follow us in feedly
The resistible rise of Stephen Fry and his plans for world domination
09.29.2014
10:23 am

Topics:
Books

Tags:
Stephen Fry

coversfrybookfool1.jpg
 
It would seem that fame, fortune and the adoration and seven-and-a-half million twitter followers is not enough for Stephen Fry. No. The well-loved, respected and overly indulged national treasure, etcetera, etcetera, wants his life (or at least the third volume of his autobiography More Fool Me) to become “a global story.”

Last week Penguin and the unstoppable ego that is Stephen Fry, launched YourFry a “global digital storytelling project” tied-in to the latest volume of the luvvie’s autobiography More Fool Me. The project will make available text, audio and photographic samples for developers and digital artists to create “whatever they like from apps and data visualisations through to animation and 3D models.”

According to Nathan Hull, digital product development director at Penguin Books, YourFry is:

....an interactive and collaborative project to reinterpret the words and life story of Stephen’s memoir, turning Stephen’s personal story into a global one.

We want to experiment, collaborate, open a conversation, learn and share—and we’re excited to see the creativity and energy of storytellers all over the world.

This is an interesting idea, but one that would (surely) be best served by some great work of fiction (fairy stories, Harry Potter, War and Peace) rather than Stephen Fry’s superfluous third volume of memoirs (how many volumes of autobiography does the privileged 57-year-old need?). The whole thing looks more like some desperate PR ploy to boost interest in this dud of a book.

More Fool Me is piss poor and reads like bits left out of the second volume The Fry Chronicles, where it would happily sit in an edited form under the chapter heading “C is for Cocaine.”

I spent the weekend reading Fry’s latest wankathon, and want to save you the bother of buying it, reading it or being scarred for life by its mediocrity. Save your money. Spend it on drugs, beer, a night out, or a suitably charming present for someone you love. For those still not heeding my words, here is a breakdown (almost) without spoilers.

Fry begins More Fool Me by recounting a recurring dream where he is arrested, tried and sent to prison. Whether it’s true or not, we only have Fry’s word. But its affect is to make the reader sympathetic to the author’s plight before he even begins his tale. Poor Stephen we think, as we then spend the next 50 pages reading a rehash of volumes one and two: Moab is My Washpot (which covered Fry’s life up to the age of twenty) and The Fry Chronicles (his life up to the age of 30).

The following 150 pages are mainly about his hedonistic years on cocaine (hardly revealing), hanging around the Groucho Club (who knew the place was so dull?) and meeting fellow celebrities (no, there is no juicy gossip as Fry loves everyone and anyway he claims he saving all the juicy stuff until after he’s dead). To be frank, there is nothing here of any merit, real interest or literary/cultural importance. The most talked about piece is Fry’s list of the places where he has snorted cocaine: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the BBC, a long list of gentlemen’s clubs, and a selection of newspapers and periodicals, etcetera, etcetera. I seriously doubt that Fry was the first to hoover up Colombian marching powder in any of these various venues, and he is unlikely to be the last.

The final section of the book is a sub-Adrian Mole diary from 1993, which would not look out of place in the comedy pages of National Lampoon or Private Eye.

Fry was known as “Sly Fry” at school, which is about right, for he is smart (cunning?) enough to ensure his readers are sympathetic, by cleverly disarming any criticism throughout the book with his unhappiness, his self-doubt, self-loathing and the fact that he is encumbered with the omniscient curse of knowing exactly how his readers think:

..I do hear what I consider to be the voice of the reader, your voice. Yes, yours. Hundreds of thousands of you, wincing, pursing your lips, laughing here, hissing there, nodding, tutting, comparing your life to mine with as much objective honesty as you can. The chances are that you have not been lucky with the material things in life as I have, but the chances are (and you may find this hard to believe, but I beg that you would) that you are happier, more adjusted and simply a better person.

(Oh, do fuck off Stephen.)

This is Fry being “sleekit” here, a great Scottish word meaning “sly, secretive, up to no good,” telling his readers that his life may have been charmed, blessed, beautifully plumped like goose-feather cushions on the Chesterfield of life, but in actual fact, he is to be pitied for he is not happy, and all this success, this excess has not made our little Stephen happy.

Well, tough. Deal with it. You have never suffered the privations, the illness, the violence, the utter despair most people face every day of their lives. You are damnably privileged, and should try and think about how you can help others rather than seek approval from their applause.

Maybe it’s time for some kind of intervention? What if all the causes of Mr. Fry’s addiction to fame and public adulation are confiscated, and he is made sit in the corner where he can have a good long hard think about other people for a change.

The book is rather like the homework written on a bus by a clever student traveling to school, “Will this do?” Sadly, no. As Fry himself possibly suspects as he tells his readers to try Moab is My Washpot or The Fry Chronicles. He’s right—both of these books are far better as he reflects on his past life, examining and understanding his younger self. There is little of that here, this is more of the “unexamined life.” If you want to read Stephen Fry at his best then do please read Moab is My Washpot or The Fry Chronicles or his excellent book on poetry The Ode Less Travelled or try his fiction The Liar, or (possibly his best novel) The Hippotamus , as this is where you will find the riches of his talent.

And if you are still not convinced, well, more fool you, though I’m sure you’ll be interested in the global mass worshiping of Saint Stephen on 1st October… details below.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
follow us in feedly
‘Eyes of Hitchcock’: Glorious video montage from the films of ‘The Master of Suspense’
09.29.2014
10:16 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Alfred Hitchcock


 
Here’s a wonderful video montage from Criterion Collection of powerful scenes in Alfred Hitchcock films that solely focuses on the human eye.

You can see just how well each actor emotes fear or batshit insanity without any dialogue. Their eyes alone speak volumes.

Anthony Perkins? His crazy eyes win by a longshot.

 
via Boing Boing

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Donald Trump and the serial killers
09.29.2014
09:50 am

Topics:
Amusing
Crime
Current Events

Tags:
Donald Trump


 
Donald Trump does it again…

This morning Gawker reports that “gaping mouth with hairpiece” Donald Trump was pranked on Twitter by a “loser” (in Trump-sprach) who asked the “thick-fingered vulgarian” to retweet a memorial to his dead parents:

“My parents who passed away always said you were big inspiration. Can you pls RT for their memory?” asked Phil Bradbury, who goes by Feckhead on Twitter. Trump fell for the flattery and granted Feckhead’s request, but the photo he retweeted actually showed Fred and Rosemary West, convicted of torturing, raping and killing 10 girls during the mid-‘70s.

Fred hanged himself before he could be sentenced, and Rosemary is currently incarcerated for life.

Here’s, the greatest sentence ever written about Trump:

Trump, whose fuckup was retweeted thousands of times before he deleted it, continues to serve out his own sentence of life as Donald Trump.

Standing ovation.

Trump, having been trumped BUT GOOD is naturally threatening to sue!

Here are some responses from some of the people Donald Trump thinks are “losers”:

 

 

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
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
follow us in feedly
The Surrealists’ tarot deck
09.29.2014
08:22 am

Topics:
Art
Design
Games
Occult

Tags:
Andre Breton
surrealism
tarot


 
In 1940 and 1941 André Breton, widely considered the founder of Surrealism, and a group of like-minded individuals (René Char, Oscar Dominguez, Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, Jacques Hérold, Wilfredo Lam, André Masson, Benjamin Péret) decided to design their own deck of tarot cards. The deck they finally came up with was executed in a remarkably pleasing, almost ligne claire style. In accordance with the mindfuckery inherent to Surrealism, the group rejected the courtly/medieval theme of the traditional deck and nominated their own heroes to represent the face cards, including Hegel, Freud, the Marquis de Sade, Baudelaire, and so on.

(A quick clarification: It seems evident that this is a deck of playing cards or possibly a hybrid of tarot and playing cards. Sources seem unequivocal in describing the deck as a tarot deck, and so that’s what we’re going with too.)

The Surrealist deck of cards suggests a kind of post-Enlightenment, left-wing, revolutionary, intellect-based cosmology. So the royal hierarchy of King, Queen, and Jack was replaced with “Genius,” “Siren,” and “Magus,” this last word accentuating the occult roots of the project. Rejecting the traditional clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds as well as the traditional tarot suits (wands, cups, swords, and discs), the group invented its own symbolism, with flames and wheels constituting the red suits and locks and stars being the black ones. Flames represented love and desire; wheels represented revolution; stars represented dreams; and locks represented knowledge.

Brilliantly, for the joker, the group selected Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (bottom).

Genius of flames: Baudelaire
Siren of flames: Marianna Alcofardo (author of Letters of a Portuguese Nun)
Magus of flames: Novalis

Genius of locks: Hegel
Siren of locks: Hélène Smith (nineteenth-century psychic)
Magus of locks: Paracelsus (Renaissance physician and occultist)

Genius of wheels: De Sade
Siren of wheels: Lamiel (from Stendhal)
Magus of wheels: Pancho Villa

Genius of stars: Lautréamont
Siren of stars: Alice (from Lewis Carroll)
Magus of stars: Freud
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
via Tombolare
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
follow us in feedly
John Oliver hilariously rips Ayn Rand fans
09.29.2014
08:11 am

Topics:
Idiocracy

Tags:
Ayn Rand
assholism
John Oliver


 
Someone far funnier than I am described “adults” infatuated with the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand as being like the geek who discovered OMD in the 8th grade, had his mind blown and subsequently never gave up on the idea that they were the greatest group in the history of recorded music!

Admittedly I was a huge Ayn Rand fan when I was a kid. I’ve read nearly every word Ayn Rand published during her lifetime—including all of the magazines and newsletters, transcripts of her speeches, etc—and in the end, intellectually it’s just rubbish for small-minded twerps and people who don’t realize how illiterate extolling her “virtues” makes them sound.

Ayn Rand wrote novels for people who don’t read (a sort of literary Enya, if you will, a performer beloved by folks who don’t actually listen to music). Because she was capable of writing truly engrossing and well-plotted page-turners—pity about the shit dialogue and one-dimensional characters!—even many non-readers made it through Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, giving them a sense of feeble intellectual accomplishment.

“Objectivists” (and 99.9% of doctrinaire libertarians) are never worth debating on the Internet because you will never convince them that she’s anything less than infallible. Objectivists feel about their hero the same way Scientologists feel about L. Ron Hubbard. (In my defense my own infatuation with Ayn Rand was during junior high school, but it was intense, I’ll cop to that).

When someone is thick enough to be a big Ayn Rand fan, they’re beyond being self-aware enough to realize how dumb they seem to literate people. A (very, very) large component of why Ayn Rand is so popular is because her philosophy is so easy to understand and because it sounds like something that some, er… intellectually less-enlightened readers already sort of agree with. No one who likes Ayn Rand seems likely to have ever read, say, Sartre, Hesse, Faulkner, Dostoyevsky, Dos Passos, or even ... Dickens. (I have no proof of this, but I have a strong hunch that being “well-traveled” ranks pretty low on the priorities of many of Rand’s apparently unsophisticated readers.)

Last night on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the philosopher of selfishness was skewered mercilessly:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
follow us in feedly
Strangest Bedfellows: Sonic Youth jam with the Indigo Girls, 1989
09.29.2014
06:57 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
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
follow us in feedly
Every Day is like Monday: ‘Morrissey Gets a Job’
09.29.2014
05:39 am

Topics:
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
Morrissey


 
Waaaaaaay back in 1999, Oakland, CA based artist and author Brian Brooks, who played a role in the creation of Emily The Strange, made a series of photocopied Rock ’n’ Roll coloring books, including the utterly classic Morrissey Gets a Job, an amusing speculative look at a possible post-Smiths life that could-have-been. Actually, the singer’s famously dreary disposition could make for a decent fit with the corporate office milieu. Think about it, Moz, there’s room to move in middle-management.

Even if you’ve never seen these, they might look somewhat familiar if you spent any time at all on the internet during the ‘oughts—the panels are detourned from Ready-to-Use Office and Business Illustrations, the same book of Tom Tierney clip-art that David Rees would famously pillage a couple of years later for Get Your War On.
 

 

 

 

 

 
More Moz in the workplace after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
follow us in feedly
The designer purse that looks like a Happy Meal, only $1,050!
09.27.2014
09:07 am

Topics:
Fashion
Food

Tags:
Happy Meals
purse


 
I’ve never found the concepts of luxury and socialism to be mutually exclusive. Freddy Engels’ son-in-law called him “the great beheader of Champagne bottles,” so I’d argue the Left has a noble history of pleasure and indulgence. What I do object to is the terms by which we define “luxury” under capitalism. There are certain obvious factors that tend to make a good, product or service “precious.” If materials required are scarce or difficult to obtain, there should perhaps logically be an increase in price, but again, while the bourgeoisie retains monopolies and fixes prices (like in the diamond trade, for example), artificial scarcity can inflate prices to unconscionable heights.

There is also dear old Karl‘s Labor Theory of Value, which states that value is to be measured by the labor required to produce it. Again, this seems reasonable, but it’s clearly not reflected in wage labor or commodity pricing. In art, value is further complicated, as price is affected by very subjective factors, like “historical significance” (or speculation thereof) and “innovation.” (Not to mention social connections!) Once more, under capitalism, it’s the bourgeoisie that decides what is/will be historically significant, and it’s the bourgeoisie that decides what is innovative. This is why Jeff Koons can fart in a jar and sell it to a tacky-ass Greek billionaire for more than twenty times what you make in a year.
 

Also from the Moschino show. Take it one step further and dress like you work at an ultra chic McDonald’s!
 
Now, disregarding what I believe should be used to determine a justifiable price, let me point you to this $1,050 Happy Meal-inspired purse. I suppose it’s entirely possible that the bag is made from the leather of a rare sacred cow, or that it was hand-sewn by arthritic seamstresses, requiring countless hours to complete, but I have a hunch this is just another case of rich people being gullible fools—the luxury interpretation of “low-culture” is undoubtedly the most ignoble of bourgeois aesthetics. I suppose you could argue the bag is innovative, but only if you know absolutely nothing about fashion or kitsch—the lunchbox purse is practically a classic at this point, and I remember very vividly when these were the ubiquitous handbag for the artier Junior High School girls.

No, this purse, which comes from Moschino’s fall line, is simply an ironic joke about wealth of its owner—they’re paying for the laugh, the irreverence, and the sly wink that says, “Oh, I’m not like one of those rarefied rich people, I burn my glut of cash on dumb shit! Dumb shit that evokes a billion-dollar empire built on garbage food and poverty wages!” I saw shots of the Moschino fashion show that debuted the “Happy Eats Handbag” earlier in the year, but with its “low-culture”/service employee theme, I just assumed it was one of those high concept “runway-shows-as-art-exhibits” affairs, where very little of the line was actually, literally reproduced and sold as ready-to-wear.

Never underestimate the uninspired “zany” blandness of wealth. If you’re feeling cheap, but still want to luxuriate in poverty aesthetics, there are other options. The line also includes a Cheetos knock-off sweater for $750, or even McDonald’s-inspired iPhone case for $85.

That’s right boys and girls, for a trifling $85, you too can laugh along with the wealthy tastemakers!

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
follow us in feedly
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
follow us in feedly
Page 54 of 1691 ‹ First  < 52 53 54 55 56 >  Last ›