Monday, January 26, 2015

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
"But of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms? When Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of persons in authority has become one of two things: an Imbecility or a Macchiavelism? Alas, of these ages World-History can take no notice; they have to become compressed more and more, and finally suppressed in the Annals of Mankind; blotted out as spurious,--which indeed they are. Hapless ages: wherein, if ever in any, it is an unhappiness to be born. To be born, and to learn only, by every tradition and example, that God's Universe is Belial's and a Lie; and 'the Supreme Quack' the hierarch of men! In which mournfulest faith, nevertheless, do we not see whole generations (two, and sometimes even three successively) live, what they call living; and vanish,--without chance of reappearance?"

- a darkly poetic excerpt from historian Thomas Carlyle's epochal study, The French Revolution: The Bastille.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 24, 2015


1. If you don't know who Barrett Brown is, what multiple governments claim he did, and the ridiculously severe penalties he has been forced to pay - and might be forced to continue paying - for said crimes... well then, I suggest you read on.
After spending more than two years of behind bars, Barrett Brown will learn his fate this morning in a Dallas, Texas, court room. His original indictment carried a maximum sentence of 105 years. But as per the terms of a 2014 plea deal, the journalist and firebrand now faces a maximum sentence of eight and half years in prison. Charges against Brown stem from his association with the FBI’s then-most wanted hacker, Jeremy Hammond, who in 2011 exfiltrated private data from Austin-based intelligence firm, Stratfor.
During a hearing last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candina Heath revived arguments based on the original 105-year indictment—that Brown may have broken the law by sharing a hyperlink in a public chat room to a file containing Stratfor's stolen credit cards. In early 2014, the government abandoned a related indictment, widely portrayed by supporters and journalists as an attack on the freedom of the press. However, federal sentencing guidelines require judges to hear the prosecution’s arguments regardless of whether or not the pertinent charges were dropped.
Kevin Gallagher, director of Brown’s defense fund, said in a statement Wednesday that supporters are hoping for a sentence of time served. “Every journalist in the world should be paying attention to what happens here, because it affects them directly,” he said. Brown will address presiding U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay before his ruling for the last time on Thursday. The complete text of his prepared statement is published here.
Find out what happened at Brown's sentencing hearing at the link provided directly above. Then, start considering cloaking your online activities behind a robust and muscular encryption. And always remember, just because you think you've got nothing to hide, that doesn't mean THEY can't nail you for some stupid thing or other.

2. Speaking of privacy and security, Gizmodo's annual list of the year's Top 25 Most Popular Passwords continues to amaze, delight, and stupefy. Here's how it starts off, along with position changes from last year:

25. trustno1 (Down 1)
24. batman (New)
23. 123123 (Down 12)
22. 696969 (New)
21. superman (New)
20. michael (New)
19. master (New)
18. shadow (Unchanged)
17. access (New)
16. mustang (New)
15. 111111 (Down 8)

If you think these passwords are stupid, wait until you get a load of the rest of the list.


3. Via Sploid I just found out that a "controversial" American research biologist has created a strain of influenza that can cut through the human body's defense mechanisms the way bullets sprayed from a helicopter-mounted 50 calibre machine gun cut through men, women, children and cattle during the Vietnam war. The London Independent explains:
Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has genetically manipulated the 2009 strain of pandemic flu in order for it to “escape” the control of the immune system’s neutralising antibodies, effectively making the human population defenceless against its reemergence.
Most of the world today has developed some level of immunity to the 2009 pandemic flu virus, which means that it can now be treated as less dangerous “seasonal flu”. However, The Independent understands that Professor Kawaoka intentionally set out to see if it was possible to convert it to a pre-pandemic state in order to analyse the genetic changes involved.
The study is not published, however some scientists who are aware of it are horrified that Dr Kawaoka was allowed to deliberately remove the only defence against a strain of flu virus that has already demonstrated its ability to create a deadly pandemic that killed as many as 500,000 people in the first year of its emergence.
Professor Kawaoka has so far kept details of the research out of the public domain but admitted today that the work is complete and ready for submission to a scientific journal.
I have nothing to add to this story, other than to ask, why is it that so many smart people are such absolute fucking IDIOTS a lot of the time?!

Friday, January 23, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 23, 2015


1. Australian comics creator Christian Read has something to say about right-wing-troll-slash-actor Adam Baldwin, the role he played in Gamergate, and the recent controversy about his scheduled appearance at the biggest genre convention Down Under, Supanova. I think it's worth reading, so I'm linking to it in this space. It begins:
Let’s talk about Adam Baldwin at Supanova, an Australian pop culture convention. I’ve debated a few days about posting this but my voice is being dismissed as simply agitating, so I’ll bring it home.
I have worked in the games industry. I know a few women in the games industry and maintain casual internet friendships with a few more. I know women games journalists. I know a lot of women gamers.
Gamergate, which Adam Baldwin started and supported, has made a lot of us angry. It is transparently an organised attack on women and if you think differently, you’re wrong. No debate will be entered in to.
I spoke out against it online. My partner, a tech journalist spoke out against it. And the both of us copped flak. Just reply after reply ranging from faux ‘oh be reasonable’ to personal insults, each one tediously stupid. Me? An SJW? Don’t make me laugh.
Then, the doxxings, the death threats, all that appeared. Go check it out. And that shit gets your attention.
Read is no knee-jerk identity politics whine-monger. That's why I consider his take on this issue to be so valuable. I urge anyone interested in the subject to read the entire thing.

2. If you ever think you've spotted a USB port sticking out of a wall, street curb or other piece of civic infrastructure... turns out you may not have been hallucinating
Aram Bartholl came up with this idea for an art project called “Dead Drops” in order to create an anonymous, offline file-sharing network in public space. These USB drives are completely public and anyone can plug in their devices to drop or find files. Each ‘Dead Drop’ USB is empty except for a .txt file which explains the project.
The idea is pretty unique and fun but your laptop may get scratches or a broken USB port. However, it may get handy if you want to start a revolution through an anonymous file sharing from a flash drive.
There's even a handy how-to video at the link. The phenomenon is mostly restricted to New York these days, but I have a feeling you'll be seeing more of these odd little info-pipes sticking out of things in other metropolitan areas in the very near future. The implications are just too good!

3. [adult swim]'s "Infomercials" series presented us all with what was, at times, satire of such exceedingly high quality that it's literally surprising to me when one of their videos falls flat. And fall flat is exactly what Farcopter, the very least among that series' efforts, does in style. In fact, it's so unsuccessful that it's actually worth watching if you harbor any creative ambitions of your own, just to see what not to do if tasked with creating short form nonsense comedy for cable TV. Ah well... they can't all be SmartPipe!

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 22, 2015


1. Christopher Miller is the author of a wonderful new book called American Cornball, in which he sets out to chronicle the USA's age-old love affair with naughty, raunchy comedy, both written and illustrated. To go along with it as a kind of evolving appendix, he's put together an excellent and surprisingly funny tumblr where he hosts images and jokes there wasn't enough room for in his book. From American Cornball's Harper Collins promo page:
Miller revisits nearly 200 comic staples that have been passed down through our culture for generations, many originating from the vaudeville age. He explores the (often unseemly) contexts from which they arose, why they were funny in their time, and why they eventually lost their appeal. The result is a kind of taxonomy of humor during America's golden age that provides a deeper, more profound look at the prejudices, preoccupations, and peculiarities of a nation polarized between urban and rural, black and white, highborn and lowbrow. As he touches on issues of racism and sexism, cultural stereotypes and violence, Miller reveals how dramatically our moral sensibilities have shifted, most notably in the last few decades. Complete with more than 100 period illustrations, American Cornball is a richly entertaining survey of our shifting comic universe.
Needless to say, yer old pal Jerky highly recommends it!

2. And, continuing in the spirit of what used to make (North) Americans laugh, here's an excellent (if somewhat dated) Boston Globe think-piece on Constance Rourke's classic 1931 text American Humor: A Study of the National Character, which may be read in its entirety at this University of Virginia link. Here's a description of some of Rourke's work from the Globe piece to give you a taste:
The funniest American types, in Rourke's opinion, were the Yankee, the frontiersman, and the minstrel. To explain the rise of these three archetypal American characters, she quoted the philosopher Henri Bergson: "The comic comes into being just when society and the individual, freed from the worry of self-preservation, begin to regard themselves as works of art." Europe might have castles, cathedrals, and rock sculpture by druids, but the United States had garrulous hicks who were canny enough not to mind being mistaken for fools.
3. It is perhaps ironic that in this particular edition of the Daily Dirt Diaspora Suggested Reading List, ostensibly concerned as it seems to be with the subject of humor, that we are featuring the second-least successful of the [adult swim] series of videos entitled Infomercials:. In Search of Miracle Man. It's really too bad, too, because I'm a big fan of both Matt Besser and Rich Fulcher. Oh well, maybe you'll find something in it that I don't. And for completeness' sake, I'm running it. At least it's better than Fartcopter (see this space tomorrow!).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 22, 2015


1. Did you ever wonder how, where and why the concept of "jay-walking" first originated? As you might have guessed by the fact that I'm linking to a story about it, it's probably not how, where and why you first thought! The story begins...
100 years ago, if you were a pedestrian, crossing the street was simple: you walked across it.
Today, if there's traffic in the area and you want to follow the law, you need to find a crosswalk. And if there's a traffic light, you need to wait for it to change to green.
Fail to do so, and you're committing a crime: jaywalking. In some cities — Los Angeles, for instance — police ticket tens of thousands of pedestrians annually for jaywalking, with fines of up to $250.
To most people, this seems part of the basic nature of roads. But it's actually the result of an aggressive, forgotten 1920s campaign led by auto groups and manufacturers that redefined who owned the city street.
2. Fortean Times is one of the finest publications going. Unfortunately, since they enjoy being a financially solvent operation, that means they don't like to put their excellent content up online for free, so that any asshole can tuck in, willy-nilly. That's too bad, because every once in a while they publish a story that it really is in the public interest to spread and have as widely known as possible. Case in point? One of their recent features on the bizarre fate of big-time Hollywood screenwriter Gary Devore, who disappeared mysteriously after a number of unidentified spooks clued him in to some dark secrets about the invasion of Panama in the 1980's. Thankfully, one of my fellow Rigorous Intuition readers typed out the entire story on the RigInt message board to share with all and sundry! And hoo-boy, is it ever a page-turner...
Gary had been returning from actress friend Marsha Mason’s New Mexico residence where he had just finished a screenplay he’d told his wife would be the hardest-hitting piece of film Hollywood had ever seen. A year later, in the summer of 1998, his car was located by a police dive team in a shallow aqueduct following a tip-off from an ‘amateur sleuth’. Inside the vehicle, belted into the front seat and dressed in Gary’s cowboy clothing, sat a skeletal corpse.
The Californian Highway Patrol wrote a 158-page report declaring it an accid­ent: case closed. And that was that… except for the fact that many of those who knew Gary Devore remain convinced that the official investigation was a whitewash, that Gary was murdered, and that the US government itself has been trying to wipe clean its fingerprints from the case.
Keep reading, folks, it only gets deeper and darker from thereon out.

3. And now, thank [adult swim] for this Infomercial selling you Goth Fitness!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MEDIAVORE: COMICS

ANNIHILATOR 1, 2, 3

As of mid-December, the first three issues of Grant Morrison's new mini-series for Legendary's comics division have come out, and so far, so good. Frazer Irving's artwork is stunning, maintaining the same gorgeous, painterly mood and look established by the covers, which you can see scattered throughout this mini-preview/review.


I say "mini" because, seeing as the story isn't complete yet (the full run will be 12 issues), there's not much I can say about the story being told here beyond the fact that it's a twinned narrative featuring an Earth-bound screenwriter being forced into a twisted "buddy movie" relationship with a space-faring anti-hero of his own creation


Three issues in (actually, a fourth is in stores now), and I have to say, I'm sufficiently intrigued to declare that I'll be sticking with it to the bitter end, and I definitely recommend it to any fans of adult-tinged, non-superhero comics that still retain a classic storytelling feel, action/adventure scenes and Big Ideas, like the prison on the edge of the Supermassive Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way from which this comic gets its name.


CROSSED PLUS ONE HUNDRED #1


Considering the grisly crimes that have filled the pages of this title's previous incarnations, the special warning wrap-around cover-hider really wasn't necessary. I'm happy to see comics' reigning genius, Alan Moore, tackling Garth Ennis' notoriously "extreme" world of Crossed, where infected humans become cannibal necrophiliac rape and murder machines... to say that milieu could use a dose of brains is understating things quite a bit. The first issue is promising, although Jacen Burrows' art is sorely missed. I'll keep you posted on this title as it progresses.

FUKITOR


Okay, now HERE is a book that deserves a warning sticker! Sorry, I can't really tell you all that much about this title, here, because I've been commissioned to write a review/think piece about it for Subterranean Comix (about which more will be said in this space, shortly). Suffice it to say that this twisted book is the product of one man's perverse genius: Jason Karns! Check him out at FUKITOR!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING ~ JAN 13, 2014


1. You know the Pillars of Creation? That massive celestial structure that makes you go "oooh" and "aaaah" every time they show up on PBS or in the pages of Scientific Astronomy or whatever? Turns out they're not there anymore. Like, they're gone, man. But we can still see them. But they're gone. But they're still there. But not. Look, I know it sounds daft, but read this Sploid article to find out exactly what's up about what, exactly, is or isn't "up there" anymore. And how.

2. I know I've been using this space to harp incessantly on about the Charlie HEBDO attack, as though this new think piece by Slavoj Zizek says so much that I wished I'd said - and then some - that I just can't help but post it. It also doesn't hurt things that Zizek quotes some very germain Nietzsche, as well as from my favorite piece of poetry, Yeats' The Second Coming. He begins:
Now, when we are all in a state of shock after the killing spree in the Charlie Hebdo offices, it is the right moment to gather the courage to think. We should, of course, unambiguously condemn the killings as an attack on the very substance our freedoms, and condemn them without any hidden caveats (in the style of "Charlie Hebdo was nonetheless provoking and humiliating the Muslims too much"). But such pathos of universal solidarity is not enough – we should think further.
Such thinking has nothing whatsoever to do with the cheap relativisation of the crime (the mantra of "who are we in the West, perpetrators of terrible massacres in the Third World, to condemn such acts"). It has even less to do with the pathological fear of many Western liberal Leftists to be guilty of Islamophobia. ... What is much more needed than the demonisation of the terrorists into heroic suicidal fanatics is a debunking of this demonic myth.
You really need to read this.

3. And, finally, a much needed dose of hilarity courtesy of [adult swim]! Newbridge Tourism invites you to visit the Little Town that Wishes it Could, but Can't!

Monday, January 12, 2015

THOMAS PYNCHON SPOTTED IN INHERENT VICE!

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!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 11


1. This here essay, by author Kenan Malik, is the definitive statement on the Charlie HEBDO massacre, and the definitive response to the increasingly obnoxious chorus of sub-moronic moral midgets who claim that the people working at the magazine "had it coming", or ridiculously accusing them of "racism". It begins...
‘Je suis Charlie’. It’s a phrase in every newspaper, in every Twitter feed, on demonstrations in cities across Europe. The expressions of solidarity with those slain in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices are impressive. They are also too late. Had journalists and artists and political activists taken a more robust view on free speech over the past 20 years then we may never have come to this. Instead, they have helped create a new culture of self-censorship. 
Later in the essay, Malik explains:
The irony is that those who most suffer from a culture of censorship are minority communities themselves. Any kind of social change or social progress necessarily means offending some deeply held sensibilities. ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.
The essay just gets better - and more devastating to the reprehensible lazy lefty knee-jerk response - from that point on. This is a must-read editorial and I urge you to share it with everyone you know.

2. A little while ago, I used this space to link to an io9 story about evil technologies that should never be developed. One of those technologies was the creation of exotic brain tech to help make punishments for criminals more harsh and devastating - stuff like, for instance, meddling with a prisoner's sense of time so that it feels like they're rotting in jail for a thousand years... or more. Well, recently, New Atlantis writer Ari Schulman wrote a scathing blog post about this exact complex of proposed technologies, only to have the proposer enter the conversation in his blog's message section. Now I'm posting there, too! Why not pop on over and join the fray? Or at least just read the damn article. It's a good one, and New Atlantis has a bunch of other cool stuff for those interested in philosophy and deep cultural analysis. I've now added that site to our blog-list, on the right.

3. Once again, we finish things off with a short but sweet fake informercial from [adult swim]! This time, gaze in wide wonder at the results of Alpha Chow!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JAN 10


1. Two years ago, the editor of Charlie HEBDO wrote an editorial defending his magazine against bogus charges of racism. On Wednesday of this week, Charb - the pen name of editor Stephane Charbonnier - was one of 12 people gunned down in the massacre at the mag's Parisian head office. Click on the link above to read the powerful words of a man who is now less than a ghost because of sneering, churning spite brought to hideous life and disguised as an ideology. An excerpt:
Forty years ago, it was considered obligatory to jeer, run down, even crap on religion. Anyone who set about to criticize the way the world was going could not fail to question the great power of the biggest clerical organizations. But according to some people, in truth more and more people, these days you’ve got to shut your mouth. Charlie still devotes many of its cover illustrations to Papists. But the Muslim religion, imposed like a flag on innumerable people across the planet, as far away as Indonesia, must somehow be spared. Why the hell? What is the relationship, unless it’s just ideological, between the fact of being Arab, for example, and belonging to Islam?
2. Long-time readers of the DDD family of blogs are well aware of my long-term man crush on documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. I'm also a huge fan of his frequent collaborator, Charlie Brooker. Well, apparently, Curtis has a new doc on the way, and judging from this nugget that was showcased in Brooker's 2014 "year in review" TV special, it's looking like a real doozy. Why is everything we're told by The Powers That Be confusing and contradictory? And what does a former avant garde artist from Russia have to do with "a new system of political control" that aims to keep citizens (subjects?) in "a constant state of destabilized perception"? Check out the clip below to find out. It's chilling, and it's essential watching.


3. And now, for our daily dose of levity from [adult swim]... "Live Forever as you Are Today!" And it's all thanks to science and technology! WOW!