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Scary Thoughts is a new podcast I’m working on with the philosophically inclined electronic musician Marc Kate.  Episode one is edited and in the can. It’s about the nostalgia horror Netflix show, Stranger Things. I’ve been sending a private link out to anyone who’s interested and the response has been positive so far.

I’ve talked about the show a few times on this blog and I’ll link to it here when it’s live on iTunes.

On the episode we talk about deep cut inspirations for the show, sequel possibilities, the possible economic influences for the rise of synthesizer scores, and what good horror should be doing.

One of the really fun parts about the show is getting to know Marc. I met him because he’s my wife’s friend’s husband. We’ve talked a few times over the years, but I think we might’ve only had one or two real conversations in person before we recorded. We connect on so many things, but we have really diverging political leanings and backgrounds. I would never be so dull as to describe it as a left/right sort of thing, though. Marc is a great musician, an experienced DJ with a taste for the dark, and a strong background in critical theory. I saw a post from his wife today that noted he marked Judith Butler‘s birthday in his calendar.

Butler is the head of the Rhetoric department at UC Berkeley (I have an undergraduate degree from it). All that gender theory stuff the alt-right is freaking out about? Butler is thick with it. I don’t know that I much understand it, but I’ve read a lot of her stuff. I actually read about half of one of her essays today (they are not easy). But I also watched four episodes of Duck Dynasty tonight and had a half hour conversation with my ex-cop neighbor about the best caliber pistols for stopping people from charging you (he likes the .40 just fine). So there’s some yin and yang there.

Of course I’d like to become a millionaire podcaster and get a job rewriting horror scripts from this thing, but I have pretty modest goals. I’d like to meet some people from around the world who like to think about movies and still keep it silly. And I’d like to one day get invited to a panel on horror at any sic-fi/comic convention. I’ve been going to those panels for years and I always thought I’d be good on one.

I remember one of my favorite panels at Dragon Con sometime in about 1994 (I was 15). It was called “Do Goths Read?” Caitlin R. Kieran and Poppy Z. Brite, two fairly popular writers from what people at the time called the splatterpunk scene, were on the panel. One of the speakers started with, “I think the answer is ‘yes’, right?” Everyone laughed and agreed. The rest of the conversation was about what writers they liked. On that day I discovered William S. Burroughs, David Lynch, and a few other classic transgressives.

I’m curious to see where we land in the horror podcast ecosystem. Thanks to Marc’s recording background our show already sounds great. A lot of new podcasts suffer from shitty sound editing early on, so this is a huge advantage. We’re sort of academic, but not rigorous at all. I’m about as likely to drop an F bomb as much as mobilize a half baked Lacanian reading for something. It’s sort of not-so-close-close-readings.

A lot of the horror podcasts are by real horror completists and fanboys/girls. They’re all horror all the time, catching everything new, and geeking out about industry news. I seriously love that stuff and listen to it all the time (I’ll out together a list on a future post, probably for scary thoughts.org). I want to explore things that other people aren’t talking about without being too contrarian. I’m hoping what I read and think about will be original enough for people to come back to it.

 

 

Sam Kinison

This week I’m reading a Sam Kinison biography written by his brother Bill. It’s called Brother Sam: The Short, Spectacular life of Sam KinisonIf you’re a huge Kinison fan it’s worth a read, but be warned, the writing isn’t great and you can hear an axe being ground in the background of nearly every chapter.

It’s understandable, though. Sam really put his brother through some shit and I imagine not too many siblings have gone from taking care of their brother when they were a fucked up poor nobody to taking care of them when when they were a fucked up rich somebody.

I adored Sam Kinison as a kid. The first time I saw him was on his famous HBO special and then a few years later I saw his over the top scene in Rodney Dangerfield’s comedic masterpiece Back to School. Early on I was just responding to his screaming and whatnot. These days I find his religious and marriage material even funnier than I did in the 80s.

The book is peppered with really funny, dark stories I hadn’t heard before. One time when he was preaching the Gospel at a small Chicago church, he pulled out a .38 pistol and put two rounds into the ceiling to inspire his flock to dig a little deeper. He was in a bar fight with Jim Carrey as his backup. And he was quite the fan of threesomes.

He was also in a pretty big scene in The Three Amigos, but it got cut and the footage was lost. He was also up for the role of Beetlejuice. Imagine how different that would’ve been. I imagine the scenes with Winona Rider would’ve been even weirder. 

The book also mentions one of the most interesting things about Sam. When he was very young, he was involved in an accident and received a fairly serious brain injury. After that, he was never the same. He was wilder and angrier.

His impulsiveness is legendary. He would blow $15K at a time buying headbands and silk shirts. He had fast cars. When he ate at restaurants he’d ask the server what their biggest tip ever was, then leave them double whatever the answer was. He was generous and burned through money at an alarming rate. His appetite for drugs and women were enormous.

I just watched his performance on the Dangerfield’s HBO special. It still holds up, even if the references to Dr. Ruth are a little dated. That sort of high energy coupled with a feral mind is incredible to watch even three decades later.

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A few years ago I wrote a paper about masculinity and the apocalypse for an honors thesis at UC Berkeley. The paper was called Iron John Connor. It took a swipe at corny mythopoetic mens’ groups and gave me an excuse to write about the Terminator franchise.

I haven’t looked at the paper in years and I don’t think I have a copy of it, but as I remember, the general thesis was that all depictions of the end of the world have a savior character that is not only a form of messiah, but must also be capable of doing a bunch of useful things. For example, Sarah Connor (originally played by Linda Hamilton) raises her son John to be an end times badass: computer hacking, weapons training, machine fixing, survivalism, etc. He will need all these skills because it is foretold he will lead the surviving humans against Skynet, the evil Artificial Intelligence responsible for sending Terminators to kill everyone.

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In the back of my mind was the idea that modern males were slipping in their “masculinity” because they didn’t know how to do useful things like strip machine guns and kickbox with cyborgs.

Today the apocalypse genre is bigger than ever and is in some ways influencing what we think “real men” should be able to do. Just look at The Walking Dead. The most effective characters on that show are badasses who know how to fight and do weird Macguyver-esque survivalist tricks. In the six or seven years since I wrote my paper (which I received an A+ on), there are more wilderness survival schools, tactical shooting academies, and MMA gyms than ever before. It’s never been easier to get your end times training on.

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It’s not just enough to fight robots, though. You have to be able rebuild society and that’s where all those hipster homesteading classes come in. Canning, curing, candle making, foraging, and brewing will all be in serious demand after the last intelligent machine is crushed in battle.

Which brings me to Duck Dynasty. Like a lot of people who haven’t watched the show before, I had some opinions about it. I thought it was going to be yet another piece of shit Hollywood Southsploitation. Somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to watch the show (I think because of a recent interest in hunting). What I found was a fairly routine scripted reality series, but with a very different kind of family.

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The Robertson clan is a very functional, loving family, filled with people who have amazingly aligned interests. One of those interests is murdering squirrels and ducks. Now, I’m basically a vegetarian most of the time, but I am in support of subsistence hunting, especially when it also contributes to land management. The Robertson’s have about 20,000 acres to call their own. Most of it will never be developed because they’re into wilderness and preservation.

Another thing these folks have in common is Jesus. They are all basically Bible thumpers and a lot of the criticism you’ll hear about them is related to Phil Robertson’s stern style of Christianity. He got into a bunch of trouble after a GQ interview came out where he discussed his bafflement at why any man wouldn’t prefer a vagina to another man’s butthole. I imagine my initial interest in these people could be tempered by a deeper dive into their beliefs, but for now, I will simply enjoy the show.

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In interviews the Robertson’s remark they believe the reason for the show’s popularity has something to do with a resurgent craving for more wholesome entertainment and more positive role models. I don’t know that’s wrong, but I don’t think it’s the full picture.

I think there’s a growing restlessness related to fear of apocalyptic situations and anxiety over the perception that we are in a  declining civilization. The Robertsons seem well insulated from the nightmares of our post-modern situation. They have a tight family and friend group that is completely capable of living off the land. They are heavily armed. They have a shared fate.

When I watch Duck Dynasty, I don’t see a bunch of rich rednecks doing dumb shit for the camera. I mean, it’s there and all. What I see is a tribe built to survive the end times. The rest of the world can burn and these people will be doing just fine as long as there’s birds to kill. termin

 

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Another UFC has come and gone. Although I would’ve preferred a Nate Diaz win, I think Conor McGregor certainly brought a great strategy and much improved performance. He did everything right and he would’ve put away any fighter with less mutant toughness.

I knew the decision would go to McGregor if it went all five rounds. Diaz ended up on top in the 5th, but I think McGregor definitely won the first two round and probably the fourth. He dropped Diaz a few times and shut down all takedown attempts, except the last one. The damage Mcgregor did to Diaz’s leg with powerful, unchecked kicks completely changed the dynamic of this fight. I wonder if Diaz will improve for the third fight as much as McGregor did for the second? I hope so, because the last fight will be incredible.

Honestly, as much as I’m on Team Diaz, this is the best outcome for fans. McGregor got the W, but I think Diaz gets the true W because he made it to the press conference, was hilarious, and vaped on a CBD pen live on the air while McGregor was in the hospital.

What does this fight have to do with advice? Look at McGregor. His loss to Diaz was a huge wakeup call. He did all the right shit to win. He brought in boxing and BJJ coaches. Rather than train for “any opponent” as he has claimed to do in the past, he worked on a strategy specific to Diaz. He invested money in his training, committed to deep work, and came out on top.

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On to the questions.

If you could master martial arts techniques or concepts, which would be your first three to master?

Broadly speaking, there are four martial arts people who follow professional fighting consider most effective: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Boxing, and Muay Thai (kickboxing). All of them give you options at different stages of a fight. If you’re the kind of person who needs to know how to handle yourself because of work or where you live, look for a decent Jiu-Jitsu academy with a few striking classes.

If I could only learn one of these, it would be Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). I’ve trained in this martial art at different times over the years. I am really, really not very good at it, but the take downs and submissions you learn work great, especially if the fight goes to the ground.

I would choose Muay Thai over regular boxing for my second discipline because it involves hands and feet, plus it utilizes the clinch, which is extremely useful. Boxing and wrestling are both great. If you’re going down the rabbit hole and spending a lot of time developing these skills, you’ll probably eventually pick up some wrestling and boxing through BJJ and Muay Thai. I learned wrestling arm drags and sprawling at a BJJ gym and a jab and cross is universal.

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The person who asked this question meant it for specific techniques, though. If there were only three “moves” to learn, I’d want to know these: rear naked choke, jab, and double leg takedown. It’s kind of weird to think of it like that because the moves I’d pick are part of systems.

The rear naked choke is perfect for grabbing someone from behind and putting them to sleep. The victim doesn’t actually get hurt and you can control them very well from the position. Getting to the rear naked choke requires skill, unless you just sneak up on someone and grab them. A double leg takedown lets you bring the person to the ground, which is cool if you know something about ground fighting. If you don’t, you’ve just chosen to “wrassle.”

A jab is a great thing to have in your fighting toolbox. It’s simple to learn, you can do damage with it, but it’s really useful for keeping someone off of you. If you only worked on your jab and slipping punches, you’d probably do well against a normal untrained person of similar size.

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Is it alright to be controlling?

To children, yes. To adults, no.

What is one sentence you remind yourself of in order to stay positive?

There’s not really a mantra or anything I use. If I’m in a bummer mood I sometimes think about a story I read in Mike Davis’ Planet of Slums. In less developed parts of the world, disposing of human shit is a real problem. In some war ravaged cities in the Middle East, people live in buildings, but the plumbing doesn’t work anymore.

Many people in these places will shit in plastic bags, tie them off, and then throw them in the garbage. This is an ok solution until you have no garbage service. So what people do is take the bags and fling them up on rooftops. Sometimes the weight of the bags causes roofs to collapse. More than a few people have been relaxing in their home and then gotten crushed to death by a roof full of human shit.

If I’m having a trying day, I can always console myself with the fact that the odds are pretty slim I’m going to go out like that.

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What’s the best way to avoid negative energy?

Don’t read the news. Don’t talk about politics. Do what you say you’re going to do. Stay away from idiots.

How do you continue to be true to yourself when your choices make your family unhappy?

This is a question that’s hard to answer without knowing the specifics of the situation. I mean, sitting around smoking weed and watching Duck Dynasty is something I enjoy. It’s probably “true to me”, but I certainly would deserve any unkind feelings Mrs. Lott might have about the misspent time. So I resist that little diversion (most of the time).

But you might be up to some cool shit and your family might suck, too. In that case, I’d advise staying on course to meet your goals, while being zen level non-combative with those hater ass haters.

Here’s the bottom line: if your choices are working against someone in your family (like stealing money to buy drugs), then you ought to cut that shit out. If you’re trying to be more awesome, but you’re meeting resistance, just stay on target and push through it.

Why do people write advice blogs, and why do people read them?

Fuck if I know.

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Normally I’d try to break down the whole UFC card, but I haven’t followed the other fights closely. Anything I said would just be talking out of my ass.

I’m rooting for Diaz 100%. I think his natural size advantage, boxing skill, and superior Brazilian Jiu-jitsu will be enough to overwhelm McGregor once the fight gets into deeper rounds.

That said, McGregor has everything to prove and he will be bringing it. He is said to have spent close to $300k on this camp. While a lot of that was probably eaten up by Louis Vuitton underwear and Touch Butt sessions with that dork in the park, at least some of it went to bringing in some high level BJJ players and boxing guys.

Expect a major change in McGregor’s game plan. Probably a very good change. I think you’ll see him using leg kicks to neutralize Diaz’s reach. I imagine he’s lost confidence in his heavy left hand after it failed to put Diaz away last time.

McGregor is supposed to be rocking some sort of ketogenic of diet. It’s all the rage for getting lean, but I haven’t heard much about it being good for cardio, which is what he is going to need to break Diaz.

The longer this fight goes, the more it will likely go Diaz’s way. His cardio is superior and he really gets going around the third round.

If the fight goes the distance, then expect a decision in McGregor’s favor. If this was boxing, they would’ve probably poisoned Diaz. The UFC doesn’t have the same judging problems the Olympics do, but it isn’t great and I can’t imagine the new owners would be too pleased if Diaz wins.

If I had money on this fight, I’d put it down for a Diaz win by submission in the third.

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I haven’t been to the gym all week. This week’s blog posts haven’t exactly been great. But I can say one thing. I’ve watched half a season of Duck Dynasty. This is not how you win. This is how you fuck up. Back to the gym tomorrow. No more dumb TV. What a lame week.

 

 

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Amazing Black Philip piece by Justin Lawrence Devine 

You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think it’s fair to judge a fandom by its fan art. Star Wars probably has the largest amount. Firefly and Dr. Who are well represented.

Frequent readers will know Robert Eggers’s The Witch has been occupying a lot of my thoughts the last few days. It’s a great film and fans have been making an incredible amount of good work. The above image (on the left) was done by my buddy Justin Lawrence Devine. He’s one of my favorite illustrators because of his technique, but also because of his genre interests. He really gets what’s special about this stuff.

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Poster by Vance Kelly

This superior poster above was done by another artist I have the privilege of knowing, Vance Kelly. I think I’ve known him for about 20 years. He was always the coolest guy in the French Quarter and I’m very happy he makes a living doing this sort of thing. He’s also a major horror fan.

If you’re a fan of this kind of thing, definitely take the time to check out Justin and Vance’s  other work. If you see something you like, buy it. Otherwise they may be tempted by dark forces to trade their immortal souls for temporary financial gain, like in The Devil and Daniel Webster.

That’s all I have for today folks. If you haven’t watched The Witch yet, get to it.

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There’s a funny video that goes with this image.