29 May 2008

Artists of Grimness: Peter Beste

If there's such a thing as the George Hurrell of Black Metal, American photographer and Houston native Peter Beste is probably it. Beste recently released a book (appropriately entitled True Norwegian Black Metal), which showcases his portraits of prominent figures in the Black Metal milieu, including Abbath of Immortal, Gaahl of Gorgoroth, Frost of Satyricon and 1349 (pictured above), and the members of Mayhem. Aside from being technically impressive--Beste, like Hurrell, is a photographer who knows how to work with lighting--the photography featured also highlights excellently the atmosphere of Black Metal, and the music's connection to the geography of Norway.

Samples from the book are available for viewing at Peter Beste's website. Though not related to Black Metal, Beste's other work is also quite good. His portrait photography captures the pathos of his subjects, at times quite poignantly. I particularly liked his Rural America series.

28 May 2008

Everything New Is Old Again

Perhaps in reaction to the uncertainty of the future, I have spent the last few days wallowing in fond memories of the past. I've been playing a number of old Super Nintendo games that I haven't touched in years, and I've delved into my music collection to break out some Nine Inch Nails. NIN was one half of the musical yin-yang that made up my freshman year of college, the other being Pink Floyd. Those heady days of 2004 and 2005 are now in the distant past, and hardly a day goes by when I don't reminisce about the spring of my life.

When I was a freshman, I was every bit the young, liberal idealist one might expect to find on any university campus. At the same time, my social anxieties led me to feel more than a little isolated from my peers. Because its themes of isolation and distance resonated with me so profoundly, I found myself listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall on an almost nightly basis. At the same time, the dark and brooding atmosphere of Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile and The Downward Spiral also spoke to me.

Although the music I listened to at the time was melancholic--I wouldn't become familiar with the truly dark genres of Black and Death Metal until the spring of 2006--my day to day life was almost the opposite. I truly did love academics, and there were many times when I would leave class with a feeling of profound epiphany. Try as I might, I have never been able to recover that feeling of wonder.

These days, the music I listen to is quite dichotomous. There's the exuberance and epic heroism of Power Metal on the one end of the spectrum, and the despair and bitterness of Black Metal on the other. Various sweetly melancholic Folk and Ambient music lies in the more central regions of the spectrum.

I had the good fortune today of stumbling across the following video. It is footage from the 1982 film version of The Wall, set to the music of Nine Inch Nails. Had I found this when I was a freshman, I would have thought it to be the greatest thing ever. Even today I rather like it. Enjoy!


The universe seems content to place an unending series of obstacles in my path. I've been a college graduate for about a week and a half, but I still have no job to speak of. I have enough money saved up that I can live more or less comfortably for a month or two, but I'd rather have a job than have to live off of savings. I'm going to have to stay where I am for the time being, but so it goes. I really shouldn't complain too much; it could always be worse.

In the meantime, my job search continues. I'm not really any closer to knowing what I want to do with my life than I was four years ago, but I have to suppose that it will come to me eventually.

18 May 2008

Proof that I am not an Artist

There's a reason I didn't pursue a degree in Art. Hell, I didn't even go to New York. Dorothy did go to New York, but probably never did study art. My creation might work as a wallpaper, if your monitor is set to a huge resolution (and you are a horrible nerd, like me).

14 May 2008

Tagged (and Bagged)

It's meme time, courtesy of Gatochy.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing…
5. Tag five people. Not gonna do that, because I'm such a rebel.

From the glossary of Janet Lembke and C. John Herrington's edition of Aeschylus' Persians:
Taking Atossa as his chief wife, he [i.e. Darius] was by her the father of Xerxes. His reign marked the climax of the Persian Empire; he organized the administration of the territories won under Cyrus and Cambyses, and added greatly to them. All the historical sources indicated that he was a wise and, on the whole, magnanimous ruler, although his reign was less than serene, and less unbrokenly successful in war, than the Persians would have us believe (cf. 1398-1469, note).
Perhaps a bit dry and scholarly, but it was either this or page 123 of Herbert Weir Smyth's Greek Grammar. There aren't any actual sentences on that page; only a list of contracted verbs. And I guarantee you you don't want to read that.

11 May 2008

Album of the Week: Edguy - Mandrake (2001)

Edguy is a band whose work has previously been featured here, but I've been listening to and enjoying the band so much as of late that I think it merits another mention. 1999's Theater of Salvation was a great album beginning to end, but it has been criticized (and perhaps fairly) for lacking variety. A year after releasing Theater of Salvation, Edguy re-recorded their third demo, entitled The Savage Poetry. Edguy returned in 2001 to release their next studio LP, which was entitled Mandrake. This album is widely considered Edguy's finest work, and rightly so.

With Mandrake, Edguy corrected in a grand fashion the few flaws present in Theater of Salvation. Mandrake is a more varied and more complete album than its predecessor. The moments of blistering, thrashy speed that were ubiquitous on Theater of Salvation are here interspersed with mid-tempo and slow tracks. The variety of songs present on Mandrake means that anything one might want in a Power Metal album can be found. From the blistering speed of "Golden Dawn" and "Fallen Angels" to the straightforward mid-tempo rock of "All the Clowns" to the obligatory power ballad ("Wash Away the Poison") to the epic scale of "The Pharaoh", Mandrake is the complete Power Metal package.

There is never a dull or mediocre moment on Mandrake. It is an essential album for any Power Metal fan. The only real drawback is that "The Devil and the Savant", one of the best songs on the album, is only available on the limited edition or the Japanese edition. If you can find either, it's well worth shelling out the few extra bucks.

10 May 2008

Out Of The (Animated) Past

I recently had an epiphany of sorts. I have been wondering as of late why I am so fascinated with Art Deco. Though I am three quarters of a century removed from the heyday of the Jazz Age, it has nevertheless always felt very familiar to me. I was watching a few cartoons on YouTube which I remember watching in the bygone days of my childhood. After a quick bit of research, I realized that a good number of these dated from the mid-to-late-1930s.

Like most American children--and a good many European children, I imagine--I grew up with the Warner Bros. pantheon of cartoon characters. Most of these, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, came into existence in the late 1930s, but did not take on their iconic forms until the 1940s and 1950s. As much as I liked the cartoons featuring those famous figures, it was always the older ones from which they were absent that captured my imagination. They always seemed so ancient--watching these cartoons was like looking into another world. And in many ways, it was. The Jazz Age was swept out of the popular subconscious by World War II, and was further buried by the newfound prosperity and technological progressiveness of the Atomic Age.

The Second World War was such a momentous event in the American mythos that we have become accustomed to thinking of the entire spectrum of Western history as part of two eras--before and after Pearl Harbor. In my younger years, I thought that way myself. Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment and the Jazz Age all fell into that largely homogenized morass of the before; American popular culture had become (and continues to be) so far removed from anything before December 7, 1941 that Cicero and Horace might as well be contemporaries of Abraham Lincoln and Douglas Fairbanks.

That is why I, as a young American, found those old cartoons so fascinating. It was a way of looking into that forgotten world, a way more real in my child's eyes than any history book I could have read.

05 May 2008

Absentia Belli

You have probably noticed my somewhat protracted absence. Sadly, pressing real world concerns--such as finding a job and a place to live following my impending graduation from the University of Puget Sound--have occupied what little free time my end-of-semester workload currently affords me. The search for employment and housing has not been particularly fruitful, but something is bound to come up--here is one of the few situations in my life wherein I have been optimistic, if only because the grim reality is that I really can't afford not to be.

For someone like me, who has never been particularly good at networking, the process of writing cover letters and contacting potential employers is daunting, and in many ways downright intimidating. For many years now I've worried interminably about the way in which those around me perceive me. As the old adage goes, it is wise to make a good first impression, since you only have one chance to make one. The biggest cause of my apprehension and hesitance in my job search has been my worry about making a good impression and presenting myself in the best way possible.

I have also been struggling against my entrenched psychology. I am nothing if not a creature of habit; like paranoid schizophrenics, I like my routine. In this situation where there is no routine, I find myself rather stressed, perhaps more than I ought to be. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't always react to stress in a healthy manner. Owing to my disproportionate social anxiety, it's been hard for me to even begin writing the necessary letters, as I know that they will pass before the scrutinizing eyes of potential employers. To put it another way, I am mortified of being judged--especially without the comfortable anonymity which the internet affords me!--and I now find myself in a position where I am subject to the judgment of persons who have no knowledge of beyond my resume, which is not particularly impressive (not that anyone's resume is superb right out of college, save the ubiquitous overachievers, but I have never found much solace in the knowledge that my experiences are shared).

In any event, the search continues. I still believe that things will work out in the end, but getting to that end will be an uphill battle. I humbly beg--euchomai, o andres kai gunaikes Athenaoi!--that you will forgive my absence. I assure you that it is not permanent!