January 29, 2013

Vile-haters will be persecuted

I watched Gangster Squad and Lars and the Real Girl in under 48 hours, so what? Ryan Gosling is a great actor... and I really like this meme. More relevant to this post, however, is his character in Lars and the Real Girl.

Lars was a loner and didn't know how to handle his emotions, so he directed all his affections toward a sex doll he named Bianca. While he may have intended to simply take refuge in this delusion, the whole town played along with it and cared for Bianca as if she were really his girlfriend. I won't ruin the ending for you, but the Tin Man gets his heart.

In other words, Switzerland, I love you, but your neutrality is a myth. Perpetual dispassion can resemble a wu wei demeanor but, at least personally, is probably more of a Wall. To be abidingly mild-mannered is not necessarily the same as to be apathetic. As with Jiro, simple daily and careful commitments (read: loving) can sum to excellence. 

But what exactly is the relationship between apathy, hate and love? Fear not, I have a diagram! Granted, it’s a graphic I grabbed from Google and edited in MSPAINT, but I think it works.

The central vortex is literally neutral territory, and thricely powerful centrifugal force makes it impossible to stay there.

So let's go clockwise as Klaus intended. Hate is blinding darkness (1 Peter, 1/2 Corinthians— somewhere in there) and cares so contrarily that it cannot know or refuses to see truth. I know from experience that hate can be a fun place to visit — Self: "Belle wouldn't like the Beast if he didn't transform into a handsome prince!" (Fun, if painful.) Sensible young lady: "Actually, she was hesitant to embrace him after his transformation." (So, I'm now so bitter I'm lying to support my hate.) — but it’s literally Hell to live in. Satan's curse is that he's trapped in hate, not apathy.

The end of apathy, however, is annihilation, which at least to Milton's demons in Paradise Lost is worse than Hell. It's difficult to imagine nothingness — Buddhists try their whole lives to — but I can't think of thoughtlessness slash apathy without recalling that scene from The Fountainhead. Doggedly critical journalist Ellsworth Toohey hounds Howard Roarke, the subject of his especial venom, "What do you think of me, Howard? What? Tell me!" Howard: "I don't."

Pretty certain that is crueler than hate. Howard doesn't even care or think about Ellsworth enough to hate him. And If I'm honest I see this in myself. (I try to hate it so that I might expel it from myself.) I don't often keep other people in mind and have hurt many by simply not thinking of them.

A certain incident with my roommate Paul comes to mind. I was writing and kept adding five more minutes until we would walk down to dinner together. His patience spent and his stomach screaming for even a Hot Pocket, he left without me. I, finally finished writing and finally feeling hungry, drove down past him to eat by myself then drove back up past him when I was done. That's cruelty by way of apathy. At that moment I literally had no thought or care for Paul re: his hunger. I assure you, this is something I rectified as the semester progressed.

Ambivalence and ignorance are both totally legitimate, but maintaining neutrality usually floats you out into the twelve o'clock of the circle of apathy. Admitting ignorance or apathy about a person or situation, however, is a fine start. In fact, it just might produce some feelings. Not necessarily loving feelings, but at least something to work with.

Bottom line: Caring is Quality. If you think you're largely apathetic, you're probably not letting yourself be drawn into one of the other two circles. And let's face it. It's risky to care.

January 17, 2013

Three Rs: Robotic Robots Review

The only music review I have ever written was for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, an album whose first four tracks I then looped for the next four months. This music review is for a very different album, one crafted by the enigmatic Ethan the Robot! during his 2008 summer in Heidelberg. But while it is nearly five years old it is, in many ways, still sealed in plastic. (Plus, I only got it in like September, so it's new to me.) If you want to listen to this album, you can download it off Dropbox here. What follows is my track-by-track analysis capped off with a summary, one I imagine quoted on the album's packaging.

1. My Electro Intro
The album starts with familiar enough Garage Band sound, but soon escalates into a full-fledged diddy— a microwave warm welcome to the album. It would be easy to write this track off as little more than an intro, but by its end it sounds more more like an Introitus to a Requiem than what it claims to be.

2. Mr. Cricket and the Wildflower
This song wins for best title and best story. Clearly a quirky, single man in his early forties has found himself in the first level of Sonic the Hedgehog and, rather than racing through the technicolor landscape, has decided to take a pleasant stroll to enjoy the scenery, even the wildflowers.

3. Blood Red Summer
The title invokes the blood red sun of the Japanese flag, but its sound is more of a lazy summer day on rural Honshu as in scenes of Ponyo rather than the seizure-inducing speed of Tokyo life. Picnicking atop a green suburban hill with a view of the Sea of Japan, the listener can almost taste the Sapporo shandy.

4. A Song I Made
An opaque title for a piece with a wide berth. Background chatter complements the plodding beat nicely as co-workers unwinding at the happy hour of a piano bar. This song is not boring, but is definitely ambient. The evening after a long summer day is preparation for a dark night ahead.

5. I Saw One Bird Eating Another Dead Bird
The cannibalism in this piece is largely psychological and ex post facto. You'll find no flesh rending in the bass clef piano licks, but guilt steadily growing louder. A sapphire light shines through in the end by way of treble piano play.

6. Underwater Radar Gun
While other pieces also spin-off Final Fantasy and Zelda soundtracks, this piece in particular feels like the inside of the Deku Tree in Ocarina of Time. But the Water Temple is also inside the tree, and all the overhead lighting has been updated with clean, white LED bulbs.

7. Morning Rainbow I: The Life of a Baby Dinosaur
You can hear the small triceratops trotting gleefully through the same landscape Mr. Cricket explored in track two. But to this little dino, the land is not to be admired for its detail but rather romped through as an open playground and breathed in rigorously, euphorically.

8. Morning Rainbow II: Rhythm and Instinct
This is mostly a straightforward rock song, even complete with guitar and drum solos. It gets back into the flow of the album near the end, squawking and beating home its electronic point.

9. Morning Rainbow III: The Attack of 2212
I don't know what the world will be like two hundred years from now, nor who would be attacking whom then. But this song foretells swift cavalry, in all their nobility and savagery, descending upon an isolated town. I'm unsure of the exact nature of the force — podracers on laser horses? — but the townsfolk are in deep doo-doo, especially because they can't decide whether to tarry to collect their valuables or to flee immediately. Either way, I don't think it ends well for them.

10. Morning Rainbow IV: Colored Rain
This title truly speaks for itself, and the song unfolds as a fine dessert to what has been a meal of fruit cocktails, raisins and marshmallow fluff.

This album is not only perfect to take a drug-induced mid-morning nap to, but is also a great soundtrack for several hours of data entry. It’s what they played when spring rolled round in irradiated Nagasaki, and it will one day blare proudly from the loudspeakers of Disneyland Mars.