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Chris Rock on Tea party racism
02.17.2011
12:43 pm

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Heroes
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In the March issue of Esquire magazine, Chris Rock is interviewed by Scott Raab and manages to put a hopeful spin on the Tea party movement:

“Like many nice Caucasians, I cried the night Barack Obama was elected,” said Raab. “It was one of the high points in American history. And all that’s happened since the election is just a sh—storm of hatred. You want to weigh in on that?”

“I actually like it, in the sense that—you got kids?” asked Rock. “Kids always act up the most before they go to sleep. And when I see the Tea Party and all this stuff, it actually feels like racism’s almost over. Because this is the last—this is the act up before the sleep. They’re going crazy. They’re insane. You want to get rid of them—and the next thing you know, they’re f—-ing knocked out. And that’s what’s going on in the country right now.”

A sage perspective, indeed.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Facts? We don’t need your stinking facts! Why right-wing Americans are so stubbornly ignorant

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There’s a transcript of a speech that Bill Moyers gave in January to History Makers, an organization of broadcasters and producers who make factual programs, posted at Alternet. It’s a very interesting talk, but ultimately depressing. He cites an July 2010 article from the Boston Globe that sets the tone for his remarks and I’d imagine that most of the people listening to what the saintly Texan had to say that day had the same thought “Wow, that sucks.” It’s certainly what went through my mind as I read it. Quoting Moyers:

As Joe Keohane reported last year in The Boston Globe, political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency “deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information.” He was reporting on research at the University of Michigan, which found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts were not curing misinformation. “Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

I won’t spoil it for you by a lengthy summary here. Suffice it to say that, while “most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence,” the research found that actually “we often base our opinions on our beliefs ... and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths. Any journalist whose reporting threatens that belief system gets sliced and diced by its apologists and polemicists (say, the fabulists at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the yahoos of talk radio.) Remember when Limbaugh, for one, took journalists on for their reporting about torture at Abu Ghraib? He attempted to dismiss the cruelty inflicted on their captives by American soldiers as a little necessary “sport” for soldiers under stress, saying on air: “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... you [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?” As so often happens, the Limbaugh line became a drumbeat in the nether reaches of the right-wing echo chamber. So, it was not surprising that in a nationwide survey conducted by The Chicago Tribune on First Amendment issues, half of the respondents said there should be some kind of press restraint on reporting about the prison abuse. According to Charles Madigan, the editor of the Tribune’s Perspective section, 50 or 60 percent of the respondents said they “would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic.”

No wonder many people still believe Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows; or that he is a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian; or that he is a socialist when day by day he shows an eager solicitude for corporate capitalism. Partisans in particular - and the audiences for Murdoch’s Fox News and talk radio - are particularly susceptible to such scurrilous disinformation. In a Harris survey last spring, 67 percent of Republicans said Obama is a socialist; 57 percent believed him to be a Muslim; 45 percent refused to believe he was born in America; and 24 percent said he “may be the antichrist.”

What’s even worse is that the most misinformed people (the most gullible, the most fanatical, perhaps) are the ones who vote the most reliably. The Creationists. The people making $40,000 a year who support tax cuts for billionaires to the detriment of their own lives and their kids’ schools. People with no healthcare who protest against it at Tea-party rallies. An entire voting bloc of people who do not believe in what others would deem objective reality. THAT, dear readers, is at base, what we are dealing with in America today and it’s a problem that’s here to stay. You might say it’s the red, white and blue brontosaurus in the room that no one wants to talk about: The willful ignorance of America’s right.

The Boston Globe article that Bill Moyers cites, Joe Keohane’s “How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains” is an absolute must-read. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a bigger fuss made of this information by the liberal media when it was published last year.  Here’s a link to the entire article, and some highlights:

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

Yup. And then we vote. Yikes!

Here’s another passage from the article that will wipe that smirk off your Blue State face:

“Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be,” read a recent Onion headline. Like the best satire, this nasty little gem elicits a laugh, which is then promptly muffled by the queasy feeling of recognition. The last five decades of political science have definitively established that most modern-day Americans lack even a basic understanding of how their country works. In 1996, Princeton University’s Larry M. Bartels argued, “the political ignorance of the American voter is one of the best documented data in political science.”

On its own, this might not be a problem: People ignorant of the facts could simply choose not to vote. But instead, it appears that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout. More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. (Most of these participants expressed views that suggested a strong antiwelfare bias.)

Studies by other researchers have observed similar phenomena when addressing education, health care reform, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and other issues that tend to attract strong partisan opinion. Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”

The persistence of these political misperceptions is perplexing, but can be summed up as “Americans, but lets get real for a second, especially those who have a tendency towards “conservative” opinions, will only listen to you if you are saying something that sounds like something they already believe.” (No, I don’t think that all progressives are open-minded, but xenophobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia, racism, being anti-science and a general “fear of the other,” are not exactly hallmarks of the “liberal” personality the way they tend to be on the right. You’d have to be Andrew Brietbart to “believe” otherwise).

What’s worse is that when someone is feeling threatened or is economically insecure, the mind closes down even more. That’s how demagoguery works. It might explain why some dumb old white people think Glenn Beck is so wonderful. It might also explain his success as a pitchman for gold coins during his program. The more threatened someone feels, the easier they fall in line, and the less likely they are to dissent from the party line when it comes to “taking back the country” from a socialist Kenyan. Fear and gullibility go hand in hand, as we see daily.

But these are the dummies, we’re talking about, right? The ignorant people. Not so fast, smartass, because researchers at Stony Brook University found that the people who were the most politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to “new” (which is to say a fact) information that challenged their belief systems, than the statistically ignorant! Quoting again from Joe Keohane’s article: “These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they’re totally wrong. Taber and Lodge found this alarming, because engaged, sophisticated thinkers are “the very folks on whom democratic theory relies most heavily.”

How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains (Boston Globe)
 
Thank you Steven Otero!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Einstein on the beach (in open-toed sandals)
02.14.2011
03:59 pm

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Science/Tech
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E=mcFAAABUloussss! Who knew Einstein had such wonderful gams?!
 
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Einstein and David Rothman, 1939

There’s actually great back-story to Albert Einstein and those open-toed sandals. The man pictured with Einstein above is David Rothman, and he was the one responsible for selling Einstein the fancy footwear back in 1939. From Chuck Rothman’s “Albert Einstein’s Long Island Summer”:

In the summer of 1939, Albert Einstein spent his summer on Nassau Point, in Peconic, NY on eastern Long Island. My grandfather, David Rothman, was owner of Rothman’s Department Store in nearby Southold.

One June day, Einstein came into the store. Of course, my grandfather recognized him at once. He decided, though, to treat him just like any other customer.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” he asked

“Sundials,” Einstein said in his thick German accent.

Now, Rothman’s has always had a large variety of items—just about everything from housewares, to fishing tackle and bait, to hardware, to toys, to appliances. But no sundials. Not for sale, anyway. But…

“I do have one in my back yard,” my grandfather said.

He led Einstein—who seems a bit bewildered—to the back yard, to show him the sundial. “If you need one you can have this.”

Einstein took one look and began to laugh. He pointed to his feet. “No. Sundials.”

Sandals. Those, he had.

(via reddit)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Enlightening Facebook conversation about evolution

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A very compelling argument they have goin’ on there.

(via EPICponyz)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Dangerous Minds Radio Hour Episode 15: The Return of Nate Cimmino
02.07.2011
12:26 pm

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Climb on and join your tour guide and now regular tri-weekly host Nate Cimmino for another virtual journey from point A to point B, where ever that is for you.

Or to quote Mel Lyman:

This is CONTEMPORARY music. In this new age whose keynote is the destruction of old forms and the birth of new spirit our ears are still constantly insulted with the musical establishment’s attempts to “hold on” to the old traditions whatever the cost.

Or to quote a myriad of different people, “It seems like a nice way to spend an hour.”
 
Playlist:
 
01. Bimbo Jet- El Bimbo
02. Klaus Doldinger- Sitar Beat (Nate-O-Phonic Edit)
03. Cristina- What’s A Girl To Do?
04. Ursula 1000- Urgent/Anxious- (Ladytron Remix)
05. Shocking Blue- Fireball Of Love
06. Hamilton Bohannon-The Pimp Walk
07. Act One- Tom The Peeper
08. Slim Gaillard- How High The Moon
09. Jocko Henderson- Blast Off To Love
10. Margaret Leng Tan- Suite For A Toy Piano Pts. 1&2
11. Rockabye Baby- Enter Sandman
12. Norah Guthrie- My Illness
13. The Lyman Family with Lisa Kindred- James Alley Blues
14. Fairport Convention- Matty Groves
 

 
Download this week’s episode
 
Subscribe to the Dangerous Minds Radio Hour podcast at Alterati
 
Video bonus: The Lyman Family + Mel Brooks = An interviewer’s hell
 

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
New website alert: You Don’t Deserve
01.31.2011
03:05 pm

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Curtis Mead
 
Dangerous Minds pal Curtis Mead says, “You Don’t Deserve is quite an interesting study of what people have going on in their heads. Anonymous rants from frustrated industry types… gotta love it.”

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Read more rants after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
New Q&A with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
01.26.2011
06:06 pm

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Art
Heroes
Music
Sex
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Living legend, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, will be delivering a lecture in the “Artists on Art” series at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17th St. (near 7th Ave) in New York City this Friday at 6:15 p.m.

From a new Q&A with hir majesty on Vulture:

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Fosse, which was stunning!

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Sometimes. If they look old enough for homelessness to be a semi-permanent state, women with kids. Once in a while I give $20 just so there’s a chance it’s useful.

What’s your drink?
Mimosa with a good quality Rose Champagne.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
97 percent of the time as I live alone.

What’s your favorite medication?
A deep undisturbed night’s sleep.

What’s hanging above your sofa?
Nothing; I don’t have a sofa.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
Haircuts are luxuries and as such should be as expensive as you can possibly afford. I get mine at Seagull in Greenwich Village or recently by Ashlee of Hair Metal at my apartment. Celebrity haircuts are one of the great perks of even a little media profile.

Read more: Genesis P-Orridge Would Like to Hitch a Horse to the New York Post (NY Mag)

Below, a late 2009 interview with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Beat philosopher and American renegade Poppa Neutrino R.I.P.
01.25.2011
01:08 am

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Thinkers
Unorthodox

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Poppa Neutrino (William David Pearlmam) was born in San Francisco in 1933. Neutrino died on January 23, 2011 in New Orleans, LA.

Poppa Neutrino was a friend of mine and one the most fascinating men I’ve ever met.

During the mid-1980s into the 90s, I was booking bands into several music venues in New York City. Poppa had a family band called The Flying Neutrinos fronted by his daughter Ingrid Lucia and son Todd Londagin. They’d been street musicians for years, traveling all over the world, eventually landing in Manhattan. I saw the group evolve from a somewhat ragged ensemble into a world class jazz band with a heavy New Orleans influence. Poppa receded into the background as the group became increasingly in demand and successful. But his spiritual influence was very much alive in the soul of the group. He encouraged not only their art but their fierce independence. Which considering his own wild and uncompromising past was to be totally expected. He was a renegade with a streetwise philosophy and a hustler’s instincts. An American Gurdjieff.

David Pearlman, a restless and migratory soul, a mariner, a musician, a member of the Explorers Club and a friend of the San Francisco Beats, a former preacher and sign painter, a polymath, a pauper, and a football strategist for the Red Mesa Redskins of the Navajo Nation. When Pearlman was fifty, he was bitten on the hand by a dog in Mexico and for two years got so sick that he thought he would die. When he recovered, he felt so different that he decided he needed a new name. He began calling himself Poppa Neutrino, after the itinerant particle that is so small it can hardly be detected. To Neutrino, the particle represents the elements of the hidden life that assert themselves discreetly.

Inspired by Thor Heyerdahl and Kon-Tiki, Neutrino is the only man ever to build a raft from garbage he found on the streets of New York and sail it across the North Atlantic. The New York Daily News described the accomplishment as “the sail of the century.” National Geographic broadcast an account of the trip as part of its series on extreme adventures.

The philosophical underpinnings of Neutrino’s existence are what he calls Triads, a concept worked out after years of reading and reflection. He believes that each person, to be truly happy, must define his or her three deepest desires and pursue them remorselessly. Freedom, Joy, and Art are Neutrino’s three.

There’s a wonderful book about Poppa written by New Yorker contributor Alec Wikinson called “Poppa the Happiest Man in the World: An Account of the Life of Poppa Neutrino” that is genuinely inspirational.

As recently as last year, Poppa was still pushing the envelope when he attempted to circumnavigate the Globe in a 37 foot raft with a crew consisting of three sailors and three dogs. But on November 9 their raft was tossed by big surf onto the rocks near Thompson’s Point, VT.

Only a few months later, Poppa died of a heart attack in the city he always seemed to return to, New Orleans. His family is having him cremated and will set his ashes afloat on the Mississippi River. In the words of his daughter Ingrid, “He’s always been free, so we’ll set him free.” 

Like many artists and musicians, Poppa had little money and no insurance. If you’d like to contribute toward his funeral expenses go here.

Victor Zimet and Stephanie Silber’s documentary Random Lunacy explores the life and philosophy of Poppa Neutrino. This your chance to meet a remarkable man.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Exclusive clip of Alejandro Jodorowsky for Dangerous Minds readers
01.18.2011
10:18 am

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Art
Movies
Thinkers

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Left to right: Donald Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Kenneth Anger.
 
Cinematic shaman Alejandro Jodorowsky discusses his work. Taken from the over five hours worth of extras that will come with the much-anticipated re-release of Santa Sangre on DVD and Blu-ray by Severin Films on January 25th. Pre-order a copy of Santa Sangre.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Dark Stars Rising: New anthology of interviews with transgressive artists
01.14.2011
04:55 pm

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Books
Pop Culture
Punk
Thinkers

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I am a big aficionado of “the art of the interview.” As a reader, I don’t really require for a journalist to spell something out for me. I’d rather hear what the subject has to say for themselves, but this hardly means that the interviewer is a superfluous part of the equation. Take if from someone who knows, you have to show up properly prepared if you want to achieve good results with an interview. A well-done Q&A can take the form of an interrogation or a narrative. I like both styles. A good interviewer knows how to get someone to reveal what makes them tick.

Longtime underground journalist, cinema festival organizer, filmmaker and screenwriter, Shade Rupe’s new anthology, Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms (Headpress), is a collection of his interviews conducted over the past 26 years with some of the more transgressive and—okay, I’ll say it—dangerous minds out there. Many of the folks interviewed in Dark Stars Rising are even friends of mine, or people who I’ve met and interviewed before myself, so when the book came through the post the other day, my reaction was a pretty swift, “Yes!”

And chances are that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you might feel the same way yourself about a slick, well-designed 568 page collection of terrific interviews with the likes of Richard Kern, Alejandro Jodorowksy, Udo Kier, Tura Satana, Teller, Brother Theodore (incredible!), Divine, Floria Sigismondi, Hermann Nitsch, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Dennis Cooper, Gaspar Noe, performance artist Johanna Went Dame Darcy, Stephen O’Malley, Crispin Glover and many others. A lot of this material was original published in various underground zines, but here the interviews appear in their unedited form. Visually, it’s a treat. There are photographs (some in color) on nearly every single page and the “documentation” and ephemera contained in the book embellishes the discussions nicely.

If, like me, you appreciate being able to eavesdrop in on smart conversations between smart people—and if you’re nostalgic for the fast disappearing world of zine culture—Shade Rupe’s Dark Stars Rising, is a book you won’t want to miss.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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