Friday, June 27, 2008

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!!

Those Dancing Days - "Hitten"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Much Happening in Timperley, Then

An artist has done the seemingly impossible and found a use for the annoying bits of paper which spill out of hole punchers.

Nikki Douthwaite has made a life-size version of a French masterpiece entirely out of the tiny round bits of paper . . .

. . . 'I've hardly left the house in three months and was doing this for 18 hours a day,' the 33-year-old said.

The rest is here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Eggsorcist?

Owen Gleiberman in the May 30th Entertainment Weekly:

There is high trash and low trash, and then there's Troma Entertainment, which is trash in a class by itself. More than cheap, more than squalid or tawdry, the films of Troma have a special over-the-top rancid glee. The company enjoyed a moment of mainstream visibility in the '80s, when it put out The Toxic Avenger, a midnight mutant bash that remains its signature film. With the occasional exception, though, Troma's titles have skipped theaters to line the grimy back shelves of video stores. Dr. Hackenstein, Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy, Star Worms II: Attack of the Pleasure get the picture.

Now Troma is back on the big screen — and, I'm glad to report, badder than ever. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is a soft-core scatological zombie kitsch musical complete with social commentary. It was directed and co-written by Lloyd Kaufman, the company's fabled president, who packs every skeevy genre in history into this mad, mod exploitation mishmash. Poultrygeist is as savage as Dawn of the Dead, as slapstick nutzoid as Evil Dead 2, as gag-on-your-popcorn gross as Pink Flamingos, and as dementedly foulmouthed literate as a Kevin Smith raunchfest. It's genuine sick fun, and there isn't a boring moment in it.

The movie is set at a fried-chicken franchise outlet that's been built atop a Native American burial ground. As the demon fowls come home to roost, Kaufman mocks everything and everyone: the PC protesters in the parking lot (''Collegiate Lesbians Against Mega-Conglomerates'' — i.e., CLAM), the wage-slave losers in the kitchen, the disgusting neck-and-beak chicken-grinding machine, the gay Hispanic dishwasher who gets turned, literally, into a talking sloppy joe. (Yes, it's that kind of movie.) Jason Yachanin, as a rubber-faced geek, and Kate Graham, as a pigtailed porno babe, are terrific in the film's surprisingly catchy musical numbers, all of which help to make Poultrygeist that rare and insane thing: an exploitation movie with soul. B+

Monday, June 23, 2008

One Dead Motherfucker

George Carlin dies of heart failure, aged 71.

My Hero

This is what I consider to be refereeing of the highest order. Or an indication of how brainless professional footballers can be.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stand Up Proud for Ireland


Take a look at the photo above from today's Observer (Scotland and Ireland edition) showing volunteers for Spencer Tunick's photo shoot in Dublin yesterday. A lot of goose pimples but nothing else striking, I think you'll agree.

Now compare it with this version of the photograph in today's Sunday Tribune. Can you spot the small but outstanding difference between the two, contibuted by one member of the public? (You may need to click on the original images for enlargement purposes.) Can you see why the Observer wisely decided to crop their picture?

It probably also explains why Tunick only takes pictures of nudes from behind!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"The Genius of the British Lies in Their Originality"

So said Harold MacMillan or some other dead politician.

He was clearly thinking of The Weakest Link.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


If only my grandmother had been born in Austria . . .

She would have made it onto that team that played the Germans last night.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Readings #2

‘I desire and I feel the need to live in a society other than the one surrounding me. Like most people, I can live in this one and adapt to it, at any rate, I do live in it. However critically I may try to look at myself, neither my capacity for adaptation, nor my assimilation of reality seems to me to be inferior to the sociological average. I am not asking for immortality, ubiquity or omniscience. I am not asking society to ‘give me happiness’ I know this is not a ration that can be handed out by City Hall or my neighborhood Workers‘ Council and that, if this thing exists, I have to make it for myself, tailored to my own needs, as this has happened to me already and as this will probably happen to me again. In life, however, as it comes to me and to others, I run up against a lot of unacceptable things, I say they are not inevitable and that they stem from the organization of society. I desire, and I ask, first that my work be meaningful, that I may approve what it is used for and the way in which it is done, that it allow me genuinely to expend myself, to make use of my faculties and at the same time to enrich and develop myself. And I say that this is possible, with a different organization of society, possible for me and for everyone. I say that it would already be a basic change in this direction if I were allowed to decide, together with everyone else, what I had to do, and, with my fellow workers, how to do it

I should like, together with everyone else, to know what is going on in society, to control the extent and the quality of the information I receive. I ask to be able to participate directly in all the social decisions that may affect my existence, or the general course of the world in which I live. I do not accept the fact that my lot is decided, day after day, by people whose projects are hostile to me or simply unknown to me, and for whom we, that is I and everyone else, are only numbers in a general plan or pawns on a chessboard, and that, ultimately, my life and death are in the hands of people whom I know to be, necessarily, blind.

I know perfectly well that realizing another social organization, and the life it would imply, would by no means be simple, that difficult problems would arise at every step. But I prefer contending with real problems rather than with the consequences of de Gaulle’s delirium, Johnson’s schemes or Krushchev’s intrigues. Even if I and the others should fail along this path, I prefer failure in a meaningful attempt to a state that falls short of either failure or non-failure, and which is merely ridiculous.

I wish to be able to meet the other person as a being like myself and yet absolutely different, not like a number or a frog perched on another level (higher or lower, it matters little) of the hierarchy of revenues and powers. I wish to see the other, and for the other to see me, as another human being. I want our relationships to be something other than a field for the expression of aggressivity, our competition to remain within the limits of play, our conflicts – to the extent that they cannot be resolved or overcome – to concern real problems and real stakes, carrying with them the least amount of unconsciousness possible, and that they be as lightly loaded as possible with the imaginary. I want the other to be free, for my freedom begins where the other’s freedom begins, and, all alone, I can at best be merely ‘virtuous in misfortune’. I do not count on people changing into angels, nor on their souls becoming as pure as mountain lakes – which, moreover, I have always found deeply boring. But I know how much present culture aggravates and exasperates their difficulty to be and to be with others, and I see that it multiplies to infinity the obstacles placed in the way of their freedom.

I know, of course, that this desire cannot be realized today, nor even were the revolution to take place tomorrow, could it be fully realized in my lifetime. I know that one day people will live, for whom the problems that cause us the most anguish today will no longer even exist. This is my fate, which I have to assume and which I do assume. But this cannot reduce me to despair or to catatonic ruminations. Possessing this desire, which indeed is mine, I can only work to realize it. And already in the choice of my main interest in life, in the work I devote to it, which for me is meaningful (even when I encounter, and accept, partial failure, delays, detours and tasks that have no sense in themselves), in the participation in a group of revolutionaries which is attempting to go beyond the reified and alienated relations of current society – I am in a position partially to realize this desire. If I had been born in a communist society, would happiness have been easier to attain – I really do not know, and at any rate can do nothing about it. I am not, under this pretext, going to spend my free time watching television or reading detective novels.’

Here and here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Down with Cultural Imperialism!

Now That's Religulous!

In the June/July issue of Interview magazine, comedian Bill Maher discusses his forthcoming movie, Religulous, a globe-trotting examination of what people believe, why they believe it, and the mess it's all made.

Maher: . . . Of course, I think one reason why this movie has resonance now, or maybe Americans are finally coming to a point where they're accepting of religious criticism, is because George Bush is the first president who really put religion so front-and-center. He's the most Christ-y president we've ever had-and he is, not uncoincidentally, the biggest disaster we've ever had. I think even people who are religious don't like it shoved down their throat. I think people kind of get it on a certain level, that this is an antiscience administration, and we're living in a time where we can't afford to be antiscience-for environmental reasons, for educational reasons.

David Steiberg: So did you get the humor in the film? Because when people are earnest, they're funny.

BM: I said from the beginning: We don't really have to make fun of religion-it makes fun of itself. When you see all of the evidence marshaled together like it is in this film, and you see how ridiculous this stuff is . . . If you came into the theater believing in the talking snake, it's kind of hard to leave the theater still believing in the talking snake.

DS: Right. You can't do better than that. So where did you go?

BM: We went to Jerusalem first, and then we went to London and Amsterdam and Vatican City, then we started on the American leg and went through the Southeast, and then Salt Lake City, Boston, New York.

DS: Had you ever been to Israel?

BM: No, that was my first time.

DS: Forgetting about the film, what effect did Jerusalem have on you?

BM: I think what I came away with was the idea that the Jews, although less warlike than the Christians and the Muslims, are no less crazy. I mean, I used to call Jerusalem "the funny-hat capital of the world." Everybody in that town is wearing a funny hat, a funny outfit, doing funny things. But I especially wanted to go to Jerusalem. I wanted to make the point-and I think we do in the movie-that although the media constantly portrays Jerusalem as the spiritual capital of the world that's somehow coincidentally home to the three great religions, that's all complete bullshit. The reason why the three religions are there is because the city was conquered by each. The reason why, for example, the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque is right on top of the Temple Mount is because religions conquered each other, and it was a lot easier just to hang a new sign on top that says UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT than it was to build a new temple. That's how temples became churches, and churches became mosques. In the movie I say, it sort of reminded me of how, when I was a comedian starting out in the '80s, very often you'd be in a comedy club that you could tell was a disco in the '70s, because the disco ball was still hanging there. In the '90s they became strip clubs. Now they're Starbuckses.

Amen to that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Message to the Irish People

Don't cast your vote in the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty until you have read Manuel's wise words.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mysterious Ways

In the May issue of Best Life magazine, three-star Michelin chef Eric Ripert describes how the purchase of one book changed his life:

In 1989, at the age of 24, I moved from Paris to start a job in the restaurant of the Watergate Hotel, in Washington, D.C. The day I left, I had just a small bit of French currency with me, which I opted to use before I boarded the plane to America. I walked to one of the newsstands at de Gaulle Airport and spotted Playboy. Nearby, there were some inexpensive pocket books, and one of them, an adventure about Tibetan monks, caught my attention. I was already fascinated by Tibetan culture and thought it might be interesting to learn more. Nevertheless, I picked up the Playboy and headed to the line to pay. Then, for some reason, in a quick-decision moment, I put back the Playboy and bought the book instead. I've never regretted that choice.

The book, The Rampa Story, by T. Lobsang Rampa, was not a reference source, but it made me want to learn more. Once in Washington, I sought out additional books about Buddhism. Because I couldn't read English, I would call my mother and ask her if she could find the same titles for me in French. Before long, the Dalai Lama became a strong meditative figure for me. I went to see him whenever he was in New York.

Simultaneously, I started to work on my anger through meditation, and my personality went from being aggressive and abusive to quite the contrary. The more I practiced, the more Buddhism taught me how to like myself first and then to like others. Now I don't let my temper rise. In case I have a crisis, I keep a small Buddha in one pocket and a Hindu Ganesh in the other. The Buddha represents wisdom, and Ganesh represents strength. So I can touch wisdom in one leg and strength in the other.

Longtime fans of C&S and Skeptical Inquirer magazine will remember T. Lobsang Rampa as a plumber from the West Country named Cyril Henry Hoskin.

But then wasn't Jesus Christ actually a carpenter from Ruislip named Keith Murchison?

Capitalism is Killing Music

Nice interview with Billy Bragg in the latest issue of The Nation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pure Filth

Maybe it's my mind that's dirty, but the May issue of Organic Gardening magazine features an article entitled "Upstanding Peonies" that tells buyers not to worry if the head looks too big to stay upright because today's producers are making their plants with stiffer stalks that will keep them erect for as long as required.

"Upstanding peonies." I think that's called putting the organ back in organic.

A Rival to Manuel

The incredible What's Wrong with the World blog, which sends "Dispatches from the 10th Crusade," is unimpressed by Slavoj Zizek's new book:

. . . For the present, I'll note simply that while there is something to Zizek's case for Western pessimism as the ultimate self-confidence, it isn't as though Communism was internally coherent; the accursed thing was collapsing of its own dead weight. Moreover, strict egalitarian justice is precisely injustice: never in all the history of the world have standards of living been leveled, inasmuch as this is impossible over the vast diversity of geographic, cultural, economic, etc. regions, spaces, and forms that exist; hence, what this "justice" mandates is compulsory like treatment of unlikes, which is to say, the application of terror against the arbitrarily-defined "exceptions". And, through it all, there is the assumption that the (true) people already incarnate this supercollective will, which can be discerned by the attentive mystagogue; the obverse of this is that expressions of popular will running counter to this ideal are manifestations of false consciousness.

Ah, Critical Theory! So much more interesting than the collected works of Lenin, and yet you end up at the same destination, a longing for the apocalyptic exsanguination of mankind.

More controversial, perhaps, are the author's views on Sex and the City,

a program I have loathed, from its inception, on account of its superficiality, nihilism, moral corruption, and tendency to promote the most insipid banalities as the very apogee of wisdom. On my personal Scale of Detestation, the program probably ranks up there with all things Quentin Tarantino, which is to say that it is a celebration of the Nothing, and that its popularity is a certain harbinger of The End.

How odd. Those are precisely the reasons why I love the show so much.

A more interesting take on the Sex and the City phenomenon comes via Tim Harford's book The Logic of Life, an early chapter of which attempts to explain why there are so many groups of single women congregating in cities and bemoaning the lack of decent unmarried men. To be honest, I don't find his argument in the Times article linked to here all that convincing. Surely it's more likely that women move to the cities not to find rich men but because the opportunities available to them are far fewer in the countryside, and because given the choice between a life of financial independence in the city while having to compete for men and a life of financial dependence but guaranteed companionship, it's rational for women to prefer the latter because of the increased range of choices that financial independence gives them. These are the women depicted in Sex and the City, albeit in a glossier form, and it helps explain why the show has been so popular: It appeals to a particular demographic by reflecting a common experience.

Capturing the zeitgeist and presaging the annihilation of civilization. Or something.

Friday, June 06, 2008

It's Friday! Let's Booji.

Devo: Beautiful World

A.k.a. Charles Calthrop

Donagh's take on Frederick Forsythe's article in today's Irish Times on why the Irish people should vote No in the referendum on Lisbon is a joy to behold.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Well, Kurt's Up in Heaven Now . . .

In the April issue of Indianapolis Monthly, John Krull recalls his friendship with Kurt Vonnegut, who died last year.

When he came to Indiana to speak at the ICLU, more than 500 people turned out to hear him talk, arguably the largest crowd ever at a Union dinner. The banquet hall was so crowded that the waitstaff couldn’t even get to the tables. His speech was vintage Vonnegut—funny and provocative. He said that citizens in a self-governing society had a moral responsibility to preserve human rights. He said that his favorite Founding Father was Benjamin Franklin, and that Franklin had written an essay called “Fart Proudly.” Then he fixed his eye directly on then–Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon, seated at one of the head tables.

“Have you read it?” he asked her. The crowd erupted.