Monday, November 9, 2009

The Pity Party is OVER

Living in the moment is one of the most difficult things you can do. Most people are constantly either dwelling on the past or so fixated on the future that they can't enjoy what is right in front of them. I am no exception to this, but I am working very very hard to re- program my thinking.

Coming from the communities that I have been involved with, there has never been any shortage of talk regarding the dismantling of the status quo. Whether it's Christians, politicians, the rich, the corporations or just the idea of authority in general being evil, most of my peers and myself over the years have denounced normalcy and all of its adherents with a fire- borne passion.

The problem was, we were all a little too naive and gung ho about "change" to come up with a pragmatic game plan for building our perfect alternative society. Instead we opted to sit around and whine about how much everything sucked. Sure we made a lot of great music and artwork dedicated to the inherent suckiness of modern American life, but let's face it, we were all pretty freakin unhappy and self defeating in the end.

I have spent many many man hours dwelling on my past and hoping for better days. I'd reflect on my past in times of despair, happiness and even boredom, pulling up mental movies of things that would either cheer me up or bring me down, only to realize that none of it had anything whatsoever to do with what my current task at hand was.

Being as eccentric as I am, I have to cast a very wide net to find people I can really relate to. I've had many many people tell me that I could really fit in if I wanted to and that I don't have to be an outsider, but it is part of my programming NOT to fit in. Plus, I'm only 5'4 and have always stuck out like a sore thumb anyway, so I might as well embrace my eccentricities and use them towards a positive goal. I have also seen our rapidly deteriorating modern world, and frankly, it does little to impress me, but the speculation that better times are/ were in the past or future is of little comfort to me anymore as well.

The thing that sucks is the bitter, cold loneliness that accompanies my odd and creative nature. It is during times of extreme loneliness and desperation that my mind presses the rewind and/ or fast forward buttons and wishes to recall times long ago when I was happy and felt powerful, or times that haven't happened yet where I hope I'll feel the same way.

It is in times of sadness that I find myself thinking of times gone by where I was treated badly by someone and end up getting even more depressed. It is in times of self consciousness and uncertainty that I resolve to think "Oh, this person is just like all those shitty people I've interacted with before" when I miss opportunities that are presented to me. It is in times of beating myself up and thinking of all the things I regret in life that I forget to really experience and enjoy life in the here and now.

We sometimes forget that very few problems are insurmountable. To be fair, one can never truly quantify suffering, but those who are able to live through shitty situations and come out on top are people who inspire me. I have had my fair share of suffering and personal setbacks in my life, but when I really think about it, it is nothing compared to what a lot of people have been through. The old adage of "Well at least you aren't crippled, burned or blind" has never comforted me, but it is true, I do have good things and good people in my life, and I am sometimes a little too self pitying to recognize that.

Shameless Plug

This is the blog of a feller named Nick Fitt. I met this irascible, arrogant prick back when he was like 15, and over the years he has cracked me up, pissed me off, infuriated, inspired and generally gotten a strong, blood pressure rising reaction out of me almost every time I've communicated with him, whether he was saying things I agreed with, or saying things that made me want to strangle him. Nick and I have been in touch off and on via the phone, the postal service and now here on the internet and I've had a love/ hate affair with him since day one. If there's one thing he's good at it's getting a reaction from me, be it positive or negative. The amount of adoration and loathing the rest of the peanut gallery regularly bestows upon him is evidence that I'm not the only one he can work his magick on.

The thing with Ole Nick (he's not even that old, he just kinda comes across that way in his bitter musings) is that he's really shaped up to be an excellent writer. Like one of the many "this guy should be getting paid for this" writers, so I implore you all to check out his musings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Down with "average"

One way to get on my bad side (actually there are several hundred ways to get on my bad side, but one that sticks out as being particularly distasteful) is to accuse me of being average. Whether you think that I'm thinking average thoughts, have lived an average life, or aspire to be simply average at anything is an insult to my perfectionist nature. I may very well do a lot of really "normal" things in my life, but trust me, hum drum, unexciting and bland are the antithesis of everything I strive to experience.

A 90's era British hardcore band called Cracked Cop Skulls released a record called Why Pussyfoot When You Can Kill? I found this to be a truly righteous declaration. Why pussyfoot when you can kill indeed... life is too short for mediocrity.

Ahhh, but the sad thing is, mediocrity really hits the spot for the majority of people in this country. In fact, this country's media machine declares war on anything exceptional or outstanding on a regular basis, either by demonizing it or ignoring it. Why do you think all the great hardcore punk bands from the 1980's I keep yapping about on this blog got almost NO media attention whatsoever? They were too extreme that's why.

In my humble opinion, "extreme" is often just another way of saying something is too good, too honest, or just too gosh darn genuine for most people to handle. Being exceptional at anything is a surefire way to alienate the majority of your peers. Do you want a lot of friends? Make sure you're not too successful, too good looking, too intelligent or too talented, otherwise you'll be the bane of their existence and despised by everyone.

Rewarding an average standard holds true even in communities which supposedly ascribe to an aesthetic of extremity. I don't know how many times I've been told by my punk rock, pagan, art or martial arts peers that I was taking their alternative or revolutionary ideas just a little too far. Many times, in their opinion I was pushing the envelope just a little too much. Even in communities where people are supposed to be challenging and ultimately destroying the status quo, in many instances they've merely replaced the mainstream status quo with their own, slightly different version of it.

Perfectionism, systematic execution and untempered determination are how I accomplish anything worthwhile in my life. A pox times 1000 to anyone naive enough to think that I am "just like all those people" because I could never be average and normal no matter how hard I try. This is not to say that I have no boundaries, no morals and no structure in my life; in fact I possess all of those aesthetics in large amounts. But they are the structures I have chosen... the structures I have built... the structures that work for ME.

I actually envy average people quite a bit, as their lot in life is much MUCH easier than mine, but average people will not move this civilization forward one iota. Today's freaks, revolutionaries, malcontents and general weirdos could very well be iconoclasts who become the heroes of tomorrow. Van Gough and HP Lovecraft died lonely and penniless but were canonized after their deaths. I find this quite sad and unfair, but at the very least- they attained immortality by their art and writing being appreciated by so many people long after they left this mortal coil.

Will I be one of these iconoclasts? I have no idea. I'm not sure I really want to be one, but it has become my goal to try and influence this world (or at least my little corner of it) in a positive way as much as I can. Is it arrogant for me to assume I ever could be one of these iconoclasts? I certainly hope so. Without being an arrogant, perfectionist jerk I'd have little other reason to set the bar so ridiculously high for myself. Does anything I do impress you? That's hardly the point. Impressing me is what is important. You couldn't ever be as harsh of a critic on me as I am on myself.

So to quote Henry Rollins- "You say you're my friend, but you're one of them". I extend this to anyone who tries to stand in my way... tries to bring me down... and most importantly- to anyone who'd ever have the gall of accusing me of being

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thor, God Of "Gotta Do This Again"

Whenever one mentions the old Norse/ Germanic pantheon, the god who immediately comes to mind is Thor. Thor is often thought to represent brute force, blind rage and raw machismo, but I've come to find out that his energy is actually far more complex than that. Thor served as both the protector of the common man and protector of the gods alike. Thor was the lynch pin of the Norse pantheon, and when his energy manifests itself to us here on Midgard we are always very grateful for it.

Armed with an unbreakable, yet very short handled magic hammer known as "Mjolnir", Thor was the bane of the Jotuns or "frost giants". The Jotuns represented the forces of chaos and destruction and were the arch nemeses of the gods. The Jotuns were constantly trying to make trouble for the gods, as they were very jealous of the beauty and order that the gods had in their home of Asgard. The Jotuns' meddlesome ways would finally culminate in the battle known as Ragnarok, which was instigated by a Jotun with godlike powers named Loki. Thor's role in Ragnarok was crucial, as he was the only god strong enough to kill Loki's son, a giant serpent known as Jormungund.

Thor can be thought of as the bouncer at the club or the vigilant policeman. Not the over testosteroned bouncer with an attitude problem or the crooked cop, but the bouncer who removes the drunk trouble maker quickly so the rest of the bar patrons can keep having a good time. He's not the cop who spends his time writing minor traffic tickets and harassing skateboarders, he's the cop who busts the real criminals instead. In essence, Thor is the tough guy with the really big heart.

Whenever you see people performing Thor- like deeds you are often relieved and left with a very positive impression. One of the finest Thor moments I can recall is when my friend Frank removed a very meddlesome young man from a punk rock gig back in 1992. This gig was held in a very small venue, and had a mixed bill and crowd who were all very hostile towards each other. The crowd consisted of equal parts skinheads and straight edge kids, with a smattering of punk rockers and skaters thrown in. Frank and I were firmly in the last category (skaters) and were two of the few people who were there because we actually just wanted to see the bands and have fun.

Frank and his girlfriend were avid t shirt printers and record distributors, so at most local gigs they had a veritable punk rock flea market set up in the back. Most kids really liked that, but at this particular gig they weren't selling much merchandise. Most of the kids were there to stage dive and mosh, so record and shirt sales were at a minimum. The place was really cramped too, so the record table was a little too close to the stage and dancefloor to be able to make any sales while the bands were playing and the kids were dancing. One person who quickly took advantage of this chaotic situation was a local mohicaned "drunk punk" named Wacky.

Wacky was an infamous local troublemaker who was known for starting fights, exposing himself to people, and generally being an intoxicated idiot any time he went out into public. Later on we would come to find out that he was actually a spoiled little rich boy from Bristol RI, but at the time we didn't really know anything about him. All we knew is that we hated him for being an obnoxious douchebag, and on this particular evening he seemed extra revved up to antagonize people. Add to that, he was palling around with all the skinheads, which made us a bit hesitant to confront him on his idiotic behavior.

For some reason, Wacky targeted Frank's record table and kept knocking his record boxes over. At first he tried to make it look like an accident that happened due to the moshers migrating a bit too far away from the band stage, but by the third time he did it it was obvious that he was doing it on purpose. Add to that the fact that he had a total smart assed grin on his face every time he knocked Frank's records over, and his newly found skinhead buddies kept cheering him on every time he did.

After Wacky's third attempt at annihilating Frank's merchandise, Frank turned to me and said "Dude, the next time he does that something's going to happen." Frank was seriously one of the most blase people I knew, so when he said this to me in a completely un- emotional, monotone way, it was hard for me to take him seriously. Add to that Frank was one of the last people I would ever expect to "do something" to Wacky or anyone else, as he was pretty much a pacifist. I kind of half expected Frank to not make good on his word, but when Wacky had his fourth "accident" at Frank's table, Frank uttered these words which I will forever associate as the epitome of Thor.

"Gotta do this again..."

Frank walked over to Wacky in a way that was completely nonchalant and unthreatening. I heard him say to Wacky "Dude, that wasn't cool" and then saw him put his hands on Wacky's shoulders. Before Wacky could even say anything, Frank's right foot teed off on Wacky's balls with enough force to send his testicles straight to Mars. Wacky immediately crumbled into a sobbing, teary eyed, red faced heap, and his skinhead buddies all ran over to him to pick him up and drag him out of the venue.

Fearing immediate chrome- domed retribution, I clicked open my knife and grabbed my pepper spray. When the skins came back in though, they were all handshakes and smiles for Frank, claiming that Wacky was annoying them as well, and that Wacky would most assuredly not be making an encore appearance at this gig. This was also the last time any of us ever saw Wacky, as he seemed to drop off the face of the earth (or at least drop out of the local punk rock scene). We later found out that he "grew out of" his punk rock phase and now owns a yaught. Go figure.

Another fine Thor moment happened one morning when I was getting off the highway to go to work. For some strange reason traffic was backed up quite a bit more than usual, and I noticed some commotion up ahead. This off ramp was a popular spot for a couple of panhandlers, but they were usually pretty harmless.

This morning though, there was a new panhandler whom I'd never seen before. He was a lot younger than the regular panhandlers and appeared to have a very surly disposition. He was also clearly wigged out on some kind of alcohol and or drugs, as his demeanor was quite erratic and threatening. I immediately sensed that there was some trouble about to happen, so I got my pepper spray and cell phone ready.

Since the off ramp traffic was stopped at a red light, the panhandler was approaching each car in the line and knocking on their passenger side window. When the driver wouldn't roll their window down and give Mr. Meth any money, he either spit at their car or start punching their window. I was about the tenth car back, and he was on car number three when I noticed most of the other commuters taking out their cellphones and dialing frantically. I was pretty much ready to blast him with my pepper spray once he got to my vehicle, when all of a sudden a police cruiser rolled up on the street that the off ramp emptied onto.

A cop jumped out of the cruiser at lightning speed, opened the cruiser's back door and started quickly walking over to the panhandler (who at this time had advanced another three or four cars closer to me). Without even missing a beat, the cop walked over, grabbed the panhandler by the back of the neck and started pushing him to the police cruiser. He ducked the pan handler's head, shoved him into the back of the cruiser, jumped back in the driver's seat and sped off. This took the cop all of about 40 seconds to do, and the entire ordeal on the off ramp only added an additional four or five minutes to my morning commute, tops.

Actions such as Frank's and the cop's completely illustrate the power of Thor. He's there when you need that extra bit of strength, energy or enthusiasm when you're faced with a challenge or conflict. Thor isn't just there to help you beat up drunk guys with spiky leather jackets or haul off unruly transients either. Are you trying to move a refrigerator up to the second floor? Yell "Hail Thor!" and see what happens. My guess is that you'll have that damn thing up the stairs in no time. Do you have a particularly stubborn tree stump you're trying to remove? Yell "Hail Thor!" and you'll get that sucker out with ease. Trying to reach the summit of the mountain? Trying to get that spaghetti sauce perfect? Trying to meet a seemingly impossible deadline? Can't find that box of precious family heirlooms in your overcrowded attic? Thor can assist you in all of these endeavors.

And luckily, Thor was with me just last week as I was traveling down highway 95. I'd missed my exit and had to backtrack a bit when two cars passed me on the highway. They were both going well over 80 mph and weaving in and out of traffic erratically. They were either drunk, racing each other or having some sort of road rage episode, but once they passed me my reptile brain immediately kicked in. Sensing impending doom, I started to pump my brakes, as it was a bit rainy out.

It's a good thing I was paying attention too, as a few hundred feet ahead of me one of the cars lost control. I saw this and moved over into the slow lane, but the car was literally spinning 360 degrees right in the middle of the highway and blocking all three lanes of traffic! Luckily there were no other vehicles up ahead, but I was fast approaching, as was an 18 wheeler right behind me. I thought to myself "If this person doesn't regain control and get their car and get out of the middle of the highway, I may hit them, and the 18 wheeler will definitely hit them, and annihilate me as well!"

Well, just as I was about 100 feet away from the car, the driver managed to get over to the side of the highway. The 18 wheeler and I passed them unscathed, but not without yours truly hysterically screaming "HAIIILLLL THORRRR!!!!" the entire time. The irony was that earlier in the evening I had actually hailed Thor at a heathen drinking ritual known as sumble. I had never hailed Thor at sumble before, but that night it seemed strangely appropriate for some reason. I'm really glad he listened.

Thor's energy is swift, efficient, hard working and righteous. Frank couldn't have said it better, as many times in the lore, Thor was the god who rolled up his sleeves and took care of business, again, and again and again. Many hardworking heathens of today are well known for being Thorsmen, as we are not much for mysticism. Sure, us heathens have magic and mythology just like every other religion, but heathens like to be doers rather than talkers. We're not afraid to use mundane solutions to solve problems, and that's what Thor is all about. Swift, simple solutions for what appear to be complex problems.

In fact, an Icelandic gentlemen I met recently actually said "Even though Iceland is a Christian country, whenever we get in trouble we hail Odin and Thor, because we know Jesus won't do anything for you when you need him." I found this highly amusing, but also indicative of Thor's popularity, even long after the indigenous heathen faith of Northern Europe has supposedly died.

While other religious types might pray for you to have a successful moving day, the heathen horde will show up to one of their folks' house at 6 am with an army of pickup trucks, hand trucks and boxes. It's funny that Frank is to this day an avowed atheist, as he once coined yet another phrase that I like to associate with Thor. This famous Frank witticism is "talkers talk and doers do" and I have added this to my repertoire as well. Nothing could be more true, as talk minus action equals nothing, and with Thor on your side, you can add yet another saying, this one being "It's getting done, and it's getting done NOW!" (That's a Badger original by the way...)

So to recap, we can sum up Thor in three statements:

"Gotta do this again!"
"Talkers talk and doers do", and
"It's getting done, and it's getting done NOW!"


Monday, October 19, 2009

Runes And Runemagick- Exploring the mysteries of the Elder Futhark

This is taken from a runes workshop I did at Rhode Island Pagan Pride Day recently. This isn't the original handout, and some of the graphics are missing. In place of the missing graphics though, is this great new rune casting plate I painted the other day!

There are many runes and runic systems out there, but the oldest and most popular is known as the Elder Futhark. The Elder Futhark is the oldest known European rune row, and is slated to have been used from the 2nd to 8th centuries, although the legend of the runes purports the usage of the runes from as early as 250 BC. Over 3000 runestones have been found in Scandinavia, with many more scattered in the countries which surround the Baltic Sea. There have even been runestones found in England, Ireland, Scotland and the Berezan Island in Russia. Several runestones have also been discovered in North America, but their authenticity remains questionable. Runic inscriptions were also added to pre- existing stone structures in Turkey and Greece by Viking traders and mercenaries.

The Legend Of The Runes

I trow I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.
None refreshed me ever with food or drink,
I peered right down in the deep;
crying aloud I lifted the Runes
then back I fell from thence.

Havamal, stanzas 137 and 138

In the Havamal, the legend of the runes states that Odin (the high god or “allfather” of the Germanic tribes) hanged himself on a tree for nine days and nights to receive the power of the runes. The runes manifested themselves to him in the form of nine staves which fell at his feet. This is the “bind” rune which encapsulates all 24 of the original Futhark runes.

The nine staves are what the entire Futhark looks like when all the runes are laid on top of each other. From these staves Odin was able to learn the wisdom of the runes. Legend states that these events happened in the year 250 BC, although most of the runestones found are dated between the 2nd and 8th centuries. The true birth of the runes is not known, but their popularity throughout Northern Europe in the early first century is a true testimony to the power and influence they had on the indigenous people of that region. Their appearance in places far away from the Baltic Sea is also a testimony to the hardiness and ambitiousness of the Viking raiders, explorers and traders.

Uses Of The Runes

Although commonly thought of as merely an alphabet or simple divining tool, the runes actually have many varied meanings and uses. As one can tell, many of them resemble the letters in the English alphabet, and they do in fact have phonetic values, but each rune can also be associated with a color, a sound, an object, an action, and much much more. They also relate to each other in a form of code which is hidden by the way they are ordered in the three rune rows, or “aetts”. Runes are often “read” in much the same way that tarot cards are read, but they can also be used for meditating upon and sending by means of galdr (Old Norse for “spell” or “incantation”). There are also runic yoga and runic martial arts systems, although these are likely to be more contemporary developments developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The word “Futhark” is actually an acronym for the first six runes in the first row (or aett) of the Futhark. The phonetic values of the first six runes (Fehu , Uruz , Thurisaz , Ansuz , Raido , and Kenaz are F, U, Th, A, R and K. The 24 Futhark runes are divided into three
different “aetts” (eighths) and the order which the runes fall in is very important, as is the significance of the number 24. Twenty four is twelve times two, and twelve is both a very important magickal and natural number. Using this easily divided number makes for rune casting which is very orderly and easy to learn.

How to read runes

Runes are commonly used in much the same way that tarot cards are used. One can do a rune reading by selecting either 3, 6 or 9 runes, with a 9 rune reading offering the most information. A standard three rune reading will illuminate basic questions about the past, present and future. When doing a nine rune reading, one can use the Yggdrasil or “world tree” spread as shown here:
When doing a three rune reading, the first rune represents the past, the second rune represents the present, and the third rune represents the future. If more information is desired, a full nine rune reading can be done, which will reveal the true nature and needs of the individual, as well as the obstacles and advantages which may be unseen to them. Like anything, practice is the key, and remember- all readings merely serve as a guide, as the future is never written in stone!

When runes are “sent” for a magickal purpose, they can often be sent in the form of bindrunes or rune rows. A rune row is often inscribed onto a stick (stave) and is a magickal working which has a personalized rune row which is necessary for a desired result. A bindrune is a rune row which has been combined into one shape. Bindrunes are often inscribed onto a charm, amulet or hex, and usually contain three or more runes. Depending upon how a bindrune is arranged, different viewers can pick out different runes, as the possibilities when inscribing them are limitless!

When one looks upon the 24 Old Norse runes, one cannot help but be moved by the intensity they emanate. The runes are the wellspring of all creativity, the gateway to ethereal knowledge and the imprint of the gods and ancestors. They are truly elegant in their simplicty. One could devote an entire lifetime to their study and still barely scratch the surface of their true meaning.

Reading List:
Futhark, A Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson
Teutonic Magick by Edred Thorsson
Runes Of Mind by Thor Shiel
Advanced Runecraft And Spellcraft by Thor Shiel
The Old Norse Wizard by Thor Shiel
The Poetic Edda by Henry James Bellows
Germania and the Agricola by Tacitus
Gods And Myths Of Northern Europe by HR Ellis Davidson
Lost Gods Of England by Brian Branston
The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley Holland
The Troth-
Thortrains Network/ Trollwise Press-

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fearless Iranians From Hell changed my life

Look at this album cover for a second. Just look at it. If you're over the age of 30, or even a younger person with an eye for history, you'll recognize this as the sinister profile of the now deceased Iranian Mullah known as Ayatollah Khomeini. No image in 1980's America could inspire more fear than his.

The Ayatollah (note the name "Ayatollah" is actually a title) was responsible for deposing the Shah and establishing Iran as the world's first (and so far only) Islamic fundamentalist state. Khomeini had been exiled to France when Iran was still under the rule of the ultra- corrupt US puppet Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (aka "The Shah Of Iran") and returned triumphantly in February of 1979 after the Shah fled to Egypt during the Iranian Revolution. Shortly thereafter in October of 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage in the American embassy in Iran's capitol city Tehran.

America had found a new bogeyman.

Just the mention of the name "Ayatollah" would inspire fear in the average American. I can recall my grandmother looking at his face on the cover of Time magazine and exclaiming "oh my god, he looks so EVIL!" Professional wrestlers would create Iranian personalities and become arch enemies of whatever patriotic good guys they squared off against. Car shows and rodeos often featured someone dressed up as the Ayatollah, who would be lassoed by rodeo riders or run out of the arena by monster trucks. Nightly newscasts would show clips of Iranian students chanting "Death to America!" on an almost weekly basis.

Although the hostage crisis had finally ended in 1981, by the mid 1980's Iran was rumored to have been involved with several anti US and anti Western terrorist acts and bombings, either directly or through the use of proxies. This included the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Lebanon, as well as the bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon later that same year. Iran was often the recipient of Ronald Reagan's ire in his presidential addresses, until he was caught red handed trying to secretly deal arms to them in 1986. From there on out, the American media decided to focus on Libya as our main cause of security concerns.

1984 would become a banner year for Western civilian airliner hijackings, as well yet another bombing of a US target in Beirut, this time being the American Embassy annex. A militant Lebanese Shiite militia group known as Hezbollah were purported to have been responsible for the lion's share of these anti- US aggressions, and they were sponsored by (you guessed it) Iran. The Ayatollah would remain America's number one bad guy until Colonel Muammar al- Gaddafi started to give him a run for his money in 1985. The gauntlet had been thrown down between Islamic fundamentalism and Western capitalist imperialism, which would eventually culminate in the September 11 attack in 2001.

So what was I doing during all of these terrorist attacks and hijackings? Well, by 1987 I was fully immersed in the extreme musical expression known as hardcore punk. Hardcore punk was exactly what it said it was, a more extreme version of punk rock. Although the hardcore scene didn't exactly espouse any love for the Ayatollah or Islamic fundamentalists in general, it definitely was not on the side of the status quo or mainstream thinking in any way, shape or form. This mind melt of "anti- conformity" (which was, in essence, just conforming to the rules laid down by far left radicals) started to have a significant effect on me the more I got into hardcore. By the time I was 14 I was attracted to just about any seemingly subversive piece of music I could get my hands on.

Thrash metal was also becoming big at this time, so naturally there was quite a crossover between hardcore and metal. In fact, bands that were influenced by both punk AND metal would become a
sub genre of their own known as "crossover." Since I still had long hair in 1987, I prided myself as one of those crossover metalheads who had a real love for extreme music, but was firmly grounded in the leftist politics espoused by most hardcore bands. Don't get me wrong, I loved metal, but the sex, drugs and Satanism angle they worked didn't really do anything for me. I was much more interested in hearing lyrics about politics, and the crossover scene delivered high speed, anti- Reagan anthems played by longhairs, skinheads and mohicans alike. It was definitely an exciting time to be a curious 14 year old from the suburbs.

So on a cold night in October of this magical year I was with a group of older friends doing our weekly record shopping. This night would find us at Strawberries Records and Tapes in downtown Worcester Massachusetts. This particular Strawberries was like five times the size of a normal one, and had quite a large "Progressive" section in the basement level. The Progressive section was where you would find anything and everything related to extreme heavy metal, goth, punk, industrial, or any and all otherwise underground records.

It was on this particular night that I saw Fearless Iranians From Hell's "Die For Allah" LP and immediately became intrigued. I knew nothing of this band, but judging by their record label (Boner Records) I figured they had to be good. After all, Boner Records had great bands like Verbal Abuse and Fang, so if FIFH were in a similar league with them, I figured they must be pretty decent. In all honesty, I have absolutely no desire to listen to Verbal Abuse or Fang ever again in my now advanced age, but you better believe that I'm still very much enthralled by the Fearless ones.

I took this record home and gave it a spin. The whole presentation from the minimalist artwork to the song titles, to the lack of band photos, to the over the top lyrics was truly ominous. What struck me as particularly odd about FIFH was their militant support for suicide bombings and radical Islam. Even though as I said before, the hardcore scene was quite leftist, many hardcore bands expressed a dislike for both Reagan AND the Ayatollah. The fact that FIFH openly supported him was something that I found strange, and actually a little frightening.

This band was clearly onto SOMETHING, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. I kept sitting there thinking "This
has to be a joke" during one song, only to start thinking "Ummm, maybe it's NOT a joke" the next. I mean, just check out the lyrics to the first song, which was the title track of the album (this is from memory, so die hard fans, kindly cut me some slack!)

Were coming to your town, gonna set you free
The deathmobile's loaded with artillery
Machineguns in front gonna shoot you down
Fearless is here, so don't fuck around

We've got guns and bombs, and we're on patrol
Our weapondry will take its toll
Beyond belief, beyond control
We're stoned as shit, and we're ready to roll

DIE.... DIE.... DIE..... DIE FOR ALLAH!!!

I thought to myself "woo, this is completely OVER THE TOP!" Not to mention that musically, they kicked serious ass. They were on par with DRI, Corrosion Of Conformity, Cryptic Slaughter, Attitude Adjustment, The Accused, or any other number of crossover heavyweights from the time, but actually had a depth to their music that most of these bands lacked. Rather than playing at a million miles an hour and having unintelligible screaming, FIFH infused a lot of subtle melody, tempo changes, and actually discernible vocals in their music. Don't get me wrong, it was still pissed off and raw as fuck, but it was... I dunno... a little more advanced than the previously mentioned metal/ punk bands were.

So yes, upon re- reading those lyrics I was thinking "how could I NOT know this was a joke?" but when I flipped the record over to side two, that's when things got really weird. Side two of Die For Allah's first song was a lengthy instrumental with spoken word in Farsi dubbed kind of low in the mix. Again, I was conflicted. If these guys were from San Antonio TX as their contact address implied, how could they have someone on their record speaking fluent Farsi and not really (at least) be Iranian ex- pats living in America? I started to think that maybe they weren't kidding after all.

Well, by their third record "Holy War" I knew they were a joke. The cover of this release featured a cartoon of the Ayatollah sitting on a flying carpet, getting stoned from a giant hookah pipe. It definitely lacked the starkness of their first LP, and the almost sinister amateurishness of their debut 7" EP (which contained the hit "Blow Up The Embassy", man that song is great!) It also had really really good production and the songwriting was starting to become a little too much of a heavy metal wank a thon for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, I still think Holy War is a great album, but it's not nearly the kick in the nads that their first two records are. I never bothered picking up their last release "Foolish Americans", as by then I'd kind of lost interest in them.

I recently found out that FIFH actually had a behind the scenes Iranian Svengali named Amir. Amir was actually their original vocalist, but quit the band before they ended up recording anything. Amir however, stayed on as a silent partner/ member who ended writing a lot of FIFH's songs, as well as contributing the Farsi spoken on the song I mentioned, as well as on another song on their last record. Amir was an Iranian ex- pat whose family had relocated to Texas after the fall of the Shah's regime in 1979. Since it was mostly those of the upper and middle classes in Iran who weren't too keen on living in a new religious dictatorship, they comprised the bulk of the Iranian diaspora to the United States and Canada in 1979. Given that Amir's family probably weren't huge fans of the Ayatollah's new fundamentalist theocracy, it should be fairly obvious that FIFH were indeed intended to be an ingenious parody.

But not everybody got the joke, including yours truly at first. When asked if their fellow Texans hated them in a recent interview, FIFH drummer "Omid" replies;

"How do you think they reacted? They HATED us!"

FIFH were apparently loathed by everyone from skinheads, leftists, police officers, right wing radio hosts, leftist boy bands, gangs and various religious organizations. This was apparently all part of the plan, as they pretty much set out to piss off the entire planet. Given the fact that most Americans suffer from a sub par public education and a severely underdeveloped sense of irony this is not surprising. What is surprising is that many members of the supposedly radical punk rock scene didn't get it either (myself included initially, hey I WAS only 14!), and that is due to the fact that FIFH represented a far more advanced take on political commentary than 99.9% of their 1980's punk/ metal cohorts did.

What was de rigeur for most American hardcore, punk and crossover bands in the 1980's was an avowed hatred of Ronald Reagan, with the exception of a handful of nationalist punk/ metal bands attempting to ape the "Oi" scene in England (and failing miserably at it). Almost every band complained about Reagan and endorsed skateboarding. If there was any humor to be found in their lyrics at all, it was usually in the form of a bad cover of the Munsters theme or writing a song about how cool it is to drink cheap beer until you puke.

The members and adherents of most 1980's punk and metal simply weren't educated, intellectual, or hell OLD enough to really be able to express much more than blind rage and disillusionment with the status quo. This is where FIFH were brilliant in their approach. Rather than being the atypical "hate your mom and skate against Reagan" band, they decided to endorse radical Islam, suicide bombings and the wholesale killing of Americans in a way that seemed just a little too serious to completely be a joke. They pushed almost everyones buttons,and that is why I like them so much. Not to mention (as I said before) even on a musical level they were a cut above the rest.

By the time Fearless broke up in 1990 the hype about Iran was starting to fade. The Ayatollah had died and was replaced by the not- as- scary Ayatollah Khamenei in 1989, and well... you just didn't hear much about Iran in the news anymore. That would all change in 2005 when ultra conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected to office.

When I first saw Ahmedinejad he was on CNN talking about how Tehran was hosting a conference to prove that the Holocaust never happened. While giving this address his backdrop was a giant photo of a poppy field. In lieu of the fact that Iran has a HUGE heroin problem, all I could think to myself was "Is this guy out of his mind?"

From there on out, Ahmedinejad has only gotten more and more outrageous. The problem is, I'm too jaded with the mainstream media to take anything I hear about Iran (or any other country for that matter) all that seriously. Many of my peers have eschewed similar sentiments to my grandmother's, saying that the pint sized despot just "looks really evil" but to me he looks like a sleazy used car salesman who desperately avoids neckties for no good reason. Even with all the "OMG, Iran is gonna nuke Israel and start world war three!" you hear on the news, 1, 2 or maybe 20 times a day, I honestly don't see them as a threat. If they bombed anyone they'd be turned into the world's biggest ashtray in a nanosecond, and the fact that Iran is not trusted or liked by anyone in the world speaks volumes as to how powerful they actually are.

The Iranian government is not exactly loved by its own people either, as evidenced by the disorder which ensued after their election this summer. Ahmedinejad was elected for a second term, but detractors cried "fraud" and took to the streets. Both Ahmedinejad and Khameni (who still remains the "supreme leader" of Iran, although you barely ever hear about him) claimed that the US and Israel were behind the protests. Say what you want about Iran, but the disorder this summer proves that their population hardly represents a united front against Zionism, Western imperialism, or anything else, regardless of what their leaders say.

With Iran back in the number one spot as America's bogeyman, Fearless Iranians From Hell's music is as relevant as ever. Omid was quoted as saying that with the Ayatollah they had "The number one punk rock PR man" and I feel that this statement is 100% accurate. In fact, you could look at Iran as being the most punk rock country on earth. They're hated and misunderstood by just about every other nation on the planet, sans North Korea. They refuse to hang out with the cool kids from the United States or to sit with the jocks in Russia. They won't hang out with the science geeks in China and they hate the rich kids in Saudi Arabia. Iran truly is that weird kid who nobody understands.

And as long as they have their mouthy Muslim midget president's colorfully threatening commentary, and the mainstream American media constantly showing his stupid, smirking face on the news, he's likely to remain our bogeyman for quite awhile. After all, he provides a very convenient distraction from the myriad of social and financial issues we're currently dealing with here in the US. If there's one thing that a great Texas hardcore band taught me, it's that the media LOVES to push our buttons and keep us in fear at all times. This is how they control us. Really here in the "free" United States, the information we receive is not a whole lot more truthful than the information the Iranians receive.

So I say- fuck being controlled by fear.

some Fearless Iranians From Hell interviews can be found here:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Dude, I'm workin' on it"

The "virtue" of being humble has been plaguing much of the Western world since the Christian blight robbed us of our indigenous religions some 2000 + years ago. For some reason it is usually frowned upon when one brags or boasts of their accomplishments. Although no one likes an egoist who can find nothing more interesting to talk about than themselves, I'm starting to find people who refuse to acknowledge their own worthy accomplishments to be equally as disingenuous.

I chose the title of this blog because this was a quote that my old roommate Frank was famous for using almost constantly. This man would often show up to parties with the most expensive beer, delicious foods, great CD's, etc. and when he was complimented his response was always the same. The conversation would usually go something like this:

"Hey Frank, that guacamole you made was AMAZING!"
"Dude, I'm working on it."

Frank's "humble" response was so incredibly dishonest I found myself either mocking him or outright laughing at him after awhile. You see, Frank always brought his "A" game to any event, as he had well.... a bit of an inferiority complex. That wasn't what bothered me about him, as honestly, I think you should ALWAYS bring your A game to any event, and let's face it, MOST people have a bit of an inferiority complex. It's better to do something right and perform great deeds than to do something half heartedly. So it really wasn't Frank being a stickler for quality, or being a bit overly self conscious that annoyed me.

It was the fact that Frank was lying that I had a problem with. I'd seen Frank make that guacamole probably 25 times, so it was LOOOONG past the "Dude, I'm working on it" phase. Frank was well aware of how good and well liked his guacamole was, and he had perfected the recipe long before I threatened to strangle him if he didn't stop his glib responses to the compliments people always gave him for it. A simple "thank you" would have sufficed. Hell, that guacamole was so good he could have retorted to compliments with "Yeah I know" and it wouldn't have seemed THAT cocky.

I've actually seen people who are so hell bent on appearing humble (or worse, so self loathing) that they'll actually argue with people when they try to compliment them. One of my ex's was great for this. Not only could she not accept any compliments from me, she'd actually yell at me when I tried to compliment her. One time she made some cookies, and when I told her they were great (which they were) she started flipping out on me, saying "You think that's funny? You're such an asshole!" Needless to say, that relationship was short lived.

Fortunately, people can sometimes learn how to be a bit more down to earth. Case in point- the story of Ed. Ed was a mutual friend of Frank and myself, and had been playing in a new band for awhile. Ed's band was phenomenal and had far superceded everyone's expectations, despite how much he downplayed his impressive musical abilities. Ed quickly proved just how wrong any skeptics were, as his new musical group proved to be an absolute whirling dervish of rock n roll fury when they started playing out live. One day I caught up with him to tell him how much I liked his band, and Ed's reply was (take a guess) "D--- I'- w-----g -- --".

By this point I'd had it with Ed's self deprecating crap, because it was also downright delusional! Ed was hardly the underachiever he thought he was, but he always insisted that he was a failure. The thing was, Ed actually wasn't a failure. In fact, everybody liked him and appreciated whatever creative endeavor he happened to be working on at the time- including me. Sure, Ed had his share of quirks, but who doesn't? Ed just needed to lighten up and appreciate the good things he had in his life, of which there were many. But Ed was such a gloom and doomer that he almost never enjoyed anything. I didn't feel bad for him because his life was miserable, I felt bad for him because he wasn't able to appreciate anything good he actually had in his life.

Some years after not seeing him for awhile, I ran into Ed at a party. His spirits were higher than I'd ever seen before, and he had a big smile on his face. He immediately handed me a CD of his band, and what he said to me after that was monumental.

"Hey Badger, I know you like my band, so here's our newest CD. I think you'll like it, and I'm really happy with the way it came out. In fact, I think it's pretty awesome."

My jaw dropped to the floor when I heard him say this. He was confident, he was satisfied, and for the first time since I'd known him he was happy. He was not the slightest bit cocky or arrogant, and his band's CD was every bit as good as he said it was. I'd only wished he'd found this confidence and optimism about 10 years earlier when I'd first met him, but as the saying goes- better late than never.

I'm not sure exactly what it is that makes the majority of people I know loathe themselves so much, but I would blame much of it on the stranglehold that Christianity has on our culture. Never has there been a more perverted, arrogant and ultimately unnatural worldview than that of Christianity. Just think of some of the "wisdom" one gleans from the teachings of the bible.

"Turn the other cheek" and "The meek will inherit the earth" are two such perverted and misguided lessons the bible teaches. God's followers are referred to as his "flock" while he is our "shepherd". For as much good as there is in the bible (do unto others and though shalt not steal for example) it seems to serve as nothing more than a manual used to brainwash its followers into blind submission. It also purports that god is divine and humanity is sinful simply from the act of being born!

This conditioning does not just infect Christians though, as my ex, Frank and Ed were all staunch atheists. What I don't think they realized though, was just how badly Judeo- Christian thought had shaped their attitudes and worldview. Whether it was Frank's arrogance disguised as humility, or Ed's complete loathing of himself, neither of them had a healthy self image. Luckily though, people CAN change, as Ed proved to me eventually.

It is time for our society and our people as a whole to give up things such as martyrdom and guilt complexes. No matter what your spirituality may be, most of our ancestors came from tribes and societies that once honored and revered their own people. These tribes were not controlled by fear like the Christians, and their old gods served as protectors, guides, and ultimately FRIENDS to their followers here on earth. The Africans had Simbi, the Norse had Thor, the Hindi had Vishnu, the Gauls had Cernunnos, the Greeks had Hercules, and the Persians had Mithras. These were all the protectors and guides of the common man in their societies, and their followers loved and honored them.

Whether you are religious or not, if you want yourself and your loved ones to succeed it's time for the pity party to end. It is far too easy to fall into self hate and defeat, especially now that times are tough. We need to find that voice inside of us that drives us to be successful, and never use self loathing as an excuse or a way to manipulate people. We need to expel "Dude, I'm working on it" and other self hating beliefs back into the sands where they belong- in a body bag no less.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Tell- Tale Teflon Heart

On and off for about the past fifteen years I have been involved in some very unhealthy relationships. These relationships have been quite tumultuous, albeit predictable at the same time. I never quite knew what was going to happen, but in the end it was always the same- broken promises, shattered dreams and unabashed disappointment.

It was the claims that the integrity of these relationships would last forever, only to have them end abruptly out of nowhere that hurt me so much. Or even worse, to have such intense, fiery and passionate experiences slowly and painfully become moribund. In a word, the relationships where the partner is resolved to be forgotten about in a basement storage unit or given away to a thrift store, because they're "not needed" anymore. To witness the decline of something that works flawlessly and then fails miserably is simply heartbreaking, especially when my last relationship was eight long years of happiness, only to abruptly crash and burn one hot summer afternoon.

OK, I'm not actually talking about romance, friendships, or any kind relationship with another human being here. I'm talking about pans. That's right- PANS. The ones you cook with. Specifically, Teflon pans and their claims of non stick durability.

First of all, I need to challenge that statement by saying "Non stick durability my ass." Teflon pans are an overrated, disingenuous load of shite. Since I moved out of my mother's house in 1993, I have owned no less than eight of these pieces of disposable junk. The irony too is, I consider myself to be no slouch in the kitchen, and am the proud owner of some very fine kitchen accessories. I was just well... a bit slow on the uptake when it came to cooking with a decent frying pan.

What has ALWAYS ended up happening with every Teflon pan I've ever owned, is that eventually it will stop being non stick. Then you'll actually see pieces of the Teflon coming off the pan and in your food. Sometimes the Teflon will actually peel off as though it's healing from an aluminum sunburn or something. Either way, when you pay $15 or more for a freakin pan, I think the damn thing should last a lot longer than these crappy Teflon pans I've owned. I'd average between two and five years TOPS for most of these aluminum abominations I've owned, and that's being generous.

As I stated before, my last "relationship" with one of these godawful, cancer causing, landfill polluting, toxic fume emitting tools of Satan actually lasted eight years. I have to admit that that pan impressed me, and restored my faith in Teflon cookware. I was convinced that this pan would actually outlive me, but as I said before, last summer she finally bit the dust. Once I had to use a Brillo pad to clean her, I knew her non stick coating had become a thing of the past.

It was my sister who first started giving me crap about using Teflon cookware. My sister is a very intelligent person, but often tends to have a one track mind. Once she started extolling the virtues of her new cast iron skillet, it was literally ALL she would talk about. We'd be having a conversation where I'd say "Hey sis, did you go see that 300 movie?" and she'd reply "No, not yet. Hey, did you know you can bake cornbread in a cast iron skillet?" Or "Hey sis, have you ever tried pico de gallo?" and she'd reply "No, but I bet I could cook that up in my new cast iron skillet." Or even "Hey sis, is your neighbor still being real loud and obnoxious?" and she'd say "Yes he is, and if he doesn't stop I think I'll have to beat him to death with my new cast iron skillet." And on... and on....

Anyway, after my last Teflon pan died, I refused to ever purchase another one. Being that I am a true Capricorn, I like things that last forever. I'm still cooking with the same stainless steel Revere Ware saucepan that I bought at a thrift store back in 1993, and I see no reason why my frying pans shouldn't have the same longevity. So taking my sister's advice, I FINALLY broke down and bought a cast iron skillet.

And what a gem she is. It was pre- seasoned, so that meant it was ready for cooking right away. Let me tell you, this pan is a thing of beauty. The best part is that it isn't picky about how or where you use it. Open flame, gas, electric, it really doesn't matter. You can also beat the hell out of it with metal utensils and it doesn't matter. None of this can be done with Teflon.

The only part of cast iron which is a bit of a pain is that you cannot clean it with soap. When you're done eating, clean up is done with water only, and when you're finished you have to coat the pan with a light coat of oil so it doesn't rust. If it begins to lose it's non stickness, you have to "season" it, which means coating it with oil and then baking it for about an hour (or until it stops smoking). This is a small price to pay for a pan that will last you several lifetimes. My 12" cast iron skillet only cost me $13 at Marshall's, although I will definitely break down for some nicer, more expensive Lodge brand cast iron pots and pans in the future.

As I stated in a previous post, I hate the fact that everything is disposable in our culture, and that includes things like cookware. It was about time that I applied my "use it until it is useless" philosophy to cookware, and I am very happy that I did. The best thing about cast iron is that the more you use it, the better it works. This is the exact opposite of Teflon, which ALWAYS breaks down eventually. Cast iron also heats more evenly, and well, basically just kicks the crap out of cheap ass Teflon junk any day.

Anyway, check out the youtube channel jaybobed proof of cast iron's non stick integrity. This guy is a hoot, but he knows about quality cookware for sure!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hail To Egil And Uncle Thor!

I promise that I will get back to my article on shock rock in a timely manner. For right now though, I must take the time to speak about my spiritual beliefs, as well as review of some great books I've recently purchased.

As anyone who knows me knows, over the past 5 years or so I have become increasingly interested in the study of my native spirituality. When I say "native spirituality" I mean the religions my ancestors practiced. In my case that would be almost a 50/ 50 split of Gaulish Celts on my father's side, and Anglo Saxons on my mother's. When looking at my family tree, I can throw a handful of Italian, Irish and Scottish names and quite a few Native American ancestors into the mix as well. Still though, my predominant genealogy is French and English.

So, after doing the research I presumed that prior to Europe's forced conversion to Christianity my ancestors were mainly practitioners of the Celtic and Germanic religions. I am intuitively a very spiritual person anyway, but up until 2003 I mainly investigated more eastern paths such as Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, ultimately spending the most time on the study of Hinduism. For as much as I love the ancient Hindu legends (particularly the Vedas) I can honestly say I never really "got" Hinduism. It seems to be steeped in revisionist pacifist beliefs, not to mention a lot of Indian nationalism. Both of those aesthetics gave off a pretty heavy "locals only" vibe to me, as I attempted to become more involved in the Hindu community in my home town.

I actually did look into my Celtic roots quite a bit in the early 1990's, but was left feeling quite unimpressed as there just doesn't seem to be much credible information out there as to how the ancient Celts practiced their religion. This is most likely due to the fact that the Celtic priest class (the Druids) didn't record any of their rituals or beliefs. Add to that the fact that Celtic paganism seems to have become the official property of Wiccans, and their G rated revisionist version of my native spirituality just doesn't add up. If the ancient Celts were truly the passive tree huggers that many modern pagans attempt to recreate them as, they wouldn't have even made it into the history books! You have to remember that back in ancient times EVERY culture you hear about now had to have been a warrior culture. The ones that weren't must have surely been conquered and enslaved by the ones who were, thus erasing their place in history forever.

So after experimenting mainly with Celtic and Hindu spirituality, I figured that my most viable option was the old Germanic tradition. I had actually had a very intense desire to explore this path for many years, but had resisted it due to the fact that it seemed to be the official property of white supremacists. In lieu of the fact that almost every moron skinhead I'd had an altercation with back in my punk rock days was wearing a Thor's hammer and/ or displaying algiz, sig or othala runes, I was convinced that Germanic heathenry went hand- in- hand with violent, racist behavior. By 2004 though, I'd finally figured out that the Germanic tradition was indeed not inherently racist, and was in fact, just as rich, complex and deep as any of the Asian religions I had previously explored.

The transition from being a casual observer to jumping headlong into the study of this spirituality was somewhat accidental, as I was mainly introduced to it by an old roommate. He'd given me a copy of Snorri Sturlson's The Saga's Of The Icelanders, which included Egil's Saga, claiming that the book was "really boring". Well, one night when I was a bit bored myself, I figured I'd give the book a chance, so I picked it up and began reading it. It began with Egil's Saga, and that particular saga really spoke to me on an intrinsic level. I think this was mainly due to the fact that the character of Egil is indeed, a real character. He was simultaneously a fierce warrior and a skilled poet. In many passages of this saga, Egil will recite some lines of poetry before he hacks his adversary to death. This reminded me of old Dolomite movies where he essentially did the same thing.

Although I suspect a great amount of allegory and exaggeration were used by the author, Egil's Saga was actually based on historical facts. Egil Skallagrimsson was in fact, actually a real Icelander born in the year 910 AD. In his saga Egil is portrayed as a hard drinking, short tempered berserker- meets- skald, capable of killing 20 armed men at a time. The theory about his amazing fighting prowess is based on remains found that were believed to be his. These remains were grossly deformed, and it is thought that he suffered from a condition known as Pagets disease. Paget's disease is the severe enlargement and deformation of the bones, and this might explain Egil's legendary large size, ugly appearance, and ability to absorb huge amounts of punishment.

I dove headlong into this story and became transformed. I simply couldn't put the book down, and found myself dreaming about the story regularly. This is something that is rare for me, as I seldom remember my dreams. I'm not even sure why I liked it so much, as nothing about Egil's personality really registered with me. He came across as quite an arrogant, unstable jerk for the most part. I guess in a lot of ways it was because he was such a character in his time and would be completely out of place here in the modern world. Either that or because he was such a complex person. Either way, the story is very entertaining to say the least.

One thing of profound significance in Egil's Saga is a part where he stays at the home where the host's daughter is sick. Egil looks under her mattress and finds a whale bone with runes carved into it. These runes were previously carved to help heal the girl's sick grandmother, and when Egil saw this he became enraged. He quickly scratched the runes off and carved new ones which were more appropriate to the girl's ailment. The next day when she awoke she was on the road to recovery.

The runes have always fascinated me, particularly what is known as the "elder futhark" which are the original Icelandic runes. The name "futhark" was given to them as that is the phonetic value of the first six characters in the first of three eight character rune rows. One can just look at them and see that their elegance and simplicity is completely awe- inspiring. I used to think their only function was as a divining and fortune telling tool, but upon further study I have found out that they are FAR more complicated than I ever dreamed possible. The unfortunate thing about them is that the majority of books written about them are truly awful, with the most flagrant offender being any hucksters who advocate the use of the "blank rune of wyrd".

The story of the blank rune is when an author named Ralph Blum published a book with a rune set that included all 24 original runes, plus an additional blank rune. The reason why the extra blank rune was included is because whomever produced the rune sets had them die cut from tiles that were 5 small tiles across, equaling rune tiles 25 per set. Rather than pick the blank runes out, the manufacturer just packaged them with the additional blank rune included. Instead of explaining this mistake in his book or re package the rune sets himself, Ralph decided to be a disingenuous profiteer and invent his own system which included the use of the blank rune!

At any rate, decent, non biased information on the true ways of Germanic heathen worship is very difficult to come by. In order to find anything better than Edred Thorsson's Futhark book (another author who makes some rather dubious claims, although as a starter, this book is one of the better ones) it became apparent that I would have to dig a little deeper.

So dig I did, and I ended up stumbling across a rather obscure website known as Although very basic and none too pretty, this webpage is chock full of information, as well as offering many books and monographs for sale (I still don't know how one differentiates between a book and a monograph.) I poked around the website for about an hour as there is a LOT of content, most of which I was quite pleased to be reading. The site is the property of a man who calls himself "Uncle Thor" and his wife Audrey. They also deal in the collecting and documenting of electric trains and toy soldiers, hence the name "thortrains" and have several shingles linked to their site where they talk about those hobbies. Trust me, it's all very entertaining, but I will focus on the heathen side of their page for now.

The Thortrains Network makes statements such as "Titles mean nothing, you are as good at this as you are", "We have no titles and recognize none" and "We answer to no one." I thought to myself that anyone who mouths off in the face of such an arrogant audience (aka the "heathen community") is a man after my own heart. Many people I've met in the heathen community are quite self- deluded, sociopathic, unstable and insecure, and many of these people really need to be brought down to earth. So when Thor and Audrey publish such statements I find them quite refreshing to hear, as I feel that many heathens out there would be wise to take their advice.

After reading these statements I felt for sure that the Thortrains Network would probably have some quality reading material for sale. You see, Uncle Thor eschews my sentiments on most heathens exactly, as my involvement with group heathen activities has not always been positive. I have met some great people, but I have also met some complete whackjobs. It's a toss up between the "So I was talking to Odin yesterday and he wanted me to give you a message" and the "Soon Northern Europeans all around the world will reawaken to the calling of the folksoul, and then we'll unite and conquer the evil Christians and re- affirm our former glory" types as far as whom I consider to be more insane.

Amusing as these claims may sound, associating with people who talk like this in complete seriousness ALL THE TIME soon becomes about as pleasant as a bumblebee enema. Ironically these stereotypes describe some of the more rational actors I've met in the heathen movement. If you want to find even weirder and more self destructive heathens who also espouse nazism, satanism, drug use, s & m and alcoholism, trust me you don't have to look very far. For as much as I love this spirituality I'm not going to lie and pretend that I like the majority of people I've met who also practice it. We are clearly not looking at it from the same angle, and anytime I feel like the most sane person in the room, that is NOT a good sign.

That is why I like the Thortrains books. They are written in plain, non- pretentious English and give you the information in a simple, factual manner. Any one of their 40 something page monographs actually contains MORE info than most of the mass- produced crap sold in mainstream bookstores. The Thortrains Network is also probably the ONLY outlet for advanced spellcraft and runecraft. This was important to me, as I'd ordered one too many "Heathenry 101" books which proclaimed themselves to have information that was different than all the other "Heathen/ Odinism/ Asatru 101" books out there, only to just regurgitate the same crap I'd already read five times in five other books.

The Thortrains Network "runic package" was the first series I bought from them. They have their books grouped into categories and now have their webpage set up so that if you order a complete package you'll get a significant discount. Most packages contain five books, and they'll often throw in a free one as well. They average out to between $6 and $8 per book, which includes shipping in the US. I figured I'd take a chance and order their runic package in its entirety for $40 as that sounded like a good deal.

I'm not going to lie, when it finally arrived about a week after I ordered it, I opened it up and asked myself "What the hell is this!?" You see, the Thortrains Network produce their own books, so this was five copies of 1/2 sized xeroxed 8 1/2 x 11 comb bound books, most ranging from between 45 and 60 pages. I became a little skeptical of their content after seeing that, but knowing that the production of do it yourself literature is not cheap (unless you're using the copy machine at your work off hours, not that I've ever done that..... shhhhh.....) and seeing that they looked very professional and appeared to contain a LOT of info, I figured I would give them a shot. I figured I'd begin in order.

I'm not going to review each book separately, as I don't recommend buying just one of them. Although each one stands on its own as a complete work, I feel that it's a bit of a waste not to order the entire set. For $40 ppd it's a great deal, and will provide you with all the information you need to start working with runes. Of particular interest to me was book titled Old Norse Rune Mysteries And Rune Codes. This book is the first book I've seen which addresses the order of the futhark and the relationships between the different runes. I never realized just how complex and well ordered the futhark aettir (or order) really is!

After reading the rune package I was hooked, so I quickly ordered the "tradition" package. This included four books mainly dealing with the various Norse dieties and traditions. I didn't get as much out of these books as I am already quite familiar with the lore, but as usual, the writing was very entertaining. I also appreciated Thor's usual colorful explainations for things, and the section where they list various kennings of gods and goddesses was quite helpful.

The only thing I didn't like was that some of their ritual outlines don't resemble what I have come to learn as heathen rituals. They seemed more like Celtic pagan influenced, although keep in mind that many of these books were written in the early 1990's when Thor and Audrey were living in Staten Island NY. Living in such a locale would make indoor, solitary candle related rituals far more viable than outdoor, group heathen blots with a giant bonfire. Thor and Audrey have since relocated to New Jersey, so hopefully they've got a bit more room to move around at their new place of residence.

Again, I cannot stress the value of these books enough. If you want to learn real heathenry from real, unpretentious heathens who don't tow the line for some extremist political agenda, the Thortrains Network is the way to go. They seem like good people, and I am very happy to have discovered their awesome literature. They also refuse to call themselves Asatru, Odinists, Vanatru or any of those other terms and I was psyched to see that as well. I too, feel that none of those labels are appropriate for me. They actually call what they practice Hedenskap which is Norwegian for heathen. If I could use this term with their permission I'd be totally psyched, as "Asatru" and "Odinist" just don't cut it for me.

Much like myself, these Thortrains people are very down to earth and aren't completely one dimensional. They obviously have other interests besides heathenry, hence the links to all their other hobby webpages. This is quite refreshing as I have met FAR too many heathens who have absolutely no identity outside of being some kind of viking wannabe. People like that are lame in my opinion. The key here is to propel heathenry onward and upward into the modern world, not try and recreate the past and de-volve.

And finally, Uncle Thor possesses something that the heathen community is REALLY lacking- a sense of humor. That is why I put the ridiculous lego viking picture on here. Never in my life have I met so many dogmatic, stuck up, uptight and ultimately BORING people as I have since getting involved in heathenry. Seriously kids, Odin won't hate you for having a good time, and no, that doesn't mean swigging down all the ritual mead...

check out their webpage at