December News & Notes
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I don’t know about you, but all this shit is starting to cut to the bone. I know I shouldn’t complain—isn’t that what we’re all supposed to think, as long as there’s not a tube rammed down our throat? But the cold, the declining light, the shuttering city, the lame Thanksgiving, and the evanescent relief that followed Biden’s win are jamming up my joy signals. So I thought I might offer some calm, magnetic, sustaining words here, to help us all through this extra bleak December and to manufacture, for myself, a pose of good-humored sagacity I don’t actually feel.
But instead I want to talk about Star Trek: Acid Party.
A 45-minute masterwork of YouTube pop-culture sampledelia, Star Trek: Acid Party scavenges Star Trek: the Next Generation for psychedelic double-entendres, surreal visuals, and raw material for a digital Cuisinart set to “demented.” Yes, you should be stoned when you watch it, but the aesthetic here depends on more than snark or loopy effects. Early on, the Enterprise-D crew is standing rapt before the view screen on the bridge, but instead of a virgin planet or Romulan warship they are watching The Wizard of Oz synched to Dark Side of the Moon—one of a feast of Floyd references, and a tip of the hat to the current of trippy media mash-ups that, of course, now includes Star Trek: Acid Party. The stream of hallucinations, dance parties, freak-outs, and fart jokes that follows is sometimes brilliant, sometimes puerile, and almost always wickedly entertaining. But it’s also the sort of reflexive roller-coaster ride that gets psychedelic even without the trails—a metamodern meditation on the sad, ridiculous, but still beckoning call of the cosmic.
The YouTube channel belongs to a certain Yew Zyr (get it?) but little in his/her/their/zer other videos prepares you for the intelligence on display here, not to mention the editing chops (and good taste in EDM) required to digitally “scratch” footage of Starfleet officers and weird aliens into groovy festy get-downs. True, the warped visuals and intensely stuttered loops can be grating. But in a way, the unsettled vibes triggered by these mindless repetitions just up the lysergic verisimilitude. The wisest touches are the motionless Sci-Fi illustrations interspersed throughout the mayhem; matched to Boards of Canada and other melancholic electronica, these wistful otherworldly backdrops recall those flashes of strange sublimity that turn your LSD trip into a complete balanced breakfast.
The electronica soundtrack also invoked the whole early nineties zeitgeist that underlies the imagery of ST:TNG, which ran from 1987 to 1994. I sampled the show’s last few seasons when they ran, which partly inspiread me to research and write a fun subculture piece for The Village Voice—my first cover story—that explored the Neopagan and African-American appropriation of Klingons within Trekker fandom. Yes, very ’90s.
But I mostly absorbed the show through reruns broadcast later during the dot-com boom. Like a ritual, Jennifer and I would gather with some hilarious queerfolk at a communal pad in the Mission, toking up and squealing at the exploits of “Captain Daddy” and crew as they wrangled with Q, Romulans, and the Borg we hadn’t yet realized was being built just down the peninsula.
I’ve been meaning to rewatch the show, but it’s pretty unlikely, given my declining tolerance for the pop crap that larded many an episode, and was already dated at the time. Yew Zyr’s parodic homage allowed me to cram the whole thing into a glass pipe and smoke it, producing an effect not unlike Jean-Luc’s compressed alien life in “The Inner Light,” my favorite ST:TNG episode and one of the sweetest gnostic hours of TV ever.
Row row boldly go gently down the stream…
I got great feedback on the “Ask Dr. D.” feature I ran in November. It makes sense. When I give public talks, I always look forward to the Q&A, which in my line of weird can bring fastballs, knuckleballs, and spitballs hurtling my way. I often don’t know what I am going to say, which makes it entertaining, if sometimes unsettling. Answering questions on your feet is an art of audacity.
You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or click the button above. If you send in a question and I use it for the feature, I will give you a free one-year subscription to The Burning Shore. December’s “Ask Dr. D.” will be available to everyone, but future installments will be for paid subscribers.
A Burning Shore reader, Brian Federal, sent in the above collage, which he created as part of his commitment to avoid doomscrolling. I call it “Timeless Spam.” I particularly appreciate the appearance of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, the underground comix characters who, for a high school me, became good friends and questionable influences.
• On Saturday, December 5, I will be convening the monthly online gathering of the San Francisco Psychedelic Sangha at 6pm PT. The event will combine a talk, a practice, and discussion, all focused on the heretical arts of the dharmanaut. I think I am going to talk about Spiritual Hedonism, but if I don’t want to at the time I won’t. That’s spirituality in action! Sign up here; any dana for the event should be tossed into the SF Dharma Collective bucket.
• Last month I spoke with two renegade academic types, Preston Price and Matt Baker, for their newish War Machine podcast. These boys favor the dirt-bag edge of scholarship and religion, so I felt right at home as we talked theory—critical theory, systems theory, and, of course, conspiracy theory. I was off energetically that day, but that just made things more vulnerable and questing. They called the episode “Surf(ac)ing Interstices.” You also might want to check out their two-part conversation about divination and politics with my pal Joshua Ramey, author of The Hermetic Deleuze and another renegade religious scholar.
• Adam Sayne has been doing his Conspirinormal podcast for about eight years now, and recently hosted a Strange Realities conference in Nashville. Maybe it’s the magic of Tennessee, but his mellow, unhurried style around these tricksy matters is a testament to one fella’s ability to walk through the valley of the shadow of Weird without losing the plot. This conversation stuck close to High Weirdness material, and included further speculations on the parameters of the global Chapel Perilous we find ourselves in.
I hope you enjoyed this flicker of The Burning Shore. Please consider a paid subscription if you can. The Burning Shore only grows by word of mouth, so pass this along to someone who might dig it. Thanks!