Monday, December 27, 2010

Distortion of Divinity: Avoiding the Game, and Attaining Spiritual Acquiescence

For quite some time now I've been contemplating this religious shit flinging that has taken place recently in the form of book burning. It always nice to see that the pious, monotheistic religions of the west have not allowed the purely materialist act of book burning go out of style. These people have obviously taken their eye off the ball when it comes to the spiritual well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. Religion can, in fact, be very beneficial to a society when utilized properly. The problem with institutionalized religion is the idea that the dogmas set forth by religious authorities, are not in any way shape or form, perversions of the doctrine, and that the doctrine being interpreted is divinely inspired, and thus an infallible guide to living life. Alan Watts was once asked by a radio announcer, "Don’t you think that if there is a truly loving God, He would given us a plain and specific guide as to how to live our lives?” he knew that the man was referring to the Bible and replied, “On the contrary, I think a truly loving God would not stultify our minds. He would encourage us to think for ourselves."

Although it may be true that many of these writings contain some form of the teachings of Moses, Jesus or Mohamed, it is irresponsible to assume that the pen-holders did not inject some of their personal beliefs into the mouths of these men, or that some statements may have been distorted unintentional and lost in translation. All religious text from the Qur'an to the Bible and even eastern text, such as Hindu Bhagavad Gita or Buddhist Bardo Thodol (Book of the Dead), contain teaching that can help guide some to a more spiritually loving path. I find it really disheartening when individuals use the dogma of interpreters, such as St. Augustine, to condemn people as unfaithful sinners. All of these ideologies that have been handed down to us are rarely question. I would consider this a failure of moral courage, and a transgression on the human soul. I doubt Jesus would waste his time concerning himself with things such as “Original Sin” or the idea that accepting him as the son of God was the only path toward salvation. Many people consider me odd and eccentric, but I think my idea of of who Jesus was is closer to the true nature of Christ and his message to humanity, dogma and doctrine aside.

First, it is important to point out that many people are labeled non-believers by the so called “Faithful”, when they question the dogma erected in the name of Jesus Christ or any other religious figure, or what many consider to be messengers of God, or what I think is more appropriate “couriers of the Universe”. One thing that people seem to forget is that Jesus was quite the questioner himself. Many seem to forget that he spent a lot of time questioning Judaism, which is most apparent in narratives like the The Money Changers, where Jesus quotes from the Torah by exclaiming, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”.(Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11) This seems to be a staple in the teaching of Jesus, which is the fundamental idea that materialism has no place in a temple, intended solely for communion with God. If anything it is the materialism that distracts us from uniting with the divine. Therefore, by allowing materialism into the temple, in the form of the merchants and money changers, a place where people went to commune with god, the leaders of the temple were undermining the basic spiritual function of the temple.

It is interesting to point out that the spiritual teaching inherited from many of the spiritual leader's that have presented themselves in the history of mankind, have epitomized similar spiritual tenets. From Jesus and Socrates, to Buddha and Gandhi they have all had similar underlying ideals. All of which, with the exception of Buddha, were killed subsequently. The disparity in this trend was pointed out by Bill Hicks when he said, “It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … Jesus - murdered; Martin Luther King - murdered; Malcolm X - murdered; Gandhi - murdered; John Lennon - murdered; Reagan... wounded.” It seems that the western mind has a tendency to over value life, and fear death even though they are one in the same. There is a grace in these “preachers of peace” deaths who, as some would say, had a lot more to give, but I guess the universe thought differently.

I think the most profound teaching, that a person like Jesus had to offer humanity, was in his death, but not in the traditional way that we have been lead to believe. I think Jesus demonstrated his philosophy of anti materialism most profoundly in his self sacrifice. I don't see Jesus' death as a provocation of the sacrifice that Jewish prophecy predicted, or the idea perpetuated by an institution like the Catholic Church, that Jesus was dying for the world sins. Our body is what connects us to the material world and, as Gnostics believed, was the final obstacle in the way of our inevitable reunion with god, or more precisely the universe. It as if Jesus wanted us to know that we should never fear death, or we may forget to live.

I think the attempt of preserving the material body, as observed in the funerary processes of traditional Judaism and Christianity are a bit morbid and far from practical. It is an attempt to persevere a vessel, a mere shell of a person, in attempt to preserve the essence of that person, even though the essence goes much deeper then the skin and the body, and leaves after we die. Our body is animated by the energy, which may radiate from our soul, or true self, which many refer to as the “Spirit” or essence of a being. There is really no need to preserve the entirety of an empty vessel, unless you are materialistic. Furthermore, the amount of money spent on these frivolous ceremonies is just another aspect of this misguided materialism.

On the other hand, when compared to the funerary practices of eastern religions, which may be seen as morbid to the western mind, is far more practical and much more captivating. Of the many forms of eastern burials I find the sky burial most intriguing. This is a practice in Tibet wherein a human corpse is cut in specific locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements or the mahabhuta and animals, especially to birds of prey. A sky burial, or Jhator, is considered an act of generosity on the part of the deceased, since the deceased and surviving relatives are providing food to sustain living beings. Generosity and compassion for all beings are important virtues or paramita in Buddhism. I hope that one day my remains can be disposed of in this fashion, as George Carlin once said, ‎"If we're going to recycle, let's get serious!"

Materialism, in a nut shell, is a very narrow and bleak philosophy for simple minded people. It over values the external world, and neglects the internal world, or at least fails to unite body, mind and spirit in a more psychologically healthy union. Much like the great spiritual teachers before me, I view the material world as a world of illusion; inherit with the spiritual trappings of mankind. As Nikos Kasantzakis stated so eloquently in the Epilogue for The Last Temptation of Christ:

Within me are the dark immemorial forces of the Evil One, human and pre- human; within me too are the luminous forces, human and pre-human, of God— and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met.

The anguish has been intense. I loved my body and did not want it to perish; I loved my soul and did not want it to decay. I have fought to reconcile these two primordial forces which are so contrary to each other, to make them realize that they are not enemies but, rather, fellow workers, so that they might rejoice in their harmony, and so that I might rejoice with them.”

-The Dead Guy

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How To Be a Dick: Holiday Edition

Ah, it’s that time of year again! Lights have been hung, menorahs have been lit, shoppers have been trampled and children everywhere have been traumatized by being thrust into a fat stranger’s lap. What better time is there to exercise your inalienable right to be an entitled, oversensitive, undeniable dickhead? It’s you right, no, it’s your job to make this time of year as stressful as possible for everyone around you. To ensure maximum impact, you should follow the five simple steps bellow!


1. Wait until 8pm on the night before the holiday to begin to do your shopping. This will ensure that you can maximize your opportunity to be a total dick and offend the absolute greatest amount of people. Go out without a plan and expecting to be able to find every item you want in the exact color, size and design that you desire. Expect and demand that hottest toy, the one which has been virtually sold out since October, be readily available to you at a moment’s notice and in a perfect box.

2. Be nasty when in public. Walk through the mall, the bank, the grocery store and anywhere else you can run into a variety of people and act as though you are walking through a veritable miasma. This is your holiday of choice and these people are in your way, invading your personal space and generally making you wait an extra 2.5 minutes to get to the item you are entitled to purchase. Sneer at everyone who dares to smile at you. Bonus points if you can direct your shit smelling ire at a child under 5.

3. Once in line, stare angrily at the person in front of you. How dare they get there first? Don’t they know that you are on a very important errand and need to purchase your tickle me whatever first? Sigh loudly. Shift your weight and look at your watch repeatedly and in an exaggerated manner. If the line moves and they don’t, clear your throat and aggressively inch forward. Make that asshole in front of you know that they have absolutely ruined your day, your holiday, your children’s holiday and your great grandma’s holiday.

4. In the parking lot, drive the wrong way down the aisle, looking for a close spot. When you don’t find one that is vacant, begin scouting for people who may be loading up. Find the person with the greatest amount of packages and pull right up to their car. Once they begin loading up, it’s time to let them know that they are not doing it quickly enough. Lean on your horn, shout obscenities at them, shake your fist angrily and throw a tantrum until they are ready to pull out. Leave them just barely enough room to do so safely. As they are pulling away, give them the middle finger. Bonus points if you can do this with a family with children or someone who is elderly or infirm.

5. Once you get to the cashier and present your items to him or him, point out every single packaging flaw and demand a discount. How dare they not have the forethought to package these items in something that will operate like titanium in the store yet melt like butter when opened? If you have found something you want to purchase but not in the correct size or color, give the cashier hell. They should have known you were coming and help the item for you. Everyone knows that people who work retail are nothing but slaves to your whims! Once you are finished haranguing them about the lack of selection, the lack of colors and the general atmosphere in the store, demand that they gift wrap your items for free, place each of them into their own separate bag and magically teleport them to your car. If they acquiesce to your demands, make sure you let them know that they are not doing it quickly enough!

BONUS ROUND: After you have paid for your items and ensured that they are all suitably perfect, the cashier or another store employee may offer you some sort of seasonal well wishes. If they wish you a happy or merry specific holiday, become ridiculously offended that they have chosen a holiday which you do not celebrate. Let them know that they are racist and just as bad as Hitler, Stalin and the Heat Miser combined. Demand to see a manager. Yell at them and then go home to write a nasty letter to the local paper about how offended you are. Alternately, if they wish you happy holidays and you happen to be Christian, freak the hell out on them. How dare they engage in the war on Christmas? Don’t they know that without your god being born they would not have jobs? They are trying to rob you of your right to celebrate an imaginary birth! Remind them of the reason for the season and demand to see their manager. Give him or her holy hell (no pun intended) and then rush home to write angry letters to the local papers, Bill O’Reily and the Pope. Waste no time! This is war!

-Shannon (Who wants to remind you that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jukebox Hero: Special Holiday Edition; The Bootlicker:

As we close in on the holidays, it is inevitable that some people may lose their bearings as the holidays approach. Those of us that have worked in retail or a restaurant quickly discover on Black Friday that this is going to be a long month, with an even worse soundtrack. If you're like me, you may wander the mall thinking, “why does the sound of Christmas music and the obsessive devotion to economic materialism always make me wish for a nuclear holocaust.” or, “Am I crazy or am I floating in a sea of the oblivious.” and then sooner or later, “I’ve got to get the fuck out of here!!”

Well there's no need to fear ‘cause the Dead Guy is here, and man do I have the solution to your lack of good tunes this holiday season, The Melvins' Bootlicker (1999). Nothing makes me enjoy the holiday season, much like this masterpiece. It is the second installment in a trilogy, which includes The Maggot (1999) and The Crybaby (2000). The fact that these albums were released only months, not years, apart are a testament to the musical prowess of the Blitzkrieg we call The Melvins. With songs like “Toy” and “Black Santa” the mellow, melodic sound of this album will entice you to enjoy it near the warmth of a hearth, while you sip on a hot toddy. It relaxed and mischievous feel will evoke the simpler times of your childhood, as The Melvins prove once again that they have more range in their pinkies then most bands have at all. Join The Melvins on this weird, psychedelic and surreal journey though the innocence of our childhood imaginations, while you enjoy flashbacks of that time you where tripping during that sweet ass snowstorm.

I was introduced to the Melvins by a friend from work who played guitar. The first time we meet he asked me if I listened Tool and the Deftones. I complied and we've been friend ever since. One day during a smoke break he told me about seeing The Melvins with Jello Biafra the night before. Staring at him, with a puzzled look on my face I asked, “Who are The Melvins?”. As the story goes he was first shocked, but more than that, he was... well, disappointed. So disappointed in fact, that he told me he would introduce me to them and, “You my friend WILL love them.” The Dead Guy had not been born yet, but very soon would be, along with “the jacket” . Loving bands like Tool and the Deftones as I did, finding the Melvins was like finding the holy grail of stoner metal. The now gray haired rock good, King Buzzo was a force of awe. He was a lumbering, sludgy, guitar shredding nerd with a great sense of humor, who I would one day meet. And sitting behind him, wielding a drum kit like the Hammer of Thor, was a mini Danny Carry named Dale Crover.

Being plumbed aurally by these two, I have grown quite accustomed to the heavy stoner sound that made me feel high when I was completely sober. Yet with such a distinct sound, I'm always impressed that none of their works sound alike, and this album is no exception. What may be the most unique work of the melvins, it displays a eureka moment of precision, granted by the experimentation that was afforded to them, after Atlantic dropped the from their label, and Mike Patton signed them to his indie label, Ipecac Records. Signing with Ipecac has given The Melvins the ability to experiment in all aspects with the recording process, which wasn't usually granted by major labels. It would be pretty ballsy to go into a new record company with such an ambitious idea like a trilogy, but with Mike Patton anything is possible.

The only thing that would be more ambitious then this masterpiece and the rest of the trilogy would be if Tool did a jazz album. This album has the ability to be a sprawling laid back trip that could fit into a corner of an empty, run down gin joint on Christmas Eve. It expands and contracts with mellow jams that seamless flow into some of the weirdest experiments with noise and sound that would make John Cale and Frank Zappa proud. From Buzzo's enchanted whispering of, “Toy, Toy, Toy, Toy” at the beginning of the album all the way to the spacey psychedelic acoustic jam of “Prig”this album will make you feel warm all over this holiday season.

-The Dead Guy

Track list ( links):


2. Let It All Be (live in Norway!)

3. Black Santa

4. We We

5. Up The Dumper

6. Mary Lady Bobby Kins

7. Jew Boy Flower Head

8. Lone Rose Holding Now

9. Prig

*Editor's Note: Let us know if you like these music posts and we'll keep doing them if you do.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We Can And Should Speak Out, Collectively and Do The Right Thing: or What Social Networking Sites CAN Be Good For

Tonight, I did something I rarely do. I went to a suburban bar with a cover band playing. This trip was solely for the purpose of attending the birthday party of someone who I have met in person once in my life. This person is friends with my partner but, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t really know me from Adam. Nonetheless, I made the trek and paid the five dollar cover, because it seemed like the right thing to do.

When I arrived, I was surprised to be greeted by a room full of veritable strangers with warm smiles and hugs. It did not take long for people to ask me if I needed drink or to offer me a seat in a crowded room. I am not a particularly open or familiar person. In fact, I am painfully shy at times. However, that did not matter tonight. Because it is close to the holidays and we are American adults. This is what we do. We smile and extend kindness to those who we believe have extended kindness to our friends and comrades. I was accepted and made to feel like family by a group of strangers simply because I am kind to and care for one of their own. This is our culture. We care for those who care for those who we care about.

Why then, do we have so much trouble passing a bill which provides care to those who responded to the trauma and violence of September 11, 2001 by risking their own well being in order to ensure the well being of others?

As Americans, we often show caring and compassion for those who we perceive to have been wronged, either by other people or by the system itself. We are quick to respond to calls for charitable donations and we are proud of it. Yet we seem to have no problem allowing congress to not pass a law which will provide healthcare for those who responded to the September 11th disaster by rushing into the chaos and attempting t help those who were most directly affected.

How is this even possible?

Much like every other American, I think I remember that day very clearly and I know I remember the aftermath of that day as clear as anything. I can clearly remember everyone I came in contact with clutching their newly purchase American flags and sentimental materials and waxing poetic about heroism and the nature of the American consciousness. I remember a lot of talk about coming together and supporting one another in an extremely trying time. I remember the endless platitudes and syllogisms about colors that don’t run and the strength of a nation. It seemed like everyone around me wanted to talk about how powerful we can be when we come together and support each other.

And, as sentimentally overwrought as some of these expressions may have been, they all had a grain of truth.

We can be powerful when we come together.

We can change the world, or at least our world, when we collectively decide to do the right thing.

But we didn’t.

Granted, we did care for a while. We extended hugs and generosity and understanding like I have never seen before or after. For at least a few weeks following the tragedy, we lived in the America which I had always imagined had existed long before I was born; The America where every citizen extended a warm hand to every other citizen and we care for each other like family. Then, the bubble burst. We became fearful of other Americans who were too similar to our middle eastern neighbors in dress and religious creed. We became entrenched in several wars and began to bicker, once again, about foreign policy and economic legislation. We forgot to be unified.

We forgot our unity and we forgot about those who volunteered to help in one of the most frightening events I have ever seen.

We focused instead on tax cuts, abortion, NAFTA and a host of other issues. We bickered and argued and campaigned and voted. Somewhere, in the sound and the fury of our everyday lives and the endless shout outs of frustration, admiration and support to soldiers and politicians alike, we forgot to check on the very people who had, not so long ago, rushed head on into the smoldering destruction just to make sure others were safe. While we were debating and campaigning and speaking out many of these men and women were becoming ill as a result of their bravery and we never noticed.

They are sick and some of them are dying. The right thing to do would be to pay for their healthcare. If they were enlisted soldiers, who were being ordered to help and paid for their service during the September 11h attacks, they would have at least their basic healthcare needs taken care of, and rightfully so. However, many of these people were neither ordered nor paid to attempt to aid others in such a frightening and chaotic time. Many of them are simply American citizens who felt that they could and should offer a helping hand during a crisis. They rushed in when most were fleeing.

As a result of this, many of them became ill and our government, the people who we voted into office, will not pass a bill which provides them with the care they need.

Last week, congress voted down a bill which would provide healthcare to those who were sickened as a direct result of their actions in support of other Americans on September 11, 2001. And very few people seem to care.

Less than one week ago, my inbox and news feeds were flooded by people who were changing their profile pictures to support a war on a concept.

This week, a very real and challengeable fact became public, and no one reacted.

This is shameful to me.

However, it doesn’t have to be.

We can change it.

If you are one of the many Americans who cared on September 11 and continues to care now about the men and women who bravely sacrificed their own sense of well being in order to insure that of others, then I urge you to look up your local senator and harass the living hell out of them. Send letters, make phone calls, put the word out on facebook, twitter and myspace. Scream from the rooftops. Hold a sit in. Throw rocks through the windows of politicians. Do whatever it takes to be heard. Support the 9/11 Responders act and demand that those who you have voted into office do the same. It is the only right thing to do.

Please America, restore my faith in you.

As Christmas and all of its attendant sentiments approaches, please do what you can to make sure that these people are not left without the care they deserve for any longer.

I double dog dare you to.