A Glimmer of Light Across the Vast Sea- A ‘Rings of Power’ Review

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

When it was announced that Amazon had purchased the film rights to Tolkien’s world, most dedicated lovers of Middle Earth felt a twinge of apprehension. Fans of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy hold the story and content as some of the highest achievements in film-making. To lovers of the original books and extended writings of Professor Tolkien, the world is close to sacrosanct.

Could a faceless, cruel force like Amazon ever hope to capture the key themes and core feeling of Tolkien’s works, or would fans be forced to endure a blasphemous caricature of their beloved heroes, diminishing and disrespecting the brand?

Looking back, I think it was a bit of both. Here, it must necessarily be said that this review will feature spoilers not only from the Rings of Power series and the Peter Jackson films, but also from the entire catalogue of Tolkien’s works.

The first tremor of concern came with the details of just what Amazon held the rights to, and what story they were hoping to tell. Speculations abounded—some claimed it would simply be a remake of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Others claimed it would be a backstory for Aragorn.

Finally, it was revealed that the show would cover the events of the Second Age—the rise of Sauron, the making of the rings, and the fall of Númenor. This was encouraging news to many. That period had never been represented on film before, and certainly the content was captivating. The story, however, was not very fleshed out , and even in the Akallabêth—a subsection of The Silmarillion which covers the Second Age of Arda—it tends to be a bit high-level, and not necessarily suited to the screen.

What was worse, it turned out that Amazon didn’t have the rights to The Silmarillion, nor Unfinished Tales. They had no more rights than Peter Jackson had—specifically, to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

This meant most of the narrative would need to be gleaned from brief references or listings of years found in the Appendices.

Much would need to be invented outright.

This was of grave concern. Representing a beloved world in a new medium was a serious challenge, but to insert what amounted to fan fiction into the universe risked a clash with the source material that could lead to losing the core themes.

To some extent, this is what happened.

That is not to say that The Rings of Power failed entirely. In fact, there was a great deal to enjoy, and more than enough reason to be optimistic for future seasons, so long as the ardent fan can keep their expectations in check.

The music was consistently fantastic, and while many of the storylines were well into the fan fiction zone, they often worked surprisingly well, with the Harfoots being an especially charming bit of world-building, even if their ultimate story feels unnecessary.

While the version of Galadriel (and Sauron for that matter, but more on that later) clashed with impressions held by most fans, they tended to work within the story the show was telling. Where the conflict existed, there were usually decent reasons, and we’ll get into more on that soon.

Elrond, Durin IV, and his wife Disa were especially enjoyable, and their scenes tended to steal every episode they appeared in. In fact, it’s worth giving special mention to everything done with the Dwarves and their realm of Khazad-dûm. Not since John Rhys-Davies portrayal of Gimli in the Jackson films has the Dwarven world felt so alive, and this portrayal was a much better fit to Tolkien’s vision than what was shown in the recent Hobbit films.

This attention to characterization does much to build the sense of the world at large. Of course, this can’t be done without building the actual world the characters inhabit. While several of the set pieces seemed a bit small and sparsely populated, this was likely due to filming during the pandemic, and may improve in coming seasons. The artistic direction and design of most locations was fantastic though. Númenor, Khazad-dûm, and Lindon were especially wonderful.

Here, we must again compare the Rings of Power against the two standards—Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, and the source material of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The artistic direction in Rings of Power worked best when it managed to resonate with both fans of the film and books—creating a kind of consistent tone for the universe. This was likely due to the influence of the incomparable John Howe, and was especially noticeable in the broad vista shots of Númenor and Khazad-dûm, which were absolutely breath-taking, and worth the ticket price alone.

In other places, the tone felt less like an homage to Tolkien’s own works, and more like a cover of Jackson’s. Constant call-backs (or call-forwards?) to things that were in the movie but not necessarily in the books reminded us that the primary audience for this show was the movie crowd, and the distinction between canon and entertainment was one they were happy to cross over where they thought it would attract more viewers.

Now to be fair, we have already pointed out that Amazon didn’t have the rights to a lot of Tolkien’s works, and shared only that which Jackson had access to. This did limit them, and while it has been expressed that they worked closely with the Tolkien estate to keep close to the source material, one can’t help but speculate what might have been possible had they simply been granted full access to the source material.

This is where some of the show’s weak spots begin to appear. Often, Amazon seems to have felt compelled to explain things that were better left vague, or to create uncertainty where it wasn’t needed. The worst offender of the former was the ridiculous decision to give Mithril a backstory. While aiming to raise the stakes and give context to viewers, it failed, in my opinion, at both. The fading of the Elves was already an established theme for Jackson fans, and could have been better explained for new viewers. It took an ethereal concept like the nature and magic of the Elves, and attempted to pin a scientific explanation onto it. Essentially, it was the Rings of Powers version of midi-chlorians.

That’s all to say nothing of the damage it does to the canon. While the writers do dull the effect slightly by admitting the backstory may be apocryphal, the idea of a Silmaril sitting on top of the misty mountains is beyond silly. It’s insulting.

Of the other misstep—creating needless uncertainty—there were many examples. In the source material, the identity of Sauron was never a mystery, at least not to the reader. We were aware of who he was, and enthralled with the way he used foibles and doubts—as well as pride—to play everyone against one another and eventually bring down the greatest nation the world had yet known.

Rings of Power instead decided to focus on a ‘mystery box’ approach, keeping us guessing till the very end just who was really Sauron. This cheapened the impact of his deeds, and presents some serious problems going forward. Further, it resulted in a lot of storylines—such as that of the Stranger—feeling inserted only to add to the mystery, and we are now left to question if they were ever really relevant at all.

At last, we come to the man himself. There’s an ironic twist, because while Sauron was the titular character of The Lord of the Rings novels, he never actually appeared in them directly. In Jackson’s films, he was represented by a giant eye, but didn’t play a much more active role, as was fitting.

In the years covered (and condensed) by the Rings of Power though, Sauron was a very active and very physically present player. And he did a LOT.

The brief stretches we see of Sauron (Halbrand) travelling through Númenor—especially his interest in the blacksmith shop—and Eregion were hardly representative of the incredibly cunning and devious deeds he did in both, but it’s unclear if we’ll see him return.

In the show, the three rings of the Elves have already been made, but that leaves us with sixteen left unmade, which Sauron should be involved with. Given the ending of the season, it’s difficult to imagine how he can saunter back into Eregion to get that work done.

Now, it could work to have him brought back to Númenor. According to canon, he was brought as a prisoner to Númenor, and they knew full well who he was. It was not due to deception, but rather playing on the pride and fears of men that he was able to sow his discord there.

This remains a possibility on the show, but the work has not yet been laid to show that fall from grace. While it has been made clear that the Númenorians mistrust the Elves, little is done to establish why, and that’s a grave omission.

Aside from the pride of men, the key tool that Sauron used in their seduction was mortality, and their jealousy that Elves got to live forever in the Undying Lands. One of the key themes of the Akallabêth is that there are limitations to men, and it is wiser to accept them than to fight against our nature. Although true of several things, this is especially true of death. The Númenorians were already longer lived than the ‘low men’, and eventually they used this as justification to dominate and exploit them. They sought ever longer lives, and held onto their station well-beyond the waning of their abilities.

This slow corruption is an essential theme of the Akallabêth. In the book, we witness how the Númenorians chased after power, and that ‘if they were not increased in happiness, yet they grew more strong, and their rich men ever richer.’ We are told directly of their ‘desire to escape from death and the ending of delight’.

These are rich and powerful themes. In the show however, they’ve done little to explore these essential differences between Elves and men—a show fan could be excused for thinking the only difference was their ears. The ban of the Valar on men sailing to the Undying Lands has not been mentioned, and the stakes are unclear.

It was the Númenorians desire for more that Sauron was eventually able to turn against them, leading to their downfall. Future seasons will have to work hard to build these traits in men.

None of this is to say that I don’t have high hopes for the future of the series. What worked, worked very well, and I am eager to see more.

I look forward to the introduction of Isildur’s brother Anárion, and hope that his role can help flesh out some of the themes above, and distinguish between the Faithful and the King’s Men. Further, the war of the Elves and Sauron in Eregion, and everything that follows could make for one hell of a spectacle with the budget available to Amazon.

If Amazon can work to better build on some of these key themes, and show Sauron’s true malice at work, the show could really begin to shine. They’ll need to resist cheap temptations like mystery boxes and dumbing down complex ideas, and trust instead to the power of the source material they spent so much money on acquiring.

If not, greed may well give way to foolishness, and where once there was hope for a beautiful and enduring piece of art, they will be left only with the washed-out ruins of their own avarice.

Let’s hope that those faithful to the material will prevail. The ride would certainly be worth it in the end.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Bushido of Bogney, Part V

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampBushido: (武士道) literally meaning “the way of the warrior”, is a Japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry in Europe. (Source)

Bogney: A tiny dog, wise for his years.

Today, we once again combine the old and the new for a fresh perspective on life through the eyes of our classy canine friend. This is the daily living of a small dog. This is the extrapolated wisdom of the ages…This is the Bushido of Bogney.

-Click Here for Part I-

-Click Here for Part II-

-Click Here for Part III-

-Click Here for Part IV-

Lesson 1:

When out for a walk, Bogney will occasionally get something stuck in his fur or paw. A thorn, a bur, or the like. Sometimes it may even be a clump of snow knotted painfully in his fur.

When this happens, he will limp, and look up to me for help. Finding the offending item, I will work to disentangle it from his fur. This increases the discomfort, and Bogney will pull away and struggle, which only hurts him more. If he could submit to the moment and be still, it would be over much quicker.

We all act this way sometimes in life.

Lesson 2:

Recently, Bogney had a painful stomach issue, and needed a tightly controlled diet. He needed to eat lots of fibre to get it under control, but because his stomach was hurting, he did not want to eat. Worse, when he did eat, he tried to choose soft, fatty items which were more tempting, but would only worsen his condition.

Often, our what we need and what we desire are very different.

Lesson 3:

Bogney loves to cuddle together with his parents, often ensuring at least part of him is touching each one. However, there are many occasions where his parents will be in different rooms. At these times, he will leave his bed or couch, and lay himself on the floor at the centre-point between their locations.

He sacrifices personal comfort to be as close as possible to both of his loved ones. We all stretch ourselves thin sometimes. This is the way with love.

Now however, the snow flakes are falling, and Bogney is sitting warm in his bed, watching them through the window. The pain of the past is forgotten, and he is content in his present moment.

This perhaps, is his greatest lesson to us. At least for today.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: The Constitution is America’s Bible

purelyspeculationThis post from 2014 was, and I believe remains, one of my most important and still tragically relevant. In the years since, the world–not limited to the USA–has continued down its dangerous path of theocratic madness and dogmatic adherence to outdated modes of thinking.

Have things gotten better, worse, or just weirder? Sound off in the comments below.


I’ve heard it said that the Constitution is America’s Bible. I have to admit it has a nice ring to it. Certainly, it can’t be argued that the founding document of the USA is held in high regard—revered even, in the same way that devout Christians look to the Bible.

Further, the constitution is often cited as an absolute, just like the Bible. “That’s my constitutional right…” you might hear someone declare, with the same self-righteous cadence one might declare that “it’s the word of God”. The speakers in both examples inevitably mean the same thing: There’s no use debating it.

I’ve come to suspect however that the colloquial turn of phrase doesn’t mean quite what I might’ve assumed. When people say that the Constitution is America’s Bible, they’re often referring to perceptions similar to those mentioned above. It may be that they see the Constitution as irrefutable, absolute, or beyond reproach. Further, there are some who use the phrase to expound on the Biblical inspirations for the Constitution (Source)—which serves of course only to solidify the former perception.

But those aren’t the sort of notions that brought the phrase to my mind the other day, and they’re certainly not the ideas that have followed from that initial reflection—terribly far from it in fact.

It’s not that I disagree with the comparison. To the contrary—the quote occurred to me quite independently, a natural extension of a concern I’ve been harbouring for a while, and which comes to light again and again whenever I read a news article in which the Constitution is invoked to cease all further debate.

The Constitution, it’s true, is America’s Bible—but not in the way they mean.

The Constitution, written in 1787 and ratified in 1788, lays out the fundamental principles of the USA as envisaged by the founding fathers—and is the de facto final source of relevance when it comes to all things Americana.

The Bible is similar. Of course, that depends on what we’re talking about exactly, but for the purposes of this article, any Holy Book will do really. If we’re talking about the Christian Bible, the New Testament was written around 2000 years ago, and the Old Testament approximately 3500 years ago. The Quran is estimated to be around 1358 years old. Still, much like the constitution, each serve their own role as the final word—the irrefutable truth in all related matters.

Absolutism is dangerous in even the most light-hearted issues, and especially so when the stakes involve the governing of a country or ruling of a faith. Countless wars have started on grounds justifiable, and even necessary, according to the laws of holy books, and no less so for those in the constitution.

But that’s not all they have in common. Whether 3500 years old like the Old Testament (also called the Pentateuch or the Torah), or a mere 226 years old like the constitution of America (successfully amended only 27 times—of which the first 10 compose the Bill of Rights, and were written only a year after the original document), these are, at best, historical documents.

When considering the merits of any historical document, and especially in evaluating its relevance for modern understanding, we must consider a number of key factors. Firstly, being historical documents, context is an important consideration when making any attempt to apply their instructions in a contemporary setting.

Meanings change, as do the circumstances which might at one time necessitate a law, and at others render it counterproductive. In the case of the Bible or other Holy Books, one key problem is translation. Over the long stretch of time it’s existed, countless translations have occurred to bring it to its current state. What depth of meaning might have been lost in these translations is hard to say—especially when weighed alongside the vastly different political and social environment of its original writing.

It’s a difficult knot to untie, but whether it’s a matter of translation or social context, there exists a slew of Biblical rules which we can surely agree fail to fit our expectations of divine leadership in the present age. The Bible forbids the crossbreeding of cattle, requires death to both partners in an adulterous relationship, suggests the burning of prostitutes and stoning of unchaste daughters, forbids the eating of pork, of mixing fabrics, and even calls for death to children who disrespect their parents. A harsh set of rules—but arguably conceived of and considered sensible in such entirely different times.

But times change, and so too should our reverence for works which are so inseparably tied to their own era.

The constitution is little different. In terms of language and context, one of the most obvious examples is the infamous second amendment. This key piece of the bill of rights (Ratified in 1791) protects the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms. Specifically, it’s intended as a protection of citizens against their government, in order to allow for the raising of a people’s militia. However that legislation is now 223 years old, and at the very least, the meaning of a word like ‘arms’ has changed along with the technology which it describes.

Currently, debate is waged constantly over the intentions and effective modern interpretations of this amendment, as school shootings and death by gunfire run rampant in the USA.

But these documents present another dangerous precedent unrelated to historical context or accidental mistranslation. When any creed is treated as absolute, it becomes an indefatigable trump card against any set of actions acting contrary to the interpreter’s agenda. The very nature of interpretation is malleable, and thus any issue may easily be shoe-horned into its speculated intentions. This is intentional misinterpretation, and is an especially prominent issue right now with the American Constitution.

The passing of Citizens United (Link), a case of constitutional law which used an intentionally flawed interpretation of the Constitution, ultimately made two incredibly damning determinations. Firstly, in the eyes of the law, a Corporation is considered to be interchangeable with a human being. Secondly, the spending of money in a political campaign is protected as a form of free speech (the protection of which is guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution).

This legislation has directly led to the seizure of the American Government by Corporate interest groups and labour unions, as they buy up politicians and usher through laws intended to benefit only their profit margins.

Once again we run into the confounding quagmire of interpretation. The Bible, for instance, fully encourages the owning of slaves—so long as they are from foreign nations (Leviticus 25:44). This is a point which is happily ignored by most religious practitioners. Yet if Wall St. and the Stock Exchange in general are meant to allow people to buy and sell shares in Corporations, and Corporations are legally defined as human beings, then Wall St. and the American Stock Exchange must be little more than a glorified slave market.

It’s a difficult circle to square, but considering that the Constitution begins with the famous preamble of “We the people…”, the fact that meaning and sense have all but left the building should come as no surprise to any observer of the current political scene. The document has been bastardized for agendas entirely removed from the interests of the people—one need look no further than the establishment of ‘Free Speech Zones’ (Link) for evidence of that.

Presently, we continue to look to holy books for advice: on family planning, attitudes towards love, and more. The constitution as well is the be-all-end-all source for issues which had no contextually-relevant counterpart in the time of its conception. Issues such as gun control in modern times, managing political dissent, the definition of marriage and more will not be solved by looking to the uninformed past, but rather by looking ahead, with the clairvoyance and empathy which can be garnered from hundreds of years of crucial experience.

Ultimately, whether you’re looking to one of the Holy Books for inspiration, or to the Constitution for guidance, it’s worth considering that you might be doing a fire-dance to fix your empty lighter. While there is undoubtedly great wisdom and sense to be had in both documents, at the end of the day, to live by laws set out for different times rather than relying on the common sense and decency inherent to us all is a misguided effort. Here at Brad OH Inc., we look forward to the day when such archaic attitudes are as outdated as the source material upon which they rely.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Muse

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

The minutes crawl, meandering mindlessly by,

as the mind mulls on myopic miseries.

Minutiae distracting—malicious in its mediocrity,

as merciless minions of misgivings muddy the waters.

But where the muse, whose music brings meaning?

When weaning from mundanity we writhe,

then written on the walls is the wonder of her witchcraft.

Who mollifies the weary and meddles with our worry.

Myriad memories are woven in her menagerie.

Where many malevolent mental blocks

are withdrawn and mended into that

magical mess of which they were wrought.

The who’s and the where’s and the why’s and the when’s,

writing we wrestle them while we still can.

It’s merely a moment, a miraculous wash

but wading unworried we’ll master the world.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: The ‘Jenga’ Analogy

The other day, I started sketching an outline for an article, but quickly realized I’d already written something terribly similar back in 2015. So in lieu of wasted effort, here is the original–I’m back to editing my book.


Earlier this week, I found myself playing a friendly game of Jenga. Well, not entirely friendly perhaps—it was naturally filled with all the taunting and tension so common to the game.

With each log I drew from the base with tremulous fingers, I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched the tower teeter and totter back and forth. But when it finally found its balance once more, the work was only halfway done.

After a brief period of respite marred only by a victorious sneer at my young opponent, it was time for me to finish my task. With the newly liberated block held delicately between my fingers, I raised it up and let it hover a moment above the top of the now lopsided and treacherous monstrosity we’d created.

Finally, I took a deep breath in and held it. The careful extraction was not my victory, for now I had to place the block on top—hoping against hope that the imbalance I had done to the tower’s base would not prove fatal.

Sadly, my hopes were dashed, and the tower came crumbling down. Wooden blocks scattered across the tabletop, and a squeal of unrestrained joy was loosed from the grandstanding lips of my tactless opponent.

‘If only I hadn’t had to put it on top’, I lamented. But that’s just the point here. It’s easy to cause imbalance. It’s far more difficult to deal with the consequences. When I’d slid the block out, I had created tension—specifically between the increasingly poor engineering of the tower, and the immutable force of gravity.

If it hadn’t been expressly forbidden by the sacrosanct rules of Jenga, I could have tossed the block lackadaisically over my shoulder and passed the buck onto the unaware child before me—forcing them to deal with the repercussions of my block choice.

“Again!” he cried, encouraged by his victory and likely reeling with a distinct sense of invulnerability.

But my mind was elsewhere, and time was not on my side. As I gathered up the blocks and began to replace them in the box, I turned to the clock on the wall to gauge my schedule. 11:00am—just enough time to get one last visit in before lunch.

Oh lunch: the vaunted reprieve from workday responsibilities. With a half-hour of stress-free liberty, my only significant choice would be where to eat. And if that’s the only conflict to resolve, things are pretty good in my books.

But as the last of the Jenga blocks was returned to its rightful place, my hunger-laden mind recalled suddenly the ongoing string of strikes and demonstrations against fast food operations around the world (Link).

Workers had taken to the streets, demanding delivery from the poverty level wages they had been faced with for far too long. The demonstrations were primarily peaceful shows of unity and hope—asking only a fair wage for a fair days work. But as is the leitmotif of any political discourse these days, the demand was mired in controversy and misgivings.

Among the myriad complaints aimed at the workers was the age-old notion of fiscal strain. The argument goes that if restaurants (and it should be noted here that the vast majority of those affected are multinational Corporations) were ‘forced’ to increase their minimum wage, the resultant loss of capital would have to come from somewhere else.

It’s a logical notion to be sure—money is finite after all, and if moved to one place, it must have come from another. The natural remedies, in the Corporate mind at least, are to lay off workers, increase prices, or decrease quality.

Of course, these options lead to long line-ups, inflated meal prices, and dangerously cheap ingredients. As images of soggy lettuce, smeared condiments, and dry, grey ‘all-beef patties’ danced before my eyes, my lunch options seemed somehow less appealing.

There is a problem with this key assumption however, and as so many problems are these days, it is tied to the fundamental structure of the Corporation. Guided by the anti-social leaning philosophies laid out in the ‘Friedman Doctrine’ (Link), a Corporation is structured with only one true responsibility—the shareholder. This means that with every decision a Corporation makes, it is obligated to ensure that the bottom line of share value is being increased.

In essence: no matter what the problem or potential solutions, the goal should be greater profit for the Corporation. Of course, this has historically led to a litany of grave injustices (Link), but just at this moment, it was my impending meal I was most concerned about.

And herein lies the problem. While it’s difficult to argue that workers aren’t entitled to a living wage—particularly in a world where an ever growing number of jobs are being pushed into the minimum wage bracket by increased automation and other factors—I still want a good meal.

But these desires are incompatible in the Corporate mind. You can’t have fair pay, good food, AND reasonable prices…at least not if stock prices are to continue rising.

And so it goes: as each year passes, Corporations continue to take money away from the bottom, while ensuring it also stays at the top. Increase the wages—lay off employees. Respect environmental regulations—decrease the quality of the product. Comply with fair tax regulations—jack up the prices.

You take a block from the bottom, and you put it on top.

The easy answer of course, is that Corporations should, and must, accept that as society changes and technology grows, sometimes they may see a decrease in overall profits. But this should be felt at the top—the shareholders and the CEO’s who are in dire need of learning that just as they claim that ‘a person doing a minimum-skill job deserves only a minimum salary’, so too must the directors of a decreasingly relevant franchise ultimately see a stall in their (still exorbitant) profit margins.

Of course, this isn’t what happens. While many of these fast-food franchises likely started out as very solid businesses offering a decent meal at a competitive price, they have long since grown unwieldy. As the towers of their Corporate offices rose higher into the skyline, their bases grew increasingly unsteady. And we’ve all seen the end result many times before. Eventually, the whole operation comes crumbling down. After all, no one wants to pay $14 for a shitty burger just so the CEO can afford to take a private jet to his island resort.

And this, better than anything else, illustrates the fundamental failing which has occurred in our conception of capitalism. Namely, the transfer of implicit company responsibility away from its customers—who rely on a strong and reliable base—to its shareholders—who care only for how high it can reach before they sell their shares and watch it all crumble from the vantage point of the next opportunity they make ready to despoil.

It’s a depressing thought to say the least. And so, as I slid the Jenga box into my bag and made off to my next visit, I made a decision. Today, maybe I could pass on lunch. I was hungry no doubt, but as I thought about the implications behind which barely-edible meal I’d buy, I found that my appetite was gone.

Fuck it, I’d just go hungry. After all, if the Corporations had it their way, that would be the fate of the lot of us.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Gathering of the Juggalos 2022

Well, I’m back.

Those were the words Sam Gamgee spoke to Rosie Cotton upon finally returning from the end of his journey. Sitting in the air-conditioned silence of my office, only days after the ending of the Gathering of the Juggalos, I feel rather the same.

The real world I’ve returned to is less vibrant than the one still teasing the edges of my memory—threatening to pull me blindly back through time into a realm I would rather remain.

The Gathering of the Juggalos 2022 was dubbed the Gathering of Dreams, and in many ways, that’s certainly how it feels. Too quickly it passed, and remains now as a constant dream in the back of my mind of what was, and what will someday be again.

The visions are a seemingly chaotic collection—a kaleidoscope of carnival imagery, camaraderie, and concerts.

With the lingering taste of midway food and the smell of stale soda, faces pass through my mind. They are a shockingly varied group, united by looks of grudging exhaustion, glee, and more than anything else, a burning sense of appreciation for the moment they’re in.

I was able to reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. At a Gathering, there’s a pervasive sense of familiarity that makes real the repeated claim that these events are not merely a music festival, but rather a family reunion for the most reviled and feared lineage in music history.

Faygo flew through the air, raining down on anyone below before crashing with a colourful splash into its target. Juggalos set up slingshots to launch Faygo or water balloons into the crowd, while others struggled to outfox security and make it up onto the dinosaur’s back.

Fireworks blasted continuously in the background, and clumped in wet heaps on the ground at many points were the burned rags of confederate flags. Passerby’s would spit on them and laugh. One danced upon it. “Be careful,” said a nearby stranger, “I did that earlier, and there was shit all over it.”

I think I’ll always remember that quote.

Juggalos are a direct sort of people, and if they are passionate about displaying their hatred for hate (ironic as that may sound) so too do they celebrate what they love with ferocious vigour.

The pits in front of the ICP concerts saw split heads and shattered teeth. Strangers crashed into each other, then hugged like old friends. Mortars shot off, smoke filled the air, and people choked and gasped together. Fresh Faygo washed away blood and sweat alike.

Even amidst this atavistic revelry, there is gentleness and respect. No one who falls stays down for long, and even as they land are greeted by a rush of hands ready to pick them up and let them try again.

That’s sort of what the Gathering is about. We take care of our own. Whether it’s helping a wounded comrade out of the pit, putting together entire campsites to take care of people lacking supplies, or finding random and wonderful ways to entertain one another, Juggalos never cease to amaze with their ingenuity and unique charm.

I remember on the final night as ICP held everyone in thrall, I caught a funny sight out of the corner of my eye. It was like a white blob moving through the sky. I stole a look over, and saw that it was a Hatchetman. Someone off to the side was creating them out of foam and sending them up to dance over the crowd.

No matter where you go at the Gathering, you’ll see something memorable. I appreciate that about Juggalos.

Of course, there are scheduled events too, and some of these were chief in my priorities. Among the top of that list was the Morton’s List Revealed Seminar—at which the creators of the beloved game would reveal all the secrets of its past, and discuss the game’s future.

Despite the excellent turnout, this felt like a surprisingly intimate affair. The three creators of the game—Jumpsteady, ‘Ninja’ Nate Andren, and ‘Tall’ Jess Deneaux—shared stories of their childhoods, the creation of the game, and the magical experiences which culminated in this epic release. A photo was shared of the original inspiration for the name of the Morton Boulder, and thus the game itself.

The game’s creators had tracked down their old friend, the eponymous Morton recently, only to find that he was deceased long past. Their mission ended with celebrating the life of their friend—reckoning themselves with the clutches of mortality even as they reminisced on the days of youth, life, and blind ambition.

Morton’s List brings us full circle like that sometimes, it’s part of the game’s chaotic magic, and provided for a touching seminar.

I was able to connect with my friend and one third of the creative force behind Morton’s List—Ninja Nate—out on the grounds. He was driving the golf-cart around for those who needed transport, but spared me the time to chat. Then, he gave me a lanyard with a card for his new game, Stranger Tales, explaining that he passed one to each person he encountered, and that the symbol on the back was the harbinger to some magical connection. It was up to me to discover the meaning of that for myself.

My card showed a series of exploding fireworks. I didn’t know what it meant then, but I nevertheless wore it with the youthful enthusiasm so necessary to a festival like this.

At 15 years old, I could hardly have dreamed of an experience like this.

Of course, dreams blend and shift as we look back on them. They merge and intersect, building on one another as they exist at once in the past and the future. Every minute since I’ve been back, different memories have bounced and played before my tried eyes. Friends and strangers, concerts and events. I saw amazing performances from Sir Mixalot, Onyx, The Hatchetman Project, Esham, KRS-One, Slick Rick, and the legendary Mike E. Clark among others. The latter of these even DJ’d live for ICP, and is featured heavily on their new EP, Pug Ugly.

I watched a live Palcast Hotdog eating contest, and witnessed Babytron live up to his name as he fled the stage early for this year’s Bubba Sparxxx award (IFKYK).

As is tradition, ICP were late for their yearly seminar, and the Trash War which ensued in the meantime was one for the books. Faygo, garbage, fireworks, smoke bombs, and even an octopus took to the skies, most often connecting with some unsuspecting sucker who’d gotten himself in too deep.

Sometime around 2011, venues stopped providing chairs for this event, and opted instead for bails of hay. The rationale was that the bales would be less easy to throw at one another than the chairs, but this assumption was sorely tested. I not only saw hay bales thrown at Juggalos, I saw Juggalos themselves hurled through the air as improvised projectiles.

It was fantastic.

An improvised Zen of Love Show took the place of the traditional seminar. It was fun, but many regretted the lack of significant news or updates in the Juggalo world.

Of course, at any Gathering of the Juggalos, the ICP concerts are an undeniable highlight. This year, we had two on offer, with the first of them being a Night 2 performance focussing on rarely or never-before-played songs. This ‘Juggalo Jukebox Show’ was a legendary performance, and will likely be held in the upper echelon of ICP’s storied concert history. It opened with ‘Here Comes the Carnival’ from the recent LP ‘Yum Yum Bedlam’—the live debut of a song likely to be a live classic. As fate would have it, this writer was able to get right up to the front of the pit.

It was about then that I realized it had been ten years since I’d been in a Gathering pit, and I was not the young man I used to be. It was a battle to be sure. Faygos launched like missiles before and behind me. Crowd-surfers—many with steel-toed boots—crashed towards my head from the smoky stretches of humanity pressed behind me, as the sweating masses clawed for my position.

It’s not a scene for the faint of heart, but even in the mud and mire of this battleground there is beauty and friendship. Juggalos scream the words into each other’s faces, and support one another when they fall. In rare moments of reprieve, they share stories of past battles, exchange notes on the setlist, and speculate on what will come next. Namelessly, bonds are formed, only to be torn asunder by the raging movement of the crowd as the set resumes.

The bonds remain.

As the final song started, I saw my moment come, and with Faygo Armageddon in full effect, I pulled myself over the rail and onto the stage.

Watching from far off, my partner shared that she saw me make it up, and knew that it was me when I turned to pull up those struggling behind me. That made me smile.

I danced in the Faygo rain for a long while—handing out 2-Litres, helping protect the security line around J, and hugging strangers with paint smeared smiles as they stood dumbstruck by the celebration of love, madness, and unity strobing around them.

After the set, I sat soaking and trembling with an energy rarely achieved in normal life. As my partner purchased herself a corndog, I sat on a rock, staring up at the starry sky. The myriad colours of the carnival lights bounced off my wet shirt, and I knew in that moment with a clarity reserved usually for youth and the insane that this was a special moment. It was one that I could hold, turn about and examine for years to come. It was the high-watermark of a week-long dream. The terrible, white face of the iceberg—visible and real—and acting as the portent of all that might bob and heave beneath the surface of immediate recall.

Then, as I sat there staring in wonder, the fireworks went off. Dozens, in all the colours of the rainbow, exploded above, sending their dying tendrils of smoke and sparks raining down over the grounds like a final baptism.

I clutched at my chest, where my Stranger Tales lanyard showed a similar row of fireworks. It couldn’t have been clearer to me just then. Of all the dreamlike, esoteric joys I’d had, and all of those yet to come, I knew that I’d found my moment. I was simply, purely happy, and that’s a thing not easily achieved these days.

It was a like dream, and it remains such.

Some dreams never end…

Now, I’m back. But I’ve said that already. The dreams of this vacation stretch behind me like a map to a place I never knew existed. Talking about it to those who have never been there feels like a futile effort. I would come across like a child trying to relay the contents of a fairy tale to some stranger with a briefcase.

These memories are not of this world. They are for somewhere better, a dream-like place that exists still in my past, and lingers upon the edges of certainty, somewhere ahead, like a castle in the fog, or a road stretching off into the clouds. It is the promise of joy, of community, of all the things so necessary to our humanity, yet all too often eschewed in the daily grind to survive, rather than to live.

To the Juggalos, that dream will never end. Someday, I hope that you can join us.

There’s always room on our wagons.

Much Clown Love,

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

A Long Overdue Homecoming

The astute, foresighted, and the stalkers among you are likely already aware, but Brad OH Inc. will go un-updated for a little while, as Brad OH is off gallivanting again.

As I shared recently however, this excuse is better than most, as I’ll be returning after ten years to the greatest show on Earth–the Gathering of the Juggalos.

I’ll have more to share when I’m back.

Until then,

MCL,

Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

Dark Carnivals, Dreams, and the Mystery of Morton

Ten years… a goddamn decade. That’s how long it’s been.

As I drove the long road home from the Gathering of the Juggalos in 2012—bumping the brand new Mighty Death Pop album—I imagined what might change in my life before I returned.

I couldn’t have guessed the extent of it then, or how long the stretch of time would be. Much has changed in my life and the world at large in the last ten years, but fortunately, at least one constant yet remains.

Each summer, thousands of Juggalos from around the world gather in one spot for the biggest independent music festival and family gathering in the world. This year, it happens at the start of August, and is hailed as ‘The Gathering of Dreams’.

The name isn’t chosen solely to celebrate my return—although the assumption is understandable—this year the acts and events were all themed around the wildest dream of the Juggalos and the organizers alike.

It’s a return, a celebration, and to steal a line from a wildly different band, a sort of homecoming. With all the uncertainty and instability in the world of late, a return to the gathering is just the ticket to create some semblance of sense again for this and many other Juggalos.

The Gathering is a time to forget about the rest of the world, and revel in the company of like-minded lunatics, where the mundanity of life and the weight of daily norms are cast to the wayside for a party involving friends, family, wild musical acts, carnival rides, and so much more.

This year, the emphasis is on the more. As one of the dreams of Psychopathic Don Jumpsteady, there will be a very special session to discuss some of the most ancient and guarded secrets of the infamous game, Morton’s List.

For those unfamiliar, Morton’s List is a Random Reality game heralded as the ‘End to Boredom’, and does much to live up to this bold claim. Tasking players with completing real-life quests limited only by their imaginations, Morton’s List is the only game ever to be banned from Gen Con, one of the largest toy and game trade shows in the United States.

This year’s seminar couldn’t come with more karmic hype. Original creators Jumpsteady, Ninja Nate, and R. Jesse Deneaux will be coming together to share their memories, reveal key details about development, and answer the age-old question and potential quest—who is Morton? Juggalos have been wondering about this since the games release back at the second annual Gathering in Toledo, in 2001.

Ninja Nate explains the event: “Twenty-eight years after beginning the Morton’s List project, we three authors are coming together to not only share the long-held secret of the origins of the game’s name, but also to reveal wig flipping information we weren’t aware of until last year. Plus, more revelations of the future of reality gaming!”

Like many, it’s not only the specifics of the seminars, but the overwhelmingly positive atmosphere of the Gathering that has Nate excited: “I’m most looking forward to being in the same tent with so many Morton’s List players and supporters. The Karma and good vibes of all you creative, adventurous ninjas is gonna be thick as bricks!”

There’s no doubt about that. To learn these key secrets and discuss Morton’s List with fellow enthusiasts, be sure to be at the Morton’s List Seminar. Tickets to the Gathering are still available Here.

Also, be sure to check out other games by the creators of Morton’s List, including The Quest for Shangri-La, Stranger Tales, and Druglord.

Even beyond that event, this years Gathering will be a veritable smorgasbord of entrainment. Musical acts include Mushroomhead, KRS-One, Onyx, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Slick Rick, Steel Panther, Mike E. Clark, Esham, and countless others.

Of course, the Wicked Clowns themselves—ICP—will be playing not one, but two sets. They’ll be the headlining act on the final night, and will also perform a ‘Super Mix Juggalo Juke Box Show’ featuring rare and never-before-played-live songs. This one will doubtless be a special draw for many seasoned Juggalos.

If music isn’t your thing, there’s an endless supply of alternative activities running all throughout the day and well into the night. Haunted Houses, Carnival Rides, Sideshows, countless Juggalo vendors selling rare or customized merch, the return of Big Silva (if you know you know), a seminar with the infamous Bigfoot researcher Todd Standing, and the annual ICP Seminar—often likened to a yearly Juggalo state of the union address.

Of course, even when the events stop, the Gathering never sleeps. It’s the Juggalos themselves who are the main event, and they keep it going all night long.

It’s certain to be the event of a lifetime, and there’s not a Juggalo I’ve spoken to that isn’t counting the days.

The Gathering of Dreams runs from August 3-6, 2022. Click here to get your tickets.

I’ll be on the scene as early as possible, taking it all in, living the dream, and rejoicing amongst the Juggalo Family. Check back here afterward for a full report.

Until then, stay down with the clown.

MCL,

-Brad OH Inc.

(Schisobe)

The Curse of the Uncouth

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampAs the pandemic passes all too swiftly into memory and businesses start to run at full capacity once more, there are many long-lost amenities to appreciate with fresh eyes. Open air markets, dusty record stores, convenient shopping experiences, dine-in restaurants, and of course, the beloved local bar.

Returning to a closer approximation to normal at the local watering hole is a welcome relief to the cultured barfly—and the uncultured one to boot. In this wave of excitement however, there has long lingered an unspoken fear—perhaps the final curse of the dreaded Covid virus.

After more than two years of closed or limited bar service, this return to normal will debut not one, but almost three years worth of first timers to a busy bar scene. The Uncouth—they will have no experience to guide them, and no friends near in age to teach them. A stretch of clueless newbies from eighteen to twenty (CDN) will be plowing their way through crowded bar fronts, bumping into tray-laden servers, and forming lines where absolutely no line is needed.

Cologne-covered and cocky, they’ll stand with their backs pressing against the chair behind them, unheeding the discomfort of the sitting person who would much rather just be left alone.

Like spooked buffalo (or bison, for you locals) they’ll trample wild-eyed over the accumulated goodwill of crusty drunkards everywhere. Whining their way to the front of lines. Scrounging for cigarettes on the ground. Or worse yet, stealing quick hits from vape cartridges, leaving the discarded cigarettes to pile up on the ground unchecked. They’ll throw the whole damned eco-system off kilter!

They’ll request all the wrong songs, and dance far from the designated dance-floor. They’ll sing Top 40 lyrics in your general direction, and expect you to respond with enthusiasm!

This is the final sting, the lasting poison of a sickness which has already asked far too much.

Or maybe they’ll turn out ok.

Shit, I’m probably just getting old.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: A Call for Corporate Suffrage

It’s still coming…

Despite this article being satirical in nature–and eight years old to boot–it remains terrifyingly relevant as corporations continue to make headway into the few remaining avenues of freedom people have left to them.

Sadly, there are plenty who would cheer this on. Whether to line their own pockets, to spite the other side of the aisle, to buffer against their innate fear of government, or simply through sheer ignorance, the endless march into corporate servitude is led by the voices of the greedy, the desperate, and the foolish.

Don’t be one of them.


On September 11th, 2014, a piece of legislation passed through the United States Senate in an attempt to overturn the ruling of the Citizens United (2010) case. This proposed amendment, dubbed SJ RES 19, would grant authority to congress to regulate money raised and spent on political campaigns. The legislation failed however, being unable to garner sufficient support to come to a vote (Source).

Thank goodness!

This bill was a direct attack on the human sovereignty of Corporations—and subsequently an affront to social justice.

The ruling in the Citizens United case made several key distinctions to the American public—distinctions which should be held in high esteem by any citizen who values the founding principles of freedom and personal dignity.

Firstly, for all intents and purposes, a Corporation is a human. That much at least should be beyond debate. Following from that, because a Corporation is a human, and as such a citizen, it would be a violation of our First Amendment rights to limit our freedom of speech.

Of course, ‘freedom of speech’ is a bit of a loose term; blame our unincorporated founding fathers for that one folks. To understand it better, let’s break it down a little. ‘Speech’ is a means of communicating, and communication is usually centered around wants and needs. There are, of course, different ways to express ourselves. Infants cry—it’s incredibly annoying for everyone around them, but it’s their way of telling the world what they need (usually milk, or shelter, or some other selfish thing like that). Body language is also an important form of communication. Who amongst us has never managed to read more into a wry smile than words could ever express? Mind you, the message there may have been more to do with the needs of the reader than of the person smiling, but that’s beside the point.

Corporations express themselves in different ways; although no less relevant than any other form. Specifically, we tend to speak with our pocket-books—funneling tremendous amounts of money into the coffers of politicians open to a little bit of honest advice. It’s as legitimate as any other form of communication, and to suggest otherwise would be painfully unpatriotic.

And yet that’s just what SJ RES 19 attempted to do. By limiting Corporate spending on political campaigns, it sought to silence the voice of Corporate Personhoods in a democratic government meant to represent the people.

How else can Corporations express themselves? If a law currently in place is obstructing our access to valuable natural resources, or if we need to ‘crack open’ a new market in an as-of-yet non-destabilized foreign government, we are limited by our very nature to using money to achieve those ends.

This proposed amendment was a direct attempt to thwart that—and it simply will not stand.

It’s time to make a change. If we are to continue as a free nation, a nation ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, we need to be unflinchingly certain that humongous financial institutions bent only on expanding their own power base are represented within that definition of ‘people’.

Yes, it’s finally time to talk about Corporate Suffrage.

Throughout history, Suffrage has been granted again and again to interest groups seeking to have better representation in government. Starting with removing the requirement of property ownership, then allowing freed slaves the right to vote, and finally expanding to women, the concept of Universal Suffrage (Link) states that the right to vote is not restricted by race, sex, belief, wealth, or social status.

How can it be denied? That’s a pretty noble goal. And there’s one word in there that we at Brad OH Inc. think is especially important: wealth.

SJ RES 19 was a blatant and unforgivable attempt to discriminate against the Corporate Person based on our wealth—our most effective tool for harnessing our right to free expression. This is a travesty to be sure, and here at Brad OH Inc., we will not abide such a miscarriage of justice.

As persons, we must rise up and demand our inclusion within the inarguably just definitions of Universal Suffrage. Corporations are, as a matter of fact, the most productive and valuable citizens any nation could hope to have. We do the building, create the jobs, manage the infrastructure, and like it or not, we make the decisions. Corporations are tenacious, and we’ve proven time and again that we will take our rights one way or another. The failure of SJ RES 19 was quite simply not enough. In order to move towards a more equitable relationship with the country, we must stop being forced to use our hard earned money to have a voice in the political machinations of this country, and be allowed to do so directly through the electoral process.

It won’t be an easy process of course, but here at Brad OH Inc., we’ve taken the liberty of working out some of the kinks in advance—after all, we’re here to fix problems, not create them.

Clearly, a single vote for a single Corporation would be ludicrous—and far less enfranchising than the situation we currently have. Under an arrangement like that, our voice would be treated as merely equal to that of any other citizen, and we’ve already established that isn’t the case. Moving from complete control of the government and national direction via unlimited campaign financing to a single vote would be an unabashed attack on our sovereignty.

Instead, we suggest a system of representational voting—those liberals have been begging for it forever, so we could silence that infernal racket as well. Everybody wins!

Yes, in place of the ongoing and expensive persecution that continues to plague Corporate existence, let’s move towards a system of voting which fairly recognizes the national contributions of all citizens. By embracing a system which weighs each vote against the percentage of GDP a citizen creates—Corporate or not—we can finally give credit to the hard working efforts of honest citizens; and maybe even encourage a few slackers to pick up the pace a little. Raise your productivity, and raise your electoral voice. What could be more fair than that?

It certainly is a revolutionary idea to chew on, and we can accept that it will take a while to mull over for those of you without a team of highly paid advisors, but you can trust in one thing—Corporations will not be denied our rights. Not the right to free expression, not the right to vote, and not the right to mould this nation into the sort of tax free, unregulated paradise we need for the ongoing inflation of our profit margins. This is the land of the free after all, promising justice for all… with discounts available on bulk purchases.

Your Guides to Forward Progress,

-Brad OH Inc.