Monday, December 31, 2007

A Very Newstastic New Year!

New Texture's Plato Jesus shows 2007 the door in the only way he can: with a firm boot to the rear, delivered via a welcome crop of fresh installments from his ongoing series, "That's Newstastic!"

Click the titles below for the full stories:

700 club: "I-35 can stop homosexuality"

The War on the Walls

A Bouncer Tells Jurors Assassins Framed Him

'Green Hannuka' Campaign Sparks Ire

Police Academy Class Slogan: Cause PTSD

UN Joins Forces with Marvel Comics

Real Life Laughing Policemen

A Holiday Post from Moby Pomerance

Our own Moby Pomerance offers something very special indeed with "Old Wood (A Christmas Tale)," now on New Click here and lend it your eyes.

Welcome back, good sir...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Very Macky Christmas

In this time of remembering, let us flash back to Christmas of '06 with a warm and wonderful visit to Macky's Christmas Playground...

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Love of the Common Peopfle

copyright, © 2007 Dan Nicholson

Friday, December 21, 2007

Macky's Jolly Christmas

It just wouldn't be Christmas without an expression of musical love from the mighty Macky, aka Matthew Cortellesi.

Dig those crazy drum fills!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jimi and Larry, a response by Andy Biscontini

In response to Stanley Jason Zappa's posts I Don't Know, You Tell Me and Of What Use Is The Real Thing? :

To look for our generation's Lawrence Welk and Jimi Hendrix is to inquire into the state, location, and acknowledgment of the human soul in contemporary Western culture.

I'm not speaking of soul in the religious sense, but in the basic sense of the "anima", that force of being which may or may not animate us beyond the energy generated by basic human metabolism.

When Welk refers to the Beatles and the Monkees (we'll forgive him the association of a band-turned-media-phenomenon with a media-constructed-band) and says he's "thrown open the gates of the zoo," implying that not only were the popular bands of the day named after animals but comprised of them, and lampoons the fashions of the "counter-culture" while demonstrating that his band could play "that music" too, he was valiantly sticking up for himself and his audience, who surely felt ridiculed, lampooned, and threatened by the younger generation's open spirituality.

A cynic might argue that Welk was a couple of years ahead of the music industry in stripping off the trappings of sixties cool to reveal the safe, clean, well-pressed suit underneath, and I would probably agree with them.

It's significant that Welk made Polka his milieu. In its pure form, Polka is ecstatic and cathartic dance music in which the collective energy of a large group of humans is channeled through wind and reed instruments into elaborate scales and rhythms intended to drive complicated and demanding dance moves designed for couples.

And although Welk made his name by rendering Polka tepid, sexless, mid-tempo and to my mind boring, I would never go so far as to speculate that he and his cohorts didn't have a soul under their frilly costumes and well-coifed hair. I didn't know them personally.

What I will speculate on is that they believed in handling the soul in a particular way.

For Welk and his ilk, popular culture was a common ground, free of excitement, arousal, and emotions which might be unpleasant, unsettling, or unseemly. He was a warm and engaging host who, perhaps, took the signature highly structured Western approach to spirituality a bit too far.

And then there's Jimi.

In much the same way that a Polka band channels energy and tones through trombones and accordions, Jimi Hendrix channels it through electricity and magnets.

He is the Nikolai Tesla to Lawrence Welk's Thomas Edison.

And while Hendrix's feedback and dissonance puts off some audiences, few would write his music off as "just noise." Hendrix's music often subjugates structure to sound, and he freely bends the constraints of the songs he plays to inspiration, but even when he's on his knees or slamming his guitar into his stack, the guy is there. His self is present and he's in control. He manages to single-handedly wield and conduct an amount of energy equal to or greater than a dancehall full of Vodka-fueled Slavs blasting away on trumpets.

And what happens?

In the clip from Royal Albert Hall, the audience, coming from a repressive Western background, goes nuts and decide they have to smash themselves against his stack.

Possibly the most culturally compelling image in the video (even more so than the crotch-shot), is the moment at the end, when Jimi's seen in the wings, shaking his head in disappointment. These people can't control themselves, he seems to be saying, and I'm gonna get blamed.

Which is exactly what the Welk crowd feared.

Which, perhaps, is why ecstatic ritual evolved from individual channeling of spirit into carefully choreographed group pageantry.

Does Hendrix represent a de-evolution or an evolution of ecstatic ritual?

Ultimately, I believe the latter, but I'm neither a theologian nor a sociologist.

So where does that leave us today?

Interestingly, Balkan brass bands have fallen into vogue over the last several years, inspired by the popularity among young cognoscenti of the films of Emir Kusturica, and embodied at its most dangerous and ecstatic by Eugene Hutz and his band Gogol Bordello, and at its most scrubbed and safe by the kid from the band Beirut.

While I don't doubt the authenticity of Eugene's energy or talent as a performer, and the kid from Beirut writes good pop songs, the "Gypsy Punk" movement is neither Lawrence Welk nor Jimi Hendrix but somewhere in-between. Modern, white consumers of media are looking for the 'soul' in 'their' music.

It is here worth mentioning that this musical genre has gained an audience and a popularity (possibly fleeting if not already fled) with a minimum of traditional media exposure.

Which brings me to my opinion that our Lawrence Welk is both culturally pervasive and invisible. He is in the standards and practices office at Viacom/Paramount. He haunts the offices of Clear Channel. He books bands for the Vans Warped Tour.

He is in the hearts of fashionistas who snap cell-phone pictures of the coolest kids on their way to high school and have their looks in Old Navy before the end of first period.

He is on the head of every douchebag with a faux-hawk wearing a polo shirt.

He has entered the mainframe of our cultural consciousness in a way that Tim Leary could only trip about.

And where is our Jimi Hendrix?

If he hadn't died, would he still be on the radio?

Will the ghost of Lawrence Welk ever allow him back into the mainstream? Is the mainstream any more equipped to handle him?

I'm convinced he's still around, in the heart of everyone who still has the guts to do something new rather than embody some branded lifestyle they've been culturally programmed to aspire to.

And the Sly and Stevie clips you picked represent perhaps the best examples this culture has to offer of the marriage of virtuosity, cultural accessibility, and soul.

What the fuck happened?

copyright, © 2007 Andy Biscontini

Andy Biscontini's film EVERY DOG'S DAY is available here. It's even on sale for the holidays, so what are you waiting for?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hollaback Boy


Today I had to kill my phone’s text messaging functionality (not a huge loss) after Cingular (now AT&T) informed me they simply did not have the technology to block specific phone numbers. Seems like something they should be able to handle, being not just a phone company but AT and fucking T, after all, but hey, they assured me they’re working on it. All in good time, I’m sure.

The problem is, ever since I started with Cingular (about a year and a half ago?), I've intermittently been on the receiving end of Spanish-language text messages from a telephone number in Mexico—directed, I’m presuming, at whoever it was who had my number before me. I'd never responded to them before now, thinking whoever was sending them would eventually realize they weren’t reaching their party. But they never did figure it out, and yesterday I got another one:

"Hola como estan"

Perhaps feeling a bit of the holiday spirit, this time I replied. After all, who knows? Maybe it’s someone trying to contact a long lost friend or loved one all this time; perhaps my lack of response was sending an inaccurate message. What’s more, every time I send or receive a text, AT&T charges me 15 cents for the privilege, and I’ve been keeping a tally: the mystery Mexican’s communiqués were on track to reach the $3 mark by the first quarter of ’08! So after a year and a half of radio silence, I clicked “reply” and sent the simple message,

"Wrong number."

Figuring that was the end of it, I was surprised to feel the phone hum in my pocket a few minutes later. They had texted me again, saying cryptically,

"Graciela aguilar rodrigues (sic)"

Was that who’s been writing me all this time? Or was that who they were trying to contact? Did it really matter? I wrote back,

"No. Wrong number."

To which they replied,

"Preguntale a tu mama" ("Ask your mama")

Ask my…! Son of a bitch. How does one respond to such a thing, particularly after already extending what, 30 cents worth of courtesy to the party in question? And that’s just today!

I guess I could have fallen back on some of my out-of-practice Spanish; it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that I can still remember most of the insults and swear words, even as I continue to mangle transactions as simple as a taco order.

Besides, I began to entertain the fantasy that my correspondent didn’t speak English, and I decided to give them something they’d have to ask a bilingual friend to translate for them, compounding their humiliation. I took the lowest road I could:

"Fuck you, bitch. Tu mama is sucking my dog's cock!"*

As that seemed a particularly stinging phrase to be left unable to respond to, I decided it was time to take an abrupt leave of the discussion.

I called AT&T, and when they couldn’t block the number, I told them to just cancel my text messaging capability completely, rendering my phone incapable of either giving or receiving—just in time for the season renowned for both!

In conclusion, don’t bother text messaging me any time soon; I won’t get it. And if any of you care to make the acquaintance of my new friend in Mexico, they can be reached at 011 52 962 125 7364.

Oh, and ask for Graciela; I’m pretty sure their mom is busy.

* For the record, I don't have a dog.

Remembering el hombre mas pequeño del mundo.

A curiously scored tribute to a fallen champion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

Of What Use Is The Real Thing?

If someone else had posted my last post on their blog, I would have written in and posted a comment about the cinematography of the Hendrix video from 3:33 to 3:46. First thing. But at the time of this post (right now) none of the six viewers who have visited since have commented. So I guess that is one way in which you and I are different. I also imagine that 3:33 to 3:46 is also a way in which Jimi Hendrix and Lawrence Welk were different.

Are we "all one" or are we "many?"

+ + +

Here are the two other videos that were in the running for anti-Welk.

This gem:

And this chestnut:

(I'm sorry, did you see the child at :40 and again at 4:10? Do they roll that way on Bob The Builder? Does Square Pants swing this hard? Does Barney provide a similar vehicle encouraging the children to feel and celebrate their life, their prana, their orgone?)

+ + +

So really now, who is OUR Lawrence Welk? Certainly we must have one, musn't we?

Who can deny Lawrence Welk provided an essential function in our 'culture?'

What was Lawrence Welk's function? What was Lawrence Welk doing by invoking hippy imagery? How did that make his guests feel? Were they annoyed? Were they relieved? Were they validated? Were they misled?

Who was that audience? Do they 'matter?' Do they 'count?'

Certainly someone or some group is performing that function in our culture, to "us."

Certainly someone or some group is diluting and diffusing highly idiosyncratic cultural sentiments and statements through the magic of caricature, pasteurization and/or 'tribute.'

Can someone or some group concentrate, deepen and/or elaborate highly idiosyncratic cultural sentiments and statements through the magic of caricature, pasteurization and/or 'tribute'?

Does it work that way?

Can a caricature, pasteurization or 'tribute' to an original be "better" than the original?

Can it be more "original" than the "original?"

Can it have more of the "original essence" than the "original?" Can it have any the "original essence" at all?

Can it annunciate the "original" message more clearly than the "original" annunciator?

I'm not entirely sure the answer to all those questions are no. Sad, ain't it. Just the same, even if all the answer to all those questions is no, that doesn't mean that Lawrence Welk (and Lawrence Welk 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, etc) doesn't have an essential function in our culture and/or economy. A lot of people really really loved them some Lawrence Welk and a lot of people really really still do.

Which (for me) beggs the question Is music really a temporal art?

Does music ever end?

(answer here)

Is that good or bad?

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa

Nothing but love for Lunchtime

Click the panel to view the whole strip.

Photo exhibit Saturday at Plantation, Venice!

(click to enlarge invitation)

from the press release:

Jason Lee & Plantation Host Photo Exhibition by Meeno Dec. 8th

Venice, CA - Working in the ’70s as Meeno Peluce, he was a famous child actor. Now Meeno has migrated to the other side of the camera, and longtime admirer Jason Lee (of NBC’s My Name Is Earl) will host an exhibition of Meeno’s work entitled “Morocco, Asymmetrically” December 8th at Plantation in Venice, CA.

In addition to his career as a popular actor, Jason Lee is an established patron of the art scene in Los Angeles. He previously hosted Meeno’s solo show “Vivid America,” which attracted celebrities such as Lisa Marie Presley, Juliette Lewis, Danny Masterson, Gottfried Helnwein, Giovanni Ribisi and Soleil Moon Frye (Meeno’s kid sister). Meeno’s latest exhibition promises to be equally well-received.

Undertaken in the Spring of ’06, “Morocco, Asymmetrically” charts a voyage from Marrakech, over the Atlas mountains, out to the Sahara desert and up into the more cosmopolitan yet equally ancient cities of Fez and Tangier.

Currently at work on SCAR, a collection of celebrity photographs, Meeno says of Morocco: "I came under the sway of the design work there. They don't have representational art, so everywhere there is design, and it's often quite ecstatic. My eye began to respond by finding equally intriguing design in every day Moroccan life. The difference for me, the way I found my own private god in it all, was to frame it up asymmetrically."

The exhibition will be held December 8th at 7:00 p.m. at Plantation’s Venice showroom, 1340 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Refreshments to be provided by The Margarita King.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

watching the Chinese soaps at Yaly, Hoi An

copyright, © 2007 Vanina Marsot

Love some Lunchtime

Click the panel to read the whole strip:

I Don't Know, You Tell Me

Who is our Laurence Welk?

Who is our Jimi Hendrix?

Is there still that much distance between our Lawrence and our Jimi, or has that distance shrunk over the last 40 years? I'm asking. I don't listen to enough music to know.

If 'that distance' has shrunk, Why is that? How does that work? What or who activates the shrinking part?

Who would you have rather seen? Lawrence Welk gone hippy or Jimi Hendrix in 1969? I pick Jimi Hendrix in 1969. (I like the feed back parts the best.)

Mind you, there were and still are many many people who would choose Lawrence Welk over Jimi Hendrix and there were and still are many many people who actively don't like Jimi Hendrix (especially the feedback parts.) What is that all about?

That is a constant source of amazement and wonder. Why do some people choose Jimi and other people choose Lawrence?

Does it have anything to biology? Is culture connected to biology? Is culture the enemy of biology?

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

you lose.

copyright, © 2007 Wyatt Doyle

"The Eleventh Guest" by Andy Biscontini


By the time this is over, the rug will be ruined and Ron will be dead. I will eventually own another home, but I will never throw another dinner party.

My name is Amanda Andersen. I am thirty-seven years old and my previous dinner parties have contributed to two divorces (one of them mine), the dissolution of eight friendships (four of them mine), and two career-ending humiliations (not counting tonight, neither of them mine).

One could say I should have learned a lesson. One could also kiss my ass.

I owe these people something, don’t I? After all, I hired them into a company that’s never been anything more than a saleable asset that’s about to sell. These people have spent two years of their life as pawns in a game that I, as a partner, stand to make a lot of money off of, and their severance packages are like nothing.

The least I can give them is a nice dinner.

I mean what the hell? Right?

I’m hiding in the backyard behind the shed smoking a joint with Bobby Fuller under the trees and the moonlight. Bobby is nineteen but I like to think of him as seventeen. He is an intern. I traded the entire marketing department a day at the spa for him. I enjoy giving him jobs that involve him picking up file boxes and putting them on high shelves. I like to stand close to him when showing him how to use the copy machine or fax machine and I like to think that he’s only pretending to still not know how to do it. I wear short skirts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because I like it when he checks out my legs. I have very nice legs.

And I like to see his blue eyes go starry as he passes me the joint. I brush his fingers when I take it. I haven’t smoked weed in years but I take a deep hit. My lungs burn and my loins tingle and my head starts to unfold. Oh, Bobby.

He’s saying something but I don’t care. He’s been talking since we came out here, going on and on about something.

I stroke his thigh and run my hand over his teenage boner. He doesn’t stop talking. I run my hand around his ass and pull him towards me. I clamp his lower torso between my legs and I pull his face into my cleavage. He doesn’t stop talking. What’s wrong with this boy? I’ve seen him looking at my legs. And he’s just talking. Where are his hands? Where’s his tongue? Why else would a seventeen-year-old boy schlep out to the suburbs on a Friday night for a dinner party at his former boss’s house if not for a piece of her, right? When I was seventeen, a boy knew how to bust a move.

Christ. I have guests. I don’t have time for this crap.

I leave Bobby mumbling away in the grass, brush myself off, and cross the yard to the warm lights of kitchen.

Ron is at the sink doing the dishes.

“There you are,” he says.

“Don’t do the dishes,” I tell him.

Bobby comes in the door behind me with his shirt untucked and his fly down.

“XYZ champ,” Ron says.

Bobby smiles dumbly and zips up, giving me a daffy grin. The kid’s an idiot. I can no longer pretend he isn’t. He goes into the other room.

Ron gives me a look.

“What?” I don’t say it, I just give him a look.

“Are you stoned?” he asks me.

“No.” I had an obvious affair with Ron last year to help facilitate the breakup of my marriage. He has had a difficult time accepting the fact that that’s all it was and my fucking him was not an invitation into my life.

“Things can’t go on like this,” he says, drying his hands with the dishcloth. Is he fucking serious?

“Ron,” I say, then I can’t think of what to say next, so I just say, “…fuck.”

He doesn’t know what it means, but he thinks it means something because that’s the kind of guy he is and that’s why he and I will never have a relationship.

The Ghost does me a favor and smashes a lamp in the other room.

“What was that?” Ron asks.

“I’ll take care of it. Just do the dishes.” I tell him, and head back into the living room, where my blue Adler lamp is smashed on the floor and Pam is trembling.

“It just flew off the table…” she says, “All by itself!”

I had known the house was haunted when I moved in. The Realtor had warned me that it had driven the previous owners out. But I figured what the hell? How bad could it be, right?

And it really wasn’t so bad.

The Ghost opened and closed doors, but didn’t slam them. When it turned the T.V. on in the middle of the night, it kept the volume low. It took the cap off the toothpaste, but I didn’t care about that. And when it rearranged the kitchen it always did so according to an easily decipherable logic.

The Adler lamp is the first thing it’s broken. Which is cool because it got me away from Ron and not cool cause that lamp cost a lot of money and now Pam is totally freaked out.

Pam is my age. She wears soft pastel-colored sweaters and beige rayon skirts and considers herself open-minded because she describes things she doesn’t understand as “funky.” Pam once said she likes me because I’m “funky.” I don’t like that because I associate the word ‘funky’ with the smell of athletic undergarments.

My little brother puts his arm around her to comfort her. He’s trying to get laid. I can tell. It’s slim pickings at this party, but my little bro’s unstoppable. In high school he had sex with every one of my friends, which made me jealous. I have always wanted to have sex with my little brother.

Creepy William is standing over the lamp, stroking his stringy beard. William wears bad brown shirts, has joggers’ man-breasts, smells like a health-food store, and spends all his time in the office composing ranting internal emails about new ways to approve office efficiency and minimize environmental impact. He once told me he considered me his intellectual equal. He found out about this party by accident.

“It seemed to lift off the table before it fell,” he says.

Bobby Fuller sips a glass of wine and sits on the window sill. He stares at my legs as I bend down to pick up the pieces of the lamp, pie-eyed and smiling softly. I have no respect for his generation.

It’s taken this long for Ryan to spring into action. “Is there anything I can do?” he asks, “Can I get some sort of dustpan or a broom or something?” Ryan is from somewhere in the Midwest, one of the states that begins with ‘I’. He is thick and earnest and serious to the point of being a little spooky. I have visions of Ryan showing up for work everyday long after the office is gone, sitting patiently among the empty cubicles as newspapers and tumbleweeds blow past him, then going home and punching a hole in his refrigerator door out of frustration. His mousy pear-shaped bug-eyed girlfriend whose name I’m not going to remember is sitting in the corner eating a wedge of brie with a fork as if it were a piece of pie.

Todd and Amy aren’t paying any attention at all. Todd is the only other partner who came to the party. Amy was hired as his secretary and he promptly seduced her on a bet, after which they settled quickly into an impressive cycle of misery with which they both seem very happy. When apart, they bitch incessantly about each other. When together, they drag some poor third party into a conversation in which they lay out each other’s shortcomings and compete for the listener’s sympathies.

Tonight their victim is Mokimbe.

Mokimbe is African and I’m proud of myself for hiring him because I’m intimidated by black people. His accent makes me feel very international. He watches Todd and Amy go back and forth, genuinely entertained. He catches my eye and smiles.

For a moment I feel like I see the party through his eyes. The bunch of us, hanging in this haunted room like wayward atoms in a dysfunctional molecule that will never find a bond.

Then Ron comes out of the kitchen.

Everything begins to move slowly.

The ten-inch knife comes flying out of the kitchen in a straight line after him.

It enters his back and pokes through his shirt.

He doesn’t know what hit him.

Nobody knows what hit him.

He tries to talk and chokes up blood.

He craps himself loudly.

Pam screams and clings to my little brother, whose hand closes over her left tit.

Ron pitches forward onto his face. The knife pushes up through his back.

His blood soaks into the carpet.

I’m lying on my back in the grass behind the shed, under the stars and the trees smoking Bobby Fuller’s joint.

I wonder if the homeowner is liable for the actions of the home.

I think I hear a roller coaster.

I feel a free-fall in the pit of me.

It feels alright.

copyright, © 2006, 2007 Andy Biscontini

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Technology, Savages and Retards

Paper. Oh how we love us some paper. I love paper, don't get me wrong--paper is way better than this invisible virtual phenomena housed in a plastic box with a constantly whirring fan.

If it isn't on paper, it doesn't mean shit. Right or wrong? Sure, anyone can get a "web review" because those don't count. It's the ones that are committed to paper that count.

It's the same with music. At least it was at a certain all girl's drama academy in Southern Vermont. Somehow, those musicians who read dots and/or letters like G7b9 from a sheet of paper were more evolved than those who didn't. Similarly, music that was written on paper was somehow more significant that music that was "just intuitively" played--regardless of how it sounded.

So while Africans have, in a practical way, incorporated fractals into their every day life, using them (fractals) to building villages, fences, etcetera, it wasn't until someone dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy put it down on paper (hundreds if not thousands of years later) that fractals became "a thing." Somehow, Africans incorporating fractals into every day life without the aid of a book simply doesn't count as being "advanced." And yet somehow, the non African need for a book in order to conceptualize fractals doesn't count as being "retarded."

Speaking of retarded

It isn't until one reads actual words long the bottom of the screen that we realize not only is this woman not retarded, but that in fact she is more eloquent and thoughtful than, well, take your pick.

Isn't that a thing? If you saw her on a bus, who wouldn't think this woman was retarded? Who among us would guess in a million years that she could string together complex thoughts and was convinced of her normality and ability to navigate the world?

Going a little further, having been exposed to that woman-as-text, does she seem more or less retarded than this woman-as-text?

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's ON in Miami!

(click image to enlarge)

"Please don't buy the bald seal!"

I was never much of a Michael Jackson fan, but I think I'm o.k. with overseas Michael Jackson ripoffs.

See more by "translator" Buffalax here.

Thanks to Vanina Marsot for the link.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

more water lillies

copyright, © 2007 Vanina Marsot

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Back open for Lunchtime!

Click on the panel below for the full meal...

fairfax sermonette

copyright, © 2007 Wyatt Doyle

More on "Bread and Circuses"

from Plato Jesus, in response to "re: Bread and Circuses":

First, is the Frank Miller quoted the same Frank Miller who, when running for the highest office of his country (Canada), refused to debate the opposition? Or, is it Frank Miller the filmmaker who inaccurately glorifies Dorian Spartans -- who practiced slavery and human sacrifice, fought against Athenian democracy, and incidentally were the ones who made homosexuality part and parcel of military indoctrination -- and in contrast to historical records, paints the multicultural Iranian Empire, which tolerated and integrated a variety of Semitic peoples as well as introduced Cuneiform, as savages in the film 300?

Both are great illustrations of the Western mentality that feels it knows everything and has no need to engage anyone else.

Now to the merits of the comment:

First, at no point does Wyatt Doyle (or me for that matter in my comments) celebrate other cultures or try to say they are equivalent or equal in their merits. We only critique the representation presented. So this comment does not refute our points -- that most political representations of other cultures are more alarmist then informed.

Second, as someone who teaches in "American Higher education" -- if such a monolith exists, which is unlikely -- it is a total myth, if not outright fabrication, to say it promotes equality of cultures. Most college classes do not dwell on other traditions; indeed, core requirements are based on the Western cannon of the ancient Greeks to deconstructionism and critical theory out of European traditions. Beyond esoteric advanced classes or obscure graduate programs, there is absolutely no equal treatment of other cultures. The "cultural relativism" movement has been relegated to the margins at most universities.

Third, the whole "clash of civilizations" thesis, particularly as applied to the Middle East, is flawed. Empirically it is not culture at the roots of armed conflicts. For instance, such a representation cannot explain the Sunni-Shiite divide, tribal rivalries in Iraq, NATO's intervention on behalf of Muslim Albanians against Slavic Orthodox Serbs, or the current civil war among Palestinians. If we scrutinize history over time, a vast majority of cultural interactions have not produced conflict, but cosmopolitanism. Look at Jerusalem, Sarajevo, or most world cities at the crossroads of cultures, ethnic and religious groups live together peacefully for most of their history. It is when politics interjects this grievance and creates this macro-narrative that ignores some divisions and embellishes others.

If we do want to think of cultural units -- and by that I mean, aggregate the actions of countries that are in a particular tradition -- which civilization has promoted worldwide conflict more than others? It's by far the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Western world. This is not to say other cultures aren't violent or aggressive at times, but in terms of attacking, and indeed destroying foreign cultures, as well as occupying their traditional lands, it's the West, hands down. By the start of the 20th century, European imperialism had conquered nearly 90% of world. That is to say, if a comparison of violence based on a sense of cultural superiority is to be made, here the West can rightly proclaim its pre-eminence.

We're #1! We're #1!

copyright, © 2007 Plato Jesus

for more on this topic, see:


If you think the WGA strike is bullshit...

...or don't understand what's going on, exactly, Ed Naha spells it all out for you here.

It's worth your time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A World Without Culture

Fun And Games .

"Mindfuck skins auto-pilot's cat" said John Crouse.

+ + +

Here's some good ones from our "new age" friend Joseph Chilton Pierce:

"Culture is the enemy of Biology"


"culture cannot be improved and it should never be sustained"


"Culture depends on violence. Culture breeds violence. And culture thrives on violence"


The establishment is never changed. Whether it’s a technological establishment or not makes no difference. Culture functions as culture, which is based on fear, and blocks our biological unfolding. And that’s right across the board; I find no exceptions to that whatsoever. Culture never absorbs the new ideas cropping up within it that would lead to transcendence. It kills them off. Now what you end up with… culture can wear a million different faces. It can take on all these trappings. But its underlying basis of fear, anxiety, and self-defense, defensiveness is always there. That never changes.

and and and and

Go ahead. Listen to the pod casts. Don't be afraid. Don't be.

+ + +

And then there's Adam Curtis. He wrote an article called "The TV elite has lost the plot." You don't have to read very far to get to the part where he says

First of all, the people who do blogging, for example, are self-selecting. Quite frankly it's quite clear that what bloggers are is bullies.

and just a wee bit further

I've talked to news editors in America. What they are most frightened of is an assault by the bloggers...They're terrified if they stray one way they'll get monstered by bloggers on the right, if they stray the other way they'll get monstered by bloggers from the left.

The future is scary--yes it sure is!

I wonder if Adam Curtis has read Chris Rich's latest (outstanding) offerings?

+ + +

Getting back to culture, (you know, "the enemy of biology") this take on culture popped up in a delightful little book called Islam Explained by Tahar Ben Jelloun:

Define the word "culture" for me.

I'm tempted to say it's everything that makes us different from animals. Culture comes from the word "to cultivate," that is, to plow the earth and plant seeds in it. Human beings need to eat and drink and to be in good health. But they have just as great a need to learn about the world they live in. Culture is the product of intelligence, which makes it possible for us to develop our minds, to think better, and to make contact with what our ancestors have left us. Culture is passed down from generation to generation. The whole of its expressions and developments are called "civilizations."

+ + +

Later in that pod cast I asked you to listen to Joseph Chilton Pearce says:

"Well first of all I would say that we have no civilization."

and later

"After 2000 years of hymn singing, bible thumping, proselytizing, missionaries, cathedral building, witch burning, and so forth, human nature has not changed one iota. We are every bit as murderous, and far more efficient at our murder of each other now than we were 2000 years ago when Jesus crops up on the scene. Thousands of years of meditation have not changed human nature one iota. We are every bit as murderous toward each other now as we were at the time of Buddha or any other time."

+ + +

"Culture is what makes us different from animals."

I had a land lord once who said humans are the product of an "alien super species" who came to earth and fucked a lot of different animals: pigs, apes, chickens, snakes and the like. If you believe (as I do) that everything is a fictional narrative, said notion sits as comfortably as any.

There aren't a lot of cows carrying guns. There aren't a lot of pigs building nuclear power plants. There aren't a lot of chickens exporting jobs over seas. There aren't a lot of snakes running the fixed income-markets. It's all done by their alien super species half brothers and sisters.

Has anyone read "A World Without Us?" No, me neither. From what I understand, Mr. Weisman went to places were there were no humans--like the land mind littered strip between North and South Korea. In the absence of humans, or, in the absence of culture biology flourished.

Speaking of animals, who here has read anything by Temple Grandin? You gotta love Temple Grandin for a number of reasons. Two of which, when combined, make for a fun mental feed-back loop: Temple Grandin has done more than just about anyone to make the slaughter of animals more peaceful and humane. (Combined with) Temple Grandin has done a lot of work for McDonalds. By making the slaughter facilities hired by McDonalds more peaceful and humane, she has made them more efficient and profitable.

Is McDonalds a friend of Biology?

Is McDonalds a friend of Culture?

Is McDonalds our culture?

Is it really possible to be part of the solution and the problem at the same time?

In Animals in Translation she says this:

Mammals and birds have the same core feelings people do. Researchers are just now discovering that lizards and snakes probably share most of these emotions with us, too...We know animals and humans share the same core feelings partly because we know quite a bit about how our core emotions are created by the brain, and there's no question animals share that biology with us. Their emotional biology is so close to ours that most of the research on the neurology of emotions--or affective neuroscience--is done with animals.

+ + +

Animals (and humans) have similar emotional biology.

Are we animals?

Are we "rooted in nature?"

Does anything mean anything anymore?

+ + +

It's probably too early to say for sure, but so far Build a Nation is in the lead for best release 2007.

copyright © 2008 Stanley Jason Zappa

"Levy me alone" by Lindsay Griffith Armistead Baldwin

copyright, © 2005, 2007 Lindsay Griffith Armistead Baldwin


Recent NTB post subject John Doe is being honored by The Sundance Channel for his numerous contributions to much that is good and worthwhile in music and film.

Check out their "Spotlight" here.

The man's even blogging now: What Would John Doe Do?

Good on ya, J.D.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"That's Newstastic!" by Plato Jesus

Plato Jesus strikes again with five (count 'em!) fresh installments in his ongoing "That's Newstastic!" series. Click the headlines to get your news on:

"Mr. Toilet" Builds Commode-Shaped House

Badminton and Peacekeeping in Southern Lebanon

You Silly Boys: Blondes Make Men Act Dumb

At Jets Games, a Halftime Ritual of Harassment

UN Diplomats Miss Out on Knicks Season Tickets When Team Loses - Again

Uncle Steve brings it.

Stephen King in TIME magazine:

"You know, I just filmed a segment for Nightline, about [the movie version of his novella] The Mist, and one of the things I said to them was, you know, "You guys are just covering — what do they call it — the scream of the peacock, and you're missing the whole fox hunt." Like waterboarding [or] where all the money went that we poured into Iraq. It just seems to disappear. And yet you get this coverage of who's gonna get custody of Britney's kids? Whether or not Lindsay drank at her twenty-first birthday party, and all this other shit. You know, this morning, the two big stories on CNN are Kanye West's mother, who died, apparently, after having some plastic surgery. The other big thing that's going on is whether or not this cop [Drew Peterson] killed his... wife. And meanwhile, you've got Pakistan in the midst of a real crisis, where these people have nuclear weapons that we helped them develop. You've got a guy in charge, who's basically declared himself the military strongman and is being supported by the Bush administration, whose raison d'etre for going into Iraq was to spread democracy in the world.

"So you've got these things going on, which seem to me to be very substantive, that could affect all of us, and instead, you see a lot of this back-fence gossip."

Read the whole thing here.

re: Bread and Circuses

Heard back from a number of folks about the "Bread and Circuses" post of 23 November. One response I particularly appreciated wondered:

Do you also make a check on data that supports your own agenda?

Then went on to say:

In the words of Frank Miller, the greatest

disservice of American Higher education is that it
brainwashes its sheep into believing that all
cultures/religions are somehow morally equivalent
despite the barbarianism that pervades many.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I very rarely get email "forwards" that promote any of the causes I support. I wish I did! But it makes a kind of sense, I guess, since in my experience the purpose of these emails is to encourage alarmist thinking, and off the top of my head I can't think of any alarmist causes I stand behind.

As far as Frank Miller's statement, I don't know how you quantify barbarism, exactly. Certainly there are more blatant forms of it on display in some cultures when compared to another, but you don't have to dig very deep into the daily operations of any culture to find examples of commonly accepted behavior that you or I might define as barbaric.

What's more, if a culture (or a religion/institution/person) is as reprehensible (in whole or in part) as you (or me or anyone else) insists it is, then no one should feel the need to resort to the invention of lies to illustrate the point.

copyright, © 2007 Wyatt Doyle

more on this topic here:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Memphis Bleak

Sandee Curry's all fired up about the West Memphis 3, and if you're not too, you should be.

Read her thoughts here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bread and Circuses

My older brother lives on the other side of the country. He often sends me email "forwards" that he receives from his friends and clients. I suspect he does it not because he agrees with their messages so much as he knows they'll get a rise out of me. They usually do.

A disturbing number of them are transparently designed to prey on our emotions, targeting our sense of patriotism while promoting ugly and distinctly un-American agendas, all gift-wrapped in blatant lies. Frequently the goal of these emails is to stir up antagonism toward "foreigners" (read: non-whites), both at home and abroad. The messages are passed from inbox to inbox without hesitation, each recipient-turned-sender secure in the knowledge that the person who sent it—their friend!—can vouch for its authenticity.

But with everyone in the chain thinking like that, no one is checking the facts. So these transmissions are "grandfathered in," accepted and shared unquestioningly—though none of the recipients have any more reason to regard them as truth than they would the rantings of a loudmouth at a bar.

This week I was sent one that featured a series of photographs purporting to show

"An 8 years (sic) old child...caught in a market in Iran for stealing bread... In the name of Islam he is being punished, his arm will be crushed by a car. He will loose (sic) forever the possibility to use his arm again. Is this a religion of peace and love?"

Under the photos, in the body of the email, one sender concluded:

"No religion can ever justify such hideous crime... Pass it on... let the world know what's happening in the name of religion... Pass this to all for public awareness"

Others, earlier in the chain than my brother, had added their thoughts:

"Such a really really gross and disgusting act!! Poor boy... How can this happen..."

"Should be compulsory viewing for the politically correct mob. The atrocity..."

"I think these people are out of their minds. How could they do this to an 8-year old child."

Reading them, I couldn't help but feel like I was in an uncomfortably warm room, surrounded by pasty old ladies in Sunday hats as they fanned themselves into a righteous indignation.

But it wasn't their indignation that bothered me. It's that none of them took the time to do just a little poking around to determine whether or not the alarming information in this email was even remotely true.

My own fact checking took all of 30 seconds, and I easily found the information I was looking for at the first place I looked:, where I usually go to sort out this kind of thing. If you don't know it already, Snopes is an exhaustive, non-partisan resource designed to confirm or debunk all manner of rumors and urban legends. It's very simple to use: simply type a few relevant keywords into their "search" field (I entered "bread," "Iran," and "truck") and you'll get a full listing of possible matches from their extensive archives. If they can confirm it's true, they'll tell you—just as they'll tell you if they can confirm it's false. And if they don't know for sure one way or the other, they'll even tell you that. I have never not found what I was looking for, and they haven't steered me wrong yet.

I sent my brother the link to the Snopes article, which clearly explains the photos were not documenting a public punishment, but a recently-developed approach to panhandling I call "Extreme Begging," in which people appear to do alarming and distasteful things to themselves in an effort to separate passersby from their money. Whatever the stunt is—whether it's fire-eating, glass-walking, sword-swallowing, or being run over by a truck—it's just that: a stunt. And this was also a stunt. The little boy's pained expression? Showmanship. The child is apparently fine.

...Or at least as fine as a child can be, when he's so destitute his family makes him stick his arm under the wheel of a truck a few times a day in an effort to shake down tourists for spare change.

I added this to my response, because it also seemed worth saying:

There is plenty about Islam that doesn't fit in neatly with our sensibilities here in the West (and is therefore frightening/threatening to us from the get-go), and barbarous behavior is barbarous behavior and inexcusable, no matter where you live or what religion you follow. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find any organized religion (or culture) that isn't guilty of acts of extreme barbarism and brutality—acts that very often are at odds with their professed religious and/or moral codes. It doesn't make it right, but it is far from uncommon, and to behave as though any one religion (or culture) is "worse" than another is to deny the facts.

The only worthwhile thing about this email is the one line of the text after the final panel that recommends everyone take a long hard look at religion in general; unfortunately, the deliberately misleading explanation of the photos makes it obvious that this is clear anti-Islam propaganda, being shared for the sole purpose of making people from another culture seem like alien monsterswhich then makes it that much easier for us to not give a fuck when we invade and begin killing them, even instilling a sense of moral outrage (false, but who cares?) to somehow justify our actions.

So yes, it's more xenophobic bullshit.

Certainly there are a lot of these emails floating around. Probably you sent a few of them to your Trash folder even today; I don't blame you. But the next time you get one of these, why not start a habit of taking a moment to visit a site like Snopes to confirm the truth or falsity of what your friends and family are circulating. If what they sent you is untrue, take another minute to pass your link back to the friend or family member who emailed you in the first place. While you're at it, why not include everyone in the chain who passed it along to them?

As strongly as I believe these emails are created and started by people with a very ugly agenda, I also believe that the majority of people who pass them along do so because they truly feel they are doing a good and noble thing. The only question is, does this streak of nobility that compels us to forward an email run deep enough that we'll spend an extra minute confirming whether or not we're spreading lies?

There's no shortage of bullshit being tossed around. That's the way of the world. But now is as good a time as any to share a little truth where you can.

copyright, © 2007 Wyatt Doyle

Plato Jesus responds:

If you can't win wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then sanctimoniously feel good in the fiction that the horrors produced by the US do not overshadow the con games of poor people in less developed countries.

The child in this picture is victimized by poverty and likely manipulated by those around him. His participation in a world where there is monetary enrichment in perpetrating physical sacrifice is forced.

Those who view the picture and make judgments about inherent tendencies of certain cultures are manipulated at another level to a whole other effect. And who forces their participation? No one.

Everyone has basically become aware that many people say things online they would absolutely never say face-to-face. But there is no equal appreciation of how this extrapolates to online political representations. Point-and-click political statements such as these have destroyed our appetite and ability to challenge narratives that comfort the powerful.

copyright, © 2007 Plato Jesus

more on this topic here:

and here:

Give thanks for Lunchtime

Click on the panel to enjoy the full bounty!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

Japanese covered bridge, Hoi An

copyright, © 2007 Vanina Marsot

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One happened in Holland, the other happened in Holland

Right On Schedule / Exactly As Planned

Great work everybody! Great work!

Lunchtime is serenity time.

Achieve satori by clicking on the panel below.

Vanina Marsot in Vietnam

(click image to enlarge)

monks on street, Hoi An

copyright, © 2007 Vanina Marsot

"Javier and the White Duck" by Andy Biscontini


Javier and the white duck had finished their chicken salad sandwiches, and Javier quietly worked up the nerve to ask his question. It was unpleasant to ask the duck anything. Once, Javier had asked the duck if it was at all disturbing to eat chicken salad sandwiches, knowing that the chicken had once been a living fowl not unlike himself.

“Fuck you,” the duck had told him, “If it was him sitting here instead of me the two of you would be sucking me out of noodle soup.”

They sat next to each other on the green bench in the middle of the garden that Javier had landscaped and cultivated over the last twenty years on a lot where seventy years before a crowded tenement had burned to the ground.

They sat quietly as the sky above them darkened to blue green and the streetlights flickered orange. The air was thick with salso music and smog and the spicy smell of dinners simmering inside windows.

“My friend,” Javier said, finally ready.

“Cigar?” the duck produced a box of Garcia Vegas from under his wing and offered them to Javier.

“No thank you,” Javier said, tapping his chest, “It’s no good for my health.”

The duck rolled his eyes, “Jesus, Javier. How many cigars have you smoked so far this week?”

“Two,” Javier said.

“Well three cigars in a week ain’t gonna kill you.”

Javier smiled and shrugged and took a cigar.

The duck lit it with a dexterous flip of his zippo, then took a Cuban out from under his other wing and puffed it to life. He leaned back, exhaled a ring through his bill, and said, “I’m definitely a summer person.”

Two young women in scant dresses walked by, on their way to a night on the town. The duck watched them walk away.

“I do love the city in the summer,” he said.

Two winters before, the duck had come up from Florida to visit for New Year’s Eve. He stayed with Javier and his family. It was a disaster. The duck and Javier’s wife wound up hating each other, and he didn’t like the way the duck leered at his daughter and terrorized his son. Nobody was sorry to see the duck get on a southbound Greyhound. Javier accompanied him to the Port Authority. “I’m just not an inside person,” the duck had said.

Their cigar smoke curled up into the night.

“My friend,” Javier began.

“How’s that cigar?” the duck asked him. “You enjoying it?”

“Yes,” Javier said.

“Hey,” the duck said, “I ever tell you about the friend of mine who died?”

“I don’t think so,” Javier said. The duck told him so many stories, and never seemed to mind that Javier didn’t enjoy hearing them.

“So this friend of mine,” the duck said, “His whole life, his policy for everything was ‘Just a little bit.’

“Drugs? Just a little bit. Booze? Just a little bit. Fried food? Just a little bit. You name it, he’d have just a little bit of it.

“So one day he drops dead. Boom. All of the sudden. Terrible. So, being a generally good guy, he goes to heaven. And he asks St. Peter, ‘What was it? What did me in? Was it drugs? Booze? Fried food?’

“Saint Peter checks his chart and tells him, ‘A little bit of everything.’”

Javier looked ruefully at his cigar.

“The moral of the story,” the duck said impatiently, “Is that you’re gonna die one way or another, so you might as well enjoy yourself.”

Javier disagreed with the duck’s interpretation, but didn’t want to argue. Besides. He had something to ask the duck. He gathered all his nerve.

“My friend,” Javier began, as he had rehearsed so many times; in front of the steamy bathroom mirror as he shaved, in the side-view mirror of his delivery truck, in the darkened television set on sleepless nights, after everyone else had gone to sleep.

“My frieind,” he finally said to the duck that evening in the garden, “Things are not good.”

The duck agreed. “These are troubled times,” he said.

Javier, emboldened, continued, “My landlord wants to raise our rent by a thousand dollars a month. He wants us to move out so he can bring in wealthy young people.”

“The neighborhood’s changing,” the duck said.

“My wife,” Javier said, “She cannot work anymore. The carpal tunnel syndrome is so bad in her hands that she can’t sew as fast as she used to, and the arthritis is so bad in her knees that she can barely climb the stairs to the factory every day, and there is no elevator.”

The duck shook his head, “Does that woman do nothing but complain?”

“My daughter,” Javier said, “She is pregnant. The boy she’s dating told her that he loved her and wanted to be with her, but when she became pregnant he re-evaluated his priorities and has gone away to college to improve himself. He doesn’t return her letters anymore.”

“That little prick,” the duck said, “You ought to track him down and kick his ass.”

“My daughter is only sixteen. I don’t want her to have to go through an abortion, but I cannot afford to support a baby and I will have to find a way to pay for the operation.”

“Well,” the duck said, “Maybe from here on out she’ll know to wrap the package before she sticks it in the mail.”

“My son,” Javier said, “He is doing terribly at school. He is tormented by the students and ignored by the teachers. I am afraid he is beginning to take drugs. It is difficult to talk to him anymore. But I cannot afford to send him to a good school, and his grades are slipping so much I’m afraid soon they won’t even accept him. He is a sensitive and intelligent boy.”

“He’s a pussy,” the duck said.

“Please,” Javier said, “My friend,” it was the moment of truth, “Will you lay an egg for me.”

The duck sighed and stretched his neck out from side to side. “Javier, Javier, Javier,” he said, “Is that the only reason you hang around with me?”

Javier didn’t think that was a fair question to ask. It made him feel guilty, and in the twenty years since he’d known the duck, he had never asked anything of him before, while working hard to maintain the garden so the duck had someplace to spend his summers and defending him to the other men in the neighborhood, who didn’t like him.

“Heese noah why dock,” Alvarez the barber had said when Javier tried to explain that the duck had meant no offence when he compared Mrs. Alvarez’s ample thighs to a pair of dancing seals, “Heesa why deek!”

Javier began to resent the way his friendship with the duck had isolated him from his community.

The duck read the frustration in his face.

“Javier, look,” the duck said, putting his wing on Javier’s knee,“Do you remember the first time I laid an egg?”

Javier remembered it well.

It had been the first year after he had planted the garden. The duck, who had been seen around the neighborhood, but hadn’t made any attempts at conversation with anyone, lingered by the garden gate while Javier worked. The duck told Javier that while his knowledge of horticulture was limited, he had an interest in urban gardens. He asked Javier who owned the property.

They went to the hall of records and found out that the lot was owned by a Hassidic Jew named Fleischstein. Later that day, Javier and the white duck and first sat down for chicken salad sandwiches. The duck asked Javier what he wanted from the garden.

Javier told the duck about a dream he’d had shortly after making the decision to move his young family to America. In his dream, he was an old man, strolling through a lush green garden with his grown children, dressed in white linen, singing and laughing and eating fruit from the trees.

The duck told Javier to contact Fleischstein and arrange for a meeting.

So it was that on a cool June morning twenty years before, Javier, the white duck, and Fleischstein the landlord met in the young garden and the duck, under considerable strain, his bill twisted, his brow furrowed, crapped an egg the size of a bocce ball made of solid gold.

Fleischstein had the egg appraised and papers were subsequently drawn up, transferring ownership of the lot to Javier. The duck had declined being named in the paperwork, due to problems with the IRS, but told Javier, “All I want is your solemn promise that I’ll be able to come up and use the garden at my discretion indefinitely.”

Javier remembered how bright the future had seemed in those years, when the garden was young. He looked up past the streetlamps and marveled at how far away such hope now seemed.

“Javier, listen,” the duck said, “Do you have any idea what this lot is worth on the open market these days? Millions. Have you been paying attention to the commodities market? The biggest egg I can crap isn’t going to bring you millions. With that money, you could buy land, Javier. Land. You could have a real garden. You could have an apple orchard. Hell, Javier, you could have a white fuckin’ picket fence!”

“But my friend,” Javier asked, “Where would you go?”

“Don’t worry about me,” the duck said, “I got lots going on. All I ask is a fair cut of the sale due to the fact that it was my egg that you made the initial investment. Say twenty percent.”

“Of course, of course,” Javier said, as the future suddenly brightened again.

“We’ll make some phone calls in the morning,” the duck said.

Javier shook the white duck’s wing and thanked him. That night, he dreamed of a white picket fence surrounding a lush orchard, through which he strolled with his children, dressed in white linen, singing and eating fruit from the trees.

copyright, © 2006, 2007 Andy Biscontini

Monday, November 19, 2007

The delicious smell of Lunchtime

Click on the panel below for complete enlightenment.

Clayton is a movie star.

My brother is a movie star.

Enjoy his cameo appearance in this trailer as a hostile salesman at an upscale furnishings store.

I should mention this character is very different from the real Clayton. For instance, the real Clayton wears glasses only occasionally.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What's a girl to do?

Bat For Lashes gives us a little bit of The Ronettes, a little bit of DONNIE DARKO, a little bit of THE WICKER MAN... What's not to love?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kate Romero reports from the front lines!

Photographer Kate Romero was out showing some shutter-clicking love to the striking writers picketing Fox and my old stomping ground, Paramount.

Click the links in the text above to join her on the scene.

Viva huelga, baby.