Thursday, July 2, 2015

"THAT'S NOT FUNNY!" The Manufactured Crisis of Politically Incorrect Comedy


A spectre is haunting comedy—the spectre of Political Correctness.

If you're reading this, you're either a former reader of my Daily Dirt proto-blog (1999-2006), or you've followed a friend’s link from some form of social media, which means that you’re probably pretty savvy regarding current events, and you don’t need me to tell you about the PC war on comedy currently being waged by self-appointed Social Justice Warriors the world over.

The most recent eruption involves current comedy ‘It Girl’, stand-up comic Amy Schumer. In a recent, otherwise laudatory article in The Guardian, TV critic Monica Heisey wrote: “For such a keen observer of social norms and an effective satirist of the ways gender is complicated by them, Schumer has a shockingly large blind spot around race.” As evidence, Heisey points to a couple of jokes in which Schumer suggests that Mexican men are a) hard workers and b) sexually aggressive.

When Schumer took to Twitter in a half-hearted attempt to defend herself against the racism charge, the aptly-named online entertainment blog Vulture swooped in to publish a rebuttal, in which Schumer’s racial jokes were criticized as having “no big reveal, no clever moment of redemption where the audience member has been edified on the machinations of American race relations.”

Because, as we all know, it’s every comedian’s dream to edify the audience on the machinations of race relations in America. Which works out great, because now, apparently, it’s also their responsibility.

When news of Schumer’s digital spanking started spreading across my Facebook news feed like a rash, I initially experienced a wave of déjà vu. Didn’t we just go down this road, like, a week ago?

Then I remembered, no, I was probably thinking of the time Jerry Seinfeld told ESPN that many of his comedian friends no longer perform at colleges because the crowds have become too PC.


This prompted a self-described “politically correct college student” to write an open letter to Seinfeld—the world’s most successful stand-up comic—in which fingers were wagged, tongues were clucked, and Seinfeld’s point was proven beyond Caitlyn Jenner’s 5 o’clock shadow of a doubt.

Wait… no! It wasn’t Seinfeld! It was Tina Fey! The veteran Saturday Night Live performer and one-woman media empire about whom a recent Flavorwire-by-way-of-Vulture (again) editorial declared that “race” is Fey’s “biggest blind spot” (again), “because the act of mocking something automatically implies that the comedian has, or thinks she has, the authority, objectivity, and distance needed to mock it.” They even go so far as to criticize this quote by suggesting it could be “used as a negative example of intersectional feminism in a gender studies seminar” …as if that somehow counts as a negative.

Or… hold on a second. Could I actually be thinking about the time The Internet collectively decided to pour over every last Tweet ever twatted by Trevor Noah, the comic chosen to replace Jon Stewart in The Daily Show anchor chair? Said “Twit-hunt” revealed a handful of jokes implying that some Jewish people have succeeded in the entertainment industry, and that some fat chicks are funny to look at. Remember? That mini-scandal prompted Patton Oswalt to unleash an epic 53-part Twitter-based take-down of Noah’s self-appointed PC shamers. And then the shamers went after Oswalt, and round and round we go…



On the other hand, perhaps I’m thinking about that one time when “hashtag activist” Suey Park tried to get Comedy Central’s Colbert Report cancelled over the satirical, faux right-wing pundit’s satirical, faux charity, the “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever”, which itself was a parody of NFL franchise owner Dan Snyder’s establishment of the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation”. That Park’s campaign could itself serve as evidence for certain pre-existing negative stereotypes about the Asian sense of humor was, no doubt, completely lost on her.

In many ways, I suppose, ‘twas ever thus. Only nowadays, I would argue, it’s more so. But why?

In his excellent 2014 documentary “That’s Not Funny”, which you can watch for free on Youtube, Mike Celestino blames a familiar boogeyman: the Internet. Using the 2013 incident when The Onion sparked outrage with an Oscar night Tweet about 9-year-old Best Supporting Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, Celestino explains:
“The Onion started out in 1988 as a cult comedy fake newspaper circulating around the college campuses of cities in Wisconsin and Illinois. After the launch of its website in 1996, it found its way into the homes of comedy fans across the United States and the world. And now, after the explosion in social media over the last decade, The Onion’s articles are shared, re-blogged and re-tweeted by hundreds and thousands of people. And while those people might be sophisticated comedy aficionados, with tastes for edgy satirical social commentary, many of the friends and family they’re sharing the jokes with are not.”
Celestino concludes with a couple rhetorical question of his own: “How does a joke wind up in the hands of someone for whom it wasn’t intended? So now The Onion has to answer to armchair critics and soccer moms who have no interest in or understanding of what satire even is?”

His half-defeated reply: “Well… yeah. That’s a part of being a world culture. The world has an opportunity to react.” Celestino goes on to say that, as a liberal, he’s devoted to the idea of “safe spaces” where people don’t have to be constantly on their guard, worried that they’re going to be attacked or ridiculed. However, he also says “it’s a little unreasonable to expect your safe space to be EVERYWHERE.”

And therein lies the rub.

Mel Brooks famously said that “Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” John Cleese believes that the best comedy requires transgression against taboos, and as such always risks offense. At the peak of his powers, Steve Martin put it succinctly: “Comedy is not pretty.”

From George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television to Chris Rock’s genuinely dangerous meditation on the differences between black folks and “niggers”, comedy is never so effective as when it’s bumping up against, or crashing through, psychosocial barriers, whether or not those barriers are mandated by law.

One of the themes you may have noticed running through many of the above PC critiques of “offensive” comedy is the implied notion that the critics, themselves, are in possession of razor sharp, sophisticated comedy chops. So much so, in fact, that they feel qualified to lecture some of the world’s funniest people about what makes for truly great comedy. It seems as though they want to have their fair-trade, gluten-free, vegan “cake”, and have it taste good, too.

In other words, they desperately want to be in on the joke. 

And in a strange way, they are, because while comedy is definitely a shared, group experience, it is not 100 percent “inclusive”. It almost always requires an Other, an "out" group for those who "get it" to reflexively position themselves against. 

And that, dear reader, is what these critics represent. The necessary, archetypal, ultimate component required for any truly successful and transcendent comedy: the Square Left Out of the Joke.

***

Sunday, June 28, 2015

WAYMAN GRESHAM: GRASSROOTS EVERYMAN OR ASTROTURF SHILL?


I'm beginning to think we've all been punked by this "Wayman Gresham" individual. 

In case you haven't heard of him - and if you haven't, you're in the minority - Wayman Gresham is the most recent multi-million-hit, viral video phenomenon to appear all over the media, from breakfast TV to late-nite talk, to international newspapers and broadcast network news, celebrity Twitter accounts, and all over your own personal Facebook timeline. 

And it's all thanks to a single video, which he posted on Facebook less than a month ago, and which ends with an uplifting switcheroo twist. 

Here is the video in question, via Youtube. I'll explain why I wasn't able to link to the Facebook original deeper into this post:


So what we seem to have, here, is a somewhat overweight but otherwise perfectly normal family man, who is pretty much prime-time ready with his "Family Matters" mien and his adorably huggable "Christian love" ethics in practice, who apparently has a good, strong relationship with his son. And that's fine. Better than fine, even. It's great.

And then there's the video, in which he pretends like he's going to humiliate his son by shaving his hair on social media (something shitty parents have been doing lately, apparently leading to at least one teen suicide). only to pull a switcheroo and shame those who would shame their children publicly in such an awful way. Once again, I applauded. Very good message. I appreciated it. 

I even went so far as to find Mr Gresham on Facebook and ask to befriend him, and he hooked me up within minutes. And I was very pleased.

Then, I started getting his updates in my Facebook timeline. They were very Christian, which is not a problem for me. I have religious friends. I have a few religious beliefs of my own. He kept it light, you know, saying how he felt "God blessed" and shooting out little mini-prayers throughout the day. No biggie. It was not only unoffensive, I actually started asking myself "May we finally have found a great spokesman for modern American Christianity?"

And then his posts started getting political. He started bad-mouthing liberals, and getting just a bit fire and brimstone, making thinly-veiled allusions to various "non-Christians" and their "lifestyles"... if you know what I mean. 

It was when Gresham began signaling out President Obama with particularly nasty rhetoric - and defending the preznitcy of George Dubya Bush! - that I started to wonder if Mr Gresham had played a little "switcheroo" of his own on his new legion of fans. 

I started thinking to myself, how does some unknown entity post a video on Facebook, where only one's friends can see it - and NOT on Youtube, where anyone can see it - and somehow immediately manage to "go viral"? And I'm talking seriously viral, here, folks. Just do a search for "Wayman Gresham" on news.google.com and check out the hundreds of results from every media platform imaginable to see how far this virus has spread. 

How, in the span of less than a single month, can one man's private video reach not hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, but MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of people, without a little... outside intervention? A little help? A little boost of some sort?

Something about this stinks to me. It stinks to high heaven. In fact, it stank so bad, I decided to ask Mr Gresham about it in response to one of his most recent anti-Obama Facebook postings. 

He initially replied with a good natured, "Well, I receive your comment with respect and love, but you're wrong! Have a blessed day!" When I attempted to reply to his reply, I found that he had de-friended me. When I attempted to see if he'd removed my comments, I found that he'd also actively BLOCKED me. So now I can't see his account anymore, which is why I wasn't able to link to his original video, or to any of his comments that caused me to question his motives and/or provenance. 

And so we are left to ask ourselves... who might these "helpers", these "boosters", these "interveners" be? 

Let's think about this one for a bit. Might there anybody out there in the Big Bad World with a vested interest in having a nice, respectable, allegedly "Christian" Everyman, who also just happens to be black, with millions of followers on social media of all sorts, publicly attacking President Obama? 

I can see them all now, sitting in leather armchairs around a big redwood table, in a dimly-lit think tank meeting room, the air thick with cigar smoke, reasoning: "They won't be able to call him a racist, because he'll be a BLACK GUY!" And they all burst into cackling laughter that eventually devolves into uncontrollable phlegmatic hacking coughs. 

And now I ask you, Mr Gresham... who is pulling your strings? Who is behind the multi-million viral success of your video? Who are they, and at what point did they step in? Did they approach and buy your soul AFTER you had achieved some measure of success? Or have you been a bogus, manufactured propaganda product from the moment we first laid eyes upon you?

I have one last question for you, Mr Gresham, in case you're reading this AND you're a real person, and not just some kind of right-wing think tank propaganda regurgitating Manchurian program puppet. When Christ fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, and Satan approached and offered Him dominion over all the world, and Christ refused... was He wrong to do so?

Thank you all for your time and attention.

Monday, June 22, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JUNE 19


1. At first glance, the above image - dubbed "the mystery photo haunting Reddit - doesn't seem especially horrific. But look again... deeper this time. Peep the details... all those eyes and snouts and... stalks. Well, according to this article, the above image (as well as a whole bunch more at the link) is how Google's "image recognition neural network" sees the world... like a Lovecraftian fever-dream. Personally, I am reminded of some of the more intense and extreme visualizations sparked by the use of various psychedelic substances, such as DMT, Salvia Divinorum, LSD and Magic Mushrooms. For another think-piece on this peculiar visual oddity, here's The Guardian's take.



2. Have you ever wondered to yourself what books could be used to rebuild civilization after its inevitable and swiftly approaching collapse? No? Well, no problem, because a bunch of other people have, and they're generously choosing to share their lists with the rest of us. Everyone from musical wizard Brian Eno to cyber-guru Stewart Brand. Personally, I'm not 100 percent convinced by the lists presented here, but they do make for interesting reading... the lists, and most of the books on the lists.

3. And, finally, in keeping with the "lists" theme, here's The Guardian's list of 1000 novels that you should read before you die. That's 1000... three zeroes. And they're all novels... no biographies, or true crime, or works of history, or anything like that. The criteria:
Selected by the Guardian's Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.
And so, here it is, broken down into a bunch of categories. Get cracking!

THE GREATEST MOVIE REVIEW OF ALL TIME, TRANSCRIBED!

Ah... Youtube. Strip away all the copyright-busting "shares" of music, movies and TV shows, remove the infinitely recursive, neverending reposts of Charlie-bit-my-pants-fell-down "viral" videos (and has a phenomenon ever been so aptly baptised?) and we're left with what the site's creators hilariously claim was its raison d'etre, all along... people communicating directly with other people, via the medium of their desktop video cameras. 

After all, everybody's got something to say, right? Millions upon millions of teachers, all in search of a pupil or two. The science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon famously opined that 95% of everything is crap. Had he lived to experience the exquisite folly that is Youtube, I'm fairly certain he would have had to revise his estimate upwards by a few full percentiles, at least. 

But lurk long enough in some of Youtube's dark, neglected corners - creeping carefully past the idiot bastard stepchildren of conspiracy theorists long dead, hours-long videogame "walk-throughs" and loving close-ups of pimples and blackheads being popped in slow-motion - and you'll occasionally stumble across a nugget of purest gold. 

Youtube user MoviesAndGhosties' review of the 1986 classic "Crocodile Dundee" is one such nugget, which I hereby present to you, complete with my own complete transcription, because it's just... that... good. I hope watching and/or reading this review gives you a fraction of the pleasure I got from transcribing it for you. Of particular value here is M&G's insightful and heartfelt remembrance of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, near the end of her review. 

Enjoy! - YOPJ


Okay folks! Now for another movie that, well, it's older than the last movie I reviewed. It's almost ten years older than... uh... the last movie I just reviewed. This is one of my husband's favorite movies... one of two of his favorite movies. 

Uh, this is, um... you know, it has a sequel, which I have one of the two sequels for this movie. The other one I don't have. I would love to be able to find it on DVD. This is actually a cute movie, and I recently discovered that the star of this movie is basically being held hostage in one of the countries he shot this movie in, for back taxes, uh... and, you know, I haven't heard if they've resolved it or yet, or not. I'm assuming not, because I haven't heard different. 

Anyway, this is actually one of those movies, I mean, it's adorable. Um, and it's got, uh... Paul Hogan, who is the one that's being basically held hostage, in his... (GLURMP) ...excuse me... in his.. in Australia, at this time, to my knowledge, um... I can't say of course if he ever got let go, and Linda Kowal-Zasky, who plays Sue. It's, of course, Crocodile Dundee. It's the, you know, original one. 

This is... I've seen this in the theater, um, and of course I obviously own it here on DVD. This is an adorable movie. I mean, it's so funny, because it's a comedy, and you... (MINI-QUAKE!) ...you can watch this with your friends, or your kids, because I mean it's funny enough to where, you know, you can... you can so tell it's, like, set in the 80's... the 1980's? 

This was released, of course, like I said, in 1986. It came out on September 26 of 86... so 1986. Um... and, I mean, it's just... it's so cute. I mean, it starts off with Sue Carlton, who is, of course, played by Linda Kowal-Zasky, like I mentioned, um, you know, talking on the phone to her editor, who is played by Mark Bloom. Um... Sue Cook is telling Richard that, you know, hey, look, I'm gonna go meet this Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee, who is played by Paul Hogan, um... and... see... about... him... who... you know... see Dundee, because he supposedly had lost a leg, you know, in a crocodile attack, um... in outback... in an OUT BACK settlement. 

Um... you know, when Sue arrives... to... uh... you know, the... town... where... uh.... Dundee lives, um… it's called Walkabout Creek. You know, it's a fake town in Australia. Um… but, when Sue gets there, you know, she finds out that the crocodile story is exaggerated, that Dundee’s leg is still attached to his person, and he’s got a bite scar where the crocodile actually bit him! And of course Sue meets Dundee and Walter, who is Dundee’s aide, um… and the three of them go out in the wilderness, and… you know, Sue watches, uh, Mick – as Dundee is called – using a vo – a version of horse-whispering to subdue a wild buffalo, and then, you know, Dundee kills a crocodile that attacks Sue. (HEAVY SIGH) 

And, of course, one night Mick and Sue are sitting around the fire and an Aboriginese person named Noho Bell, played by David Goddopoli, who is the son of a tribal elder, have to leave to go to this meeting, and um… you know, Mick and Nav then go to this tribal band ceremony, um, where it’s, you know, the object is to pay respect to the father and to the land. Sue, of course, being a woman, can’t participate in this ritual, but she follows behind and hides in the bushes to observe it. And, you know, while she’s hiding there, she spots Mick through her camera’s telescopic lens. And… you know, um… Mick… notices… or, Mick lets Sue know that he spotted her. And… you know, it kind of drives him the fact that he’s, like, in touch with nature. 

And, you know… um, you know… and Mick tells her, you know, tells Sue later that, you know he, you know, knew she’d follow, because, you know, that she was naturally curios- CURIOUS! Because Sue is a woman and a reporter. Um… of course, as they’re going, and they show, Mick shows Sue where he was hurt and everything, and they, you know, they talk about… all that. 

And, you know, one of my favorite parts is when Sue convinces Mick to go to America with her in New York. Of course, you can, you know, you can tell this is definitely pre… what I call a pre-9/11 movie, because you actually see the World Trade Centers in the movie. It’s like, I don’t know why, but it’s like… ever since 9/11 happened – 9/11 2001 happened – it’s like, you can definitely, like, if you’ve, you know, watched the mov- the shows and ever- or, shows on television and everything, or you lived there, like, if you were to watch, like, movies like this, actually show, like, the Trade Towers, you know, you think “Those ain’t there anymore!” Well, you have to kind of, you know, put it in perspective, and, like I have to remind myself that, like, hello, this film was shot, you know, a good… 15 years maybe before 9/11 2001 happened. You have to like, you know, wait a minute, time out! Back it up! 

Um… but this movie, actually, it’s, like I said, it’s adorable. And it’s cute to watch even with your kids and stuff, um… it kind of makes us want to go pay Australia a visit, like, during the American… North American winter, you know, because it’s summer down there? Um… I do highly recommend this movie to watch. I mean, it is, yes, very cute. Now, hang on, I’m going to do another movie review, and I’ll get right back with you, alright? Hang on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JUNE 17


1. This Rolling Stone Magazine cover story about legendary Canadian prog-rock power trio RUSH - the band I've seen live the most often in my own life (3 times) - is just excellent. Even those of you who aren't fans of Rush's particular brand(s) of musical mayhem should find the story of comrades in arms and decades-long best-friendships inspiring and uplifting. Cue up a playlist of "Moving Pictures", or "2112", or "Grace Under Pressure", and read this sucker from top to bottom in one sitting, like I just did. You won't be disappointed!


2. Another lengthy must-read story for today is Paul Ford's absolutely fascinating What Is Code? for Bloomberg. It's a beautiful bit of writing, exploring a poorly understood but incredibly important facet of our contemporary culture. Check out, for instance, what Ford has to say about "involuntary" coding...
When you “batch” process a thousand images in Photoshop or sum numbers in Excel, you’re programming, at least a little. When you use computers too much—which is to say a typical amount—they start to change you. I’ve had Photoshop dreams, Visio dreams, spreadsheet dreams, and Web browser dreams. The dreamscape becomes fluid and can be sorted and restructured. I’ve had programming dreams where I move text around the screen.
You can make computers do wonderful things, but you need to understand their limits. They’re not all-powerful, not conscious in the least. They’re fast, but some parts—the processor, the RAM—are faster than others—like the hard drive or the network connection. Making them seem infinite takes a great deal of work from a lot of programmers and a lot of marketers. 
The turn-of-last-century British artist William Morris once said you can’t have art without resistance in the materials. The computer and its multifarious peripherals are the materials. The code is the art.

 3. This excellent review of English Professor of Philosophy John Gray's thought-provoking new book - "The Soul of the Marionette" - serves as "a short enquiry into human freedom" that "exposes the follies, delusions and prevailing Gnosticism of our smugly arrogant times." It begins:
In these times the west, or what we used quaintly to call the civilised world, is threatened by two opposing perils, one actual and near, the other notional though becoming a reality at an ever-increasing pace. At one pole, there is the outright, unrelenting and often violent rejection of western modernity by fundamentalist movements, Islamic, Christian, Jewish; at the other is the seemingly limitless development of computer technology, which, as some highly intelligent people,Stephen Hawking among them, have been warning of late, may well end in producing machines much cleverer and even more destructive than we are. The future will be another country. John Gray, in his bleak yet bracing new book, once again addresses himself to the follies, delusions and willed blindness of our smugly arrogant times, in which, despite our arrogance, we cower before the twin menaces of old and new barbarisms.
 Delicious and filling food for thought. I look forward to reading Dr Gray's book.

Monday, June 15, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JUNE 15


1. Tom Chatfield has penned a stimulating meditation on the role of technology in society and on the messianic concept of "the Singularity", in particular. It begins:
Lecturing in late 1968, the American sociologist Harvey Sacks addressed one of the central failures of technocratic dreams. We have always hoped, Sacks argued, that “if only we introduced some fantastic new communication machine the world will be transformed.” Instead, though, even our best and brightest devices must be accommodated within existing practices and assumptions in a “world that has whatever organisation it already has.” 
As an example, Sacks considered the telephone. Introduced into American homes during the last quarter of the 19th Century, instantaneous conversation across hundreds or even thousands of miles seemed close to a miracle. For Scientific American, editorializing in 1880, this heralded “nothing less than a new organization of society – a state of things in which every individual, however secluded, will have at call every other individual in the community, to the saving of no end of social and business complications…” 
Yet the story that unfolded was not so much “a new organization of society” as the pouring of existing human behaviour into fresh moulds: our goodness, hope and charity; our greed, pride and lust. New technology didn’t bring an overnight revolution. Instead, there was strenuous effort to fit novelty into existing norms.
It's a fascinating and thoughtful piece of writing that should give even the most dedicated techno-utopian pause. I urge one and all to read it and deal with it.


2. Discovering the comedy of Patrice O'Neal only after his death from a diabetes-complicated stroke in late 2011 has been a paradoxical experience. It's wonderful, because he's amazing to listen to, even when surrounded by the likes of Opie, Anthony, Bill Burr and Jimmy Norton. And, of course, it's depressing, because now that I've listened to all his O&A appearances as well as his concerts... that's it. There won't be any more new material from this man. Like the man says in First Blood: "It's over, Johnny." So when I ran across this beautiful New York Magazine tribute/feature on his life and times, I was glad to see that that the author of the piece, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, had done him justice. If you want to see why Patrice meant so much to those who knew and worked with him, check out the archive of his O&A appearances on Youtube (just search his name). There's like 100 hours of material. Unfortunately... that's it.


3. The Rialto Report, a website dedicated to exploring the early, "golden age" of adult cinema, answers the intriguing question: Whatever happened to Pat Barrington? Fans of the cinema of Ed Wood and Russ Meyer will instantly recognize this statuesque beauty, but the truth of her fascinating life is more astonishing than anything cooked up by the half-baked auteurs who made such mercenary use of her prodigious natural talents. I think my good friend Matt Pollack, the documentarian behind Run Run It's Him, will find this to be a particularly compelling narrative.

Friday, June 12, 2015

THOMAS PYNCHON SPOTTED IN INHERENT VICE! - UPDATE!

Since early in the film's production, there have been rumors floated that super-reclusive author (and sometime Simpsons characterThomas Pynchon might be making a surprise cameo appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson's cinematic version of his 70's psychedelic stoner detective story, Inherent Vice.

Well, hold on to your Groucho glasses, folks, because I think I may have stumbled across said cameo.

It takes place roughly at the one hour mark, at which point private dick Larry "Doc" Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix) has cornered Coy Harlingen (played by Owen Wilson) - one of his clients, who also happens to be one of his investigation subjects, an arrangement that occurs with surprising frequency in this film - in the beach-front dwelling of the surf-jazz band The Boards, for whom Coy plays sax.

Anyhoo, Doc and Coy are carrying on a paranoid chat about what, exactly, Coy's trip might be, seeing as he's supposed to be laying low after faking his own death, and yet he chose to make a scene at a Nixon rally, on the tube no less. They're constantly looking over each others' shoulders and out the big multi-paneled window, the sheer volume of vibes weighing heavy on them both. And at the precise moment  when Coy says: "My country right or wrong, with Vietnam going on? It's crazy man!", a tall, bespectacled gentleman with a conspicuous moustache walks past said window, looking very conspiratorial. 

Then, after Coy splits, the same tall gent doubles back, and he and Doc trade suspicious glances.

Even though the image is pretty fuzzy, based on previous descriptions of the almost-never-photographed Pynchon, I believe I've sussed out his cameo. Here are some snaps, for reference's sake, though you might have to enlarge them.
  



It's much more convincing on the big screen, believe me!

UPDATE!

Well well well... On June 4th of 2015, The Onion's arts review site A.V. Club linked to this theory of mine, sending my visits through the roof for a couple days, and even though they disparage my theory--claiming that the (barely visible) fella wandering in the fog behind the window looks "five decades too young" to be everybody's favorite reclusive genius author--I'm still pretty stoked about it. Thanks, guys! - Jerky

Saturday, May 30, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ MAY 30, 2015


1. I know that a few of my friends and readers (Bruce! Brian! Lee!) have done some advanced research in cognitive science and artificial intelligence. And I know that they're pretty stoked about the potential inherent in the research currently being done in that field. But this excellent Nautilus editorial goes into exhaustive detail about some of the very serious risks associated with the "thinking big" attitude that currently pervades this particular scientific arena. It begins:
In 2005 neuroscientist Henry Markram embarked on a mission to create a supercomputer simulation of the human brain, known as the Blue Brain Project. In 2013 that project became the Human Brain Project (HBP), a billion-euro, 10-year initiative supported in part by the European Commission. The HBP polarized the neuroscience community, culminating in an open letter last July signed by nearly 800 neuroscientists, including Nobel Prize–winners, calling the HBP’s science into question. Last month the critics were vindicated, as a mediation committee called for a total overhaul of the HBP’s scientific goals. 
“We weren’t generating discontent,” says Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, who co-authored the open letter with Alexandre Pouget of the University of Geneva. “We tapped into it.” 
So, what was wrong with the Human Brain Project? And what are the implications for how we study and understand the brain? The HBP, along with the U.S.’s multibillion-dollar BRAIN Initiative, are often compared to other “big science” endeavors, such as the Human Genome Project, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, or even NASA’s moon landing. But given how much of the brain’s workings remain mysterious, is big science the right way to unlock its mysteries and cure its diseases?
Keep reading for some very astute (if somewhat sobering) observations about the current state of tue "consciousness" sciences.

2. This excellent Nick Cohen editorial for The Spectator is the last, best thing you will ever need to read about both the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, as well as last month's resultant PEN gala "controversy". It begins:
I suppose it is asking too much of a writer called Francine Prose that she write prose anyone would want to read. But on the principle you can only track down terrible ideas by wading through terrible writing you have to endure Prose’s prose. 
She attempted to deploy her prosaic talent to explain why PEN, an organisation dedicated to protecting the free speech of writers, should not honour the writers and artists of Charlie Hebdo - murdered by Islamists for exercising their right to free speech. 
"The narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders – white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists – is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East. And the idea that one is either “for us or against us” in such matters not only precludes rational and careful thinking, but also has a chilling effect on the exercise of our right to free expression and free speech that all of us – and all the people at PEN – are working so tirelessly to guarantee." 
Note the dehumanisation. ... Note her racial obsessions. ... Note, finally, the inevitable appeal to victimhood.
If you harbor ANY lingering doubts about either of these two events - the attack or PEN's decision - then please, do yourself a favor, read and digest this editorial fully and completely. You will not regret it.

3. My good friend Frank Swan created this pretty awesome tune (and video) in his friend's apartment here in Toronto using free software and cheap microphones bought at The Source (formerly Radio Shack). Enjoy... and if you like it... SHARE IT!

Friday, May 29, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ MAY 28, 2015


1. So there are these insanely bejeweled corpses, often referred to as "Catacomb Saints", to be found in some of the Old World's finest houses of worship. At the page where you can see a bunch of hi-rez images of them, the story begins:
Back in 1578 came the fascinating discovery of a network of labyrinthine tombs, lurking deep beneath the street of Rome. The tombs were home to the decayed skeletons of early Christian martyrs – believed to be saints on account of their bravery & unwavering support of Christian beliefs.
Many of these skeletons (given the name ‘The Catacomb Saints’ by those who first discovered them) were then distributed across Europe (predominantly Germany) as replacements for the countless holy relics which had been smashed, stolen or destroyed during the Protestant Reformation.
Once delivered, each skeleton was then clothed and adorned into a variety of precious jewels, expensive cloth, crowns, armour and even given wigs. They were put on display inside their designated churches as a reminder to all who visited, for the riches and wealth that awaited them post death – providing they swore allegiance to the Christian faith.
It sounds like a tale straight from a Dan Brown novel doesn't it? Yet it’s all factually accurate.
2. As one of the leading bloggers of the neo-Reactionary movement, Davis M.J. Aurini is someone with whom I share precious little in the way of political sympathies. However, there's no denying the man can write, as he proves in his most recent essay, Attacking the Wrong Degenerates, which begins:
‘Degenerate’ is one of my favourite words. It’s a full-frontal attack on the post-modern celebration of base vulgarity, its erudition assaults semi-literate sensibilities, and implicit in the term are demands for moral standards to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s the perfect word for denouncing the ills of our times… which is why I hate seeing it come out of the mouths of the callow self-righteous. 
Never has degeneracy been simultaneously so flagrant, and so prosaic, as it is today. On the one hand we have other-kin dressing in fur-suits and masturbating to cannibal porn; nothing more needs be said about these creatures, they’re voiding their bowels in public for all to see. It’s the prosaics who truly frustrate me; the milquetoast moral majority; the squares, the chumps, the cowards. Those who snootily look down their nose on anybody who lives with an ounce of passion, while patting themselves on the back for the blameless mediocrity that is their lives. 
These are the worst degenerates of them all.

 3. Betcha didn't know multi-million copy-selling horror author extraordinaire Stephen King is the man who murdered former Beatle, John Fucking Lennon, didya?! Well, my dear, deluded little sheeple, let the blazingly obvious and gloriously awesome TRUTH wash over you and set you fucking free!