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Editor, The Konformist
Steamshovelpress.com is back! New web content! New book product! New conference information! PLUS: a new, daily, twitterish quip: "Parapolitics Offhand!"
Now available on CD and through US Mail only: Popular Parapolitics, 219 pages, illustrated, of comentary on the nexus of parapolitics and popular culture. $15 post paid from Kenn Thomas, POB 210553, St. Louis, MO 63121.
Conspiracy Theory Experts: Skepticism Is Part Of Our National Identity
JORDAN G. TEICHER
October 28, 2012
From birthers to jobbers to those who believe pollsters are in cahoots with President Obama, some on the right have been gaining a reputation as particularly prone to conspiracy theories.
But the last time a Republican was in the White House, the party of conspiracy was often reversed. And there are still some who maintain that President Bush stole the 2000 election and planned the Sept. 11 attacks.
Conspiracy theory experts say that the tendency toward distrust of power is neither uniquely partisan nor entirely detrimental. In fact, they say, it's par for the course for minority political parties.
And Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power In American Culture, says that not all conspiracy theories are created equal. He notes that some recent claims didn't start out sounding all that far-fetched but that they suffered by being looped in with truly fringe theories, like "birtherism."
"The claims about Libya and about the job numbers begin at a place that seems legitimate," Fenster says. "When they continually get trumpeted even after they have been disproven and when they are then tied to things that are illegitimate, it's at that point they can become illegitimate."
James Broderick, an assistant professor at New Jersey City University and co-author of Web Conspiracy: A Guide to Conspiracy Theory Sites on the Internet, says it's far too easy today to dismiss the impulse toward suspecting conspiracy as merely rooted in kookiness or ignorance. Generally, he says, a healthy distrust of power is useful and necessary in a democracy.
In the past half century there have been conspiracy theories the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair, for example that have turned out to be true, Broderick points out.
"A generation of citizens raised in such an environment obviously have cause to be suspicious of what the government tells them, and rightly so," he says.
And skepticism is part of our national identity, says Fenster.
"Populism and populist distrust of government is a core value in American politics and has been since the Revolution. Conspiracy theories are a particularly heightened version of that," Fenster says.
Broderick says while today's right-leaning conspiracy theories may mostly be attributed to the fact that there is a Democrat in the White House, technology, too, is a player.
"Before, if you were at a party ranting about some pet theory of yours ... people might be amused listening to you or there may perhaps be some interest, but it would end right at the punch bowl," Broderick says. "Now you spout out at the communal punch bowl, which is the Internet, and others who might not have had access to your opinion, tens of thousands, can read what you think."
Grand Theft Auto V is Coming Spring 2013
Today, we're proud to announce that Grand Theft Auto V is expected to launch worldwide spring 2013 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Developed by series creator Rockstar North, Grand Theft Auto V takes place in a re-imagined, present-day Southern California in the largest and most thriving game-world we have ever created set in the sprawling city of Los Santos and for miles beyond from the tops of the mountains to the depths of the ocean.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: What you need to know
With Black Ops 2, the Call of Duty series has completely broken away from its roots as a historical shooter. The game is set in 2025, and focuses on David Mason, the son of the protagonist in the original Black Ops. A cold war has been brewing between the United States and China over rare earth elements, which has caused the United States to build an army of unmanned drones for protection. This plan goes sour, however, when a political activist named Raul Menendez takes over the drones and uses them to attack both countries, hoping to incite a war. All of this sets the stage for the usual twitchy gunplay for which Call of Duty is known, but with more robots and futuristic weaponry.
But this time, the game offers a twist: a set of so-called Strike Force missions, interspersed throughout the game, can affect the outcome of the plot. In these missions, players jump between soldiers and vehicles to carry out objectives. Win or lose in these missions, the game goes on, so players can actually worsen the outcome in single-player by failing at Strike Force.
Of course, many players will ignore the Black Ops 2 single-player campaign and head straight to the game's online multiplayer mode. The main attraction here is a new create-a-class system, which lets players customize their loadouts with any ten items. For instance, players can carry one fewer weapon in exchange for an extra perk or grenade, or stock up on weapons by sacrificing perks. Gamervets.com already has an online calculator to figure out class loadouts. If you want to see what multiplayer looks like, IGN's YouTube channel has 8 minutes of action.
As with all other Call of Duty games developed by Treyarch, Black Ops 2 also has a Zombie Mode. The traditional Survival game type returns, but also available is a new game type, called Tranzit, where players try to fend off the undead in an open-world, taking shelter in a bus that they can outfit with barricades and weapons. Official Xbox Magazine has a thorough overview of the new Zombie Mode with more details.
Lady Gaga May Release Two 'Volumes' Of ARTPOP
Oct 31 2012
Lady Gaga has been collaborating with an alphabetical assortment of talent in recent months everyone from Azealia Banks to Zedd so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that her upcoming ARTPOP album might end up being split into two volumes.
That's according to the Mother Monster herself, who broke the news in a chat hosted on her LittleMonsters.com site. Apparently, some of the tracks Gaga is working on for her new album are so out there that she's contemplating turning it into a two-disc affair, with one part "experimental" tracks, and the other, more traditional, radio-friendly fare.
Lady Gaga's New Music Will Be 'Phenomenal'
"It's a bit more modern. You never know if radio is ready," Gaga said. "I can't decide how to tracklist it yet. Sort of thinking that volume one should have all the commercial songs and save the experimental material for volume two."
It's not clear if Gaga meant she'd be releasing ARTPOP as a double-disc set, or if she plans on splitting the album up into two separate volumes. MTV News' email to her reps seeking clarification was not responded to by press time.
Gaga also told fans that there will be a corresponding ARTPOP app, and while details are scarce, she promised that it would definitely blow people's minds.
"The app is coming along amazing. I'm flying back to Chicago to work on it," she said. "The developers on ARTPOP are all like 22 and genius kids. You'd be surprised how many genius Little Monsters there are."
Top four manufacturers of tablets in the third quarter:
1. Apple Inc., maker of the iPad, 14 million shipped worldwide, 50.4 per cent share
2. Samsung Electronics Co., maker of Galaxy line, 5.1 million, 18.4 per cent.
3. Amazon.com Inc., maker of Kindle Fire, 2.5 million, 9 per cent
4. AsusTek Computer Inc., maker of Transformer line and Google's Nexus 7, 2.4 million, 8.6 per cent
Kool Websites: Purina One beyOnd
Naturally delicious ingredients, small steps for sustainability and a commitment to shelter pets that makes it all come full circle. At beyOnd, we know that a product is more than just what goes into the bag. That's why we consider some of our most important ingredients to be the values that push us to make a positive impact on the world.
The Bathroom Readers' Institute
To mark our 25th anniversary, here's the very first article from the very first Bathroom Reader: the story of a classic song, a classic controversy... and Uncle John's favorite room.
In the 1960s, Memphis's Stax Records had the most talented lineup of studio musicians and singers in the South: There was Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Booker T. and the M.G.'s, Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, and Sam and Dave.
Sam Moore and Dave Prater joined the Stax family in 1965. They were assigned to the writing/production team of Dave Porter and Isaac Hayes, and the partnership clicked big, producing a string of Soul masterpieces, including "You Don't Know Like I Know" and "Soul Man." In between was a song that almost made the top 20a record that would have been a much bigger hit if it hadn't been for radio censorship.
White Top 40 stations were just getting used to playing black soul records in 1966 when "Hold On, I'm Comin'" was released. Because of the suggestive title, many radio stations refused to air it at all. And those that did often made the situation worse as DJs drooled over the sexual implications of the song. In reality, the lyrics were simply about one lover giving the other support "when times are bad." "Coming" just meant "coming to the rescue." Sam and Dave's macho, boastful delivery and sly laughs throughout the song didn't help their case, although it did help to make it a great record. Stax changed the title to "Hold On, I'm A-Comin'" to placate the FCC, but the damage was already done.
WHEN YOU GOTTA GO
If only the radio jocks had known the true story of the song's conception: Hayes and Porter were in the studio, writing some songs. Porter left for a minute, and when he didn't come back, an impatient Hayes went looking for him. His room-to-room search finally ended atyou guessed itthe bathroom door. Porter was taking his time in there, and Hayes yelled at him to hurry. Porter's irritated reply: "Hey man, hold on. I'm comin'!" And a song was born.
'Skyfall' not just a great Bond movie, it's a great film to boot
November 07, 2012
"Skyfall" opens with an extravagant bang, slinks into Adele's catchy and cool opening number and closes with a heavy heart. But its the two-and-a-half hours sandwiched between that make "Skyfall" not just one of the greatest Bond films in the canon's 50-year history, but one of the most exciting, intense thrillers of the past decade.
Director Sam Mendes has crafted a visceral and emotional thriller that makes Bond a real character, not just an archetype. Writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan infuse the film with an emotional core, showing the troubled layers beneath Ian Fleming's iconic hero. Bond is given a back story and an objective that hits close to home, giving the movie and the character an emotional weight and fervency previously absent in the franchise. Not that "Skyfall" is so serious it becomes pretentious popcorn entertainment; on the contrary it still maintains that classic panache and humor that we all have come to expect in a Bond film.
Daniel Craig is back and better than ever. Still a fantastic Bond, Craig's development as a 21st century 007 is just as enticing to watch as the incredible action scenes. This Bond is a ruthless killer first and foremost. He's a trained beast on a very long leash held by M. Craig keeps the seemingly immortal Bond feeling mortal. This Bond is not impervious to harm and Craig's rugged, beaten exterior and somewhat haunted psyche portrays this.
"Skyfall" hits closer to home than any other Bond film. The topical plot taps into our fears of personal security in a rapidly shrinking world and, unlike previous Bonds, shows the importance of MI6 and the double-O unit in today's techno-terrorism environment. Ex-patriot and rogue MI6 agent Silva (Javier Bardem) hacks the government's computers and threatens to publicly release the cover identities of embedded agents around the world. M sends 007 to take out her former mentee, an unstable inverted reflection of Bond, while the Prime Minister's appointed consultant Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) is threatening her command, citing the lack of necessity for trained killers living in the shadows while terror is primarily done via point and click.
Unlike the dark, confusing and awkwardly paced "Quantum of Solace," "Skyfall" successfully course corrects the reboot. The lofty action scenes more than make up for the pittance of the same in "Quantum." Bond also displays his wit and charm, and the screenplay is self-referential, poking jabs at previous films. Also back is the crazed megalomaniac villain. Bardem's insane clown-like, blond-haired, over-the-top Silva is almost comical in this overtly realistic environment. But his super-villain persona, combined with his frighteningly manic visage brings an unease to the film, much like Heath Ledger's Joker did in "The Dark Knight." Silva is intelligent but crazy, like a bizarro-world version of his Bardem's Oscar-winning performance as the sadistic killer in "No Country For Old Men."
Ben Wishaw's Q is more a computer whiz-kid than gadget guru; an entertaining contrast to Craig's aged old-school Bond. Hopefully their relationship will be expanded in future films because the ground work is set for an exciting partnership. Though Q's gadgets are part of the fun of watching a Bond film, "Skyfall" shies away from the tech. In fact, the technology is the villain's weapon and Bond resorts to primal instinct and physical skill to thwart Silva.
Judi Dench gets her largest on-screen performance in a Bond film here and she is great. Even though Bond lusts after Naomi Harris and Bérénice Marlohe, Dench is the real Bond girl in "Skyfall." Like an eccentric buddy-cop movie, Craig's Bond and Dench's M are a great dynamic duo, especially with Dench's sharp wit and total lack of BS. One of the finest actresses working today, Dench carries the heart of the film. We see her respect for Bond the killer, and perhaps a little motherly love, but we also see what an incredibly difficult job it is to run MI6, having to choose to sacrifice your own agents for the safety and security of the country.
Joining Mendes on "Skyfall" are some of his frequent collaborators like composer Thomas Newman, who successfully blends his signature style with the iconic Bond sound. Cinematographer Roger Deakins juxtaposes the action scenes with ,depending on the locale, a grittiness or an exotic sheen. One standout moment has Bond and a thug in a fight atop a Shanghai skyscraper. The brawl is completely backlit by neon signs so that we are watching a shadow fight. One of the coolest fight scenes in all of Bond.
Though "Skyfall" is the anticipated culmination of the previous two films, it is a stand-alone piece. If you have never seen any other Bond film before you can walk right in and feel right at home here. For the already-initiated, though, we get the complexity and maturity of "Casino Royale" and "Quantum," but we see Mendes letting the franchise open back up and breathe again, returning the reboot almost to its early Connery-era roots. And a Bond movie steeped in both 1960s nostalgia and contemporary suspense and action is the perfect concoction.
"Skyfall" is the best of the Daniel Craig Bond films and surpasses just about every Bond film made in the past 43 years. Not only is this a great Bond movie, it's a great film.
Ben Affleck: "Hollywood is full of CIA agents"
Silver Screen Saucers
7 November 2012
Discussing his new film Argo this week, Ben Affleck has stated that Hollywood is likely teeming with CIA operatives. In a video interview with the actor, The Guardian's Catherine Shoard asks: "Are there many actors in Hollywood who also moonlight as agents do you think?" At this point, Affleck sits forward in his chair and laughs uncomfortably. He replies: "I think there are probably quite a few, yes. I think probably Hollywood is full of CIA agents and we just don't know it. And I wouldn't be surprised at all to discover that this was extremely common."
Shoard then asks: "Are you CIA?" To which Affleck responds, with a strained smile: "I am yes."
Obligatory laughter then follows from Shoard as Affleck adds: "And now you've blown my cover, so there goes my career, so I hope the directing thing better work out."
Argo is the true story of a CIA mission to rescue six Americans holed up in the Canadian embassy in Tehran during the hostage crisis of 1979. Affleck, who directs and stars in the film, is no stranger to working with the CIA. In 2002, he starred in the big screen version of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, which depicted the Agency as tracking down terrorists who detonate a nuclear weapon on US soil. For this movie, CIA director George Tenet gave Affleck a personal tour of the Agency's Langley HQ. The actor also consulted with CIA analysts and worked closely with the Agency's former Entertainment Liaison Chase Brandon, who served as the movie's on-set advisor.
Affleck's wife, Jennifer Garner, enjoyed an even cosier relationship with CIA as the star of the Agency-supported TV series Alias (2001 2006). Garner even starred unpaid in a CIA recruitment video in 2004.
Superman's Home Planet Krypton `Found'
November 5, 2012 by Mike Wall for Space.com
A prominent astrophysicist has pinned down a real location for Superman's fictional home planet of Krypton.
Krypton is found 27.1 light-years from Earth, in the southern constellation Corvus (The Crow), says Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium in New York City. The planet orbits the red dwarf star LHS 2520, which is cooler and smaller than our sun.
Tyson performed the celestial sleuthing at the request of DC Comics, which wanted to run a story about Superman's search for his home planet.
The new book Action Comics Superman #14, titled "Star Light, Star Bright" comes out Wednesday (Nov. 7). Tyson appears within its pages, aiding the Man of Steel on his quest.
"As a native of Metropolis, I was delighted to help Superman, who has done so much for my city over all these years," Tyson said in a statement. "And it's clear that if he weren't a superhero he would have made quite an astrophysicist."
You'll have to read "Star Light, Star Bright" to find out just how Superman and Tyson pinpoint Krypton. For amateur astronomers who want to spot the real star LHS 2520 in the night sky, here are its coordinates:
Right Ascension: 12 hours 10 minutes 5.77 seconds
Declination: -15 degrees 4 minutes 17.9 seconds
Proper Motion: 0.76 arcseconds per year, along 172.94 degrees from due north
Superman was born on Krytpon but was launched toward Earth as an infant by his father, Jor-El, just before the planet's destruction. After touching down in Kansas, Superman was raised as Clark Kent by a farmer and his wife.
Now Superman will apparently know exactly where he came from.
"This is a major milestone in the Superman mythos that gives our super hero a place in the universe," DC Entertainment co-publisher Dan DiDio said in a statement. "Having Neil deGrasse Tyson in the book was one thing, but by applying real-world science to this story he has forever changed Superman's place in history. Now fans will be able to look up at the night's sky and say, `That's where Superman was born.'"
Kool Towns: Nederland, Colorado
Nederland sits in a valley created by a glacier thousands of years ago. Native Americans used the valley and river left behind by the glacier before the first hunters and trappers looking for beaver pelts found their way to the area in the early 1800's. A relatively flat area with a good water source and ample wildlife, the valley was an attractive place for early settlers.
In the mid-19th century, the first white homesteaders who settled here gave it a variety of names. First known as Dayton, then Brownsville, and in 1871, when the first post office was located here, it was called Middle Boulder. That was the same year Abel Breed bought the silver-rich Caribou Mine and decided to bring his ore from Caribou Hill to the "warmer" climate of Middle Boulder for milling. It was also the same year the Boulder Canyon Road was completed, though it would be nearly forty years before the first automobile (a Stanley Steamer) would make the difficult trip up from Boulder in 1910.
In 1873, Breed sold the Caribou Mine to the Mining Company Nederland from Holland. Breed's Caribou Mill in Middle Boulder became known among the miners as "the Netherlands," meaning "low lands" (which it is compared to the town of Caribou at 10,000' elevation). In 1874 when the town incorporated, the people chose Nederland as the new name.
The mines at Caribou soon declined, however, and the Dutch company pulled out just a few years later. By 1890, there was little ore to be milled and Nederland became another mountain ghost town, with only a handful of families living here year round.
A second mining boom began just after the turn of the century. Sam Conger, who had discovered the Caribou silver mine, found tungsten in areas to the north and east of Nederland, and he knew its value in making steel. The old silver mill in Nederland was converted to process tungsten. By 1916, Nederland had a population of nearly 3,000, about twice its present number. During this time, you could travel to Nederland by train, Stanley Steamer, and car. In addition, the town of Lakewood grew north of Nederland and the town of Tungsten sprung up at the foot of Barker Dam. An unnaturally flat area and a small house that once served as the miners' mess hall on the south side of the canyon road just below the dam is scant evidence of the town that still appears on some area maps.
By 1920, the Town's population had plummeted to about 200 people. Automobiles replaced the train, and the cabins became summer getaways for rich folks from the Front Range. For the next 20 years, small mines, farming, ranching, and tourists picnicking at the new Barker Reservoir, kept the Town alive.
The last small boom was in the 1940's, when demand for tungsten again picked up during World War II. But once again, as demand for tungsten fell, the town was left to a small group of miners, farmers, ranchers, and summer people. Eventually the theater, bowling alley, stores, and banks closed.
Nederland in the 1960's saw a steady increase in population, starting with "hippies" who brought a vibrant music scene and a new lifestyle to the sleepy valley. By the 1990's, Nederland's population had grown quite a bit, accounting for new residents who commuted all along the Front Range for work. At this time, Barker Meadow was developed into the town's only shopping center and plans were underway to spruce up downtown to attract more tourist and encourage local residents to spend their dollars in town, instead of "down the hill" in Boulder.
At the turn of the 21st century, the town's population growth had leveled out. New attractions brought increased tourism and increased revenue to local businesses. A new fire station, new community center, and new library solidified Nederland's position as the hub of the Peak to Peak Community. Townsfolk now wonder what the future will bring what will Nederland's next boom look like? Its next bust? How will we retain the town's unique character as the times around it change? One thing is certain: Nederland is a town like no other, and probably always will be.