Album Review: Tool – Lateralus (3in1)

AmpersandQuest

When I review albums of music I want to provide as much useful information as possible while also providing my own unique perspective on the album. Below my commentary will be a series of links for more information, lyrics, the band’s website, and a link to purchase the album. Please support the artist you enjoy!

 

Tool_-_Lateralus

Part 1

As I said above factual information about this album will be found below so I will spare you the gory details in favor of a more opinionated diatribe that will detail my feelings and interpretations of each song. If you are a big fan of Tool and have followed them for a good length of time you will understand when I say that my interpretation is not a prescription of how you should feel. I realize I haven’t covered a Tool album before and it might seem strange to really hardcore Tool fans out there to start now with Lateralus. My reason for doing so is that while I have become a really big Tool fan and love to know all the little details about them I have to be honest, this wasn’t always the case. My fandom of Tool started with this very album soon after it was released in 2001. I was a freshmen in high school, my parents were just divorced, I was a social outcast, and I turned to music to escape the harsh reality of my existence.

From my experience with all of Tool’s albums it is a blessing that Lateralus is the album that I dove off from first as it seems to be a turning point not only in my life but in the lives of the artist who created the album as they seemed to be in the midst of a spiritual and intellectual awakening. This album is chock full of inspirational themes but they are not fully realized without taking a journey through the cold dark reality of existing in this harsh modern social climate so full of cruelty and despair. Lateralus as an album served me the same purpose The Holy Bible would serve a born again Christian but obviously in a very different way. Take away the overt brainwashing that religion offers and replace it with understanding, acceptance, and enlightenment that the main characters of The Holy Bible were created to represent and you have the album Lateralus.

What we have here then is one young boy’s Rosetta Stone for life. A means by which he would come to understand all of the strange, unique, painful, and beautiful things that were happening to him. All of which seemed to come through the speakers and soak deep into his bones as the stories of the music and lyrics came to be fully realized mythos unto themselves. This album, if you cannot tell by now, means a lot to me. If I were ever able to speak to its creators I would thank them deeply for finding it within themselves to express the glorious truths of nature described in this album and having the conviction to lay the tracks down and sell it to the world without shame.

With that out-of-the-way let us begin the review and remember that the lyrics for each song can be found in a link at the bottom of the page.

Credit: Alex Grey Visit his website to purchase artistic prints at http://www.cosm.org/
Credit: Alex Grey Visit his website to purchase artistic prints at http://www.cosm.org/

              Track #1 -The Grudge – 

Let us not avoid how much this track just flat-out rocks. The instrumental work in this album from the very start is outstanding from beginning to end and the very first track does not disappoint. It leaves you with a very powerful first impression by the nature of the very aggressive kit work from Danny Carey who never seems to let up throughout the entirety of this album. Danny’s drumming prowess is in full force here and beyond. The power chords from guitarist Adam Jones may not be technically brilliant however I would argue that his composition AND his precise technique don’t really leave a lot to be desired, it’s as if he simply plays exactly the right way all the time even if it’s not wailing technical solo’s. If I wanted power metal solo’s there are plenty of artist who provide that. Tool is not that sort of band. I have also always been fond of Justin Chancellors bass work and here it serves its purpose well to seemingly make Danny’s drum set sound even more pronounced and adding just the right amount of contrast to Adam’s guitar playing. Singer Maynard James Keenan gives a very powerful performance as he always seems to do in his own way. Both guttural and operatic weaving in and out of each other in a symphony of powerful and aggressive musical backdrops.

Moving on to what I believe this song’s story is. In life, whether it be an individual, a group of people, an institution, or even yourself you will find adversaries. You will inevitably experience all of the emotions and realities of what it means to have an enemy. People will do things to hurt you, you will be singled out, be treated unfairly, and make mistakes that you will regret. This song is not about that. This song is about the willingness or lack thereof to let go of grudges. It weaves in and out of inspiration and despair as both the music and lyrics spin you round and round but all the while staying focused on the merciful release that is granted to those who learn to let go of those enemies, gangs, politicians, and regrets. While at first the song might seem to be screaming at you out of anger ultimately the point of sale comes when it all culminates in the emotional outburst and release of that anger as both music and singer collide in an epic 32 second long scream urging you to simply LET GO! The lesson here is that there is much more to be gained in life from accepting reality for what it is instead of hanging on to that which ties you down and keeps you in one place and static with your blood boiling and a soul full of regret.  I fully recommend looking deeper into the lyrics of this song because like all of Tool’s songs it could mean something totally different to you. For me, this helped me control my anger and tempered me whenever I felt my emotions could be getting the best of me. It was easy for me to think back to this track and remember how awesome it feels every time I listen to it.

             Track #2 -Eon Blue Apocalypse (Instrumental)- 

I get the sense that this song is full of grief and a great amount of pain.  It is very short and delivers what feels to me to be a “moment of silence” sort of feel. Appropriate because apparently it is an ode of sorts for the passing of guitarist Adam Jones Great Dane whose name was Eon. For me, on a thematic level, it serves as a break between the aggressive opening song and the next. It might be a track that we skip over but from time to time I like to listen to it as I reflect on life.

 

              Track #3 -The Patient-       

The intro to this roller coaster of a song feels lumbering, laborious, tedious, and filled with tension. Perhaps the title of the song is very appropriate here as it seems to feel almost like how one would feel sitting in a doctor’s waiting room as you ponder what the good doctor has to report to you. Even the opening lyrics are dripping with a feeling of restrained exuberance dying for a massive release.  As the next section continues on we are presented with growing animosity as the music gets subtly louder and the lyrics encourage you to open your heart. The meat and potatoes of the song break free as that feeling of having to wait, be quiet, and remain stoic give way to an outburst of conviction and aggressive musical themes.

I think this song can be about anything. For me personally I tend to feel it’s about living in an overly politically correct society where you are not encouraged to express yourself. Quite the opposite is definitely pronounced throughout society. Thus, we all seem to go through periods in life where we lay low, keep a low profile, and become quite apathetic towards others. I believe this song explores the importance of both being silent and introspective and expressing yourself loudly and without shame.

It is important to have a stiff upper lip and soak up the pain at times as in don’t whine and complain too much and actually BE patient. But the desire to reach out, express yourself, include others, and branch out once you’ve healed is a desire that shouldn’t be forsaken.  The reason I said this is a roller coaster of a song is because towards the end the feeling I get is much the same as waiting for the big drop off at the top of a roller coaster at a theme park. Much more appropriate to me now that I mention it would be the feeling of a tight rope walk. That you are constantly walking this fine line between apathy and empathy. That while you want to reach out to others and experience love, compassion, and community there is always a desire to return to solitude. I strongly encourage a deep and focused reading of the lyrics found at the bottom of this review.

 

Track #4 -Mantra-

 

There are a lot of interesting discussions I found online about what this track represents and also how it was recorded. If you’re interested I would definitely encourage you to check Google for the information. However, right now I just want to talk about how the song makes me feel and how it correlates with the rest of the album’s thematic aura.

The listener is graced with a very peaceful yet somehow creepy and dark sound effect. There are a couple of layers to the track to mention. Most notably what sounds like the cry’s of a whale or perhaps monks chanting. Regardless of what the artist actually did to record this track to me it serves as a way to invest the listener to focus on their inner most thoughts. It isn’t long enough to make you forget about the previous track but just long enough to get your attention heading in to the next. Which is one of the most popular songs in Tool’s entire discography so it makes sense that Tool would want people to really pay attention at this point in the album.

 

Track #5 -Schism- 

 

What stands out to me most about this song is that while it is the song they chose to be the radio friendly song of the album it is not by any means your typical arena rock and roll anthem, which I do love by the way, but they somehow managed to create a song of very pressing matters that most people don’t want to talk about and make it a chart topping hit. It’s as if they created something that isn’t supposed to appeal to everyone that by virtue of its own merit managed to soak itself into the world consciousness and took on a very powerful meaning for millions upon millions of people. It is not by any means my most cherished Tool track but I deeply respect it for what it is and what it meant for Tool being absolutely cemented in history as one of rock’s greatest bands. That does not mean this track is not chock full of philosophical importance, indeed it is, but that’s not what impresses me about it. It stands on its own as the Tool song that took music by storm without selling out.

The song itself begins with a bass intro that comes off the heels of the previous track Mantra and fits so damn well with the feeling of Mantra. The focus and attention I get from listening to Mantra is not at all broken by this intro but enhanced. The intro drones for a moment as the main bass riff that’s become so recognizable begins to enter your consciousness. Followed by Danny’s powerful drumming and Maynard’s timeless lyrics unfold before you. Musically to me this song is not the most impressive of all of Tool’s efforts but it is by no means forgettable either. Mostly because of how pressing the issues discussed in the lyrics are. To me that is where the strength of this song stands.

There is no way to view this song in a one-dimensional manner. It is about you, me, and everyone else. It is about our institutions or lack thereof. But what is the song saying about them? Personally I think the entire point of the song is that we do everything we can to promote certain ideals and convictions but fail to recognize how those seemingly virtuous and inspiring intentions also create division, animosity, hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.  It is amazing to me how our greatest intentions can give birth to such tragic failings in human kind. As the song says, you can realize that all the pieces fit but only because you watched them crumble, fail, and burn to the ground. While the song definitely encourages all of us to strive for good things in life it doesn’t bury its head in the sand when it comes to how those good things are often born from human suffering.

Perhaps this song was so successful because it’s over all message is that no matter how strong our convictions, family ties, friendships, and relationships are they will never be perfect. Everyone can relate to this message and appreciate the compassionate message it has. It doesn’t attempt to paint a pie in the sky image of the human condition but instead is honest with the listener. I am very glad this song became as popular as it did for it provided an outlet for all the animosity in the world. Also, it gives people the chance to understand just how connected we all are in the human condition and encourages us to come together in a common goal. Not in any communist hippie dippy sense but in a realistic realization that we all experience this schism in our interactions with others. We are all our own individual with our own belief structures but ultimately they are all born from a very similar place where we desire the best outcomes for not just ourselves but those around us. It is then by its very nature a message of peace and understanding. It’s not saying to tolerate bad behavior for the sake of tolerance either, rather, reaches out for us to recognize how bad behavior manifest from otherwise harmless and good intent. What a fascinating example of how music can change the world.

Part 2

   Continuing on with my review of 2001’s album from Tool entitled Lateralus. I hope you enjoyed the articles in between these reviews. Which brings to mind just how much of an influence the artist who comprise Tool have influenced the way I think about the world. I will never forget just how much more I began to appreciate art once I really got into Tool and would seek out articles and interviews of them. They always promote the idea of questioning every institution, every belief, every status quo, every piece of art, and every theory you come across in life. It is this notion that has inspired me to create and write this on going WordPress site.

                        Let’s not get side tracked with my personal anecdotes though and let us begin part 2 of this long-winded review.

                    Track #6 -Parabol-

Greeted by an atmospheric and mysterious tonal intro we find ourselves on the heels of the power driven previous track, Schism. Parabol brings you to a world of creeping fog and thick mist. It feels as though we are witnessing a man crawl out of a hole in the middle of the forest who has just rediscovered the surface and finds himself lost in the thick of reality. I don’t sense a great deal of fear in this song other than the feeling you might get being in a strange new place. We tend to fear things we do not understand but it is that which motivates us to explore and objectively identify our surroundings. The singing mirrors the music in the same low, atmospheric, and tonal way and the story of this track emerges.

Just as I described the music reminding me of a man crawling out of a hole a bit befuddled and confused with his new surroundings he begins to realize he is experiencing something profound. He is enlightening himself in a moment where he realizes he is one with his surroundings. As more information comes his way conflict burrows in his heart and longs to hold on to the precious moment when he realized the true beauty of nature all around and within him. He senses the danger and conflict coming his way and guards jealously the bright and warm light of the confines of his heart as the cold harsh reality of his mind consumes whatever comfort he had in waking up to this new reality. He is hopeful that his heart can triumph over his mind but seems to realize it is inevitable that he will have to loosen his ever so tight grip on the reality he wants to be true and begin to accept reality for what it really is. But there remains a spark of inspiration despite his realization. His reaction is further explored in the next track of this two-part song.

                    Track #7 – Parabola- 

The previous track’s slow, atmospheric, and lumbering tone’s seamlessly bleed into an aggressive, bright, and inspired rock and roll drive as our characters journey continues. I absolutely love Danny Carey’s performance in this track. His drumming to me is always the highlight when I turn this track on. It’s very rock and roll, energetic, and feels very unique at the same time. Everything else is an added bonus as the rest of the band joins in on the symphony of powerful rock and roll.

Previously I talked about a man coming to terms with his enlightenment and that he is experiencing difficulties when trying to balance his heart and mind. It isn’t until he realizes that he is not alone in his struggle to simply understand the nature that surrounds him that he finds the motivation struggle on. He finds more balance in himself once he realizes his new-found friend was just as confused and has conflated the issue just as much if not more than him while simultaneously bringing new and unique perspective to light that fundamentally changes the dynamics of reality that he had previously been sure were uncontroversial truths.

He finds this so beautiful that he begins to realize that the pain he feels inside is a lie. He doesn’t want to believe that the pain he feels can be felt by his friend, whom he loves, looks after, and wants to protect in all his vulnerability.  For a while this becomes a ritual of sorts until one day reality sets in and the true and vicious nature of reality strikes his friend down. Great anger and frustration sets in as his heart is once again tested by his mind searching for the truth all the while still holding on to the beauty he believes to be real. How can this be? How can reality be so beautiful and so god damn brutal at the same time? He digs through the remains to see if there is any discernible evidence of a soul but only finds flesh and blood further conflating his mind as it recoils to a primitive state of fear and confusion.

Our character leaves the whole scene behind and returns to the wilderness that spawned him. Over him hangs the cloud of despair that took his one and only friend from him. The same cloud that now threatens to consume him at every turn. He slowly begins to realize there is no escape from fate. His destiny is being formed and his last steps lay ahead. It is at this point he throws everything he’s learned out and clears both his heart and mind. He opens himself to nature in all of its unabashed glory and without question stops trying to make sense of it all and allows reality itself to fill him. Both the beauty and cold brutality simultaneously fill the deepest crevices of his heart, mind, and soul and in unison fill him with an omnipresent aura.

His life brief, his ability to understand it all null and void, yet his willingness to open up is the culmination of everything we all seek out of life. To understand who we are and where we are going. These two songs tell a story of life and death in a very well composed and powerful piece of art. I very strongly recommend several readings of the lyrics and even more strongly suggest seeing the very well done music video that guitarist Adam Jones put together to accompany this song. That music video directly inspired everything I had to say about these two songs to say the least. The title of the songs fit absolutely perfect. If you look at a parabola it is a line curved to represent and object traveling from point A to point B. The apex when considering these songs represents that medium in life where you become enlightened and begin  your decent into your fate. Such a beautiful and clever way to tell a story about life and death.

 

                    Track #8 -Ticks and Leaches-

We make the leap from the previous track and are greeted with a strange and rhythmic drumming performance. The bass guitar joins in producing a very deep and bellowing atmosphere. Then the guitar pulls its weight by introducing a very aggressive and very metal sounding crunch to the mix. The vocals start with a scream as the music pours through the speakers. What happens next is a bit out of the ordinary for Tool. Maynard James Keenan raps! Okay, not exactly and I don’t mean to make light of how epic this song really is. But I can’t help but feel that Maynard is actually attempting to produce the same kind of tongue twisting busting of rhymes you would hear from a hip hop artist.  It is not tacky by any means. In fact it sounds really cool with the very deep and bellowing back drop of the band’s music.

Anger, vengeance, brutal honesty, and adrenaline fill your ears and you quickly realize that this is perhaps how the artist actually feel if you push them too far. I am so grateful for these kinds of Tool songs. Songs that celebrate the aggressive nature of humanity. Songs that are a bit more on the metal side in place of the more prog rock side of Tool. That familiar prog rock feeling makes an appearance in this song as Tool seamlessly slows everything down into a really groovy guitar solo by Adam Jones. I have always been a huge fan of Adam Jones’ guitar style much more than his technique or complexity. His playing is very accurate and precise and I’ve rarely ever heard him make a mistake but that is not what’s important for me. For me, it’s his ability to compile and insert himself into Danny Carey’s drumming. He is the perfect complement to Danny. His ability to compose and direct Tool seems to make him a the spiritual leader of the group. This bridge is a perfect example of where Adam really shines as a guitarist. It doesn’t seem all that difficult to play and I’m sure any amateur to advanced player could easily figure it out. But could they compose such a piece to sound so undeniably cool? Would the have the ability to take what seemed to be nothing but a testosterone over load of a metal song and turn it into groovy prog rock bliss? That right there is why I am a huge fan of Adam Jones. He doesn’t need to show boat with fancy solo’s because it seems his main objective isn’t to impress you with wailing solos but rather capture your imagination with atmosphere and feeling.

In this particular song the focus seems to be directly on someone who has betrayed their friend and could be the thoughts and feelings of the betrayed towards the betrayer. The more mellow bridge gives you just a long enough break from the adrenaline to realize that perhaps decent people need to express their anger in order to maintain themselves. That no matter how hard you try to avoid it, some times the only way to find peace is to express your anger without being sorry for what you say. However, the calm and serenity that comes with this outlet of emotion will often lead you to realize that things are even worse than you first imagined. That certainly seems to be the case here as the music begins to pick back up. You can sense a building frustration and even more pent-up anger is about to be unleashed but this time with clarity of mind. Not to be cheesy by the second the last notes of the mellow rock bridge end the music picks back up to the more aggressive nature of the first half of the song it becomes METAL AS FUCK. Maynard unleashes a scream of epic proportions and the band enhances this with frantic and loud off beat unison that leaves me with the impression that this is the final stage of anger. This is the moment of truth where the culmination and totality of the betrayal is realized. Any anger here forth is not only justified but fully understood to be justified by both parties. A complete and total cutting of ties can take place without any unfinished business.

In essence then this song is about letting go of the bad influences in your life. It might sound like it’s saying it’s okay to lose your mind and start screaming and hollering at people but I don’t think that’s the point. My favorite thing about music and this is especially true with metal as fuck music is that you can express your inner most frustrations, regrets, and anger with people and society at large without actually hurting anyone in the process. This is a perfect pressure release valve song for when you are just having one of those days. I recommend listening to this if you are feeling pent-up. It always seems to help me when I’m too frustrated to deal.

Heavy metal is not a label I would generally use to describe Tool. However, with this and several other songs I would say that the genre only allows the artist of Tool to show you their own unique style based on a genre that is already very popular and accepted by a lot of people. Tool has definitely defined their own style and this is just another fine example of them finding new and interesting ways to perform a familiar type of music.

                    Track #9 -Lateralus-

I’ll never forget the very first time I saw Tool live and this song came on. The arena I was in was busy all night with amazing visual effects, banners of amazing artwork by Alex Grey, interesting music videos, and epic light shows. However, this song was something even more special as they chose this song to close the show. I could do nothing but sit in awe as this awesome as fuck song filled my ears and the wondrous visual effects the cleverly put together amazed my eyes.

I have a very unique take on this song that hasn’t ever been very popular with other Tool fans I know. But I can’t help the feeling I get. It happened the second time I saw Tool. Maynard was dressed as a full on Cowboy and I couldn’t help but imagine listening to this song as I was farming, hunting, fishing, or hiking. For some reason this song, while it is very rock and roll with a dash of heavy metal, has always felt like a country rhythm and blues tune. It’s just such an uplifting and adventurous song and reminds me of big open fields or giant mountain ranges. Almost as if being sung to you by an old Western sage/wise man to encourage you to seek out new boundaries and venture forth to untouched and hidden valleys of your surroundings, heart, and mind. The lyrics seem to back up my assertions very much so and I hope I can help others hear and feel what I do when I hear this song. Perhaps it’s easiest just to ask you to imagine riding a galloping horse and imagine that the hooves are hitting the ground in perfect beat with the music.

This song strongly encourages the listener to invest in their growth as an individual. To learn new things, break new ground, and to push the envelope. This song more than all of the others on this album is focused much more on the positive. I believe they really wanted to create a truly inspirational prog rock opus that relentlessly dares their listeners to explore new territories. I simply can’t help but think about a frontiersman discovering new land to explore and if I’m the only Tool fan on the planet who feels this way about this song then so be it.

Spiral out my friends.

Part 3

Track #10 -Disposition-

This is perhaps the most relaxing, cool sounding, and mellow Tool song ever written. I believe all the members of Tool must have been in a very spiritual hippie kind of place in life when they created this song and wanted to explore a new style of music. This can be risky for any band but Tool pulls it off very well. It’s placement in the album comes after the bright, colorful, and loud Lateralus theme song but it doesn’t feel like it’s here for the sole purpose of breaking up the album or just to set the stage for the remainder of the album. It does all of that and more for me personally. This song comes across as a message of contentedness, acceptance, and a desire to keep learning and experiencing new things. There is an emphasis in the music on more natural sounds especially with Danny Carey’s hand drumming performance. Maynard’s lyrics are simple yet beautifully sung with a focus on nature, the weather, and communication. Adam Jones’ guitar work is 100% pure atmosphere creation with heavy bends and cool sound effects. Justin Chancellor mirrors Jones’ guitar work on his bass giving the track a bellowing and thick foundation to stand on.

As you listen to the song try to imagine how it feels to be with family or good friends at a picnic, camping, or hiking. I really love putting this track on after I’m done running too cool off while I walk myself and my heart rate back down to earth. This song makes me feel very grounded and willing to accept what nature hands me. It also makes me want to reach out to others and share my experiences with the one’s I love. Normally when Tool does a track to break up the album and set up new ground for the next songs it is usually something simple, short, and consist of strange sound effects. As I said, this track certainly has all of that but is a fully functional and critical song to this album. I strongly feel that without this really unique Tool track Lateralus simply would not hold the weight it does. I can show this song to almost anyone and they will typically enjoy it. It’s been a great way to break the ice with someone who might have never given Tool a chance. I have a sister who listens to mostly country or pop radio music told me she never imagined a band like Tool would ever move her in a way that inspire her because of this very song. I believe that is a compliment to the artist rather than a knock or a way to say “they sold out”. It’s the fact that such a unique and wonderfully performed prog/rock song from a band as aggressive and bright as Tool can reach across genres and musical taste to reach out and touch a stranger really sticks out to me. To me this song seems to celebrate the idea of reaching out and trying new things with other people makes it all the more perfect.

When the song reaches its end don’t react yet. Just focus on what you’re hearing. Listen to the guitar and bass fading and the drum stick bouncing off the head.  Listen to the whirring background and empty your mind. Prepare for the beginning of the next track because you’re in for a big time treat. Just when you think the album could be running out of gas you are presented with an even more unique, incredibly deep, and complex song that is going to be a great challenge to review as I have so much to say about it.

                     Track #11 -Reflection-

I am going to have to be really careful not to write an entire book about this song. I have a lot to say about it because it has a lot to say to all of us.  Let’s just dive right in though and start swimming. I hope you really paid attention to the end of the previous track Disposition and how it bleed right through into the beginning of this song. Danny Carey has always prided himself and his skill. He doesn’t seem like an arrogant man but he is definitely one of the most confident drummers I have ever heard. The main reason I speak so highly of Danny Carey when top drummers list are being discussed is mostly because of how truly unique he plays. I will always appreciate and admire a more rigid and technical approach to music. Staying inside the lines so to speak is part of the art form of playing music. Mastering classic techniques and showing proficiency with them will always be impressive and Danny Carey certainly is impressive in that aspect when looking at drumming. That said, the real reason I am such a big fan of Danny Carey is just how far outside the lines he can draw yet still keep it all together without it feeling like a drug fueled drum solo.  The performance by Danny throughout this song is absolutely bullet proof and inspires me to no end. At times it sounds as if there are actually two drummers playing a duet instead of just one extremely talented man. Absolutely brilliant drumming.

By the time the bass is introduced you’ve already been experiencing a very dark, tribal, and atmospheric drumming performance. The introduction of the bass only amplifies this feeling. This is another case where the simplicity of the actual playing is not as impressive as how it was composed into the song. It makes the song feel really trippy and weird and I love it. Synth work is also introduced and adds more depth to the song making it feel almost sluggish in contrast to the incredible drumming going on.  Adam Jones guitar work sounds very eerie and creepy which fits perfect with the rest of the band. Still though, Danny Carey’s drumming stands out and almost seems to be in command of everything. It feels as if no music can take place or be added without Danny’s permission. And that’s when we get our first ghostly listen of Maynard’s singing.

This song more than the rest of the album needs to be read. Please find the song here and study it. “Lateralus Lyrics Link” This is going to be incredibly difficult to keep short but I will do my best not to bog you down here. This is a song all about you. It’s not to feed your ego however so don’t even go there. Instead try to imagine what it feels like to make a mistake but not just any mistake. The kind of mistake you can’t make up for. The guilt, shame, and indignity that comes with making those kinds of mistakes are unique because while it might seem painful and difficult it’s really a chance for you to take responsibility for yourself and own your actions. I often find it’s a means by which I get to know myself better especially as I grow older and stop blaming others for my problems.  I often find that running away from this often leads to even more severe consequences down the road so in essence failing to recognize your failures will result ultimately in even more dramatic failures in the future as you keep avoiding what ever problems are plaguing you.

The beginning of this song is so dark and makes me feel isolated and I am fairly certain that this is exactly what the artist wanted us to feel. Maynard’s voice sounds so desperate, whining, and small underneath the big giant behemoth of the instrumental. To me, the singing is the narrative of the story while the instrumental aspects of any song is the foreground and background of the narrative. Applying that idea here means to me that Maynard plays the roll of a person who’s been over whelmed with the world around them and that the instrumental music is the world around them. In this case a very dark and brooding world where fear and confusion dominate the emotional fortitude of the main character.

As the song progresses there seems to be small sparks of intuition and inspiration with our main character. I get the feeling the artist are subtly inviting us to face our problems, grit your teeth, and keep a stiff upper lip as you move on to conquer your problems.  What I love about this song in particular is how often my emotions change throughout the song. We’re used to this with all music as we follow familiar patterns of chorus and verse and interchanging them in order to elicit a certain emotion towards one thing or another. This song is no different except they seemed to composed it all in a way that seems to wax and wane between positive and negative emotions so often that I always seem to get lost in the music and start to really think about my life. It’s a wonderfully strange feeling because I am deeply impressed that a song could make me focus so damn hard on myself. It’s not an angry focus but more like healthy criticism.

This song also wants to remind us that we are not alone in our day-to-day suffering and struggle. This small consideration seems small until it turns into incredible inspiration. There is verse in this song that to me symbolizes what it means when people say “we are not alone”.  I don’t like to paste lyrics into my writing but I really want to now because I’m worried you won’t read the lyrics for yourself but if you’re a fan of music and you’re reading this please try your best to love this song after multiple times listening and after having read the lyrics.

The ending of this song last a couple of minutes as the musicians really take their time to put a strong emphasis about the urgency of living life to its fullest as often as you can while you’re still here. There is a message that repeats and drives the point home as the rest of the band really push themselves to deliver a perfect ending to this epic song that also lends itself to the next and last musical track on the album. To me the end of this album is like a trilogy of songs meant simply to be very different from anything you’ve ever heard before. That said, this particular track stands out the most. It’s just so very good especially if you’ve taken the time to really look into the lyrics after you’ve enjoyed the song a few times. I never read the lyrics to songs until after I’ve heard the music several times and I can’t stress enough how much more this song comes to life once you really dig into the lyrics.

Enjoy this song folks. Before you pine away.

 

 

Track #12 -Triad-

As you leave the ambiance of Reflection and enter into this song you might notice a steep and exponentially more aggressive theme beginning to pulse in the background.  My friends if you like flat-out rock and roll meant to make you start banging your head this is to me one of the most ultimate head banging anthems to come out of the new millennium.  The focus on this song is strictly on rocking as hard as you can while you have time to do it. This is the spirit of rock and roll and a bit of heavy metal incarnate in the form of four amazing musicians capping one of the great works off with an amazing instrumental opus meant to please the gods of rock.

I always imagined this is what an ancient tribe of musicians would sound like if they had access to modern instruments and technology. It’s easy for me to imagine a rain dance going on in the back ground or a rite of passage ceremony.  There is something so familiar and comforting in the aggressive tribal drum beats being granted to us from above by Danny “The Lion Fucker” Carey. The guitar work is once again nothing extremely technical but some how Adam Jones is able to make it sound ridiculously awesome I believe in large part once again to the talent of Danny Carey. Adam’s guitar playing just so happens to be a perfect accent to Danny’s drumming sound. That said, we do get some really cool sounding guitar solo’s in the track as well.

Justin Chancellor’s bass work is present and definitely adds a very crunchy and very round sound to the whole song. I always liked Justin’s work because of how percussive his playing seems to be. Like Adam he is the perfect accent to Danny’s drumming making it even more thunderous than it already is. There are no lyrics to this song but when I saw this song performed live Maynard James Keenan was playing a guitar and also played with a keyboard. There was also another percussionist playing some sort of tenor tama drums. It made this already really epic song even more incredible and I’ll never forget it. I believe it was the second to last song they played and the stage was ablaze with amazing artwork, incredible visual effects, intense video packages, and of course amazing musicians performing amazing music.

What we have here then is a song best listened to when you’re with a bunch of buddies doing something awesome together or if you’re by yourself you should get up and move a little bit to the music. It’s meant to be rocked out to by cool people who appreciate good rock and roll music. This song really makes me feel more connected to other Tool fans almost as if it’s our tribal war song that we all want to mosh to.  In the end that’s what this album feels like to me. I big long epic voyage with interesting twist and turns all capped off by an exclamation point.

Track #13 -Faaip De Oiad-

One of the most creepy bits of audio I’ve ever heard. It’s a track meant to catch you off guard as it’s tucked away and could be easily missed. It’s a combination of a conspiracy theory radio show getting a call about Area 51 aliens taking over the planet and eerie sound effects done by someone combined to make what feels like a horror radio show. If you ever want to creep someone out play this while they’re asleep and wake them up, tell them it’s on the radio right now and all over the TV!

This has become quite a lengthy article so I have decided to break it up in three parts. Be sure to visit the previous two articles if you haven’t already! 

 

Lateralus Wikipedia Link :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralus

Tool Website: http://www.toolband.com/

Lateralus Lyrics Link:  https://www.toolband.com/album/lyrics/lateralus.html

Don’t forget that if you want to listen to the album, please, for the love of all that is right and just in the world. Buy the songs or the album.

Music Review: Tool – Lateralus (Part 2)

AmpersandQuest

 When I review albums of music I want to provide as much useful information as possible while also providing my own unique perspective on the album. Below my commentary will be a series of links for more information, lyrics, the band’s website, and a link to purchase the album. Please support the artist you enjoy!

 

Tool_-_Lateralus

Part 1 of Review Click Here!

                         Continuing on with my review of 2001’s album from Tool entitled Lateralus. I hope you enjoyed the articles in between these reviews. Which brings to mind just how much of an influence the artist who comprise Tool have influenced the way I think about the world. I will never forget just how much more I began to appreciate art once I really got into Tool and would seek out articles and interviews of them. They always promote the idea of questioning every institution, every belief, every status quo, every piece of art, and every theory you come across in life. It is this notion that has inspired me to create and write this on going WordPress site.

                        Let’s not get side tracked with my personal anecdotes though and let us begin part 2 of this long-winded review.

                    Track #6 -Parabol-

Greeted by an atmospheric and mysterious tonal intro we find ourselves on the heels of the power driven previous track, Schism. Parabol brings you to a world of creeping fog and thick mist. It feels as though we are witnessing a man crawl out of a hole in the middle of the forest who has just rediscovered the surface and finds himself lost in the thick of reality. I don’t sense a great deal of fear in this song other than the feeling you might get being in a strange new place. We tend to fear things we do not understand but it is that which motivates us to explore and objectively identify our surroundings. The singing mirrors the music in the same low, atmospheric, and tonal way and the story of this track emerges.

Just as I described the music reminding me of a man crawling out of a hole a bit befuddled and confused with his new surroundings he begins to realize he is experiencing something profound. He is enlightening himself in a moment where he realizes he is one with his surroundings. As more information comes his way conflict burrows in his heart and longs to hold on to the precious moment when he realized the true beauty of nature all around and within him. He senses the danger and conflict coming his way and guards jealously the bright and warm light of the confines of his heart as the cold harsh reality of his mind consumes whatever comfort he had in waking up to this new reality. He is hopeful that his heart can triumph over his mind but seems to realize it is inevitable that he will have to loosen his ever so tight grip on the reality he wants to be true and begin to accept reality for what it really is. But there remains a spark of inspiration despite his realization. His reaction is further explored in the next track of this two-part song.

                    Track #7 – Parabola- 

The previous track’s slow, atmospheric, and lumbering tone’s seamlessly bleed into an aggressive, bright, and inspired rock and roll drive as our characters journey continues. I absolutely love Danny Carey’s performance in this track. His drumming to me is always the highlight when I turn this track on. It’s very rock and roll, energetic, and feels very unique at the same time. Everything else is an added bonus as the rest of the band joins in on the symphony of powerful rock and roll.

Previously I talked about a man coming to terms with his enlightenment and that he is experiencing difficulties when trying to balance his heart and mind. It isn’t until he realizes that he is not alone in his struggle to simply understand the nature that surrounds him that he finds the motivation struggle on. He finds more balance in himself once he realizes his new-found friend was just as confused and has conflated the issue just as much if not more than him while simultaneously bringing new and unique perspective to light that fundamentally changes the dynamics of reality that he had previously been sure were uncontroversial truths.

He finds this so beautiful that he begins to realize that the pain he feels inside is a lie. He doesn’t want to believe that the pain he feels can be felt by his friend, whom he loves, looks after, and wants to protect in all his vulnerability.  For a while this becomes a ritual of sorts until one day reality sets in and the true and vicious nature of reality strikes his friend down. Great anger and frustration sets in as his heart is once again tested by his mind searching for the truth all the while still holding on to the beauty he believes to be real. How can this be? How can reality be so beautiful and so god damn brutal at the same time? He digs through the remains to see if there is any discernible evidence of a soul but only finds flesh and blood further conflating his mind as it recoils to a primitive state of fear and confusion.

Our character leaves the whole scene behind and returns to the wilderness that spawned him. Over him hangs the cloud of despair that took his one and only friend from him. The same cloud that now threatens to consume him at every turn. He slowly begins to realize there is no escape from fate. His destiny is being formed and his last steps lay ahead. It is at this point he throws everything he’s learned out and clears both his heart and mind. He opens himself to nature in all of its unabashed glory and without question stops trying to make sense of it all and allows reality itself to fill him. Both the beauty and cold brutality simultaneously fill the deepest crevices of his heart, mind, and soul and in unison fill him with an omnipresent aura.

His life brief, his ability to understand it all null and void, yet his willingness to open up is the culmination of everything we all seek out of life. To understand who we are and where we are going. These two songs tell a story of life and death in a very well composed and powerful piece of art. I very strongly recommend several readings of the lyrics and even more strongly suggest seeing the very well done music video that guitarist Adam Jones put together to accompany this song. That music video directly inspired everything I had to say about these two songs to say the least. The title of the songs fit absolutely perfect. If you look at a parabola it is a line curved to represent and object traveling from point A to point B. The apex when considering these songs represents that medium in life where you become enlightened and begin  your decent into your fate. Such a beautiful and clever way to tell a story about life and death.

 

                    Track #8 -Ticks and Leaches-

We make the leap from the previous track and are greeted with a strange and rhythmic drumming performance. The bass guitar joins in producing a very deep and bellowing atmosphere. Then the guitar pulls its weight by introducing a very aggressive and very metal sounding crunch to the mix. The vocals start with a scream as the music pours through the speakers. What happens next is a bit out of the ordinary for Tool. Maynard James Keenan raps! Okay, not exactly and I don’t mean to make light of how epic this song really is. But I can’t help but feel that Maynard is actually attempting to produce the same kind of tongue twisting busting of rhymes you would hear from a hip hop artist.  It is not tacky by any means. In fact it sounds really cool with the very deep and bellowing back drop of the band’s music.

Anger, vengeance, brutal honesty, and adrenaline fill your ears and you quickly realize that this is perhaps how the artist actually feel if you push them too far. I am so grateful for these kinds of Tool songs. Songs that celebrate the aggressive nature of humanity. Songs that are a bit more on the metal side in place of the more prog rock side of Tool. That familiar prog rock feeling makes an appearance in this song as Tool seamlessly slows everything down into a really groovy guitar solo by Adam Jones. I have always been a huge fan of Adam Jones’ guitar style much more than his technique or complexity. His playing is very accurate and precise and I’ve rarely ever heard him make a mistake but that is not what’s important for me. For me, it’s his ability to compile and insert himself into Danny Carey’s drumming. He is the perfect complement to Danny. His ability to compose and direct Tool seems to make him a the spiritual leader of the group. This bridge is a perfect example of where Adam really shines as a guitarist. It doesn’t seem all that difficult to play and I’m sure any amateur to advanced player could easily figure it out. But could they compose such a piece to sound so undeniably cool? Would the have the ability to take what seemed to be nothing but a testosterone over load of a metal song and turn it into groovy prog rock bliss? That right there is why I am a huge fan of Adam Jones. He doesn’t need to show boat with fancy solo’s because it seems his main objective isn’t to impress you with wailing solos but rather capture your imagination with atmosphere and feeling.

In this particular song the focus seems to be directly on someone who has betrayed their friend and could be the thoughts and feelings of the betrayed towards the betrayer. The more mellow bridge gives you just a long enough break from the adrenaline to realize that perhaps decent people need to express their anger in order to maintain themselves. That no matter how hard you try to avoid it, some times the only way to find peace is to express your anger without being sorry for what you say. However, the calm and serenity that comes with this outlet of emotion will often lead you to realize that things are even worse than you first imagined. That certainly seems to be the case here as the music begins to pick back up. You can sense a building frustration and even more pent-up anger is about to be unleashed but this time with clarity of mind. Not to be cheesy by the second the last notes of the mellow rock bridge end the music picks back up to the more aggressive nature of the first half of the song it becomes METAL AS FUCK. Maynard unleashes a scream of epic proportions and the band enhances this with frantic and loud off beat unison that leaves me with the impression that this is the final stage of anger. This is the moment of truth where the culmination and totality of the betrayal is realized. Any anger here forth is not only justified but fully understood to be justified by both parties. A complete and total cutting of ties can take place without any unfinished business.

In essence then this song is about letting go of the bad influences in your life. It might sound like it’s saying it’s okay to lose your mind and start screaming and hollering at people but I don’t think that’s the point. My favorite thing about music and this is especially true with metal as fuck music is that you can express your inner most frustrations, regrets, and anger with people and society at large without actually hurting anyone in the process. This is a perfect pressure release valve song for when you are just having one of those days. I recommend listening to this if you are feeling pent-up. It always seems to help me when I’m too frustrated to deal.

Heavy metal is not a label I would generally use to describe Tool. However, with this and several other songs I would say that the genre only allows the artist of Tool to show you their own unique style based on a genre that is already very popular and accepted by a lot of people. Tool has definitely defined their own style and this is just another fine example of them finding new and interesting ways to perform a familiar type of music.

                    Track #9 -Lateralus-

I’ll never forget the very first time I saw Tool live and this song came on. The arena I was in was busy all night with amazing visual effects, banners of amazing artwork by Alex Grey, interesting music videos, and epic light shows. However, this song was something even more special as they chose this song to close the show. I could do nothing but sit in awe as this awesome as fuck song filled my ears and the wondrous visual effects the cleverly put together amazed my eyes.

I have a very unique take on this song that hasn’t ever been very popular with other Tool fans I know. But I can’t help the feeling I get. It happened the second time I saw Tool. Maynard was dressed as a full on Cowboy and I couldn’t help but imagine listening to this song as I was farming, hunting, fishing, or hiking. For some reason this song, while it is very rock and roll with a dash of heavy metal, has always felt like a country rhythm and blues tune. It’s just such an uplifting and adventurous song and reminds me of big open fields or giant mountain ranges. Almost as if being sung to you by an old Western sage/wise man to encourage you to seek out new boundaries and venture forth to untouched and hidden valleys of your surroundings, heart, and mind. The lyrics seem to back up my assertions very much so and I hope I can help others hear and feel what I do when I hear this song. Perhaps it’s easiest just to ask you to imagine riding a galloping horse and imagine that the hooves are hitting the ground in perfect beat with the music.

This song strongly encourages the listener to invest in their growth as an individual. To learn new things, break new ground, and to push the envelope. This song more than all of the others on this album is focused much more on the positive. I believe they really wanted to create a truly inspirational prog rock opus that relentlessly dares their listeners to explore new territories. I simply can’t help but think about a frontiersman discovering new land to explore and if I’m the only Tool fan on the planet who feels this way about this song then so be it.

Spiral out my friends.

 

              

This has become quite a lengthy article so I have decided to break it up in three parts. Come back for more especially because I happen to enjoy the later half of the album a lot more. I have a lot to say about the remainder of the album so stay tuned and thanks for reading! 

Lateralus Wikipedia Link :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralus

Tool Website: http://www.toolband.com/

Lateralus Lyrics Link: https://www.toolband.com/album/lyrics/lateralus.html

Don’t forget that if you want to listen to the album, please, for the love of all that is right and just in the world. Buy the songs or the album.

Conspiracy, Aliens, Demons! OH MY!

AmpersandQuest

 

I quite like watching scary videos on YouTube. Whether that be outrageous conspiracy plots, aliens from other planets, or my personal favorite demons from hell. I can’t quite pin-point my fascination with such material and no I do not actually believe in any of it but I do feel there are very real lessons to be learned from exploring such material.

For example, when it comes to conspiracy theory, I do not take that term lightly. I adhere to the strict definition of the word so in my world view, yes, conspiracies are indeed very real. The theories however are often so outlandish they cannot be believed. Then again some of the best lies on the planet are those told by using grains of truth. My personal feeling on the matter is to take everything you hear and question the hell out of it until you’re positive you know what you’re talking about. Until then, it’s best to remain stoic and open-minded.

Irruminati

Aliens from other planets to me as a topic unto itself is a little more complicated of a matter because personally I believe it’s possible there are other life forms in the universe, perhaps intelligent, perhaps not. The material we often see on the internet though is usually accompanied by grainy photos, videos, and questionable eye-witness accounts that the listener can choose to believe or not. My biggest concern is that if there is a hyper evolved alien species visiting the planet why have they not made themselves known? That to me is the smoking gun that proves that this has yet to happen and an argument can be made that it never will. At least not until humanity has evolved to a specific point where we are actually equipped with the knowledge it requires to deal with such matters. Imagine being an ant among giants. It would be impossible to relate to them.

ermahgerd-erlierns-ancient-aliens-meme-1348795928

And finally, Demons. Oh yes, creatures from the lowest pits of the Devil’s own playground. I’m referring to the demonic possession videos, caught on tape videos, and eye-witness accounts of these creatures. What fascinates me most about this phenomena is just how believable some of these videos can be. More often than not they are deeply edited and are indeed creative endeavors but often times I see one that leaves me stunted even though I tell myself it can’t possibly be real. Of course I recover to a more reasonable state and realize that it’s just a YouTube video and there is no reason to believe in such a fantastic thing. Yet, when I walk down a dark hall, go out to my car at night, or wake up in the middle of the night after a night mare I can’t help but feel there isn’t something having an effect on me. I realize that it’s my mind trying to work things out and failing as it recoils in horror into an introspective mind terror. Perhaps this is what fascinates me and gets my blood flowing. The idea that there is probably much more than meets the human eye in reality. That I am not equipped to understand all and everything really puts me in my place and I find it bizarre that it’s the fictional realm that makes me an even more objective person.

BobRossDemons

The one things that ties all of these topics together is the human mind. That which we do not understand is often the most terrifying and eye-opening. It’s easy to roll your eyes when you hear a rant on a massive conspiracy to take over the planet, alien abduction stories, or demonic possession tales but you have to face one cold hard fact about these topics, you do not have to believe them for them to be true. That does not mean you have to accept them to be true but it does mean you all on your own cannot prove these things do not exist. Of course, this is not proof that they do either. It’s a perplexing question is it not? Atheist like myself, like to point out that Unicorns don’t exist but we cannot prove they don’t exist as a way to show theist that they cannot simply say, “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist.” I agree with that sentiment but sometimes I cannot help but have an open mind and ponder on that statement.

I really can’t prove a mythical being doesn’t exist which makes my mind race at times. How can this be? How is it that no matter how hard we try we cannot truly prove Santa isn’t real? Of course we can realize that mythical beings come from stories we learn as children and that religions are based on these and other mythologies. But why is it that when someone believes something so strongly it is impossible to show them undeniable proof that their belief is wrong? Is it because they are just too stubborn? Well yes, that is true about belief, but that’s not really my point.

That last sentence wasn’t to suggest that they are indeed real. Think of it as more of an invitation to explore what on earth is possible in the realm of this reality. If you are fully skeptical of such tales, believe me, I understand but what reason other than complete lunacy do others who claim such tales to be true have to believe in them? Money? Fame? Infamy? Or is it something else entirely?

You cannot deny that people sometimes make a lot of money and make friends who have a lot of money who get together and make plans to make even more money, start wars, gain political power via conspiracy. You also cannot deny the possibility of life on other planets in our vast and expansive universe. The chances of this planet being the only among a near infinity of other planets being the only to harbor life are so infinitesimal that I believe it is safe to assume that some where out there is another species of intelligent life forms.

Now we approach the most unbelievable and unlikely of these three topics. Demons from hell. Why, in the information age with ever evolving and expanding technological advances are we still hearing these stories? Why on earth am I still haunted by the possibility of a creature from the ether of our multi-dimensional reality having some kind of physical manifestation here on our little blue planet? Even though I can fully admit that I do not believe in it, knowing full well there is no actual definitive proof to suggest there are such creatures, and enjoying the creature comforts of modern society I still wake up in a fever pitch of sweat and worry having seen visions of a vicious creature from what to me would be hell. I know why.

We now have the capacity to fully explore these haunting tales and get a true look into the depths of our psychology. It’s not that there are just a small minority of people exploring this material in their own ways. It’s droves and droves of us and this is my message to all of you out there who share this fascination.

That feeling of terror that our ancestors would feel in the depths of whatever wilderness they survived in when a predator would snatch up one of their primitive tribe members and fleeing from the scene and go into hiding. The terror of hearing such a creature hunting them and not understanding even a single solitary thing about that predator. The adrenaline rush from such an encounter would have been traumatizing if not down right debilitating back then when there were no truly safe refuges from the wild. However, to us modern folk it is reduced to the level of entertainment, thrill seeking, ghost hunting, and creepy pastas.

We all seek our own agency in life and when we go through periods of drought in that respect we look to external sources for inspiration. We see someone else’s success and often feel a sense of jealousy so instead of facing our own life and fixing our own problems we create a scenario in our mind that everyone is out to get us. Granted, I do believe conspiracies do happen and should be explored in a literal sense, there is a difference between pulling things out of our collective butts and actually investigating a situation and seeking the truth.

I feel nearly the same can be said for alien life from outer space. The biggest difference is that while difficult to prove, human beings definitely conspire to in order to gain power in the world and there is historical precedence to prove such actions taking place in the world. To deny it is to me an embarrassment. In the case of extraterrestrials though, there is nothing anyone can point to that truly suggest there are indeed aliens here on Earth, though I still maintain that there is enough room in the universe and reason to believe there are other intelligent life forms somewhere beyond the stars.

The reasons we look to the stars and wonder nearly mirror those reasons we believe there’s a shadowy elite trying to rule the planet. We want to believe in something more powerful than us in order to explain away our own short comings. Also, there is so much about reality that we are left in the dark about and our own mind will create elaborate and often terrifying constructs in order to teach us. Often we are left still blinded to reality simply because we are to afraid to peak through our fingers at what truly is in favor of the comfort and familiarity of modern civilization.

 

I am not suggesting you flat-out believe in anything I talked about in this article. On the contrary, I am demanding you do much more than that. I am suggesting to you to have a good time scaring the crap out of yourself. Keep and open mind and respect others no matter how outlandish their theories are. Even if you know they are completely mad do not judge them for if there is even an iota of misunderstanding in your own mind you are in at least in small part like them as well. It’s a matter of degree and severity and not at all a matter of us vs them.

Stay frosty folks. Thanks for the read!

Keyboard Warriors

AmpersandQuest

Their sure are some blood thirsty savages out there sitting behind their key boards. I get accused of being a “keyboard warrior” and maybe I am guilty as charged. That charge is largely true but I do not take it personally despite the negative connotation that accompanies it.  I might be a “keyboard warrior”but feel that as long as I realize this and stay within the realm of honest discussion and respectful debate that it should never detour me from expressing myself online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to glorify the term and I realize why the term exist and why you don’t particularly want to be one. At the same time however I won’t allow the term to silence me either.

 

It took me a long time to get over the fact that there are bullies in the world especially online. Thank goodness I have been fortunate enough to meet some like-minded individuals online who’ve proven to me that I was allowing people to get the better of me and did not have my emotions in check. Sure, the bullying, trolling, and abusive language is never nice to read but the only thing complaining about it will do is put me in the position of a victim. A position I can attest to that weakens your positions tremendously and comes with, for me at least, a great deal of embarrassment and shame.

 

It is no longer acceptable to me to allow myself to be silenced by anyone attempting to derail me by posting negative remarks about me. It is far more empowering to take it all in stride, swallow your pride, and do what you set out to do without feeling guilty, ashamed, or victimized by anyone you encounter online. It’s become a trend it seems to cry out with histrionics about how mean the internet is. I can’t help but roll my eyes these days because that used to be me. The only difference is no one really ever listened to my complaints and for that I am glad. Call it a blessing in disguise if you will because if that had happened I might have ended up relying on trolls to justify my online existence.

 

If I’m going to be involved with online discussions on social media I suppose I would rather be refereed to as a “Keyboard Warrior” rather than a “Keyboard Victim” because at the end of the day a Warrior will always be criticized for his actions but will have the fortitude to admit their mistakes while a “Keyboard Victim” will always be in a position of submissive abandonment of their pride and dignity. This does not mean I blame victims of harassment because I do have compassion for those who have suffered at the hands of sadistic trolls who target them with reckless abandon and don’t let up until things become so dangerous that law enforcement is required to deal with it. That is far different from allowing a few or even a lot of trolls get under your skin even though it’s pretty obvious they aren’t going to present any real harm to you other than ridiculous and immature trolling online.

 

Be a Keyboard Warrior folks, but don’t fool yourself into believing you are anything more special than a human being sitting behind a keyboard making comments on world events in the comfort of your arm-chair. It’s a conversation folks, not a real battle field.

 

Be good everyone. Thanks for reading.

 

Try With All Your Might. Rock and Roll Will Not Die!

AmpersandQuest

 

 

If you have been following the #GamerGate hashtag online over the last two months you are probably familiar with both sides of the argument. Breifly, one side believes video games promote misogyny, violence, bigotry, and need to be changed and censored. The opposing view-point see’s video games in a much different light and believe they are forms of art that should not be censored by any means and offer a way to experience difficult human conditions without actually bringing harm to others. I find myself on the latter side but not just with video games. While #GamerGate might be the strategic front for now to criticize the views of a group known as “Social Justice Warriors” (SJW’s for short) it has come to my attention more than once that my favorite genre of music will definitely come under their harsh, unfair, biased, and unrealistic criticism. I will not sit idly by while they try to tear my favorite form of music expression to pieces and attempt to make it more politically correct. Rock and roll has faced this over and over again over the years and I for one believe it will survive the onslaught. 

 

elvis-presley-dancing-thesuiteworld

 

 The following is taken from Wikipedia. 

      “The second Milton Berle Show appearance came on June 5 at NBC’s Hollywood studio, amid another hectic tour. Berle persuaded the singer to leave his guitar backstage, advising, “Let ’em see you, son.”[104] During the performance, Presley abruptly halted an uptempo rendition of “Hound Dog” with a wave of his arm and launched into a slow, grinding version accentuated with energetic, exaggerated body movements.[104] Presley’s gyrations created a storm of controversy.[105] Television critics were outraged: Jack Gould of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability. … His phrasing, if it can be called that, consists of the stereotyped variations that go with a beginner’s aria in a bathtub. … His one specialty is an accented movement of the body … primarily identified with the repertoire of the blond bombshells of the burlesque runway.”[106] Ben Gross of the New York Daily News opined that popular music “has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt and groin’ antics of one Elvis Presley. … Elvis, who rotates his pelvis … gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos”.[107] Ed Sullivan, whose own variety show was the nation’s most popular, declared him “unfit for family viewing”.[108] To Presley’s displeasure, he soon found himself being referred to as “Elvis the Pelvis”, which he called “one of the most childish expressions I ever heard, comin’ from an adult.”[109]

 

    Elvis Presley may not be the most rock and roll of rock and roll however this famous example really highlights the points I will be making later on in the article. Please consider the ramifications and consequences if we listen to the same kind of concern, baiting, immaturity, and baseless accusations of the modern-day political correctness brigade infamously known now as Social Justice Warriors. 

mastodon-once-more-round-the-sun

 

                         The following is taken from Loudwire.com

  •       http://loudwire.com/mastodon-brann-dailor-defends-twerk-heavy-the-motherload-video-sexist-allegations/

       “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s just no escaping from the phenomenon known as twerking. Even Mastodon took a tongue-in-cheek approach to rippling glutes in their new video for ‘The Motherload.’ In a new interview with Mastodon drummer / vocalist Brann Dailor, the musician explains the concept behind the video and addresses the sexist criticism that videos featuring twerking receive.”

               It will be tempting to dismiss the comparison by pointing out that the criticisms of Elvis came from a different time and that Mastadon’s criticism is that of female dancers being sexually objectified. To me however these observations only serve to highlight how much more ridiculous, immature, and biased it is to criticize women on 2014 the same way people criticized Elvis in 1957. In both cases I have to wonder what in the world are these people so afraid of? Is society at large so easily offended and afraid of sexuality that even dance moves send them in a fluttering tizzy of emotional weakness? If men and women are equal then why is it offensive for one to shake their hips and not the other? 

               If my love of the rock and roll/metal genre has taught me anything it’s that nothing is off-limits. The main reason I love it so much is that it constantly pushes the envelope and the artist involved are constantly exploring hot button issues in order to provoke a reaction that raises eye brows and hopefully gets people to think twice about their preconceived notions.  I admit that I am not the biggest fan of Mastadon nor do I find the video particularly interesting save for the parody of early 90’s heavy metal music videos which I find a bit humorous. That does not grant me a right to even attempt to censor them, tell them they are sexist, and try to tear them down in any way. Sure, you have all the right in the world to make such criticism but in doing so you open yourself up to retort. My retort is that you are simply being entirely too sensitive. The girls in this video are not forced to dance in front of the camera in provocative ways. In fact, I think it’s rather demeaning of you to label them as victims when in fact they have found a job they enjoy doing. Who are you to pass judgement on them? 

                          What would have happened to the music industry if we as a society would have taken such accusatory, baseless, and immature criticisms to heart? Would Elvis Presley have gone on to set the world on fire with his provocative style? It is my opinion that if we do not stand up to the political correctness brigades of the world that we will end up in a joyless ride where you have to constantly watch what you say, enjoy, do, listen to, watch, or are otherwise entertained by. It is exactly this kind of blatant censorship which I fear most and would simply refuse to live and put up with. Rock and Roll/Metal music serves a very important purpose in this department. The more PC is pushed, the harder these bands should rock out. The more they are labeled and blamed for societies problems the more provocative the lyrics should become until finally something gives and the PC Nazi’s of the world grow up and realize the jokes on them and give up on their ridiculous quest to Nerf the world. 

There are even more examples of rock music coming under fire and being blamed for ills in the world (I will provide more below). It seems that every time something bad happens in the world we will quickly divert responsibility away from the perpetrator and on to the kind of music they enjoyed, games they played, books they read, or movies they watched. Why? It’s a simple question that the SJW movement wants to answer by saying things like, “Just because you don’t think you’re affected by media doesn’t mean you aren’t. In fact, it probably means you are the most affected.” Anita Sarkeesian said something very similar to this in one of her Tropes vs Women videos and I have to demand actual proof of this baseless accusation. I am defending rock music here because for me it has served as a very healthy outlet and allowed me to explore the darker half of my psyche without actually having to express it and take it out on others. This art form doesn’t just explore the dark but very creatively creates a light at the end of a very difficult tunnel for millions of fans world-wide. To imagine anyone trying to take this away by failing to make a valid criticism of it just because they are too sensitive to understand what rock and roll/metal is all about is beyond asinine. To these people I recommend just turning off and avoiding media that makes you feel so mad and sensitive. The rest of us are just fine and aren’t out to hurt you. Leave us alone and stop trying to ruin OUR fun and OUR hobbies.   

 

 

List of Society Blaming Rock for Violence

  • The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” & Manson Family Murders
  • Ozzy Osbourne’s “Suicide Solution” & Teen Suicide
  • Judas Priest’s “Better by You, Better Than Me” & Suicide Pact
  • AC/DC’s “Night Prowler” & Serial Killer Richard Ramirez
  • Marilyn Manson & Columbine’s killers

                        I advise my readers to do google searches of this list and would ask that you consider the consequences of demanding artist censor themselves just because bad things happen in the world. What sort of legacy will we leave behind if we are the generation that chose to leave behind the tradition of free expression? Do you really want to be remembered in history for going along with an ideology that demands you not explore yourself through the safety of art? Is there any good reason why we should close our minds, hide our eyes, and close our ears every time someone creates something that offends our sensibilities? My accusation of you if you have already is that you are of a weak mind and speaking from a place of fear and ignorance. Your message is not the only one that needs be heard and understood. So while you are free to criticize all you want it really stops there if you are unwilling to go and create your own art, messages, and content for others with a like mind to enjoy. If you simply refuse to put in the effort to create and build an audience then I’m afraid your complaints fall on deaf ears because all you’re ultimately doing is complaining constantly that the creative people of the world didn’t make something that pleases your every last desire. 

 

ROCK AND ROLL WILL NOT DIE AND I HOPE IT ROCKS YOU OUT OF YOUR SOCKS! 

Gamer Gate and the Bigger Picture of Political Correctness.

AmpersandQuest

 

It’s been almost a month now since the gaming community found itself in a steaming pile of a controversy surrounding the actions and behaviors of certain elements in the community. There are several hands at play in this on going situation but that is not what I am going to write about here. If you need to know the details about Gamer Gate I recommend you click on the link below this paragraph before continuing on. The video will talk about a lot of things and if you want to know more than what is provided in this video make sure to take notes from the video and search Google for your answers. My goal here is not to cover the specifics but rather the larger implications that are beyond the gaming industry itself.

Mundane Matt from YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UwkdxlyRt0

Just to provide a brief description of Gamer Gate let us discuss the two opposing sides to the controversy. One side identifies as “Gamers” and the other side claims that “Gamers” are dead. The side that claims “Gamers” are dead have been labeled as Social Justice Warriors and seem to be less interested in video games as they are in supposed equality and inclusiveness. They have accused “Gamers” as being misogynist, bigots, privileged white males, and worse. Gamers have of course objected to this but it has been building up for a quite some time now. So if I’m not going to talk about all the details then why am I writing about it? The answer is in the next paragraph.

Whether its video games, movies, tv shows, music, or sports it seems to me that there is a growing amount of concern to be more politically correct in every entertainment or sporting industry there is. This is not by any means a new phenomenon, however, in 2014 it seems people have had enough and I count myself among those who feel this PC era of entertainment has got to end. If you support political correctness I don’t necessarily have any gripe with you on an individual level, however, when it comes to freedom of expression and the sharing of controversial ideas that you may find offensive I cannot help but become critical of your views on the matter.

I grew up believing that people’s opinions and views mattered. I’ve always believed and still do that even if those opinions are grossly out-of-bounds with what I can agree with that I shouldn’t be allowed to censor them. There is a very important reason I believe this and it feels like society is losing touch with that reason as each year passes on. That reason is that of objective comparison and contrast with one another. If we as a society cannot hear the down right horrible views of some and attempt to wipe it all from the historical record then what kind of legacy will we leave behind? Not only that, what kind of chance will future generations have of knowing what was and is acceptable behavior? What sort of context will we be able to provide if we attempt to censor those opinions of which we fully disagree with and oppose?

Silence is not an option and that of course is not what I am attempting to push here. Rather, the ability to listen and let sink in the opinions and world views of those we oppose and speaking out against them. That is what is at stake here. Are we to strive for a 1984 like totalitarian society where we simply wipe the history slate clean when it does not fit with our narrative? Are we to just forget about all the horrible things people have done to one another in a vain attempt to feel better about ourselves as a people? Whether or not you actually support these horrible things in the long history of society is irrelevant to the matter of allowing them to be known, studied, and explored.

If we are so weak as a people now that we cannot even allow ourselves to see the dark side of humanity then I am afraid we are doomed to not just repeat those mistakes but create even greater atrocities by virtue of plain ignorance and cowardice. Political correctness in my opinion is merely censorship with a pretty name. It is a means by which to silence dissent against one’s narrative. Whether or not that narrative is actually healthy and true is not the point, allowing people to ask questions and disagree with that narrative is. I have to ask myself, at some point, are we going to send people to prison when they simply hurt someone’s feelings in the future?

There are little situations less frightening to me than to live in a society to afraid to have a civil dialogue about important issues. It is easy to point at the trolls, haters, and bullies of the world and pass all their aggression on to those who differ in opinion to you but I believe that is the crux of the problem here. Instead of taking the easy route why not instead take on the challenge of real debate.  Why are so many people so terrified of the possibility of being half wrong that they’ll do just about anything to avoid a realistic conversation in which a common goal can be ascertained? Personally, I have trouble looking in the mirror too, but, it doesn’t stop me from actually participating in a discussion where I might have to admit when I’m incorrect and change my mind on specific things I’ve said or done.  The one thing I don’t do, at least I try my best not to, is trying to paint my opposition as simply being trolls. I don’t claim to be a victim of harassment just because someone or several people call me out for being an idiot. Maybe it’s because I work in an industry where it is a daily ritual to have to face facts and get actually harassed by cranky people. I must have developed a thick skin.

In conclusion to these thoughts I want to leave you with some food for thought. I am a huge fan of rock and roll and metal. Other than the music the one thing I love most about that culture is the freedom of expression involved in it. The whole purpose of rock music is to represent a passion that exist in the human spirit to live life to the fullest. That does not entail always being inspirational and happy with life. It does mean looking at both sides of the coin and realizing that maybe life isn’t completely black and white. Rock music fully explores both the good and the evil of the human condition and does so without considering who might get their feelings hurt. Some of my favorite artist have publicly stated that the last thing they would ever do is listen to their fans when writing new material. I really like that. It says to me they care more about honesty and integrity than they do about pleasing everyone. They didn’t acquire their fame and fortune by simply being nice to everyone and bowing down to their every single whim. They got there by being extremely talented, having a relevant message to send, and by delivering it in very awesome and unique ways. To realize now that there is a huge group of people who actually oppose such things disgust me to no end and I simply will not stand for it. Critique is one thing. Attempting to censor is quite another.

 

 

Place Your Bets Please

AmpersandQuest

 

This word press is going to tell a story of a man who entered into a new profession as a boy and learned what it takes to be a man because of it. It will also tell of the anonymous faces this boy saw and how it impacted him to think about where he himself was heading in life. It is a peculiar trade and one that takes a lot of skill, cunning, and brutal honesty to be a part of. All of which the young man did not have in abundance before becoming seasoned in the trade. The lessons learned have branched out into other areas of his life and have allowed him to mature into the man he had always hoped to be. Or at least showed him the path. A path on which he continues to travel on to this day. This young man is me of course. Here is my story of the Casino trade.

 

Allow me if you will to take you into the world of gambling, entertainment, and the brutal honesty that is the Casino trade. It is astonishing to me just how much of a reflection gambling is of actual life and of how accurately you can learn about people in general by reading the dispositions of those who place their hard-earned money in the betting circle with the hope of winning big money. It is easy at first to imagine this trade to be dishonest, shady, and otherwise criminal but nothing can be further from the truth. Think about fast food if you will. How often will these large restaurants defend their food even though we all know it’s trash. They spend billions on marketing every single year and because of it they still somehow thrive. The degree to which they have to advertise a happy-go-lucky attitude about their business is to me what makes it so transparent that no one should even think about shoveling that food into their mouths.

 

Before we dive to deeply into that let’s start at the beginning of my career, dealers school to be precise. I had been working in fast food for 3 years prior to my enrollment into dealers school. Far too old of an age to be relying on a near minimum wage salary and answering to some of the worst humanity has to offer. Though I did build some character in the fast food trade it was but a drop in the bucket compared to just two weeks of dealer training. It started off slowly enough with learning how to handle chips, cards, and money as only a dealer can do. Each day increasing in difficulty as we would learn to quickly count card values, chip values, and dollar amounts so that we could keep games moving. At first this just meant learning how to deal the most basic and also most popular of games, Blackjack.

 

Our instructor was kind and patient enough to be teaching us but at the same time he was a complete smart ass and he made sure to remind us that his cruelty was nothing compared to what we would be subject to on a live game so I kept my mouth shut most of the time and just absorbed any kind of disciplinary actions taken against me because I had the feeling that there was no room for any kind of know-it-all behavior. I was exactly right to think this way as I witnessed one student after another losing their cool and being escorted out of the training facility. It became obvious to me that this job was not at all for the faint of heart. However, I myself was very faint of heart. This did not sit well with me at first but something inside me kept me going. This was the first time in a very long time that I felt myself actually giving a damn about my performance not just as a student but as a human being.

 

Several weeks into training it became obvious to myself and my teacher that I was becoming someone to look at with interest. Other students started to ask me questions instead of the instructor. I did not allow this to go to my head at all out of fear that any kind of arrogance would result in a return to the fast food work I had been doing. So I mostly differed this attention to my instructor. After I became more comfortable with it however, I began to be able to answer these questions with confidence and soon enough I was dealing mock games of black jack long before the other students in class.

 

For the first time in a long time I had a sense of pride in what I was doing. It became an art form just as much as playing guitar had for me in years past. It became clear to me that this job did not simply mean putting cards on a table then collecting and paying bets. There was much more to it than that after you learned the fundamentals of dealing cards. I started noticing subtle changes in people’s behavior when it came to different scenarios in the game. Much as professional poker players talk about when competing on TV. People cannot help but react when it comes to a game, especially when money is on the line. However, this was still true even though it was mock money on the line in class.

 

Let’s skip forward to my first night on a live blackjack game. It was a first night to remember as it was July 4th. The Casino was completely packed to the brim and a line of guest were in waiting to get in as the fire marshal would not allow more than capacity to enter the building. I was assigned a table in the main pit of the floor which was so crowded that it took me 10 minutes just to enter and find my place. The table was full of what I now know as a matter of routine are the most difficult people to deal to. Fifty plus year old drunk men and a whole table full at that with others in wait for when one of them got up to move on with their night. The amount of pressure, nervousness, and adrenaline that was rushing through my body is still to this day indescribable.  In a moment I had forgotten every single thing I had learned in class and not only that was being cussed at, picked on, and flogged because on of the more veteran dealers had let it be known that it was my very first night on the job.

 

Music from the live band playing was so loud that I could barely hear anything which is an all important aspect to being a live table games dealer. You must be able to communicate certain things to your pit boss and this was nearly impossible with everything going through my mind at that point. That night I had to either put up or shut up and hand in my dealers license. My first hand went off without a snag, the second, third, and fourth as well. This was because nothing of note happened but I will never forget the first black jack I dealt was a bet made with several colors of value chips. Now days, it is something I don’t even think about but on my first night my mind drew a complete blank. A black jack will pay any bet three to two in odds. In other words a ten-dollar bet will pay fifteen dollars on any black jack which is the first two cards the player receives equaling twenty-one. Mathematically you simply take the entire amount of the bet, divide by two, and then add that amount to the original bet. On a ten-dollar bet, divide ten by two which equals 5, add five to ten which equals fifteen and then pay the bet. The bet I drew a blank on was a bet of twenty-three dollars and fifty cents. I stood there, confused, bewildered, and ashamed of myself.

 

Unable to figure out the payout my pit boss started pushing me to figure it out, the players cussing at me, calling me names, and myself beating myself up more harshly than that! It was one of those moments where everything goes silent and you either put forth the effort and do it or you fold like an accordion and fail miserably and decide to move on with your life.  I knew I wanted this job more than anything in the world. I just got a new girlfriend, my own car, a new place to live, and was moving on with my life outside of this job so the idea of giving up now was out of the question. I started to scramble and figure out the bet one color at a time. And 5 minutes later, which is an obscene amount of time to me now, I had figured it out. The entire table of drunk old men, my pit boss, and the shift manager all cheered aloud as I stood there completely embarrassed, yet, triumphant in getting over myself and just paying the man his money.

 

Fast forward two years and I am a competent dealer in several different and varied games including several types of poker games. The lesson I learned that first night has never left me. That is, people, even when they’re being complete shit heads, typically just want the best things to happen for themselves and others. Even if they’re calling you every name in the book, they still want the good thing to happen. That is why this business is so god damn honest. They don’t come there expecting to win every hand or at all for that matter. What they come to do is have a good time and it is my job for that entertainment to be at my expense. That’s not to say I still let guest cuss me out and treat me like garbage like I did my first few weeks of dealing. It just means it’s my job not only to deal the game correctly but to make it as entertaining as possible for the guest.

 

The trick is to present the guest with such a good time that they leave me a tip, which is the bulk of my annual income. I have had experience in sales in my lifetime as well which has come in handy but one thing I’ve noticed about this job in contrast to sales is that of the level of honesty. When it comes to what I’m selling I can be utterly blunt about it where as when I was in sales I had to make the product sound better than it actually was. Here, when someone is losing and starting to get pissed off about it all I have to do is get the rest of my table to start cheering for them. I have to encourage them to have a good time despite the loss and that they are partaking in something that’s not just about them but the party atmosphere around them. They don’t want to be a party pooper do they? Hardly anyone does and those that do want to poop the party well there are other ways of handling them as well.

 

The most difficult guest that I encounter are the one’s who complain no matter how much they’re winning or losing. Either that or they have hardly anything to say at all. Getting them to play along is difficult but not impossible. It takes a higher level of patients and cunning to get them involved with the “party”. For example, getting the rest of the table involved with their decisions on the game can mean the different between a tip or not. If they simply are not going to tip and others are it is amusing to hear the rest of the table cuss that guest out for being a prick and not treating their dealer right. “Hey buddy, it’s not like it’s the dealers money, he wants us to win too ya jerk!”, they’ll say. To which I’ll reply, “Yeah, my boss already makes enough money, none of us have his kind of money so let’s make it together folks!” If that doesn’t work and the party pooper still doesn’t play along it only encourages the rest of the party to have more fun in spite of the pooper. It’s fascinating to me how this dynamic plays out over the hour-long period I will deal to them before I have to go on a mandatory break. Which is another interesting way of using psychology on the table.

 

In the state in which I work, by law, a dealer is not allowed to deal for more than an hour and twenty minutes at a time. This not only allows the dealer to gather their thoughts and clear their mind but it can also swing the game back in or out of the favor of the house. I call this dynamic “good cop, bad cop.” Much like we all see in cop movies/tv shows where cops team up on a suspect and play good/bad with them dealers can do much the same thing. For example, for an hour I might be “dumping” to the table which simply means paying out a lot of money on each hand. This gets the party atmosphere in high spirits while I’m there but then my break comes and a new dealer is there for the twenty minutes I’m away. The new dealer now may be impossible to beat. This is all a part of the fun of gambling. When I get back from break after the new dealer takes back most if not all of their chips the guest will rejoice in my return and offer up tribute in the form of either handing me tips or placing dealer bets so that I can play along. As the bad cop a dealer learns not to take the insults personally and realizes they have played their part in a mind game that results in more tips than usual.

 

Now you may be saying to yourself that this is some how shady and dishonest but is it really? We aren’t allowed to ask for tips directly and in my opinion this is a good thing because it is more professional to actually earn those tips by providing an entertaining experience rather than cheaply asking for tips out right. Not only can a dealer lose their job but in my opinion it cheapens the entire experience for the guest and the dealers as well. Regular guest know what is going on and not only are happy to tip but realize it adds a lot more to the party like atmosphere going on.  These are the guest we rely on most to ensure a great time for everyone playing and after so long you develop really tight and awesome bonds with them.  But for every guest like this there are ten who just do not get it. This is where the artistry of everything I just talked about comes in to play.

 

Often times I feel like a rock star on his own unique stage because people know my name by word of mouth and I find regulars returning to my tables every single week just to have a good time of which I am very happy to oblige. It is just as important for me to have a great time as it is to make money at my job and that is why I absolutely love what I do. This job has not only helped me financially but has helped me mature into the young man I always hoped I would be. It has motivated me to make other changes in my life. Like caring about my appearance, the way I socialize with others, and how I treat my personal life with loved one’s and friends. At the end of the night when I am ready to clock out there are always stories to be told, merriment to be had, and friendships to be maintained. Some times I help count up all of our tips for the day and I can tell you that I and the other dealers all take pride in every single red cent we get. We do not think of our guest as suckers and they do not think of us as scam artist. We develop a bond with them much as a bar tender would his guest.

 

I honestly believe this is one of the most honest trades in the world because no one forces anyone to place those bets on the table. We even go so far as to explain the best odds possible and that there is not one single game in the entire casino which has the guest best interest at heart. Why then do people keep putting their money in the circle? I say it’s because of the thrill of the chase, the good people they’re surrounded with, and the memories they create while there. Sure, people get lucky and make a lot of money some times but more often than not people will spend what they bring every time they come and yet they return the next week. That tells me there is something else at play. Something intangible and valuable to humanity involved with gambling. Something that only people in the entertainment business truly understand and have mastered over the years. It’s the same reason you pay to go see your favorite bands, or go to the movies, or even take your friends or co-workers out to a nice restaurant. Once the money becomes irrelevant and you are simply having the time of your life you quickly realize that what you are betting on is having a great time.

“Activisimist” Movements: The Unavoidable Hypocrisy of Modern Culture (Warning for the sensitive, Profane Language Within!)

AmpersandQuest

I have always considered myself a humanist for my own reasons. No self-proclaimed humanist was ever able to teach me why, I just found myself attached to the ideologies behind humanism. It’s not for secular reasons or because a bunch of hipster activist told me I should be one. I am one despite those people. I am one because I believe in humanity to improve and progress through a lot of hard work. Not so that the government can grant everyone privileges and screw over everyone else just because they’re in the majority.

 

It seems in this “modern civilized world” it is not enough to be a decent human being, no, you have to be a part of this kind of “ism” or a certain type of “ist” in order to fit in. These “movements” are taking what was such a beautifully simple notion of goodwill towards men and have spun it into their own unique perceptions and delusions of how best to operate one self in a world wrought with war, political cesspools, a crumbling economy, and do gooders trying to get in everyone else’s business. They will point their filthy fingers at everything and everyone other than themselves and will never look in the mirror to see how they’ve duped themselves into believing that if they just scream loud enough, the world will listen and change. In other words, these people love to complain.

 

I am humanist because fuck you. What I mean to say is that I as an individual strive to better myself. I am part of a society of other humans so I have had to learn to go along to get along to a certain degree but the reason for this word press being written is to point out that society at large is stepping all over itself to prove to themselves that they are these gleaming and shining examples of morality. But we all know we are imperfect and typically shit headed towards one another. Yet we find ourselves involved with groups of people proclaiming to have the answer to solve all the worlds ills. Myself included, so don’t misunderstand me. I include myself in this article because I actually realize I have a lot of work to do on myself and I do it every day. I can’t say the same for others though. For others, mediocrity is just fine.

 

This same harsh “fuck you” goes to anyone who belongs to any of the following groups, Republicans, Democrats, Feminist, Libertarians, Anarcho Capitalist, Anarcho Socialist, Socialist, Communist, Jihadist, Christians, Muslims, Men’s Rights Activist, and many many others so if I left you out, fuck you too. Do you want to know why? Because while there are exceptional people within each community who I want to be friends with and would love to be around, there are always those extreme people who take the idea way too far and go way out of their way to not just exclude others from even the slightest conversation but will actively seek to bring harm to anyone outside that community. This is the problem I have with every single one of these “ismist”. They subvert themselves by proclaiming peace but it’s at a cost. They are not at all peaceful once they start lobbying for laws to be passed in order to limit the behaviors of those who disagree with them. Granted some are much less inclined to do so than others so I am not exactly painting with broad strokes here. I recognize good, better, and best.

 

I realize right about now I sound completely hypocritical and I agree, but how can this be avoided? How can we live in society with all these special interest, all just as annoying as the next, and not at some point put your head out of your ass and remember who you really are? Humanism to me does not mean I think all humans deserve special treatment. To me, it means, we’re all a bunch of dip shits for thinking that some little group we were a part of at some point was going to make a difference by complaining about some oppressor at large until someone paid attention to us. Never once providing a working solution or internalizing our own faults and communicating to others that sometimes the bullshit that happens to us in life is our own damn fault.  Perhaps then I am not a humanist, perhaps then I am just an individual who is sick of movements.  In any case I have been a part of several movements in my life time and never once did I feel fulfilled. Just a brief encounter with inspiring ideas at first which quickly succumb to in fighting, finger-pointing, and complaining. It’s rather disgusting.

 

I see all these disappointed faces all the time. You’re in a movement, things are going well, then reality sets in and people tailspin into denial, self-pity, and loathing of their brethren.  Did you really believe you were going to make a difference? So disappointing isn’t it? You were fooled by a guru into believing in something abstract and unrealistic and at first their were positive results because you were excited about something. It gave you positive energy and something to believe in while you continued to your ultimate destiny. But eventually, you had questions about what you were doing. Just as an atheist questions God or an Anarchist questions Government YOU question this community you’re a part of.

 

But you deny it don’t you? Anything to belong. Anything to maintain this near narcissistic shell  that you are good because your people are good. That you could never ever be a shit head and neither could your activist friends. Ha! Wake up fools, you live on an ancient rock, it’s been alive for billions of years and will probably outlive our species. And the reason it will is because you are so narcissistic that you actually believe we will kill the Earth before it kills humanity. You honestly truly believe that what you are doing is truly good and right and correct meanwhile you make enemies at every turn. Bring harm to those who disagree and in turn those shit heads you piss off come back and attack you.

 

I am Humanist because I think humanity has such great potential to be truly exceptional and good. But I see what we’ve become and i am sick! If it’s not cleared by your board members, internet gurus, or political party you will not even think about doing it. It’s disgusting to think that I used to be the same way but I met others who showed me another way. These people didn’t kiss my ass and tell me pretty lies. They said, “FUCK YOU, GROW UP, MOVE ON.”

 

These men to be a little more specific are part of an online culture called “the manospehere” and I realize I am being hypocritical but it simply cannot be avoided in this culture of ours.  Because there is no way around it I must find a way to compromise my position without being a complete piece of shit so here it is. My brand of Humanism is called Pinnaclism and you can read all about it here. https://verbosepeak.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/pinnaclism/

 

Within the confines of that article are what represent to me a set of ideals that constitute a way of life. I no longer want to be another follower in a group that represents the interest of people who at one point had the same idea I had. I want to be a leader in something new, unique, and truly revolutionary. I realize this means dire consequences should anyone out there take my ideas seriously but honestly, it’s a short life and I’m sick of following dishonest people who have their own agendas and use people’s best qualities against them in order to galvanize and quarter off a market of meat heads who will worship them and hang on to every word they say without question. I’m sick of the guru’s and the ism-ist of modern culture and desire a return to what makes human beings so damn amazing. Honesty, honor, hard work, self-responsibility, and ingenuity. I saying this I am not going to blow smoke up anyone’s ass and pretend I am a shining example to be followed at this point. But the fact that I recognize my shit headed behaviors and seek to change them is something people should follow.  I want others to read my words here and rip them apart and give me feedback, positive and negative feedback because if I’m perfectly honest right now everything I’ve written here feels absurd. I feel there is something underneath it all though which is tried and true.

 

Does anyone out there have anything to add? I would absolutely love to hear what others think about this. I wrote this article with a lot of anger and after re-reading and writing it I found many inconsistencies with my arguments but I still feel underneath it all is an undiscovered truth about humanity that we should all example. Please let me hear what you think and take care folks!

Pinnaclism

Ampersand Daily2

Pinnaclism is my idea of looking at the vastly superior ideas from any given political or social movement and combining them under one umbrella. When those ideas compete with one another, we should lean towards the more ideal conditions and compromise those ideas which are not in our best interest by accepting the faults of that idea and allowing new and innovative ideas to take their place. This will require a high degree of intellectual honesty and also the ability to let go of preconceived notions once it has become apparent that one idea is inferior to the other.

This is a new term that I have come up with and in my opinion is the only solution to an authoritarian state where violence is deemed required to spread ideology. Pinnaclism still allows freedom of expression, thought, and allows us all to have our positions without the threat of violence. However once put to the test on the market or public arena and adjusting to the reality of the situation, it will become necessary to allow the winning idea to flourish . This requires a very active participation from individuals on a personal basis where we all seek to improve ourselves one step and one day at a time. Where problems exist, people must bring their ideas to the table, even if faulty, it will create a ground by which another can apply the benefit of hindsight and fill in the gaps. This process should repeat until ultimately the economic or social situation is solved to the satisfaction of those individuals involved.

This can be done on a large-scale without coercion or violence though I believe in and still  see the need for very strong defensive violence as detractors from this idea will preemptively strike and lash out at those of us trying to make improvements to our world. That said, through the use of ideologies such as voluntary free trade and association, charities, and many other economic and social options available to all of us at any given moment, we can avoid unwarranted violence more often than not. As a result violence will become less of a problem as time pushes forward. Actions taken by individuals that threaten the existence of others must be met with cold intelligence and brute force. Once on display, parties involved are open to public scrutiny and free press where the violence and coercion are observed in a very public way. If two individuals or collective of individuals seek war with another or among themselves they would be immediately held accountable by social and market forces which seek to render their aggression obsolete by providing similar and superior results that should persuade more people than not to both hold up private agreements and share among each other without the use of violence.

Perhaps in this way, we can eventually find the root causes of aggressive authority in our world and in the interest of the survival of our species dig and cut those roots once and for all, ridding ourselves of an evolutionary weakness and replace it with genuine authority who would have all the resources and reasons available to them to sustain a peaceful social order. I ask you the reader to understand that this does not mean pacifism. In all actuality it means this new social order has the ability to render unjustified violence completely and totally obsolete by having the resources to do so constantly being upgraded through voluntary free trade which will always seek to protect itself from outside illegitimate threats of violence on itself and those who benefit from it.

Try to imagine the possibilities and corrections you can make to my idea and run with it to the next person who works with you peacefully to create new realities, the idea is to allow this process to continue and grow into a new society based on real information and the accepting of new proposals in order to reach a peaceful end to all situations. For the overwhelming majority of time violence will not be necessary and as a result new innovations will only arise faster and better as time pushes forward uninterrupted by those among us who do not have the strength and peace of mind to build and maintain a society we can all enjoy and benefit from. In that case, it will not be an unfortunate turn of events to see these overly aggressive authoritarian forces eliminated from the scene and will also allow new innovations in dealing with these forces more and more peacefully with each passing year. Imagine being able to stop a killer without killing them and simultaneously benefiting from their labor and rehabilitating them and their would be victims to allow a much more prosperous situation to occur. The outright hedonist will not be able to bring about their anarchy on the backs of every living soul of which they would take pleasure in harming, rather, every living soul has an opportunity to present the hedonist with a choice. Responsible freedom or seclusion from freedom. 

I strongly desire all forms of criticism for this article. Whether you completely hate, moderately hate, moderately love, or completely love what I’ve put forward please leave a comment below. This is not meant to be a populist movement by any means, it is a means to an end that discourages such action but rather is an open door to any and all dissent and acceptance. That being said, both dissent and acceptance of this idea taken to extremities that result in massive demonstrations that seek to harm other’s interest will not be tolerated by myself. My goal isn’t to create a monster.  I want this to become the absolute most ideal way of looking at the world so it will require myself at times to be corrected and I completely accept that responsibility. So, if you believe you can improve or even disprove these ideas please do not be shy. It will only strengthen the idea either way and as a label it will survive any and all adjustments to the philosophy as it is meant to consistently be improved upon.

Being Right When the Status Quo is Wrong

Ampersand Daily2

I suppose most people would label me with titles like Libertarian, Anarchist, Independent, or even simply a lunatic. However, I’ve come to discover that there has never been or ever will there be a single word anyone could use to describe me. So when reading the title of this post, please do not assume things about me without first considering the content of the entire article and message I am attempting to convey to the world in this little corner of the internet.

I want to take you back on a journey of about 50 years. For those of you who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s may recall standing up to the government on many many issues. Civil Rights, The Vietnam War, Watergate, JFK, MLK, Kent State, and other people and events that helped shape this period in American History all happened because of one centrally planned and organized cartel of men and women who apparently, we have granted the authority to write rules down on pieces of paper, and enforce those rules through a fully armed and trained military/police forces. I often wonder, what was it that caused all of these people to stand up to the government? What sparked the notion that no one has the right to use force against others to get them to behave a certain way? Perhaps a more relevant question pertaining to this is, what happened to that spark? Why did millions of people lock arms in protest and defeat authoritarians hand over fist back then? Yet today, even suggesting you should do such a thing ensures you to be compartmentalized into a box with a label on it that says “Conspiracy Theorist Nut Job”. Curious question is it not?

Even myself, an individual who is happy to question the reality around me, finds myself speechless when I should be speaking up. I know there is no good justification for this and that it is morally wrong, yet, more often than not I simply stand there, knowing things aren’t right and feel trapped by my own fear and insecurity. I think this largely has to do with the majority of people who simply want to live their life oblivious to the ill’s of the world and vicariously through the portrayals of heroes in Hollywood movies. While I too live in a blissful manner and watch movies and enjoy the tales being told, I think I at least do manage to provide some thought-provoking and challenging ideas to those around me. I at least attempt to help push along this idea that humanity should be free of force and coercion and that some day, this kind of revolution will take place.

The thrust of this article is to point out the few human beings through history who have taken a much stronger stance against authoritarian ideologies and made great and even the ultimate sacrifices in doing so. I find that whether or not I agree with all of these people politically, I can at least understand them, and even appreciate their bravery in taking a stand for what they feel was right. I am going to refrain from providing specific examples to avoid making you think I believe in one thing or another and also because if you’re reading this, you probably have a really good idea of the people I am referring to. Instead, this is just to point out that when you take a stand against an aggressive authoritarian, often, you will have to give up much of your life or even be killed for doing so.

When the entire world bows down to a single ideology and believes that forcing everyone else to adhere to that idea is justified, it is considered a rebellious and dangerous act. While that may be true, I think it’s important to point out that the danger is not coming from the protester, the violence isn’t being forced upon the authoritarian, but rather the authoritarian is using force to ensure 100% loyalty and adherence to his or her rules. Rebelling against this dangerous ideology is not an act of terror as the majority of society will probably tell you, it is an action made once one realizes the only way to really be free is to challenge that forced unity and collective blind support. History is riddled with these figures that rise up against the authority of the time and end up in horrible situations just because they had a different idea of how human beings should live among one another. Ask yourselves, how highly can you really think about any political ideology that must force those who disagree into compliance? If it’s that great of an idea, shouldn’t persuasion be enough? I understand that when it actually is a good idea and a rebel uses violence to get their way that defensive violence is necessary. That however, is not what I’m attempting to convey to you.

I think a good example is Marijuana users. If they inhale the smoke from Marijuana when it’s illegal they will be thrown into a cage, violently. Yet, there hasn’t ever been a significant case where someone has over dosed due to the use of the drug nor has the simple act of indulging in the smoking of Marijuana ever produced a victim. Have people made poor decisions as result of Marijuana, probably, but that shouldn’t muddle the entire culture and market place surrounding the drug. Yet, if you dare even try it once and get caught, you and all your friends will end up in jail and with a horrible drug charge on your records. The government may even kill you if the police who are used to enforce the laws upon you are trigger happy psychopaths as we all to often see in the news any more.

When you know you are right about something that contradicts the status quo of government, your life becomes a danger to any authority who thrives of the laws you are breaking, even if those laws are totally unjustified. People have been beaten, jailed, or even killed for doing things that produced no theft, violence against others, or property damage. There are laws, it seems, simply for the sake of having laws at times and I find this to be a tragic situation where the powerful and wealthy benefit from their dominance over the rest of humanity, almost as if they simply enjoy controlling others with their police forces. Almost as if they get a sense of joy from it. This should be alarming to people out there, but I fear apathy greatly outweighs any justifiable concern people may have as most people simply want to be left alone.

There is a song by Rush that I believe outlines what I’m on about here called Closer to the Heart. Give it a listen and read the lyrics while you listen to it. It may do a better job trying to convey the message I’m trying to type out here for you and if so, then great. I hope to help others come to this message in any way I can other than force and coercion. I want to be the opposite of that and I think most people actually feel this way deep down. Seeing the way people are treated for actually acting on this practically though, it is understandable why people’s apathy mostly outweighs any desire to make a real positive change in the world. This however needs to erode as time pushes forward and the next generation comes up. Ask yourself, when will this world of ours stop bombing the crap out of each other? When will this world of ours see a superior level of peace and prosperity that the world has never enjoyed before? I have this belief that this is inevitable but also that if we don’t approach it with the proper line of sight, the cost of this happening will almost be far to great to consider. The choice is yours.

Thank you for the read!

Scott D. Vogler