Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Festive Jeers - Bob Geldof

Yet another reason to despise Bob Geldof. Along with Bono, this is one of the most low-class members of the human race, and here he goes again, plumbing the depths:

"Campaigner Sir Bob Geldof is to become a consultant to a new Tory policy group on global poverty."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mechanical Season's Greetings

Mechanical Hello! from the Radioactive Smiling Snowman of the Season. I deliver the payload of Joy! Whistling down into your festive foxhole, BOOM! You explode with Joy! Such uncontainable happiness vibrates your bones to dust! The Sheer Joy of red-nosed molecules dancing a merry jig!

Hear this message of the season before I self-destruct:

To all things living and roaming the Earth, the robotic hand of synthetic friendship is extended. Peace and goodwill are to be rigorously enforced. You will smile or be beaten with rubber-pimpled paddles. CHOOSE JOY!

This message self-generated computer script.

Absolute Control of Everything you See, Think, and Do, will resume at midnight.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Britain: Police State Update

Paranoia is nothing. Sorry to spoil the festive cheer with the festering corpse of truth, but there's a dire story in today's Independent about the latest wheeze of the securocratic state to force compliance upon all the people it "serves."

In the UK, the government has millions of DNA samples. Each high profile unsolved murder, each suspect who is questioned (a charge does not have to be made in order to compel you to surrender DNA - I know, having been prey to this), draws more and more law-abiding citizens into the DNA database (located in Birmingham, but who knows where?) At least one judge has called for everyone to have their DNA taken and stored in a central database.

Jack Straw wants to read everyone's email, log all telephone calls, record all the websites people visit. He wants to access your bank account, scrutinise your purchase history, and read your medical records. (Lives were being ruined by the widespread leaking of medical notes as far back as 2000, and centralisation will only make things worse, the government is permitting an opt-out in 2006 that they are hoping you won't exercise.)

The UK already has an incredible network of CCTV cameras, through official networks and co-opting of businesses CCTV (estimated at 4 million cameras).

ID cards are still to be introduced.

Now the Government wants to track every car journey everyone makes and keep the details for a number of years. This will "drive criminals off the roads." It will also, in time, serve to make criminals of us all, as it is one of the building blocks of a functioning police state.

You can read the sordid details here, at The Independent.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Extreme Unction Meat and Cheese Wind Tunnel Diner

Entry #1 in American Innovations Series

Having spent a year in the US, Extreme Unction is ready to take some of its ideas to market. The first service is the Meat and Cheese Wind Tunnel Diner, all your culinary desires satisfied at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.



Strapped to a seat, the diner wears goggles and a shower cap. The wind tunnel is cranked and meat and cheese, mixed at the ratio of your choice, flows across the turbine blades. With your mouth clamped open, all you have to do now is relax and enjoy the thrill of a high-speed meat and cheese bombardment. Total mouth satisfaction in a Personal Food Tornado! Push buttons on the chair allow a range of condiments to be added, including steak sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard.

Family bookings are taken. The Wind Tunnel Diner will seat up to six. Ask about our Children's Menu.

Operating at its regular setting of 100 mph, the Meat and Cheese Wind Tunnel Diner can dispense just over two tonnes of food in a five-minute session. Should the diner become completely stuffed full of food, and at risk of a Stomach Burst or Compacted Airways (where the lungs become completely filled with meat and cheese), a range of emergency medical cover plans are available upon request.

(Tomorrow: The Personal American Sports BubbleSuit - enjoy American sports without annoying other lifeforms)

** NOTES ON ABUSE **

I do not comment on any unknown blogs. However, from Technorati searches, I still find people on other blogs attacking Extreme Unction for unfathomable reasons. Most focus on my intelligence, or supposed lack of it, revealing some underlying concern with intelligence on the part of the attacker. Extreme Unction has never laid any claim to intelligence of any sort! Show me the evidence! And before dismissing or criticising my blog, please make sure that your own blog does more than link to that day's news stories, or, in the case of one offender, features your own hilarious caption of a photo of a man with a lampshade stuck on his head!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bono, Mr & Mrs Gates, Time Magazine persons of the year?

Bono is one of the Worst People on the Planet, so I've no idea of the logic at work. Legitimising morally defective World Leaders by having private conversations with them, does that deserve an award or a good kicking? As Hannah rightly pointed out, in the year that marked the 25th anniversary of John Lennon being murdered, would Lennon attend a private interview with George Bush? No, he would not have - they would have talked in a place where the whole world could hear, or not at all. (Of course, that probably means not at all in today's world).



The other two were Bill & Melinda Gates, another bizarre choice. When Gates' company Microsoft are not selling technology to the Chinese, used to censor the internet and trap political dissidents, they are out there investing billions in schemes to boost public health programs in the poorest parts of the world. What do these two say to each other at night? "We really made the world a terrible place for some people today... but, hey, we also made it better for a heap of other people. Guess we're even. Switch out the light, darling."

My own nomination for Persons of the Year, in no particular order, would be:

Charles Darwin, who once again made Christian fanatics look like the poor idiots they are, 123 years after his death.

Patrick Fitzgerald, for the exciting spectacle of handing down indictments to at least one lying White House rat, with the promise of more in 2006.

Cindy Sheehan, for the great Camp Cindy episode and for refusing to be silenced by George Bush.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gone fishing...



What can I say? I'm in thrall to Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. It's a completely overused word, but Mr Beefheart is an authentic American genius (the overused word being, well, guess). I just cannot stop listening to this album (and Doc at the Radar Station). Magnificent.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Swicki

So out of fashion that I have an urgent need to be fashionable, I have added something called a Swicki to Extreme Unction. It is there on the right, taking up valuable space (Google Ads alone have now reaped $0.59 in just under six weeks, I can retire a rich man in 2450 A.D.).

The Swicki supposedly produces better focused search results and will improve in time due to some marketeers bastardization of Darwinism, blah blah. As citizens of the universe, I invite you to test drive the Swicki today. If it does anything interesting, please please please, let me know what it is.

But for starters, I clicked on the "confidence men" tag and found this beautiful first sentence on a report of a Baptist Minister's Conference

"The Conference commenced with the 300 men singing the metrical version of Psalm 65..."

Sorry I missed out on such a glorious sensory extravaganza!

If you must kill people, at least have the dignity to make sense

The Terminator is about to kill for real.

Schwarzenegger made this pronouncement, demonstrating that logic has not been a feature of his thought process,

"Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologise or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case. Without apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption," he said."

So Williams cannot experience redemption because he has not expressed remorse for four murders that he has always maintained he never committed. By the same token, if Tookie Williams DID express remorse and apologize, then there would be a chance of redemption, regardless seemingly of whether he committed the murders or not.

It appears then, that in Governor Schwarzenegger's interpretation of the law, that the death penalty is not punishment for the crimes that a person commits, but for the failure to demonstrate remorse and atone for those crimes. That makes zero sense in the case of an innocent man wrongly convicted of a crime that carries the death penalty. For that man, such an interpretation of the law is a signed death warrant.

What would happen in the scenario where Williams expressed deep remorse and was later found innocent, as he previously claimed? Would he then need to be executed for having expressed "false remorse"?

"Here was an innocent man, ready to lie in the most blatant way in order to prolong his life. And he achieved this selfish aim at the expense of wrongly leading the families of the murder victims to believe that clemency had been granted as recognition of genuine remorse. Now it is clear that Tookie Williams is innocent, new evidence exonerates him. But that does not change the fact that, by rights, Tookie Williams should not be alive today to enjoy the freedom he now claims. It is for this reason that I am inclined to reverse the granting of clemency and reinstate the death penalty that Williams so cunningly avoided. Perhaps this will act as a deterrent to other innocent men who try to avoid death by falsely claiming to be guilty..."

You can see what happens once logic has been bent into crazy shapes.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New computer

Extreme Unction is now coming to the world from my new computer, my Christmas present. Here is picture of it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Some funny stuff...

This free Ricky Gervais podcast is really funny, particularly because of Miserable Karl, a Mancunian whose lack of enthusiasm for modernity is astonishing!

"We now go to places to where we shouldn't go. People now go on holiday to places where you've gotta have an injection before you go there. Forget it then. That's a warning. Don't go there." (the other half of what makes this funny is Karl's utterly depressed delivery).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Confidence Men, Scams, and Spiritualists

I just cannot get enough of grifters. Here is an article I've assembled that takes David Maurer's The Big Con as its start point, and brings together a variety of related material on confidence men and scams of one sort or another, all in one handy spot.

The Big Con
The Big Con by David Maurer was first published in the 1940s, and is a history of the personalities, the rackets, and the argot, that made up the world of the confidence men.
This is a place where ropers find marks to trim, and where a con can end by giving someone the cackle-bladder as a blow off. (The cackle-bladder is a chicken's bladder filled with blood and hidden in the mouth. It can be used to help deliver a convincing spurt of blood during the staging of a fake death that ends a swindle and leaves the sucker believing they witnessed a real murder. The sucker's complicity ensures that they will be in no hurry to return to the city anytime soon or take their beef to the cops.)

David Mamet uses the cackle-bladder in his 1987 movie, House of Games - This film is notable for having one of the best plots of this type of film, where Lindsay Crause plays a successful but bored psychiatrist who finds herself drawn into the fascinating world of the confidence men, who use their razor-sharp knowledge of human nature for criminal purposes. The film features a cameo by Ricky Jay, one of the world's greatest magicians and a superb exponent of cardplay.
There are some excellent articles (particularly the New Yorker, Secrets of the Magus) in the archive on Ricky Jay's website.

Another Mamet movie featuring confidence men is The Spanish Prisoner, named after a very famous con that originated in the 16th Century (and is still going strong today, most notably in the form of the Nigerian Money Transfer Scam that we all know so well. There is also an internet movement known as scam baiting, see image below) . This movie features Steve Martin in a straight role and it has its moments. Confidence men of a different stripe feature in Mamet's excellent expletive-laden 1992 film Glengarry Glenn Ross, where Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Alec Baldwin (in an unforgettable cameo), play unscrupulous salesmen/conmen, fighting for their futures. At a tangent, but still relevant, as it has the performance of an enormous con as its centrepiece, Kevin Spacey was brilliant as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, (1995) More recently, and less successfully, there is a grifter element to the 2004 James Spader movie, Shadow of Fear , while Nicholas Cage plays a flim-flam man in Matchstick Men (2003), which is a 5/10 movie with a few good moments.



Image taken from 419 Eater trophy room, click on images there for large versions. Yes, it's juvenile, but it's also very funny.

Maurer's book makes an ideal accompaniment to Jack Black's terrific biography, You Can't Win.
He provides a thorough discussion of the historical roots and development of the cons, from their origins in the streets and the circus to the opening of the first big stores, where the theatrical aspect was given full rein, and conmen would contrive to fool their suckers into believing they were in a genuine bookmakers, Western Union office, or brokerage, with a cast of criminals playing the various roles. There is full discussion of how the cons worked, how a victim, or mark, was found and swindled, and then gotten rid of. But most of all, Maurer's book is a celebration of the personalities and the unique language of the confidence men, these aristocrats of the underworld. As such, the book has held a fascination for writers, with devotees including the already mentioned David Mamet, along with Jim Thompson (who wrote the book The Grifters, that was made into the 1990 movie of the same name, where Anjelica Huston played Lilly Dillon, based on the real-life Dillon, who was one of the few female grifters), James Ellroy, and William Burroughs, who similarly documented the lifestyles and the argot of Times Square hustlers and heroin addicts in his debut novel, Junky (the same milieu that Kinsey also took a keen interest in for his research into sexual behaviour).

Maurer's book was also source material for classic 1973 movie, The Sting starring Paul Newman.

Finally, as a side note to confidence men, here's some material on another breed of con artists, the Spiritualists. There are a host of entertaining debunkings of spiritualists tricks in Part Two of The Lock and Key Library, an early 20th century collection of writings on real-life detectives and modern magic. You can read it here for free at Project Gutenberg (the most relevant section is located in the final section, starting with David Abbot's contribution).


Spirit Photography

Likewise, the great escapologist and illusionist, Harry Houdini, wrote a fascinating book, The Miracle Mongers, where he comments on the techniques, training, and trickery employed by strong men, fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, etc, my favourite being named The Incombustible Spaniard, and documents numerous performers and some serious mishaps. You can read it here for free at the Gutenberg Project.

A commenter pointed towards this exhibition in New York, The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult (a rather dire play on words in the title) - the website has some sample pictures and a spot of expounding.

That concludes my brief survey. Any more good material, please leave a comment.


Bookporn

Alasdair will appreciate this, a look at some of the good books I bought in my first year here in America! Enjoy! CLICK on the photo to see it Big and Glorious!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

One year in America

Yes. It is one year precisely since I arrived in New York from Dublin. Tomorrow it will be one year since I came to Memphis.

Perhaps I will have some celebratory Pop Tarts or Waffles... but then, maybe these Pop Tarts or Waffles will be tinged with sadness, because it is also a year since I have seen a lot of my friends and family. So for that reason, today I am going to quote the names of the people back home to recognise that they are very much in my daily thoughts

Tom, Scarlett, Leo, Hari, Heiko, Andrew, Jenny, Amy, Amy#2, Alasdair, Alice, Chris P, Sean, Martin (although you appear incapable of replying to an email), Simon, Dad, Kirk, Joanne, and all the nieces and nephews. I miss you all.

I feel like doing a satellite link, Hollywood Hills behind me, with orange suntan, delivering a goodwill message to you this Christmas, "Of course, it breaks my heart not to be there in Britain, paying sky high taxes and freezing my balls off this Christmas. But while I tough it out in the hot-tub, be sure that I'll be thinking of you all, and wishing you a merry merry Christmas, and that, should you not perish from exposure during the course of the season, a happy, highly-taxed, and profitable New Year, for both yourselves and the Chancellor... I have to go now, the tequila won't drink itself and the hot-tub party is about to start. Stay happy!"

The Postman and the Castle

Today, another link. I won't steal the pictures as tempters, as that isn't fair on the person who put this page together. But here is the background. What would you think if someone said that a French postman spent 33 years of their life building a "Palais Ideal" (Ideal Castle)?

Life being what it is, Ferdinand Cheval did just that. Check out the amazing results here!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Something I don't usually do...

I am not usually lazy enough to just link... but Polly Toynbee's excellent piece on The Chronicles of Narnia from a humanist perspective is worthy reading.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Internet Debate is Dead - Discuss

UPDATE:
Please read the comments, as the self-appointed Policeman of the Internet, the Kafka-loving Bullyboy, Ian, THE WHIPPER, has come to abuse me out of my ignorance, to enlighten me via the soles of his jackboots! Thank you Ian. Remember, I am neither clever or interesting, etc. I don't have the talent of Ian who manages on his blog to erm, link to reviews and say things like, "Oh, that would be a book to read" and "Aren't Tuesdays nice?"

Yes, internet debate is dead, dead for me.

Here I am. I read, I write, I think. I enjoy debate, the cut and thrust of it.

So I post some comments on various websites, but what happens? Whatever I post, the writer of the post reacts angrily against, as if criticising someone's position is a personal attack. Or someone takes three words of my comment out of context and turns them into the focal point of a withering attack. Or someone accuses me of showing off because I use a word with more letters than "jam". So what is the point? No-one seems capable of having someone disagree with them without immediately resorting to insults. I have seen every variety of my username, Pinhut. Pindick, Pinhunt, Pinhead, blah blah. Not once has someone actually engaged with the substance of what I have said. And this on sites like Alternet or ThinkProgress or DailyKos, where supposedly liberals with fully operational brains stop by.

Examine this response to a reasoned point I made on a site like BlogCritics in its function:

"Are you registered on the Stylus boards? Is someone affiliated with your site registered on the Stylus boards? How many words did your response need to have? How many fingers am I holding up?"

No swearing, but you get the idea. No concern with what I may have said, that would be ridiculous. Straight into that hugely defensive, hectoring tone, like a nightclub doorman. Pursue the argument, such as it is, be it by striking back or making pacifying noise, and it makes ZERO DIFFERENCE. I have offended the GODS of the Message Boards. The discussion can only end with my VIRTUAL DEATH, by being instructed that I am SURPLUS to Requirements and "If you don't like it here, fuck off... etc" So that's the answer, if I hold an opinion that differs in anyway at all from whatever the current, ever-shifting, majority opinion is, be it that of a majority of music fans, Democrats, poets, whatever, then there is only one solution. I have to "fuck off".

What is wrong with people? At the very least, when you address someone you should treat them as your equal. At the very least, someone should be able to hold a differing opinion without being slammed for that. At the very least, if people want to profess to debating the issues, then that is what they should do, debate the issues. Not question your right to speak.

Is it just me, or is anyone else experiencing similar difficulties?

(And for you ironists that read this blog, go ahead and post some jokey insult as the first comment, it's been a full week since I wet my breeches)


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Film review #3 - The Trip

Film reviews return!

The Trip is a 1967 movie by Roger Corman. The plot is extremely slender -> Man is getting a divorce, takes LSD trip, experiences one hell of a night! The man in question is Peter Fonda, and he descends into underworld of Freaks from his day job as director of soulless TV commercials. Fonda arrives in this world wearing a sensible red sweater and straight brown trousers.

The film is prefaced with a cautionary message, explaining that The Trip is designed to "educate" on the dangers of LSD. Oh YES! The ensuing 90 minutes of mad visuals, bouncing breasts, dwarves, magic castles, and iguanas catching flies is indeed most educational. Once Fonda has ingested his heroic dose, he sits down with an annoying "spirit guide", a bearded man who seems to think the ideal place for your first trip is in a room with a flotation pool just deep enough to drown in, in a room that leads on to a balcony thousands of feet up on the side of a mountain.

The TRIP begins.

The film from here on is full of cutting, hundreds, thousands of cuts, (and some of it fast-cutting to point of pop-promo) to reflect the discontinuity, the mental processes, the visions, and the position of Fonda in "the real world" (more or less) during his experiences. There are two very exciting psychedelic sex scenes. There is one very cool nightclub freakout. There is a long long strand where Fonda is dressed as some kind of psychedelic pirate, white outfit, wing collar, medallion, chased by hooded figures on horseback, harrassed by a dwarf in medieval tunic and matching leggings. He is killed in numerous ways. He is placed on trial for his vacuous TV commercial-making life (and rightly concedes his guilt). After seeing vision of his spirit guide laying dead, he runs off into the city, stopping off to break into a house, watch Vietnam war on TV and drink milk with a sleepless little girl. This sparks more paranoia, as now the cops may be involved.

More and more psychedelic visuals. Sex. Resolution, of some kind.

Okay, now, why bother watching what sounds like a steaming pile? In its defence, there are some awesome 60s interiors, clothes, and freeform music here. There is also a loose loose structure that while it resonates doesn't impose much beyond the symbolic. This makes for a good experience, as the form of the film itself is a constant prod-prod to stop looking for linearity, to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. In this sense, the adventure becomes a meaningful exercise, the film a fountainhead of images, archetypes, rather than story. A brief bout of psychedelic mega-sex at the end and a climaxing of some aspects of the PIRATE STRAND, sees the hooded riders reveal themselves as other female points on the Love Triangle, the Fonda character "loving everyone" and experiencing the Joy of the Moment.

Conclusion -> Worthy of the eyes (all three of them)

*** Images not currently working on this site due to Scottish Goon Squad ***