Reflecting Pool + Future Miracles

I am still summarily submerged in the excitingly frigid waters of J-Term, not yet able to truly see the time in perspective, but I’ll attempt to remove myself; float above the surface and see what reflects back, despite the chopping surf and howling winds of chaotic opinionthoughts. I began the semester with high expectations. I hadn’t really conceived just how short 1 month really is, and had grand visions of putting my entire study abroad experience to paper (or screen). I struggled to create the first piece, using the ham-fisted premade online tools, but they were good in forcing me to put concept before execution, and in the end I managed to scrape something together that was pretty interesting.

My growth as a writer has had a fairly standard refrain, which basically has me, daunted by my own nay-saying, yet eventually able to just force myself to write and, well, look at that… it came out pretty well… hot damn. _rinse and repeat…_

The most rewarding part of the semester, and one of the strongest motivators for my choosing to spend my writing time under BG is the plethora of writing games designed to shake up our (writing) realities a bit. These are just what I need to get away from my traditional writing mindset, which is rather locked-down, not to mention intimidating. As I spent a few minutes looking over my EL170 blog (which I’ve just imported, see the archives) I noticed that the results of the exercises, especially the 100 words pieces, have been much more complete and well-rounded. My ability to write to the constraints without being as splayed out in intimidated perfectionist frustration has been rather refreshing.

As I mentioned above, I set out on this J-Term journey with a very specific goal in mind: to write about my semester in Mongolia. While I never wrote the mega-piece, or series of essays I had envisioned (especially after spending a month writing an academic paper, and wanting to process that material into creative work), I did manage to relate a number of pieces to my time abroad, including in-class exercises (like the box thing) a multimedia piece, and a 100-word entry.

My final piece went through an interesting evolution. For the first, super rough draft, I began by writing out the few threads I could think of, basically as separate pieces, then trying to mash them together. In workshop, it was clear I had a swiss-cheese-like essay, bunched together to look like the whole it was not. But I’d already written all I could think of, right? So back to work, writing… and writing… in short inspired bursts (and doing loads of research, my all-time favorite method of procrastination. Other than writing posts about racism in metal. I also did some fieldwork, sending out questions to the metal community in an attempt to gain some perspective, though none of that material made it into the paper as such.). I ended up with bunch more threads; which then got smashed in with the rest. As I spent my last several days revising, and revising, then revising some more… (I cut it up and taped it back together from scratch) I started to realize that something was missing; there was a connection that I was searching for, but had been to scared to really investigate (so cliché; but true! I swear!) So, despite all the revising I’d done, and the decent draft I’d produced, at 2am on the night before it was due, I sat and wrote out the final thread by hand. (Then my blog went fubar. twice. but that’s another story).

So as I wrote in my private self-eval, I have diverse opinions about the semester, depending on the perspective I take. Disciplinarily, I guess it was so-so; I wrote a lot, and more than I usually do, but I never developed a strong writing practice (same time, no matter what, etc…) — which is discouraging (if I can’t get it together during J-Term, then how will I do it during the regular semester?). I was also less than diligent with some of the in-class exercises; though I was spending my time experimenting with ideas for my final essay. Which brings me to the final point; if judged on what I produced, I’m quite satisfied. I’ve got a blog full of snippets and shorts, a few medium-sized pieces, and one super-mega-braided essay that is pretty funky and cool, if I may say so (and METAL \m/)

Inner Peace Through METAL (early draft)

NOTE: This is an early draft of this essay

>heav–y |ˈhevÄ“| adjective ( __heav–i–er , heav–i–est__ )
1. of great weight;
– (of a class of thing) large of its kind : heavy artillery.
– weighed down; full of something : feeling weighed down by weariness
2. of great density; thick or substantial :
– not delicate or graceful; coarse
– (of the sky) full of dark clouds; oppressive : a heavy thundery sky.
3. of more than the usual size, amount, or force; doing something to excess
4. striking or falling with force : a heavy blow to the head | we had heavy overnight rain.
– (of music, esp. rock) having a strong bass component and a forceful rhythm.
5. needing much physical effort :
– mentally oppressive; hard to endure : a heavy burden of responsibility.
– important or serious : a heavy discussion.
– (of a literary work) _hard to read or understand because overly serious or difficult._ [hard to listen to…]
– feeling or expressing grief : I left him with a heavy heart.[^heavythes]
[^heavythes]: New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition.

>me–tal–lic |məˈtalik| adjective
1. _a metallic sound_ : grating, harsh, jarring, dissonant.[^metalthes]
2. Harshly resonant : _the strange metallic note of the meadow lark, suggesting the clash of vibrant blades_ (Ambrose Bierce)[^metaldict]

[^metalthes]: Christine A Lindberg, ed., The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p576.
[^metaldict]: American Heritage English Dictionary, 3rd Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1992).

* * *

It all began some time between the third and fifth grades. I seem to remember things from this period by grades, if at all. Each year is divided by that one major change—moving to the next level in school. There is no clear beginning or end. I saw the music video for the Smashing Pumpkins’, Tonight, Tonight and was, for some reason, struck by it. Logically, I went out and bought the CD, _Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness_. I wouldn’t understand the title of the album for at least five years. At least, I wouldn’t know that I’d understood the title. Was I an angsty 4th grader? Was I _weighed down by weariness_, my heart _heavy_ with the troubles of the world? What about this melancholic, harsh music appealed to me, not even in my the clichéd dark teenage years? The meaning is a bit hard to miss when you hear the music. The album was released on October 24, 1995; so I was around 10 years old. Which is like, third grade, right? I always have to recount from the beginning to figure that out. So I bought the CD, a double album, despite the fact that the one song I knew was nothing like anything else on the album. Yet I don’t remember realizing that, or particularly caring at the time. But the songs I listened to most where the heavy ones. Like the buzz-sawing, Zero; the crushingly distorted Bodies; the ever-classic, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, with the timeless chorus, ”Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage“.

* * *

It was 4th grade. I lived in a nice town, went to a decent school.

I was fast. Real fast. The fastest in the school. We played touch football every day at recess, and I’d run for the hail mary, churning past the helpless defense. this was before puberty passed me by and took everyone else with it, leaving me small and athletically irrelevant.I had a classic crush on a girl in my class named Claire.

My ADD was still not quite under control; the social waters chilled as I unwittingly alienated myself from peers with exuberant abandon. It wasn’t active, aggressive animosity; just a general distancing and idle, abrasive needling, teasing.

The boys I played football with had figured out my little secret and so, naturally, they felt it appropriate to use this information for their own enjoyment.We were walking out to the football field one afternoon; the teasing banter continued to rain. I’d long since realized the futility of defending myself, so I tried with equal futility to ignore. But I am my father’s son, and my mother’s father’s grandson; our blood boils hot and boils fast.

* * *

>Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.[^burnt]
[^burnt]: T.S. Elliot, “Burnt Norton,” No. 1 of _Four Quartets._ Published online by Tristan Fecit, at (June, 2000)

* * *

Time blurred; I see myself struggling with forces I do not, can not, will never comprehend. I turn and face the one who’d started the joke, he’d just launched a flippant jibe into my flank, took it a bit farther than the rest. He was down, on the ground. Both of us were reeling, my world had distilled into an edged clarity and a breeze cooled my neck. One punch to the gut, as I watched, a spectator to my own actions.

I helped him up, both of us in equal disbelief. Maybe I apologized. Maybe I told him ruefully that _you did ask for it, didn’t you_.

* * *

>From our lives’ beginning on
We are pushed in little forms
No one asks us how we like to be
In school they teach you what to think
But everyone says different things
But they’re all convinced that
They’re the ones to see

>So they keep talking and they never stop
And at a certain point you give it up
So the only thing that’s left to think is this

>_I want out–to live my life alone
I want out–leave me be
I want out–to do things on my own
I want out–to live my life and to be free_
–Helloween, “I Want Out” (_Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II_, 1988)

* * *

My friend bought it. Someone brought it into school on their discman. I was addicted. So I bought it. _Smash_ by The Offspring. It 0wn3d me. It still does.

>ad–dict–ed |əˈdiktid| adjective : physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects [^addictdict]
[^addictdict]: New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition.

* * *

>Music can be understood as an emotional communication system, and it is essential to learn to understand the communication of the social group to which one belongs. It has been said that most social groups have a certain style of music. If we want to belong to a group, we need to understand their emotional communication, which is partly found in music.[^recreat]
[^recreat]:Oliver Grewe et al., ”Listening to Music as a Re-Creative Process: Physiological, Psychological, and Psychoacoustical Correlates of Chills and Strong Emotions,“ _Music Perception_ 24, no. 3 (February 2007).

* * *

There are several major rock stations that are receivable over FM radio broadcast in the Greater Boston Area. Each tries desperately to define itself as THE definitive source of rock in the area, no matter how similar their mindless blathering DJ’s, or commercialized programming. But it was a start. And WAAF isn’t so bad. Or wasn’t so bad.There is no commercial metal radio in Boston. Yet the metal scene is far from dead in Boston’s rougher blue-collar ex-urbs. The western cities of Worcester and Springfield are world-famous for their propensity to churn out solid metal acts. So I moved on to a private mini-prep-middle-school (the only school that could keep my ADD ass in line), a climate where working-class music like metal is alien and strange. So I spent those years listening in isolation to crappy alternative rock/Hard Rock radio.

>Starting from widely divergent perspectives and serving widely divergent conclusions, most scholars of metal have interpreted the music as an expression of the frustrations of the blue-collar young in a de-industrializing society that neither requires their labour nor values their presence.[^bluec]
[^bluec]:Berger (1999), p169.

* * *

>in–tense |inˈtens| adjective: extreme, fierce; exceptional, extraordinary; harsh, strong, powerful, potent, overpowering; passionate, vehement, fiery, spirited, vigorous.[^intdict]
[^intdict]: The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, OSX Edition.

It’s little coincidence that I made the transition from dabbling in distorted guitars to immersion in mainstream hard-rock, and eventually, to full-blown heavy metal during middle school. Middle school was a stinking sulfurous hell on earth. A bastion of privilege, entitlement and pestilent wealth. And now I was small; I’d gone from 75 percentile to 25 percentile in both height and weight, and into a world where it mattered more than ever.

By 8th grade, I found myself with one real friend, and more than one enemy whose favorite pastime was to remind me of just how many friends I didn’t have. They were bigger than me, so no quick punch to the gut was going to solve anything.From punk (Offspring) and grunge (Nirvana) to hybrid nü-metal (Sevendust) and gothic industrial (Marilyn Manson), my music darkened with each passing year. Then I went to Art camp. And METAL anticlimactically entered my orbit. There was an animal magnetism to these harsh, strangely beautiful sounds; from the grim solemnity of growling death metal, to the epic and fantastic bombast of its more cheerful cousin, Power Metal.

>ep–ic |ˈepik|
1. noun: a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation.
2. adjective: of, relating to, or characteristic of an epic or epics :
– heroic or grand in scale or characterThe quest for inner peace through metal had begun.[^epicdict]
[^epicdict]: New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Edition.

* * *

>Liner notes introduction: As a servant of light and defender of life, I’m proud to invite you all to the furthest horizons to fight united against astral chaos, the primordial enemy of the planetary wisdom. So relax your body, relax your mind, turn your speakers up and enjoy the virtual odyssey…–Luca Turilli (_King of the Nordic Twilight_, 1999)

* * *

It was my first real experience in romance, at summer camp the summer before 9th grade (I was 13?). Me and said girl’d been “going out” for about a week, I’d just been informed of the ending of our little arrangement by one of her friends. The important part of the story is that, devastated, I returned solemnly to my bunk, crawled in bed shoes clothes ‘n all, and fetched my disc-man and Marilyn Manson (c’mon, it was the closest to metal that I had). My friend stopped by and asked if I was alright. I said _sure_ and he left. I laughed out loud, sardonically, _of course I’m not ok, I’m lying in bed at 7pm listening to Marilyn Manson…_

* * *

>But metal cannot be conceptualized as a mere steam valve for psycho-social pressures… The notion of perceptual agency is at the heart of the death metal participant’s ideology. While much of metal in general and death metal in particular is energetic and aggressive, the musicians I spoke with were quick to disabuse me of the misconception that metal is merely angry music. Saladin explained that metal was about exploring all the emotions that hold a person back in their life.[^steamvalve]
[^steamvalve]: Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p173.

* * *

>One day you’ll live in happiness
With a heart that’s full of joy
You’ll say the world “tomorrow” without fear
The feeling of togetherness will be at your side
You’ll say you love your life and you’ll know why
–Helloween, “Future World” (_Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II_, 1988)

* * *

Jesper was 16, I was 14. When you’re 14, 2 years is a bigger proportion of your life than it would be to me now, at 22. By exactly 4/77 times. Don’t ask me why that is important, it just is. So Jesper was from a band called IN Flames, from Sweden. I would later learn that Sweden is the second most metal country in the world. Though he was from Pennsylvania. He had long dark brown hair and a dry, caustic sense of humor. He owned a stunningly shaped guitar: a red Gibson SG. _Why is the shape of a guitar so important?_ So Jesper started a band and recorded a song with them. I tagged along and gained my eventual nickname, ”roadie“. The next summer Jesper showed up with a CD and a story. The opening song on the CD, was their song in a strange new form. Gone were the clean luke-warm vocals and mellow interludes. The guitars were thicker, harsher, and the only voice I could hear was all but demonic. Of course he had used the same main riff from the song he recorded the previous summer. There he was in the liner notes, Jesper Strömblad. But the picture didn’t quite fit. The Jesper Strömblad in the liner notes had long blonde hair and was… a different person. Our Jesper told us about the strict Swedish laws — that prohibited minors from publishing music, thus forcing the band to use a stand-in for the photos (and live shows? So he could goto school or something?). In any event, it’s unlikely I believed him then. I believed parts. I wanted to believe. I also don’t remember when, exactly, the illusion dissolved and he shed the identity of Jesper, but at some point he resumed his identity. But never lost that aura. He now sings for a leading death metal band in England. Or so he says.

* * *

>I’d sign – a contract with the devil
I’ve tried – for so very long
I’d die – to become immortal
that’s why I sing this song
Am I a wannabe? – have I no dignity.
I’d give up all my life, to be…
In the book of heavy metal —— METAALLLL!
In the book of heavy metal
-—Dream Evil, ”The Book of Heavy Metal (March of the Metallians)

* * *

A Guitar tech tests a majestically evil-looking guitar while the crowd mills about, joking, posturing awkwardly, cheering on the tech sarcastically. The venue is small. Dingy would not be an understatement, and we can feel that we are in gritty Worcester, Massachusetts.

The crowd is filled with an unusual assortment of people. They are mostly men, and mostly white. The air is thick with the dropped R’s of anti-suburbia. Some have girlfriends or wives by their sides. The whiteness of the crowd is accentuated by the blackness of their attire; black shirts, black jeans, black jackets, long black hair. There are a few latinos, and one black man. Maybe. If he is there, people come up to him with curiosity and congratulations for upending the stereotypes of those who revel in subverting stereotypes (yet never really escape them).

* * *

>While it is not clear to me if the motivating power of death metal is generating a vanguard of energetic youth or drawing artistic and creative youngpeople into a trap of naive individualism, I believe that the political significance of musical sound is rooted in the meanings that the participantsconstitute and the consequences of those meanings for the participants’ lives and the larger society.[^motpower]
[^motpower]:Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p175.

* * *

10 more minutes of standing, shuffling for a better spot, and fighting valiantly to protect the spots that are already had. A restless whisper rises throughout the room, it is not clear where it starts, or to what it refers. The stage is now dark. Necks crane and eyes strain to make sense of the fresh, shifting darkness. The shapes on stage begin to congeal into outlines, and the murmur of the crowd grows louder.

The music begins with a soft, symphonic scape of oscillating synthetic tones. The darkly peaceful chords weigh down on the restless bodies, which grow quiet.

_tss… tss… ts ts ts_ ___tsh___

* * *

>Not merely a continuous stream, our experiences of the possibilities of the near future and the certainties of the immediate past exist simultaneously with the experienced events of the hair’s present. All experience exists, therefore, not in the infinitely thin present of the traditionally conceived now, but in a temporal thickness that Husserl called the living present. This living present is the temporal window of the phenomenal world, the arena within which experience transpires. The halo of possibilities that constantly lurk before us in the future are referred to as protentions, and experiences that have just passed through the now-point are referred to as retentions. Within this living present, experiences exist for us as numerous facets synthesised together, dynamic gestalts moving from protention to retention.[^168]
[^168]: Harris M Berger, ”Death Metal Tonality and the Act of Listening,“ _Popular Music_ 18, no. 2 (May 1999), p168.

* * *

six taps of a hi-hat later, the destruction begins.

* * *

Metal. I can qualify it endlessly: Death, Black, Power, Progressive, Avant Garde, Symphonic, Viking, Doom, Folk, Nü, NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), Pagan, Christian, Shred, Neo-Classical. It becomes absurd if it wasn’t already.
What remains when the modifiers are removed?In my current context, one where metal is an extremely strange and alien concept, most of the people with whom I interact don’t see much of that emotional core. Finding out that I <3 metal can come as a bit of a shock for those who don’t already know a bit about me. But we all have our ways to excise the demons the world inspires within us. So I wonder, is that all this music serves to do? Does my love for metal extend beyond the realms of negativity?

* * *

How seriously do we take it? Alexi Laiho, possibly the most gifted songwriter in the metal world today, is a clown with a guitar as he admits during their epic live DVD in Stockholm, “So you see, basically we’re a bunch of fucking idiots… [proceeds to launch into a passionate stream of typically brilliant, pummeling, yet melodic face-melting metal].”

Poise and hubris in extreme. Superlatives ‘R Us.

>Death be not proud,
though some have called thee mighty and dreadful,
thou art not so.
–Children of Bodom, “Follow The Reaper” (_Follow The Reaper_, 2000)[^deathproud]
[^deathproud]:(quote originally from John Donne, [“Death be not proud, though some have called thee”](

* * *

__Art appeals to an us that is raw, emotional.__

>Shattered hope became my guide
and grief and pain my friends
a brother pact in blood-ink penned
declared my silent end

>Naked and dying under worlds of silent stone
reaching for the moonshield that once upon us shone.
–In Flames, “Moonshield” (The Jester Race, 1996)

__A certain bleak cynicism. A morbid fascination with the dark, undesirable; a simultaneous familiarity with their emotional counterparts from a life of alienation and depression. A need for personal reality corroboration, art metaphors reflecting and reaffirming perspective validity.__

Raise your hand, your fist in defiance proudSlay the armies of static grey plastic descending

Blood rains, floods low-lying poor as the rich gawk from above

_In the metal universe, there can be no pleasure without acknowledging first the pain._

>bru–tal |ˈbroōtl| adjective: savage, ferocious, wicked, ruthless, sadistic; heinous, abominable. antonyms: gentle, humane.

* * *

_Up next, on Melting Point Radio, “This Week in Metal History”. But first, here is a Maiden classic, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”_. I toggled off the mic and spun my chair around to where my co-hosts were crouched over a laptop, busy scouring wikipedia for worthy events. _Ohhh, 1945: The firebombing of Dresden?_ I scowled. Could I deny it was not, indeed, metal for an entire city to be incinerated in an immense firestorm? Did this not epitomize the kind of bleak, cynical world view typified by [some of] our beloved music? But the music lifts my spirits, I am blissfully unaware of the words being scrawled across the airwaves. Yet I am unnerved to associate my beloved metal with such a tragic injustice, for fear of it seeming an endorsement of such a horror.

* * *

End of serious 2.5 year relationship with basically no prior warning. Destabilization imminent or already occurring. I lay on my bed in the holistic organic hippie house and listen to my numbness as my stereo spins up to speed. My face defrosts into a demonic grin as the opening track’s blistering harmonized scale runs washed over me, connecting somewhere deep wounded within.

>Spiraling into depression
Spiraling into depression

>Still you cannot bear all this pain
Still you cannot bear to walk away
Darkness still rips silently within
Still you cannot bear all the shame

I listen to ___Buried in Oblivion___ by __Into Eternity___ in its entirety

  1. Splintered Visions
  2. Embraced By ‘Desolation’
  3. 3 Dimensional Aperture
  4. Beginning Of The End
  5. Point Of Uncertainty
  6. Spiraling Into Depression
  7. Isolation
  8. Buried Into Oblivion
  9. Black Sea Of Agony
  10. Morose Seclusion

>Alone in your circle of despair
Your dreams are discarded
Clinging to a sterile existence
Self-pity and lingering grief
Depleted and beaten
Depleted and beaten

* * *

When people reach college, or college age, it seems their perspective reaches a critical openness. The introspection becomes transcendental. I would never feel right saying _I needed more_, but I certainly wondered _is this it_?

* * *

I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy the look on people’s faces when I announce that I listen to death metal, _wait, what? But… you’re not…_ ___head explodes___ In this new context difference is gold, who wants to wear a generic label, fit the mold? _How many hippie buddhist metalheads do ___you___ know?_

* * *

Does music satiate the same urge, the same hunger, as spirituality? I heard a sermon in a Mongolian Evangelical church where the pastor lamented the youth’s finding God in ”fun“ things. He used music as his prime example and mimed it out for the crowd, hands cupping imaginary headphones and head bobbing to an imaginary disco beat, he grinned absurdly and continued the service, ”Xogjim sonsdog…!“ the service concluded with the parish band resuming their places on stage and leading the crowd in yet one more enthusiastic round of Jesus-loving song. But their needs were being filled by the Jesus part, not the music, right? Then why are there Christian death metal bands?

* * *

>Some have eyes but still can’t see
Their plastic noise is anything but music to me
Mechanized and computerized
Switch off your brain and make sounds that dehumanize.
–Kreator, _Love Us or Hate Us_ (Extreme Aggressions, 1989)

* * *

I discovered Buddhism; the un-religion; the anti-ism. I saw in it the intense introspection and honesty that I’d been forced to learn through years of social self-discipline, trying to learn the unwritten rules of society for which my brian found itself less than ideally suited. Yet there was also a belief in the ultimate power of human compassion to counteract our toxic egos and thought-demons. I felt a fit with my not un-ironic mix of cynical optimism.

Can I be Buddhist — live a life filled with compassion and happiness, and listen to Death Metal?

* * *

Music is cathartic; it allows one to virtualize the expression of emotions without the usually requisite associated experience. Thus pent-up anger is released when exposed to violent/angry music — as the mind sees the musical stimulus as violence in sonic form, allowing the listener its cathartic effects while avoiding its anti-social tendencies (that is, violence).

_But now I am a metalhead_. Metal is not therapy, it is part of who I am.

* * *

I step through the doorway; the shrine room swallows me in darkness glowing with dim fluorescent tubes, mounted bare to the wall. My eyes adjust to the cool light and suddenly I find myself face to face with a scowling demon — its face twisted in agony. Beneath his feet were tiny people, frozen in their desperate dash to escape his thunderous ego-crushing step. Then it hit me, all at once, in one contained _this is metal_ thought.

* * *

_The music excises the demons; so without the demons, can there be meaningful music?_ ___Isn’t it all about the music?___

Art is communication. An artist encodes a message, an image, a feeling, _whatever_ in a medium which is then transmitted to the consumer who decodes the art. Good art conveys the message, or conveys _a_ message, or makes the consumer _feel_ as though a message was communicated to them. Art acts as a mirror, we appreciate that which tells us what we already know. For metalheads, the music acknowledges the darkness of the world; it is dark, but that is ok.

>It’s not the music, but the feelings of the people we hear playing that are important to us… it is not the music as a physical stimulus that manipulates our moods, but it is using the music as a communicative offering to influence our feelings in a re-creative process.[^recreat]
[^recreat]:Oliver Grewe et al., ”Listening to Music as a Re-Creative Process: Physiological, Psychological, and Psychoacoustical Correlates of Chills and Strong Emotions,“ _Music Perception_ 24, no. 3 (February 2007).

* * *

>[The great Tibetan yogi Jetsun Milarepa] lived in utter solitude, in caves and isolated mountains. His clothes were very poor; he had no nice clothes. His food was neither rich nor tasty. In fact, [for a number of years] he lived on nettle soup alone, as a result of which he became physically very thin, almost emaciated. Now, if you consider his external circumstances alone, the isolation and poverty in which he lived, you would think he must have been miserable. And yet, as we can tell from the many songs he composed, because his mind was fundamentally at peace, his experience was one of constant unfolding delight. His songs are songs that express the utmost state of delight or rapture. He saw every place he went to, no matter how isolated and austere an environment it was, as beautiful, and he experienced his life of utmost austerity as extremely pleasant.[^reasmed]
[^reasmed]: The Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, [“The Reason We Practice Meditation”](

* * *

>The tonal dimension of music and the meanings that emerge from it are constituted by the subject’s active, perceptual organization of the sound in time.[^tdimen]
[^tdimen]:Berger (1999), p161.

_This is negative space — clusters of machined rips, lip-biting silence punctuates the in-between waiting spaces drawing pulling the ear into false-comfort, tension to be_ __delivered__ _by the protending riff._

Would Buddha listen to metal if it touched his soul? Wouldn’t it, by definition, not touch his soul? Were I to become a Buddha, would it cease to have meaning to me?

* * *




Gods stomping, stampeding, galloping across aural scapes–malevolent keyboards synthesize towards anticipation — _and recreate the virtual stimuli that would have instilled such unease._

* * *

>What is the meaning of a wrathful Buddha? We see all these wrathful images of Buddhas (gesturing around the temple). But in truth wrathful Buddhas have nine qualities. Their bodies are wrathful, heroic, and frightening. Their voices are laughing, threatening, and fierce. But mentally they are loving, peaceful, and powerful. Like all enlightened beings, their minds are peaceful, compassionate, joyful, and wise. If a being is wrathful on the outside and also angry in its heart, then it is a real monster — not a Buddha. Wrathful Buddhas look wrathful for a purpose: for pacifying, for taming negative forces.[^Tulku]
[^Tulku]: Tulku Thondup, “Tulku Thondup’s Talk in India 2003.” (2003)

* * *

One distorted chord. 1 and 5. Hold.
Channel the choas and oppressive rumble of terrible empty space, of aural impartial chaos, the only God in a world of cellular automata. Carve and channel this dark force through air. Contained and executed sonic chaos.

Enter the Blessed Ones

NOTE: This piece is from last year, posted here for posterity and for the time when I eventually resume working on it. For now, check it out if you’re curious, but by no means feel obligated. Feedback is always welcome, of course.

Date of last revision: 1 November 2006

There is a look that I have grown to recognize; one that creeps up mid-conversation and fills me with dread. It says “Ok, I hear you. Uh, yeah. Okay. I get it already”. It says “Why is he still talking?“ It shows a polite disinterest, a rising level of conversation-fatigue. My mind floods with questions: How long have they not wanted to listen? How do I rescue the situation? Why aren’t they interested? Was it the way I was explaining things? Did I say too much? Too fragmented? Too much detail? Too tangential? It only happens at parties, or at dining hall.

Attention deficit? But I have no shortage of attention, if anything there are times when it is in excess! Yet there is some truth to this, as researchers have consistently found AD/HD to be linked with inefficiency in the allocation of attentional resources.

Attention: The span thereof. The ability to regulate and allocate the necessary attentional resources. Executive brain functions. Like the CEO of your brain, but wait, he’s a drunk! Where’d those papers go? What do we do now? When do we do it? What do I do? Which do I do? where who why when what… {//… kernel error. overload}

Continue reading “Enter the Blessed Ones”

Reflections on Mongolia


With perestroika and the decline of Soviet power in the late 1980’s, Mongolia entered the first period of its post-communist development. This romantic period was a time of hope; Mongolia was to become the next Asian Tiger. Yet with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the halting of related aid money, newly democratic Mongolia was faced with an economic crisis of epic proportions. The fruits of democracy were enjoyed as well; newspapers sprang up, their variety reflecting the budding of Mongolia’s new multi-party democracy. Churches tripped over each other to send missionaries to cultivate her fertile sands, and Buddhism re-entered the public sphere. However, the lack of visible progress led many Mongolians’ to enter into state of now-familiar disillusionment.

Elections brought the young Democrats into power, who hastily implemented an intensely neo-liberal plan to shock the Mongolian economy into complete liberalization. Despite optimistic forecasts from policymakers, the life of the average Mongolian took a serious turn for the worse. Problems that had been forgotten during the times of Stalinist ‘utopia’ ravaged the country. Unemployment, massive inflation (as much as 350%), shortages of essential goods, and an almost complete collapse of the Mongolian economy were among them.[^m1] Social ills soon followed, with Mongolian males and their fragile egos faring worse that the women; alcoholism and violence, especially, spread amongst the growing population of unemployed young men.[^m2] Such chaos swept the MPRP back into power, beginning another dark era of de-democratization, though with some economic recovery.


Big Brother is watching, don’t say the

Wrong thing, look the Wrong way.

Traditional systems dis-

Integrate. Morals, ethics, freedoms and structures of life on the steppe.[^m3]

Continue reading “Reflections on Mongolia”