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John Cleese: FOX News viewers are too stupid to realize that they are stupid

Be afraid, be very afraid…

For some years now, I have been fascinated with the Dunning-Kruger effect. I believe it was some Internet writings by Errol Morris that first turned me on to the idea around 2007. It’s incredibly useful, I feel like I find a use for it almost every day. If nothing else, it’s a spur to humility, because we’re all susceptible to it. Some, ahem, far more than others.

In a 1999 article called “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University came to the conclusion that the qualified are often more skeptical about their own abilities in a given realm than the unqualfied are. People who are unqualified or unintelligent are more likely to rate their own abilities favorably than people who are qualified or intelligent. In the paper, the authors wrote, “Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.”

However, people with actual ability tended to underrate their relative competence. Participants who found tasks to be fairly easy mistakenly assumed that the tasks must also be easy for others as well. As Dunning and Kruger conclude: “The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.”

Charles Darwin put it most pithily in The Descent of Man when he wrote, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” As W.B. Yeats put it in The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Apparently there is a scientific grounding for that line.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is unusually suitable in describing the many frustrating positions and rhetoric of the Republican Party. My favorite (if depressing) example of the Dunning-Kruger effect comes from the mouth of George W. Bush in the days before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. As Bob Woodward wrote in Plan of Attack:

The president said he had made up his mind on war. The U.S. should go to war.

“You’re sure?” Powell asked.

Yes. It was the assured Bush. His tight, forward-leaning, muscular body language verified his words. It was the Bush of the days following 9/11.

“You understand the consequences,” Powell said in a half-question. …

Yeah, I do, the president answered.

Yeah, I do, the president answered. What on earth could that utterance by Bush possibly mean? Could it not be clearer that what was in Bush’s head at that moment and what was in Powell’s head at that moment had very little to do with each other? In effect Powell was taking Bush’s word that Bush had seriously considered the consequences of invasion, when to be frank, all available evidence, both at the time and later on, suggests that Bush was foolhardy about what the actual consequences of invasion might be.

Earlier this year, the research of Dunning and Kruger was referenced by a relatively unlikely source: John Cleese, the brilliant comedian who famously portrayed one of the single most obtuse and supercilious characters in TV history, Basil Fawlty. Cleese believes FOX’s viewership is too unintelligent to put the proper brakes on their own thought processes: “The problem with people like this is that they are so stupid that they have no idea how stupid they are. You see, if you’re very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you’re very, very stupid, you’d have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are.”

Apparently Cleese and Dunning are pals—he says so in the video, anyway. Here, have a look:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Strangest Bedfellows: Sonic Youth jam with the Indigo Girls, 1989
06:57 am


Sonic Youth
Night Music

Saxophonist David Sanborn’s late night program, Sunday Night (eventually re-named Night Music), ran from 1988-1990, lasting just 44 episodes. In that short time, Sanborn racked up an impressive and diverse list of guests—some rarely seen on American television, including The Residents, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Miles Davis, The Pixies, Sun Ra, Bongwater and Conway Twitty. Sanborn’s show also had its fair share of unusual, one-off collaborations.

The idea,” Sanborn recalled in a 2013 interview, “was to get musicians from different genres on the show, have them perform something individually — preferably something more obscure or unexpected rather than their latest hit — and then have a moment toward the end where everyone would kind of get together and do something collectively.”

One evening in 1989, Sanborn had on Diamanda Galas, the Indigo Girls, Daniel Lanois, Evan Lurie, and Sonic Youth, who were making their TV debut.

After pulling off a ripping version of “Silver Rocket” early in the program (which included a lengthy mid-song freak-out), Sonic Youth returned for an even more chaotic finale.

Joining the band to cover the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” are Sanborn, Lanois (then in the running to produce Sonic Youth’s major label debut, Goo), Don Fleming (Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L., etc., and acting as SY’s manager), the Indigo Girls (!), and members of the Night Music Band, including one guy rocking the keytar.
Sonic Youth on Night Music
Kim Gordon does her best Iggy growl, and the entire band—heck, everyone on that stage—is clearly enjoying this moment. Fleming seems to be having the most fun of all, singing back-up vocals with the Indigo Girls and sidling up next to Sanborn during his solo.

Obsessed with wreaking a bit of havoc at the taping, Fleming bought along a toy plastic whistle for the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” jam. During Sanborn’s sax solo, Fleming ran over and began playing in unison. If that wasn’t a strange enough spectacle, Fleming then decided to see if woodwinds could feed back and began smashing the whistle into an amplifier. “I was like, ‘What the fuck?’” Sanborn recalls. “But it was kind of funny. Weird theater.” (Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth)

Watching the credits roll—as this unlikely of alliances rages on—only adds to the bedlam and hilarity of the clip, which concludes before the performance actually ends. Somehow, the lack of closure is also fitting; it’s as if the chaos lasts an eternity.

25 years on, TV still rarely gets get as crazy this unless it’s on BRAVO.

Here’s the full episode (“Silver Rocket” starts at 6:50; “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at 42:30):

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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It’s not easy being David Byrne: Kermit the Frog covers ‘Once in a Lifetime’

Here’s Kermit the Frog covering “Once in a Lifetime,” wearing the David Byrne oversized suit from Stop Making Sense and faithfully reproducing Byrne’s spastic movements from the video.

I can’t decide if Kermit’s endlessly reasonable (never truly frantic) voice actually fits this material—does it matter?—but it’s a hoot either way. This appeared on Muppets Tonight in 1996, and the voice of Kermit is provided by Steve Whitmire in this instance.

And it leads into a perfect Statler & Waldorf parting shot. Of course! 



Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The Cramps want to know: ‘Can Your Pussy do the Dog?’
06:34 am


The Cramps

The pop music show The Tube ran on UK’s Channel 4 for five years in the 1980s. Hosted by, among others, Jools Holland and Paula Yates, the program showcased live (as in actually live and not mimed) performances by three or four emerging bands every week, including, in March of 1986, some high badassery from the legendary rockabilly/horror/sleaze/punk band The Cramps.

This was a transitional time for the band. Since the departure of guitarist Kid Congo Powers, The Cramps—wildman singer Lux Interior, fuzzgrinding guitarist Poison Ivy Rorschach, and drummer Nick Knox—were unable to find a permanent replacement guitarist, and elected to add a bass to their lineup for the first time ever, only to find themselves unable to settle on a bassist. They were also tweaking their image, tilting their focus away somewhat from their ghoulish b-movie horror side towards a more colorfully cartoonish and kitschy hypersexuality. In accord with that change, representative song titles from that year’s A Date With Elvis LP include “The Hot Pearl Snatch” and “Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?” both of which are featured in their Tube set, along with the single “What’s Inside a Girl?” The bass player issue was settled, for their tour, at least, with the addition of Hollywood Hillbillies’ Fur Dixon, who’s seen playing in the videos below. She certainly fit the bill visually!

More bad music for bad people after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Bizarre hipster ‘Twin Peaks’ menswear from Japan
10:34 am


David Lynch
Twin Peaks
Mark Frost

Attention lovers of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s unforgettable TV sensation of 1990, Twin Peaks. I recently came across a completely puzzling line of long-johns-esque hipster menswear, the creations of some folks calling themselves Black Weirdos. The color palette of the garb interestingly avoids the pine green of the show’s opening credits, but is otherwise plausible. The model, identified as Kenny RM Rodriguez, sports a bushy beard, earlobe studs, and an insouciant demeanor, but the clothes give away the game more explicitly. Many of his tops say “Killer Bob” on them, and lots of the pieces have that zig-zag chevron thing that is reminiscent of the floor in the dream chamber where the midget talks backwards in Agent Cooper’s dreams. In one shot he’s reading a book about cherry pie, for goodness’ sake.

To be honest, it looks like it might be a gag. A trip to the mostly Japanese-language website (which exists as a “” website) merely compounds the mystery. There are plentiful pics of the clothes, but few of the images lead to product pages where a purchase can be made; an exception is a single page featuring the knit cap (4,104 yen; about $37), the socks (6,264 yen; about $57), the plate (8,424 yen; about $77), and the cowichan sweater (85,320 yen; about $784). Those prices are either in error or are ironically meant. Clicking on the “Add to Basket” button spawns a mailto: link. So who the fuck knows. As much as I like those plates and would like a few for my own personal use, I don’t want to pay $77 for one. Having said that, I still think the clothes are kind of cool in a completely clueless way.














Here’s the famous dream sequence from episode 2 of Twin Peaks:

via Tombolare

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Mr. Bean digitally painted into historical portraits

After “Sir Thomas More” by Holbein the Younger
Rodney Pike is a caricaturist who uses the uniquely 21st Century method of using digital manipulation to wildly distort actual photographs of his subjects. He’s quite good at it, and his online portfolios attest to that skill. Recently, the excellent design blog Abduzeedo shared a recent portfolio of Pike’s wherein he inserted the great British comic actor Rowan Atkinson, famed for his character Mr. Bean, into about a dozen historical portraits. It’s extremely well done, and the effect is very funny. In fact, seeing Atkinson’s face in all the different period costumes recalls his fantastic pre-Bean BBC program Black Adder. Keep an eye out for altered details, like the pair of lace panties in one of the Holbeins, and the teddy bear in the Bronzino.

After “Meditation” by William Adolphe Bouguereau

After “Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk” by Holbein the Younger

After “Self Portrait” by Rembrandt van Rijn
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Real-life ‘Rosie the Maid’ robot actually existed in England in 1966
11:54 am


The Jetsons

An entire generation of kids was brainwashed by the creative folks at Hanna-Barbera into thinking that the future would consist of treadmill sidewalks, levitating high schools in the clouds, and family-sized flying saucers for the commute. It’s hard to watch The Jetsons today and not think, “Boy, they really thought about resources differently in the 1960s.” (Actually, this radio program from the Canadian Broadcast Company argues that The Jetsons got more right than you’d suspect…. can you say Roomba?)

One of the prime objects of techno-fetishization was the Jetsons’ maid, called Rosie, who (per Wikipedia) was an outdated model but so beloved by the family that they would never think to replace her. I also didn’t realize until researching it today that most of the Jetsons episodes were made in the 1980s—in fact, Rosie appeared in only two episodes in the original 1962-1963 run and was a more frequent premise in the 1980s episodes.

Anyway, we think of that kind of robot as existing purely in the future, but a man named Dennis Weston who lived in Leeds, England, created a reasonable—and working—facsimile of Rosie almost at the same time as those original Jetsons episodes. As early as 1966, Weston created “Tinker,” a remote-controlled robot that could wash the car, weed the garden, take the baby for a stroll down the road, and go shopping. The catch was that Tinker couldn’t travel more than 200 yards of David’s garage, where he controlled Tinker through a control panel. Due to lack of space at David’s home the robot was eventually passed on to a family friend in 1974. Tinker was activated by 430 motors, and a TV camera in the robot’s head transmitted an image to the operator.

Weston died in 1995 at the age of 71. The Cybernetic Zoo blog received a message from Weston’s son Martin in 2012, according to which “Tinker was given to his Dad’s friend, Brian, in 1974 as Dennis no longer had the space available to keep it. Brian owned a shop called Leeds Radio during the 60s and 70s; he sold army surplus radio equipment. Most of the gear that went through Brian’s shop was eventually stripped down and sold off as spare parts. Unfortunately, the same thing probably happened to Tinker. ... Percy was just another one of Martin’s Dad’s 10,000 unfinished projects. It never got completed and the hand just accumulated dust under a pile of junk in Dennis’ cellar/workshop. It probably ended up being melted down for scrap.”

One of the images below states that Tinker “can be programmed to perform ‘any reasonable task.’” Given the apparent importance of user control during those tasks, it’s a little unclear what “programmed” could really mean here…...




Here’s Weston working on his follow-up to Tinker, named Percy:


Here’s an early Jetsons sampler from 1963:

via Voices of East Anglia

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘F*ck it, I quit’: Reporter quits on air after revealing she’s pot club owner!
07:45 am



This clip is great: TV reporter Charlo Greene of KTVA in Alaska, quit her job live on-air after revealing she was the founder of the AK Cannabis Club.

Via the Sydney Morning Herald:

Her announcement followed a story on the Alaska Cannabis Club, a “collective” that “connects medical marijuana cardholders in need to medical marijuana cardholders with green.”

The aptly named Ms Greene revealed at the end of the story that she was the club’s owner and, as such, was left with little choice but to leave her job.

“Now everything you heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy for fighting for freedom and fairness which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska.

“And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f—- it, I quit.”

Details are scant at this point and the whole clip has yet to surface, but good for her.

UPDATE: Greene posted a video explaining what happened on YouTube:

“Who is willing to take a stand? I’m not afraid, clearly. But if you are, I don’t judge you or any other man. Nearly a century of marijuana prohibition and stigma have stained America, the land of the free and home of the brave. But we have a chance to start taking back the right. Today it’s marijuana prohibition and, once we get that done nationally, we the people will realize that we are stronger than ever and you will feel empowered to take up what you choose to fight. Advocating for freedom and fairness should be everyone’s duty. I’m making it my life work, to uphold what America stands for truly: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — ideals that now need to be defended.”

Again, good for her. Passionate. Articulate. Committed to doing the right thing. I like her style!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Secret Weapons’: David Cronenberg’s made-for-TV dystopian sci-fi biker movie, 1972
05:52 am


David Cronenberg

In 1972 David Cronenberg’s resume as a filmmaker consisted of Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970)—both of those movies, incidentally, are available quite affordably if you order the 2-disc Fast Company DVD set. The latter title, Crimes of the Future, would also function pretty well for Secret Weapons, a 22-minute movie Cronenberg directed for the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1972. Secret Weapons appeared on some kind of anthology show called Programme X. His friend Norman Snider wrote the script; he would work with Cronenberg again much later, on the screenplay for Dead Ringers. That’s Snider as “The Wise Man”—so IMDb has it—but in all honesty I’m not sure which character that refers to. More recent pics of Snider would make you think that Snider played the main character, but I’m just not sure.

Secret Weapons is some kind of a tossed-off dystopian movie; it’s a mite overdetermined. It cribs liberally from both Huxley and Orwell and probably Kubrick too, and its scary countercultural attitudinizing probably had the identical flavor as a lot of sci-fi of that moment. The premise is that we’re five years into the future—1977—and the United States is embroiled in a civil war. A company named General Pharmaceutics runs society—as the voiceover states, “This gigantic producer of medicines and drugs succeeded in its takeover of technology and soon after, all of society.” General Pharmaceutics has developed mind control drugs and is desirous that a talented young researcher accept their party line, but he’s far too apathetic to care either way. They send him out for some indoctrination and he meets with the leader of the only thing that passes for a resistance, some biker gangs that operate outside of organized society which are, intriguingly, headed up by a woman.

To call this a biker movie may be going too far—motorcycles are on the screen for just a few seconds. This was Cronenberg’s first movie with synced sound, and it shows. What Secret Weapons mainly is is talky, and the voiceover chimes in frequently just in case you hadn’t absorbed enough desultory chatter (actually, there are two voiceovers). Cronenberg has made so many fascinating movies that an early short about mind control can’t help but be interesting, but really my takeaway is that he had a ways to go. His first feature, Shivers, would be released three years later.

You have to admire Cronenberg for wanting to cram so many ideas into his movie, though—even if they were a bit clichéd for the era, a bit half-baked. My favorite thing in it is whatever was brushing and prodding the protagonist’s interviewer around five minutes in. We’re given the impression that the interview is happening in the same room as some committee, but we never see them, we just see objects occasionally intrude into the frame and stroke or otherwise touch the interviewer.

Did I mention this is pretty low-budget?

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The return of the f*ckin’ Trailer Park Boys
11:32 am


Trailer Park Boys

If you haven’t heard yet, Canadian cult comedy television heros The Trailer Park Boys have returned… again. And this time it looks like they’re here to stay for a while.

That’s right, ten new episodes of Canada’s finest export (if you don’t count Molson’s Golden, Neil Young, Pamela Anderson, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Rush, Jessica Paré...). The Trailer Park Boys can now be seen in every territory within Netflix’s reach. Best of all, there’s a season beyond this one still to come in 2015. Supposedly their 2009 theatrical film Countdown to Liquor Day was meant to be their swan song, but John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells and Mike Smith (Julian, Ricky and Bubbles) purchased the rights from the original producers. I hope they do this forever. It’s one of those things that could be sustained indefinitely.

If you haven’t heard of The Trailer Park Boys, in one sense, lucky you, because you now get to binge watch one of the greatest television comedies ever made, plus two standalone specials, two feature films and a live performance. They pump this stuff into your home like gas or electricity or… hash oil. What excuse do you have not to partake?

As I wrote on this blog last year:

One of my favorite things—literally one of my very, very favorite things in life—is the absolutely genius Canadian comedy series, The Trailer Park Boys.

It’s a masterpiece. By the time I discovered the show—obviously 99% of Canadian television never makes it south—it had already reached the end of its seven series run on the Showcase network in 2007. My wife and I “binge-watched” the entire thing in like two weeks, watching as many as five of them in a row some nights. It was comedy crack, we couldn’t get enough.

When we got to the last one, I told her that I felt like I wanted to weep. She admitted to feeling the same way. It was like we’d lost old friends. It massively sucked not to have any more episodes of The Trailer Park Boys.

Things spiraled out of control from there…

Seriously, though, a year later at about 6pm on a night that we were having a dinner party, a friend of mine wrote to ask if I’d heard about “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys,” the Trailer Park Boys’ 2008 Christmas special. We couldn’t scoot our guests’ asses out the door fast enough!

When the new series opens, Ricky has “retired” with an enormous stash of weed hidden in the walls of his trailer and has stopped using money entirely, instead buying everything with pressed “hash coins” (which are accepted without comment by everyone). Julian has opened a strip club inside his trailer and Bubbles is about to launch his “Shed and Breakfast” business for people who are traveling with their cats (free pancakes!). White rapper J-Roc has his own brand of flavored vodka (which he describes as “the birth of Christ”). Barb, the owner of the Sunnyvale trailer park has caught her soon to be ex-husband Sam with a man and demands a divorce from this “bisexual caveman” who decides he’s going to screw her out of the Sunnyvale property which he plans to sell at a huge profit to real estate developers. The only thing standing in the way of his plan is Barb’s first bisexual ex-husband, the perpetually-soused retiring park supervisor Jim Lahey (played by the great John Dunsworth, easily THE BEST COMIC DRUNK OF ALL TIME) who owns the deciding 1% of the Sunnyvale stock.

Julian rallies Ricky and Bubbles to help raise enough money to save the park. Their plans involve hash oil, hookers and much more, but I won’t spoil it for you. We watched all of them in two sittings. My only complaint is that there weren’t more of them…

And speaking of the Trailer Park Boys, Swearnet: The Movie, the new theatrical release from John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells and Mike Smith came out last weekend in select cities. The reviews were mostly terrible, but if you read between the lines, it seems like it would be a riot:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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