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Apocalypse Later

 

Harold Camping sounded the alarm. May 21, 2011 was to be Judgment Day, God’s intervention into our worldly affairs. The Bible guaranteed it! For most Americans, these are the Last Days. Fully 79% of Americans believe Jesus will return to earth someday. Forty percent believe Jesus will return before 2050! Apocalypse Later traces the roots of end times proclamations back to the Book of Daniel, on to the historical Jesus, and lastly Paul, the greatest of the Apostles. The same excitement that Harold tapped into for his May 21st prediction is the same excitement that helped birth a world religion 2000 years ago.

 


“There is no possibility that it will not happen!” Christian radio evangelist Harold Camping sounded the alarm. May 21, 2011 was to be Judgment Day, God’s intervention into our worldly affairs. The billboards declared, “The Bible guarantees it!” From where does this Apocalyptic excitement originate? Apocalypse Later traces the roots of end times predictions from the Book of Daniel to the historical Jesus and lastly to Paul, the greatest of the Apostles. The same excitement that Harold tapped into for his May 21st prediction is the same excitement that helped birth a world religion 2000 years ago. For two weeks leading up to May 21st, filmmaker Zeke Piestrup was granted full access as the only journalist to speak daily with Harold Camping. The up close portrait is juxtaposed with commentary from three giants of biblical scholarship: Bart Ehrman, John Collins, and Loren Stuckenbruck. From Mark 9:1 to May 21, the end is coming right now! Or, perhaps a little later. Synopsis: Harold Camping sounded the alarm. May 21, 2011 was to be Judgment Day, God’s intervention into our worldly affairs. The Bible guaranteed it! For most Americans, these are the Last Days. Fully 79% of Americans believe Jesus will return to earth someday. Forty percent believe Jesus will return before 2050! Apocalypse Later traces the roots of end times proclamations back to the Book of Daniel, on to the historical Jesus, and lastly Paul, the greatest of the Apostles. The same excitement that Harold tapped into for his May 21st prediction is the same excitement that helped birth a world religion 2000 years ago. 

Notable Cast: Harold Camping, John J. Collins, Bart D. Ehrman, Peter Lillback

Producer: Carl King & Zeke Piestrup

Director: Zeke Piestrup

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Even David Lynch Is Confused?

With all of the smarmy mind-games and riddles and crossword puzzles that people spend their time and energy on every day, why not fix real problems?

We pay almost $100 Million a year so The Lakers can stick a basketball into a net, and watch it fall out the other side.

Solve a Rubik’s Cube. What’s the outcome? Nothing. Absolutely pointless.

If you have the time and discipline to reach Level 80 in World of Warcraft, you should be able to plug a hole in the bottom of the ocean.

The mental tasks required to graduate from high school should prepare you for solving any problem in the world. How much more difficult can it be than learning Algebra?

So let’s get to work.

Here are Six Things That Need Fixing:

  • The official story of September 11 still makes no sense. Coming up on 9 years, guys. Even David Lynch is confused. Let’s shut down Facebook, Google, Apple, YouTube, and TED — and dedicate those innovative freethinkers to answering some questions.
  • Ban personal automobiles from major cities. Switch to buses, trains, and bicycles. Replace Hummer Limos with rickshaws, pulled by joggers. See how easy it is to get to Santa Monica, now?
  • Shut down every fast food franchise in the country. Obesity kills millions of people a year.
  • “Let the products sell themselves. Fuck advertising, commercial psychology. Psychological methods to sell should be destroyed.” -D. Boon.
  • Deport all Republicans to Iraq, if they’re so obsessed with being there.
  • Get the Disclosure Project Witnesses in front of The President and Congress.

My dad used to joke, “I buy you books and send you to school, and you’re still stupid.”

He was right. What good is Mensa?


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Whose Hands Are Those, When An Actor Shreds On Guitar?

You know those scenes in movies where they cut to the actor’s hands and he can suddenly shred? More often than not, those are this guy’s hands — and now you can learn directly from the man behind the magic.

Will Maier from The Whatevs is the special guest host / instructor today on this free video excerpt from ShredTips.edu — the world’s first online guitar instructional website for Hand Actors. He appears in his first ever wide-shot and demonstrates a few “conceptual” licks that are unlike anything C.C. DeVille could play (watch out for that killer vibrato intonation) — showing the student how to find his own voice on the guitar and make it his own. You’d think it can’t get any better than that “exotic” scale… but from there, Will launches straight into teaching you How To Play A Song For 30 Seconds.

It was announced last week that Michael Bay flew Will in as a consultant for his upcoming remake of Crossroads, in which Megan Fox teams up with herself to play a pair of renegade, lesbian, train-robbing demolition experts… and in this video, you’ll see why.

Play along, if you can!

Will also played the role of Zac Efron’s hands in the upcoming feature called The Sailor’s Predicament, written and directed by Dan Oster. This talented young artist can be contacted through William Morris.


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Why Can’t I Be Creative Like Alan Moore?

Maybe you don’t embrace his theory of anarchy.
Maybe you don’t have long hair and a big bushy beard.
Maybe you don’t worship a Roman snake deity named Glycon.

I believe half of the equation of enjoying art is getting to look at the world through someone else’s camera. As strange as it might be, maybe they see things you don’t.

What makes Alan Moore special isn’t necessarily his technique. Anyone can read how-to books and take classes. Anyone can buy tools. Anyone can practice. Right?

“You just try and make everything you do a little bit smarter, a little bit more sophisticated than the thing you did before… Eventually people will notice. Eventually you’ll start to move beyond what everybody else is doing… Without having to compromise anything, without having to sell out your vision. And it’s important that you don’t do that, because that’s the only thing you’ve really got, that separates you from anybody else. There’s probably lots of people who can sing, or do music, or write, or draw the way that you can. The only thing that makes you unique is that you’re you. You’ve had your experience, you’ve had your life. You’ve got your sort of knowledge. So put all of that into what you do. Make it individual, make it unique. Make it your selling point. I don’t think you’ll go far wrong.”

It took him 11 years of running the creative factory full-time before he created V For Vendetta. Until then, what remained constant? Moore’s commitment to his own identity. Even through his commercial work and gigs to pay the rent, he didn’t neglect his own lens. (Maybe he didn’t fully apply it to every project, and maybe he did — but that was his own choice.) Ultimately, he wasn’t afraid to be himself.

You ask: “Why can’t I be creative like Alan Moore?”

Because you’re not being honest like Alan Moore.


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Why Vai?

[Rare Photo from 1984 by Marco Llanos.]

Steve Vai turns 50 today.

For those of you who don’t understand my obsession, here’s Why Vai.

Innovations

In the early 80s, Frank Zappa recorded an album called The Man From Utopia. He asked his transcriptionist and stunt guitarist, Steve Vai, to transcribe one of his live improvised vocal tracks and double it on guitar — perfectly copying every syllable, word, and inflection. The result was a song called The Jazz Discharge Party Hats. Maybe it wasn’t Vai’s idea, but I doubt Zappa would have assigned the task to anyone else if he didn’t have His Little Italian Virtuoso around. Listen to it.

All of that nuance that Steve attuned himself to while working as a transcriptionist for Frank went into his music. The dynamics, the little flourishes, even the bizarre burps and squeaks — every musical phrase is decorated and emphasized in its own unique way. Personalized in excruciating detail. Frank Put Steve Through Hell On A Daily Basis. And it shows.

A few years later, Steve used that same wacky vocal-guitar-doubling technique on his own album, Flexable. This time around, he used a recording of his friend ranting about how happy she always is (could this be a mockery of Los Angeles, where he was living at the time?). It was called So Happy. Why would someone want to do that again, but at a faster tempo? It’s crazy.

Speaking of Flexable — he recorded the entire thing himself in his garage and it made him millions of dollars. Can you argue with that?

Then, In the late 80s, he went on to be the co-designer of the Ibanez JEM series of guitars, and in the early 90s, the Ibanez Universe, which was the first modern, commercial seven-string electric guitar. This started the trend of metal bands tuning or stringing their guitars lower. Along with Mike Patton, you can blame Steve for Nu Metal.

Around that time, he did a lot of work in developing patches for the Eventide H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer, which played a central role in the creation of his concept album, Passion & Warfare — more of a paranormal soundscape than an encyclopedia of licks. How many different sounds can come out of a guitar? Listen to that record and find out.

Recently, he was quick to adopt a crazy (but apparently very practical) way of fretting guitars called True Temperament. He’s having all of his guitars redone with those squiggly frets. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing them everywhere in a few years.

What It All Meant To Me

Passion and Warfare had deep personal meaning to me. As an alienated and severely-tortured high school kid, I clung to that record as my only friend. I was rejected by everyone, bullied constantly, my family exploded, my world was falling apart around me, but somehow Steve Vai understood and gave me a way out. I believed that if I sacrificed everything else, I could be like him. So that’s what I did. I failed every class in school, ignored every responsibility, and practiced guitar every possible moment of my day. I even went to bed silently practicing, after the lights were turned off. My mom was smart enough to sign me up for two guitar lessons a week, because I probably would have committed suicide if I didn’t have something to be good at.

Playing guitar was only a “gateway drug” for me, and I eventually realized I wanted to combine audio, video, design, and writing into one creative medium. My point is, music is only one way to be creative. Even if I was originally inspired by a guitarist, it was his artistic concepts that always hooked me. It’s easy to get trapped in your instrument and not realize it is only a tool to make sounds, and a concept album like Passion and Warfare is a perfect example. It’s not just scales and chords — it’s a fantastical microcosm inhabited by supernatural beings. (What, you don’t hear them?)

His Music And Playing

From an analytical standpoint, Vai’s own music and playing are unusual for a rock guitarist. Here are seven examples:

  • He often slides down to a note instead of up. Eh?
  • His vibrato is circular, combining both horizontal and vertical into one smooth technique.
  • He emphasizes dissonant notes in his solos, such as resolving to a b5 at the end of a phrase – or even moving drastically out-of-key, giving it a cock-eyed sound.
  • In the style of late-1800s composers like Stravinsky and Prokofiev, Vai will move in non-diatonic sequences or stacks of intervals, and harmonizes them in parallel, with unexpected layers of instruments. It’s strange architecture, pointing off at unexpected angles, like a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
  • He’s an expert showman, and has his own vocabulary of bizarre hand signals and dance moves to communicate his ideas. What’s wrong with that? Why is music the only way to tell a story?
  • He uses the whammy bar as a melodic tool, not just as a thing to yank on when he’s nervous and running out of ideas during a solo. For example: on the song Frank, the entire guitar solo is played using only harmonics and whammy bar.
  • His early albums are full of symbolism, numerology, and subliminal messages. His melodies often have secret words to them, and you can sometimes catch him mouthing them when playing. If you listen closely, you can find a lot of things buried in his mixes — or if you listen to them while asleep, which I did every night.

Other people have done those same things, but Vai really made them his own.

In His Own Words

I’d like to end this tribute post with some excerpts from an email Steve sent me just over 3 years ago, shortly after I auditioned to play bass in his band. He has always been very supportive of my creative career… and coming from that guy in the David Lee Roth video who first inspired me to take music seriously, that was the highest honor.

On Courage
“It takes a lot of courage sometimes to stretch outside of the box. Sometimes we have to put aside public and even fan approval and search ourselves for our own honesty when it comes time to enter the creative mode. I struggle with this too. All those little voices that tell us it’s not good enough, it’s going to be criticized, no body understands it, etc. You’re not alone. We need to make choices on many levels when it comes time to create. I wish you could have had an opportunity to work with Zappa. He was a master of focus and confidence. It did matter to him what people thought but he still did what his inner convictions dictated. If anything, this was what I saw most in Franks brilliance. He just did it the way he envisioned it with no excuses. That’s real courage.”

On Being Misunderstood
“There will always be brilliant music and art that will never be experienced or appreciated by someone other than the person who created it. I believe that the cathartic process of creating the work is the point more than having the rest of the world get to hear it and adore it. I believe that when we are dead it won’t matter to us so why worry now. If we can be satisfied with just going through the process of making it with our best foot forward then we have won the game. The ironic thing is that if we can approach our work with a relatively detached attitude of the desire for it to be appreciated in perpetuity, then every bit of appreciation we get is a bonus. Trust me, I’m not an authority on these things and I hope to not be coming off preachy but these are just the things that make sense to me, even though I look at my shelves that are covered with literally thousands of hours of music that I know will never be heard. That music is my treasure and perhaps is not meant for the world.”

About My Audition For His Band
“I appreciate that you came down to auditions but was a bit surprised. Listening to your music it’s obvious to me that you have a special vision and need to march to the beat of your own drummer, both figuratively and literally. You have a unique musical vision and I would encourage you to explore that and not be confined in a band like mine where my musical vision would stifle you. I only say this to perhaps inspire you because there are people who want Sir Millard Mulch at his most creative. It would be difficult for you to follow your musical aspirations if you were confined to playing under someone else’s direction. Plus, I am a fierce band leader when it comes to my music and I settle for nothing less than what I want and it will never be ay different. Musicians that are in my band understand this and this allows them to contribute enjoyably. Part of that vision is to allow them, at times, to rise to the occasion for their own potential as creative people, but not all the time and they get that. They are cut out for it. For the most part my goal is to create a catalog of music that is undiluted by outside influences. It’s a struggle but it’s just the way it is. I understand your feelings. Please don’t worry. You are very creative at the things you do and being fiercely creative comes with a price and part of that price is the frustration we experience when we feel that what we are doing is important and vital and is not being appreciated. You’re in good company. I say this with respect for your work and hope to encourage you to continue to search yourself for the music within you that you know you are capable of creating. Just go for it my friend!”

Thanks, Mr. Vai.


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Do Not Open!

I’m not an Earthling. I’m more interested in those personal experiences that tell me there is something else beyond business, mathematics, and survival. You can call it God or Ghosts or Aliens, but I believe that as soon as you assign a word to it, it vanishes. I’d rather keep the door open. Why not leave it undefined? It’s not ready to tell me what it is. Maybe I’m never supposed to know.

Art is one way for me to connect with The Beyond. When I listen to the song Ki by Devin Townsend, I don’t hear it in the language of music theory. I don’t know what the chords and scales are. There’s no verse, no chorus, no bridge. It takes me back to my initial sense of wonder about music… like I’m being lifted into another dimension, full of mystical beings shouting majestic gibberish at me.

It’s why every attempt to end the most interesting sci-fi TV shows has been a personal disaster for me. Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peaks, Lost. All ruined. Why? Because Earthlings think the mysteries need to be explained.

I’d rather know that The Cylons, The Man From Another Place, and The Dharma Initiative are still out there, doing their strange work.


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Urban Legends About Guitar Tuning

[Photo by Me.]

You know how to tune your guitar. Right?

Well, maybe you should watch this 8-lesson video tutorial that I co-wrote and produced for the guys at GuitarTricks.

It’s called Urban Legends About Guitar Tuning.

One frustrating day, fifteen years ago, I was hunched over my guitar, wondering why I couldn’t get it perfectly in tune. I took it to the shop and asked them what was wrong. They couldn’t figure it out, either. I grabbed one guitar after another from the wall, and suddenly none of them could be tuned! Was it a curse that was following me? The guy at the shop actually accused me of messing up all of his guitars!

It turns out I was just doing it all wrong. And I’m surprised to still see professional guitarists making these same simple mistakes every day. Watching this tutorial taught by Anders Mouridsen (that’s him in the photo up there) is definitely worth more than that el-cheapo subscription price.


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Should Bad Music Have A Speed Limit?

There’s nothing wrong with being an athlete, but there’s only so much the human body can do.

It’s bizarre. I don’t know why guitarists are obsessed with going faster and faster. What is it about the guitar that attracts this behavior? It doesn’t happen with other art forms, like writing or painting or sculpture. It certainly doesn’t improve the quality of the musical statement, any more than typing fast will improve the quality of a sentence.

Imagine if actors weren’t concerned with portraying characters, only with talking really fast. It would certainly be a novelty, but how long could you watch that? Wouldn’t it be missing the point, which is telling a great story?

At some point, all fastness conceptually blurs together into a solid stroke. Any attempt to go faster is still just plain-old, generic fast. You will be making the same artistic statement whether you can play 50 notes per second or 100. Once you’ve reached that level, you’re stuck at fast forever. Only about a dozen people can tell the difference between fast, faster, and fastest, so why bother?

Tempo has a limit.

On the other hand, making an artistic statement has no limit.

Hmm. Which one is the better investment of energy?

If guitarists want to be fast at something, they should pick one of the following worthy causes:

  • Identifying musical context.
  • Discovering the concept of musical roles.
  • Figuring out how to stop playing guitar on guitar and learn how to play music on guitar.


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The One-Buttock Musician

Benjamin Zander has some fresh things to say about how to make good music.

In this video, he tells us all about:

  • Musical Gestures
  • Drama Through Dissonance & Consonance
  • Reduction of Impulses
  • No One Is Tone-Deaf, and most importantly:
  • One-Buttock Playing

This is the level of artistic abstraction that all creative people should be functioning on. Notice that it’s not about finger exercises, fancy equipment, or social media marketing. It’s about using your chosen art form to tell a great story.


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