Tuesday, April 26, 2016

PRINCE (1958-2016)

Lemmy. David Bowie. Keith Emerson. Gary Shandling. And now, Prince, The Purple One. His Royal Badness, is gone. Snatched away from us during what seemed like a career upswing, at a time when most everyone was prepared to, even if begrudgingly, admit his objective greatness and the legitimacy of his claim to the title of bona fide Musical Genius.

A prodigy with (thankfully) a bit of a Napoleon complex, Prince wasn't just a multi-instrumentalist; he was a master of multiple styles, as well. He had the funky groove of a young James Brown. He had amazing and intuitive Jimi Hendrix-like guitar chops. He had an experimental drive and force of will not unlike that of Frank Zappa, with whom he also shared a hatred of Warner Bros and a lifelong devotion to maintaining a racially and sexually integrated touring band. Also, like Zappa, he could be a strict disciplinarian, was incredibly prolific, and died far too young, with much left to do, and much of his life's work sealed in a vault, waiting to be discovered. 

Image-wise, Prince played the gender-bending game more successfully than anybody else, surpassing even the great David Bowie, if only because the latter was so alien that he often transcended sexuality completely, whereas Prince at his best was able to bring a visceral erotic dimension to the numinous... no small feat. And he did it all while flaunting a sleek, tight, unmistakably masculine physicality not unlike that of his fellow diminutive, Bruce Lee. 

And style! From the first glimmers of his super-stardom, the album 1999, Prince dressed and carried himself as though he were some kind of sexual superhero, or an ambassador from an alternate, funkier, sexier dimension. He was an urban Dionysus, a sophisto/aristo avatar of the Great God Pan. The man was a fucking giant and, if the legends are to be believed, he was also a giant of fucking.

For those of us who didn't know him on a personal level, perhaps the most inspiring aspect of Prince's life is that he was an artist, all the way. Yes, he had raw talent, seemingly gifted by God or Mother Nature with musical abilities beyond that of his fellow humans. And that alone would have been enough for most of us. Not for Prince. He didn't spare himself the disciplinary rigors through which he put his band mates. He never stopped sharpening his chops, honing his craft, reading, learning, investigating, and applying the fruits of his efforts to the incredible gifts that he made. For his audience; for us. For you. 

And now he's gone. 

This essay by A.J. Hartley, titled "Bowie, Prince, and a Note to (Baffled?) Millennials" does a pretty great job of articulating what it is that a lot of us are feeling these days, and of enumerating the evidence that we have, in fact, turned some kind of collective, cultural corner. I mean, intellectually, we all understand that time marches on and death claims us all--even the most legendary--but there's more to it than that.

Personally, while "Purple Rain" was a favorite back when it was everyone else's favorite, I would never call myself a super-fan. Which is why I'm finding it hard to account for the level of grief I feel. His music keeps coming at me in waves, breaking in sadness on the Heideggerian shores of Dasein. And even though "Purple Rain" definitely makes the short-list of songs in the running for Absolute Perfection status--up there with the likes of "Hallelujah", "He Stopped Loving Her Today", and "Ace of Spades"--I can't help but think he would have wanted his fans to remember him, at least in part, as the sexy motherfucker from the video for "Kiss".

Here it is. Sorry for the bad quality. Copies keep getting taken up and pulled down over copyright infringement, which is kind of cuckoo for a promotional video, but there you go. 

Watch, listen, enjoy, and remember.

Friday, April 22, 2016


1. This New York Times op-ed piece about the growing threat of non-Muslim religious and politically conservative movements and organizations contains some information that might seem counter-intuitive to some people reading this. It begins:
THIS month, the headlines were about a Muslim man in Boston who was accused of threatening police officers with a knife. Last month, two Muslims attacked an anti-Islamic conference in Garland, Tex. The month before, a Muslim man was charged with plotting to drive a truck bomb onto a military installation in Kansas. If you keep up with the news, you know that a small but steady stream of American Muslims, radicalized by overseas extremists, are engaging in violence here in the United States. 
But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.
Before I leave you in the NYT's capable editorial hands, here's an info-graphic containing another intriguing if uncomfortable info-nugget that suggests a certain lack of proportion as regards where US law enforcement's priorities and resources are currently aimed.

2. Over at The New Inquiry, A.M. Gittlitz has written a very interesting piece about how today’s Alt.Right, New Right and techno-futurist circles are echoing the unorthodox beliefs of Nazi cosmologists. See if you feel a chill shiver of disturbing recognition creep across the back of your neck as you read this essay, which begins...
Shortly after the National Socialist party consolidated their power, a writer named Peter Bender convinced some Nazi brass to attempt an experiment that, if successful, would send a rocket from Magdenburg to New Zealand. The intercontinental ballistic missile was still decades away from completion, but Bender believed he had figured out how to attack the other side of the Earth—by firing directly into the sky. 
He had come under the influence of an American occult group that believed in a particularly bizarre variation on the Hollow Earth theory. While the concept of habitable layers beneath the Earth’s crust had been popular for centuries amongst occultists, Bender’s Hohlwelt-theorie argued that the Earth was a vault within an endless field of matter. The sun was somewhere in the middle of this vault, and the stars in the sky were the lights of cities from the other side. 
“An infinite universe is a Jewish abstraction,” wrote Bender. “A finite, rounded universe is a thoroughly Aryan conception.” The anti-Semitic aspect of the theory attracted the attention of Herman Göring but was quickly dismissed in favor of Hanns Hörbiger’s slightly less fanciful World Ice Theory. The idea nonetheless remained compelling to some, and the German Navy attempted to locate British fleets using astronomical instruments.
Hollow Earth and World Ice theories were only two particularly laughable examples of a Nazi cultural regression that included radical alterations in the fields of mathematics, psychology, and physics. It is arguable that the rejection of Einstein’s theory of relativity in place of Deutsche Physiksprevented the Nazis from developing nuclear technology and many other weapons. ...  
Better known than their cosmology was the mystical underpinnings of the Nazis’ firm belief in racial superiority. SS leaders Rudolph Hess, Wilhelm Landig, and Karl Maria Miligut developed a cult based on the Nordic pantheon, esoteric rituals, and psuedo-anthropology. Landig, already a major influence on the occultist Thule Society that influenced National Socialist theology in its earliest days, developed the Black Sun as the cult’s symbol. ...  
Nationalists, Radical Traditionalists, and the futurist “neoreactionaries” deploy the myth that inverting these divisions, instead of abolishing them altogether, help us conceive of an idealized bygone time. The internationalist, anticapitalist, and egalitarian aspects of the last half-decade of struggle have only furthered modernity’s march away from these simpler times, they argue, and should be disregarded as agents of degradation.
It should not be news to anyone reading this that the Black Sun has already risen in Ukraine, Greece, and Hungary, using a different name wherever it goes: Avoz, Golden Dawn, Jobbik. This piece will help you recognize the nature of the Beast.

3. With the recent court decision quite rightly finding Canadian radio celebrity Jian Ghomeshi not guilty of a variety of sexual assault charges (not that this decision gave him back the career, or life), a reactionary movement has arisen that claims we should always believe claims of rape and/or sexual assault. This Center for Inquiry article examines an unfortunate implication of said proposition, namely the fact that accepting every claim of rape and/or sexual assault at face value involves swallowing a whole bunch of heinous, life-destroying lies. Please read the article - and maybe this very informative Wikipedia page on the surprising prevalence of false rape accusations- before showing up at my place with torches and pitchforks. M'kay?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


1. As if the previous Suggested Reading List entry from increasingly mandatory website The Intercept, featuring former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince's efforts to put together his own private offensive-capable air force, wasn't enough to get your brain's conspiracy sensors waggling, why not try this story about how the CIA's venture capital company In-Q-Tel is backing a cosmetics firm with technology to collect DNA from its users skin? Our story begins...
SKINCENTIAL SCIENCES, a company with an innovative line of cosmetic products marketed as a way to erase blemishes and soften skin, has caught the attention of beauty bloggers on YouTube, Oprah’s lifestyle magazine, and celebrity skin care professionals. Documents obtained by The Interceptreveal that the firm has also attracted interest and funding from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. 
The previously undisclosed relationship with the CIA might come as some surprise to a visitor to the website of Clearista, the main product line of Skincential Sciences, which boasts of a “formula so you can feel confident and beautiful in your skin’s most natural state.” 
Though the public-facing side of the company touts a range of skin care products, Skincential Sciences developed a patented technology that removes a thin outer layer of the skin, revealing unique biomarkers that can be used for a variety of diagnostic tests, including DNA collection. 
Skincential Science’s noninvasive procedure, described on the Clearista website as “painless,” is said to require only water, a special detergent, and a few brushes against the skin, making it a convenient option for restoring the glow of a youthful complexion — and a novel technique for gathering information about a person’s biochemistry.

2. Our old pal David Cole usually has his musings published at Taki's (not a particular favorite of yours truly's, but whatevs), but this time, it's personal. Which means he decided to unveil the latest twist in his ongoing life's saga on his personal website, which has a permanent link on this very page. And it's all got to do with the "lovely" lady pictured above, who goes by the name of Wendy Rae Leaumont. Here's a tiny taste of what David is dealing with these days:
Totally out of the blue, celebrated Burbank art gallery owner Bill Shafer posted a very kind comment about my book on Instagram. Bill’s Hyaena Gallery is quite the local institution, and his comment was a happy surprise, made quickly unhappy by Leaumont, who was one of Bill’s Instagram followers. She began plastering the thread with hostile comments. She menacingly pledged that I’m going to “get killed soon enough,” but she didn’t stop with a simple death threat. She ridiculed my late mother, who passed away after a lengthy illness in April 2015. 
One year ago exactly. So my blood is up as I write this. 
I’ve never written publicly about my mom’s passing. This is the first time I’ve mentioned it, and it’ll be the last. Suffice it to say that I have no words to describe how depraved and vile someone has to be to publicly post a taunt regarding someone,anyone’s, dead parent. That kind of evil is beyond me. Especially coming from a woman who never misses a chance to brag about what a good “Christian” she is.
There's more. Read on.

3. And finally today, I bring you a three-part podcast about "loops" (don't worry... the parts are short) from the increasingly popular audio documentary production and dissemination node known as Radiolab. This particular set of programs is described thusly:
In this episode of Radiolab, Jad and Robert try to explain an inexplicable comedy act, listen to a loop that literally dies in your ear, and they learn about a loop that sent a shudder up the collective spine of mathematicians everywhere. Finally, they talk to a woman who got to watch herself think the thought that she was watching herself think the thought that she was watching herself think the thought that ... you get the point.
Trust me... it ends up being a lot more interesting than the above sounds... even though I have to admit, the above does sound pretty fucking interesting. ENJOY! I sure did!

Friday, April 15, 2016


You might remember Steve Oram from his decade and a half of continuous character and background work in such worthy Britcom projects as Green Wing, The Mighty Boosh, Tittybangbang and Steve Coogan Live. Or perhaps you remember him as the bearded half of the comically bumbling yet oddly endearing serial killer couple in Ben Wheatley's magnificent 2012 satire, Sightseers.

However, it doesn't much matter how--or even if--you knew of him beforehand. Because there is nothing in Oram's pre-2015 catalog that could possibly prepare you for the certifiably insane masterpiece of hyper-subversive comic audacity that is Aaaaaaaah!, his ferocious and fearless directorial debut, which he also self-financed for reasons that will become apparent as you read on.

Described by Cine-Vue's Martyn Conterio as being an "anthropological social satire/horror-comedy" that is "like a collaboration between Dogme '95 and Chris Morris", Aaaaaaaah! is, at its core, a relatively straightforward exploration of interpersonal dynamics among a small group of friends, neighbors and acquaintances in a quiet, leafy section of South London. The surreal twist on this relatively mundane premise is that all the characters behave as though they've had their brains switched out with those of great apes.

Here is the trailer for Aaaaaaaah!

There is no dialogue in this film. Or, more precisely, there is no complex language, as the characters communicate via crude, pantomime gesticulations, as well as vocalizations consisting of grunts and huffs of varying intensity. The written version of this ape language, which can occasionally be spotted on street signs and in adverts, looks like this: "// oooo / oo /// o". Discussions, or what passes for them, are often interrupted by flashes of violence and cruelty, crude sexual propositions, and the occasional fart. The score, made up almost entirely of improvisational sonic tone poems by King Crimson and Robert Fripp, compliments the action absurdly well.

The plot involves a pair of males--an alpha (played by Oram) and his submissive sidekick (played by Tom Meeten)--who wander out of a woodsy suburban copse and into a household already beset by seething familial, romantic, and inter-generational conflicts, throwing the fragile established order into chaos. The household consists of a mother and daughter, (Lucy Honigman and Toyah Wilcox) and mom's alpha boyfriend (Julian Rhind-Tutt), who has a submissive sidekick of his own (Sean Reynard). Complicating matters is the family's fifth wheel, the exiled paterfamilias, beautifully portrayed by Britcom MVP Julian Barratt.

You might think such a heady set-up would lend itself to the filmmakers indulging in a bit of heavy-handed social commentary. Fortunately, you'd be wrong about that. In an interview with HeyUGuys.com, Oram states: "There are no metaphors and no intended comments. It’s just details that I hope people will enjoy, find funny and laugh at."

And oh, those details! Aaaaaaaah!'s hilarious gross-out highlights include a store manager ejaculating on a photograph of Prince Harry, a disgusting cooking show watched by the females while the men play a primitive motorcycle simulator video game, and poor Noel Fielding getting his knob bitten clean off by an angry shoplifter.

And yet, the filmmakers' avoidance of allegory notwithstanding, there's something about Oram's walk-through of his conquest's flat during a party, wherein he continually marks his territory by pissing on every surface, that manages to transcend the grotesque and speak to certain unspoken truths about masculinity and our culture's relationship with our baser animal instincts. Perhaps it's for this reason that, in his enthusiastic review for the "men's issues" column from The Telegraph UK, Tom Fordy claims that "every man should watch Aaaaaaaah!". Meanwhile, over at The Guardian, their shorter, 3-star review chose to focus on "the film’s despair at the ways women respond to such shows of mastery".

Ultimately, Aaaaaaaah! is an incredibly bizarre and transgressive experimental film that also works as a comic entertainment, simultaneously relate-able and recognizable yet disturbingly alien, and therefore worthy to sit alongside the best of Bunuel.

If you think you've got what it takes to watch Aaaaaaaah!, you can currently download it at the iTunes website via this direct link.


After reaching out to his management via Twitter, I was recently fortunate enough to get a chance to ask Mr. Oram a few questions about his film, which he graciously agreed to answer for me via email. Here, now, is the sum total of our online exchange.
JERKY: Can I get a rough estimate of the budget? And was it entirely self-financed, or at least entirely independently financed, as I've seen intimated (but never confirmed) in various media stories about the movie?

STEVE ORAM: Yes it was an entirely self-financed movie. Paid for with proceeds from a TV voiceover I did. It was entirely independent and so without any 'creative' input from outside. The actual budget - well think of the lowest budget feature film you've seen, it's about that.

JERKY: Was the addition of the sub-titular appendix "We Are Not Men" an after-thought for the North American market, to make it easier to find in search engines? And does it have (as I suspect) a Nietzschean meaning?

STEVE ORAM: I wish! The search engine thing is an absolute nightmare. On social media anyone searching for it will just come across a thousand people going aaaaaggh! about someone's haircut or something. I wouldn't say I aligned myself with Nietzche or any philosophy. It's just the idea that we aren't as special as we kid ourselves to be. We're no better than any of the other animals at the end of the day.

JERKY: That ending... WHY?!?!?

STEVE ORAM: Well I hope the ending feels true to human nature. Julian Barratt's character is totally disenfrachised and emasculated throughout the film and this has to have its catharsis. Quite often an audience will actually laugh at the ending which astonishes me. Maybe this is an awkward thing, I dunno. Or else there are a lot of sick people in my audiences.


1. Okay, take a deep breath and dive right in...
On a crisp Saturday in November 2014, a black Mercedes SUV pulled onto the tarmac of an Austrian specialty aviation company 30 miles south of Vienna. Employees of the firm, Airborne Technologies, which specialized in designing and equipping small aircraft with wireless surveillance platforms, had been ordered to work that weekend because one of the company’s investors was scheduled to inspect their latest project. 
For four months, Airborne’s team had worked nearly nonstop to modify an American-made Thrush 510G crop duster to the exact specifications of an unnamed client. Everything about the project was cloaked in secrecy. The company’s executives would refer to the client only as “Echo Papa,” and instructed employees to use code words to discuss certain modifications made to the plane. Now the employees would learn that Echo Papa also owned more than a quarter of their company. 
A fit, handsome man with blond hair and blue eyes got out of the Mercedes and entered Airborne’s hanger. Echo Papa, who was often just called EP, shook hands with a dozen Airborne employees and looked over the plane. “He was the sun, and all the management were planets rotating around him,” said one person present that day.
Thus begins this epic Intercept investigative report about Erik Prince, founder of the "private security" (i.e. mercenary) firm Blackwater, and Grade A War Pig who will one day be crawling on his knees, begging mercy for his sins, while Satan, laughing, spreads his wings. It's an incredible story about one rich asshole's ambition to circumvent pretty much all the laws in his efforts to create a private, fully kill-capable private airforce. We're talking crop dusters outfitted with missile and bomb ports, pods for mounting high-powered 23 mm machine guns, advanced laser targeting capabilities, etc.

2. And for today's second offering, I bring you yet another incredibly important article, this one about the super-shady origins and ultra-creepy, unspoken goals of the so-called “alternative media”, in the particular case of Art Bell's Frankenstein creation, Coast-to-Coast AM. Hopefully, this detailed and devastating article will constitute the crack in the dam that precedes the deluge that ends up washing the rats out of the foundation, because a reckoning is long overdue for the vast sheeple factory that the so-called Alternative Media has turned into.

3. And now, for a feel-good story to help you recover from the two above massive injections of truth serum, here is the absolute BEST STORY EVER about how a promoter for The Rolling Stones got to humiliate Donald Trump in his own freaking house. It's also a story about the thuggish depths to which Trump is willing to sink (hired goons with brass knuckles?!) and how Keith Richards and the Rolling Stone road crew are genuine bad-ass motherfuckers, willing to back up their co-workers with whatever kind of muscle is required for the job.


DEADPOOL ~ You know all the hype surrounding the release of Mad Max: Fury Road? How so many critics and reviewers claimed that it "revolutionized the form" and "redefined the action film"? Personally, although I enjoyed it, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Deadpool, on the other hand, lived up to its hype and more.

Tonally perfect with its deft blend of slapstick comedy and ferocious, R-rated violence, the acting and characterizations, the overall look, the choreography, the set-pieces, the attention to the tiniest of details, and the sophisticated (for this genre) non-linear narrative, all combine to make Deadpool the most successful comics-to-movie adaptation in the history of the genre.

Furthermore, playing off Ryan Reynolds' comedic running commentary as an in-context symptom of his mental illness (note that he never breaks the fourth wall until he undergoes the horrific, torturous process that awakens his mutant powers) was probably the masterstroke in a movie jam-packed with strokes of subversive genius... and other kinds of subversive stroking, as well.

Just a brilliant, gonzo, fucked up and fucking awesome love letter to everything Fredric Wertham tried to warn us away from. I don't even care that this movie's planet-cracking popularity is making that poopy-head Rob Liefeld rich beyond the wildest dreams of mortal man. Deadpool is that freaking good.


FILTH ~ British director Jon Baird's adaptation of Irvine "Trainspotting" Welsh's novel about a dirty Scottish copper using every diabolical trick in his prodigious metaphorical book in order to secure a promotion certainly lives up to its title.

Filth pretty much wallows in the kind of hyper-stylized, surrealistic, boundary-pushing depravity that we've come to expect from the latest wave of post-whatever UK filmmakers.

All the increasingly familiar elements are here: the unreliable narrator, the constant breaking of the fourth wall, occasional bursts of 'zany' hijinx up to and including wacked-out animation, irony up the wazoo, etc.

Like the aforementioned Trainspotting, Filth's evolutionary predecessors definitely includes the likes of Nicholas Winding Refn's Bronson, Jon Glazer's Sexy Beast, and goes all the way back to Lindsay Anderson's ...if, Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange, and (believe it or not) A Hard Day's Night.

In fact, Baird wears his Kubrick fetish on his sleeve, complete with a couple of direct references (a 2001 poster makes a surprise appearance at one point), which I, of course, enjoyed. However, depending on your level of Kubrick fandom, your mileage may vary. In fact, I'll be posting a detailed rundown of all the Kubrick references in Filth in an upcoming essay for my Kubrick blog, KubrickU.blogspot.com.

While Filth may be a bit much for most viewers - it's most definitely not a date film - I found it to be a sufficiently entertaining diversion, and James McAvoy acquits himself well in a somewhat risky role.

For fans of violent, transgressive, gleefully nasty British crime movies, the decision to buy, rent, or download Filth most likely won't result in regret. Who knows? You might even learn a little something about yourself by the end of it!

THE INVITATION ~ Don't let the emerging and highly exaggerated narrative of director Karyn Kusama's allegedly poor treatment at the hands of film industry types sour you to The Invitation's myriad cinematic charms. This tightly wound, slow burn thriller is a virtual clinic on how to evoke and sustain paranoia, and build level upon level of suspense.

The film starts with a couple, Will and Kira, driving to a party in the Hollywood hills. Neither one seems overjoyed to be attending. It turns out to be a dinner party put together by Will's ex, Eden, who has since married Dave, a music producer. Many of the former couple's friends have been invited to the house, along with a few new friends that Eden and Dave (whom we learn had a serious drug habit) met during some kind of New Age style "healing" retreat in Mexico.

As the party begins and the narrative unfolds, we learn that Will and Eden's marriage ended in tragedy upon the accidental death of their young son, Ty, and Eden's subsequent attempted suicide.

At one point, Eden and Dave bust out a videotape featuring what they consider to be a beautiful, transcendent moment from their Mexican retreat. It goes over poorly, with one guest describing the behavior on display as being cult-like. Dave and Eden decide to lighten the mood with a grown-up variation on the game of Truth or Dare. Once again, this only serves to freak out one of the more sensitive guests. In fact, The Invitation works best when it dramatizes the potentially disastrous consequences of ignoring danger signals in favor of maintaining an even social keel.

I can't say much more about this film without spoiling it, so let me just conclude by telling you that it begins and ends with a bang, and takes you on one hell of a ride in between, coming damn close to greatness in the process.

THE BORDERLANDS ~ Found footage horror movies and mockumentaries are a weakness of mine. From the gloriously ridiculous This Is Spinal Tap to Peter Watkins' incredible and essential Punishment Park, there's just something about the conceit and the format of the mock documentary that grabs hold of my attention and refuses to let go. One of my favorite films of the last few years is What We Do in the Shadows, which is kind of a Spinal Tap for Kiwi vampires. So feel free to read the rest of this review keeping my prejudice in mind. If you hate found footage movies, then don't even bother continuing to read. 

Now that that's out of the way, am I saying that The Borderlands succeeds to the degree that any of the above-mentioned films do? No, I am not, and no, it doesn't. What it is, however, is a pretty solid, well-acted, beautifully shot indie horror flick that is well worth 90 minutes of your time.

The story is fairly straightforward. The Vatican sends a trio of priests to a remote Scottish village to investigate a miracle that has allegedly taken place in an ancient church there. The event was partially caught on video, so the team has been instructed to outfit the church (and their rental house, for some reason) with a battery of cameras. They're even forced to wear go-pros wherever they go. The whole thing plays out like an extended game of Call of Cthulhu, that classic table top, pen and paper, role-playing game that was at the heart of the 80's Lovecraft revival.

It also ends on a note that will either leave you stunned, paralyzed, and shocked in utter, mind-numbing terror... or rolling your eyes in derision. It all depends on your level of personal investment in the characters, and maybe also on your propensity for connecting the various narrative and sub-textual dots, as well as your susceptibility to the eldritch lure of Lovecraftian awe. Personally, for me, it worked like gangbusters. Highly recommended!


Where to Watch: iTunes, Amazon, Charter, Comcast, Google Play, DirecTV, Playstation, SuddenLink, Time Warner, Verizon FIOS, Vudu, XBOX.