Saturday, February 13, 2016

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"He broke out all over in assholes and shit himself to death."
- Nixon aid Dean Burch describes George Herbert "Poppy" Walker Bush's reaction upon learning of the existence of a document in the possession of by Bay of Pigs, JFK assassination and Watergate co-conspirator E.Howard Hunt, which he was threatening to make public if certain strings weren't pulled to help him out of a jam. Not to worry, however... Hunt's wife was soon murdered in a suspicious plane crash (which also destroyed the aforementioned document), and Hunt got a million dollars' hush money, so everything turned up roses for all involved! Google it if you don't believe me.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Please clap" supplants Hemingway's six-word story as the shortest, saddest story ever told.
- Nate Goldman makes Coca-Cola come spraying out of yer old pal Jerky's nose with this "bon mot" tweet about a recent trauma experienced by Republican also-ran (and Bush Crime Family member) Jeb Bush in New Hampshire.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 3, 2016


1. Set aside a couple hours to check out this century-plus overview of American comedy as assembled and curated by a team of comedy "experts" at Vulture.com. It purports to identify the 100 jokes, sketches or comedy moments that shaped a century of funny. While there are some entries here that I wouldn't have chosen, especially some of the new millennium selections, it's still very much worth checking out. Maybe I'll try my hand at assembling an alternate group of self-declared experts in order to put together a list of our own. Selections and volunteers appreciated.


2. Once you're done wasting half your day with the above overview of American comedy, why not spend the OTHER half wasting it with this encyclopedic overview of the greatest electronic music albums of the 1950's and 60's? Article author Joseph Morpurgo sets the ground rules:
The great electronic albums of the 1970s get plenty of kudos – but what of their predecessors? Casual accounts of the history of electronic music tend to point back to familiar sources: Suicide’s babble’n’hum; Cluster, Klaus Schulze and the rest of the Krautrock squad; the stygian mulch-music of early Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle; and of course Kraftwerk’s meticulous robot pop. Further back? Well, that’s when things tend to get a little foggy. Experiments with recorded electronic music actually date back to the 1940s (hell, depending on how you define “electronic music”, they date back to the 1880s). As early as the mid-1950s, predominantly electronic LPs were already being pressed, marketed and sold to the a willing (if slightly confused) public. Half a century down the line, many of these records still sound fantastic. Some are fascinating relics with plenty to say to the contemporary listener; others sound impossibly ahead of their time. ... Ground rules set – and inevitably occasionally broken – here they are: 15 essentials from electronic music’s Big Bang.
Check it out. No matter your tastes, you're all but guaranteed to find something that appeals to your particular, personal brain circuitry.


3. If you haven't seen The Answers yet, you're missing out on a pretty great, inventive, emotionally potent short film. Everything about this production, from the writing, to the acting, to the production values, is top notch. As a short film maker myself, I'm always encouraged when I see real, honest, worthwhile effort put into one. Kudos to everyone involved. You can watch it here and now:

Monday, February 1, 2016

MEDIAVORE // COMICS ~ THE COSMIC HORROR OF "NAMELESS"


NAMELESS (Image Comics) ~ In this miniseries' six immensely satisfying issues, Grant Morrison serves up a heaping helping of Lovecraftian science-fiction, generously fortified with his trademark juxtaposition of heady, historically-accurate occultism with genre conventions and pop culture tropes. Handling the visual side of things, Chris Burnham makes an astonishingly successful go at aping frequent Morrison collaborator Frank Quitely's style, minus the latter's glacial, deadline-mocking turnaround rate.

Experiencing this gorgeously-rendered, mind-bending-yet-familiar narrative was a tremendous pleasure, so I'll do my best to make this a spoiler-free review. In fact, I won't be engaging in much analysis at all. This is really more of a preview for Nameless, or an enthusiastic recommendation, than anything else.

The basic elements of the story are as follows: A freelance occultist referred to only as "Nameless" is drawn into billionaire space mogul Paul Darius' clandestine efforts to deflect a massive asteroid that is hurtling towards the Earth, while simultaneously investigating some peculiar markings and structures that have been spotted on its surface.

If the above sounds a bit like Constantine does Armageddon, that isn't too far off the mark. But don't be fooled... Nameless is NOT some hastily thrown together pastiche. It features an intricate, non-linear assembly of nesting narratives that demands and rewards close attention.

From the first pages, in which Nameless sneaks, Inception-style, into someone's dreams in order to steal a powerful psychic artifact, we're never quite sure where we, or the characters, stand. Forever poised at the brink of revelation, the occasional glimpses of the hideous, alien reality behind the thin camouflage of sensory perception are sufficient to send even the strongest fleeing for the comfort of blind, blessed ignorance.

Nameless includes several genuinely disturbing moments, as well as a few vividly rendered scenes of graphic physical violence. It's also packed with goodies for lovers of esoterica, amateur occultists, and others interested in such paracultural oddities.

So how "paracultural" do things get, exactly? Well, as Nameless begins to realize that our Solar System has been the battlefield for an aeons-spanning interplanetary war between the deities, demigods and monstrous abominations who populate the mythological pantheons of the Sumerians, the Mayans, and various unknown "others", he decides to protect himself and his spaceship crew using the symbolic Enochian pseudo-language devised by Elizabethan court magician John Dee... an insight that comes to him while under the influence of one of Brion Gysin's hallucination-inducing Dream Machines. There are also some majorly twisted Tarot cards on display. But I've revealed too much already.

If the above sounds as good to you as it would to me, then you're in luck! A collected edition of Nameless is coming soon, which means you won't have to keep going back and forth to your local comic shop, waiting for up to eight freaking weeks before being able to gobble up the next incredible chapter, which usually takes no more than 20 minutes' reading time. Fortunately, thanks in no small part to Burnham, Nameless improves with each reading, so it will probably have a long, happy publishing life.

I'm not being paid to say this: Buy your copy of Nameless the minute it hits store shelves. Or heck, buy it now using this link, and Amazon will toss a couple pennies in my general direction! Go on... you know you want to!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

QUOTE OF THE DAY & SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 30, 2016

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"This is a chronicle of the Bush Era with no colour-coded Terror Alerts; no Freedom Fries; no Halliburton; no Healthy Forests Initiative (which opened up wilderness areas to logging); no Clear Skies Act (which reduced air pollution standards); no New Freedom Initiative (which proposed testing all Americans, beginning with schoolchildren, for mental illness); no pamphlets sold by the National Parks Service explaining that the Grand Canyon was created by the Flood; no research by the National Institutes of Health on whether prayer can cure cancer (‘imperative’, because poor people have limited access to healthcare); no cover-up of the death of football star Pat Tillman by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan; no ‘Total Information Awareness’ from the Information Awareness Office; no Project for the New American Century; no invented heroic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch; no Fox News; no hundreds of millions spent on ‘abstinence education’. It does not deal with the Cheney theory of the ‘unitary executive’ – essentially that neither the Congress nor the courts can tell the president what to do – or Bush’s frequent use of ‘signing statements’ to indicate that he would completely ignore a bill that the Congress had just passed. It is astonishing how many major players from Bush World are here Missing in Action. Entirely absent, or mentioned only in passing, are Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Yoo, Elliott Abrams, Ahmed Chalabi, Ayad Allawi, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, Richard Armitage, Katherine Harris, Ken Mehlman, Paul O’Neill, Rush Limbaugh. Barely appearing at all are John Ashcroft, Samuel Alito, Ari Fleischer, Alberto Gonzales, Denny Hastert, John Negroponte and Tom Ridge. Condi and Colin Powell are given small parts, but Rummy is largely a passing shadow. No one is allowed to steal a scene from the star. The enormous black hole in the book is the Grand Puppetmaster himself, Dick Cheney, the man who was prime minister to Bush’s figurehead president."
- From Damn Right, I Said, Eliot Weinberger's post-modernist tinged review of George W. Bush's autobiography, Decision Points, for the London Review of Books. It's so pomo, even Foucault makes an appearance!
***
SUGGESTED READING LIST

1. They found it! Long considered a “lost film” (defined as a known work with no surviving copy), 1962’s Pages of Death was ranked number fourteen in Gambit magazine’s list of fifteen “lost” films.
A 16mm print of the film was recently discovered in the collection of the Portland, Oregon based Oregon Historical Society. Writing in Vintage Sleaze, Jim Linderman describes Pages of Death as the story of a teenage boy who “hung out reading pornography at Baker’s Variety Store until he couldn’t stand it any longer and murdered a girl in a whipped up frenzy of smut inspired rage.” And now you can watch it, here!


2. I find it oddly delightful that Brave New World author Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell had arguments debating the comparative merits of their speculative dystopias that were not unlike the arguments my fellow students and I had while undergrad English students. This Open Culture essay, Entitled "My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours", begins:
In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher. Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel. Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.” Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book...
Click on the link for the rest.

3. Beauty, brains, natural talent, and now, Star Wars money (and immortality). Wow!  Saara Forsberg... It's not fair!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MEDIAVORE // FILM ~ BULLET REVIEWS IN BRIEF


THE BIGGIES

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS ~ Somewhat enjoyable, ultimately disposable opening salvo in Disney's continuity-redefining jump-start of George Lucas' inexplicably popular, intellectually moribund, decades-long series of glorified toy commercials. Of course it's the most "successful" film in the history of cinema.

SPOTLIGHT ~ One of the best journalistic films since All the President's Men, this extended look at the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigating team's groundbreaking 2001/2002 report on the Catholic Church's cover-up of massive pedophilia among the clergy is chock-a-block with interesting performances, great cinematic flourishes, understated and subtly powerful moments of revelation, without ever falling prey to the urge to be exploitative or overly sentimental. Mature, powerful, enjoyable.

THE HATEFUL 8 ~ as with every Quentin Tarantino since Kill Bill, there were things to love, and things to hate. Lots of cheap tricks disguised as shocking revelations, wonderful use of the ultra-wide
screen (some excellent staging and shot compositions), but ultimately too long by about an hour, and what little narrative heft it does have doesn't manage to ground it at all. For such a bloated thing, it sure was insubstantial. Also, there are way more than 8 characters in this thing. Cheat!

THE BIG SHORT ~ The Wolf of Wall Street, only more so. Probably the best movie about financial malfeasance that I have ever seen, and that includes most documentaries. This one was a great surprise to me, as I'd heard little about it before watching. A true story that is even more infuriating than Spotlight, and that's saying something.


THE SMALLIES

THE RIDICULOUS 6 ~ This is the Adam Sandler movie where all the native people employed as extras and in small roles decided to walk off the set because of the racist, caricaturist way in which the script dealt with them. And you know what? That's probably the funniest thing about this whole damn project.

HELL BABY ~ The creators of Reno 911 (a personal favorite) threw together this Satanic-themed pregnancy horror-comedy and invited a bunch of their comedy peers (including a game Rod Cordrey, half of Key and Peele, and a totally naked half of Garfunkle and Oates) to join them in New Orleans for some movie shooting and some Po Boys eating. Mildly entertaining, but ultimately disposable.

THE VISIT ~ M. Night Shamalamadingdong is back with this R-rated, found-footage, glorified "Goosebumps" episode. I actually liked this, which is kind of miraculous, considering who made it. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he didn't play a very large role in the writing of this project, because it actually works.

THE CONGRESS ~ Perhaps the most successful combination of animation and live action since Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this thoughtful, profoundly postmodern deconstruction of the ways in which the Hollywood machine chews up, digests, then shits out its employees (aka its victims) is also one of the most profound works of cinematic philosophy in recent decades, asking many big, important questions, and offering answers that enlighten, even if they don't comfort. Must see cinema, a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the soul.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 23, 2016 (TIME-WASTERS EDITION)


1. I've decided to try doing something new with this latest edition of the Daily Dirt Diaspora Suggested Readings List: Waste everyone's time with meaningless bullshit! And so, with that in mind, I give you... TRUMPLINGS! Go on, click it! And be sure to explore all the clicking options. Unlike voting in one of our sham, post-modern Western democracies, you won't live to regret it, I promise you.


2. You say that your musical tastes are unconventional, eclectic, and unique? You fancy yourself to be a fearless explorer of the avant garde, someone who likes to listen to "weird" music? Well then, here's a list of albums that Mojo Music Magazine considers to be fifty of the very weirdest albums in the history of commercial recordings. I don't suppose it will come as a shock to regular readers that a couple of my favorites are on this list, including the one represented by that handsome fella in the image above. Some of these picks aren't weird at all, by the way. "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", weird? Genius, yes. Weird, no.

3. And now for a real time-waster, try this incredibly detailed Canadian Business Report story about the unprecedentedly humiliating collapse of would-be retail "titan" TARGET CANADA! The author, Joe Castaldo, attempts something akin to a Hunter S. Thompson "Gonzo Journalism" approach, a conceit they attempt to reinforce via the inclusion of Ralph Steadman-style violent, slashing, graphical text overlays (click here to see what I mean). As an added bonus, be sure to check out this hilarious annotated map pinpointing exactly on the planet where all of TARGET CANADA's $3.4 BILLION worth of creditors are located. Even my tiny hometown of Edmundston, New Brunswick, Canada makes the list! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

DAVID BOWIE (1947-2016)


Legend is an honorific that is all too often bandied about. In the case of David Bowie, it applies. 

Bowie didn't just live a life without compromise, he lived many, his fictional personae more authentically lived than most contemporary celebrities' actual realities. The sounds and visions he gifted to we unworthy acolytes had the visceral psychic density of the most lucid of dreams. 

Now David Bowie the man is gone, but he's left his creations behind to keep us all company until time and memory run out. 

And if that isn't magick, then I don't know what is.

Friday, January 8, 2016

SUGGESTED READINGS FOR JAN 8, 2016



1. One of my favorite current non-fiction authors is Gary Lachman, who also happens to have been a founding member of the seminal New Wave band, Blondie. Talk about an interesting life! I regularly recommend Lachman's books to young seekers who ask my opinion for "a good place to start" doing some serious study of the hidden, the esoteric, the occult. This Daily Grail excerpt from Lachman's 2013 book, The Caretakers of the Cosmos: Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World, features much of what I like about his writing. I am particularly impressed by his ability to weave learned and profitable speculations together from such disparate elements as H.P. Lovecraft's century-old pulp fiction, Jean-Paul Sartre's mid-century philosophical existentialism, and the pessimistic, postmodernist prognostications of contemporary "ideas man" John Gray... with a little bit of Charlie Manson thrown in, for piquancy. It begins:
According to the latest estimates, our earth formed some 4.5 billion years ago, roughly ten billion years after the Big Bang, from cosmic dust and gas left over from the sun’s formation. It is believed life appeared on earth within a billion years after our planet formed. The standard account of the ‘birth of life’ suggests that self-replicating molecules accidentally emerged from the primordial soup some 3.5 billion years ago, and through an equally accidental process, over millions of years eventually turned into myself writing these words and you reading them – with, of course, quite a few different organisms in between. As with the Big Bang, the emergence of life is another example of the ‘something from nothing for no reason’ scenario popular with many scientists today. According to the same scenario, the consciousness I am exhibiting in writing these words – humble, indeed – and which you are employing in reading them, also emerged purely through accident, as an epiphenomenon of purely physical interactions of our brains’ neurons, which are themselves the result of the purely mechanical process of evolution, the Darwinian version. (An epiphenomenon is a kind of side show to the main attraction. Steam is an epiphenomenon of boiling water; it has no existence in itself, and without the boiling water, there would be no steam. For many neuroscientists and philosophers of mind today, our consciousness is little more than a kind of steam given off by the brain.) 
To dot the i’s and cross the t’s on this, let me say it in the simplest way possible. According to the most commonly accepted scientific view, no one wanted the Big Bang to happen. No onewanted the earth to form. No one wanted life to appear on the earth. And no one wanted life to evolve into us. There is no reason for any of it. It just happened.
Keep reading at the link for a touch of cosmic optimism as Lachman develops his central theme, which is that humans - we - have a unique and indispensable responsibility to existence: that of saving it from meaninglessness.


2. Another one of my favorite current non-fiction authors is Peter Bebergal, who was recently interviewed by The Quietus about his book Seasons of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. The article also contains an excerpt from the book about the magickal obsessions and exploits of David Bowie, about whom Bebergal declares:
I believe David Bowie is the true magician in the story of rock & roll, the artist who most perfectly realised the definition of magic, both Crowley's original ("The science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will") and Dion Fortune's modification ("Magick is the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will"). The thing I wanted to emphasise in Season Of The Witch is that the occult imagination is not simply about belief or practice, it's about how the application of the occult became the very method by which rock & roll was often realised. Bowie's music and performance were a magical practice, maybe even more potent than if he sat by himself in his room and tried to conjure a demon. I think this goes to the heart with my frustration with the occult merely has a belief system. Without art, without some expression of those experiences and those interactions with the unconscious, I lose interest. It's fun to imagine Crowley at the Boleskine house trying to meet his Holy Guardian Angel, but what is left except the story? The story of David Bowie drawing the Kabbalistic tree of life in the studio when he was recording Station To Station resonates because of Station To Station the album. It's a masterpiece, and it is partly a result of what was going on in his head as he tried to manage a psyche fractured by cocaine and occultism.
In light of Bowie's recent, spectacular return to form with the incredible song/video one/two punch of Blackstar, the above interview/excerpt couldn't be more timely.


3. Theologian and cultural critic Tara Isabella Burton's extended think piece for Aeon, entitled Dark Books, asks in part whether we are sufficiently wary of the potentially malefic hold that some fiction can exert upon the reader, or conscious of the possible consequences of feasting too eagerly upon the poisonous literary fruit of an evil, or diseased, creator. From the introductory passage:
In his condemnatory tract Popular Amusements (1869), the American clergyman Jonathan Townley Crane cautioned his flock against reading novels: ‘novel-readers spend many a precious hour in dreaming out clumsy little romances of their own, in which they themselves are the beautiful ladies and the gallant gentlemen who achieve impossibilities…’ only to find themselves ‘merged in the hero of the story’, losing the sense of who they really are. 
Such a view might seem outdated now that we’re far more likely to talk about the health benefits of reading than its moral dangers. But in treating novels as the ultimate nutrition for the brain, do we risk neutralising their potency? After all, religious moralists such as Crane were not the only people to explore the dangers of novel-reading and the treacherous dynamics of story-telling: novelists and writers themselves drew attention to and critiqued the writer’s singular power over his readers. 
Many of these authors – the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in Denmark, the Decadent novelists Julés-Amedée Barbey D’Aurevilly and Octave Mirbeau in France, or Oscar Wilde in England – were responding to a wider intellectual trend in the 19th century: the configuring of the artist as a kind of replacement Creator-deity in an age turning away from traditional authoritarian conceptions of God; a quasi-divine artist whose words, according to the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, were ‘a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM’. Writer-philosophers such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schlegel drew on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant to celebrate the power of the human mind to impose order and form on the chaos of the world, and envisioned the artist or storyteller figure as a kind of über-Mensch, or superman, who could wield the organising power of narrative to lend form to the void. 
But godlike power (as plenty of Romantic writers came to discover) has a dark side. And in the works of some of the greatest and most disturbing writers of the 19th century, we get a glimpse of what that dark side looks like: something at once more profound – and more diabolical – than Crane could have imagined.
Unfortunately, after posing some extremely intriguing questions, Burton succumbs to the temptation of tying her thesis to a wobbly foundation of politically correct hand-wringing over the patriarchy, rape culture, and the unspeakable evils of colonialism. Which is really too bad, because up until the final section, this had the potential to be an intriguing exploration of literary transgression. As things currently stand, it is still worth reading, but that great essay about literary transgression is still floating in the formless void, waiting to be shared with the waking, walking world. Fuck, maybe I'll take a stab at writing it myself one day.

***
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The Second Amendment prevents the federal government from completely abolishing official state militias - nothing more, nothing less. Nothing in the Constitution prevents the federal or state governments, or both, from outlawing the formation of storm trooper squads on U.S. soil and limiting gun ownership to members of the National Guard. Members of right-wing paramilitary militias, of course, might claim a 'natural right of revolution,' of the sort invoked by the American patriots of 1776 (and by the Confederates in 1860-61), There is no constitutional right to revolution, however. There is, of course, a provision for instances where armed bands amass weapons and attempt to overthrow the federal government. The Constitution permits the death penalty for treason."
Michael Lind skewers the NRA position on the second amendment in his book Up From Conservatism: Why the Right is Wrong for America.