Author Archives: philw

New Novel: Reparations USA

America, 2028. Reparations for the nation’s colonial past is the law of the land. A supercomputer processes historical documents to calculate each citizen’s Debit Score. This is the story of the people who live under the shadow of the Historical Reparations Administration.

“Reparations USA” is the shocking, inventive, and unpredictable future history of the United States that is filled with both heart and humor. Part action adventure, part ideology study, and part dystopian alarm call, this efficient novel takes you deep within the surveillance state where no deed—past or present—is innocent.

Philip Wyeth’s overwhelming vision creates an entire world within itself, and in taking inspiration from both satire and classic social commentary sci-fi, might even help readers better understand events taking place in the “current year.”

E-book available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

 

Sliding Back into a 1990s State of Mind

After revisiting several visionary movies from the late 90s I got the chilling sensation of how far we’ve been knocked off that era’s cerebral track. “The Matrix,” “Fight Club,” and “Office Space” are divergent films which start from essentially the same premise: that your reality is a prison but you can break free. The hysteria of 9/11 wrenched us out of these deep corners of the mind, then for years we endured the banality of a country at war grinding toward disillusionment.

An economic collapse washed away the last of the older generation’s motivation, and into the void desperate for “hope and change” stepped an inexperienced senator whose race was qualification enough to defeat numerous veteran politicians.

The wars continued during his two terms but the population fell into a stupor of addiction over the new vanity drug called social media. Like young children gleeful over a shiny new toy the American masses have completely given up their internal life for the potential of receiving unlimited praise from strangers around the world.

Simultaneously a strain of anti-thought fascism arose, hijacking words like tolerance, diversity, and human rights to browbeat a portion of the population into silence. The unspoken mantra of the New Left appears to be a perversion of the famous “we hold these truths to be self-evident” line where to disagree with them is the equivalent of saying that humans don’t breathe air.

The shocking victory by Donald Trump over their next would-be checkbox president has driven the Left into delirium. A month before the election I started telling people to prepare for “riots and tears” after Trump won—my only error being the order of these words. The Left was so blindsided that they wept first and only took to the streets after getting organized (i.e., making silly costumes and obtuse signs).

This brief history of the last 15 years relates to my initial thought on movies for two reasons. First, look at what Hollywood primarily makes today: either CGI-heavy, franchise action fluff or human degradation masquerading as savvy sex comedy. A far cry from the heady work that continued into the mid-2000s whose mantra could have read, “We’re all adults here, we can handle this challenging subject matter.”

Second, I am a creative writer heavily inspired by such classics as “Separate Tables,” “Save the Tiger,” and “Andrei Rublev.” When I think about what kind of movie I would write that’s relevant and forward-thinking in 2017, I choke on the conclusion that in this era characterized by neon-yoga-pant titillation and a refusal to let certain people even speak because their checkbox attributes are wrong—straight, white, male—the Left has abandoned common sense in its crusade to right every historical wrong.

Tragically, if artistic vision is not sufficient or even permitted to lead us then will have to do this the hard way and run a vicious gauntlet like Italy did during the 1930s. You should read Ignazio Silone’s “Fontamara” and watch the film “The Conformist” to experience what cost the human soul must pay when enduring fascism.

A part of me feels giddy thinking about that moment when the Left pokes one too many times and how when the shooting starts it will just mean we get to take out the trash. But then I recall how during our (first) Civil War Britain and France planned to aid the Confederacy and (in a tasty bit of historical irony) President Lincoln asked our allies Russia to send their fleet deter such an intervention.

The point is that no one on the Right actually wants real violence to break out because in war nothing ever goes according to plan. Opportunistic king-makers and amoral bankers are always waiting in the wings to parlay one empire into collapse while dangling the carrot of prosperity in front of the next group of yearning peasants. We do not want to risk America turning into Western Europe after the World Wars or Russia after their revolution.

The good news is that not everyone has been asleep. While Rip Van Liberal walks around in a pink pussy hat getting up to speed, those of us who did the unpopular work of skeptical intellectualism have broken through several of “truth’s protective layers” which Neil Armstrong cryptically alluded to. So much so that even the New Yorker just published an op-ed which touched on our manufactured reality by mashing together the Oscars’ Best Picture snafu, simulation theory, Trump’s election, and even video game “God mode” being responsible for the preposterous ending to the Super Bowl.

So maybe it’s all coming full circle and we’re getting back to where we were mentally nearly 20 years ago. Here’s hoping TPTB don’t try to derail us again with another false flag in the first year of a new president’s term like they pulled in 1993 and 2001, because today we’ve got the internet at our fingertips to instantly debunk and discredit them.

And of course there’s paper-mache Elon Musk now talking about going “back” to the Moon next year, but that’s a rant for another day!

Identity Breakdown

As men and women increasingly rely on indirect methods of communication and put more effort into creating social media personas than developing real relationships, is it any wonder we are experiencing such visceral alienation from each other?

Our inflated egos are quick to take offense as we jump to the next suitor who we hope will indulge our unleashed vanity. The hard work of forging a lasting connection gives way to the dream that the grass is always greener with the next swipe.

We are at the stage where we devote as much time to our avatars as to our physical bodies, but since these online characters have more fun than we do without ever having to defecate or feel pain there is an irresistible pull to live through them.

Short of a worldwide catastrophe we won’t willingly unplug and go back to the struggles of an isolated peasant farmer (“Been there, done that,” our DNA chirps), but as we lead the vanguard of humanity across this digital bridge would it not be a wise to ask where it leads?

My generation is living through the death throes of traditional human bonding and procreation, a deconstruction which is being meticulously documented and live-streamed for a future version of man to dissect.

Even when trying to put “change” in perspective by considering how much the physical world has changed over the past 100 years, I can’t help but wonder if we are crossing a taboo threshold where by losing our willingness or capacity to face the difficult stuff of life the question arises, “Why did we even sign up to come down here in the first place?”

The White Man Asleep in the Black Man’s Yard

I wrote the first draft of this short story in 2005 but for years I felt the underlying premise was too absurd for readers to go along with. Now, thanks to the Social Justice Warrior plague it turns out that my twisted mind is actually a crystal ball!

But politics is merely the starting off point here. “The White Man Asleep in the Black Man’s Yard” is one of my most zany, dark, heartfelt, and even hopeful stories. Also included is an afterward which offers insights into the story’s history and stylistic influences.

Read it below or download the PDF free here.

White_Man_Asleep_by_Philip_Wyeth

The Ten Million Club

Right now a lot of people are scratching their heads over the fact that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the presidential front runners, and asking themselves how we got here. I suggest it has something to do with how our society has spent the last 15 years:

We have filmed ten million hours of ourselves having sex. We have had ten million mortgages foreclosured on at home and created ten million refugees in the Middle East. So is it any wonder that a ruthless power seeker and an egomaniacal big-business blowhard would end up in the championship game to determine who represents us?

It simply wasn’t enough to get laid, or even to record ourselves having sex as a kinky spark for future romance at home–no, we needed to post it online for strangers around the world to see. Nor was it enough for responsible people to own their homes–this somehow became virtually a right for all Americans and a ravenous investment industry then sprang up to metastasize this bad idea.

And the greatest and most destructive delusion of all was that under the guise of loving freedom and eradicating terrorism, since 9/11 our military has destabilized a handful of Middle Eastern countries. That shock wave is now spilling over into Europe with a dramatic second act to follow.

The nasty place we are in 2016 is neither accident nor bad luck. It is a mile marker and referendum of how we as a country have made use of all the wonderful first-world advantages at our fingertips. Duck-lipped cell phone self-portraits by day, X-Tube titillation by night. Liar-loan-enabled property scooping one year, shameless GoFundMe begging campaigns the next. At sporting events highlighting the “service” of returned military veterans in attendance, the audience stands and claps but in true disconnected obliviousness never ruminates on the consequences of our wars.

Right now Whole Foods still stocks all our favorite flavors of kombucha and low gas prices have made driving affordable again, but I can’t help suspecting that eventually something in the real world has to give. Because in our hearts we have been rotten, blind, selfish, immature, and unworthy for quite some time, and as we saw during housing market collapse, eventually all bills come due.

Turning Dominoes into a Relay Race

Now that primary season has officially begun and a million breaths are being expended on the latest developments, I thought I’d distill it down for you as briefly and as cynically as possible.

Back in a 2007 interview General Wesley Clark related how shortly after the US’s 2001 invasion of Afghanistan he was told that the military had further plans to “take out seven countries in five years.”

Of those countries—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran—three have since either been invaded or fallen into civil war and disarray. And while the timetable may have been off, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because of that old adage “the best laid plans of mice and men,” the most important takeaway here is that the process has spanned across two presidential administrations which on paper are as different as one could find.

That neocon George W. Bush seamlessly handed off the baton to hope-filled upstart Barack Obama should dispel any prospective 2016 voter’s illusions that “his guy” has the power or ability to change the script being implemented by career world-shapers operating behind the scenes. The dominoes have continued to fall under Barry’s watch.

The anti-war sentiment stemming from Iraq War fatigue that helped fuel a Democrat win in 2008 has not stopped us from destabilizing both Libya and Syria, leading to hideous humanitarian disasters all justified by the need to get rid of “a bad guy.” In one respect we have so much blood on our hands that it would only be right if we are one day somehow held accountable, but the broader truth may be that through the centuries empires are simply used as enforcers by the stateless puppet masters behind the scenes—before of course also being discarded after having lost their vitality and power. Yesterday it was the European colonial powers, today it’s the United States, and tomorrow it will be someone else.

So in this futile light it seems as if the only purpose in voting at all is on social grounds, because during the last 7 years of the Obama administration we have surely seen some sweeping cultural shifts (which on the surface might indicate an increase of freedoms and human rights, but the keen observer senses early-stage moral decay and disintegration of our national identity, all under the watchful eye of the surveillance state which misses nothing and records everything).

For nearly 15 years we have let our might be used to steamroll innocent countries whose only sins were that of geography and being imperfect, and our collective reaction has been either to double down on blind jingoism or to revert to a tribalistic hedonism intent on sticking as much ink, drugs, and other body parts into every crevice of one’s own body. How can we possibly “make America great again” when half of the population thinks the last 30 years of industrial dismantling can magically be undone by building a few new domestic factories? Can we really expect much from the army of baristas with stretched earlobes and chestplate tattoos headed back to school at age 33?

It’s a surreal time where one’s thoughts echo with the words “this will not end well” but in any grocery store you can find organic food and craft beer. For a pittance you can buy devices which give you access to the entirety of human knowledge and artistic output, but they can also be used to track and incriminate you. We’re standing on the razor’s edge of a shift in history where in one breath we’re being exponentially wrenched forward but then still find ourselves checked by baked-in biological limitations and prey to that nagging sensation that despite our savvy ways we too are merely players—or was that pawns?—on life’s stage.

Senility’s Choice

For those of us who have taken the Red Pill and awoken to the man behind history’s curtain, it is still no less shocking to see who are the American sheeple’s leading candidates for president. Whereas we skeptically minded veered off onto a more conspiratorial fork in the road several years back in an attempt to synthesize all of the seemingly random events that toss our world like a small raft in the ocean, the rest of the population has hummed right along according to the mainstream narrative and arrived at doddering socialist Bernie Sanders and raving corporatist Donald Trump as their putative men of the hour.

And while I’m certainly pleased that the Clinton vs Bush duel I had dreaded appears canceled, I can’t see in this other showdown any reason to be more optimistic about America’s mental health. The best way I can even account for what we’re seeing—Trump’s dancing girls in patriotic leotards, 30-somethings who never cared about politics before Obama now eager to make us “feel the Bern”—is that these two phenomena stem from the same source: that this election year is the senile dying gasp of the post-WWII American empire.

On the right we have the “silent majority” who traditionally pride themselves on piety, hard work, and duty both to community and, when called upon, to country. After seeing the culture crumble under Obama’s watch, and all the while being called hateful bigots for standing up for what was considered normal just 10 years ago, they have found in Donald Trump’s impassioned calls to “make America great again” a man to rally around that will give them the peace of mind to do what they do best: keeping their heads down and getting work done.

But the problem is that life does not give out trophies just for doing your duty. When you put on blinders in the hope that by sacrificing yourself the universe will honor you, it is this naivete that allows corrupt unseen hands to manipulate and abuse you. Living for “Honey Do” lists just makes you a mule serving unscrupulous people.

So for all these salt-of-the-earth folk who still believe the official 9/11 narrative—that it was a surprise attack by Arabs and not a world consciousness-shifting tactical operation carried out and enabled by several governments—it’s only natural that after 14+ years of region-destabilizing war they don’t pause to reconsider if invading another country is what we should be doing. They’re just as eager as ever to send the next wave of their offspring toward the prosthetic ward if you just give them a “strong leader” to justify their “noble” obeisance.

Meanwhile on the other side of the cultural rift that has been steadily expanding since the 2003 Iraq War protests, the Left’s prevailing motivating undercurrent of belief can be expressed by that Social Justice Warrior credo that “if there’s something we don’t like, we can and will fix it…now!”

In some wicked witch’s brew blending foggy memories of 60s campus radicalism with viciously totalitarian policy demands straight out of the grimmest dystopian fiction, today’s young liberal army which grew up in the soft-hand service economy of post-industrial America is a juggernaut of pushiness unbounded by the practical limitations that forced past movements to move at a reasonable pace.

Armed with hi-tech devices which can disseminate their message worldwide instantly and for free (whereas just 30 years ago it would require expensive paper and distribution logistics to make even a dent); buried under so much debt that the repayment process is more of a nagging afterthought than a time-sensitive imperative; and having excused themselves from any meaningful responsibilities by working for non-profits rather than starting their own businesses, these SJWs are as confident as they are nonchalant in seeking to quickly impose radical changes upon the rest of society.

Justified by some bizarre mash-up of “we hold these truths to be self-evident” and “by any means necessary,” today’s Far Left bypass all checks and balances in their race against the clock to make things right—especially now that Obama has less than a year in office, they are frantic to enact and make permanent these goals should (perish the thought) a Republican succeed him.

Among the tools at their disposal, our SJW saviors employ hot-button court cases, far-reaching executive actions, and social media guilt-and-shame campaigns to circumvent the slow, morphing pace of everyday change which tends to stick more lastingly than when something is rammed down the population’s throat. (The fact that America is still grappling with abortion 40 years after Roe v. Wade should have given everyone pause before again looking to the Supreme Court to resolve the gay marriage issue. No doubt many in Trump’s camp cite the latter as part of why they support him.)

In conversation and blog posts, SJW’s use innocuous words like “sensible” to talk us into a feel-good short term (themselves oblivious to the hellish long-term consequences), and employ throw-away lines like “I’m a wife and a mom,” as if those adjectives render someone’s beliefs or desires any more value than saying you’re a cab driver, gamer, or sorority sister. This insidious manipulation of words is so dangerous because at any moment these SJWs can innocently throw their hands up and deny any responsibility for the chaos they have unleashed.

So where do we stand? Barring any shenanigans by the Republican and Democrat parties during the primaries—and if you remember the submarining of Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004 you wouldn’t put it past them—I don’t see how we avoid this Trump/Sanders train wreck, which would be amusing if the fate of our country wasn’t tied up into it. You’d hate to think that assassination or a Ross Perot-style threat could force either man out of the race but after seeing how little rules have mattered to the power brokers over the past 15 years, we really shouldn’t be surprised by anything.

Of course, there are other big factors at play that might make 2016 the most interesting years of our lives. We don’t even know what the true state of the economy is but hardly anyone would use the word “optimistic” to describe it. Russia and China continue to make long-term power moves which foretell of a day with more worldwide parity, if not a weaker, second-tier status for the US.

Such inexorable macro trends which only point downward might in fact be why we’re faced with such a circus as Trump vs Sanders. The country has gone senile and lost its way. This election farce will be a tragic final act of the American Empire where the willfully naive do battle against the ankle-biting tyrants.

Postscript: The main wild card which interests me is the demographic shift as the white population ages and shrinks. I’ve seen firsthand the enthusiasm of the first- and second-generation Latinos here in the LA area. They also have a healthy sense of family and community which differs greatly from the dysfunction in blacks and also whites. No doubt as the Latino population grows there will be a battle among the political parties for their allegiance, and I don’t think it’s a shoe-in for the Democrats as it first might appear. Perhaps one of the two powerhouse parties will have to disintegrate and form anew to account for the millions of other new immigrants we’ve brought in from India, Russia, Africa, and Asia. Time will tell…

Featured Artist: Illdisposed

While it is a sad fact that most areas of life are not meritocracies, I find it particularly unnerving that in the heavy metal world—a genre that prides itself on defying conformity—fans are still susceptible to simply accepting what’s presented to them and not digging deeper.

This comes to mind as I ruminate about how low the bar seems to be set for extreme metal today. On the one hand, Meshuggah’s opus “Destroy Erase Improve” is already 20 years old, but today the whole Djent phenomenon continues unabated despite the fact its trademark low-end, percussive riffing style is a fairly simplistic device that would be more appropriate as part of a band’s arsenal and not its core songwriting element.

And then there’s the new crop of “post”-black metal bands like Deafheaven, loathsome Millennial hipsters whose main selling point is hype because they lack the serious musicianship and drive which birthed the sub-genre they now poorly emulate. That this band’s wishy-washy take on a once extremely potent movement could garner nationwide tours boggles my mind—the bland atmospheres they create simply exist with no sense of development before awkwardly transitioning into tedious shoegaze sections where the guitarist’s lack of chops is woefully apparent; and the vocalist’s monotone screams express none of the personality, urgency, or purpose found in songs like Impaled Nazarene’s classic “I Al Purg Vonpo” or “Schatten Aus Der Alexander Welt” by Bethlehem.

It is from this frustrated place that I think back on a time when exploring the dark corners of extreme metal almost always led you to a new band that was putting its own personal stamp on the form. I don’t know if the change stems from the fact that before everything went online and digital, when the old industry hierarchies and cost of actual tape made fostering real talent a logistical imperative, but back then if something crossed your path it had probably entered the zeitgeist for a reason.

Further, before you could run to an internet safe space every time you had a depressed feeling, and before you could post every new riff on YouTube 5 minutes after you wrote it, bands and scenes had the time and space to develop a meaningful identity, and only then were they ready to present themselves to the world.

The Swedish and Florida death metal scenes immediately come to mind, but just across the water from Stockholm something very important was also brewing in Denmark. Supported by the mighty Progress Red Labels young bands like Konkhra, Dominus, and Mercenary were carving out a sound exemplified by massive drum production, overwhelming death growls, and sophisticated guitar work that balanced unorthodox riffing with flowing song structures.

Illdisposed - Four Depressive Seasons

Mightiest of all was Illdisposed, whose incomparable 1993 debut “Four Depressive Seasons” is a truly dark and oppressive experience. The 9 songs sit atop a crisp drum production rich with reverb, and Michael Enevoldsen’s performance sounds almost like a live mixing-board recording as the double-bass and toms roar out to pummel the listener. This clarity is crucial in ensuring that the real carnage does not get lost in the shuffle as Bo Summer’s gruff, double-tracked “subwoofer” vocals sweep over the listener like a howling windstorm.

Cementing this grim death metal display as a classic is the churning guitar work of Lasse D.R. Bak, who possesses a seemingly endless supply of catchy mid-paced riffs which move steadily forward via clever breaks and momentous transitions, all topped off by his tasteful implementation of melodic solos played with confident feeling.


This deft balancing act between elements both brutal and refined is why “Four Depressive Seasons” embodies that crucial distinction between playing “death metal with melody” and the more cliche “melodic death metal.” For all the hundreds of bands who took the easy way out by copying the simplest aspects of the bouncy-riff style trademarked by At the Gates and In Flames, Illdisposed stands as a monument incriminating their dereliction of duty both as musicians and students of the genre.

Not wasting any time, a year later the band unleashed the simply ruthless “Return from Tomorrow” EP. With guitars that hinted at a Bolt Thrower influence and Summer’s inclusion of a disturbing new wail that merges John Tardy with Martin van Drunen, these grimy 7 songs were not to be ignored as they showed Illdisposed increasing in lethality as it stripped down in structure. In the title track a furious escape from the brooding middle section gives a tasteful nod to Entombed’s “Sinners Bleed,” while “Withering Teardrops” shows the band’s prowess in unconventionally using female vocals to evoke a feeling of deeper depression rather than any hope for romance.
Illdisposed - SubmitThis sharpening of the elements was perfected on their last truly significant release, 1995’s “Submit.” Featuring new drummer Rolf Rognvard Hansen and a drier, more intimate sound, this album simply buries you under the massive weight of the deeply down-tuned guitars and Summer’s enveloping trademark woof. Newfound elements of groove and even tasteful hints of NY-style hardcore death metal find balance with Illdisposed’s uncompromising commitment to heaviness as relentless mid-paced passages grind forward, with the occasional well-placed lead thrown in to counter the oppressive feelings that build up in the listener.

Highlights here include the back-to-back punch of “Memories Expanded” and “Slow Death Factory,” the former being an utterly crushing mosh pit anthem that crescendos with a plaintive guitar solo, the latter a rollicking affair that even dishes out some manic acoustic guitar, sounding like a gypsy strumming furiously before his unwashed relatives. Haunting album closer “Die Kingdom” is some sort of wicked amalgamation of the Benedictine Monks and Napalm Death’s “Plague Rages”—a fittingly disturbing end to Illdisposed’s unforgettable early years!


Follow-up albums “There’s Something Rotten in the State of Denmark” and “Kokaiinum” each had their charming moments but it wasn’t until 2004’s “1-800-Vindication” that the band found top form again as they delivered a modern-sounding but still potent performance, highlighted by the passionate “In Search of Souls.” In my opinion, subsequent releases have been a bit formulaic but this takes nothing away from the debt death metal fans owe Illdisposed for their pioneering early work.