Monday, December 9, 2013

THE RISE AND FALL OF COLIN WILSON


Colin Wilson, author of The Outsider and The Occult: A History, passed away this week. He was 82 years old. This overview covering Wilson's incredibly rocky career kick-off is very interesting stuff, indeed, and a must-read for any and all fans of this amazingly prolific personality, whether you favor his pioneering true crime work, his "unsolved mysteries" compilations, his literary criticism or his fiction (the Spider-World series being particularly fun juvenilia).

Personally, I've always been of two minds about Wilson. On the one hand, at his best, he's a crafter of compulsively readable books about undeniably intriguing subjects. The aforementioned The Occult, from 1971, is a classic of the genre, with an encyclopedic breadth topped only, perhaps, by its direct forerunner Bergier and Pauwells' Morning of the Magicians (1960), without which The Occult - and pretty much the entire Occult and New Age revival in publishing - would be unthinkable.

On the other hand, when it came to his pet pecadillos, Wilson could hardly be called an impartial or "scientific" reporter. He tended to err on the side of credulity, accepting wild claims at face value. This fault is particularly evident in his writings on everything from ghosts to UFOs to "Faculty X"... a kind of primitive clairvoyance that he claimed all humans at one time possessed. For this reason alone, Wilson's value to any modern-day truth-seeker is suspect as anything more than a provider of excellently written and highly entertaining summaries - jumping off points - for the serious student of aberrant thought and High Weirdness.

Rest in Peace, Colin Wilson.

"THE WIRE" CREATOR DAVID SIMON ON THE TWO AMERICAS

Pretty interesting, allegedly impromptu speech delivered by David Simon, creator of The Wire - probably the finest television drama of our generation - at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, in Sydney, Australia.
America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It's astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There's no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We've somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you're seeing this more and more in the west. I don't think it's unique to America.
I think we've perfected a lot of the tragedy and we're getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.
Continue reading at The Guardian.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE GAIACIDE CONTINUES APACE

"The starfish seem to waste away, ‘deflate’ a little, and then just disintegrate. The arms just detach, and the central disc falls apart. It seems to happen rapidly, and not just dead animals undergoing decomposition." 
The Pacific Ocean is dying, apparently...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TORONTO MAYOR ROB FORD ADMITS OF POLICE: "OF COURSE I KNEW THEY WERE ON TO ME!"

The fun starts ten minutes and 35 seconds deep into the morbidly-obese, crack-smoking, pig-eyed mayor of Toronto's "impromptu" interview with Toronto talk radio fixture John "Johnny" Oakley.

Monday, November 18, 2013

R.I.P. PETER WINTONICK, GLOBAL AMBASSADOR FOR DOCUMENTARY FILM

Montreal-based, Ontario-born documentarian Peter Wintonick passed away today at the age of 60. He had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer. Join me in celebrating this great man's life and work by watching his most well known and important work, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media.


Friday, November 1, 2013

GO BANKSY, GO!

THIS is a chronicle of UK artist Banksy's recently completed New York graffiti residency. It's a month's worth of fun!

Friday, October 25, 2013

WATCH COLD WAR CLASSIC "MIRACLE MILE" ON YOUTUBE

Just a beautiful flick in so many ways. I loved it then, and I love it now. Classic Cold War entertainment!

AN ALMOST PERFECT SHORT HORROR FILM

I would have chosen a slightly more sinister song to play under the action, while still retaining the bubblegum pop to give it that counterpoint punch, and I would have slowed down the action just a titch more, and I would have ramped up the gore and violence just a touch - maybe fine-tuned the special effects on the "crunch" scene a bit, to make it more visceral and realistic. But otherwise, this is as close to perfect as a low budget short horror film can get. I give it 9/10!

 

M IS FOR MASTICATE from Robert Boocheck on Vimeo.

RUSSELL BRAND ON REVOLUTION

Very interesting interview wherein hirsute, dashing dandy Russell Brand sets the normally unflappable BBC man Jeremy Paxman to flapping... if only for a bit. Anyway, he makes some darned interesting points here, too.


Friday, October 18, 2013

SINS - I DIE, STRANGE ANIMATION BY DAEVE FELLOWS

WES ANDERSON'S THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL GETS A TRAILER

One of yer old pal Jerky's favorite film directors is Texas' own uber-twee auteurWes Anderson. From his quirky debut, Bottle Rocket (1996), through the comic mastery of Rushmore (1998), the evocative, hyperconscious designs of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), his alleged "stumble", the brilliantly funky The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), his overlooked gem The Darjeeling Ltd (2007) and his first bona-fide box office smash, Moonrise Kingdom (2012), I've loved them all with a simple, uncomplicated love that I really don't feel the need to defend. Of his oeuvre, only The Fantastic Mister Fox (2009) has left me cold. And so it is with great elation that I see Anderson's latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, now has a trailer. And oh, what a trailer! The cast, the look, the sound and the feels... all seem to point towards vintage Anderson, and that's more than enough to get MY fat ass in the theater. Check it out and tell me you aren't intrigued!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

THE LAST HALLOWEEN - PAGE ONE

Just thought I'd share this with y'all. It's the first page of my upcoming horror short comic (and recently wrapped short film), titled The Last Halloween! I hope to be finished the story soon, and I'll let y'all know where you can see it as soon as 1) I finish drawing the story and 2) we finish editing and post-producing the film. In the meantime, I hope this tides you over! Cheers and huzzahs!


GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S SIMPSONS OPENER WITH ALL REFERENCES!

So here is the great director Guillermo Del Toro's wonderful "couch gag" from this season's "Treehouse of Horrors" episode of The Simpsons. Some of the sites claiming to have found "all" the references are missing a few of the subtler ones. Here is MY list of what I believe to be the COMPLETE list of references from this monster of a high quality animated short film in its own freaking right!

IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER!

The Raven (some are saying this is a Game of Thrones reference?)
Night of the Living Dead (or, more accurately, Day of the Dead and other more modern zombie films, including perhaps Planet Terror)
Pacific Rim
The Giant Dead Bird falling from the sky... is it Rodan? Some say Planet of the Vampires. I don't see it.
Psycho house (background)
The Giant Claw (Flying above Donut Boy... three of them! Very subtle!)
7th Voyage of Sinbad Cyclops (eats Donut Boy)
Alfred Hitchcock (feeding The Birds)
The Shining (All Work and No Play)
Steven King
Hellboy Willy (and Kronen)
Blade II (super-vampire)
Blade (Snipes suit)
Godzilla (bones)
Pan's Labyrinth (Burns/Smithers)
Blobs or Bodysnatcher Pods (on supermarket ceiling)
Chronos (devices on checkout)
666 (checkout reader)
Bleeder's Digest / Better Tombs and Gargoyles / The Ghost of Newsweek
Mimic (Giant Roach Checkout Girl)
Mimic (Mom and Eyebrow Baby)
Classic Phantoms (Lon Chaney version, Hammer version, Musical version, Novel version)
Phantom of the Paradise
(Paintings on the wall all refer to older Treehouse episodes!)
Mighty CTHULHU!!!
H.P. Lovecraft
E.A. Poe
Ray Bradbury (and the Illustrated Man)
R.C. Matheson (and one of the zombie vampires from I, Legend)
Universal Monsters:
Frankenstein
Dracula
Wolfman
Mummy
Gillman
Bride of the Monster
Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth
Invisible Man
The Car (1977) Duel also?
Giant Mutated Fish (The Host maybe?)
Rod Serling
Hellboy 2 Tentacle Beast
Robbie the Robot
Moleman
Hitchcock Silhouette (drawn by Hans Moleman)
London After Midnight Vampire
Skelleton Army from Jason and the Argonauts
Alian Xenomorph
Invasion of the Saucer Men aliens
Ymir
Robot Monster
Time Machine Mutant
The Day The Earth Stood Still (GORT!)
Freaks (Johny Eck and a Pinhead)
The Thing From Another World
Nosferatu
Weird Mine Looking Thing (First Men in the Moon, 60's version?)
The Fly
The Mummy and Invisible Man chillin'
Rondo Hatton
Death Itself
The Devil's Backbone
Alice in Wonderland
Pan's Labirynth (again)

If I missed any, let me know!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WORLD WARS I AND II IN CONTEXT AS FACEBOOK STATUS UPDATES

This featured article over at College Humor is very much worth perusing. It serves as quite an excellent and comedic short-hand overview of the history and context of the 20th century's disastrous first half. It is, of course, lacking in nuance, and is very much beholden to the "exoteric" or "establishment" view of the war, its causes and effects. But that's okay. One must first learn how to navigate the main-stream before diving into the treacherous currents and nebulous rip-tides that make so-called "alternative" worldviews such a dangerous place to swim...


Sunday, October 13, 2013

A&E'S BIOGRAPHY EPISODE ON FRANK ZAPPA, ONLINE AT LAST!

"American culture has a lot of great mustaches in its history. Mark Twain had a great mustache; Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin. But Zappa... he's got the best mustache in American history. He's got the mustache, right? And then he's got that little thing on his chin. I think it's called an Imperial. That is, like, the coolest thing. That's, like, one of the great icons of 20th century."
- SIMPSONS creator Matt Groening on Frank Zappa's sartorial splendor

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MORE PENIS-RELATED ILLUSTRATED COMEDY FOR YOU

This one was also drawn way back in 1994, and also needs to be clicked on to be enjoyed. You may or may not be able to tell that I put a lot less effort in the artwork on this one. I was going for a VIZ Magazine style "funny", which my Brit friends may recognize. Enjoy! - YOPJ


Monday, September 16, 2013

GUICHI GUY TRIES TO ENLARGE HIS PENIS

I haven't posted much of my comics work on this blog because, quite frankly, I'm not really that proud of what I've done so far. The same is NOT true of the work I'm currently doing on The Last Halloween, which should be ready by the time our short film version of the same story hits theaters (or whatever it is short films hit nowadays) by this time next year. Keep your eyes on this space! 

No, the REAL reason I'm posting this comic for you folks today is that I haven't been posting much lately, and I feel like I should put some humorous filler up for those of you who check in regularly to see whether or not I've posted anything new. You know who you are. So this one's for you!

Obviously, you're going to have to click on this strip (from 1994) if you want to get all the subtle nuances and inside jokes hidden within the small type at the bottom of the first panel. It should fill up your screen pretty much from one side to the other when you do. Enjoy! - YOPJ


Monday, August 26, 2013

MY OLD PAL ALEX AS BUDDHA IN A 20-YEAR-OLD MUSIC VIDEO

The Canadian alternative rock scene in the mid-1990's was definitely a mixed bag. One of the more interesting bands of the era was the Toronto-based GLUELEG. With their successful 1994 release, Heroic Doses, the band created an intriguing, eclectic, hard-driving sound with excellent percussion and a propulsive, energetic vocal delivery. 

In this song, Mr. Pink, the inclusion of a funky Chapman Stick sound with a heavy-jazz horn section makes for an intriguing listen even now, almost 20 years later. The video for Mr. Pink also happens to feature my good friend Alex P as a gluttonous golden Buddha in a boxing ring. Enjoy!


Monday, August 12, 2013

ATTENTION! THERE ARE SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH XEROX OFFICE MACHINES!

If you are in a workplace that depends on the proper functioning of Xerox office equipment, then you had better read this damning report about how using the compression settings, even at the highest resolutions, can lead to the random switching around of numbers, which in turn can have potentially deadly consequences, for instance, in medicine, engineering, the pharmaceutical industry and more.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

HAXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES

From the Youtube description: 
Originally filmed in 1922, this version was updated in the mid 1960's to include English narration by William S Burroughs. The writer and director Benjamin Christensen discloses a historical view of the witches through the seven parts of this silent movie. 
Burroughs obviously had some say over the translated narration, which is very amusing, and which features Burroughs' trademark take on "language as a virus" early on in the film. Also updated is the entertainingly discordant soundtrack, provided by French violin prodigy Jean Luc Ponty, among other Euro-jazzy session musicians. Worth watching, if you haven't done so already.


Monday, July 15, 2013

DON'T FORGET TO CHECK IN ON THE USELESS EATER BLOG!

The Daily Dirt Diaspora blog's sister-site, Useless Eater Blog, is being updated every day with Paracultural Calendar entries listing all sorts of bizarre, spooky or evil goings-on that transpired on any particular calendar day! The project has been ongoing for the last four months now, and I have no intention of stopping until I have a full year's worth of entries... after which I will be able to recycle every day and ALWAYS have an updated page for y'all! Anyhoo, there's a really gross video of mass murderer Richard Speck showing off the manboobs he grew in prison to please his (ahem) "lovers" behind bars. Viewer beware. It ain't pretty.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

UNDERSTANDING THE LATEST ITERATION IN THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION

From the introduction to this very informative and succinct breakdown of what's taking place in Egypt these days:
The situation in Egypt is extremely complicated and changing constantly. The arguments between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood go back over half a century and they are much more complicated than the press tends to give them credit for. I just wanted to share a tiny bit of context to help the world understand the different stakeholders, what they want, why they're angry, and why the first democratically elected leader of Egypt lasted so little time...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

GOT ANY SMARTER JOKES THAN THESE?

Great bunch of smarty-pants jokes over at Reddit, as collected at Slate.com. Enjoy! My personal favorite is this one:
From user android47: “A programmer's wife tells him: ‘Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.’ The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.”

Sunday, June 23, 2013

THE MIAMI SEVEN : TERROR CELL OR WU-TARD CLAN?

On June 23, 2006, FBI and Homeland Security agents arrested seven members of a strange religious cult operating out of a warehouse in a rundown neighborhood in Miami, Florida. The men stand accused of conspiring to wage "jihad" against America and plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower, among other noteworthy buildings and institutions. At long last, The Powers That Be finally got what they've been pining for: an Enemy Within; an All Purpose Excuse… some real, live, home-grown, all-American al-Qaeda! Let's get to know The Miami Seven on a one-on-one basis, shall we? - YOPJ

*** **** ***


LYGLENSON LEMORIN

Codename(s): Brother Levi, Brother Levi-El, Brother Lysol.

Rank: Highly Cherished Soul-jah in the Army of the Infinitely Righteous Luminous One.

Responsibilities/Duties: Mostly janitorial.

Known Superpowers: A household chemical weapons expert, Lemorin is surrounded by a mysterious force-field of unknown origin that causes any photograph taken of him to come out blurry. May possess as-yet poorly understood voodoo powers.

Known Weaknesses: Gullibility.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Extreme.

*** **** ***


NAUDIMAR HERRERA

Codename(s): Brother Naudi, Lipps Babalon.

Rank: Lost Tribe Saint of the Ten Commandments, First Class.

Responsibilities/Duties: DJ, hype-man, comic relief.

Known Superpowers: Brother Naudi is chronic ambidextrous, which means he can roll blunts single-handed, using either hand. He can also roll joints with his feet, but nobody ever wants to smoke them.

Known Weaknesses: Poor judge of character, prone to munchies.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Impossible to over-estimate.

*** **** ***

PATRICK ABRAHAM

Codename(s): Brother Pat, Professor Rolex Drambuie III.

Rank: Master of Communications.

Responsibilities/Duties: Setting up bootleg X-Box Live for all members. Plus, you know... web stuff, like, e-mail and shit.

Known Superpowers: Holds high-score on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; wears a woven bonnet of unknown origin that prevents government mind-control beams from penetrating his skull; reads at an 8th Grade level.

Known Weaknesses: Believes everything he reads.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Continental.

*** **** ***

STANLEY GRANT PHANOR

Codename(s): Brother Sunni, Kool Mahdi.

Rank: Black Knight Priest of the Moorish Science Temple.

Responsibilities/Duties: Reconciling the tenets of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Freemasonry, Gnosticism, Taoism, Scientology, Kung Fu and Karate into a single, devastating martial art.

Known Superpowers: Has watched and studied every movie ever made by the Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong.

Known Weaknesses: The ladies.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Hemispheric.

*** **** ***


BURSON AUGUSTIN

Codename(s): Brother B, Peardrax.

Rank: Medical officer and team nutritionist.

Responsibilities/Duties: First aid, menu planning, grocery shopping, food preparation.

Known Superpowers: Has memorized every episode of Rescue 9/11; keeper of many forbidden prison recipes, like toilet tank banana peel wine.

Known Weaknesses: Toilet tank banana peel wine.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Planetary.

*** **** ***


ROTHSCHILD AUGUSTINE

Codename(s): Brother Rot

Rank: Trial member in good standing.

Responsibilities/Duties: Procurement, inventory, general gofer duties.

Known Superpowers: When Brother Rot puts up his hair, he's the splitting image of Brother B.

Known Weaknesses: Suffers from a long list of crippling phobias, including fear of spiders, heights, water and ghosts.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Off the charts.

*** **** ***


NARSEAL BATISTE

Codename(s): Brother Naz, Prince Manna, Prince Naz, Brother Manna, Prince "Brother" Nazmanna, etc, etc.

Rank: Pope Lord High Rabbi/Pharoah Imam of the Bleeding Rosy Cross-your-Heart Brahmin Apocalyptic Angel King Cobra.

Responsibilities/Duties: As undisputed founder, leader and mastermind of the Miami Seven terrorist cell, Batiste's responsibilities and duties are all-encompassing. Recently, most of his time has been spent securing adequate footwear for his nascent army of Osama-bin-Wannabes.

Known Superpowers: Has been to Chicago; unparalleled human beat-box ability.

Known Weaknesses: Suffers from gout, diabetes, and a really bad attitude.

DHS Estimated Threat Level: Universal.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

HP LOVECRAFT'S SHADOW OUT OF TIME


How this lovingly produced short film version of HP Lovecraft's The Shadow Out Of Time doesn't have five million views yet is completely beyond me. Trust yer old pal Jerky when he tells you, THIS is TOTALLY WORTH the fifteen minutes of your day that it takes to watch. Lovingly crafted independent old-school stop-motion animation combined with wonderful acting and a killer story make for an instant classic! Enjoy! And, for fuck's sake, SPREAD THE JOY!!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

9 YEARS ON, REAGAN'S DEATH AS THE MURDER OF HISTORY

TASTY POISON (JUNE 9, 2004)

In preparing to write this necessarily abbreviated assessment of Ronald Reagan's life and career, yer old pal Jerky looked to the work of his fellow opinionsmiths for inspiration and, if I may be candid, for stuff I could plagiarize.

Pro, con, anti, I read them all. From the glowing and long-prepared hagiographies of CNN, FOX, the Big Three networks, the New York Times and Post, the Washington Post and Times, and the Wall Street Journal, to the brutally blunt assessments of alternative and independent media sources; from personal recollections by the people who knew him best, to the smoldering, head-shaking fury of the people he hurt the most, yer old pal Jerky read them all.

It was while perusing this vast array of online Reagan resources that I came to a sobering conclusion. It's become something of a truism that even his most ardent political opponents in Washington found it difficult not to like Ronald Reagan, personally. And you know what? It turns out I didn't hate Ronald Reagan as much as I thought I did. In fact, it turns out I kind of liked him. And the more I think about it, the more I remember Little Jerky thinking Reagan cut quite the commanding figure, back when he was president.

I liked the way he looked like somebody who just stepped out of a 50's black and white science fiction movie. I liked the way he bounced back from the attempt on his life with wit and charm. I liked Phil Hartman's impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live. I liked it when he scared everybody shitless and almost started World War III by going on live radio and joking: "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." I liked it when he bombed Libya in retaliation for Kaddafi's terrorist acts in Europe, and I liked how, after the French refused to let American planes fly over their airspace for this purpose, the bombers "accidentally" destroyed the French embassy.

But you know what else I like? I like pizza and chicken-fried steak and home-cut French fries smothered in gravy. I like triple-scoop banana splits, smothered with chopped nuts and hot fudge. I like driving my gas-guzzling pick-up truck three blocks to buy cigarettes, which I like to smoke. I like to drink Havana Club rum and smoke big fat marijuana doobies. I like a lot of things that aren't good for me. We as a species like a lot of things that aren't good for us. And while Ronald Reagan's presidency gave a whole lot of people a whole lot of instant gratification, it also left the nation obese and wheezing, riddled with tumors, a little bit dumber and a whole lot meaner than it was when he first took office.

Debunking the myth of Ronald Reagan's greatness is not a difficult thing to do. He headed up the most corruption-riddled administration of the modern Presidency. Reagan's "rogue's gallery" contains names both forgotten and well known. Lyn Nofziger, Ollie North, Michael Deaver, E. Bob Wallach, James Watt, John Poindexter, Richard Secord, Casper Weinberger, Elliott Abrams, Bob McFarland, Ray Donovan, and a host of others were investigated, indicted and convicted of crimes ranging from defrauding the government out of millions of dollars to attempting to bypass the constitution by selling arms to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages, then using that money to illegally fund a bunch of nun-raping, drug-running terrorists in Central American secret wars that literally killed hundreds of thousands.

Remember how the first thing Reagan did when he got into office was to create an army of homeless by "freeing" all those dangerously deranged mental patients? Remember the "trickle down" voodoo fraud? Remember the tripling of the national debt under Reagan's watch? Remember the Pentagon paying Republican defense industry cronies a thousand dollars for a toilet seat? Remember how Reagan's wealthy friends and fixers raided HUD for billions of dollars, fucking over the country's poorest people? Remember the HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS needed to bail out all the Savings and Loans that never would have needed bailing out if Reagan hadn't recklessly deregulated the industry in the first place? Remember how Reagan's OMB chief David Stockman came out and admitted they cut taxes not to increase investment and stimulate the economy, but to reduce tax revenue so as to have an excuse to eliminate social safety net programs that his administration's ideological conservative members found morally abhorrent? Remember hearing him say "I don't recall" over and over and over again after being cornered on Iran/Contra, facts-wise?

You probably don't remember most of these things because, like most people and contrary to popular conservative mythology, the journalistic elite liked Reagan. And they still like Reagan, which explains the week-long 24-hour tribute-fest that's been going on since his body finally caught up with his brain. It's hard to say something bad about someone you like. It's even harder if everybody around you seems to like that person, too.

As already noted above, debunking the myth of Ronald Reagan's greatness is not a difficult thing to do. His crapulence is an established fact of history. But much like the fervent denial of a mother who's just been told that her son is a brutal rapist, it's facing up to the truth that's hard.


****
MANUFACTURING HISTORY (JUNE 11, 2004)

As the shameless coven of neoconservative vultures continue their weeklong, public feast on the corpse of ol' Saint Ronnie and the media buzzards circle overhead squawking their mock-solemn approval, yer old pal Jerky can't help but sit back, mouth agape, and marvel at the magnitude of this absurdly epic national overreaction.

Ronald Reagan did not die prematurely, nor were the circumstances of his death as sad as the long, slow decay that stole his final decade. He was not assassinated, like Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy. He did not die in the saddle at a time of great national tribulation, like Franklin Roosevelt. He did not succumb to the heartbreak brought on by his own failures and regrets, like Lyndon Johnson. He was not a tragic figure, like Richard Nixon. By the time the Gipper shook hands with the Reaper, this oldest serving and longest-lived of all presidents had been out of the public eye for over sixteen years.

And what an incredible sixteen years. When he succeeded Reagan as president, former vice-president George Herbert Walker Bush had to pardon a bunch of Iran/Contra co-conspirators just to keep himself and his former boss out of jail. He then allowed his secret society and intelligence community cronies to raid the treasury, sending the nation into an economic tailspin it took Bill Clinton the majority of his first term to reverse, a feat which he had to perform without the fawning media sycophancy both his predecessors enjoyed.

But Reagan himself once said "facts are stupid things," and his partisan mythmakers aren't about to let the facts get in the way of their task, which is to use the death of their ideology's most (only?) charismatic spokesmodel as a means of enshrining their revisionist memories as irrefutable history. We are today witnessing the right-wing version of the Council of Nicea, where bishops from all over the world gathered to hash out conflicting theologies and settle on a consensus vision for the One True Church. This they did, and afterwards, to believe anything other than this consensus was heresy, punishable by death… after a nice long stint on the holy torture rack, of course. Yet another echo with the present day.

Rappin' Ronnie's Farewell Tour has other uses for those with ulterior motives, hidden agendas, and Straussian secrets to keep. As noted in the previous Dirt, this is the first time in the television era that a former President's funeral has been so nakedly hijacked for partisan gain. Thumbing their noses at precedent, memorial organizers left former presidents Carter and Clinton off the list of eulogists, while both Bushes spoke (Dubya from the pulpit, for some reason), along with Margaret Thatcher and widely-reviled former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney. This, from the party that demanded Minnesota television stations give them equal time after they broadcast portions of Paul Wellstone's memorial service.

Reagan's death is also being put to use as media cover, a distraction from the incredibly important and disturbing news that the Bush cabal would rather we not even know about, much less pay attention to. As the tepid, cowardly window-lickers at CNN continue their 24-hour necro-fetishistic freak show - fearful, perhaps, that if they pause, the vultures will raise their gore-spattered beaks from Reagan's guts and shriek "LIBRUL BIAS!!!" - here's what was going on in the REAL world…

  • Even while Preznit Dubya and his co-conspirators continue their doomed attempt to blame the systemic torture in their illegal prison camps on seven or eight low-level "bad apple" recruits, a memo has surfaced revealing that the sick bastards sought (and received) legal advice that basically said the Executive Branch of government doesn't have to obey laws regarding torture, because… well… surely the Executive Branch of government shouldn't have to obey laws pertaining to torture! When journalists questioned him about these memos - and about torture in general, Bush used the sneakiest language at his tiny brain's disposal to issue non-denial denials. Then, during some hilariously testy questioning by Congressional Democrats, Witchfinder General Jesus H. Ashcroft flatly refused to hand over the memos to his duly entitled Congressional overseers. Unfortunately, they refused to cite Ash-hole for contempt of Congress, like they should have.
  • The truth about the extent of the torture perpetrated by Americans and international private contractors at the Iraqi prison of Abu Ghraib is beginning to leak out in dribs and drabs. Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh claims to have seen all of the pictures and videos, and if his descriptions are accurate… well, I'll just quote him: "You haven't begun to see evil. Horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run…"
  • Speaking of those private contractors, two of them biggest are being sued by former Abu Ghraib detainees. In a complaint filed on behalf of nine Iraqis by the Center for Constitutional Rights, private, Republican-connected "intelligence" contractors Titan Corp and CACI International have been accused of bona-fide, no-grey-area torture. Everything from near-deadly beatings to electrocuting genitals to flat-out rape, all done in an attempt to harvest "actionable intelligence"… for a profit. As more Iraqis are freed from coalition prison camps, CCR expects the number of participants in their class action lawsuit to swell by hundreds.
  • More details about Dubya's bestest buddy, Ahmed Chalabi -- and his warning Iranian intelligence officials that the US had broken their encryption codes -- have come to light. According to an intercepted Iranian communiqué, and I quote: "Chalabi had told him a drunk American had told him the US had broken the Iranian code." One is left to speculate whether the drunk in question was falling off his bike while choking on a pretzel while doing so.
  • You know those terrorists who killed ten hostages at a private industrial compound in the petroleum hub of Khobar, Saudi Arabia last week? Well, it turns out they didn't use human shields to escape Saudi commandos, as was first reported. Nope… according to a Saudi security official -- whose description of events dovetails with witness accounts -- US officials advised the Saudi government that "letting the militants go" would be the best thing to do in this case. Like the authorities who investigated all those mysterious Spinal Tap drummer deaths, The Powers That Be apparently feel that these particular terrorist murders are "best left unsolved." Just like 9/11.
  • Speaking of which, the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings were briefly evacuated last week, when a small plane flew a bit too close for comfort. Gee. I wonder what they did with that brief window of sabotalogical opportunity... Plant bombs for a controlled demolition? Hide ricin packets? Plant evidence that all the Dem-appointed Supremes are all kiddy-porn enthusiasts?! Keep your eyes peeled, America. Pop some popcorn. Sit back and enjoy the beginning of the end of the universe as we know it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ROB ZOMBIE'S LORDS OF SALEM

I don't usually do movie reviews, but I just finished watching a film that I hope a great many of you will seek out in the coming weeks and months. It is Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem, and I really, REALLY enjoyed it. Let's kick things off with a trailer.



With his latest film, Zombie goes a long way towards rehabilitating his reputation after his Halloween reboot and its sequel. Displaying a masterful control over tone and style elements, Zombie has created that rarest of things in Lords of Salem: a sophisticated, avant garde horror film that is also a fun and engaging viewing experience. With this film, Zombie is now one of the small handful of directors working in the genre whose work every horror fan should henceforth pay close attention to. Zombie may very well produce an unqualified masterpiece one day soon.

I have read some inexplicably negative reviews that bark about Sheri Moon Zombie's performance, but I personally found her to be an engaging leading lady, very easy to like, to root for and - more importantly - to fear for. In any case, her performance  is surrounded and supported by a uniformly superlative ensemble cast  including a veritable coven of magnificent actresses playing Salem witches, both past and present. I hesitate to single out any one of the performances in this film, because they're all so good, but I will say that it was a real treat seeing (and hearing) Dawn of the Dead veteran Ken Foree back on the big screen again. Oh, and Dee Wallace, too, in a hilarious turn. And Judy Geeson is just flat-out awesome as the nice-but-somehow-off landlady. And Bruce Davison, who turns on the charm as a randy academic. And... well... you see what I mean. Zombie's abilities as a director of actors has obviously evolved leaps and bounds in recent years, and it pays high dividends in Lords of Salem.

On the more technical side of things, the movie just looks fantastic. Zombie serves up a feast for the eyes, meticulously constructing every shot and filling the frame with unforgettable images that stamp themselves into your grey matter and resonate for days afterwards. His camera glides fluidly from scenes anchored in warm and grungy but somehow comforting earth tones, to brilliantly lit set pieces awash in blazing primary colors, and it all makes a mad sort of sense. Visually, Zombie approaches and frequently equals the very best works of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Yes, Lords of Salem looks that good.

With Zombie setting such a high bar for himself visually, it should come as no surprise that Lords of Salem also features the most chillingly effective sound design in a horror film since Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Spooky, almost subliminal sounds skitter at the threshold of stony silence to keep you ever on edge. Many shock scenes feature sonic punctuation that is brutally efficient as a sledge-hammer to the forehead. And, every once in a while, the malevolence of what we suspect might be transpiring on the other side of a closed door is underscored with a nerve-shattering slash of otherworldly roaring that echoes up from only God - or the other guy - knows where. Again, I say, best sound design since The Shining.

Speaking of Kubrick, Zombie has borrowed liberally from many masters to make Lords of Salem into a monster. For instance, he engages in Kubrick's penchant for needle-dropping the very best classical music to grand cinematic effect... but more about the music, later. Roman Polanski is also an obvious influence here, as are Jodorowsky and Ken Russell. Zombie shares with these directors a feral intensity of vision and a willingness to follow wherever that vision takes him, no matter how absurd it might seem on paper.

Finally, a word about the music. I'm not much of a fan of Zombie's heavy metal output, but his decision to showcase the decadent droning of the classic Velvet Underground songs Venus in Furs and All Tomorrow's Parties was a wise one. And I suppose you could cycle through images of a star nosed mole eating a worm while playing Mozart's Lacrimosa and it would still send chills running up and down your spine.

But perhaps the film's most impressive musical element is the piece of music included on the vinyl record surreptitiously sent to the radio station where Sheri Moon's disc jockey character, Heidi, works. The song, by "The Lords", is brilliantly lo-fi; a decidedly Pagan sounding, repetitive drone that really gets under your skin. In fact, it very much reminded me of the most terrifying music I've ever heard.

I first encountered the music of Belgian ensemble Univers Zero during my quest to discover ever more obscure progressive rock music. I read reviews about them in the Prog Archives, and subsequently tracked down a CD version of their 1979 album Heresie. Just as the reviews at the Archives promised, their music scared the living shit out of me. And now that I've seen Lords of Salem, and heard the piece of music that is so central to that film, I can very much recommend Univers Zero's early works to anybody who would like to hear more music of this type.

I include, here, a sample that should give you a pretty good idea of what I'm going on about. Buckle in, perk up your ears and listen good. That may just be the Devil knocking at your back door there at the end...


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PS - Don't forget the ongoing journey through history at our sister-site, the Useless Eater Blog! In the latest edition, we cover everything from Nick Berg's beheading to the freaking SKY falling down upon our heads! It all happened, ON THIS DAY in History! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

REQUIEM FOR A SELF-LOATHING LIBERAL (03/07/2004)

What follows is a methodical deconstruction and rebuttal of a recent column by Washington Post scribe Richard Cohen.
I brought a notebook with me when I went to see Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and in the dark made notes before I gave up, defeated by the utter stupidity of the movie.
Ooh! The utter stupidity! Strong words. Let's see if Cohen can cash that check.
One of my notes says 'John Ellis', who is a cousin of George W. Bush and the fellow who called the election for Fox News that dark and infamous night when the presidency -- or so the myth goes -- was stolen from Al Gore, delivering the nation to Halliburton, the Carlyle Group and Saudi Arabia, and plunging it into war. A better synopsis of the movie you're not likely to read.
Someone should send Cohen a dictionary, because unless the mountains of evidence that point towards election fraud (and worse) in Florida (and elsewhere) during the 2000 elections have all been fabricated, he seems to have mistaken history for myth.

Furthermore, Cohen must be some kind of super-genius, because how any self-respecting human being could pooh-pooh the flagrant orgy of profiteering in Iraq -- by special interests with so-close-they-might-as-well-be-having-sex ties to the Bush administration -- is far beyond my capacity to comprehend.

That these bitter pills have yet to be fully digested - thanks in large part to the efforts of America's cowed journalistic establishment - is no excuse. Cohen has to know better.
Ellis appears early in the film, which is not only appropriate but inevitable. He is the personification of the Moore method, which combines guilt by association with the stunning revelation of a stunning fact that has already been revealed countless times before. If, for instance, you did a Lexis-Nexis database search for 'John Ellis' and 'election,' you would be told: 'This search has been interrupted because it will return more than 1,000 documents.' The Ellis story is no secret.
Cohen commits the cardinal sin of journalism, here. Like most in his profession, he gets paid to winnow through the info-sphere in search of typing fodder, yet he assumes everybody knows everything he knows. His contempt for the underinformed is radiant. "You didn't know Bush's cousin over at Fox News was the one who called the election for him?! Like, what rock have YOU been living under, maaaan?!"

According to recent studies, fewer than half of adult Americans read newspapers anymore, much less every story on every page of every newspaper, magazine and trade journal in the world. Most Americans rely exclusively on television and (dear Lord) talk radio for their news. Cohen should try to keep his hipster condescension in check.

I can't help but wonder if you'd asked a hundred random people, prior to the release of F9/11, how many would have known that the first person in America to call Florida for Bush was a) a Fox News executive who b) also happened to be the President's first cousin? After attending Moore's film, I noticed that Ellis's involvement was one of the main things people were talking about in the lobby.

Rightly or wrongly, many people were shocked by what was, for them, a revelation. So the mere fact that the story has been told is no proof that the issue has been resolved. That over 1,000 documents including the words 'John Ellis' and 'election' can be found in the vast Lexis-Nexis archive tells us less than nothing. Although perhaps if he'd added the words 'cousin' and 'helped to steal' to his search, Cohen might have learned a thing or two.
But more than that, what does it mean? Ellis is a Bush cousin, Moore tells us. A close cousin? We are not told. A cousin from the side of the family that did not get invited to Aunt Rivka's wedding? Could be. A cousin who has not forgiven his relative for a slight at a family gathering -- the cheap gift, the tardy entrance, the seat next to a deaf uncle? No info.
Suddenly, Cohen the impatient know-it-all is Cohen the clueless naif, begging for more information. Ellis is, in fact, the President's first cousin.
And even if Ellis loved Bush truly and passionately, as a cousin should, how did he manage to change the election results? To quote the King of Siam, is a puzzlement.
Forgive me if I'm boring you with things you already know. I'll try to be brief.

According to Ellis himself, as detailed in the New Yorker, he was in constant contact with his cousins George and Jeb throughout the night of the election. Around 6 PM, Voter News Service sent data to all major news outlets indicating Gore had won a slim but decisive victory in Florida. Sometime after 7:52 PM, when all major networks (including Fox) called Florida for Gore, Ellis received another call from cousin Jeb.

The exact nature of the information Ellis shared with Bush during that phone call is unclear. Before it was hastily and unceremoniously dispatched on the day of the 2002 mid-term elections - and I'm sure Cohen sees no valid reasons for suspicion in that case, either - VNS provided detailed, district-by-district voter information to their media clients. John Ellis was one such client.

Is it "stupid" to consider the possibility that Ellis might have shared information about the breakdown of the Florida vote with Jeb, the Republican governor of that state, who also happened to be the Republican candidate's brother, and whose Secretary of State was Katherine Harris, who a) was in charge of Florida's elections, b) was co-chairwoman of the Florida "Bush for President" committee, c) was a Bush delegate during the Republican National Convention, and d) imperiously halted a legal recount that was slowly-but-surely eating away at Bush's bullshit, razor-thin lead?

All things considered, is it "stupid" to speculate whether there exists a possibility that Jeb might have been able to somehow use the information he got from Ellis - in combination with his substantial power as Florida's chief executive - to alter the outcome of the election?

Perhaps it's just me. Perhaps I'm paranoid.

Perhaps there was nothing strange about Team Bush taking the historically unprecedented step of holding a living room press conference in the midst of the election - not too long after that phone call to Ellis, come to think of it - to assure Americans that, despite the now-defunct Voter News Service's previously impeccable track record in these matters, Florida was still in play.

Perhaps the subsequent, near-immediate and highly atypical surge in Bush's favor - forcing VNS and the news media to retract their call for Gore and label Florida "too close to call" - was coincidence.

Perhaps there was nothing untoward about Ellis's 2 AM conversation with Jeb and George Bush, of which he later boasted: "It was just the three of us guys handing the phone back and forth - me with the numbers, one of them a governor, the other the president-elect. Now that was cool."

Perhaps there is nothing suspicious in the fact that Ellis shortly thereafter got Fox to call Florida for Bush, at a time when his lead over Gore was rapidly evaporating. Perhaps the other networks followed Fox's lead because it was late, they were tired, and they'd had enough already. Perhaps General Electric CEO Jack Welch had nothing to do with it.

Perhaps everybody should follow Cohen's lead and not care a fig about any of this, lest we be labeled "stupid", "silly" or "loony", like Michael Moore. But enough of my wild-eyed, incoherent ranting. Let's get back to the task at hand.
I go on about Moore and Ellis because the stunning box-office success of Fahrenheit 9/11 is not, as proclaimed, a sure sign that Bush is on his way out but is instead a warning to the Democrats to keep the loony left at a safe distance.
Bush's plummeting approval ratings in the days since the film's release must surely stand as affirmation of Cohen's thesis.
Speaking just for myself, not only was I dismayed by how prosaic and boring the movie was -- nothing new and utterly predictable -- but I recoiled from Moore's methodology, if it can be called that. For a time, I hated his approach more than I opposed the cartoonishly portrayed Bush. The case against Bush is too hard and too serious to turn into some sort of joke, as Moore has done.
That Cohen could be "dismayed" to the point of "recoiling" with "hate" over a film that he immediately thereafter characterizes as "a joke" seems odd to me. Then again, I have a strong suspicion that Bush stole the election, so what do I know?
The danger of that is twofold: It can send fence-sitters moving, either out of revulsion or sympathy, the other way, and it leads to an easy and facile dismissal of arguments critical of Bush. During the Vietnam War, it seemed to me that some people supported Richard Nixon not because they thought he was right but because they loathed the war protesters. Beware history repeating itself.
The hand-wringing, self-loathing blather of marshmallow liberals like Cohen - who helps counter the lies and propaganda of the conservative movement's 24/7 noise machine by penning absurdly over-the-top denunciations of an independently-produced film that has yet to be refuted on a single point of fact - is far more helpful to Bush than any film Michael Moore could ever produce. That he could accuse Moore of indulging in "easy and facile dismissal of arguments" after filing his own easy and facile dismissal of Moore's arguments tells me that Cohen, as we used to say back home, is deaf to the sounds of his own flatulence.
Moore's depiction of why Bush went to war is so silly and so incomprehensible that it is easily dismissed. As far as I can tell, it is a farrago of conspiracy theories. But nothing is said about multiple U.N. resolutions violated by Iraq or the depredations of Saddam Hussein.
I must be certifiably insane for even suggesting this, but perhaps Moore felt that bringing up Iraq's past non-compliance with various United Nation resolutions was unnecessary. And perhaps he felt it was unnecessary because a) Saddam was granting U.N. weapons inspectors access to every square inch of Iraq, b) the Bush administration's "evidence" that Saddam was in breech of anti-WMD resolutions turned out to be a tissue of lies, and c) the United Nations tried desperately to prevent Bush from launching his illegal, disastrous and pathetically bungled businessman's war of first resort. 

Would it be "prosaic" of me to suggest that the Bush administration became increasingly belligerent and insistent as the organization whose resolutions he had taken it upon himself to enforce (against its will) was systematically dismantling their case for war?
In fact, prewar Iraq is depicted as some sort of Arab folk festival -- lots of happy, smiling, indigenous people. Was there no footage of a Kurdish village that had been gassed? This is obscenity by omission.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is not about Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It's about Bush's America. Cohen seems to fault Moore for failing to create an impartial, academic, encyclopedically authoritative dissertation on the preceding two decades of American foreign policy. He might as well fault Moore for failing to point out that "Clinton thought Saddam was a bad guy, too."

Furthermore, I suspect that if Moore had chosen to show images of Saddam's infamous and oft-referenced 1988 gas attack on Halabja - explaining the context of the Iraqi Kurds' treasonous alliance with Iran, against whom Iraq was waging a savage and protracted war of attrition with America's blessing and weapons - Cohen would have accused him of obscenity by inclusion.
The case against Bush need not and should not rest on guilt by association or half-baked conspiracy theories, which collapse at the first double take but reinforce the fervor of those already convinced.
It was at this point in his screed that I began to suspect Cohen had actually not seen Fahrenheit 9/11 at all, having perhaps wandered into a matinee showing of Disney's Around the World in 80 Days by mistake. I honestly have no idea which "half-baked conspiracy theories" he could possibly mean.

Surely he can't be dismissing the well-established and unprecedentedly cozy economic ties between the Bush dynasty, Big Oil, the Saudi royals and the Bin Laden clan? These "conspiracies" have been confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Surely Cohen can't be arguing that it be forbidden to investigate, with hindsight, whether these relationships might have resulted in an administration-wide blind-spot with devastating results?

Surely Cohen has heard of John O'Neill? Surely he's read Kevin Phillips's damning and authoritative Bush family chronicle, American Dynasty?
The success of Moore's movie, though, suggests this is happening -- a dialogue in which anti-Bush forces talk to themselves and do so in a way that puts off others.
Yes, because stealing moves from the conservative playbook would surely result in an electoral disaster of epic proportions. Just look how low the Republicans have sunk by talking to themselves in a way that puts off others! Conservatives must be stupid to spend so much time and effort rallying their base with dynamic appeals to the heart, soul and guts. All their divisive rhetoric has managed to give them is control of the Congress, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the White House. We wouldn't want the people Cohen ominously labels "the anti-Bush forces" to emulate this kind of unmitigated failure.
I found that happening to me in the run-up to the war, when I spent more time and energy arguing with those who said the war was about oil (no!) or Israel (no!) or something just as silly than I did questioning the stated reasons for invading Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction and Hussein's links to Osama bin Laden. This was stupid of me, but human nature nonetheless.
At long last, Cohen boils his own argument down to its fetid essence, the literary equivalent of a frustrated two-year-old's foot-stomping tantrum.

Apparently, only crazed fanatics could be upset by the obscene crush of war pigs lining up to jam their snouts into the no-bid contract trough, brimming with greenback salad smothered in a sweet crude balsamic.

Only Hitler-worshiping lunatics would dare to suggest that the neoconservatives who provided the intellectually and morally bankrupt rationalizations for Bush's war have anything but a perfectly fair and even-handed grasp of the Middle East situation.

And the less said about the sinister and psychopathic Armageddonism in which Preznit Dubya and many of his partisans indulge, the better.
Some of that old feeling returned while watching Moore's assault on the documentary form. It is so juvenile in its approach, so awful in its journalism, such an inside joke for people who already hate Bush, that I found myself feeling a bit sorry for a president who is depicted mostly as a befuddled dope. I fear how it will play to the undecided.
Cohen's fear is plain to see. It verges on the kind of wild-eyed, hysterical paranoia he falsely accuses Moore of inciting with his film. It's as though Cohen is afraid that if liberals and moderates were to become as forceful in defense of their beliefs as conservatives are, it would result in a Civil War and thus, perhaps, a decline in his standard of living.
For them, I recommend Spider-Man 2.
For the Washington Post's Richard Cohen, I recommend a swift, hard kick in the ass.

Friday, May 3, 2013

TWO EXCELLENT VIDEOS

The Overview Effect is a 20 minute short film that examines the aesthetic and philosophical implications that arise when one gets the chance to peer at one's home planet - in this case, Earth - from an outer space vantage point. Filled with beautiful images and beautiful thoughts spoken by beautiful human beings, The Overview Effect is the very definition of "soul food". Get your daily recommended dose of awe today by making time to give this film your undivided attention.


The next video I want to share with y'all is awesome, but for much different reasons. It's called Sleeve, and it's a retelling via puppets of one of the central stories of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos cycle of stories, all presented while a rather excellent progressive rock tune by British band Thumpermonkey. As far as I can tell, the song has nothing to do with the visuals being presented, but it rocks out with syncopated, odd time signature-soaked cacaphonic glee, which means it certainly doesn't hurt!


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By the way, don't forget our PARACULTURAL CALENDAR entries over at our sister-site, UselessEaterBlog! The May 1 edition is an absolute doozy, covering everything from Preznit Dubya's "Mission Accomplished" battleship romp to the birth of the dreaded ILLUMINATI! Oh, and there's an in-depth exploration of the history of May Day, to boot! The May 2 edition covers everything from thye initiation of the Saxe-Coburg Gotha bloodline to the totally-above-board-and-not-fishy-at-all takedown of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team Six! Click these links to get your friggen LEARN on, people!

Monday, April 29, 2013

MY LATEST PIECE FOR RIOTWIRE HAS BEEN PUBLISHED!

After publishing my satirical revamp of CBC Television's programming line-up so that it squares more precisely with conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Fucking Harper's thuggish ideology, followed by my collection of bite-sized dossiers on all nine of Canada's current Supreme Court Justices, the fine folks at RiotWire.com have now published my ostensibly humorous list of the Top 13 Ways to Amuse Yourself During a Global Economic Collapse! 

The list begins as all proper Top 13 lists do, with the thirteenth entry, which is...

13. Save money wallpapering your house by using worthless paper “fiat” currency (you know, like the American Dollar. Or the Canadian Dollar, for that matter…though wallpapering with loonies might be a bit difficult).

12. Diversify your post-apocalyptic skill set by boning up on such long lost arts as alchemy, leechcraft, and ceremonial ventriloquism.

11. Come up with new and amusing ways to sort and organize your family’s canned goods hoard. Start out alphabetically, then sort by shelf life, nutritional value, or even flavor preference.


Don't worry... IT GETS A LOT FUNNIER DEEPER INTO THE LIST! Just click through to find out exactly how much funnier it gets!

AN UNPUBLISHED COMIC STRIP FROM 1992!

Hey-ho, former Daily Dirt fans, not to mention anyone else who finds themselves wandering into this, my catch-all "general interest" blog! Today, as part of my ongoing quest to provide you good people with all sorts of meaningless ephemera from my many former lives, I bring you a comic strip that I drew back in my college days, roughly in the year 1992 or thereabouts. 

As you can see, I had yet to grasp the concepts of character, narrative flow, thematic consistency, etc. Essentially a collection of non sequitur text and images thrown together in slapdash fashion, its only redeeming quality is perhaps the not entirely unpleasant level of draftsmanship. Also, is there anything quite so inadvertently funny as a vacuum cleaner's crevice tool? I think not.

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Also, don't forget to check out our sister-site UselessEaterBlog's daily Paracultural Calendar updates. It refreshes every day with crazy new historical information. 

Highlights from the 26th of April include the Picasso-inspiring bombing of Guernica and the Chernobyl nuclear power station meltdown.

Highlights from the 27th of April include the sinking of the Sultana on the Mississippi (the worst maritime tragedy in American history) and the birth of the computer mouse AND South African Apartheid.

Highlights for the April the 28th include the launch of Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and the Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

JUST A THOUGHT...

If you believe that the federal government should take no legislative action in response to the Sandy Hook massacre, but that it should institute a nationwide crackdown on Muslims because of the Boston bombing... then you might be a conservative moron.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy.
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Check out our sister-site UselessEaterBlog's daily Paracultural Calendar updates. It refreshes every day with crazy new historical information. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

NOTES ON MY RECENT "CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE" WITH H&R BLOCK


This year, I filled out my 2012, 2006 and 2004 taxes at a local H&R Block mall outlet in Etobicoke, Canada. I got my 2012 refund immediately in the form of a check, but was told I'd have to wait a month for my 2004 and 2006 refunds. I've used H&R Block in the past and this year, as usual, the experience went relatively smoothly. There was only a minor delay due to a malfunctioning check-printer.

The one sore spot? My worker seemed a tad over-zealous in her efforts to get me to praise her performance to her managers. She even went so far as to dial them up, herself, on my cell phone, so that I could "talk her up" to them.

I found this odd, but chalked it up to maybe she'd had a bad couple days and needed the boost, so I played along. I was, after all, satisfied with her work.

So a month goes by. Then a couple more days, and my 2004/2006 refunds have yet to be deposited into my bank account. I decide to call H&R Block to see what's up. The employee who takes my call tells me that I will actually have to wait a further 2 to 4 weeks before I get my refunds for those years. 

I'm a bit peeved about this.  I had been told it would be a month, and now they were telling me I would have to wait almost twice that long. I was, however, at least satisfied that nothing had gone wrong with my filing. I thanked the person and tried to hang up. 

"Um... hold on!"

This H&R Block rep had something to ask me. And that something was this: Would I mind answering a few survey questions relating directly to the customer service experience that I'd just had with the individual to whom I was currently speaking?

I begged off a telephone interview, somewhat nonplussed, but agreed to fill out an email survey at some future date. Then I hung up. 

That was yesterday. Today, I got an email from H&R Block. Entitled "H&R Block Client Experience Survey", it reads:
Our records indicate that you recently contacted the H&R Block Client Service Organization for assistance. As part of our ongoing commitment to service excellence, we are conducting a survey to measure your satisfaction with your service experience on 4/11/2013. Please take a few seconds to complete our survey by clicking the following link.
So I clicked on the link and was taken to a page where I had to choose between English, Francais and Espanol. I chose English, and was brought to the following question:
Please respond to the following questions based on your recent experience with the H&R Block Client Service Organization. Using a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means NOT AT ALL LIKELY and 10 means EXTREMELY LIKELY, how likely is it that you would recommend H&R Block to a friend or colleague as a result of your call to the Client Service Organization?
To this question, I chose the number 7.

Upon supplying my answer, I was brought to a page that asked me:
What would it take for you to give us a 10?
To this question, I replied thusly:
Basically, what it would take for me to give you a 10 is for you to give up the INCREDIBLY annoying habit of FORCING ME TO FILL OUT A F&%#ING SURVEY EVERY TIME I SO MUCH AS HAVE A BRIEF F&%#ING CHAT WITH ONE OF YOUR F&%#ING EMPLOYEES!!! STOP IT!! JUST F&%#ING STOP!!!!
Upon supplying my answer, I was brought to a page that asked me:
In the event that we would like to ask you follow-up questions would you be willing to discuss your service experience further?
I'll let you take a wild F&%#ING guess as to whether I replied in the affirmative or the negative.

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Hey, folks! Don't forget today's PARACULTURAL CALENDARS for APRIL 10, APRIL 11 and APRIL 12! Bookmark the page and check it for updates, daily!

Cheers!
yer old pal Jerky

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

KNOW YOUR CANADIAN SUPREME COURT JUSTICES!

Quick! How many of Canada’s current sitting Supreme Court Justices can you name? If you’re like most people - even most Canadians - you probably can’t name even a single one. At least, not without checking on Google or Wikipedia, first. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the south enjoy the services of a Supreme Court that’s jam-packed with judicial superstars; over-sized personalities with legal philosophies all their own – from the Latino-flavored common sense of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, to the rigid, theocratic absolutism of that erstwhile duo of strict constructionists, Antonin “Fat Tony” Scalia and Clarence “Slappy” Thomas.

The time has come for the Canadian Supreme Court to step out of the shadows of obscurity and into the blistering, cleansing fire of public scrutiny! That’s why I've written a piece for RIOTWIRE, so that you, too, can get to…

(Link takes you to RIOTWIRE page, off-site! - Jerky)

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I've also started up the PARACULTURAL CALENDAR again. So, to see what happened on this day in Conspiracy Theory and/or Occult and ParaPolitical History, check out the updates for APRIL 8 and APRIL 9!

Enjoy!

Monday, April 8, 2013

LINKS AND VIDEO GRAB-BAG, PLUS RE-LAUNCHING PARACULTURAL CALENDAR!

Ever wondered what it is, exactly, that Jehovah's Witnesses believe? Check out this extract from the 1986 "documentary" cartoon Witnesses of Jehovah, produced by the "good Christian film-makers" working at Jeremiah Films.


And here's the same company's animated, early 1980's take on Mormonism, which makes the sci-fi scenarios of Scientology seem dignified by comparison! Oh, how yer old pal Jerky loves watching all these Xian dolts go back and forth, tearing each others' metaphorical throats out in these goofy theological grudge matches!


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Hey there! Hope you enjoyed the above cartoons. I just want to let you know that I have begun posting daily Paracultural Calendar updates over at my other space, the Useless Eater Blog. Actually, I have RE-begun doing so, as I started up the same thing last year, but only kept it up for about two months before giving up. I promise to go the distance this time. After all, there are only 365 days in any given year, and I already have two months done! Therefore, barring anything crazy happening in the intervening years, once I've finished, I can keep re-posting forever and ever and ever! And nobody will ever be the wiser! Muah-ahahaha! 

Actually, I also promise to start posting more, both here at the Daily Dirt Diaspora blog, and over at the Useless Eater Blog, as well. With a little luck, I'll maybe start making upwards of a dollar or two per day at this blogging game! Seeing as I've accumulated a total of just under 30 dollars in ad revenue so far from almost three years of blogging - despite some of my posts getting thousands of hits - a buck a day almost seems like a crazy pipe dream. 

Anyhoo, I'm not complaining. I've begun putting together a collection of my best writing from the Daily Dirt days (1998 to 2006) and I'll be self-publishing that in the very near future, so if you guys want to help me out, you can always buy a few copies and give them to various luminaries, opinion makers, church leaders and coked-up Hollywood celebrities to help get my name and work known out there in the wider world. Obviously, I'll be using this space to push that as yet un-named book project as soon as it's ready to roll. 

Cheers!
yer old pal Jerky

Monday, March 25, 2013

SCIENCE FICTION CLASSICS: JERKY'S PICKS!


Based on a request made by a good friend of mine, I recently put together a list of the Top Ten novels that I feel are absolutely essential reading in the all too often belittled literary genre known as science-fiction. This list is presented in no particular order, and is based on a number of criteria including, but not limited to, the quality of the prose, the level of innovation, influence on subsequent works, entertainment value, etc.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to discussing and debating the merits of some or all of these works with all of you in the comments section at the bottom of this page. So please, feel free to take a giant crap on my list and offer up suggestions of your own, if you please.

And now, with the formalities out of the way, I present to you...

THE TOP TEN MUST-READ SCIENCE FICTION NOVELS OF THE PAST 100 YEARS!

1. DUNE, by Frank Herbert

It is a well-worn cliche but no less true for being so that Dune is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. In Dune, written in 1965, Frank Herbert manages to create a completely believable world of the far-off, distant future - meticulously presented, from its deep ecological roots all the way up to the loftiest heights of its treacherous interplanetary politics - and then fills that world with believable and fascinating characters, complete with intricate histories and psychological make-ups all their own. The science, philosophy, theology, politics, psychology and even geology of the Dune universe are each explored in depth to great effect, but it's the sum total gestalt of it all that makes Dune so special. Simply put, everything in Dune hangs together incredibly well. There are very few novels in the English language quite so richly layered, so vividly imagined or so intellectually absorbing as Frank Herbert's visionary masterpiece, Dune.

2. CHILDHOOD'S END, by Arthur C. Clarke

In 1953's Childhood's End, legendary author Arthur C. Clarke envisions a relatively peaceful invasion by alien beings who, despite igniting a new Golden Age for humanity, seem to be keeping some very big secrets from the very race they say they've come to help. Would you be willing to evolve, if evolving meant becoming something that you might not recognize as being quite human? It's a scary idea, and one that is fully explored in this wonderful novel, which - at under 300 pages - also happens to be a brisk and breezy read.

3. DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick has written so many classic novels - my own favorites being this one, UBIK, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Martian Time Slip - that it's hard to pick just one. 1968's Do Androids...? is, of course, the novel upon which the Ridley Scott film Bladerunner was based. The resulting film, however, had very little in common with the source work, so just because you've seen the movie, don't assume you know the book. In his writing, PKD never stops asking the Big Questions. What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of empathy? What separates mankind from the animals... and from the machines? If you find these topics at all interesting, then by all means read this novel at the first opportunity. It also happens to be quite a thrilling adventure story.

4. THE STARS MY DESTINATION, by Alfred Bester

1956's The Stars My Destination is Alfred Bester's dark, twisted, adrenalin-soaked, balls-to-the-wall revenge-fueled science-fiction freak-out masterpiece. When I finally got around to reading this novel for the first time a few years ago, it was one of the biggest surprises of my reading life. How could this bat-shit crazy story have been concocted over half a century ago?! It felt so fresh and innovative and new. Small wonder it's been cited as one of the major influences on the late 20th century cyberpunk sf literary movement. Containing elements that would make it difficult to turn into a film without serious revision (I refer here to the evolutionary leap of "jaunting", or teleportation), this work is probably destined to remain a purely literary pleasure, at least in the short term.

5. SNOW CRASH, by Neal Stephenson

1992's Snow Crash stands out as the landmark work of so-called cyberpunk, despite arguably being somewhat of a satire. Being rather self-consciously post-modern, Snow Crash simultaneously features a philosophical deconstruction of the cyberpunk genre while also being a magnificent, textbook example of the same. One of the most debated and critiqued works of late SF, Snow Crash is densely packed with intriguing concepts, wildly imaginative characters, and hilariously over-the-top techno-shenanigans... a vast smorgasbord of a novel.

6. THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, by Ray Bradbury

First published in 1950, The Martian Chronicles features a group of inter-connected Ray Bradbury short stories chronicling the colonization of Mars by Earth men, conflicts with the Martian civilization they encounter there, and ultimately, the reaction of Mars colonists to the devastation of their homeworld, Earth, by atomic war. This book has been described as a short story collection and an episodic novel, and indeed it does contain stories previously published by Bradbury in various science fiction magazines of the 1940's. However, thanks to interstitial elements added by Bradbury, the whole does manage to hang together as a singular piece of science-fiction literature, more than just the sum of its parts.

7. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, by H.P. Lovecraft

Many fans and literary critics consider this 1931 novella - Lovecraft's longest work - to also be among his very best. And despite its heaping helpings of trademark "cosmic dread", it is also completely devoid of any supernatural elements. It is thus, in all respects, a work of pure science-fiction, containing the ancient DNA of such future works of science-horror as Ridley Scott's ALIEN and John Carpenter's The Thing (with which it shares an Antarctic setting).

8. STAND ON ZANZIBAR and THE SHEEP LOOK UP, by John Brunner

Our first tie, featuring two books by the same author. 1968's Stand on Zanzibar is Brunner's mixed-media exploration of the overpopulation dilemma, while 1972's The Sheep Look Up examines issues of ecological catastrophe. Both novels are also stylistic homage to John Dos Passos' U.S.A Trilogy, a critically acclaimed collection of early Modernist novels featuring a mix of stream of consciousness, "newsreel" sections and snatches of political speeches, pop song lyrics and other elements to give depth to the world being portrayed. Both novels are also ripping good yarns in their own right.

9. HYPERION, by Dan Simmons

First published in 1989, Hyperion is Dan Simmons' multiple award-winning epic science fiction version of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a voyage to Hyperion, seeking answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Hyperion is home-world of the Shrike, a terrifying creature that lives in the Valley of the Time Tombs, structures that move backward through time. Some worship the Shrike while others wish to destroy it. This novel is a great story, well told, and an excellent example of late-80's science-fiction at its best.

10. 1984, by George Orwell / BRAVE NEW WORLD, by Aldous Huxley / A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, by Anthony Burgess

At number 10, I have decided to declare a three-way tie between these three dystopian novels, all of which often find themselves included on high school students' reading lists everywhere in the English-speaking world. In fact, it is their very ubiquity that leads me to lump em all together here, despite the fact that they don't share all that much in common. 1984, published in 1949, is the story of Winston Smith, an individual who becomes disenchanted with the totalitarian world order ruled over by Big Brother and dreams of rebelling, going so far as to explore various avenues of doing so - with tragic results. Huxley's Brave New World (1931), which explores a future world of social control based on pharmacology, eugenics and social engineering, is the "hardest" of these three novels, by which I mean that it is the one that takes the "science" behind the fiction most seriously. Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (1962) is perhaps most notable for the author's creation of a realistic future slang (called NadSat) and for the resulting scandal/success of Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film version, but it also stands up very well on its own merits - more than well enough to merit a place on this list.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this little list that I've put together for you. By no means should you consider it a comprehensive overview of the science-fiction genre, but I think it serves as an adequate "sampler" to get you started reading in this rich and varied genre. Please let me know once you've read a few of these novels so I can put together an "advanced" version of this list, featuring 10 more classic SF novels that every well-read person should know about!

Cheers!
yer old pal Jerky