Friday, March 27, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ MARCH 26


1. For years, decades, nay, even centuries, the Powers That Be have tried to figure out why "some people" insist on refusing to believe what they're told (you know who you are). Indeed, there exists an entire, rather vigorous publishing genre devoted exclusively to this conundrum, producing tomes that vary in quality on a scale from the empyrean heights of Richard J. Hofstadter, to the frankly embarrassing barrel-bottom scrapings of Gerald Posner. But until recently, nobody has ever managed to come up with a handy, one-size-fits-all, bite-sized explanation as to why "conspiracy theories" continue to hold such stubborn sway. Enter Quassim Cassam. With a little help from intellectual sparring partner "Oliver" - apparently the living embodiment of the Straw Man rhetorical tactic - this pseudo-anonymous denizen of the blogosphere has boiled the entire Debunking Project down to its intoxicatingly simple essence: Believing in the existence of conspiracies shows a "lack of intellectual character". Here, let Quassim explain it to you:
Meet Oliver. Like many of his friends, Oliver thinks he is an expert on 9/11. He spends much of his spare time looking at conspiracist websites and his research has convinced him that the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, of 11 September 2001 were an inside job. The aircraft impacts and resulting fires couldn't have caused the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center to collapse. The only viable explanation, he maintains, is that government agents planted explosives in advance. He realises, of course, that the government blames Al-Qaeda for 9/11 but his predictable response is pure Mandy Rice-Davies: they would say that, wouldn't they? 
Polling evidence suggests that Oliver’s views about 9/11 are by no means unusual. Indeed, peculiar theories about all manner of things are now widespread. There are conspiracy theories about the spread of AIDS, the 1969 Moon landings, UFOs, and the assassination of JFK. Sometimes, conspiracy theories turn out to be right – Watergate really was a conspiracy – but mostly they are bunkum. ... 
I want to argue for something which is controversial, although I believe that it is also intuitive and commonsensical. My claim is this: Oliver believes what he does because that is the kind of thinker he is or, to put it more bluntly, because there is something wrong with how he thinks. The problem with conspiracy theorists is not, as the US legal scholar Cass Sunstein argues, that they have little relevant information. The key to what they end up believing is how they interpret and respond to the vast quantities of relevant information at their disposal. I want to suggest that this is fundamentally a question of the way they are. Oliver isn't mad (or at least, he needn’t be). Nevertheless, his beliefs about 9/11 are the result of the peculiarities of his intellectual constitution – in a word, of his intellectual character.
So there you have it, all neatly tied up with a big red bow on top! According to Quassim, the most certain indicator of someone's "intellectual character" is a strict adherence to rigid ontological orthodoxy, and the surest way to maintain one's mental hygiene is a steadfast refusal to question the status quo! If turning a blind eye to the gushing torrent of lies, propaganda and disinformation The Powers That Be spew into our collective consciousness on a day to day basis sounds like a legitimate information navigation strategy to you, then by all means, continue reading this essay


2.  If there's a better way to spend one's time than creating fake book jackets and sneaking them onto "real" books being sold in the "Self Help" section of your local bookstore, I certainly can't think of it. You can see my favorite one, above, but there are many more to check out and admire, and you certainly won't want to miss the informative inside cover flaps, complete with author photo and biography! Don't let the website's name fool you; this exercise in literary subversion is neither sad, nor useless.


3. I have a quick appendix to... um... "append" to today's first Suggested Reading selection! If Quassim Cassem's "Ode to Officially Sanctioned Thinking" resonated powerfully with your own intellectual vibrations, then you'll probably be relieved to learn that the nation of France is currently moving to make "conspiracy theories" illegal by government decree! Big Brother... what's not to love?!

Friday, March 13, 2015

SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ MARCH 13, 2015

1. Holy Conspiracy Fodder, Batman! Even the foax at FOX News now harbor doubts about the legitimacy - at least in certain regards - of some of the more recent ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State snuff-propaganda videos. For instance, whither the origins of their alleged battalion of seven-foot-tall desert warriors who were recently shown beheading dozens of captive Egyptian Copts? I personally have no idea, nor any theories. However, the fact that such questions are now being entertained in even the most rigidly controlled sectors of the mainstream media must surely be indicative of SOMETHING... a certain crisis of "reality", perhaps, with quotation marks hanging ominously and sign/ificantly over the proceedings?


2. This Guardian editorial expresses quite forcefully something I've been experiencing for some time now in regards to what is rapidly evolving to be a "circular firing squad" consisting of competing "camps" among liberals, progressives, social justice advocates and leftists. I hope this editorial spreads far and wide, and I especially hope that it's message reaches some of my more militant, leftier-than-thou friends and acquaintances. It begins:
I am a “lefty”. I have voted Labour all my life. I believe in the abolition of public schools and the inviolability of the NHS, and that the renewal of Trident is a vanity project. I believe the state must work to ensure equality of opportunity for all: women, the LBGT “community”, those with disabilities, those of minority cultures and ethnicities, and the working class. The Guardian has been my newspaper forever. I was glad to see the back of the Sun’s Page 3, and I believe there should be more all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats. I believe immigration is more of a positive force than a negative one. 
However, you might be less certain about my status when I finish laying out my stall. Because I find myself holding a “transgressive” body of beliefs and doubts alongside my blue-chip leftwing ones that are liable to get me branded a misogynist, an Islamophobe and a Little Englander – at least by people on my Twitter feed, and others of my peer group. 
These “beliefs” are more like questions, largely about identity politics, those deep and dangerous rift valleys of the left....
Read on, friend.

3. There hasn't been a new Infomercial over at [adult swim] for a while now, so I thought I'd present another funny video, "The Best of Totally For Teens", on the off-chance that you haven't already watched it. Enjoy... and remember... Don't use drugs!

Monday, February 23, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 23

Meet the New Caliph, NOT the same as the Old Boss...
1. This Graeme Wood feature from The Atlantic is probably the finest piece of in-depth reportage that I've seen in a Western magazine about Islamic State. If you only read one article on the topic, then please, take my advice and let it be this one. It begins:
What is the Islamic State? 
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors. 
The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing. 
Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. 
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million. 
Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.) 
We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.
You know what? Forget about the second and third options for today's Suggested Reading list. You really need to read this entire article, right freaking now. And keep notes as you read. Read every word. Read it, damn you. Before it's too late.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 21


1. So... remember that one time in Africa when James Jameson, heir to the Jameson's Irish Whiskey Company, purchased an 11-year-old girl from slave traders, then presented her as a gift to a tribe of cannibals on the sole condition that he be allowed to watch as they tortured, murdered, butchered, cooked, then ate her, all because he wanted to paint some lovely watercolors of the ensuing carnage? Jameson's is gonna leave a whole 'nother kind of taste in your mouth after learning that, I bet. If you're interested in more background information on this and other horrific crimes committed by "civilized" old white dudes in the service of colonialism, check out this extended section from a biography of Henry Morton Stanley - the 19th century's "greatest gentleman explorer", and none too gentle himself, but a veritable Saint compared to Jameson, whose crimes Stanley was able to corroborate with his own two barely believing eyes. You know, there's a movie in there, somewhere, but I don't know if anyone would be willing to sit through it. There's tons more information on this incident on the web, if you just Google the key-words. Happy hunting.

2. Are you an amateur lexicological sleuth? A word freak? Then you're gonna love this awesome "word map", which allows you to type in any word currently defined by Wikipedia and "map" it across the world, with translations into every language currently supported by Google Translate, in order to put into context "the relationship between language and geographical space." Personally, I'd love to see this page grow into a graphical display that maps the etymological roots and evolutionary peregrinations of as many words from as many languages as possible, through a historical place/time-mapping interface. Maybe in a year or two?

3. Hey! Why not cap off today's Suggested Reading List with Russia Today's incredible drone-shot aerial video of the once-super-secret Soviet-era super-lightning-generating Tesla Towers on the outskirts of Moscow? Though somewhat dilapidated in appearance, these rusty beauties are still capable of generating 500-foot-high artificial lightning bolts so massive, they rival the entirety of this partially-resurrected superpower's energy grid output in just a few measly miliseconds! So WATCH!

Friday, February 20, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 20


1. Pretty much everything you need to know about the Drudge Report as a "news" source is the fact that he's published links to THREE "rebuttals" to the story of Bill O'Reilly's wartime lies, but NO LINK to THE ACTUAL STORY - which includes some pretty damning stuff, even by FOX News standards - itself. Go and read. It's freaking hilarious. O'Reilly comes across like a Third Reich Ron Burgundy. Perhaps the most galling aspect of this revelation is the fact that O'Reilly is ultimately going to get away with it because everyone understands FOX News reporters are a pack of propaganda-spewing liars, anyway, so who gives a fuck?

2. If you think we are currently living in a Golden Age of information sharing and (most especially) information retention... turns out you're laboring under a dangerously erroneous illusion. The Atlantic has recently published an article pulling together multiple stories and events to paint a picture of an imminent Information Dark Age. This link-rich story begins:
Two weeks ago, a seven-alarm blaze at a storage warehouse smogged up the Brooklyn ether (and confettied parts of the East River) with "decades’ worth of charred medical records, court transcripts, lawyers’ letters, sonograms, bank checks, and more." Huge swaths of Brooklyn's legal history literally fueled the fire, leaving one Clerk's Office representative to lament of the stacks of data lost: "They're priceless." 
If there's any solace to be had from such a disaster, aside from its lack of fatalities, is its seeming outdatedness. The move to digitize vital files as well as electronically store keepsakes, letters, and photos should, in theory, safeguard future generations from the agony of losing data to a fire or flood. But what happens when we outgrow our own technology? 
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week, Google Vice President Vint Cerf warned of a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” that awaits us when "bit rot" takes hold and our digital material gets lapped by the new hardware and software racing around it. 
“We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole," he said to The Guardian. “We digitize things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artifacts that we digitized. If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”
3. Hey! Finally, the [adult swim] dolts got around to uploading a brand spankin' new "Infomercial"... and boy howdy, it's a winner! An absurdist cavalcade of high concept and low comedy nonsense glazed in the kind of terrifyingly believable patina of insubstantial decadence that grows on Late Capitalist consumer ephemera like an alien moss... the latest Infomercia's got it all! Gaze upon the sheer, post-modernist perfection that is... Icelandic Ultrablue!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 12


1. Looking for an information-packed online spiritual resource? Look no further than HolyBooks.com, where you can download holy books, sacred texts and spiritual ebooks in full length for free. Download the Bible, The Holy Quran, ancient Asian texts and thousands of free pdf ebooks on yoga, buddhism, magic, meditation, self-improvement and many other categories. I found a ton of formerly hard to find materials here, all in the easy to read, easy to copy and save PDF format. Bookmark this page! You'll be glad you did!

2. Bruce H. Lipton, PhD, has a joke he wants to share.
In 1893, the chairman of physics at Harvard University warned students that there was no more need for additional PhD’s in the field of physics. He boasted that science had established the fact that the universe was a matter machine, comprised of physical, indivisible atoms that fully obeyed the laws of Newtonian Mechanics. Since all the descriptive laws of physics were “known”, the future of physics would be relegated to making finer and finer measurements.
Two years later, the Newtonian concept of a matter-only universe was toppled by the discovery of subatomic particles, X-rays and radioactivity. Within ten years, physicists had to discard their fundamental belief in a material universe for it was recognized that the universe was actually made of energy whose mechanics obeyed the laws of Quantum Physics. That little piece of Universe Humor profoundly altered the course of civilization, taking us from steam engines to rocket ships, from telegraphs to computers.
Well… the Cosmic Prankster has struck again!
Read the rest of the article to laugh along as he shares one of the most portentous punchlines in scientific history, with implications that are, quite frankly, staggering, once you really start to think on it. Here's a hint as to what it's all about: "A roundworm and an Irishman walk into the Human Genome Project headquarters..."

3. After spending two years behind bars for violating the Espionage Act, former CIA employee John Kiriakou is now a free man. His crime? Informing the world about illegal torture being carried out by his coworkers, his superiors, and his government. In what ranks as one of the most brutal ironies yours truly has encountered in decades of political observation, Kiriakou is the only CIA employee to ever be sent to prison over the agency's illegal torture program. Not for participating in it, but for exposing it. Kiriakou explains:
“Let’s say you see evidence of torture and you go to your supervisor; he’s part of the torture program. You go to his superior but he’s the one who ordered the torture program. You go to the general counsel; he approved the torture program. You go to the committees; they have been briefed on the torture program and have raised no objection. Where do you go? There is no other place to go but the press.”
Read the rest of this eye-opening SputnikNews.com interview with Kiriakou for insights on continuing CIA abuses, the questionable ethics behind the Espionage Act, the lack of protection for whistleblowers, and the casual brutality of prison life in America.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 10


1. Okay, if you had to choose, which of the following two scenarios would you prefer: for there to be bubonic plague DNA found throughout your city's public transit system? or for more than half the DNA to be "of unknown origin"? Well, if you're in New York, lucky you, because you don't have to choose! BOTH scenarios are true! And there's a handy dandy interactive map to show you exactly where all the most disgusting pathogens are concentrated! Hooray for antibiotic resistant, radioactive e.coli!

2. Here's an intriguing little experiment in publishing related novelty: a book with a cover that judges you. The damn thing won't even unlock until you pull a face that it approves of! Here's a video that shows how it works, although I can't for the life of me figure out who would need this. Maybe the CIA?


3. While the above book-related technology is kind of cute, I can see a whole lot of potential for mischief - especially of the malevolent variety - with this book related technology, which ostensibly "allows" the reader of a book to experience what the characters in the book are experiencing. From the article:
It's straight out of the pages of science fiction: a "wearable" book, which uses temperature controls and lighting to mimic the experiences of a story's protagonist, has been dreamed up by academics at MIT. The book, explain the researchers, senses the page a reader is on, and changes ambient lighting and vibrations to "match the mood". A series of straps form a vest which contains a "heartbeat and shiver simulator", a body compression system, temperature controls and sound. "Changes in the protagonist's emotional or physical state trigger discrete feedback in the wearable [vest], whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localised temperature fluctuations," say the academics. Dubbed "sensory fiction", the idea was developed by Felix Heibeck, Alexis Hope and Julie Legault at MIT's media lab. The prototype story used was James Tiptree Jr's Hugo award-winning novella "The Girl Who Was Plugged In", in which the protagonist P Burke – who is deformed by pituitary dystrophy and herself experiences life through an avatar – feels "both deep love and ultimate despair, the freedom of Barcelona sunshine and the captivity of a dark damp cellar", said the researchers.
I can't help but wonder what reading Fight Club would be like while strapped into this contraption. Or American Psycho. The possibilities are endless. As an added bonus link. You can read the Tiptree novella at this here link, free of charge.

Monday, February 9, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 9



1. See that video up there? It's called "Riding Light" and it's a simulator of sorts. You, the viewer (and listener; the music is great) get to hitch a ride on of a single light particle - or photon - as it backs away from it's mother, the Sun, at (duh) the speed of light. As you pass Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and some minor planets in the asteroid belt on your way to Jupiter and its moons, you start to realize just exactly how truly, mind-bogglingly huge astronomical distances really are. It's a real slick production, and I stuck with it for the whooooooole trip. Can you do the same?

2. There's an excellent think piece up for free on the New Yorker website about how Islamic State recruitment videos owe a seeming stylistic debt to the immensely popular "First Person Shooter" (FPS) style videogame genre. It begins:
In a recruitment video for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS that has been making the rounds of some uglier parts of the Internet, a man sits in a plastic chair on a porch, a rifle stuck between his knees. ... A bullet hits the cement wall behind his head, kicking up a puff of dust. He gets to his feet and stumbles forward, confused and disoriented. The view changes: an overlay effect makes it look as if the man is being watched through a sniper’s scope. A red dot zeroes in on the man’s midsection. There is a gunshot; the man recoils. As he grimaces in pain, the footage grinds down to render, in slow motion, every expression of his face, his flailing arms. ... The mechanics of all this should be familiar to anyone who has played a first-person-shooter video game in the past ten years. In Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, and pretty much every other F.P.S. sold today ... The similarities between ISIS recruitment films and first-person-shooter games are likely intentional.
The article's top pull-quote comes from another piece of ISIL propaganda: "THIS IS OUR CALL OF DUTY AND WE RESPAWN IN JANNAH!" Fucking goofs.

3. The entire first episode of the Amazon.com-funded television mini-series version of Philip K. Dick's classic 1962 novel The Man in the High Castle - perhaps the finest of all "what if the Nazis had won" novels - is up for all and sundry to watch on Youtube. Fair warning: even though it's been decades since I've read Dick's novel, this version appears to have veered significantly from the source. In the plus column, I do quite like the art production. Those giant Nazi jumbo passenger jets look damn snazzy.

Friday, February 6, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ FEB 6


1.
I love the pun in the headline of this story about a recent study that shows petro-diplomacy has been at the heart of almost every aggressive action taken by any nation state over the last hundred years: "Crude Conspiracy Theories Could Be Right". Actually, the research presented in the article shows that said title is actually overly conservative in its appraisal of the situation! It begins:
Researchers have for the first time provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought – oil is often the reason for interfering in another country’s war.
Throughout recent history, countries which need oil have found reasons to interfere in countries with a good supply of it and, the researchers argue, this could help explain the US interest in ISIS in northern Iraq.
Researchers from the Universities of Warwick, Portsmouth, and Essex modelled the decision-making process of third-party countries in interfering in civil wars and examined their economic motives.
They found that the decision to interfere was dominated by the interveners’ need for oil over and above historical, geographical or ethnic ties.
The rest of this short article is well worth checking out. 

2. In our neverending quest to bring you an excellent piece of short fiction with every one of these "suggested reading lists", today the DDD gang brings you a spooky masterpiece by one of the 20th century's early masters of the form: Conan creator Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons From Hell"! I know, I know... that title! But it's actually a fantastic story, which you can read, totally free of charge and without any special software, at this link. The story begins:
Griswell awoke suddenly, every nerve tingling with a premonition of imminent peril. He stared about wildly, unable at first to remember where he was, or what he was doing there. Moonlight filtered in through the dusty windows, and the great empty room with its lofty ceiling and gaping black fireplace was spectral and unfamiliar. Then as he emerged from the clinging cobwebs of his recent sleep, he remembered where he was and how he came to be there. He twisted his head and stared at his companion, sleeping on the floor near him. John Branner was but a vaguely bulking shape in the darkness that the moon scarcely grayed.
And it only gets better from there!

3. Ever get the feeling that Apocalyptic, "end of the world" fiction isn't packing the same punch nowadays that it used to? Well, turns out you're not the only one, as evinced by this Public Books article, titled "What's the Matter With Dystopia?", which begins: 
Dystopia is flourishing. In the process, it is becoming routine and losing its political power.
If current fiction is to be believed, postapocalyptic wastelands will in the not too distant future be as common as parking lots, deadly plagues as widespread as the flu, and cannibalism no more unusual than a visit to McDonald’s. Dozens of writers have delved into the genre over the last decade, from newcomers such as Edan Lepucki (California, 2014) to old hands like Cormac McCarthy (The Road, 2006). Young adult novels in the genre abound, from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy (2008–2010) and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series (2011–2013) to Lydia Millet’s Pills and Starships (2014). The scenarios stretch from hurricanes that devastate New York City, as in Nathaniel Rich’s eerily prescient Odds Against Tomorrow (2013), to global infestations of genetically engineered species that drive humankind to the edge of starvation, as in Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009). The fall season of 2014 added a host of new offerings in the genre, including David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Michael Faber’s Book of Strange New Things, and Howard Jacobson’s J
Dystopia as a literary genre by and large developed in the 20th century, in the shadow of world wars, totalitarianisms, genocides, and looming threats of nuclear war and environmental crisis—with a few earlier exceptions such as Jean-Baptiste Cousin de Grainville’s Le dernier homme (1805) and Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826). Over much of the 20th century, it functioned as a powerful tool of political criticism, from E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (1909), Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924), and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972), and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976).
There's a bit more of a history lesson cum booklist recommendations, but author Ursula Heise gets to the meat of her argument - "If there's one thing that stands out about the deluge of dystopias over the last decade, it is their untiring attention to routines of everyday life" - before too long. It's a good read. Enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING ~ FEB 2


1. A recent article by Internet security expert Soren Dreier begins:
Here are some sordid scenarios. Your ex-girlfriend can see every time you swipe right while using Tinder. Your former husband is secretly listening to and recording your late-night Skype sessions with your new boyfriend. 
Some random slippery-dick is jacking off to the naked photos in your private photo library. For millions of people, it’s not hypothetical. Someone could be spying on every call, Facebook message, snapchat, text, sext, each single keystroke you tap out on your phone, and you’d never know. 
I’m not talking about the NSA (though that too); I’m talking about software fine-tuned for comprehensive stalking—”spyware”—that is readily available to any insecure spouse, overzealous boss, overbearing parent, crazy stalker or garden-variety creep with a credit card. 
It’s an unambiguously malevolent private eye panopticon cocktail of high-grade voyeurism, sold legally. And if it’s already on your phone, there’s no way you can tell.
Pretty intriguing stuff, no? Keep reading to find out more.

2. Yesterday, I linked to an online copy of the classic Franz Kafka short story, "In the Penal Colony". Today, I bring you another disturbing short story classic, postmodernist extraordinaire Robert Coover's notorious "The Babysitter", which you can read, online, for free, at this link, and which begins thusly:
She arrives at 7:40, ten minutes late, but the children, Jimmy and Bitsy, are still eating supper, and their parents are not ready to go yet. From other rooms come the sounds of a baby screaming, water running, a television musical (no words: probably a dance number--patterns of gliding figures come to mind). Mrs. Tucker sweeps into the kitchen, fussing with her hair, and snatches a baby bottle full of milk out of a pan of warm water, rushes out again. "Harry!" she calls. "The babysitter's here already!"
It's a classic, it's nice and short, and you won't soon forget it. Also, please feel free to contact me and let me know if you're enjoying my decision to run more fiction in these "suggested readings". You can either leave a comment below or contact me directly at jerkyleboeuf@gmail.com, as usual!

3. I've noticed the rapid proliferation of a Youtube video in which Irish TV host Gay Byrne gets an earful from actor Stephen Fry when he asks what the noted atheist would say if he were to find God waiting for him at the Pearly Gates upon dying. Watch Fry's response:


Although it's fun to watch Byrne squirm as Fry lets loose with his unabashed take on the issue, I don't think his answer is all that enlightened or intelligent. I would even call it philosophically naive, for in a universe without evil, pain and suffering, the concepts of goodness, love and pleasure would have no meaning. Absolutely none, whatsoever. These things only exist in contrast to each other. Also, if an eternal paradisical afterlife did, in fact, exist, any suffering experienced by anyone in this mortal, finite world of ours - no matter how tremendous, terrible or unjust - would seem utterly inconsequential by comparison. I'm not saying that I believe that this is the case; I'm just saying that Fry's stance in this instance is philosophically unsophisticated, no matter how posh his accent.