Monday, January 2, 2017


  • Despite the brokering of a limited ceasefire by Russia and Turkey, and despite Aleppo's recent evacuation, Syria continues to be one giant shit-show. Assad's military have been pounding regions and groups not covered by the ceasefire, and anti-Assad forces have been accused of poisoning civilian water supplies with diesel fuel. So don't go booking that weekend getaway to Damascus any time soon.
  • At least 39 people are dead after a gunman opened fire at a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey, where a large international crowd of celebrants had gathered to ring in the new year. The gunman is still at large.
  • Former Portuguese Prime Minister and UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres began his five-year term as the Secretary General of the United Nations yesterday, January 1, 2017. Outgoing chief Ban Ki-moon, who served a decade in the position, sounded a somber note in his farewell message to the diplomatic world. 
  • The HOLLYWOOD sign went from "iconic" to "chronic" yesterday when some cheeky monkeys decided to ring in the new year by making some non-permanent adjustments to the double-O, making it double-E, in order to spell HOLLYWEED. Kudos to whoever pulled this off. It's the little things that give you hope, you know?
  • Is it crazy how saying sentences backwards makes backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?
  • After what may be the single most disastrous public performance by an entertainer since Great White's Station Nightclub concert in 2003, Mariah Carey's New Year's Rockin' Eve implosion is being called everything from the perfect ending for 2016, to the result of dastardly sabotage! One thing we can all agree on, however, is that it was freaking hilarious. If you haven't seen it yet... here you go! Enjoy some cringe, compliments of yer old pal Jerky!


The most recent edition of the London Review of Books has an absolutely fascinating piece by author Mike Jay on the intersection between modern warfare and the trade and abuse of illicit drugs. Entitled "Don't Fight Sober", it begins:

In October 2013 a Time magazine article entitled ‘Syria’s Breaking Bad’ alerted Western media to the prevalence across the region of a little-known stimulant drug, Captagon. Lebanese police had found five million locally produced tablets, embossed with a roughly stamped yin-yang symbol, sealed inside a Syrian-made water heater in transit to Dubai. 
In October 2015 Captagon made global headlines when the Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen was intercepted at Beirut airport with 32 shrink-wrapped boxes and eight leather suitcases containing two tons of top-grade pills, valued at £190 million. 
By this time rumours abounded on all sides in the Syrian war that Captagon was fuelling a grim cult of battlefield atrocities. An investigation by Vanity Fair in France last April uncovered a trail of testimonies and video images of pumped-up soldiers and ‘zombies roaming, all smiles, across fields of ruins and severed heads’. Caches of pills in ports and abandoned villages supplied the evidence.
On 13 November 2015, when terrorists massacred ninety people at the Bataclan in Paris, Captagon was immediately suspected. To Professor Jean-Pol Tassin, an addiction specialist at Inserm, the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, the killers’ ‘empty expressions, their determination, their mechanical movements’ all suggested that an amphetamine-type stimulant was involved. 
Dozens of articles profiled ‘la drogue des djihadistes’, explaining that Captagon replaced fear, doubt and fellow feeling with superhuman confidence, an implacable sense of mission and visions of imminent awakening in paradise. Yet two months later, when the forensic reports on the assailants were released, it was clear that no trace of Captagon had been found. 
Asked about his snap judgment, Tassin was philosophical: ‘It’s true, it was reassuring to think they had taken drugs, that they weren’t fully conscious of the massacre they were committing. No doubt that’s why one subscribes so rapidly to such theories.’ 
Like many of the stimulants to which it is closely related, Captagon has made a gradual transition from pharmaceutical miracle to social menace. 
Trust me, Jay's essay only gets more fascinating the deeper into it you get. It also serves as a de facto review for two intriguing new books: Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare by Łukasz Kamieński, and Blitzed: Drugs In Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler, both of which can be ordered from Amazon via the links provided.


"No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument of the Incorporated National Will. When our dictator turns up, you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American."

- legendary journalist Dorothy Thompson, who was also married to novelist Sinclair Lewis, notoriously underestimated Adolph Hitler after meeting with him in person. In the mid-1930's, she recognized her error, and offered up the above words of warning.

  • A particularly cold winter means German Barbarians can invade the city of Rome, Christian "Reconquistas" kick out the last remaining Muslims in Spain, and thousands are arrested in a single day during the "Red Scare" inspired Palmer Raids. Check out today's Paracultural Calendar, over at the Useless Eater Blog, for more intriguing parapolitical facts.

We made it. 2016 is behind us. Now let's all take a deep breath before we step out into the void of the unknown, together.

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