Tuesday, October 24, 2017

D&D in The New Yorker

Who would have thought I would see a world where Dungeons & Dragons gets an article in "The New Yorker" of all places. It's light on some of the main factors in the recent rise (e.g. Twitch). Though I'm greatly amused by the psychologist who couldn't see a direct cognitive benefit in the mechanics, followed by the litany of people with a different analysis.

Watching the Watchers: Shifting Opinions

Joseph E. Stiglitz believes "America Has a Monopoly Problem—and It’s Huge". The problem with the stagnant economy, he posits, isn't just globalization, it's giant companies that can outmaneuver market forces.

Ken Stern, former NPR CEO, talks about the half of America that the media doesn't cover. It's a good, if shallow, article and the charts are particularly interesting. Caveat: he's promoting a book.]

Opinions move and flow, and quiet voices in the wilderness sometimes build momentum, and sometimes get swallowed in darkness. Either way, it would seem we are in the proverbial interesting times.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Pop Occult

A few years ago, Poppy was a young, female youtube personality who's song covers were popular. She managed to get a record deal. After a time she removed all the old content from her channel, rebooting or rebranding it, you might say. But the new videos weren't the same tone as her older work, becoming stranger to the point of unsettling. Lexi Pandel describes her persona thusly in a well-worth-reading Wired article:
For me, the obvious explanation is she joined with a new collaborator, and became the face of his performance art project. A project that is both satire and criticism of the youtube culture, as well as celebrity in general and the religious/cultish parallels in fandom. It just happens to be well enough done to evoke the very thing it holds a mirror to. But that isn't how everyone sees it. Some would say that I am just another sheep being duped, and the young woman is yet another victim of the entertainment industry Illuminati.

For years now in certain circles of the Internet, there has been a persistent connection between pop music and so called occult symbology. Occult, in this case, being used for its original meaning: something secret or hidden. Specifically, the secret, hidden information that many celebrities are victims of mind control programs. The theory goes that the mind control research from the CIA's often illegal information extraction program MKUltra (or an alleged follow-on program called Monarch) has continued and been put into application to control the public, keeping us distracted and consuming.

They attribute the public personality shifts of celebrities from Marilyn Monroe through Brittany Spears and beyond to breakdowns in their mind control programming. They point to symbols in their music and videos as indications of their being enslaved to the programming. Eye symbols speak of control. Satanic symbols point toward ritualized abuse or torture. Doll-like images suggest the loss of self or creating of a new personality. Everything demonstrating that the person is not who they were before the entertainment industry got hold of them.

Even Taylor Swift has been pulled into the conspiracy. She is said to be a more recent recipient of the programming, noting her ascension into the mainstream of popdom and the rise of symbolism in her recent videos. All the gossipy drama between her and Kanye, Kim, and Katy is but a staged play orchestrated for our distraction.

Art and artists, such as those creating Poppy, have always dwelt in realms that suggest both deeper truths and realer illusions. And of course our Internet world allows the amplified over-scrutinizing of all things. One thing is certain, great celebrity must have a mental affect on people, and some will break down. Humans thrive in community, but the intensity of being a star, the focus of that community… The pressure to be attractive, inventive, a role model, and always, always being reviewed, judged, and watched is bound to warp one's life in many ways. No shadowy conspiracy required.

Vampire Scare

"The United Nations said on Monday it has pulled staff out of two districts in southern Malawi where a vampire scare has triggered mob violence in which at least five people have been killed."

A seasonal reminder that shadows of superstition still gather, or an acknowledgement that the U.N. is not properly equipped to deal with vampires?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bookworming: Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files Vol. 2

Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files Vol. 2, Wagner et al, ***
The short stories of the first volume give way to multi-issue arcs as Judge Dredd takes on a post-apocalyptic gauntlet and Mega City 1's very own Caligula. The "Cursed Earth" story is one of the more widely recommended starting points for the series (though this volume notably omits a section of it due to copyright issues). The longer runs make for enough more depth to warrant a higher rating than the first, particularly by giving secondary characters a bit more room. The tone remains very on the gonzo pulp side.

Quote of the Moment

So I’ll just keep on pushing along to where I belong, writing down thoughts, singing my songs, yelling out words you’ve already heard about loving yourself and loving the world. – “My Reflection”, SanguinDrake

The World's Most Inadequate Post

Of all the dark, sad stuff that has happened this year, nothing has gotten to me like seeing the number of women I know or have met posting the me too hashtag. It's the season for pretending that evil can be banished by magic, faith, or a shotgun shell to the face. But the reality is, that all too often the woman who survived the maniac is the one right there next to you in the real world. These women don't need a hero, they just need us to not be the maniac.

Friday, October 6, 2017


Posit: GOP against gun and birth control. Conclusion: Forcing re-population of their constituency in the face of inevitable ongoing deaths.