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  • feedwordpress 08:01:18 on 2018/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: Alan Abel, , , , , John Augustus Larson, lie detector, polygrapph, satire,   

    “The Master’s tools will be used to take apart the Master’s house”*… 

     

    Abel

     

    Alan Abel, a professional hoaxer who for more than half a century gleefully hoodwinked the American public — not least of all by making himself the subject of an earnest news obituary in The New York Times in 1980 — apparently actually did die, on [September 14], at his home in Southbury, Conn. He was 94…

    Long before The Onion began printing farcical news articles, long before the Yes Men enacted their first culture-jamming political pranks, there was Alan Abel. A former jazz drummer and stand-up comic who was later a writer, campus lecturer and filmmaker, Mr. Abel was best known as a perennial public gadfly, a self-appointed calling that combined the verbal pyrotechnics of a 19th-century flimflam man with acute 20th-century media savvy.

    He was, the news media conceded with a kind of irritated admiration, an American original in the mold of P. T. Barnum, a role model whom Mr. Abel reverently acknowledged…

    An American Original: “Alan Abel, Hoaxer Extraordinaire, Is (on Good Authority) Dead at 94.”

    For more on the equally-glorious Yes Men, see here and here.

    * Anonymous

    ###

    As we find our way through fake news, we might spare a thought for John Augustus Larson; he died on this date in 1965.  A Berkeley, California policeman, he was the first American police officer to have an academic doctorate and to use polygraph– which he invented– in criminal investigations.

    220px-John_Larson_in_1921 source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:04 on 2018/09/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Pogo, satire, , Walt Kelly   

    “Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts”*… 

     

    pogo_comic_1050x700

    During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

    Taking place in a mythic Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo satirized the human condition as well as McCarthyism, communism, segregation, and, eventually, the Vietnam War. The strip is probably best remembered today for Pogo’s environmentalist’s lament, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    Pogo was syndicated from 1949-1975, reaching its peak readership of about 37 million readers in the mid-1950s, when it was carried by 450 newspapers. The strip’s popularity put editors and publishers opposed to Kelly’s content in a pickle…

    A story of sly satire: “The Most Controversial Comic Strip.”

    * Walt Kelly

    ###

    As we agree with Pogo’s friend Porky Pine “Don’t take life so serious, son, it ain’t nohow permanent,” we might recall that on this date in 1859, Norton I distributed letters to the newspapers of San Francisco proclaiming himself Emperor of North America…

    At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity.

    – NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.

    180px-Emperor_Joshua_A._Norton_I

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:19 on 2017/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: air quotes, , , , irony, , , , , satire,   

    “I quote others only in order the better to express myself”*… 

     

    A recent query to the always-illuminating Language Log:

    I’m reading my new copy of Soonish and came across a reference to air quotes and I got to wondering about the meme. I remember using them at least 30 years or more ago, entirely un-ironically. How does one go about looking up the history of such a thing? How would you reconcile the discoverable print references to its presumably earlier emergence as a metalinguistic thing in itself? At what point do the words, “air quotes” show up to stand for actual physically-performed “Air Quotes”?

    Find the answers at: “Air Quotes.”

    * Michel de Montaigne

    ###

    As we admit that there’s probably no pithier way to be ironic, mocking, or disingenuous, we might recall that it was on this date in 1726 that Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships— much better known as Gulliver’s Travels— was first published.  A satire both of human nature and of the “travelers’ tales” literary subgenre popular at the time, it was an immediate hit (John Gay wrote in a 1726 letter to Swift that “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery”).  It has, of course, become a classic.

    From the first edition

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:40 on 2017/06/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , Objectivism, Saramago, satire,   

    “I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough”*… 

     

    “You’re a wizard, Harry,” Hagrid said. “And you’re coming to Hogwarts.”

    “What’s Hogwarts?” Harry asked.

    “It’s wizard school.”

    “It’s not a public school, is it?”

    “No, it’s privately run.”

    “Good. Then I accept. Children are not the property of the state; everyone who wishes to do so has the right to offer educational goods or services at a fair market rate. Let us leave at once.”

    An excerpt from the gloriously spot-on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Objectivism; more at “Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.”

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

    – John Rogers

    * Christopher Hitchens

    ###

    As we obviate Objectivism, we might spare a thought for José de Sousa Saramago; he died on this date in 2010.  A Portuguese author and Nobel Laureate, he was described (in 2003) by Harold Bloom as “the most gifted novelist alive in the world today.”

    An atheist and proponent of libertarian communism, Saramago was criticized by institutions the likes of the Catholic Church, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, with whom he disagreed. In 1992, the Government of Portugal ordered the removal of his The Gospel According to Jesus Christ from the Aristeion Prize‘s shortlist, claiming the work was religiously offensive. Disheartened by this political censorship of his work, Saramago went into exile on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, where he lived until his death.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:20 on 2016/12/15 Permalink
    Tags: Chernobyl, , nuclear accident, , Nuclear reactor, rats, satire, ,   

    “Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it”*… 

     

    The limbic system is the center for pleasure and addiction in the rodent nervous system. In a controlled study on adolescent rats, scientists sought to determine whether or not the levels of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, could be maintained in this region over prolonged social media use. With a series of topical content posts, evergreen posts, and meme dissemination, scientists were able to gauge whether or not the “thrill” derived from getting likes, favorites, or retweets was sustainable over a finite period of time…

    Rats that only ever received 20-30 likes after sharing a “well-rounded” think piece would enjoy an extremely high level of dopamine if they broke 50 likes on an unexpected political rant declaring that “Trump had finally gone too far.” But, when the same rat racked up similar numbers by acknowledging that his news feed was a “political echo chamber,” activity in this region of the brain slowed down once again…

    In short, social media does not prove to be a sustainable source of cognitive reward…

    Read the all-too-painfully-relevant “results” in full at Adam Rotstein‘s “Regulation of Dopamine During Social Media Use in Adolescent Rats.”

    * Clay Shirky

    ###

    As we burst bubbles, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that the nuclear generating facility at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, was (finally) shut down.  14 years earlier, it had been the site of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history (in terms of cost and casualties), one of only two classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.  On April 26, 1986, Reactor #4 exploded, creating massive damage in site and releasing 9 days of radioactive plumes that spread over Europe and the USSR.  Two were killed in the explosion; 29 died in the immediate aftermath (of acute radiation poisoning).  The remains of Reactor #4 were enclosed in a massive “sarcophagus,” and the other three reactors were returned to service.  One by one, they failed.  The decommissioning held on this date in 2000 was ceremonial.  Reactor #3, the last one standing, had in fact been shut down the previous week because of technical problems. It was restarted– unattached to the national grid and at minimum power output– so that the world would be able to see it symbolically switched off.

    The hole where Reactor #4 stood before the accident

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:15 on 2016/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: , Candide, , , Francois-Marie Arouet, , satire, ,   

    “Truth at 24 frames per second”*… 

     

    Freedocumentaries.org streams full-length documentary films free of charge, with no registration needed. For several films, we even offer the ability to watch trailers or to download the actual film.

    The films are gathered by our researchers as we scour the web for well-produced videos and present them to our viewers. We adhere to all copyright laws and honor the wishes of the producers.

    We created Freedocumentaries.org because we wanted to find an easy way to bring thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining documentaries to anyone with a high-speed internet connection. We believe that the mainstream media increasingly practices self-censorship, and that it ignores many opinions and historical events. With the media distorting or ignoring information, it’s often very hard to get an accurate picture of a problem, even while watching the news. Sites like Freedocumentaries.org are a much-needed counterbalance to corporate media: an industry dominated by special interests. Even though every dollar we make via advertising or donations is critical, we do not let any advertisers have any influence over which films we play. We would rather lose that money than lose our independence. And the fact that we won’t shy away from controversial films is one of the things that makes us unique.

    While some of the films on our site have widespread distribution, others are created by independent filmmakers who depend on sites like ours to get their information to the public. The amount of work that these producers have put into making a 90-minute film is astounding. Different films create different reactions among different people.

    There will be aspects of the films in which you may disagree or agree. After watching you may cry, become inspired, or you may get angry; in any case the films will get you thinking. We are proud that in the last two years, we have helped share these films with countless people that would not have seen the movies otherwise. We believe that we have made the world just a little better by doing so.

    We are proud to help these independent filmmakers. We encourage you to visit their website and donate so that they can continue creating great films. If you haven’t done so yet, please watch a film. And if you enjoy the experience, tell your friends!

    Over 450 choices, across an extraordinary range of topics, at Freedocumentaries.org.

    * “The cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second” – Jon-Luc Godard

    ###

    As we lean in to learn, we might send philosophical birthday greetings to Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he was born in Paris on this date in 1694.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:42 on 2016/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: Gawken, Global LIve Project, , Lives in Transit, National Auto Battery Safety Month, New York Film Festival, satire, Silicon Valley, tech,   

    “A man is angry at a libel because it is false, but at a satire because it is true”*… 

     

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Gawken

    * G.K. Chesterton

    ###

    As we take our chances, we might note that today is the first day of National Auto Battery Safety Month.

     source

    On a more serious note, today is also the world premiere of the Global Lives Project‘s Lives in Transit series at the New York Film Festival.  The centerpiece of the Festival’s Convergence program, dedicated to the fast-evolving world of non-traditional film and media, it will run from October 1-16 in the Furman Gallery of the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.

    Check it out.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:03 on 2016/08/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , satire, The Great Gatsby, Toni Morrison,   

    “What’s the point of having great knowledge and keeping them all to yourself?”*… 

     

    One of the most attractive books in history, a colossal best seller, everybody knows this, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Really successful book, believe me. Why F.? I put my initial in the middle, I think it’s more normal that way, but everybody has his own style…

    From the glorious Sherman Oaks Review of Books, an imagination of Donald Trump’s review of The Great Gatsby: “Celebrity Book Reviews: Donald on Scott.”

    [image above: source]

    * Donald J. Trump, Why We Want You To Be Rich: Two Men, One Message

    ###

    As we rethink the classics, we might send send elegiac birthday greetings to James Arthur Baldwin; he was born on this date in 1924.  A novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, he charted the unspoken but palpable intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America, and their inevitable tensions.  His essays (e.g., Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time) and his novels (perhaps especially Giovanni’s Room) shaped a generation of writers.  Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison eulogized Baldwin in The New York Times:

    You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn’t you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee. “Our crown,” you said, “has already been bought and paid for. All we have to do,” you said, “is wear it.”

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:20 on 2015/10/19 Permalink
    Tags: A Modest Proposal, Ashley Montagu, , , , , satire, The Cultured Man,   

    “The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture”*… 

     

    What does it mean to be “cultured”?  Are you?  The questionnaire above is from Ashley Montagu’s 1958 book, The Cultured Man

    Montagu—a well-respected anthropologist and former student of Franz Boas, who was influential in his profession’s midcentury rejection of the idea of innate racial hierarchywrote many popular books, of which The Cultured Man is one.

    The book contains quizzes for 50 categories of knowledge in the arts and sciences, with 30 questions each; 25 of the questions test knowledge and five test what Montagu called “attitudes.” The test-taker could refer to the answers at the back of the book and tap the list of references Montagu offered as correctives to those who found themselves deficient in a particular area.

    Distinguishing his project from that of the quiz shows that were popular staples of radio and TV in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Montagu wrote that a person considered “cultured” would not just be able to readily summon facts, but also to access humane feelings, which would necessarily come about after contact with culture. “The principal mark of the cultured man is not so much knowledge as his attitude of mind in relating his knowledge to the world of experience,” Montagu wrote. A “cultured man” would be curious, unprejudiced, rational, and ethical.

    “The function of these questions is not a static one,” Montagu wrote, encouraging readers to see the experience of being tested as an educational opportunity. “Their function is both dynamic and constructive: to tell you more or less exactly where you stand as a cultured person, and precisely in which directions you need to move from that position. No one grows who stands still.”

    More, from the redoubtable Rebecca Onion, at “How Cultured Are You, by 1950s Standards?”  It’s interesting to note, as Ms. Onion does, that while Montagu was a powerful mid-century voice for antiracism and multiculturalism, his idea of “culture” is essentially Western, and almost totally lacking in representation of non-male, non-white voices…

    * Plato, The Republic

    ###

    As we hit the books, we might spare a thought for a cultural observer extraordinaire: Jonathan Swift, the satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, and cleric who’s probably best remembered for Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal; he died on this date in 1745.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:52 on 2015/10/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , Grammar Police, , , Monty Python's Flying Circus, satire, Strunk and White,   

    “The greater part of the world’s troubles are due to questions of grammar”*… 

     

    POLICE CHIEF
    Strunk! White! Get your asses in here!

    STRUNK and WHITE enter, shooting sidelong glances at each other. Before they can sit, the COMMISSIONER flings a newspaper at them; WHITE clumsily catches it.

    POLICE CHIEF
    Look at this disaster!

    WHITE (reading the headlines)
    “Police Not Effective as Campus Stalked by Crossword Killer, Student Body in Terror.” Oh, Christ, what a mess.

    STRUNK
    Indeed.

    POLICE CHIEF
    You’re damn right it is! I just got off the phone with the mayor, and let me tell you, she is not happy!

    STRUNK
    I can see why. An evasive denial rather than a definite assertion, the passive voice — haven’t the copy writers even taken basic composition? And that gruesome phrase, “student body”! My god! “Studentry” is a much more elegant term! Or simply “students.”

    More at “Scenes From Our Unproduced Screenplay: ‘Strunk & White: Grammar Police’.”

    * Michel de Montaigne

    ###

    As we ponder our parsing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the BBC premiered a new comedy sketch show– then improbably, now legendarily– entitled Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

     source

     

     
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