Thuggee Life

thuggeeOften times, when I’m attempting to understand the public’s neo-fascination with vampire lore, my mind wanders. And I’m forced to think about other forms of blood-sharing amongst humans; types that haven’t caught on and/or made an impact on pop culture in quite some time.

Like that of the black sleep of the Kali-Ma.

For those in the “What the hell is that supposed to mean” category, let me explain. You see, in the dark days before The Lost Boys, True Blood, Twilight and whatever that show on the WB is, vampires inhabited a not-too-crowded space in the pop culture lexicon between Count Chocula, Grandpa Munster, Tom Cruise and a post-hardcore band from Philadelphia named Ink and Dagger (who, for all intents and purposes here, were awesome, despite my present sarcasm.)

Vampires’ reputation to scare was spotty, or perhaps more appropriately, their blood-soaked cup of terror had runneth dry. Replaced, long before, by marshmallows in cereal, prime time black and white bad jokes, and, once again, Tom Cruise.

Fortunately, the long lost art of blood drinking continued to exist during those dark, comedic days of the vampire. Long before Bill Compton emerged from his Civil War-era sleep to wage war on long lost gods in Louisiana, Indiana Jones was entertaining an entirely different type of blood drinker: The Thuggee.

The Thuggee cult was a secret religious society centered in India and depicted in Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom. Joining the Thuggee was a pretty simple task: the cult just forced you to drink The Blood of Kali, and the resulting “Black Sleep” allowed one to serve the God of Kali with the fervor of a giddy school boy. Unfortunately, the Black Sleep of the Kali-Ma was quickly eradicated by the burn of Short Round‘s torch, but while under the hallucinogenic trance, one did whatever they could to efficiently serve the God of Kali and the Thuggee cult, even if that meant sacrificing one’s self. To support their cause, the Thuggee simply kidnapped children to dig for diamonds. And to fuel the cult on a magical level, they kept a trinity of stones, which in better times, had served as good omens for nearby villagers.

The whole premise, culled from real ideas but twisted in Hollywood proportions to allow for drama, was terrifying, and the nine-year-old kid that was once myself spent more than a good few months scared straight over the ramifications of cult-tinged cardiectomies purported by blood drinkers in 1920s era India.

Thankfully, that terror passed after realizing (in church) that symbolic blood drinking was an act that religions throughout the world weren’t scared of embracing. And so I drank, and laughed at Mola Ram’s bad acting, and unknowingly waited for Indiana Jones to make another movie that depicted his son swinging with monkeys through trees.

But let’s get back to vampires. Personally, I think the time frame from around the 1950s to right around 1987 painfully transformed vampires from a legendary monster of mythic proportions into something more akin to Alf. The Lost Boys attempted in vain to bring back the darkness, but Tom Cruise did a pretty good job at killing that bitter return by 1994, as it had been for over a decade, until about two years ago.

Now, I can’t look left or listen right without encountering vampires. And not only that, they’re not jokes anymore. They kill, and live dangerously, and probably tear the tags off mattresses with their teeth before they even buy them. Or more appropriately, vampires have once again become terrifying.

So this is my question: At the most basic form, what is required to transform a blood drinker from comedic relief into the commander of a camp, psycho-sexual drama of good versus evil set in rural Louisiana? And secondly, should I pitch a new breakfast cereal to General Mills that transforms the Thuggee into cute, lovable, sugar-filled flavors?

We could call them Thuggee-Puffs.

Or did I push this just one bad joke too far?

The Lost Art of Losing One’s Way

There’s a few things that bother me about the current state of technology. Granted, most of it, I’m for. But it also seems that, along the way, technology sometimes enables us to lose certain parts of our identity. The parts that at the time, didn’t seem to matter at all. Parts that we wish would go away, but upon retrospect, actually realize that they help build character. At least in my case anyway.

Like getting lost.

I never used to go out with the direct intention of getting lost. Wandering, that’s a different story altogether. Whether on my bike or on foot, I’ve always enjoyed wandering. But now I have an iPhone, and wandering seems to have lost its allure. Maybe it’s because it feels like everything in the world has been discovered, pissed on and built over, or maybe it’s because there’s an app that does the wandering for almost anything I might want to imagine. I fight back, by only playing the Jeopardy App.

But I still miss getting lost and all that it created in its wake.

In the past, there were times when I became stranded in a strange place, with no phone to call for help. In those strange places, I would have no other choice than to talk to strangers, or act on intuition, and hope that I was going the right way. Ultimately, whatever the situation was, I figured out my way, learned a little about myself and the environment I was in, and got on with life, chalking up the past events to an adventure/life-learning experience.

Now my phone tells me which way to walk, and which places to avoid, and where the best bathroom and cup of coffee in the area might be.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate those conveniences, but I’m also left feeling that the adversity created by not knowing where the hell you are or what to do to get out of there builds character in the long run.

Basically, I still think it’s not only okay, but necessary, to get lost every once in a while.

Burning Fight

front_cover_WEB I don’t know how I stumbled onto the existence of this book, but Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit and Sound is a new-ish book that attempts to tackle the monumental subject of ’90s hardcore. At just under 500 pages, the book runs the gamut of profiles on influential ’90s hardcore bands from 108 to Vegan Reich and anything that might fall in between those two bands throughout the alphabet. As is the case with any book that attempts to capture a music scene during a certain time frame, there’s going to be people that say, “Well, so and so should’ve been included, and there’s no way this band should be anywhere near this book.” But, I don’t see anyone else running out and assembling a 500-page book on the subject of pre-Internet, underground hardcore music, so take your gripes with Burning Fight somewhere else if that’s what you wanna do. Or just do as I do, and read the chapters on the bands you really liked (including Burn, Cave In, Deadguy, Groundwork, Rorschach, Swing Kids, Texas is the Reason, Unbroken), ignore the bands you never cared about (Disembodied, Earth Crisis, Integrity, Mouthpiece, Strife, Vegan Reich) and then regretfully read the chapter on the band you once thought was influential but now regretfully own up to liking (Shelter).

Does the book work? Hell yeah it does. But there’s also a heck of a whole lot of the same story being told over and over again, only in different parts of the country, to different sounds and in different basements. That’s not to say it’s unremarkable; it’s just that the life span and experiences of most of the bands profiled draw almost the same parallels throughout the book’s entirety. For lack of a better explanation, it was an intense growing period for a small but dedicated group of people who all ended up doing a lot of the same things despite different musical translations. That’s just what happened to most people in the 18-25 age bracket that owned ‘Start Today’ and started a band because of it. Overall, the book is an invigorating read that brings back a lot of classic memories, sounds, movements and “What the hell were we thinking?”s.

And that’s probably my biggest gripe with the book. It’s not the book’s fault at all, but a nod to the overly dumb and impressionistic 16 year-old I was in 1990.

Why?

Because I liked Shelter, the preeminent Krishna-core band of the ’90s and the present. It didn’t last long, maybe two to three years at most. But during that time, I paid money to see them live several times, ate whatever free food they gave out during the shows, wore the beads they handed out and even attempted (but thankfully failed) to read some of the literature they handed out between sermons and chants in the parking lot of City Gardens in Trenton, NJ.

It wasn’t the music I liked. Throughout the band’s career, the music was barely listenable. It was the allure of bearing witness to a religious movement/cult that was a complete 180 from my Roman Catholic upbringing. And like almost any puzzled 16 year-old would do, I attempted to rebel against what I knew and where I came from. Thankfully, that rebellion was relegated to simply listening to a terrible pseudo hardcore band and attending a few of their live shows. I never ran out and joined a temple (like several of the subjects within the book) and I never sold all of my worldly possessions to live as one with Krishna. Eventually, I even realized that the music stunk, and that it wasn’t worth the price of free parking lot halvah.

But I’ve got an in the past bone to pick with that whole Krishna-core movement of the ’90s, and it’s because I think the Hare Krishnas knew that they had stumbled onto an untapped wealth of impressionable kids searching for their identities but coming up empty. I feel fucking retarded even writing that last line, but it’s the truth. We were struggling, trying to find our own way, and we were duped by a cultish band of upper class hardcore kids from Connecticut that had ultimately sold out to an organized religion.

At least we got some free meals out of it.

Order Burning Fight, then please burn your Shelter records.