17 April 2011

Noir magick

James Ellroy is to noir fiction what Herman Melville is to fishing stories, and the word is that his life is not so different from his stories.

I've just started reading his memoir The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women and it contains this striking passage.

The overall text buttressed religious lore I believed in then and believe in today.

There's a world we can't see. It exists separately and concurrently with the real world. You enter this world by the offering of prayer and incantation. You live in this world wholly within your mind. You dispael the real world through mental discipline. You rebuff the real world through your enforced mental will. Your interior world will give you what you want and what you need to survive.

I believed it then. I believe it now. My many years in the dark have confirmed it as a primary article of faith. I was nine then. I'm 62 now. The real world has frequently intruded on my spells in the dark.

I thought some of my occultist readers might recognize the sentiment.

11 April 2011


Curse you, internet! Ordinarily I would never have known about Iggy Pop's surreal, mortifying performance on American Idol. But there was no escape.

Understand: “surreal, mortifying performance” is part of the point of Iggy, right? A friend insists that she's never seen any other performer project as much energy from the stage as he does, and I know better than to argue with that. Say what you will about the American Idol nightmare, Iggy is unmistakably still working it, which is more than you can say for most graying punks.

Checking the “Official” Iggy Pop Shirtless Aging Timeline you can see that Iggy retained his louche glamour dancing shirtless into a much more advanced age than anyone could reasonably expect, especially considering the punishing demands upon his own health of his lifestyle. I used to say that he looked a kind of good-yet-scary that you can only look through sustained regular drug abuse. But then it appears that sometime in 2004 he decided that the only way to maintain his vigor was to allow himself to be bitten by a zombie.

04 April 2011

Footnotes from a boozy afternoon

House of Games was the first film David Mamet directed, featuring Joe Mantegna as a con artist. My favourite line in the film is when he says, “It's called a confidence game. Why? Because you give me your confidence? No. Because I give you mine.” Some of the best management advice I've ever heard.

Howard Rheingold's Wired magazine on the Amish and their debate over whether they would adopt cellphones, Look Who's Talking, is an instructive meditation on the cultural impact of cellphone technology that was years ahead of its time.

Ray Kurzweil is the leading prophet of the Singularity, the idea that within our lifetimes technology will accelerate to transform our world beyond what we can imagine. Ninety percent of the time I think he's full of shit. I hope I'm wrong.

James Howard Kunstler is more likely right that Peak Oil is going to make advanced industrial civilization impossible, knocking us back to mostly nineteenth-century level technologies, though this won't be an entirely bad thing since it will destroy the suburbs, the creation of which he calls “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” His mini-website Eyesore of the Month chronicles the horrors of our built environment; I have a favourite entry, of course.

James McMurtry sings the political song “Can't Make It Here Anymore” about the breakdown of American society, though my favourite song of his is, of course, the wicked redneck saga “Chocktaw Bingo.”

Sex at Dawn is a book about sex and human biology which is astonishing both because of what it says and because it dips into evolutionary psychology without turning into bullshit.

The Infamous Brad has an essay Not That the Actual Forbidden Knowledge is as Interesting as That There Is Forbidden Knowledge which explains Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. You may not want to know.

The Starship and the Canoe is a fascinating book about the physicist Freeman Dyson and his son George. There's an anecdote in there that I call the ninety second intelligence test. I won't tell you what it is, but if you meet me in person I'll perform it on you.

And I think that Digby is the most important political commentator in America.