A Groan of Tedium Escapes Me

Group photo of the band Tool wearing old-fashioned clothes and striking poses. [Formatted]

Here are the runtimes for the non-noise tracks from Tool’s new Fear Inoculum album: 10:20, 11:53, 12:44, 13:37, 10:05, and 15:43. This means that the average song length is somewhere around 12 minutes and 24 seconds, which equates to the time needed for modern radio to play four complete songs. Another way of putting it is that these six Tool songs roughly translate to 24 Katy Perry or Blake Shelton songs.

I find it humorous that, when describing the album, many fans and critics are making statements along the lines of, “The songs don’t seem nearly as long as they really are!” This is a very peculiar sentence. I mean, what the hell does that even mean? It’s sort of like saying, “I was at the DMV for an hour and a half, but the door greeter was very sweet and made it feel like 20 mins.” Or, “I was sick to my stomach for four hours, but somebody brought me a ginger ale and then it seemed like only a fraction of that time.” Or maybe, “I dropped a bowling ball on my foot, but the cast they put on my leg was so great that it hurt for just three days afterwards!”

The point is, this is a statement a person would make to describe an experience where something unpleasant was happening, but there is a counteracting element that lessens the severity, or takes the edge off. In this case, six obscenely long and occasionally floundering songs somehow feel abbreviated, because… well… because it’s Tool! This is the band that made Opiate, Undertow, Ænima, and Lateralus!

As for Fear Inoculum, what’s the real verdict? Is it bad? No. Is it unremarkable? Yes—there really isn’t anything here that hasn’t been done better on the band’s previous albums. It hosts some nice sounds and textures, and never gets very rowdy. One of my close friends said it’s “pretty chill” and I will get on board with her assessment.

If they had churned this out 12 to 18 months after 2001’s Lateralus then there would be much to celebrate: it would be a triumphant exercise in writing and recording for a band that, even at the time, was notorious for taking too much time between recordings. However, it’s been a mind-blowing 13 YEARS since their last release and a staggering 18 YEARS since their last proper LP!

No dice, no pass… no fucking way.

Rip the Shroud Off a Decaying Society and Expose It for What It Is

Episode #5 icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (episode 05 of The Maxx icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

Once upon a time, MTV would actually play awesome music videos and produce exceptional original programming, like the cartoon below. Yes, I know it sounds like I must be making this up, but it’s actually true!

Star Wars, Episode 9⅝: The Tears of Jar Jar

Directed J.J. Abrams
Produced by Michael Bay
Starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Shia LaBeouf as Commander Ultmer, William Shatner as Darth Roughshod, CG-Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Viceroy Pliff-Plaff, Will Smith as Yoda, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana, and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Runtime 9:47:32
Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America

Cartoon depiction of Jar Jar Binks holding a light saber. [Formatted]

Synopsis: After the Empire is defeated again by the Resistance, it conceives a new plan to build the Solar Annihilator, a super-maniacal ultra-weapon comprised of 12 Starkiller Bases and 103 Death Stars, all within the same solar system. The Solar Annihilator’s destructive power is unlike anything the universe has ever seen: each death satellite draws power from the nearby star and coordinates a destructive blast with the other 114 death satellites. The resulting force is so powerful that it would destroy the entire galaxy. The Empire is now completely unhinged and willing to defeat the Resistance at any cost, even if it means destroying themselves in the process.

After issuing its demands to the entire galaxy—that is, complete control over every living creature in existence by the Empire’s new leader, Darth Roughshod—the Resistance mounts an attack. Having found so much success in the past by destroying previous Empire super-weapons by blowing up their core, the Resistance Council instructs its top fighters to attempt to fly into the center of the system’s star and detonate a new type of explosive to trigger supernova expansion. This quickly proves to be a very poor strategy as many skilled pilots are incinerated in the beginning of the conflict. Bewildered, the Resistance suspends its attack and leaves the Solar Annihilator system to regroup, recruit support from more governments, and come up with a more effective plan to defeat the Empire.

Displeased that his troops were unable to defeat the Resistance, and that his opponent is gaining support from the rest of the galaxy, Darth Roughshod announces that he is going to fire the Solar Annihilator in 21 days and prove to everyone that he is more cruel and evil than any other Sith lord before, especially Darth Vader. Every advanced civilization supporting the Resistance decides to send their best and most experienced warriors in a unified effort to save the galaxy. Among these warriors are Chewbacca, Boba Fett’s brother Earla Fett, and Jar Jar Binks.

The Resistance finds that they will barely have enough time to get everyone to the Solar Annihilator before it fires, and that instead of blowing up the central star they will need to destruct every Starkiller Base and Death Star from the inside, one by one. Realizing how tedious this will be, and having to deal with so much petty bickering amongst the leaders of so many civilizations, the Resistance Council secretly begins to wonder if it might just be best to let the Empire destroy the galaxy. Morale is low, but the offensive is carried out anyway and a perilous star trek is made to the Solar Annihilator.

Upon arrival, Resistance fighters find that they only have seven hours to disable the ultra-weapon before it fires. They begin by blowing up Starkiller Bases and Death Stars in a series of dramatic, yet incredibly repetitive, cinematic sequences. After six and a half hours, only about half of the death satellites are destroyed. The Resistance Council hopes that this has been enough to prevent the destruction of the galaxy, but Darth Roughshod announces that with half the firepower he will still be able to destroy half the galaxy! His cruel chuckle echoes throughout space as he begins the firing sequence…

But there is an engineering malfunction somewhere in the array and the Solar Annihilator is unable to fire! Darth Roughshod becomes enraged and commands his top engineering staff to simultaneously swallow their own tongues, then he enters a Tie Fighter and joins the fray. Encouraged by this unexpected yet highly probable development, the Resistance doubles down on its attack and remounts its effort to destroy the horrible weapon. Jar Jar Binks, inspired by his fellow fighters, decides to enter an X-wing and join the battle.

Having never flown a ship before, Jar Jar nearly crashes into everything around him and manages to botch the attacks on three Death Stars. After much high-jinks intended for intellectually bereft children, Jar Jar finds himself near a Starkiller Base and sees that a portion of it is discharging electricity somewhat erratically. Darth Roughshod senses a disturbance in the force and flies to Jar Jar’s location. It is there that he finds the malfunctioning hyper-coupler and sends out a high-priority space-email to his remaining engineering staff, instructing them to replace the coupler immediately. The firing sequence begins again and half of the galaxy is destroyed!

Panicked and confused, Jar Jar begins pressing buttons randomly in his ship. This causes him to collide with Darth Roughshod and they both crash into the Starkiller Base. Jar Jar quickly finds another Tie fighter and escapes back to the Resistance mostly unharmed, but Darth Roughshod is nearly burned to death. The medical staff on the Starkiller Base, lacking the necessary instrumentation to stabilize the Sith lord’s condition, determines that the best way to save his life is to put him in one of Darth Vader’s spare suits. Darth Roughshod lives, but his commanders lose much respect for him because it confirms what they always suspected: that he is secretly trying to be Darth Vader. (Throughout the rest of the movie, his subordinates call him Lord Vader and snicker; he always corrects them by saying, “No! It’s Lord Roughshod, you fools!”)

The Resistance destroys or disables the remaining death satellites and returns to its headquarters. After reviewing the events that led to the destruction of half the galaxy, the council finds that this unimaginable devastation could have been avoided if Jar Jar Binks had not stolen an X-wing. They order his execution, and the complete eradication of the Gungan people, but through more high-jinks Jar Jar is able to escape to his home planet before they are able to arrest him.

Darth Roughshod learns of the Resistance’s plan and, feeling a profound mutual hatred for Jar Jar, agrees to help them in the extermination of the Gungans. The Resistance and Empire announce that they will be working together to ensure that Jar Jar is punished for his misdeeds and that such a calamity will never happen again.

Through the great stress of possibly losing his people, Jar Jar Binks begins to develop a special relationship with the force. Yoda visits him in visions and explains that everyone has turned to the dark side and he and the Gungans are the only ones who haven’t taken a path of evil. He constructs a light saber and, over the course of the next three weeks, becomes a master Jedi.

After the combined military forces of the Empire and Resistance arrive at the Gungan’s home world, Jar Jar meets Darth Roughshod and his four-pronged light saber. After a fierce battle, they both destroy one another’s light sabers. Unfortunately for Jar Jar, Darth Roughshod is a highly experienced UFC fighter and beats the living shit out of him and is then forced to swallow his own tongue. After Jar Jar’s death, the Jedi are once again destroyed and a final attack begins against the Gungans. But just when defeat seems inevitable, the Ewoks arrive to protect the Gungans and comedic violence ensues.

In the end, the the Ewoks are eradicated alongside Jar Jar’s people, and the universe erupts in joy. Balance is finally brought to the force and peace dawns for the remaining half of the Galaxy. War never occurs again until the end of time. Emperor Palpatine suddenly appears from out of nowhere, laughs and says, “It is done!”

Years later, the galaxy comes to understand that if not for Jar Jar, this new era of peace would not have been possible. Jar Jar and the Gungans are celebrated throughout the universe for their selfless behavior, bravery, and personal sacrifice. For the concluding scene, Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, Deadpool, Hannah Montanna, and Captain Jack Sparrow join Darth Roughshod and they all begin singing If We Were a Movie icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12. This epic finale signals to the audience that Star Wars is finally over, forever.

Over or Under? An Example of Fair-Minded Problem-Solving (and Allegorical Technique)

In the house where I spent my most formative years, we always put the toilet paper roll on the holder in an “over” position: where the sheets of paper would dispense from the top of the roll and not the bottom. Not surprisingly, I held strong convictions that “over” was the only correct way to hang toilet paper.

Toilet paper roll in both configurations: over and under. [Formatted]

When I would visit friends’ homes in my youth, I found that some of them put their toilet paper in the “over” position and others put it in the “under” position. This was confusing to me, because “over” was so obviously right and “under” was so obviously wrong. For my friends’ families who did it this other way, I started to wonder what else might be off about them: hanging their toilet paper the “wrong” way made me suspect other flaws in their character.

As I matured, lived in different houses, and had roommates, I became more tolerant of toilet paper being hung in the “under” orientation. It was still an odd experience, but I came to accept that the preference people have for hanging toilet paper is just one of the many ways we are all unique from one another. Maybe there wasn’t anything wrong with the “under” people after all?

Some time later, I rented a house with an extremely small bathroom, and the toilet paper holder was placed surprisingly close to the toilet. After a few months of being angry at the suboptimal use of space in this bathroom, I had an epiphany: if I oriented the toilet paper in the “under” orientation, the end-sheet would be farther away from me which would create more space between the toilet and would thus be easier to grab! To my astonishment, from that point forward I found myself putting toilet paper on the “wrong” way in my own house!

These days, it doesn’t really matter to me what orientation is being used: I’m comfortable with both. I have found, however, that if the holder is too far away then the “over” method wins, and that if it is too close then the “under” method wins. In both cases, the objective is utilizing the available space as effectively as possible.
(I just checked both of my current bathrooms, neither of which have space issues, and the toilet paper is unsurprisingly in the “over” orientation.) I also would expect that a person’s dominant hand and the side of the toilet the holder is located could be another factor. There are different sized toilets too, which is something I never bothered to notice until recently!

Perhaps in the case of toilet paper roll orientation preferences, subtle practicalities establish lifelong habits. Also, one person’s toilet paper habits can easily transfer to impressionable youth in a shared living space, and when they grow up they will most likely continue to do what is familiar without ever really understanding the reasons why.

Oh… and there is a third option that not very many people know about: spear the toilet paper through the secondary axis and make it as difficult as possible to use. This is particularly effective when somebody gives you a hard time icon-external-link-12x12 for putting the roll on the “wrong” way.

Toilet paper roll speared by the bar of the holder. [Formatted]