Saturday, January 30, 2016



"This is a chronicle of the Bush Era with no colour-coded Terror Alerts; no Freedom Fries; no Halliburton; no Healthy Forests Initiative (which opened up wilderness areas to logging); no Clear Skies Act (which reduced air pollution standards); no New Freedom Initiative (which proposed testing all Americans, beginning with schoolchildren, for mental illness); no pamphlets sold by the National Parks Service explaining that the Grand Canyon was created by the Flood; no research by the National Institutes of Health on whether prayer can cure cancer (‘imperative’, because poor people have limited access to healthcare); no cover-up of the death of football star Pat Tillman by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan; no ‘Total Information Awareness’ from the Information Awareness Office; no Project for the New American Century; no invented heroic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch; no Fox News; no hundreds of millions spent on ‘abstinence education’. It does not deal with the Cheney theory of the ‘unitary executive’ – essentially that neither the Congress nor the courts can tell the president what to do – or Bush’s frequent use of ‘signing statements’ to indicate that he would completely ignore a bill that the Congress had just passed. It is astonishing how many major players from Bush World are here Missing in Action. Entirely absent, or mentioned only in passing, are Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Yoo, Elliott Abrams, Ahmed Chalabi, Ayad Allawi, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, Richard Armitage, Katherine Harris, Ken Mehlman, Paul O’Neill, Rush Limbaugh. Barely appearing at all are John Ashcroft, Samuel Alito, Ari Fleischer, Alberto Gonzales, Denny Hastert, John Negroponte and Tom Ridge. Condi and Colin Powell are given small parts, but Rummy is largely a passing shadow. No one is allowed to steal a scene from the star. The enormous black hole in the book is the Grand Puppetmaster himself, Dick Cheney, the man who was prime minister to Bush’s figurehead president."
- From Damn Right, I Said, Eliot Weinberger's post-modernist tinged review of George W. Bush's autobiography, Decision Points, for the London Review of Books. It's so pomo, even Foucault makes an appearance!

1. They found it! Long considered a “lost film” (defined as a known work with no surviving copy), 1962’s Pages of Death was ranked number fourteen in Gambit magazine’s list of fifteen “lost” films.
A 16mm print of the film was recently discovered in the collection of the Portland, Oregon based Oregon Historical Society. Writing in Vintage Sleaze, Jim Linderman describes Pages of Death as the story of a teenage boy who “hung out reading pornography at Baker’s Variety Store until he couldn’t stand it any longer and murdered a girl in a whipped up frenzy of smut inspired rage.” And now you can watch it, here!

2. I find it oddly delightful that Brave New World author Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four author George Orwell had arguments debating the comparative merits of their speculative dystopias that were not unlike the arguments my fellow students and I had while undergrad English students. This Open Culture essay, Entitled "My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours", begins:
In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher. Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel. Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.” Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book...
Click on the link for the rest.

3. Beauty, brains, natural talent, and now, Star Wars money (and immortality). Wow!  Saara Forsberg... It's not fair!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016



STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS ~ Somewhat enjoyable, ultimately disposable opening salvo in Disney's continuity-redefining jump-start of George Lucas' inexplicably popular, intellectually moribund, decades-long series of glorified toy commercials. Of course it's the most "successful" film in the history of cinema.

SPOTLIGHT ~ One of the best journalistic films since All the President's Men, this extended look at the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigating team's groundbreaking 2001/2002 report on the Catholic Church's cover-up of massive pedophilia among the clergy is chock-a-block with interesting performances, great cinematic flourishes, understated and subtly powerful moments of revelation, without ever falling prey to the urge to be exploitative or overly sentimental. Mature, powerful, enjoyable.

THE HATEFUL 8 ~ as with every Quentin Tarantino since Kill Bill, there were things to love, and things to hate. Lots of cheap tricks disguised as shocking revelations, wonderful use of the ultra-wide
screen (some excellent staging and shot compositions), but ultimately too long by about an hour, and what little narrative heft it does have doesn't manage to ground it at all. For such a bloated thing, it sure was insubstantial. Also, there are way more than 8 characters in this thing. Cheat!

THE BIG SHORT ~ The Wolf of Wall Street, only more so. Probably the best movie about financial malfeasance that I have ever seen, and that includes most documentaries. This one was a great surprise to me, as I'd heard little about it before watching. A true story that is even more infuriating than Spotlight, and that's saying something.


THE RIDICULOUS 6 ~ This is the Adam Sandler movie where all the native people employed as extras and in small roles decided to walk off the set because of the racist, caricaturist way in which the script dealt with them. And you know what? That's probably the funniest thing about this whole damn project.

HELL BABY ~ The creators of Reno 911 (a personal favorite) threw together this Satanic-themed pregnancy horror-comedy and invited a bunch of their comedy peers (including a game Rod Cordrey, half of Key and Peele, and a totally naked half of Garfunkle and Oates) to join them in New Orleans for some movie shooting and some Po Boys eating. Mildly entertaining, but ultimately disposable.

THE VISIT ~ M. Night Shamalamadingdong is back with this R-rated, found-footage, glorified "Goosebumps" episode. I actually liked this, which is kind of miraculous, considering who made it. I wouldn't be surprised to find out he didn't play a very large role in the writing of this project, because it actually works.

THE CONGRESS ~ Perhaps the most successful combination of animation and live action since Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this thoughtful, profoundly postmodern deconstruction of the ways in which the Hollywood machine chews up, digests, then shits out its employees (aka its victims) is also one of the most profound works of cinematic philosophy in recent decades, asking many big, important questions, and offering answers that enlighten, even if they don't comfort. Must see cinema, a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the soul.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


1. I've decided to try doing something new with this latest edition of the Daily Dirt Diaspora Suggested Readings List: Waste everyone's time with meaningless bullshit! And so, with that in mind, I give you... TRUMPLINGS! Go on, click it! And be sure to explore all the clicking options. Unlike voting in one of our sham, post-modern Western democracies, you won't live to regret it, I promise you.

2. You say that your musical tastes are unconventional, eclectic, and unique? You fancy yourself to be a fearless explorer of the avant garde, someone who likes to listen to "weird" music? Well then, here's a list of albums that Mojo Music Magazine considers to be fifty of the very weirdest albums in the history of commercial recordings. I don't suppose it will come as a shock to regular readers that a couple of my favorites are on this list, including the one represented by that handsome fella in the image above. Some of these picks aren't weird at all, by the way. "Piper at the Gates of Dawn", weird? Genius, yes. Weird, no.

3. And now for a real time-waster, try this incredibly detailed Canadian Business Report story about the unprecedentedly humiliating collapse of would-be retail "titan" TARGET CANADA! The author, Joe Castaldo, attempts something akin to a Hunter S. Thompson "Gonzo Journalism" approach, a conceit they attempt to reinforce via the inclusion of Ralph Steadman-style violent, slashing, graphical text overlays (click here to see what I mean). As an added bonus, be sure to check out this hilarious annotated map pinpointing exactly on the planet where all of TARGET CANADA's $3.4 BILLION worth of creditors are located. Even my tiny hometown of Edmundston, New Brunswick, Canada makes the list! 

Monday, January 11, 2016

DAVID BOWIE (1947-2016)

Legend is an honorific that is all too often bandied about. In the case of David Bowie, it applies. 

Bowie didn't just live a life without compromise, he lived many, his fictional personae more authentically lived than most contemporary celebrities' actual realities. The sounds and visions he gifted to we unworthy acolytes had the visceral psychic density of the most lucid of dreams. 

Now David Bowie the man is gone, but he's left his creations behind to keep us all company until time and memory run out. 

And if that isn't magick, then I don't know what is.

Friday, January 8, 2016


1. One of my favorite current non-fiction authors is Gary Lachman, who also happens to have been a founding member of the seminal New Wave band, Blondie. Talk about an interesting life! I regularly recommend Lachman's books to young seekers who ask my opinion for "a good place to start" doing some serious study of the hidden, the esoteric, the occult. This Daily Grail excerpt from Lachman's 2013 book, The Caretakers of the Cosmos: Living Responsibly in an Unfinished World, features much of what I like about his writing. I am particularly impressed by his ability to weave learned and profitable speculations together from such disparate elements as H.P. Lovecraft's century-old pulp fiction, Jean-Paul Sartre's mid-century philosophical existentialism, and the pessimistic, postmodernist prognostications of contemporary "ideas man" John Gray... with a little bit of Charlie Manson thrown in, for piquancy. It begins:
According to the latest estimates, our earth formed some 4.5 billion years ago, roughly ten billion years after the Big Bang, from cosmic dust and gas left over from the sun’s formation. It is believed life appeared on earth within a billion years after our planet formed. The standard account of the ‘birth of life’ suggests that self-replicating molecules accidentally emerged from the primordial soup some 3.5 billion years ago, and through an equally accidental process, over millions of years eventually turned into myself writing these words and you reading them – with, of course, quite a few different organisms in between. As with the Big Bang, the emergence of life is another example of the ‘something from nothing for no reason’ scenario popular with many scientists today. According to the same scenario, the consciousness I am exhibiting in writing these words – humble, indeed – and which you are employing in reading them, also emerged purely through accident, as an epiphenomenon of purely physical interactions of our brains’ neurons, which are themselves the result of the purely mechanical process of evolution, the Darwinian version. (An epiphenomenon is a kind of side show to the main attraction. Steam is an epiphenomenon of boiling water; it has no existence in itself, and without the boiling water, there would be no steam. For many neuroscientists and philosophers of mind today, our consciousness is little more than a kind of steam given off by the brain.) 
To dot the i’s and cross the t’s on this, let me say it in the simplest way possible. According to the most commonly accepted scientific view, no one wanted the Big Bang to happen. No onewanted the earth to form. No one wanted life to appear on the earth. And no one wanted life to evolve into us. There is no reason for any of it. It just happened.
Keep reading at the link for a touch of cosmic optimism as Lachman develops his central theme, which is that humans - we - have a unique and indispensable responsibility to existence: that of saving it from meaninglessness.

2. Another one of my favorite current non-fiction authors is Peter Bebergal, who was recently interviewed by The Quietus about his book Seasons of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. The article also contains an excerpt from the book about the magickal obsessions and exploits of David Bowie, about whom Bebergal declares:
I believe David Bowie is the true magician in the story of rock & roll, the artist who most perfectly realised the definition of magic, both Crowley's original ("The science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will") and Dion Fortune's modification ("Magick is the art of causing changes in consciousness in conformity with the Will"). The thing I wanted to emphasise in Season Of The Witch is that the occult imagination is not simply about belief or practice, it's about how the application of the occult became the very method by which rock & roll was often realised. Bowie's music and performance were a magical practice, maybe even more potent than if he sat by himself in his room and tried to conjure a demon. I think this goes to the heart with my frustration with the occult merely has a belief system. Without art, without some expression of those experiences and those interactions with the unconscious, I lose interest. It's fun to imagine Crowley at the Boleskine house trying to meet his Holy Guardian Angel, but what is left except the story? The story of David Bowie drawing the Kabbalistic tree of life in the studio when he was recording Station To Station resonates because of Station To Station the album. It's a masterpiece, and it is partly a result of what was going on in his head as he tried to manage a psyche fractured by cocaine and occultism.
In light of Bowie's recent, spectacular return to form with the incredible song/video one/two punch of Blackstar, the above interview/excerpt couldn't be more timely.

3. Theologian and cultural critic Tara Isabella Burton's extended think piece for Aeon, entitled Dark Books, asks in part whether we are sufficiently wary of the potentially malefic hold that some fiction can exert upon the reader, or conscious of the possible consequences of feasting too eagerly upon the poisonous literary fruit of an evil, or diseased, creator. From the introductory passage:
In his condemnatory tract Popular Amusements (1869), the American clergyman Jonathan Townley Crane cautioned his flock against reading novels: ‘novel-readers spend many a precious hour in dreaming out clumsy little romances of their own, in which they themselves are the beautiful ladies and the gallant gentlemen who achieve impossibilities…’ only to find themselves ‘merged in the hero of the story’, losing the sense of who they really are. 
Such a view might seem outdated now that we’re far more likely to talk about the health benefits of reading than its moral dangers. But in treating novels as the ultimate nutrition for the brain, do we risk neutralising their potency? After all, religious moralists such as Crane were not the only people to explore the dangers of novel-reading and the treacherous dynamics of story-telling: novelists and writers themselves drew attention to and critiqued the writer’s singular power over his readers. 
Many of these authors – the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in Denmark, the Decadent novelists Julés-Amedée Barbey D’Aurevilly and Octave Mirbeau in France, or Oscar Wilde in England – were responding to a wider intellectual trend in the 19th century: the configuring of the artist as a kind of replacement Creator-deity in an age turning away from traditional authoritarian conceptions of God; a quasi-divine artist whose words, according to the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, were ‘a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM’. Writer-philosophers such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schlegel drew on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant to celebrate the power of the human mind to impose order and form on the chaos of the world, and envisioned the artist or storyteller figure as a kind of über-Mensch, or superman, who could wield the organising power of narrative to lend form to the void. 
But godlike power (as plenty of Romantic writers came to discover) has a dark side. And in the works of some of the greatest and most disturbing writers of the 19th century, we get a glimpse of what that dark side looks like: something at once more profound – and more diabolical – than Crane could have imagined.
Unfortunately, after posing some extremely intriguing questions, Burton succumbs to the temptation of tying her thesis to a wobbly foundation of politically correct hand-wringing over the patriarchy, rape culture, and the unspeakable evils of colonialism. Which is really too bad, because up until the final section, this had the potential to be an intriguing exploration of literary transgression. As things currently stand, it is still worth reading, but that great essay about literary transgression is still floating in the formless void, waiting to be shared with the waking, walking world. Fuck, maybe I'll take a stab at writing it myself one day.

"The Second Amendment prevents the federal government from completely abolishing official state militias - nothing more, nothing less. Nothing in the Constitution prevents the federal or state governments, or both, from outlawing the formation of storm trooper squads on U.S. soil and limiting gun ownership to members of the National Guard. Members of right-wing paramilitary militias, of course, might claim a 'natural right of revolution,' of the sort invoked by the American patriots of 1776 (and by the Confederates in 1860-61), There is no constitutional right to revolution, however. There is, of course, a provision for instances where armed bands amass weapons and attempt to overthrow the federal government. The Constitution permits the death penalty for treason."
Michael Lind skewers the NRA position on the second amendment in his book Up From Conservatism: Why the Right is Wrong for America.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


The real world mystery of CRIMSON PEAK's myriad failures is far more perplexing and disturbing to me than the fictional mystery at the heart of the film. Perhaps doubly so because I have long admired Guillermo del Toro both as a director and as an ambassador for high quality genre film-making. The man is one of the best "movie" directors working today, with many near-perfect popcorn flicks under his belt, and he's given the world at least one bona fide cinematic masterpiece in Pan's Labyrinth. So what the hell happened with Crimson Peak

First and foremost, it isn't very scary. The ghosts are essentially just souped up versions of the overly-CGI titular specter from the 2013 horror hit Mama, which was also produced by del Toro, and which also featured Jessica Chastain in a leading role. Of course, in interviews, del Toro claims that he never set out to make a horror movie, but a "Gothic" romance, in the formal sense of the word. But invoking a word was never going to keep this film's audience from feeling misled, especially after Crimson Peak's marketing campaign tried to position it as "the ultimate haunted house movie", complete with a Halloween-friendly release date and a ringing endorsement from Stephen freakin' King.

Adding more sting to Crimson Peak's failure is the fact that, despite the above-mentioned expectational handicap, it actually starts out pretty strong. In bringing the people and places of late 19th century Buffalo to life on the big screen, one authentic detail at a time, del Toro succeeds in conjuring up some legit movie magic. He gives his actors a very real, believable universe to inhabit, and they repay the favor by delivering organic, easy-to-root-for performances. Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hidleston and the aforementioned Chastain are more than adequate as the central, incestuous love triangle (Gothic indeed!), while Burn Gorman and Jim Beaver provide stand-out performances in supporting roles. 

So when and where does the whole enterprise go pear-shaped? I've got it pinned down to a single scene, which features one of the worst shaving "accidents" ever captured on screen. After that, when the setting jumps overseas to England's bleak and blustery North Country, it's almost as if del Toro lets everything drop so he can spend all his time concentrating on his most obvious priority: Crimson Peak, itself. He spends so much time exploring every nook and cranny of that isolated, dilapidated and, admittedly, gorgeously-rendered manor house that he hardly has time for such petty annoyances as characters, plot, or anything else. The film descends into a series of silly, predictable, occasionally bloody but ultimately uninvolving set pieces, and the whole thing ends with a decidedly muted whimper, almost as though del Toro and crew knew that they had a lemon in the can. 

It's fucking depressing, is what it is. 

Because I'm still a fan of del Toro's work, I feel compelled to point out that even though it was a box office failure, Crimson Peak does have its defenders. Unfortunately, to this fan's way of seeing things, it is an occasionally interesting, somewhat noble, but ultimately failed, experiment.

Late last year I started watching EX MACHINA, starring current Star Wars Universe newbies Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson as a reclusive billionaire genius inventor and his amanuensis/guinea pig, whom he flies out to a ridiculously opulent Alaskan compound to serve as a human Turing Test for his latest invention: Eva, a beautiful synthetic humanoid AI portrayed by Swedish ballerina Alicia Vikander. After about 15 minutes, I got the sense that this was a low-budget take on the "Singularitysploitation" film genre that has given us the moribund likes of Transcendence and Lucy, so I gave up on it. 

This week I finally got around to watching the whole thing, and I'm very glad that I gave it a second chance. Ex Machina is a strong film in pretty much all respects, and it works on many levels. It is, for instance, a great twist on the Frankenstein story. It also works as a high-tech corporate thriller of sorts, but that doesn't prevent first-time director Alex Garland from weighing in on some pretty heavy contemporary philosophical issues as well, even though his film isn't as subtle or explorative as, say, Spike Jonze's somewhat similarly-themed 2013 masterpiece, Her. 

Performance-wise, Oscar Isaac delivers the star turn here as Nathan Bateman, a preening, egotistical, hyper-dominant alpha whose behavior towards his employees (and creations) pivots from buddy-buddy to borderline psychopathic with disorienting speed. It is in these moments and others that Ex Machina veers into horror movie territory, a tonal shift accentuated by an impressive and very effective musical score. 

In this cinematic era of dumbed-down superhero sequels and endless retcon reboots, it is a rare thing indeed for a sci-fi movie to exhibit any kind of genuine intellectual curiosity, or demand a certain level of intellectual sophistication from its audience. That Ex Machina manages to do so while also being an unapologetic entertainment is, in and of itself, a great success. 

With projects like Ex Machina, Her, and the British TV series Black Mirror breaking bold new ground and expanding what is considered possible to portray in the realm of popular speculative fiction, perhaps the "Singularitysploitation Curse" has, at long last, been broken. One can only hope.

There seems to be a running theme in today's movies. Crimson Peak is about a massive, ancient, decaying English manor house that seems to have a life of its own. Ex Machina is set in a sprawling, isolated compound in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness; a cross between a penthouse apartment and the Overlook hotel. And in WE ARE STILL HERE, a grieving couple who have lost their adult son attempt to distract themselves by moving into a hundred-plus-year-old farmhouse that used to be the town funeral home, somewhere in rural New England. Smart move, folks!

The first full-length film to be directed by veteran indie horror writer/producer Ted Geoghegan, We Are Still Here is set in 1979, and was shot to seem as though it was made back then, too. This is a cinematic stunt that Geoghegan-associated director Ti West performed with great success for his 2009 retro-horror slow burn classic, House of the Devil. Genre MVP Barbara Crampton portrays grieving mom Anne Sacchetti, who believes her son Bobby's soul has followed them to their new home, and Andrew Sensenig plays her gently humoring but deeply skeptical husband, Paul (the man with the Biggest Forehead in the World). 

Things turn real creepy real fast, as photographs get knocked over, an electrician is brutalized by a half-seen evil presence, and a neighbor (Monte Markham!) stops by to divulge the awful history of the house and its 19th century tenants, the dreaded Dagmar clan. Seems old Lassander, the Dagmar paterfamilias, had taken to burying empty coffins in the graveyard, selling the townsfolk's deceased to nearby universities as practice cadavers, and also to certain unscrupulous restauranteurs in Boston's Chinatown, for use as Chop Suey eat. Needless to say, the whole family was ridden out of town on a rail.

After that, the weirdness escalates quickly, prompting Anne to call in her wacky, New Age friends, May and Jacob Lewis, played by Lisa Marie and Larry Fessenden (an indie horror institution and the man with the Second Biggest Forehead in the World), for moral and spiritual support. She also invites May and Jacob's son, Harry, who was Bobby's college roommate, to tag along with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, the mayhem escalates so quickly and with such brutal, bloody violence that many of the characters never even get a chance to lay eyes on each other. 

Nostalgic and yet somehow, paradoxically, fresh and original; polished and professional, yet with an endearingly hand-crafted aesthetic; occasionally chuckle-inducing, yet with moments of brutal savagery and blood-freezing horror. As I watched, enthralled, I noted echoes of classic John Carpenter, Lucio Fulci, early Cronenberg and the amazing, sui generis masterpiece Phantasm (1979). Fans of classic horror cinema, you owe it to yourselves to seek out and watch this film at your earliest possible convenience.

[This article was edited on the evening of Thursday, January 7, 2016, to correct certain mistakes as pointed out by my writing partner and best buddy, Marc Roussel. Thanks, Marc! - YOPJ]

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


CHILDHOOD'S END is apparently part of an attempt by the specialty cable channel SyFy to move away from the silliness of "Sharktopus Versus Platybadger" towards more serious speculative fare, as otherwise exemplified by their superlative new original series The Expanse. On paper, adapting Arthur C. Clarke's evolutionary alien invasion mystery - one of the most important, groundbreaking, and influential novels of science fiction's late Golden Age, and a novel I, myself, have long wanted to see adapted for film - probably seemed like a no-brainer. I was therefore grateful to discover that, for the most part, veteran BBC show-runner Matthew Graham manages to avoid the pitfalls that come with adapting a work so seminal that most of its ideas have been pinched and "recycled" by countless copycats over the years. Perhaps part of its success can be chalked up to the decision to accurately convey the novel's cold and cerebral tone and its disturbing undercurrents of sublime cosmic dread. Combined with a faithful recreation of most of the novel's best set-pieces and surprises (including a fantastic character reveal that gave me chills, even though I knew it was coming) these are decisions that pay off handsomely, and result in a miniseries that will linger with you for days, leaving you pondering some of life's Big Questions, occasionally leading you down dark intellectual alleyways where you might not feel all that comfortable exploring. And this is a good thing. There are, of course, a few small caveats. For one, at three 90 minute episodes, SyFy's adaptation is too long by a third. One or two of the sub-plots could have been pared down or even excised altogether. And one of my very favorite scenes from the novel, involving all the spectators at a packed bullfighting arena screaming as one as they are simultaneously made to feel the bull's terror and pain as a picador's sword pierces his beating heart, is missing in action. But these are trifling quibbles. The bottom line is that SyFy's Childhood's End is a worthy adaptation of a legitimate science fiction masterpiece, and that is pretty much the strongest praise that I can give.

Which brings us to the first two seasons of SALEM, WGN's gory, gruesome, goofy period costume series about high-stakes, world-class, competitive witchery taking place in late 17th century small town New England. I won't defend this series as anything beyond what it so obviously is: a deliriously daft, demon-haunted soap opera with myriad sexy young characters, ruggedly handsome men and beautifully corseted women, all with bosoms heaving as they pant with repressed sexuality, wearing gorgeous clothes, performing outlandish magical spells on each other while trying to steer clear of the Witchfinder General, the diabolical villain Increase Mather. Here is a character who only pauses in mortifying his own flesh with a barbed wire girdle in order to torture and execute suspected witches - mostly innocent young girls - in his increasingly barbaric butcher block of a prison, which townsfolk have taken to calling the House of Pain. As for the witchcraft, itself, frogs are stuffed down paralytic old men's throats, young girls vomit blood and nine-inch nails, a face flayed from a dead man's skull is conscripted into revealing the secrets it held onto in life, masks teleport unsuspecting redheads deep into the woods, the blood of innocent children is used to heal third degree burns, etc, etc, ad awesomeness! There are too many subplots to list in this bullet review, and I'm not sufficiently invested to detail them all, anyway. Suffice it to say, in this case, that regardless of the vast number of characters and ever-shifting allegiances, Salem is easy to follow, and is an absolute hoot to boot. Also, there are a ton of references to classic works of horror literature that have nothing to do with witchcraft, much less Salem (the aforementioned House of Pain, for instance, is a reference to H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau), which has the makings of a potentially fun drinking game for your more well read friends, should you have any. If you're looking for beautifully produced series with ambitions that don't go beyond delivering a massive jolt of entertainment with each episode, by all means, seek Salem out. Both full seasons are now available for download at a torrent server site near you. Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2016


1. If you're anything like yer old pal Jerky... then I feel very sorry for you, as no human being should have to go through that kind of horror. Also, you're probably a big fan of the works of early 20th century sf/horror pulp visionary H.P. Lovecraft. And you especially love when some of his many talented fans create works of art made to look like authentic historical documents depicting Lovecraftian creatures, themes or personages... works such as the hauntological phantasmagoria above, by artist Robert Altbauer, who describes his work thusly: "This is a series of illustrations that imitates the style of old medieval paintings and adds a macabre flavour by incorporating some of H.P. Lovecraft's famous monsters. The text is mostly medieval Middle High German." This particular image depicts an unfortunate member of the Great Race of Yith, who are actually possessed of a gentle and scholarly disposition. More at the link!

2. I'm of two minds about James Howard Kuntsler, author of the influential and terrifying work of near future "Peak Oil" prophecy, The Long Emergency and academia's premiere Cassandra of  Civilizational Collapse. There was a time when I took his gloom-and-doomy proclamations of a lot more seriously than I do now. But reading through his predictions for 2015, it's difficult not to note that he ain't exactly batting 1000. Written at the beginning of last year, that Malthusian meditation, sub-titled Life in the Breakdown Lane, begins thusly:

“Don’t look back — something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from. 
I don’t know how anyone can trust the statistical bullshit emanating from our government reporting agencies, or the legacy news organizations that report them. Yet the meme has remained firmly fixed in the popular imagination: the US economy has recovered! GDP grows 5 percent in Q3! Manufacturing renaissance! Energy independence! Cleanest shirt in the laundry basket! Best-looking house in a bad neighborhood… 
¡No hay problema! 
This is simply the power of wishful thinking on display. No one — with the exception of a few “doomer” cranks — wants to believe that industrial civilization is in trouble deep. The staggering credulity this represents would be a fascinating case study in itself if there were not so many other things that demand our attention right now. Let’s just write this phenomenon off as the diminishing returns of career log-rolling in politics, finance, media, and academia.
The tone set, he goes on to make his predictions for 2015. He predicts that India will invade and take over Pakistan. He predicts that the Ebola flare-up that marked the end of 2014 was only the beginning of an unstoppable, worldwide pandemic. He predicts that Greece's left-wing Syriza Party will deliver a historic smackdown to the international banksters who bankrupted their country. That Baghdad will fall to Daesh. That Nigeria's political system will suffer a complete collapse due to falling oil prices. Etc. None of these things happened.

On the other hand, where Kunstler fails as a prophet, he makes up for it as a prose stylist. The man is a veritable Christ of curmudgeonly grumbling, and a Buddha of Bad Attitude. I mean, check out this classic rant:
Even physically America is a sorry-ass spectacle: between our decrepitating cities, abandoned Main Streets, gruesome strip-mall highways, repellent and monotonous suburbs, dreary industrial ruins, profaned countryside, and desecrated coastline, there is little left to actually love about This land is Your Land. We’ve made so many collective bad choices about how we live that one can’t help feeling we are simply a wicked people who deserve to be punished. 
Whole classes already are, of course. What used to be a working class with aspirations has devolved to the forlorn savagery averred to above. Our thought-leaders are devoid of thought. Our hopes and dreams are absurd sci-fi fantasies prompting us toward robot-assisted suicide. Our political stratagems of recent years accomplish nothing except making more trouble for ourselves while inciting the enmity of people elsewhere.

I mean, God damn! There's a kind of brutal poetry to hatred this pure. This is the kind of thing yer old pal Jerky used to write... but then again, I was never a revered socio-economico-political scholar. At least not outside the confines of my prior, pornography-splattered homepage. Oh well... maybe there's a future for wordy assholes like me, after all. Keep watching this space!

3. I think I may have already posted this, but even if I have, I don't care. You have to watch it again. It takes more than one watch/listen to absorb the full majesty of Bowie's latest masterpiece, BLACKSTAR. Do yourself a favor and pay very close attention. A complete breakdown of this song/videos esoteric and exoteric contents is still forthcoming. Again, keep watching this space.