Archive for June, 2008

I just got myself a copy of a graphic novel called Fall of Cthulhu: The Fugue. If you are unfamiliar with the HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu myhtology, here’s a synopsis, free of charge.

The universe is populated by monstrous, unstoppable alien god-beings that drive anyone who has dealings with them into madness or death. In the past, these beings ruled the universe and people were just apes in a petri dish for their amusement, when they thought about us at all. For some reason, the god-beings were all imprisoned and/or put to sleep in forgotten nightmare worlds and locations on earth. Their cultists and minor demon servants live in secret among us, and wait for the day when the beings rise again to show us the true meaning of long lines at the fast checkout lane.

Chtulhu is only one of the “beings” in the mythology, but for convenience’s sake many geeks use the name to describe the general mythology. As in “the world of Cthulhu”.

The story in The Fugue is your typical Cthulhu story:

1. Person encounters mysterious plot.
2. Person investigates mysterious plot.
3. Person tries to stop mysterious plot.
4. Person goes insane or dies hideously.

Sometimes the person in the story escapes to tell the tale, or even manages to foil the plot. But the ending nearly always makes it clear that the unimaginable horrors of the universe are not defeated, only delayed from their eventual awakening to cause havoc and higher electricity bills.

I found the mystery in The Fugue too rushed, and therefore hard to follow. The protagonist plods through the mystery and finds out things by accident. That’s always been the problem, I think, with Cthulhu stories set in the modern age. Writers today don’t have enough faith in the material. They feel the mystery has to be complicated, and the protagonist has to be dragged along because otherwise they’d turn the thing over to the cops or just get killed.

I enjoyed one of the characters known as The Harlot, a ghoulish demigoddess who captures men and puts them into boxes of madness for all eternity (guess how the protagonist ends up…oops, I made boo boo). The interaction between her and the protagonist, even if it was one sided, was the best part.

I find the idea of Cthulhu worth pondering. Unimaginable alien horrors lurking in states of mind now only accessible by means of forgotten rituals and encounters with minor monsters makes great material for stories. The Fugue disappointed me because I expected better.

I started thinking about a scene in The Sandman graphic novels, where Dream (a divine being) tells his sibling Desire in so many words that humans are not playthings to be toyed with. It is the other way around, that they play out their divine roles in the manner of dolls in a dollhouse for humanity’s purposes.

It’s a point of view that can lead rapidly to hubris and self-inflation, which I want to avoid. But I think something that is perhaps missing from the Cthulhu mythology is the most alien and horrific “being” of all – human beings. That the collective will and growing consciousness of humanity is what really pushed the monsters back into their prisons, and all the talk of a “rise of Cthulhu to roam free again” is just wishful thinking on these beings’ parts.

The apocalypse of terror might already have happened – when humanity rose from the depths of it’s own unconscious sunken city and beings like Cthulhu were forced to cage themselves for the amusement of people lest they be snuffed out like the dinosaurs. A few cultists play at being followers of these mad monsters of unimaginable power for the sake of their own unreflected projections, while the rest of us pretend they don’t exist because we like it that way?

Not that the preceding premise of “the elder gods are out there waiting to rise again and get you” is invalidated. But what kind of terrifying secret would it be to find out “Cthulhu is humanity’s favorite action figure in the game of life where everything hurts for real”? What if it’s both?

The Fugue falls far short of evoking anything beyond “some people get jacked at random”. I read this graphic novel and chuckled at the machinations of the Cthulhu monsters to further their plans. I’d like to see the Crawling Chaos’s (human) face when he gets his monthly gasoline card statement. You want horror? Try shopping at Wegman’s without losing your mind.

Going over my posterboard supply, I notice that other than the piece I’ve set aside for my book cover project, I don’t have any small pieces left. That award I worked on used up the last of my free range board slices. Grumble, that stuff doesn’t come cheap, and I hate to have to do the cutting. I really need to get a good surface. Maybe when I win the lottery and get that multi-circuited workstation complete with trusty robot sidekick and icebox buddy complete with Polecat beer.

Hand in hand with the posterboard are my PH Martin Radiant watercolors, now down to “why bother?” levels. I keep telling myself I will revive my collection. I just haven’t been doing the poster board art scene for my personal advancement enough in that area. I’m going to have to if I’m going to get that book cover of mine ready for consideration.

Speaking of the book in the oven, I’m still in a heavy editing phase. I’ve been collecting a list of revisions, mostly consistency corrections that I’ll have to phase into my latest draft. The feedback I received gave me a few ideas that I’m going to want to develop further. I need to describe and develop certain points that may be unclear to readers. That’ll take some time. Finally, I’ve got some ideas that have percolated on their own that I’d like to adjust or change in certain scenes.

What this means is more redlines in my future. That is, more work. I’m pleased with my progress, and should I get this taken care of to my satisfaction, I can focus entirely on the grammar and spelling. That aspect might be a major stumbling block. At this point, I’m 90% confident in my content, but my style may need a lot of work. I’ll have to make some choices, as some of it might only improve with long practice.  And I need to get this stuff out!

Scenes from the next book are already crowding my brain. I’ve had dreams showing exactly how to compose certain scenes. It’s driving me crazy. I might have to just start writing the second book and get it out of my head. Actually, that’s not a bad idea.

Thanks to the deficit spending of our glorious leader, I ordered some new CDs for inspiration. Some Lustmord classics – Heresy, Where the Black Stars Hang, and Purifying Fire, which should round out my collection (yes, I’ve been saving the best for last), along with Erotikon by Deutsch Nepal for a little ambient differentiation. I’m looking forward to using the fresh life support to give me the energy I need to get through my editing challenges.

I also used the influx of funds to get some more role-playing games. I ambled over to Indy Press Revolution and got me a copy of Capes and Shock. Service was quick and easy, and prices not too shabby, considering that I won’t have to buy a dozen supplements to play. The future of gaming really is independent publishing, it’s great.

Shock is a science fiction game where you create a world based around a “shock”, or science fiction concept such as “Some people are androids” or “Mind transfer is commercially available”. The players create characters that struggle with one another in the context of the world’s “shock”, and explore the social issues that are revealed through play. My friend Lossefalme might find the concept interesting.

Capes is a superhero game where players compete with one another for control of a story involving their own characters and the minor non-player characters of the story. The premise is that superpowers (like flight, or weather control) are fun and you should use them, but do you deserve them? I think my current game group might like this one, because of the dynamic resource management and ability to come up with anything at all within the constraints of the rules. You can do anything, but can you achieve your goals?

K and I have used a 19-inch TV since we moved in together, and it’s done us well all this time. My dad’s neighbor was getting rid of his old television set for a new-fangled plasma, and my dad pestered us about it until we caved and took it. It’s a 26-inch, so it’s much larger, but it has some quirks that I’m not psyched about.

The remote is buggy, the sound has a low level buzz that you can hear in moments of silence during a show, and the section of the tube gun that handles the color blue seems to be lining the screen at times. This dinosaur might keel over soon. If it does, maybe this is a sign we need to upgrade to a larger screen. I refuse to go plasma or HD just yet, just because I’m against the concept of “better visual quality” when so much of TV is absolute junk.

I ambled over to the local bookstore chain and picked up some classic books – The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett, Emma by Jane Austen, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. I want to study some of the classics and see how they are written, so I can compare my own style and content against theirs. I’m also looking to see how complex social interactions and stories of personal relationships are built and played out by these authors. Finally, I’m hoping to have an enjoyable read.

I looked at the SciFi and Fantasy section of the bookstore and all I saw were names I’ve already read and can’t stand, franchises based on popular culture staples, and books based on roleplaying games done to death. It’s depressing and makes me want to state that this small niche is dead and rotting. Meanwhile, the teen and manga sections had tons of new material taking chances and having fun. It overwhelmed me.

I’ve also been hitting the local library. It seems like my reading this last year has increased many times over what I usually amount to. I’m hungry for good material, or in other words, Mars needs women! There are about a dozen books next to the couch where I read. It is as if I’ve stopped watching my movie/TV collection and find my nourishment in literature instead of visual participationism.

Yup, I’m gathering goodies to myself for molecular reconversion.

Every now and then, you have to mount a major expedition against the destructoids of your life and raid them back. I get pretty worn out dodging the null-skull bursts and sphincter-clencher teeth-chatterers all the time. The time comes when you pack your ship full of biscuit barrels and set them to ka-pow!

So K and I, along with the folks, pile into the Ready-cart and load up with all the refusoids we can carry on our laps. This is a mission of utmost craziness to the maxx, and we are going to show those cling-on mutants we mean business. The old man has been accumulating some navigation readings for possible doom plunder, and they all sound good. Dunderheads are go!

I won’t go into detail as to what everyone acquired on this mission of mystery, but suffice it to say we all came up videos, very nearly for free. Alas, retroactive cling-on damages have a way of sneaking up on you even when all guns are blazing on the Judas Priest interocitor.

Doom plunder 4: The nefarious commie co-op disguised as yuppie food store

Located unknown draft cider samples from ancient crate, probably from dromon time travelers. Powerup was minimal, but my science officer was happy to have a new species to identify and enter into the gene banks. The major find was a cache of long buried raw honey from the olden days, sealed with a rough cap of pollen and other castings. Combined with the no tea that has become tea, healing was +1!

However, the cling-ons spotted us immediately and fired away with total dumbty-doofus cloggery. We made the jump to hypersteak, but a cooling bottle came loose and began to leak on my trough.

Doom plunder 3: Unsettling educational toy depot pretending to be chain toy store

Major sticker stasher find. Located and beamed aboard spaceship and construction equipment stickers sufficient to fill gaps in collection. Bonus round included googly-eyed dinosaurs and wizardly paraphernalia stickers to boot. Bonus-bonus round when I locate enough Xmas stickers to fortify my Xmas sticker arsenal. I’ll be ready for the holiday season all the way to the crypt! I put these finds into my shoebox collection of sticker goodies for use in the future. My artistic crafty side has been bumped up +1.

Something doesn’t feel right, but sensors are unable to clarify, and the group fails its Perception check. We warp out of the sector, further confusing the cling-ons, and they give up. They’ll just have to trust to the ambient stupidity of the drones to flush us out.

Doom plunder 2: Mature nerd store masquerading as one of those dumb comic shops

Old pal of my pa regales us with tales of what’s been up lately. I take advantage of the noticeably higher selection than normal of educational resources with half a brain stem or more. Crumbs, have I really been going to this out of the way locale for twenty years for sequential art infusions? I decide to pass up Book 3 of Omaha the Cat Dancer (I’m leery of the last volume’s revelations about Omaha’s boyfriend and where that might lead), and instead tractor alongside my hull some Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh (he did Courtney Crumrin, which I thought was bloody excellent, so it’s a reasonable risk to take), and the complete Persepolis, which has been getting some buzz in the comics tendril farm. My graphic novel study gets a free roll at +1!

I notice the cooling bottle is leaking, as that’s why my trough feels damp. The mess is cleaned up and put away, and normal functioning resumes.

Doom Plunder 1: Advanced pizza technology factory overlooked in an alleyway

Time to fuel up and get some grub for the stomach people. Vace is one of those things you put on the friendly star system list and never lose touch. Mmm-mmm. Thing is, they keep changing location to reconfigure their shields and cloaking device, so they never get assimilated by the Dork. Healing is +1 to the maximum overdrive way up in your soul. It’s heartening to know there are people out there who make food and that’s all. I support them with my ducats!

I keep getting the feeling people are looking at me funny.

Doom plunder 0: Estate sale in the nice part of town with opening for commoners in the floorplans.

A nice dwelling, in the old school upper cruster sensibility, including eccentric use of hallways and space. Wonderful foliage for relaxing view after a hard days work of ripping people off. Mostly poor taste in furnishings and wares.  Sheesh, all the capital must have gone into the coordinates. But I locate a die cast metal car circa 1940 and get it for a song. The toy altar can always use more fetishes, so who knows? +1 something for sure.  But I’m getting the feeling our raid is at an end. We plot for home.

The group finally make their Perception check, and begin to laugh at me. They point out that my shorts look like I went to the bathroom in them, and not in a good way. That coolant bottle was listed as “green tea with honey”, but it turns out it was more like “artificial dye mixed with plastic globule sugar substitute.” My pants have been dyed a nice light tea brown in the seat, which explains all the looks I was getting.

I may have gotten the loot and dodged the cling-ons, but the joke is still on my backside!

I hit the Civitan garage sale for the first time this year. I scored the usual hot dog and cola snack, which always tastes better in the sale area than it would on the street. Don’t ask me how that can be so, since it’s generic cafeteria fare. It must be the yummy field generated by the Civitan charity goodness. Yes, I have received the sacred hot dog and cola vice snack from the elders of a local free market cooperative.  Go me!

I can never tell what I’m going to find there, because it’s both random and the usual regulars peddling the same junk they were ten years ago. You have to pay your dues by showing up and participating, and you never know how many points you have to save up before you dig up a treasure. You could pay ten visits and get a mediocre find, or pay two and get a unique magic item. Have a random!

Well this time I came across a real treat. Right out of a childhood desire in a manner that could only be described as an uncanny coincidence. A few months earlier to this garage sale discovery (I’m not sure how many months it was), I was gathering up some of my old magazines to study and go over for meditative contemplation. I came across the March 1980 Space Wars (Volume 4, Number 1) I got a long ways back from a newspaper shop in Athens, Ohio.

There’s an article I remembered reading as a kid, which reviewed a board game that had come out in the wake of the initial Star Wars phenomenon. The game is called Freedom in the Galaxy, and it allows two players to recreate an interstellar conflict between rebels and imperials in a galaxy similar in concepts to that portrayed in Star Wars. I read this review as a kid and remembered being wowed by the whole idea, wishing I could get a hold of this game and play it.

One player takes the side of the Rebels, who are trying to restore “Freedom in the Galaxy”, and the other player takes the side of the Imperials, who are trying to discover the hidden Rebel base and destroy it before the Rebels gain enough power and influence to challenge the Imperials. Each player takes turns running “missions” to advance their agenda and block the success of the other player’s missions.

The Rebel player travels through the galaxy trying to recruit characters to the cause, undermining the loyalty of planets under Imperial control, searching for resources such as ships or technology to strengthen followers, and sabotaging Imperial resources such as military installations. Meanwhile, the Imperial player tries to locate and trap Rebel groups, use brute force to crush unrest and restore loyalty, and search for the Rebel base.

The Imperial player has the advantage of overwhelming military strength and vast resources at the start of the game, while the Rebel player has only a few resources and a small group of characters to start with. However, the bureaucracy and inflexibility of the Imperials limits their ability to perform certain actions. The Rebels have no such restriction. The Imperial player, despite vast resources, does not have the ability to control the entire galaxy at once. Therefore, the Imperial player must be strategic and methodical in order to use the advantages available. Meanwhile, the Rebel player must be extremely careful and not confront the Imperial player directly. The longer it takes the Imperial player to find the rebel base, the better.

During the game, the Rebel base slowly gains in military power. At a certain point the Rebel player “cashes in” the base and receives a fleet of military ships capable of challenging the Imperial player. If the Imperial player has lost numerous planets due to unrest it will be unable to support it’s own military, while those same planets now support the Rebel player. Also, if the Rebel groups have grown in power by adding new characters and obtaining cool gadgets, they are able to perform missions that undermine the Imperial player’s special abilities just when the Imperial player needs them to fight the Rebel fleet.

For example, several planets in the galaxy are designated “Imperial Secret” planets, such as the Casino Galactica or the Mutant World. If the Rebel player finds these secrets they may benefit (the Casino grants extra goodies) or suffer problems (the Mutants can wipe out an entire Rebel mission). There are certain core worlds to the Imperial player’s control called “space faring” worlds, which if they go into revolt can cause major problems for the Imperial player. There is a Domino Effect in play, where certain worlds can cause other worlds to turn to the Rebels if they revolt.

The Imperial player can fortify planets with planetary defenses to make it harder for Rebels to land there and look for help. The Imperial player can also purchase “Atrocity Units”, which can destroy entire planets to keep them from helping the Rebels. This shifts other planets into disloyalty, however, so it must be used judiciously.

The game is broken into different levels of play, starting with the introductory System Level, the intermediate Province Level, and the ultra-huge Galactic Level, which can take 20 hours to play.

Reading about this as a kid really excited me. The Empire Strikes Back hadn’t come out yet, and Star Wars fever was still going strong. But alas, I didn’t have the resources available to locate and purchase myself a copy. It remained an unobtainable kid’s fantasy and faded into a cool idea floating around in the tidepools of my memory.

Back to the matter at hand. I put the old magazine aside for later study as I rearranged my assortment of materials for reading and meditation. I think about the old game that captured my young Star Wars imagination on and off for the next few weeks. Then I head to that garage sale.

So, when I came across a vendor selling a mint-condition, never been used copy I felt a cold thrill and my vision tunneled over to the box. I bought the thing for five bucks and took it home with me to read with savage glee for several hours.

Dreams do come true. Sometimes you just have to be patient.

As you may have read, my mission to UFO girl was a big fat failure, and I have to go back to my mirage with bad news. I go on vacation with K and we hike out in the wilderness, only to return to a house with a serious problem.

While we were doing our thing, a huge storm front moved through the area and our circuit breaker box became flooded with water. The electrical hookups to our residence are near ground level, which makes them eye level when you stand inside in the basement. The water runoff of our back yard is poor, so in a sustained, multi-day storm the water backs up under the porch. The seal on the power line had failed, and so water was dripping into the box and out onto the counter in front.

K notices the growing pool of water, so we go out back and try to re-route the water flow away from the wall. This seems to help, but we’re not happy, as water and electricity do not mix well. Now that I think about it, we were crazy to be sloshing around in a pool of muddy water with a circuit breaker box taking on water. Life is full of close calls, fun for the entire family.

We keep our senses alert for funny smells and sounds, and stay at the ready for an evacuation with the cats if need be. I had recently donated some clothes to a co-worker’s friend who lost everything in a house fire (where the teenagers, who were being bad by staying up past curfew noticed the fire and warned everyone in time to escape). So, of course, my nerves are extra jittery.

Our sleep is jumbled, and the day we are supposed to have to recover from our vacation is blown in stressville. We contact our landlord to get an electrician in, but I have to take some extra days off to make sure the seal and box are replaced. The whole thing is basically a panic attack that turns into a big hassle.

I get to thinking that a certain mirage must be responsible for the scare and beat down poltergeist combination. Well, time to pay the piper.

In the basement, the spooky doll has been moved to the top shelf. I get a quick scare before I rationalize K must have moved the thing to readjust the planter pots around. No need to turn out the lights, I’m guessing my mirage is happy to communicate from the shadows of that extra room.

I tell him I blew it, and that there will be no UFO girl date. He just laughs at me. My mirage explains that he expected me to fail, so he isn’t surprised. He asks me how I felt, and I tell him I felt embarrassed and dejected. With a sullen chuckle, he explains to me that how I felt is how he feels all the time, and he wanted me to know what it’s like to be a wretched person overshadowed by a high-minded idiot like me.

I’m dumbfounded, and my mirage leaves me alone to consider the joke he’s played on me, and the lesson behind it.

I hate this place.

I was in the supermarket the other day, and the music system played a U2 song I’d never heard before. That’s always a surprise, as there are only a handful I haven’t listened to, and tried to acquire. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch any of the lyrics, just Bono’s voice and the Edge’s guitar. Sounded a lot like something they’d done during their days in between Zooropa and Pop. Couldn’t find it on the internets, but the way I see it, I’ll find it if I’m meant to.

It brought me back to those days when I felt identified with U2. There I was, in a dark place, but sustained by the music of a close and reliable friend. Oh, but the changes there are always a coming down the line! Along comes Passengers, an experimental album with a guest appearance by Pavarotti. The album didn’t exactly do it for me. It broke the mold of what I expected from U2, and not in a good way. There was a lot of experimental music that indicated a searching in the band they had never done before. I figured they must really be busting their butts to come up with a new sound.

So, in the interim, I finally got a hold of October to tide me over. I found the majesty and personal exuberance of the album uplifting. This was the period in which I finally abandoned tapes for CDs and began to acquire a collection for play on my handy-dandy new remote control system. I focused on U2 singles and connected with sounds I’d only heard a few times on the radio, or on friend’s tape mixes. Plenty of material to keep me going for the next, most awesome of all albums.

Pop comes out, and visions of sugarplums dance in my head. The rumors say its “U2 does techno”, which to me meant they would take electronic music to the next level with their own brand of rock and roll talent. I dive into my copy and listen, waiting for the awesomeness to kick in.


There are a handful of good songs on the album. In particular, “Mofo” I think is the best effort in that it shows what the rest of the album might have pushed forward artistically if U2 hadn’t backed off. That’s the problem. The song selection comes off as an initial attempt to push the boundaries, and ends in a lack of confidence. The bad songs come off as attempts to fill the album after having pulled back from what might have been beyond the band’s abilities.

The Pop Mart tour repeats this motif, with the band trying to hide behind the veneer of self-depreciation. Guys, if you weren’t serious, why did you even bother? I can get a comedy album anytime around the block.

Interestingly enough, this is the first tour where I manage to get tickets. The price was steep as I recall, and they’ve only gone up since then. The spectacle of the lemon and the outfits was wasted, I think. There’s no way to top the Zoo TV tour. I think that was one of those once in a band’s lifetime things. But just the same, the concert was nothing short of a religious experience. A lot of the songs from Pop played much better in concert, and I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they record this version on the album?”

My girlfriend of the time dumped me right as I bought two seats. As a result, I had plenty of room to dance. The seats were nosebleed, so I couldn’t really see the band. I rocked out to every song drunk out of my gourd while standing on the fold out chairs. I think my neighbors must have thought I was nuts and were afraid I would fall. Who cares what they thought! Finally, after long last, I could experience my heroes. It was a night I can never forget.

However, the album hardly had enough momentum to sustain me, and the words of my ex-girlfriend from that time made an impression on me. She said they had sold out like REM and were going downhill. Much as I didn’t want that to be true, I had a sinking feeling she was right.

The next album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, certainly provided evidence for that. There wasn’t a single song on that album I could stomach, which was extremely unusual for me. I tried. I listened as much as I could stand, but no magic happened. I went with a friend to see them in Baltimore during the Elevation tour, and they were good in concert. The new songs didn’t do much for me, but all their old material was excellent. While I didn’t have a religious experience, I did have a good time.

I’m sure there were other albums in between this one and the next. But now that I look at it, I think I stopped being interested in the in-between stuff. I detected a lack of energy in their music I’d never experienced before. Was it me? Had I changed? What had happened?

The next album came, How to Deconstruct an Atomic Bomb, and I bought it with a certain amount of reservation. Unlike the previous disappointment, I was actually able to listen to this album at first.  Maybe I was hoping they’d turn things around and didn’t want to face facts, so I tried even harder to like it.  But I soon grew tired of this album and tossed it to the bottom of my heap, along with other albums that I never listen to anymore.

It’s as if I’d outgrown them. Everything before the moment of disappointment still sounds good to me, but everything after that sounds like junk. I’m separated from a feeling of myself that I can no longer access. They have ceased to carry that projection for me.

I think, now, as I consider it and look back, that it must be a mix of things. The band members were never the heroes I thought they were, and they’ve simply run out of good music with which to hide their flaws behind. I’m no longer the same person, in that my projections don’t catch very often on others anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever have a favorite, personal band or musician like U2 was to me again in this lifetime. Too much history that can’t be repeated. I’ve left the garden and can’t go back. Even if I could, I don’t think I would.  It wouldn’t be the same.

At first I blamed U2, and I hated what they’d become in my eyes. Being my personal band, I took their transformation personally, even though it had nothing to do with me. Then, after the anger and disappointment of loss, I started drifting and walking in the desert.

Freed from my false idol, my music quest could finally begin.

I always get a kick out of how popular Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail (Holy Grail for short) is today.  It’s become an enshrined icon of popular culture (and rightly so, I believe).  Geeks everywhere can spout off lines from a half dozen scenes on command, and many can do much more than that when it comes to reciting the litany.

But it wasn’t always so.  My folks used to take me to all sorts of movies when I was a little one.  The kinds that could only be seen at student cinemas in universities.  This was before the era of video cassette, DVD or online distribution.  Sometimes you’d see a movie and not see it again until twenty or thirty years later.  That’s how crazy it was back then.

I went with my folks and their best friend BK to see a new movie called Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.  I was little, but I recall quite vividly taking in the various scenes from the movie and finding it all ridiculous and true.  I also remember students all around us looking disgusted or confused.  Some were getting up and leaving, dismissing the film with a gesture of their hand just like in those movies where the heroes’ film is trashed by the audience because they don’t understand the genius.

My folks thought it was brilliant, so I saw the movie again in a different university cinema.  I liked it (even though I was hardly old enough to have a deep understanding of what I was watching).  The reaction was the same.  Hippie students dissing the film and making fun of the scenes (“is this supposed to be funny, man?”)

When I was in college, I got a chance to see the movie once more in a university theater with fellow “hip” students.  The reaction couldn’t have been more different.  Genuine enjoyment, reenactment of key lines, copious laughter.

I think about all the icons of culture generated during that time period and how they’ve become assimilated into the mainstream or acquired devoted followings.  The individualized aspects, I think, get lost as people take up the compensatory message of the artistry and celebrate what the icon means in a participatory way.  But the conscious understanding of what the icon is telling us is seldom understood.  You can’t take Holy Grail seriously; it’s just a comedy, right?

Wrong.  It’s truth.  The movie’s a statement of where we are right now, on this planet.  That’s why it’s so “funny”.  You laugh, because otherwise you’d cry.  Or you’d scoff and say, “I don’t get this man.  Pass me that doobie.”

There’s this elevated hillside surrounded by a semi-wooded area sixty feet from where I live. It’s where all the dog-walkers poop their canines and look the other way as they return home before anyone says, “I saw that!” At the top, there’s this old, flattop pavement, which looks like it was once from a primitive tennis court. Unless hardcore volleyball players, who love diving on hard surfaces, once played here. It’s a relic of a time when the place where I live was less developed by the pollution-people than it was.

I get the feeling that this is the ideal place to meet the UFO girl. Heck, she can’t have failed to locate my sorry brain pattern by now. I resolve to wait until I receive a message of some kind saying “tonight’s the night”. I suppose I could just stand on the hill and shout like a stupid fool, “Hey, UFO girl! What up?” I don’t have it in me. To tell the truth, this whole business is starting to be a little tiring on my brain stem. Even though I’m over the flu and my domestic chores patrol is back on track, I’m still not feeling the mo.

That’s too bad, because UFO girl materializes her spaceship into my immediate reality and proceeds to drive me crazy. All that junk I packed? Useless, because UFO girl is absolutely crazy. As in treacherous, randomly determined, force of nature nuts. As in, “Let’s drink hydrochloric mezcal plastazoids and drive the ultimate turbo bean on the wrong side of the galaxy until dimensional entities inject us with projectile mucus that shoots out our eye sockets with neutronic, magnetizing feedback.”

It takes every nerve of steel I can borrow from the hero bank just to avoid being dashed to pieces on the radioactive asteroids hurtling towards us at negative light speed. You want to name an edge-of-your seat panic sensation, I’m there. From “omigod we almost got crushed” to “if things don’t improve now, I’m dead/crazy/maimed”. I know I’m supposed to pass along some kind of message, but I’m too busy bouncing around the hold with the fossilized remains of previous victims’ clothing and decayed bits of half eaten frozen chicken nugget packages to remember anything.

There’s no talking to UFO girl about anything. My attempts at communication just inspire a fresh round of randomly determined activities. Invite some death robots aboard for some slam dance mind mashing by way of neutron wave bombardment. Carbon based units get to play target until relieved of their pants and their self respect. Then it’s hijack some space boulders and drive them through a crab nebula shouting atomic obscenities and human beings pay the embarrassment tab. It could be never-ending terror in a nightmare-inspired maul-maze butt smashing geode of psychic maggot eggs eating your soul kitchen’s best of millenium collection. UFO girl keeps me guessing what the next random natural interstellar disaster is going to be.

Without any warning, UFO girl puts her spaceship in neutral and coasts for a while. Her eyes glaze over and she regurgitates the astral remains of a stale Martian biscuit from next week’s episode. All over her command module, which she assures me is rented and of no concern. I manage to blurt out that I’m here on behalf of my mirage, who wants a date. UFO girl tells me in a voice that sounds like bad diarrhea that she doesn’t go out with miserable skulking horror worms, only unstoppable cybernetic nerd-creatures with microfilm sized hardware and/or software. She presses the ignition diode and revs the spaceship treadmill for another high speed chase of interstellar wombats and a stopover at the geargrinding refuel zone with bonus gut prize.

UFO girl says, “You ready to party?” I say, “I didn’t come here to party.” Abruptly, she lock-kicks me out of her spaceship reality and says, “If you didn’t come here to party, then get lost!” And just like that, I’m back home. I’m glad to be back, but I’m in desperate need of a drink to calm my nerves and/or a tasty meal to fill the gaping void in my stomach. I ache all over, but I’m wired like nobody’s business and a little shell-shocked. I imagine tumbling out of an accelerating psychic spaceship will do that to you.

Crud, what am I going to tell the scary guy in my basement?

I was musing over the decline of fossil fuels the other day, and what it might mean for the future. Demand for oil is out pacing the available supply. China and India are reaching for the same mobility and prosperity enjoyed by the United States, and they are growing by a fantastic amount in both population and industry.

Meanwhile, the oil infrastructure is rusting away because of insufficient investment in the next generation of rigs and technicians. To top it off, the oil companies have picked all the low hanging fruit off the tree, so to speak. All the easy-to-find oil has been located, and all the light, sweet crude (the easiest to refine) is disappearing fast.

What we have left are declining field discoveries, aging wells going into production collapse, and a steadily shrinking supply of heavy, sour crude oil that is increasingly hard to extract and refine.

In layman’s terms, this means that the era of cheap, abundant energy, which fueled an unprecedented industrial age of manufacturing and transportation, is over. From here on out, cheap oil is replaced by expensive oil, and the price of everything this industrial age of cards was built on collapses.

This does not mean the end of oil. We will never run out of oil. It means energy prices go through the roof to reflect the increase in scarcity. A price of 100 dollars a barrel of oil is about eighteen cents a cup. Think about how far a cup of gasoline will get your automobile. Now, imagine paying a group of people in today’s market eighteen cents to push your vehicle the same distance. The commodity is cheap compared to how much it can accomplish.

Nothing can replace oil. Oil is used to make fertilizers, pesticides, and plastics. It can be turned into fuels that power farm machinery, aircraft, ships, factories, power plants, and most of all, trucks. Transportation is 75% of the use of modern energy. Food production and modern manufacturing as we know it couldn’t exist without oil. Cheap energy created the modern world.

The alternative energy sources we have now won’t keep things going the same way. Solar, wind, nuclear, biofuels, coal, tar sands, and so on all have problems that oil doesn’t have. None of them are as versatile as oil. You can’t turn sunlight or wind into plastics. Biofuels don’t scale to industrial levels and take over food producing land. Tar sands are too energy intensive and waste too much water. Nuclear takes too long to build to stave off the energy crunch. Coal won’t power airplanes. Technology isn’t going to save us in time because we’ve run out the clock.

Is this doomsday? No one can predict the future, though it seems like I am by reciting the litany of doom above. It’s a comforting illusion to hope for the end of days and a release from this crummy world we call Planet Earth. I don’t buy it. The decline of oil is real, and changes are coming to the industrialized world that technology won’t be able to save. But what comes after is anyone’s guess.

I speculate that we will continue to have electricity. That’s what I keep thinking about. I’m skeptical of batteries on any scale, since I’m not sure the resources exist to replace the fleet of vehicles we have now, with the kinds we have now. But I see a renaissance in rail and canal travel. Food, power, and components will have to be generated locally because the energy to transport them great distances will be too expensive.

I wonder about the resurgence of the laboring class, and of animal transport. The transition would have to include that in some great numbers because as fuel prices go up, it might become too costly to build a road with machinery, and cheaper to use laborers. The social implications of this blow me away, because it won’t be like the “good old days”. It’ll be a different context with different attitudes.

Corporations will have to change the way they do business. They won’t be able to easily relocate to a country where they can pay cheaper wages anymore, because the cost of shipping the parts is no longer cheap. If they decide to go with cheaper steamers or sailboats, the travel time increases.

There will be conflicts as the various owners of the countries fight for the remaining, poor quality oil fields. As food production plummets, there will be starvation. There will be less travel for the average person, and less goods. I shudder to think what people in the “prosperous” countries might do, with their sense of entitlement and shock at the end of the party.

Yet electricity will still be there. The focus will be the grid, the power lines, the telephone wires, the “line” itself. The level of energy will be smaller, and less instantaneous. We’ll all have to withdraw, pull back and reexamine the old ways of crafting, building and farming on smaller scales. Communities will be interconnected by the line, but physically constrained by lack of cheap energy. This is the age of lightning, of individual development through the development of ideas and an acknowledgement that you, the person reading this, are your own means of production.

The stroke of lightning illuminates, and sets you free. In the tarot card of The Tower, lightning (from the heavens) strikes the tower of Babel and throws the king and pope into the swirling waters and thorns below, along with the top of the tower. The current order of hierarchy and power has been struck down for its hubris. Yet the figures, robbed of their hats of authority, are human again. They seem to flail, yet if you turn the card upside down, they are dancing!

We will be humbled, and brought down to earth from our lofty heights. Our lives will come under scrutiny and require contemplation. The chances are good that humanity will come out of the fall with a new sense of purpose and a greater sense of community than before. Problems will emerge, of course, as the quest continues. Conflicts will be more personal than before, and of a more immediate kind. The danger is that individuals can emerge to infect the group with psychic contagions more easily. We might find new advances in individualized repression more terrifying than anything we’ve seen yet. And countering that, cooperative groups of democratic nodes more stable and humanizing than what we could possibly imagine.

No doubt, things are going to tilt on their axis in unpredictable ways.

Now that I understand I’m not the host of this show, I’m confident that the search will come to its conclusion. I’ve said my one line, in a manner of speaking, and done whatever it was my mirage couldn’t or wouldn’t do. About all I have to do is be prepared for the inevitable meeting with UFO girl.

I think about what might be useful for an encounter with an ultra-terrestrial being about a contact encounter with a mirage. Being a real world guy, I need to accommodate a non-real world request for a hookup with two imaginary beings that I consider no less true just because they don’t occupy space and time as any physicist would describe it.

I’ve been trained in the old school of fifties science fiction films as to what to expect as far as outcomes. The last thing I want to do is end up a helpless victim of an ultra-terrestrial being. At least, if I have a say in things. Somebody has to be the victim or there’s no pathos, and one never knows one’s role in any new encounter until the whip comes down.

So, against death rays, I’m packing a sign that says “Don’t Shoot I Am A Human”, which identifies me as a person not to be atomized. In case of abduction, I carry a Black Sabbath tape. No UFO can take off for butt probe land when you are equipped with sounds so heavy they’re iron, dude.

I read rumors that UFO girl has interchangeable heads. She’s been known to lose her rational head and have it replaced with a monstrous maw of titanium teeth and high fructose acid spittle. For that, I’m taking a plastic bag with some poppers in sawdust. Nothing confuses alien monsters with force fields more than random noises or clouds of thrown crud. Hey, all I need is a diversion so I can book.

Finally, in case of alien possession and injection of nasty DNA, I gots me a used handkerchief of my recent flu virus days. Just hold that puppy up and it’s like a crucifix to vampires. As we all well know, alien beings with advanced technology are helpless against the common earthling diseases.

I gather my goods, not knowing if they will be of help. Hey, maybe I’ll get lucky. I need to stay alive long enough to pass along my mirage’s offer and escape to safety so I can make a report. My pass’s life clock is blinking, yo.