Monday, July 6, 2015

SIMULACRA IN PARACULTURE AND THE RISE OF THE SLEESTANUNNAKI!

Whilst perusing an article entitled Ancient Aliens in Iraq - Stone Figurines and Carvings of the Anunnaki on the 'Message To Eagle' website, one of the images presented gave me pause. The article begins:
This time our quest for traces of prehistoric alien visitations takes us to Iraq where we come across many stone figurines and carvings of the Anunnaki - "those who from heaven to earth came". The National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad contains remarkable artifacts that offer proof of ancient aliens. Some of these artifacts are more than 10,000 years old. The museum's huge collection tells the epic story of human civilization, from the earliest settlements to the rise and fall of vast empires. This is also the place where we encounter a number of stone figurines and carvings depicting otherworldly beings. Below you can see a strange looking figure with very big round eyes, odd arms, no lips and a weird elongated body. It has been dated to 4000 - 6,000 BC.

Personally, the first thing that came to mind upon seeing this intriguing bas-relief was the Sleestak, those terrifying bipedal reptilians that served as the primary antagonists for the Marshall family in the 1974 cult classic Saturday morning kid's TV show, "Land of the Lost".

For a primer on the Anunnaki - and on Nibiru, and on whether or not we'll be seeing either's "return" in our lifetime - check out this thorough breakdown from the 'Truth Be Known' website. It's absolute baloney of course... but it's damn tasty baloney!

And so long as we're on the topic of paranormal simulacra, the recent discovery of a "Cyclops statue" on Mars put me in mind of yet another famous face from our collective childhood... Sloth from The Goonies. 

I mean, check it out for yourselves:


Ladies and gentlemen, the prosecution rests.

QUOTE OF THE DAY


"Liberals are afraid of Charleston because it's a preview of coming attractions. They’ve been given a vision of a time in some imagined but possibly not too-far distant future when all of a sudden, on the street or in their office, or in some trendy fern bar, or Starbucks, or wine-and-cheese boutique on the Upper East Side or in San Francisco, they will look up, possibly from the laptop, where they are typing up their day’s quota of leftwing, liberal horseshit, and they will see a young white man like Dylann Roof standing in front of them with no steroid-pumped policemen in blue to protect their liberal candy asses from the consequences of years of their own behavior. They will see in that young white man’s eyes, that he recognizes them. That he is now beyond deception or bullying or browbeating or Twitter-shaming or intimidation, that he knows them for what they are. And they will look down and see that he has something in his hand.”

- Harold Covington, right-wing science fiction author, Nazi hobbyist, and ostensible "leader" of the Northwest Front (a white separatist movement based in the Seattle area that may or may not exist beyond the boundaries of his fertile imagination), shares a particularly nauseating fascist masturbation fantasy about his "World's Biggest Fan", Charleston massacre perpetrator Dylann Storm Roof. Follow the link for a really quite interesting exposé of this particularly ornate frill on the lunatic fringe.

Saturday, June 27, 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:

(sorry, the video was taken down)

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 singling 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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

GAME OF THRONES AND 9/11 TRUTH

An odd bit of dialogue stuck out for me at the beginning of the ninth episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. After some Bolton raiders snuck into Stannis Baratheon's camp and caused massive havoc, this conversation between Stannis and his Hand, Davos, ensues:
Davos: A band of 20 men. Maybe less. They were in and out before we'd spotted them. Burned our food stores to the ground, all our siege weapons destroyed, the tents-
Stannis: Horses?
Davos: We're still getting a count, but hundreds are dead.
Stannis: Twenty men rode into our tents without a single guard sounding the alarm?
Davos: The Northerners know more about their land than we ever will.
Stannis: Put last night's guards in chains. Either they fell asleep or conspired with the enemy. Find out the truth, then hang them.
If I hadn't initially misheard Stannis' question as "nineteen men", I probably wouldn't have made the connection to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, where both America's economic institutions (food stores?) via the World Trade Center, and her military (siege weapons?), via the Pentagon, took heavy hits.

So, what do you think? Are the Game of Thrones show runners secret 9/11 truthers, implying LIHOP or MIHOP? If that were, in fact, the case, they probably should have chosen someone a bit more sympathetic than Stannis as the vector for said message, considering the fact that later in the same episode, this character burns his only remaining child alive in a sacrifice to (ahem) "the Lord of Light".

Oh well. At least that scene gave actor Stephen Dillane the chance to pull off some crazy intense, silent movie acting shit with his face. One of the most disturbing things I've ever seen on TV, perhaps topped only by the eyeball torture scene from the first episode of the first season of UTOPIA.


Monday, April 20, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 21


1. One of the late 20th century's greatest public intellectuals—brain scientist Oliver Sacks—writes eloquently about the suicide of another one of the late 20th century’s greatest public intellectuals—monologist extraordinaire Spalding Gray. It begins:
In July of 2003, my neurological colleague Orrin Devinsky and I were consulted by Spalding Gray, the actor and writer who was famous for his brilliant autobiographical monologues, an art form he had virtually invented. He and his wife, Kathie Russo, had contacted us in regard to a complex situation that had developed after Spalding suffered a head injury, two summers earlier.
In June of 2001, they had been vacationing in Ireland to celebrate Spalding’s sixtieth birthday. One night, while they were driving on a country road, their car was hit head on by a veterinarian’s van. Kathie was at the wheel; Spalding was in the back seat, with another passenger. He was not wearing a seat belt, and his head crashed against the back of Kathie’s head. Both were knocked unconscious. (Kathie suffered some burns and bruises but no permanent harm.) When Spalding recovered consciousness, he was lying on the ground beside their wrecked car, in great pain from a broken right hip. He was taken to the local rural hospital and then, several days later, to a larger hospital, where his hip was pinned.
His face was bruised and swollen, but the doctors focussed on his hip fracture. It was not until another week went by and the swelling subsided that Kathie noticed a “dent” just above Spalding’s right eye. At this point, X-rays showed a compound fracture of the eye socket and the skull, and surgery was recommended.
Keep reading. It's an amazing piece.

2. If you’re thinking about getting into science fiction, but you don’t want to read crappy kid’s stories about laser swords and stuff that has a lot more to do with fantasy than science, then this list of “scientific” science-fiction stories and novels is tailor made for you!

3. For the sixth time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I hope you're enjoying these videos as much as I did when first seeing them!

HAS TECHNOLOGY CHANGED US?

"The Fourth Revolution"

"The Antikythera Mechanism"

"The Medium is the Message"

"Rewiring the Brain"

Sunday, April 19, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 19


1. Are you one of those people who thinks there's something "magical" about the Fibonacci sequence, also known as the Golden Ratio, or Phi? Then maybe you shouldn't read this essay by philosophical party-pooper Donald E. Simanek, which reads, in part:

A search of the internet, or your local library, will convince you that the Fibonacci series has attracted a lunatic fringe of Fibonacci fanatics who look for mysticism in numbers and in nature. You will find fantastic claims:
  • The "golden rectangle" is the "most beautiful" rectangle, and was deliberately used by artists in arranging picture elements within their paintings. (You'd think that they'd always use golden rectangle frames, but they didn't.)
  • The patterns based on the Fibonacci numbers, the golden ratio and the golden rectangle are those most pleasing to human perception.
  • Mozart used φ in composing music. (He liked number games, but there's no good evidence that he ever deliberately used φ in a musical composition.)
  • The Fibonacci sequence is seen in nature, in the arrangement of leaves on a stem of plants, in the pattern of sunflower seeds, spirals of snail's shells, in the number of petals of flowers, in the periods of planets of the solar system, and even in stock market cycles. So pervasive is the sequence in nature (according to these folks) that one begins to suspect that the series has the remarkable ability to be "fit" to most anything!
  • Nature's processes are "governed" by the golden ratio. Some sources even say that nature's processes are "explained" by this ratio.
Of course much of this is patently nonsense. Mathematics doesn't "explain" anything in nature, but mathematical models are very powerful for describing patterns and laws found in nature. I think it's safe to say that the Fibonacci sequence, golden mean, and golden rectangle have never, not even once, directly led to the discovery of a fundamental law of nature. When we see a neat numeric or geometric pattern in nature, we realize we must dig deeper to find the underlying reason why these patterns arise.
I'm not totally convinced that he's 100 percent on point with the rest of his take-down, but I'll admit he's made me a bit more skeptical about the kind of "numbers magic" and abuse and misuse of advanced scientific concepts by various philosophical flim-flam artists in the New Age movement. Maybe you'll get something out of it, too. Go ahead and dive in!

2. Sandow Birk is an artist who has undertaken "a project to hand-transcribe the entire Qur'an according to historic Islamic traditions and to illuminate the text with relevant scenes from contemporary American life. Nine years in the making, the project was inspired by a decade of extended travel in Islamic regions of the world." The image at the top of this page is the first page of that project. You can read (and see) the rest of it here at the artist's website.


3. For the fourth time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I hope you're enjoying these videos as much as I did when first seeing them!

HOW DID EVERYTHING BEGIN?

"The Big Bang"

"Hindu Creation Stories"

"Thomas Aquinas and the First Mover Argument"

"William Paley and the Divine Watchmaker"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 16



1. See that photograph, above? It's a pretty good photograph. And now, if you'd like to hear the story behind that photograph... just click on this link right here.

2. Here's a sad little single page comic strip featuring the thoughts of an aging, ailing dog as his master brings him to be euthanized by a vet. It's heart-breaking and simple and lovely and very well done, despite the grim subject matter.

3. For the third time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I've decided to present all four animations from each general philosophical theme at the end of every Suggested Reading List from now on until I reach the end of what they have for me to plunder. So now, on to...

WHY ARE THINGS BEAUTIFUL?

"Diotima's Ladder: Lust to Morality"

"The Best Rectangle in the World"

"Edmund Burke on the Sublime"

"Feminine Beauty: A Social Construct?"

Monday, April 13, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 13


1. If you enjoyed the audiobook version of Philip K. Dick's classic sci-fi short story Beyond Lies the Wub, to which I linked in a recent "DDD Suggested Reading List", then by all means, check out this awesome collection of Philip K. Dick print and audio stories provided by the fine folks at the Open Culture website! You can get so many classic "philosophical fiction" vein that the Bladerunner creator pretty much pioneered back in sf's second Golden Age heyday!

2. You remember that Portlandia episode where an artist giving a class on how to create truly disturbing and shocking artwork suggests that one need only appropriate the image of Ronald McDonald and put it into some kind of juxtapositionally twisted contextual frame?  This page adheres PRECISELY to that particular satirical aesthetic. See above. Then see the link for more of the same. A LOT more of the same.

3. For the second time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas
The series will eventually span 60 episodes grouped under 15 general philosophical concepts. Each concept (or "theme") gets four episodes, and each episode is accompanied by a 2-minute animation. I've decided to present all four animations from each general philosophical theme at the end of every Suggested Reading List from now on until I reach the end of what they have for me to plunder. So now, on to...

HOW CAN I KNOW RIGHT FROM WRONG?

"Kant's Axe"

"The Trolley Problem"

"The Life You Can Save"

"The Is/Ought Problem"

Friday, April 10, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 11


1. As a citizen of Canada—one who counts members of the First Nations among his very best and most cherished of friends—I can’t help but feel a deep sense of shame over the fact that it took  the BBC to tell the story of the Red River Women. I suppose the slimmest of silver linings here is that a world class broadcaster has finally produced a substantial piece of interactive online journalism on this grisly subject, which has for far too long been like an invisible chorus of silent screams in the darkest frozen night-pits of Hell. The erudition, professionalism, and sensitivity brought to bear via this production goes a long way towards rectifying the near-criminal journalistic negligence that has for far too long been the norm in Canada regarding this subject. I won't be reproducing any portion of it here. Instead, I insist that you go to the BBC's Red River Women project page and read it in its entirety at your earliest possible convenience. Be sure to watch all the related videos. I consider it a duty for every Canadian, even if only to acquaint oneself with the mind-numbing numbers involved, and to look into the eyes of those tragic, beautiful souls that have already been lost. Dear friends... I am literally hereby begging you to read this website and begin trying to deal with the information it contains.


2. Okay then, after that brutal and traumatic information assault—or perhaps prior to it, in case you’re saving the BBC’s interactive Red River Women websites for later—maybe you can be excused for seeking out a small sliver of escapist fantasy. To that purpose, I give you an amusingly British audiobook recording of the classic Philip K. Dick science-fiction story, “Beyond Lies the Wub”, about an unfortunate alien creature who happens to be both an erudite conversationalist and indescribably tasty when roasted with root veggies.

3. Finally for today, the Open University and BBC Radio 4 (yes, them again) have combined forces to produce a quite excellent introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. The program's website is rich in information and resources, complete with archived radio programs and primary materials (most of which is in the public domain). It's a real treasure trove for anyone interested in uncovering the intellectual foundations upon which the world's most important human structures rest (or, occasionally, teeter). 

Eventually, the series is slated to span 60 episodes grouped under 15 general philosophical concepts. As part of this series, each concept gets four episodes, and each episode is accompanied by a 2-minute animation, narrated by Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Harry Shearer, executed in a handsome and humorous style that really helps get the basic ideas across. You don't really need to listen to the whole series in order to appreciate the animations, so I've decided to present all four animations from each general philosophical concept at the end of every Suggested Reading List from now on until I reach the end of what they have for me to plunder. So let's get started!

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE FREE?

"The Harm Principle"

"The Free Will Defence"

"The Libet Experiment: Is Free Will an Illusion?"

"Freedom and Security: Freedom at Any Cost?"

Monday, March 30, 2015

JERKY READS IT FOR YOU! HARPER'S MAGAZINE MARCH 2015

Head on over to our sister-blog (and my "catch-all" blog), the Daily Dirt Diaspora, to read my breakdown of the March edition of Harper's Magazine! 

Normally, I wouldn't bother Useless Eater Blog readers with this, but there's a tone of paraculture-related offerings in this particular issue; everything from how the CIA infiltrated student government organizations in the post-war world, to serious academic research being conducted into the phenomenon of past life memories, to the ongoing death of Fukushima and the Pacific Ocean, to the rising tide of the global surveillance state as it applies to the workplace. 

We're talking an information-rich broth, here, folks, so clip, save, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ MARCH 28


1. One of the greatest philosophers the world has ever known is rarely thought of as such. I refer here and now to the late, great Robert Anton Wilson, a veritable titan of paracultural analysis, who would be celebrated the world over as one of the most original thinkers of aberrant, paradigm-shattering thoughts, if only he'd had the foresight to write in a language other than English. In the Anglosphere, you see, "Philosophy" is an profoundly limited analytic ship that has long been mired in the fever swamp of logical positivism, while the French, Germans and other Continentals get to have all the philosophical fun, at play in the Fields of the Word. Another reason why R.A.W. is poorly served by posterity is that he was an unabashed cheerleader for the "woo", and was not as fearful in the face of the uncanny and otherworldly as such "public intellectuals" as, say, Noam Chomsky, or the increasingly ridiculous Richard Dawkins. As evidence of his unorthodoxy, I give you this most excellent essay on Cabala (as R.A.W. always spelled it) and its potential real-world applications for all and sundry. It begins:
There's a tale they tell at Military Intelligence in London, when the candles gutter low and the fog curls about the windows. It happened in 1914 (they say), when England was losing the first world war and it seemed only a miracle could save her. There was this writer bloke (they say), name of Arthur Machen, never popular or well known, a bloody Welshman in fact and a mystic to boot. Well (they say), this Welshman, this Machen, took it into his head to write a story about the kind of miracle England needed, so he imagined St. George himself leading a group of medieval archers to aid the English troops at Mons. And after the story was published in a magazine, some enterprising newspapers picked it up and reprinted it as fact. And (they say) the whole damned country was gullible enough to believe it. It did as much for national morale as the real miracle would have.

What is even weirder is the sequel -and the chaps at Military Intelligence only discuss this when the candles gutter quite low and the fog is very thick, of course. Soldiers at the front, in Mons, began claiming that they had actually seen the phantom archers created out of Machen's imagination. They insisted on it. Some of them were still insisting on it 40 years later. They said they had won the battle because of this supernatural assistance.

Fair gives you a turn, doesn't it?
Stranger still: Machen, the man with the contagious imagination, was a member of a secret society in London. This was known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it claimed to know the long-hidden secrets of Cabalistic magic.

There were several other members of the Golden Dawn who made a bit of a name. Florence Farr, one of the great actresses of the period, was a member, and it was she who gave Bernard Shaw the ideas about life-energy and longevity dramatized in Back to Methuselah; those ideas are currently influencing life-extension research. Algernon Blackwood and Bram Stoker (Dracula's creator) were members; so was the coroner of London; so was an electrical engineer named Alan Bennett who later, as Ananda Maitreya, played a key role in introducing Buddhist ideas to the West.

The egregious Aleister Crowley; who claimed to have come to earth to destroy Christianity; was a member for a while, and I know a good World War I story about him, too. It was Crowley's habit to give his pupils a word to meditate on every year. In 1918, Crowley gave them a number instead of a word: 11. All year his pupils meditated on 11 for at least a half hour every day. . . And the war ended on the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Did you feel another queer flash then?
Indeed, Mr. Wilson.... I did, I did. And I do hope those of you who've read this far will keep reading. I assure you, there is more under the Sun than there is in your philosophy. So, by all means, start learning.

2. Now that I've given you some nightside food for thought and dreams, I figure it's time I give you something useful, like tips on how to survive the coming economic and societal collapse and TEOTWAWKI. Check the link to find out what that means, and to read about 10 wonderful ways in which you can begin, right now, to prepare for a so-called "disruptive event".

3. And now, to finish things off... wanna see something REALLY scary? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING ~ 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

DDD 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 ~ 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.

Sunday, February 8, 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.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING ~ FEB 1, 2015


1. Have you heard about the plan to transform Honduras into a Libertarian "Free Market" Wonderland? Over at Alternet, The Nightmare Libertarian Project to Turn This Central American Country Into Ayn Rand's Paradise has all the juicy details. After detailing some of the ramifications of the 2009 coup that ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya and the subsequent election of Porfirio "Pepe Lobo" Sosa, who eventually handed over the Presidency to his hand-picked successor, Juan Orlando Hernandez - the selling off of public utilities, properties, and services to "private" interests and the militarization of security forces being top of the list - the article goes on to describe a peculiar new sociological experiment with "Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico" (special employment and economic development zones), also known as ZEDEs or “charter cities.” From the article:
According to reporting by Danielle Marie Mackey for the New Republic last month, here is how the project works: "An investor, either international or local, builds infrastructure. ... The territory in which they invest becomes an autonomous zone from Honduras... The investing company must write the laws that govern the territory, establish the local government, hire a private police force, and even has the right to set the educational system and collect taxes." 
An earlier article by Erika Piquero at Latin Correspondent described the law as “allowing the corporations and individuals funding the ZEDEs to dictate the entire structural organization of the zone, including laws, tax structure, healthcare system, education and security forces. This kind of flexibility is unprecedented even in similar models around the world.” 
George Rodríguez reported for the Tico Times that the plan was previously challenged and ruled unconstitutional in Honduras' supreme court, but Hernandez "twisted arms, had the [dissenting] judges removed, and brought in obedient replacements." Hernandez then re-tooled the bill and pushed it through the congress. 
As Mackey reported, "The ZEDE’s central government is stacked with libertarian foreigners," including a former speechwriter for presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr., conservative political operative Grover Norquist, a senior member of the Cato Institute think tank, and Ronald Reagan's son Michael, as well as "a Danish banker, a Peruvian economist, and an Austrian general secretary of the Friedrich Hayek Institute."
And if you think the plans listed above are disturbing, wait until you read the rest of the article, which details the links between Honduras's home-grown One Percenters and the newly militarized police force, private security goon squads, and vicious street gangs that they will no doubt be relying on to provide "security" for this Brave New World of Libertarian Fiscal Freedom. As Maya Kroth wrote in September for Foreign Policy: "Critics worry that evidence to date — the government’s opaque approach, the ZEDEs’ undemocratic features, the cast of characters backing the scheme, and the vulnerabilities of people likely to be affected by development — indicate that charter cities would be little more than predatory, privatized utopias, with far-reaching, negative implications for Honduran sovereignty and the well-being of poor communities."

2. Have you ever read Franz Kafka's "In The Penal Colony"? No? Well then, here's your chance. For free, even! Go ahead... what are you afraid of? Being a tiny bit better read than you were before? It's Kafka! He's an important 20th century voice, it'll take you like 20 minutes to read, and you should read something by Kafka before you die. This particular story also happens to be a whole lot more entertaining than the far more popular "Metamorphosis", in which the protagonist wakes up in his bed as a giant dung beetle.

3. Although regular Dirt readers probably know about my admiration for Frank Zappa, my love of early Pink Floyd and my fondness for obscure 70's Prog Rock, I don't often discuss my musical preferences in my blogs. There are numerous reasons for this. For one thing, writing about music isn't really my forte. I like what I like, and that's that. And one genre of music that I sometime enjoy is death metal. I have long been a fan of Celtic Frost, for instance, and I think their 2006 release, Monotheist, was probably the finest album of any genre released in that year, and "Synagoga Satanae" the best metal song of the decade. More recently, this week I came across "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" by Polish death metal band Behemoth, from their critically acclaimed CD, The Satanist, and I really, really like it. I think there's some pretty powerful stuff going on here, and after checking out this analysis of the lyrics for the whole album, I found a lot of food for thought. Anyway, enjoy the video, embedded below, and let me know what you think of it!