old text has to offer.  However, how deeply strange would a modern hell look to Dante?  Who knows such things…

My Country Tis of Thy People You’re Dying, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Native American History

The recent announcement that Buffy Sainte-Marie will be opening for Morrissey has got me pulling out her records again.  (That is a concert I would die to see!)  I just became aware of the above song, My Country Tis of Thy People You’re Dying, a song that tells the history of the United States from a Native American perspective.  I find it inspiring that a small Native American girl in a cotton dress had the courage to stand up and sing this song in the 60’s.  You won’t find many large macho males with the courage to do something like that today when, although their are miles and miles to go, things are somewhat better.  I have read a lot of history dealing with Native Americans.  While it is true that no song, however brilliant, can communicate the full complexity of that history, the lyrics of this song ring true to my understanding of that history.

Now that your big eyes have finally opened
Now that you’re wondering how must they feel
Meaning them that you’ve chased across
America’s movie screens

Now that you’re wondering how can it be real
That the ones you’ve called colorful, noble and proud
In your school propaganda, they starve in their splendor
You’ve asked for my comment, I simply will render

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Now that the long houses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they’re taught
To despise their traditions

You forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe
Then stress that the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best

And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country’s birth
Of the preachers who lied, how the Bill of Rights failed

How a nation of patriots returned to their earth
And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
As it rang with a thud o’er Kinzua mud
And of brave Uncle Sam in Alaska this year

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Hear how the bargain was made for the West
With her shivering children in zero degrees
Blankets for your land, so the treaties attest
Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed

And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected
From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day
And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored
A hundred years of your statesmen have felt
It’s better this way

And yet a few of the conquered have somehow survived
Their blood runs the redder though genes have paled
From the Gran Canyon’s caverns to craven sad hills
The wounded, the losers, the robbed sing their tale

From Los Angeles County to upstate New York
The white nation fattens while others grow lean
Oh the tricked and evicted they know what I mean

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

The past it just crumbled, the future just threatens
Our life blood shut up in your chemical tanks
And now here you come, bill of sale in your hands
And surprise in your eyes that we’re lacking in thanks

For the blessings of civilization you’ve brought us
The lessons you’ve taught us, the ruin you’ve wrought us
Oh see what our trust in America’s brought us

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Now that the pride of the sires receives charity
Now that we’re harmless and safe behind laws
Now that my life’s to be known as your ‘Heritage’
Now that even the graves have been robbed

Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you’ve never seen

That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows
Pushed the wrens from their nest
Stole their eggs, changed their story

The mockingbird sings it, it’s all that he knows
“Ah, what can I do?”, say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can’t you see that their poverty’s profiting you?

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Here are three great books about Native American history and our country’s Indian Wars.  (Keep in mind that these are simply three out of many.  I chose these books not only for the history that they tell, but also because all of them are absolutely captivating reads of the first order.):

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown – This is a comprehensive overview of the wars that the United States government fought with Native Americans.  This is probably the best place to start.

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides – This book focuses on Kit Carson, the Western tribes and predominately the Navajos, and the Indian Wars fought in New Mexico.  This is history truly brought to life through exceptional writing.  It has the descriptive beauty and pace of a great novel.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne – This book focuses on Quanah Parker, Texas, and the U.S. and Commanche War.  Another book where the writing is simply exceptional.  This book is also essential to understanding the culture of Texas.

Apologies about the title error earlier. Sometimes autocorrect gets the best of you!