Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dante's Discotheque: The Driver's Road Map to the Inferno

Growing up I always watched my mother make mix tapes for others, and for herself, whenever she had something to say that was a little more complex than a conversation could handle. She would sit in front of the stereo with huge headphones on and drink scotch. Every now and then she would snag the headphone jack out of the receiver and the house would be filled with the suddenness of sound. When I was young, it seemed to me that she was always crying when the music played.

An adult now, I also find that music is sometimes the best way to express an idea or tell a story; but I do things a little differently than mum. I like the mental challenge of retelling a story - quite literally, a story - as accurately as I can, with music. The more in-depth I get, the more fun I have. It's like my brain is a greyhound and I get to let it out for a real good, hard run. Sure, it's the same scenery as before; that's just running around in circles, after all. But it feels good to let it run.

So, here is the tracklist and my own cliff's notes on the Inferno.

Thanks for the hobby, mom.


1. David Julyan (The Prestige): The Turn – No, Not Today

2. Sarah McLachlan: Black (William Orbit Mix)


3. VNV Nation: Descent


4. Michael Andrews (Donnie Darko): Manipulated Living

5. The Smashing Pumpkins: Cherub Rock


6. Howard Shore (LOTR: The Return of the King): Twilight and Shadow

7. Loreena McKennitt: Dante’s Prayer


8. Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End): Calypso

9. Lacuna Coil: Entwined


10. Howard Shore (Se7en): Portrait of John Doe

11. A Perfect Circle: The Hollow


12. Javier Navarrete (Pan’s Labyrinth): Deep Forest

13. Nine Inch Nails: Head Like a Hole

14. Korn: No Way


15. Steve Baker/Carmen Dave (Donnie Darko): For Whom the Bell Tolls

16. Radiohead: Pyramid Song


17. Hans Zimmer/James Howard (The Dark Knight): A Little Push

18. Rush: Faithless


19. Clint Mansell (Moon): Are You Receiving

20. Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit

21. A Perfect Circle: The Outsider

22. Nine Inch Nails: Closer


23. Joseph LoDuca (Brotherhood of the Wolf): The Den of the Beast/Mani’s Pyre

24. Depeche Mode: Dream On

25. A Perfect Circle: The Package

26. Genesis: Jesus He Knows Me

27. The Moody Blues: Gypsy

28. Alabama 3: Yellow Rose

29. Tool: Grudge

30. Radiohead: Idioteque

31. David Bowie: Telling Lies

32. Marilyn Manson: Target Audience

33. Tom Waits: Diamonds and Gold


34. Koh Ohtani (Shadow of the Colossus): Sign of the Colossus


35. VNV Nation: Colours of Rain

36. Linkin Park: The Little Things Give You Away


37. Linkin Park: What I’ve Done


38. Vangelis (Blade Runner): Fading Away

Canto I: The Dark Wood of Error (Dante loses his way and realizes he has strayed from God’s path and into the dark woods of worldliness. He finds temporary respite on the mount of joy, but is driven away from it and is harried by the beasts of man’s fall – the leopard of malice and fraud, the lion of violence and ambition, and the she-wolf of incontinence. Here also, he meets Virgil; a fellow poet and Dante’s symbol of reason.)

Canto II: The Descent (Dante and Virgil walk and Dante experiences a moment of doubt and despair. Virgil explains to Dante that he is being watched over by a power greater than any other and that his lack of confidence is akin to doubting God’s will. They discuss hell and the nature of sin and redemption.)

Canto III

The Vestibule of Hell: The Opportunists (Also, children and neutral angels who did not take part in the war for heaven before the angel Lucifer’s fall. The souls who were neither virtuous nor evil in life chase after their own illusions of success or reward through muck and clouds of stinging insects which prick them and make them bleed from infected sores.)

Canto IV

Circle 1, Limbo: The Virtuous Pagans (The home of Virgil and other great minds of antiquity rest here where the only torment they encounter is the lack of God’s grace. Having been born before the coming of Christ, and never having been offered the grace of God’s light, they have lead the best lives they could but cannot enter heaven on a technicality.)

Canto V

Circle 2: The Carnal (The souls of sinners who rejected or neglected their responsibilities to loved ones or country in favor of love are caught in an eternal windstorm wherein they are bruised and constantly whipped near to, and away from, their equally tormented lovers.)

Canto VI

Circle 3: The Gluttonous (The undying souls of those who used their gifts and living power to overindulge themselves in products while they lived are feasted upon in a freezing wasteland of putrid slush. Cerberus guards their bloated corpses and gnaws upon their bodies as they glutted themselves upon food or goods in life.)

Canto VII

Circle 4: The Hoarders and Wasters (The souls of those who lacked all moderation in life push and pull a great boulder back and forth between them in a great tug-of-war battle to avoid being crushed. There is no rest from this complete and pointless waste of time for them.)

Circle 5: The Wrathful and Sullen (Styx lay here and in it toil the bodies of the wrathful, who tear each other to pieces only to be reborn again from the stinking slime. Beneath the surface of the black water float the sullen, who refused to see hope in life and thus never really lived. They weep and wait for the end of time to come.)

Canto VIII

The Ferry on the River Styx, and the city of Dis (Virgil calls the Ferryman of Styx, Phlegyas, who was once a king and the bloodthirsty and wrathful son of Mars; and the two see Hell proper and the great walls of the city of Dis. Dante looks down into the waters of the river and recognizes various figures from history and his homeland of Italy. Within the walls rests Circle 6, and all of lower hell spreads out below it like a great, stepped funnel - or inverted pyramid – with Satan entrenched in ice at the central and lowest point.)

Canto IX-XI

Circle 6: The Heretics (Those who insisted that there was no eternal life within God’s grace are housed here in a lake of boiling water, entombed in caskets set aflame to the degree of their defiance of God’s gift of everlasting life.)

Canto XII- XVII (Sins of the Lion)

Circle 7, Round 1: The Violent Against Neighbors (Murderers and war-makers… submersed in a sea of the boiling blood of their victims.)

Circle 7, Round 2: The Violent Against Self (Suicides… forever imprisoned in thorny trees whose limbs and leaves bleed as harpies feast on their branches. They can speak as long as the blood flows, and their numbers stretch all through the seventh circle of hell.)

Circle 7, Round 3: The Violent Against God and Nature (Blasphemers and sodomites… staked out or left helpless on a vast plain of burning sand, the sinners are assailed by a constant rain of fire from the sky. )

Canto XVIII-XXX (Sins of the Leopard)

Each Bolgia circles in on itself like a perverted Mandela, or amphitheatre seating, and each trench in the reeking earth has its own fitting satire of a torment for the souls within. When Virgil and Dante peek over the shoulder of the first Bolgia, they can see down onto the horrors of every lower ridge and it overwhelms Dante at first, for there is no easy way down but through the entirety of the 8th circle of hell.

Circle 8, Bolgia 1: Seducers and Panderers (Driven in circles by horned demons who prod and whip them.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 2: Flatterers (Wallowing in their own excrement.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 3: Simoniacs (Those who exchanged ecclesiastical favors for gold in life are suspended head-first in rocky holes while the soles of their feet are burned.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 4: Fortune tellers and Diviners (Their heads turned backward on their bodies so they only see that which is behind them.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 5: Grafters (Completely submerged in clinging pitch.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 6: Hypocrites (Weighted by lead robes covered in gilt.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 7: Thieves (Forever stealing each others’ bodies as they are evicted by demons who use their forms for visits to Earth.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 8: Evil Counselors (Consumed by great flames so they cannot be seen or heard.)

Circle 8, Bolgia 9: Sowers of Discord (Limbless, headless, bodily bifurcated, or otherwise split from themselves.) *note: The most famous woodcut from the Inferno is from this level; that of a man standing on a ledge holding his own head at arms’ length in order to see.

Circle 8, Bolgia 10: Counterfeiters, Alchemists, False Witnesses (Afflicted by sensory overload and diseases of the body and mind, some to the point of madness.)

Canto XXXI, The Central Pit of Malebolge

The Giants of legend, decedents of the ancient Gods, are guardians and prisoners of the earth from which they were born long before the coming of Christ. Their nature, not their deeds, place them as gatekeepers of the innermost circle of hell.

Canto XXXII, Cocytus

Cold and calm is the central chamber of hell; and those within it. The quiet is disturbed only by the crystalline sobs of the damned submerged in the frozen lake at the center of hell. Those who betrayed their kin are frozen to the neck; those who betrayed their country are submerged to the eyes; and those who betrayed benefactors who were not even beholden to them, but gave aid none the less, are entirely encased in ice and cannot express their sorrow – even with tears. Satan himself sits at the center of the lake, and his great wings beat the still and frigid air. He has three faces, and his jaws are the fourth and final round of the 9th circle. In them, he rends the bodies of three sinners: Brutus, Cassius, and Judas – the treacherous to their masters.

Circle 9, Round 1: Caina (The Treacherous to Kin… )

Circle 9, Round 2: Antenora (The Treacherous to Country… )

Circle 9, Round 3: Ptolomea (The Treacherous to Guests and Hosts… )

Circle 9, Round 4: Judecca (The Treacherous to Their Masters… )

The Center: Satan

Dante and Virgil climb onto Satan’s fur and through the great floor of hell where they find themselves passing upward, reversed and upside-down, into the world above hell; where Satan’s haunches and hoofed feet jut up through the rock in an almost comical fashion. They pass over the river Lethe, where all things are forgotten, and stand innocent again to gaze up at the stars.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fellow Workers... United in Wisconsin, Divided in Confusion

I would like to give this space to public comments, with the understanding that any and all subject-matter appropriate posts will be used to educate and enlighten. Comments will be moderated for trolling, but will be posted unabridged after review. All you need is a google-linked account to post your story. You are not required to follow this blog; and you can remain anonymous, like so many wise and helpful educators have chosen to remain throughout history.

As protests continue in Wisconsin and throughout the country, education and direct information about unions and workers rights does not appear to have increased with the topic's publicity. There seems to be little knowledge available about what, exactly, it is that unions do for their members and how the actions of these groups affect the overall economy and public.

Union members may not even know what their unions can do for them and how the actions of these groups affect the stability of the job market and working conditions of private workers as well.

I ask that union members share their stories about what their union has done to ensure fairness and stability in their workplace or career. How has this impacted your family? How might have your life or the lives of your family members have been negatively impacted if your union had not stepped in to enforce your rights on your behalf?

Please feel welcome to educate visitors to this site in as verbose and/or lengthy a manner as is necessary to tell your tale.

Thank you, in advance.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Meanwhile, In the News... Containing a poem, a warning about emotional disease, tea, outdated pop-culture references, and a reasonable request

The story goes:
There once was a man from Milwaukee
who had some ideas and got cocky.
He moved to our town,
some bad shit's goin' down,
and now the whole nation's gone gawky.

I don't know what it is about fascist senators in Wisconsin (see: Sen. Joe McCarthy or watch the film "Good Night and Good Luck" if you're lazy, don't like reading, love a good film, or just had your wisdom teeth out and need something to do for two hours) but we've struck gold again with Scott Walker and his moronic ideas about budgeting and reform. You can read all you want about it in the news so I won't bother with that here, save to comment on the immediate issue in Wisconsin.

The issue at hand is one of money. The money is gone in Wisconsin, they say, and like Milwaukee before it, the entire state now must, quite literally, pay for the mistakes of the man who went on the tax-break shopping spree where he bought up all the best friends he could fit in his political career cart. Senator Scott Walker is a republican so there are very few fixes he can pull from the medicine chest to stop the bleeding dry of the state. Top of the list was, apparently, bleeding the public sector workers, directly, dry via union busting and budget cuts. The following is slightly out of character for me, perhaps, in that this is no parable about the human condition; but rather a personal entreaty to learn the names of the people you intend to fuck before donning your emotional contraceptive of choice and getting to it:

Who are public employees? Psychologists, psychiatrists, bus drivers, librarians, healthcare workers, PR specialists, the department of health, social workers, accountants, language instructors, translators, the department of transportation, as well as teachers, police, and the fire department. They care for the elderly, children, displaced persons and the disabled. They light our streets, maintain our roads, test our food and water for things that could harm us, take us to work and safely home again. Their wages and benefits are dictated by the state budget, not their individual employers. They are not like the rest of us who have the innate right to negotiate for ourselves. They don't just pull their own weight, they pull all of ours too.

I'm no political activist. I do not march, I do not wave signs, nor do I hold that our system of government is a good model for any country, group, or organization to use as a framework for a functioning and enduring system for that is, quite obviously, not the case. For those few of you who would assume to ask, "Well what would you suggest replace it?" That is a far more complex question than it would appear to be. Be content then, with this analogy regarding political unrest and dissatisfaction with a governing body:

"I may not know art, but I know what I like."

In illustration, if a man looks at a painting and does not know the period in which it was created, the artist's name or ethos, the style or intended purpose of the art but simply knows that when gazing upon it, he does not like the painting, does that render his feeling frivolous? And, if the man cannot tell you that he can create a better painting, and then produce said work, was his viewpoint worthless?

Similarly, if a man looks at a broken teacup and says to you, "This teacup no longer serves its intended purpose as a vessel for liquid." Is he an idiot for not being able to produce another, perfectly serviceable teacup, immediately upon noting he cannot drink his tea? Of course not. Even were he a potter or glass-blower by trade it would take him some time to make its equal. And, if he should go to the cupboard and take another glass down for this use, that cup would be no more indestructible than the last one.

So, in sum, just because I don't have a new teacup doesn't mean I don't like art. Also, don't ask me for the solution to a problem which cannot be solved.

Politics is like childbirth. It is messy, painful, and not for everyone; but it is part of the human experience none the less. You can dope a woman in labor all you like and she will still be a woman in labor - it is still a form of that experience. You can advocate political reform until healthcare is free and there are no taxes, but it will still be an imperfect system because it attempts to quantify and organize the complete range of human experience within a changing society. You can't fix yesterday's problems today for a future that hasn't happened yet. You might as well have every politician's placard read "Marty McFly for office! ...Fixing tomorrow's problems yesterday!" And then everyone gets upset when it doesn't work out. How amusing. Like squirrels running up a greased pole to get to birdseed heaven, the lot of us. Good exercise but not terribly effective.

So, having digressed almost completely away from the issue at hand (another favorite human tradition), I ask these four favors in return for a, possibly, better humanity:

1. Before broadcasting your opinions in a public forum or voting booth, conduct a thorough line of inquiry as to the motivations, effects, facts, and alternate viewpoints of the situation before your less-than-educated assumption immediately affects the lives of others AND sets a legal precedent for our nation, not to mention formative countries using our legislation as a basis for their own developing governments. If you don't have the time or inclination to do this, shut up and don't mess it up for thousands or millions of other people.

2. If you vote, when electing a representative please research their political history and place their actions before their words. The information isn't that far away if you know where to look. The same goes for the news you hear. News sources are not always correct or thorough in telling a story. Research further and diversify your news sources for more complete reporting.

3. Learn by asking questions. A lot of people might be saying to themselves - right now - "I do ask questions..." I would point out that that was a statement to those of you who have just been caught thinking quantitatively, whereas you could have thought to yourself "Like what?" Think about it. Awareness of ourselves and our own behavior is the simplest start to a more understanding and educated society.

Now, generally I am unconcerned with the political fluctuation in this and others countries. This is not an uncommon way of looking at things, nor does it connote that I have no interest or opinion. Speaking personally, I was recently asked to identify my political persuasion and, upon giving my answer, I was dubbed apathetic. Hearkening back to request #3, through a patient line of question and answer it was discovered that I only appear apathetic due to my strict adherence to a policy of personal accountability for all and every choice and action we all take. Simply put, you do something because you want to - for whatever reasons - and nothing more. I will expound upon this in a later rant, perhaps, but an academic exploration of the spiritual and philosophical implications of a party system on the psyche of America is a topic for another day.

For now, I only have one more favor left to ask,

4. Grow up you bunch of toddlers and stop taking people for granted.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fourth Class

So Christmas is long past and gone but this story won't quit me. Here we go:

My father and I have never been what is generally called close, but a more accurate description might be to say that we have enacted a pretty decent sham of having a caring relationship whenever he feels that he is not getting the care he deserves from his lovers, friends, or immediate family members. The only reason I do not include co-workers or colleagues in this list is because he either has none (co-workers) or the term is synonymous with another term used previously (colleagues, see: friends.)

My parents are divorced and have been so since I was a toddler. This is not sad. This is not a lifetime movie drama, keep reading. My dad remarried when I was a teenager and they had a son. Pop got the nuclear family he's always wanted: wife, kid, dog; in a little five bedroom house on a hill. The dog has more personality than any of the humans in the house but little brother is working on catching her up, so it would seem. He's young yet and still under the roof of his terribly normal parents. Give him time.

Pop gets a case of the Christmas spirit (guilt and loneliness wrapped up together in a festive jumper) and calls me to wish me a happy holiday and to inquire if he and the lad can visit while they are in my neck of the woods for one of the boy's sports events. (The only time I get to see the lad is when one of the many extra-curricular activities our father has foisted upon him take them near the city where I live. Last time it was a baseball game; this time, hockey. The poor kid is good at everything, so pop can't seem to decide at which activity he would best like to vicariously excel as a substitute for all the trophies he never won in his own youth. So classic it makes you want to gouge your eyes out at a crossroads and fuck your own mother.)

As it happens, that one particular day is the day I was planning on being in my hometown visiting my mum and some old friends. I generally don't mention my travel plans to anyone save my employer and the people I am traveling to visit, so as far as my father can tell it's been nearly a year since I last visited home. Perhaps we can just wave at one another as we pass on the highway? Tedious and socially appropriate conversation follows until a decision can be reached: we will just have to see if there is time for a quick lunch up at the house sometime. I call on the way out of town saying I am leaving early and there really isn't time this trip. Perhaps next time, or a visit to my home on their return trip. No, they have no time for that either. Even Steven, I suppose.

A parcel arrives while I am away from home one day. "Dad wants to know if you got the package." the text from my brother says. Like divorcées ourselves, we are now speaking through his son. "Ah, so that's where that came from." I reply via the poor kid. "The office is closed and I have not picked it up yet - tell him thank you in advance for me please."

I open the box and it contains, in layers: tissue paper covering a brushed chrome canister of natural room spray - rosemary mint scented... I hate mint, I don't chew gum I hate mint so much; a slightly bent calendar entitled "We-moon" sporting a feminist-themed mural in bold blocky color schemes circa 1995 for each month, one of which I swear is an engorged vulva; a pile of broken glass which appears to have once been a double-boiler style teapot if the helpful, but now pointless, instruction manual is any indication; and an apple scented candle with three wicks in the Yankee candle kind of vein. In the bottom are two cards. Now let's just wait a moment. Look over that list again - I certainly did after I'd opened the box. Go ahead, I'll wait here......
One card is from her and has some flowery haiku kind of holiday wish in three languages, the first being English, the other two of which I do not speak; the second card depicts a Rockwellian santa and a penned-in speech bubble in which the jolly old elf proclaims, in my father's epileptic spider writing, "Somebody paid money for this card, HO HO HO!" It is signed by both my father and brother and contains a check drawn on my father and his wife's joint account.

I look at the box. The address on the label is correct up to a point, but the zip code has been crossed out and re-written with a black sharpie in a hand unfamiliar to me - a postal worker, no doubt. The box is battered and had been used before. The original labels can still be seen through someone's attempts to scribble them out with a marker. They are addressed to my father's wife. The logo on the side of the box is an online vitamin weight-loss company. It's a big box. I flop the cardboard flaps back into place and the punchline is staring me right in the face - stamped in bright red, bold print are the words FOURTH CLASS.

It was one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received. I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard. And the apple candle actually smells quite nice.