Category Archives: Holidays

Love and Destruction

heartPLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Funk United
Light My Fire – Minnie Riperton
The Atmosphere Routine – Mr. Dibbs
Love And Happiness – Al Green
Do Your Thing – Isaac Hayes
Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On – Leonard Cohen
New Comer – W. Rockman
Munchies for Your Love – Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Velvet Voyage – Klaus Schulze
Why – Gemini (Birthday Song)
Take It All Away – CAKE
I Blame You – They Might Be Giants
Debonair – Afghan Whigs
Djed – Tortoise
You To Thank – Ben Folds
Spent on rainy days – Bright Eyes
Options – Pedro The Lion
Hogin’ Machine – Les Baxter
The Dean And I – 10CC

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-16: Love Songs by The Stranger on Mixcloud

It’s a good thing Fox “News” credibility has been steadily dwindling, falling by 9 percent in three years, and is now at a four-year record-low. These are the idiots are are trying to kill jobs, keep the minimum wage low, and encourage the toxic philosophy of companies laying off employees to dodge taxes.

 makes an excellent point about those long lines in stores when the fat cats decrease hours and increase layoffs to avoid paying fair wages and health insurance:

Were they being “penny-wise and pound-foolish” and costing themselves business today as well as in the future?

Because this misunderstands taxes. Taxes are not a “cost” as Marco Rubio said. Taxes are on profits. A company pays taxes after all costs — including wages and salaries — are deducted from revenue. The fact of the company paying a tax at all means they have the right number of employees serving their customers and meeting demand so they make a profit.

It is the poorly-managed companies that employ too few people who are not going to do well enough to pay taxes. (I doubt very many companies are employing too many people. What are they doing, having them sit around reading the paper?)

Obviously being profitable — which means that they pay taxes — does not cause a business to lay people off or reduce hours. When Rubio says taxes make companies “pass the costs on to their employees through fewer hours, lower pay and even layoffs” he is just wrong.

For the minimum-wage employee an increase means an immediate increase in demand at all the places he shops. Millions of people with a bit more money to spend because of a minimum-wage boost would certainly mean more hiring, because more customers would be coming through the doors. A well-run business employs the right number of people, period.

And while the Republicans are so interested in the drummed up controversy over the public debt, it ignores the debt that Wall Street hasn’t paid back to the American taxpayers, despite their astounding bounce-back and profits. Of course they face no criminal charges, but what about the$245 billion of TARP funds spent on banks, with only $26 billion received in settlements. 

And while their predatory practices effect the poor, and people of color, the most, governments and private enterprise seem all too willing to collude on bringing back debtor’s prisons.

Via In These Times:

A 2010 report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lays out the breadth of this problem. Titled “In For a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtor Prisons,” the report examines how “day after day, indigent defendants are imprisoned for failing to pay legal debts they can never hope to manage. In many cases, poor men and women end up jailed or threatened with jail though they have no lawyer representing them.”

Meanwhile, Obama is increasing domestic drone surveillance, and clamming up when asked any questions about these (or related) policies or programs.

Via Mother Jones:

During a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” Thursday evening, President Barack Obama was asked if he believed he has the authority to authorize a drone strike against an American citizen on US soil.

He didn’t exactly answer the question.

“First of all, I think, there’s never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil. And, you know, we respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations outside the United States. The rules outside the United States are going to be different then the rules inside the United States. In part because our capacity to, for example, to capture a terrorist inside the United States are very different then in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan.

But what I think is absolutely true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we are doing the right thing. I am the head of the executive branch. And what we’ve done so far is to try to work with Congress on oversight issues. But part of what I am going to have to work with congress on is to make sure that whatever it is we’re providing congress, that we have mechanisms to also make sure that the public understands what’s going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are. And that is something that I take very seriously. I am not someone who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants, or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism. There have to be legal checks and balances on it.”

Even with Rand Paul on the job, so serious questions are being asked of John Brennan in his confirmation hearings, despite concerns about civil liberties killing Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2008.

  • Why Did the President Kill a 16-year old American Teenager?
  • Are there ANY Qualifications for Authorizing Death Sentences?
  • Why did the Obama administration wait until election season to codify rules for assassinating people?
  • Do you see a problem with “signature strikes?”

So why didn’t Obama just say, “no, the president cannot deploy drone strikes against US citizens on American soil”? Because the answer is probably “yes.”

Even so-called “liberals” like Dianne Feinstein are dead wrong on the issue, both morally and factuallyShe stated that civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes each year has “typically been in the single digits.”

According to an extensive report by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School, disputed the line coming from the White House and from Feinstein on Thursday. The report cites statistics from the U.K. based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), which found that from June 2004 to September 2012 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed between 474 to 881 civilians, including 176 children. The BIJ relies on newspaper accounts and its own independent researchers in Waziristan.

The Stanford/NYU study backs up such figures with evidence of the trauma of living under drones strikes, based on “interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists.” Even if the BIJ’s lowest estimation of 474 civilians in Pakistan alone were accurate, Feinstein’s figures would still be far off the mark.

Washington Post offers data from the Web site Long War Journal, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011  and 39 in 2012.

The New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, says that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 again in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.

Hell, let’s give the drone pilots medals while we’re at it! They might get sore asses from sitting down all day!

Among self-described liberal Democrats, fully 77 percent endorse the use of drones against terrorist targets. On the question of killing Americans in drone strikes, Democrats approved of the use 58-33 percent, as did liberals, 55-35 percent.

A separate Pew study from October 2011 found that 87 percent of Americans support “increasing the use of unmanned drones,” including a majority of Democrats who said it was a “good thing.”

This is due to the false dichotomy of the blind theology set up by militant drone hawks. Either robot death from the skies, or boots on the ground?

“Drones are a lot more civilized than what we used to do. I think it’s actually a more humane weapon because it can be targeted to specific enemies and specific people.” ~Sen. Angus King’s (I-Maine)

[Drone strikes] inflict fewer civilian deaths than bombing campaigns, boots on the ground or any practical alternative.” ~New York Times columnist David Brooks

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes calls the other alternative.

“We can be a nation that declares its war over, that declares itself at peace and goes about rigorously and energetically using intelligence and diplomacy and well-resourced police work to protect us from future attacks”

But the dogma doesn’t allow for such creative problem-solving when singular destruction is narrowly employed. And secret, no less!

All the more reason that Yours Truly can’t wait for our civilization to be destroyed by alien life, life-destroying asteroids, or rather, exploding meteorites.

At least that wouldn’t be politically-motivated. It would be a mercy. A labor of love. Ahh.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2013-02-16: Love Songs by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

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Holiday Santacular!

1284487009_bottom_krampusThe Stranger celebrates the holidays with four hours of radio; celebrating New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Saturnalia, and our recent triumph over Doomsday — all in one! We’ll review the past year’s current events, look forward to the progress of tomorrow, and how we might just be doomed after all. Then, we’ll finally get to hear from the fabled South Side Santa once again, to discuss FOX’s War on Christmas and other festive topics, all set to the traditional sounds of Yule.

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-29: Santacular! by The Stranger on Mixcloud

PSIONIC PLAYLIST
Yuri-G – PJ Harvey
Don’t Look Back In Anger – Oasis
Teotihuacan -Noel Gallagher
Christmassteps -Mogwai
Sweet Leaf -Black Sabbath
The Little Drummer Boy -Jimi Hendrix
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen -Dio
He Loved Him Madly (Bill Laswell Mix) -Miles Davis
The Stars Are Projectors -Modest Mouse
Something Bells -Daedelus
Winter in America -Gil Scott-Heron
Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring -Leo Kottke
New Year’s Eve – Tom Waits

STRANGER PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Wagner
O Tannenbaum – They Might Be Giants
Saturn, Bringer of Old Age – New York Philharmonic
Historia Der Geburt Jesu Christi: Recitative: Und Er Stund Auf
Riu, Riu, Chiu
O Viergo Virginum
Winter – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Sinfonia in G (from ‘Christmas Oratorio’) – Johannes Bach
Sonata: Padouana a 5 – Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
Sinfonia – Geza Oberfrank & Hungarian Radio Choir & Failoni Chamber Orchestra
Pavane – Pierre Attaingnant
Christe Redemptor a 4 – William Byrd
Die winter ist Verganghen
Crions Noel – Alexander Agricola
A Mery Moode
Robin Hoode – Mr. Ascue
Twenty Waies Upon The Bells – Thomas Robinson
Nowell
Benedicta Es, Coelorum Regina
O vis aeternitatis – Ensemble Für Fruhe Musik Augsburg
Ave Maria – Franz Schubert
Recessional: “In Dulci Jubilo” – Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
Gloucestershire Wassail – Loreena McKennitt
What Child is This – Vince Guaraldi
I Believe in Father Christmas – Emerson Lake and Palmer
Aud Lan Syne

Our economy won’t grow forever, of course, but we shouldn’t let the maniacs fly us over a cliff of their own making, just because they’re tied to the steering wheel and gas pedal in an insane game of chicken. The bastards will take us all down with them, and the poorest of us will be the first to perish. How’s that for some seasonal tidings?

The Republicans are the worst wagers of this war, and they just don’t care what the nation thinks about them. Their party is in disarray, public opinion of them couldn’t be worse, and they’re still acting like insane, moronic children. They are unfit to govern. While some of them may be beginning to accept reality, they have by and large, “out of touch with the American people,” according to John Weaver, a senior adviser to past presidential candidates John McCain. The polling suggests as much.

And when racists like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are accepting awards from neo-confederate groups, and others are trying to leave the union, they don’t exactly paint a picture of rationality and moderation.

So people are taking matters into their own hands. Homeowners are threatening to foreclose on the banks. People are finding marijuana to be a much better substitute than risky prescription drugs for weaning themselves off of other dangerous addictions. Direct action and reasonable measures may win the day after all.

Even if the FBI spies on and oppresses progressive protest movements like Occupy. Even if that selfsame spy state tightens its grip. Even if so-called progressive leaders expand those powers and reach.

I believe the children are the future. Unfortunately, President Obama has had 178 children murdered in Pakistan and Yemen by U.S. drone strikes. He believes they are the past.

So our future is doomed. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to take it sitting down.

It wasn’t all bad news, just look at a few of the things that progressives accomplished in 2012:

  1. Historic progress to end the war on drugs.
  2. New fuel efficiency standards.
  3. Young undocumented immigrants received deportation relief.
  4. Anti-LGBT Senate candidates lost, in large numbers.
  5. President Obama endorsed marriage equality.
  6. Voters rejected anti-choice candidates.
  7. Voter suppression lost.
  8. The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.

This wasn’t just a great year for Marijuana users, but a harrowing one for synthetic drug users who found the legal or quasi-legal stimulants like bath salts to be cheap alternatives to criminalized plants.

By 2012, amphetamine-type stimulants, including synthetic bath salt derivatives, had become more popular worldwide than either cocaine or heroin, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Then again, it was a tough year for labor, with some of the most contentious battles and anxiety-inducing headlines of the year:

  1. Hostess Blames Workers for Bankruptcy Caused by Executives
  2. Right-to-Work Laws Passed by Spiteful Conservatives
  3. Wisconsin Recall of Scott Walker Failed
  4. American Airlines Employees Rally to Protest Cuts
  5. NFL Referees Replaced by Pathetic Scabs
  6. Apple-Foxconn Factory Workers in China Committed Mass Suicide
  7. Chicago Teacher’s Union Strike
  8. Koch Brothers Funnel Billions into Right-Wing Causes and Candidates
  9. Obama Barely Mentions Labor in Debates
  10. WalMart Workers Protest
  11. Bangladesh Factory Fire Kills Workers
  12. Fast-food Workers Strike

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone announced his pick for ‘Biggest Wall Street Story of the Year’ to the massive Libor scandal.

“If it’s true that the 16 biggest banks in the world were fixing global interest rates, then it’s hard not to argue that that’s not the biggest financial corruption case in history,” Taibbi says in a web exclusive for Current TV. “I fully expect that we’ll find out in the end that American banks were involved in this scandal.”

It was also a big year for Anonymous, with their hacktivism against bad copyright laws, censorship, evil religious zealots and police brutality ending up some of the biggest tech news of 2012.

And WIRED collected their top picks for the biggest tech stories in review:

  1. Government Spybots!
  2. Bradley Manning Gets His Day in Court
  3. SOPA and PIPA
  4. Supreme Court Takes a Stand Against Warrantless GPS Tracking
  5. Megaupload Becomes Mega Headache for U.S. Government
  6. Sabu and the Crackdown on Anonymous
  7. Stuxnet and Flame Viruses
  8. Julian Assange Seeks Asylum
  9. Paula and Petraeus Affair
  10. John McAfee On the Lam!

And some of the most outrageous science fiction stories that became science fact in the news!

  1. A Cyborg Competes Against Able-Bodied Athletes at the Olympics
  2. NASA Starts to Work on a Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive
  3. Scientists Enhance the Intelligence of Primates with a Chip
  4. The Earth Experiences its First True Superstorm
  5. The World’s First Cybernetic Hate Crime Occurs at a McDonalds in France
  6. Augmented Reality Goes Mainstream
  7. Researchers Create a Robot With Legs That Can Run Faster Than any Human
  8. The First Successful Commercial Cargo Delivery to Space Goes Off Without a Hitch
  9. An Electric Car is the Year’s Best
  10. Doctors Communicate With a Man in a Coma
  11. The First Large-Scale Geoengineering Project is Detected Off Canada’s West Coast
  12. A Child Attends School By Sending a Robot in His Place
  13. A Paralyzed Woman Controls a Robotic Arm Using Only Her Mind
  14. Self-Driving Cars Become Legal in Three States
  15. Scientists Create an Artificial Retina
  16. Researchers Create the First Complete Computer Model of a Living Organism

And looking forward, here are the civil liberties cases the Supreme Court may tackle in 2013:

  1. Same-Sex Marriage
  2. Federal Voting Rights Authority
  3. Race in University Admissions
  4. Can Corporations Be Sued For Overseas Human Rights Abuses?
  5. Can For-Profit Corporations Patent Human Genes?
  6. Warrantless Drug Searches By Police
  7. Death Penalty Convicts’ Right To Attorneys
  8. Do Right-To-Know Laws Stop At State Lines?

Non-belief in religion grew to the third largest affiliation in the world, The Washington Post writes:

A new report on global religious identity shows that while Christians and Muslims make up the two largest groups, those with no religious affiliation — including atheists and agnostics — are now the third-largest “religious” group in the world.

The study, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, found that Christians make up the largest group, with 2.2 billion adherents, or 32 percent worldwide, followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23 percent. Close behind are the “nones” — those who say they have no religious affiliation or do not believe in God — at 1.1 billion, or 16 percent.

This translates to big problems for United States politicians, where around 20% of the electorate are atheist/agnostic. So if you’re religious, don’t bash or exclude those who aren’t. Stand up for separation of church and state. Stand up for marriage equality and reproductive choice. Stand up for science.

Reject the false prophets like Old Paths Baptist Church Pastor Sam Morris, Franklin Graham, Bryan Fischer of the American family Association, James Dobson who proselytize that atheism is to blame for atrocities like school shootings.

This and much worse discrimination against non-believers is prevalent around the world.

This anti-atheist discrimination is severe. It takes the form of being arrested. It takes the form of being imprisoned for years. It takes the form of being targeted by a mob screaming for your blood… and when the police who should be there to protect you show up, instead they throw you in jail in Egypt, Indonesia, Greece, India, Turkey, Tunisia…

It even takes the form of a powerful Christian majority blasting the atheist minority for waging a non-existent ‘War on Christmas.’ A ridiculous prospect anyway, since many of the holiday traditions we love have Pagan roots.

  1. Celebrating the Winter Solstice with Festivals.
  2. Candles & Lights
  3. Trees
  4. Yule Wreaths 
  5. Santa
  6. Mistletoe
  7. Holly 
  8. Feasting! 
  9. Gift Giving
  10. Hearth Fires and Yule Logs

And who is waging the real war on Christmas, when Santa is arrested for chalking good tidings on public sidewalks? He is a dirty liberal, after all. Ignoring supply-side economics to hand out ‘free stuff.’

A new Public Policy Polling survey found that 44 percent of respondents think Santa is a Democrat, while 28 percent believe he’s a Republican.”*

And to all, a good night!

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-12-29: Santacular! by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

War of the Worldviews

PLAYLIST
In the Hall of the Mountain King – The Ratmen
Grim Grinning Ghosts – Barenaked Ladies
The Dragon – Vangelis
The War of the Worlds Musical Version – Jeff Wayne
The Horror – RJD2
The Boogie Monster – Gnarls Barkley
Ghost Of Frankenstein – Scientist
Dracula – Gorillaz
Season of the Dead – Gein and the Graverobbers
Haunted House – Lee Oskar

There’s plenty to be frightened of in the real world this Halloween season. Both candidates, in the shameful final debate, expressed their love of drones and Israel‘s war crimes. It wasn’t a debate so much as an agreement.

An Israeli human rights organization, Gisha, sued in Israeli courts to force the release of a planning document  for ‘putting the Palestinians on a diet’ without risking the bad press of mass starvation, and the courts concurred. The document, produced by the Israeli army, appears to be a calculation of how to limit Palestinians’ calories, the Israeli military was actually plotting to keep Palestinians in Gaza (half of them children) permanently on the brink of malnutrition, what health professionals call “food insecurity”. And, it was foreseeable that sometimes they would slip into malnutrition, since not as many trucks were always let in every day as the Israeli army recommended (106 were recommended, but it was often less in the period 2007-2010).

Planning for keeping people on the edge is nearly as bad as planning actually to starve them. And at the same time, both Obama and Romney called for harsher sanctions against Iran, while misleading the American people about a nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

OOOOOH! BE AFRAID!!

Obama, on a recent Daily Show appearance, used the only halfway hard-hitting question (on extending Bush’s illegal wiretapping) to mislead once again:

“The truth is we have modified them and built a legal structure and safeguards in place that weren’t there before on a whole range issues.”

No, the truth is, there’s no indication that the still-active warrantless wiretapping program—a dragnet on millions of innocent Americans’ communications—has significantly changed from the day Obama took office. With regard to the FISA Amendments Act, the Obama Administration has actively opposed all proposed safeguards in Congress, his Administration has been even more aggressive than Bush in trying to prevent warrantless wiretapping victims from having their day in court and has continued building the massive national security infrastructure needed to support it.

The Obama administration is actively opposing any new privacy safeguards or transparency provisions, saying it is their “top priority” to renew it with no changes. He cites State Secrets Privilege, Sovereign Immunity, Secret FISA Court Opinions, and Secret Safeguards.

Via WIRED:

The Obama administration is again arguing that a lawsuit accusing the NSA of vacuuming up Americans’ electronic communications without warrants threatens national security and would expose state secrets if litigated.

“This case may be dismissed on the ground that its very subject matter constitutes a state secret,” the government said (.pdf) in a legal filing in San Francisco federal court.

Brought by the EFF, the case is now four years old and its merits have never been litigated. The civil rights group claims that the major telecoms provided the NSA a warrantless backdoor to the nation’s communication backbone. Despite the government’s protestations that talking about the program would expose national secrets, the program is well-known, well-documented, and as of 2008, partially legalized by a compliant Congress.

Just two weeks ago, the Supreme Court terminated the EFF’s case against the telcos for their participation in the program. The justices declined to review 2008 congressional legislation giving the telcos immunity from being sued for their participation. Congress adopted the law after a federal judge rejected the government’s state-secrets claim.

When Congress passed the law, the EFF targeted the gov instead, accusing it of running a massive dragnet spy operation without warrants. The allegations are based in part on a former AT&T technician who produced internal company documents suggesting that the NSA was surveilling internet traffic from a secret room at an AT&T switching center in San Francisco, and similar facilities around the country.

Via RT:

“Both parties are colluding in denying you your First and Fifth amendment rights under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, and both candidates refuse to discuss this bipartisan assault on civil liberties,” a message posted on the Stop NDAA website reads.

And the rules have been permanently set up by Obama’s overpowered executive branch, that any conservative president that may take office will find himself intrenched in a counterterrorism agenda that includes vague demographic profiling, secret kill lists, and robotic targeted execution. Democrats would rather remain blissfully ignorant of these civil and human rights abuses, and Republicans are drooling over the prospect of getting them for themselves.

Democrats “do not have the foggiest idea what is happening in the White House, and obviously does not care in the slightest, because the person doing it is part of their party.”

Or worse, that supposition that extra-constitutional national security and civil liberties policies are no longer permitted to be part of any “serious” national political discussion.

Luckily, if no one in the United States will step up, the United Nations will.

The United Nations plans to set up a special investigation unit in early 2013 to look at incidents of civilian death in U.S. drone strikes. Speaking Thursday at Harvard Law School, U.N. special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC, who monitors counter-terrorism programs, announced plans for the investigative team, which will be based in Geneva. According to the UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “U.N. investigators have been critical ofU.S. ‘extrajudicial executions’ since they began in 2002. The new Geneva-based unit will also look at the legality of the program.”

Emmerson said in his Harvard announcement, “If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the U.N. to act.” He noted:

[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. [U.N. consultant, professor of human rights] Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.

And activist groups like the ACLU, EFF, and Muckrock are continuing the fight against robotic death from above, requesting hundred of public records on surveillance drones.

The very concept is chilling, especially as the drones begin to decide for themselves who to spy on, profile, and kill. And though comparisons may be rife, the thought of hungry alien invaders this Halloween may just have to take a backseat to the reality of unfeeling war machines.

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Gifts of Lovecraft

If you’re anything as lucky as me, then you’ve found a significant other/trans-dimensional monster hunter/mental patient to share your life with, however short that may be. And if your beloved and accursed life partner is an enthusiast, nay, a votary, of all things weird and macabre, then you might need a little help finding the inspired gifts to show them the horrific holiday, blighted birthday or abhorrent anniversary you both deserve! These Lovecraftian artifacts will spell out your love beyond the ageless æons and non-Euclidean space, as the dread Cthulhu has already permeated our modern popular culture with its putrid tentacles… of doom.

BOOKS & ART

Whether a long-time devotee or curious neophyte, anyone interested in ‘the Mythos‘ could find no better place to delve than these gorgeous collections, The Eldritch Tales and the Necronomicon. The faux-leather covers and gold-embossed Les Edwards illustrations (not to mention the inside Virgil Finlay sketch of Howard Phillips Lovecraft) make these commemorative editions a must-have. Notably,  Robert E. Howard‘s Conan the Barbarian is also collected in a similar series, as the two share a contextual history. Then again, a lot of fictional universes dip into the Cthulhu Mythos, from some of Stephen King‘s short stories to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea‘s Illuminatus! Trilogy, and even more recently, episodes of South Park.

Originally written for the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, H. P. Lovecraft’s astonishing tales blend elements of horror, science fiction, and cosmic terror that are as powerful today as they were when they were first published.

One might also gaze upon the maelstrom of aesthetes and devotees of the black arts, who have lent their skills to paintings, illustrations, sketches and essays of these mighty Elder Gods. The Lovecraft Retrospective is chock full of artists inspired by the Master of Horror Fiction, including H. R. Giger and Mike Mignola, among at least forty others (with an introduction by Harlan Ellison). Although Giger released his own Necronomicon work with an introduction by Clive Barker, and Mike Mignola, (in addition to doing a brilliant cover for a collection) also paid tribute to the man himself in the Codex Arcana. Not to mention the very looming presence of Ancient Ones in the Hellboy universe.

Or peruse the works of the late Jean Giraud, whether they be in full comic book form, or covers such as Lovecraft: Letters D’Arkham, Marginalia, 1975.

Speaking of art, it’s a damned shame (and I do mean damned) that, for copyright reasons, these hilarious crossovers, mash-ups or remixes are not available for purchase. Such as Murray Groat (A.K.A. Muzski)’s versions of Tintin within the Mythos, as Hergé/Moulinsart S.A.’s rights apply:

“I am getting alot of print requests by email, which is nice, but I have to sadly tell each and everyone of them that I cannot.”

cc5203223fe766c426332abee9c40d02.jpg

Or the multi-chaptered project to chronicle Bil Keane‘s The Family Circus as they fall into the inky æther of ‘unspeakable horrors.’

Or Dr. Faustus‘ Seussian retellings:

This is not to say, of course, that one cannot make a fine print of these deviations for personal, non-commercial use.

DRINK

One method of inducing a thrilling madness is to first enter a drunken stupor. Though many soporific aperitifs of the Eldritch abomination exist, only a few are readily extant and/or non-fictitious.

Demon’s Hop Yard IPA is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and can be found in several states (Lovecraft’s ‘Devil’s Hopyard’ was in his fictional town of Dunwich).

Clear, bright golden, with copper hues topped with a thick, clinging hop-induced lace that trails the beer as it’s consumed. Aroma is dank, resiny and saturated with a pronounced herbal character.

Miskatonic Dark Rye is a vegan and organic ale from (where else?) Portland, Oregon brewing company Captured by Porches. I’m sure it’s what the students at Miskatonic U get soused on as they pore over dusty tomes in ancient libraries.

Smooth. Rye spiced with chocolate and wine tones. Light to medium bodied. Made with organic two row and malted wheat, rye, and oats. Malted with crystal and chocolate. Hopped with domestic tettnanger.

Others are more secret, nigh-mythical brews, such as the Limited Edition New Year’s Black IPA by Us Vs Them, inspired by the dark lord Cthulhu himself, which is either no longer available or lying asleep for centuries.

Premium 2 row barley, coloring and caramel flavor from 2 speciality malts…the blackness comes from a special de-husked roasted malt called Carafa Special 3… it does not impart that very roasty, astringent or bitter coffee flavor you’d find in a stout, however it does leave a deep, dark tone to the appearance. It was bittered with Chinook and flavored with Amarillo Centenial and Simcoe and fermented with a California Ale Yeast to accentuate the clean bitterness and hop flavors.

Cthulhu Custom Etched Shot Glass

Of course, one needs the proper receptacle to contain the evil spirits with designs on your mind and soul. Might I recommend either the tentacled pint glass, or the Cthulhu custom-etched shot glass, (and filled appropriately with Kraken rum)

A fine gift could be made of Jonathan Chaffin’s Horror in Clay tiki mug, and now that his Kickstarter goal has been made, perhaps in futures told they shall be hewn from matter most foul, but do not seem for sale to the public just yet.

And apparently, HPL was a fervent coffeeholic, with these subversive subcultures crossing in several ways, including the now extinct Cthulhu Coffee.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgahnagl fhtag”  ~ Me, after tasting the foul bitters aforementioned

TOYS

All manner of adorable plushies of the Dread Lord can be found, but some creative artisans have crafted their own worldly totems, as prescribed by the visions in their feverish dreams.

John Kovalic’s My Little Cthulhu:

The various knitted Cthulhu patterns:

Or the abominable HP Lovercraft figure by Alex CF:

My first DIY action figure project is a hand molded, cast and painted effigy of Lovecraft, along with a copy of the fabled and despised Necronomicon! Each figure will come as part of a larger box set – including a copy of a comic I have written and drawn, a screen printed t shirt, a screen printed poster, badge and sketch, all in a wax sealed box! These will be available very soon! email merrylinhouse@gmail.com for inquiries!

ENTERTAINMENT

Though many directors have been influenced by HPL’s works, not many have successfully conjured a faithful translation of those strange stories (see: Re-Animator). In 2005, however, director Andrew Leman brought one of the finest independent horror films into our world and onto the silent screen:

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society presents its all new silent film of The Call of Cthulhu. The famed story is brought richly to life in the style of a classic 1920s silent movie, with a haunting original symphonic score. Using the “Mythoscope” process — a mix of modern and vintage techniques, the HPLHS has worked to create the most authentic and faithful screen adaptation of a Lovecraft story yet attempted.


More importantly, for the purposes of gift-giving and love-making, a classic black & white flick is the perfect thing to curl up with your loved one on the couch, as a slowly creeping dread encompasses the both of you. (The prolific H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society also villainously vends the album A Shoggoth on the Roof, a CD of Lovecraftian carolsArkham Asylum Certificates of Insanity, and other cult relics.)

The Evil Dead 2 (Book Of The Dead 2 Limited Edition)But if you really want a really great date night, allow the self-parodying  Sam Raimi and manly-chinned Bruce Campbell to open a deathly portal of Dead-ites, with your very own Necronomicon bound in a horrid human face! This Limited Edition ‘Book of the Dead’ isn’t necessarily easy to find, but is full of artwork and special features, and will scream when pressed if in mint condition!

H. P. Lovecraft IH. P. Lovecraft II

H.P. Lovecraft, not so coincidentally, was also a psychedelic acid rock band in the late 1960’s. They only released two albums in 1967 and 1968 before breaking up, renaming and reforming, but their best work were these early nuggets. They’re not exactly horrific or amorous, but their imagery is evocative and dreamlike nonetheless.

TRAVEL

If you desire to steal your beloved away for the week-end, perhaps a themed holiday is in order. If out West, wander to The Lovecraft Bar in Portland, covered in demonic symbols and cosmic tentacles, and visit the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhu Con. Or make your way to L.A. for their version of the Eldritch Events. Florida each year holds the NecronomiCon, a science fiction, fantasy and horror convention now in its 31st year.

But for real historical ambiance, what could be more romantic than a getaway to New England, to the hexed locality that spawned so many legends of spirits and devils and witchcraft, and a never-ending litany of literary progeny, from Hawthorne and Poe to Lovecraft and King. Begin in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island (though the Angell St. family mansion was torn down in 1961). Take the walking tour of College Hill, his old stomping grounds. From there, expedition to Essex County, Massachusetts (Lovecraft commented often in his letters that Marblehead was one of his favorite towns, saying that he’d live there if he didn’t already live in Providence). The basis for many of the ports and towns in what came to be called Miskatonic County (with an eponymous river and University), or ‘Lovecraft Country,’ containing Dunwich, Innsmouth, Arkham, Kingsport and Billington’s Wood.File:Lovecraft Country.svg

Interestingly, the fictional county is close to Salem, already known for its occult history, and North of the Bridgewater Triangle, a modern hotbed of supposed paranormal activity.

MISCELLANY

If your fated partner cares not for those sweet nothings and sweeping gestures, perhaps the wretched aromatics of the Elder Gods will help spice things up, and the Picnic in Arkham: The Lovecraft Collection of perfumes by Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs:

Azathoth is the blind, idiot god who sits on a black throne at the center of Chaos. His scent is high-pitched and screeching, both impenetrably dark and searingly bright with the clarity of madness: tangerine, saffron, vetiver, black amber and cedarwood.

Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, the All-Mother and wife of the Not-to-Be-Named-One. The lust incense of a corrupted Astarte. A blend of ritual herbs and dark resins, shot through with three gingers and aphrodisiacal spices.

The internet is resplendent with other mementos that profess your dark feelings, so be creative and think outside the box!

Diplomas:

Miskatonic Diploma (Herbert West) Poster

Purses:

And Elder thongs:

A New Leaf

Happy 4/20, everyone! Earth Day, Hitler’s birthday, and most importantly, Takei Day! We’ll be celebrating the more renowned reason for the season, and I certainly don’t mean Hitler (although I’m straining my hardest not to invoke Godwin’s Law at some of the news items tonight)!

To gain support within his party, the once moderate Romney takes a hard-right into the rampant radicalism ramparts, and sullies his campaign with the same strange rhetoric he projects onto his opponents. Further pitching us into an economic class war in which someone born into a family in the bottom income bracket has virtually no chance of moving into the top quintile, and where middle class Americans are increasingly losing ground to those at the top. His tax policies, experts contend, will raise student debt (already in the trillions) and hurt the middle class.

It’s very hard to overcome our biological processes, with research suggesting that  people prone to ignoring evidence that contrasts their viewpoint are more likely to make delusional leaps, and where materialism may in fact be a mental disorder.

For while the ‘Buffet Rule’ only takes a tiny dent out of our deficit, it is still a necessary, albeit largely symobolic, step. And ignored by most national news sources; more than 300 economists, including three nobel laureates, have signed a petition calling attention to the findings of a paper by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, which suggests that if the government legalized marijuana it would save $7.7 billion annually by not having to enforce the current prohibition on the drug. The report added that legalization would save an additional $6 billion per year if the government taxed marijuana at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco.

And though the waves of technological protest and dissent may promise to save us, the surveillance state, corporate invasions of privacy, and for-profit spy lobby show that the information age, once ‘equalized’, may prove to reinforce the old status quo with new tools.

Shaheed Nick Mohammed, associate professor of communications and author of The (Dis)information Age: The Persistence of Ignorance:

“We have to rethink some of our most common assumptions about modern life and, specifically, we need to rethink assumptions that the information age will naturally lead to a society that is intelligent and scientifically literate. In fact, we may have moved backwards in many respects.”

The NSA now has the capability to record and track every American citizen, should they choose to turn it on us, if they haven’t done so already!

Even Tim Berners Lee, who developed the Web in 1990, says the proposals to allow intelligence agencies to monitor Internet use and digital communications of citizens would be a “destruction of human rights.”

Perhaps it will take a cataclysm even greater than the Great Recession to shatter the hold of establishment dogmatism and force fresh thinking. Or perhaps it will take a new generation of leaders too young to care about refighting the battles of the New Deal era and the Reagan era that followed it.

PLAYLIST
In The Hall Of The Mountain King – Sounds Incorporated
Reefer Man – Cab Calloway
Blue Rhythm Fantasy – Gene Krupa
Let’s Go Get Stoned – Ray Charles
Stoned Love – The Supremes
Mary Jane – Rick James
Raga: Patdeep – Ravi Shankar
A Child’s Garden of Grass – Jack Margolis & Jere Alan Brain
Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites
The Weed (Aka Man Pyabba) – Count Lasher with Lyn Taitt &
Pass The Kushempeng – Frankie Paul
Ganja Smoke – Ziggy Marley
Weed Whacker – Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
Sticky Green Weed – Cypress Hill
Weed Song – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Sea Weeds – Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew
Stoned Guitar – Human Instinct
Wacky Tobacky – NRBQ
let’s go smoke some pot – Dead Milkmen
Smoke Two Joints – Sublime
Big Yellow Joint – Steven Sprung
Oriental Vibrato – Raymond Guiyot
(Down To) Seeds and Stems (Again) Blues – Commander Cody
I Got Stoned and I Missed It – Dr. Hook

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-4-20: A New Leaf by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

Getting Involved

– April 25: National Day of Action Against Student Debt

On April 25th, the total amount of student loan debt in the U.S. is due to top 1 trillion dollars. This staggering economic milestone marks a momentous victory for Wall Street and the 1 percent against two generations of students and families. A day of action will target big banks and student lenders, as well as increasingly corporatized universities.

-May 1st: May Day – OCCUPY THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

Recognized worldwide as International Workers’ Day, May 1st marks the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where workers were fighting for the eight hour workday. Look for rallies and gatherings across the country that will draw attention to the needs and concerns of workers.

Move Your Money

The Move Your Money campaign was launched in 2010 to take on the power of the megabanks that helped cause the financial crisis and continue to wreak havoc on our economy. Numerous ongoing actions around the country are calling attention to the need for fairness and accountability in the banking industry (read about the latest: “Move Your Money” Goes Nationwide As Cities Pull Their Money”)

Occupy Wall Street

The leaderless resistance movement continues to take on the greed and corruption of the 1 percent, including a recent day of action for public transit workers. Check the website for gatherings and actions in your community.

Happy V.D.!

Sexy sounds seduce you while the Stranger reduces the most romantic politics and steamy science of the week via innuendo, poetry slams, slow jams and sweet nothings…

PLAYLIST
In the Hall Of The Mambo King – Machito
Here We Are – ANNETTE HANSHAW
Unforgettable – Nat King Cole
My Funny Valentine – Miles Davis
I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You – Tom Waits
If I Were A Carpenter [Feat June Carter] – Johnny Cash
Love Street – The Doors
The Shadow Of Your Smile – Al Caiola
Today I Bought You Violets – The Continental
Is This Love – Bob Marley
Lady – Kenny Rodgers
She’s Gone – Daryl Hall & John Oates
I Love You Much Too Much – Santana
It’s A Crime I Never Told You About The Diamonds In Your Eyes – The Black Heart Procession
Bye Bye Love – The Everly Brothers
Something – The Beatles
Roses and Champagne – The Continental
I’m Sorry I Love You – The Magnetic Fields
Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love – They Might Be Giants
el manana – Gorillaz
Strip Tease – Alain Goraguer
(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right – Luther Ingram
Strong As Death, Sweet As Love – Al Green
I Can’t Tell You Why – Eagles
’69 Année Érotique – Serge Gainsbourg
Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers – Jeff Beck
I’d Rather Be With You – Bootsy’s Rubber Band
I Wanta Do Something Freaky To – Leon Haywood
Lay Lady Lay – Isaac Hayes
Generique – Alain Goraguer
The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room) – Flight Of The Conchords
When a Man Loves a Woman – Percy Sledge

Stranger in a Strange Land 2012-02-11: V.D. by The Stranger on Mixcloud

~The Stranger
thestranger@earthling.net

*The news reports that San Francisco’s venereal disease is on the rise. Let’s try not to achieve the wanton libertine image the rest of the country has about us, double-wrap that shit!

X-mas Rated

Remove yourself from it for a few years (or work retail) and it begins to look very absurd, indeed.

Full of odd tropes, so many that it seems every single thing in the world has a Christmas version, every television show, series of toys, comics, characters, discography, magazine, aesthetic changes for a few months in service of tradition careening out of control more and more each year.

There are Santa prons, there holiday specials, and even the Japanese (for which less than 1% of the population are Christian) can go absolutely bonkers for the holiday.

For Christ’s sake, ham becomes ‘Christmas ham.’

These themes pervade such as; ‘this is going to be the best Christmas ever,’ ‘this is a very special Christmas,’ ‘the last Christmas, the very last Christmas,’ ‘Christmas is in danger!’, ‘we need to save Christmas!’ ‘the Miracle of Christmas!’ And not merely in fiction, but IRL as well.

Religious fundamentalists and fanatics decry the commercialism of the holiday, even going back nearly a hundred years. It is not merely the Grinch, Scrooge, or any other of a countless nefarious foe out to eradicate the holiday with a push of a button, but marketing departments, conglomerates, thieves, cheats, secularists and competing religious/philosophical worldviews.

For some such as myself, the holiday has no real meaning, nothing that the warmth of family, friends, and community cannot provide on other holidays or year round. A pleasant nostalgia that could also be served by watching TMNT or playing NES. Part of the absurdity I find in the fanaticism of Christmas stems from the seemingly arbitrariness of choosing this particular holiday. Why not St. Patrick’s Day? Or Easter? The madness associated with Halloween is fun and outrageous (and now exported to every part of the globe), but on no such scale as the industrious and brobdignagian Christmas.

Even allowing the synthesis of a long-running Christian dominance over Western society (and later the world) with strong pagan roots, I’m amazed at the incredible surge of ‘meaning’ that appears to have historically manifested in the last couple centuries. Almost as if Christmas is quickening towards some kind of ‘holiday singularity’. The corporatization aside, even the larger celebrated secular Christmas tradition looms large over society, literally enveloping a quarter of the year. Fair-weather Christians attend church on this day, and people who profess no kinship to friends and families may buy gifts or cards out of misplaced obligation. Children and indeed adults pretend to be ‘extra special good’ in the weeks leading up to Santa and also Christ’s arrival. Acts of madness ensue in mall parking lots. A mini-apocalypse, since Christians known not the time of his return, but do know his birthday.

Every musical artist ‘worth their salt’ has to release multiple Christmas tracks, sometimes part of a compilation with others, often an entire album or two of their own. The majority are covers of what are now considered ‘holiday standards,’ enough to fill entire radio stations for months. Others compose their own holiday ballads, in the hopes of making it their own repulsive standard, and in fact may later be covered themselves.

If you stop to consider, there is an entire genre of music that is only popularly played during one time of the year, and you probably know most of the lyrics.

And when I think of the number of Christmas songs performed by Frank Sinatra, I can also mull over the many years of Christmas experiences the Chairman may have himself had, filled with joy, sorrow, loss, togetherness, loneliness, prosperity, charity, or bitterness. His experiences, both good and bad, are like all of ours, and more or less contribute to the shared cultural phenomenon doomed to repeat each and every year.

For you see, you can’t really remove yourself from the season at all. It is in you.

Christmas for many is religious, or nonsecular, or secular, or commercial, or a state of deep depression. I don’t mind the fetishism of the day and its symbols and themes, even if it has been fully taken over by mass consumerism and capitalist scheming. I don’t even necessarily mind that it is overtaking Thanksgiving and Halloween, though many do, and those days should certainly be observed for their own intrinsic kickass nature. Christmas itself, for a period of each year at least, becomes a religion unto itself. We worship with our pocketbooks. By our consumption of holiday treats and the same old movie classics.

There are those who, regardless of their spiritual nature, idolize and glorify Christmas, despite the number of atrocities that occur during the month. There are those that get depressed, as suicide rates rise (myth) and crimes increase. More break-ups occur in November through January, attesting perhaps to our inner cheapness. So why give in to it at all? Why bother being so upset and lonely, simply because society is emphasizing the special romantic togetherness that others have? Just boycott and ignore it.

‘The true meaning of Christmas‘, itself an overused trope, has been alternately defined by everyone from Tiny Tim and Linus to Ernest and John Lennon. And the downright freaky.

In posing this question to others, I received several theories. The evolution of Christmas, from romantic prose and Germanic saintly gift-giving, the search for a proper holiday mascot, and the formulaic standardization of Santa Claus by Coca-Cola and Norman Rockwell, has been one long growing culture of capitalizing on such heavy heartstrings. Others have suggested that we are more susceptible due to our winter blues, cabin fever, the wistful changing of the seasons and yes, the end of our very calendar system. The need to share warm food and family unity, much like Thanksgiving, harkening back to our harsh harvesting days. Another pointed out that the advertising and sales push is driven by the year-end audit, the taxable stock, and need for final quarterly revenues in the black.

Capitalism has certainly latched onto this endless cycle of tropes and dogma, ignoring that Santa himself doesn’t make or spend money, we all remember that the very first Christmas gifts were very expensive indeed; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Even the message of Rudolph is clear: your peers will have no respect or value for you unless your uniqueness provides some basic utility to the employer. This year, Best Buy actually looks to actually out-do Santa Claus.

Which begs another question, of not just why Christmas, or why not some other holiday, or why anything at all, but why not all year-round? The parallel dimension of all-year Christmas may look frantic, insane with shoppers and muggers, and surprise military attacks and shady legislation, wars still fought and the rich getting richer, but would also be a world with consistently impressive tips, donations, charity, the ostracizing of Scroogely misers, kindness to children, brotherhood and understanding to people around the world, and that most lovable absurdity of all; gift-giving.

And what of the universe with no Christmas at all? Would they miss it? Would some other institution inevitable take its place around some other holiday, or destined to be near the cold, wintry end of the year regardless? So necessary and ingrained in us that no Twilight Zone trickery could remove it?

Christmas permeates every thing, there is no escape, easily 1/12th to 1/4 of our lives is Christmas. And if one wished to, one could use decorations and sites of the internet (because why bother taking any of them down?) to celebrate all year.

I guess it doesn’t matter. You can celebrate in whatever way you want, even if that means deliberate boycott, solitary solemn worship, family reunion, or all-out spending spree. You can have no regard at all for the day but still relish the excuse to give gifts. It means many different things to many different people, and that even includes complete apathy.

As with everything, I advise not wasting any of your vitriol on the holiday season. Christmas hatred is perhaps the worst absurdity of all.

Calvin presents 'Pascal's Christmas Wager'

“I will stop taking Christ out of Christmas is you stop taking Thor out of Thursday.”