The Alien God

Those with less faith in God tend to have more in Aliens. I came to the conclusion, back when I was regularly writing about pseudo-science, particularly extraterrestrial encounters, that the believers were more alt-religious than anything else. Which meant it was a topic where you weren’t going to change very many minds.

But something seems a bit off about this essay. As I noted yesterday talking about the story of Gef!, there was obviously a lot of superstitious belief when people were plenty more religious. I will agree that there’s clearly been a rise in superstitions with scientific veneers in the last century. (I like to say that the three great myths of our time are “U.F.O., E.S.P. and W.M.D.” — hawhaw.) And all are clearly intertwined in a search for meaning beyond the mundane.

Three Biggest Music Mysteries …

… that I also consider counterproductive for the music they concern.

  1. This weird, pious atmosphere that keeps attaching itself to pre-electric country blues. This is sacred stuff, man, esp. treasured because “non-commercial.” Reminds me of the worst aspects of the early-’60s folk revival. Didn’t Bob Dylan point out that that sort of reverence was a dead end?
  2. A closely related effect applies internationally. That the purest, noncommercial folk forms from the most isolated corners of the land are the true music of the place. Genius innovations from city performers are just tainted junk.
  3. The only time anybody wants to play, listen to, or write about reggae and offshoots is during the hottest weeks of the summer.

R.I.P.: George A. Romero — Zombie, Oh, Zombie

I saw Night of the Living Dead when it was new and it scared the doo-doo out of me. Hard to imagine this was the first horror movie that wasn’t just creepy or thrilling, but brutal, assaultive, with a rough-newsreel quality that made it feel like a documentary. Plus a horrific, downbeat ending. But my favorite part of the film, which let me know I was crossing into a fresh circle of Hell, is the beginning. There’s no explanation, no setup, no warning when this horrifying guy just appears from behind a tombstone and starts to menace and then WHAM! the brother is killed — a guy you probably expected to be the hero. And then of course we get the modern trapped-in-a-scary-house theme. Fascinating that the film was such an enduring influence that it’s transformed the meaning of “zombie” until almost no one you ask could cite the original Caribbean possessed-person definition.

(Plus, he died listening to Bing Crosby, a pretty up-there choice, I say.)

[PS: Because I have been asked, yes, the Fela Kuti “Zombie” does refer to the original definition. In a very potent way.]

Post-4th Enough To Make You Take the Fifth

When I was a kid, the fourth of July was my favorite holiday next to Xmas and my birthday because little old Livingston went all out for it. The day before there was a parade that was the only sure parade of the year. Ran through all of downtown, involved almost all the businesses and institutions and citizens as marchers or watchers. The day of featured an outstanding rodeo with fireworks immediately following. Especially when I retained that childhood sense of time where a day could feel as long as years do to me now, I flat loved it. The 4th of July incarnated summer. (Of course, didn’t hurt that it was the only holiday out there when you could be assured of a nice warm day.)

I still love fireworks. (I disappear into them and time stands still while they go off. It’s just an urge I’ve always had and I’m glad it did not go away. But the day after the Fourth is the one nice warm day I’m sure to have at least a small bought of depression. There’s the weird business where I feel winter earlier and earlier. But beyond that, today is one of those days I envy anyone who lived before the shadow of nuclear weapons existed. So the Cold War never turned Hot. So what? Means nothing.

Oddly what most brightened my day was Laura Miller writing about death. The message that includes the bad news is the strongest. I have to take a walk outside now.

Peaceful Moment on the Edge

Easygoing day … recycled Egg BBQ .. as long a walk as we could take in the strong sun … leisurely Red Sox Game and French Open win by new fave Tommy Fleetwood … try to feel down into it because, for about the last 10 years a strange uneasiness has settled over this week for me. Long, long ago I heard that some wag said “After the Fourth of July, yer on a greased chute to Thanksgiving.” Except now instead of “heheh,” feel a little shiver. This is the final week were I don’t sense Old Dad Winter lurking somewhere just beyond the horizon.

LSD at Harvard in Space and Time

Dr. Andrew Weil wrote some of the most exciting books about drugs and mind liberation I ever read.

The Natural Mind was a coherent manifesto without dropout drapery that argued many cultures used psychedelic drugs to shape young minds and the upsides were notable. Included original research into native-culture ceremonies and many insights. I have not read this completely revised version. But to be blunt I would say his original expression, warts and all, beats it.

The thing that weirded me out about his followup — The Marriage of the Sun and Moon — is that he had obviously figured cashing in on New Age vibes would pay off more than a lonely crusade to make acid experimentation a more normal and controlled part of American psychology research. Like they say, the beginning of the end.

Now he turns up every few years like a wind-up interview toy and gives the same spiel, with modifications, over and over. It’s not incorrect, though misleading I think in parts, just such a sad step-down from the potent message on mind liberation he once articulated.

But then, there was the Harvard Drug Scandal. Here’s Weil’s self-serving version.  And here’s a more balanced look back.

The Most Lunatic Legacy of the Cold War

Why the U.S. Government and the Prez in particular are more important than what they govern.

From Dr. Strangelove onward, little bits of these horribles kept floating around as a nightmare undercurrent to my youth.

On Thermonuclear War, the creepiest book I know, was my most thorough exposure.

 

PS: Here’s a piece that explains how Kahn was one of the earliest “politically incorrect” tyrants.