ROOM 109

Election Edition
ROOM 109
Deep in the bowels of Liberal Party Headquarters… an evacuation is in progress…



Yes, the fire drill

has started…

But C-Wing is still 20 seconds too slow…
Of course I’m a stickler! If Party members can’t follow orders during a simple fire drill… how much obedience can we expect when we tell them who the next Party leader shall be on election day?
I’m telling you, Michael, I won’t abide another Stephane Dion. Not now when we are on the verge of complete dominance of the Canadian political landscape for all time!
Yes, the loss of the

cosmonauts is indeed a

setback — all the more

because Harper is

blaming me.

He claims that my refusal to

act in parliament is the cause

of the disaster…

and my refusal to respond an

admission of guilt…

For now? We do nothing and say nothing. We maintain a neutral stance in the house…

avoid the media…
and Harper will play right into our hands!
Listen, I have to go —

it’s time for the

two-minute hate…

OK, bye.
Liberal Grand Hall

The Summer of the Mind Mix

Special guest Ryan Lockwood and DJ Square Root -1 are proud to present the vision inducing Summer of the Mind Mix, a unique compilation of AM Gold that has stood the test of time…

1. Ventura Highway – America
2. I Saw the Light – Todd Rundgren
3. Ride Like the Wind – Christopher Cross
4. Baker Street – Gerry Raferty
5. Heaven – The Rolling Stones
6. Unknown Artist
7. I Keep Forgetting – Michael Mcdonald
8. Hearts – Marty Balin
9. Tin Man – America
10. Summer Breeze – Seal and Crofts
11. Lowdown – Boz Scaggs

12. How Long Has This Been Going On – Ace

13. Steal Away – Robbie Dupree

14. We Don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richard

15. Baby Come Back – Player

16. Baby I want You – Bread

17. Diamond Girl – Seal and Crofts

18. It Never Rains in California – Albert Hammond

19. Sister Golden Hair – America

20. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

Hollywood Zombies Part of Rich American Tradition

2007’s landmark release of Topps’ Hollywood Zombies trading cards is a remarkable addition to a unique American tradition that includes EC Comics, MAD Magazine and Wacky Packages. The cards are fascinating not only because they parody our Pop culture, but because they summon timeless themes of celebrity and death in a horrific and humourous mix. The painted images of decomposing celebrities and the thoughtful write-ups on the back combine to create truly entertaining experiences, which are Pop culture phenomena in and of themselves.

The pioneer of this sensationalistic, black humour style was EC Comics’ Publisher William Gaines, whom inherited the EC comic book company after the sudden death of his father Max in 1947. Under Bill’s stewardship, EC Comics changed its name from Educational Comics to Entertaining Comics, and, shortly thereafter, began publishing science fiction, horror, romance, war and crime comics, as well as the now iconic MAD Magazine. Due to the bold originality, gruesome stories and unusually detailed art, the company achieved a high degree of success in a relatively short time period, employing legendary comic artists such as Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Frank Frazetta and Graham Ingels. Whether it was supernatural, criminal or tragic, the comics often had an edge, which seemed to speak to a newer, younger, deliquent America.

So popular were the comics, that they were eventually subject to hearings before the US Congress, largely in response to the work of Dr. Fredric Wertham, who had been a fierce opponent of the stories of crime, violence and the supernatural in comic books. Wertham, a German psychiatrist living in America, published two papers in 1948 entitled “Horror in the Nursery” and “The Psychopathology of Comics,” as well as the damning 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, all of which listed comic books as a major contributing factor in juvenile delinquency.

In response to increasing pressure, Gaines spearheaded a committee of publishers to restore the medium’s reputation. This resulted in the establishment of the Comics Code Authority (CCA), which, ironically, Gaines refused to join, believeing it had become a vehicle of censorship. And he was right. The CCA acted as a self-censoring board for the comics industry that required all content be approved prior to publication in order to bare its stamp of approval. The CCA now had power to refuse any content it deemed improper, thereby killing the comic’s distribution.

Sadly, it was not long before EC Comics went out of business, unable to survive the stringent conditions placed upon the company by the CCA. There’s evidence that the board was directly biased against EC Comics as well, banning the words “weird,” “terror” and “horror” from comic titles, which were present in the some of EC’s best selling comics. Interestingly, MAD Magazine was not subject to the same restrictions that had been placed on the comic book medium because it was in the magazine format.

Another example of this tradition of American pop, black humour is the Wacky Packages trading cards. First released by the Topps trading card company in 1967, the cards spoofed various American products with a fiendish spirit that leaned toward the creepy and weird. Nevertheless, the formula became an enormous success, briefly outselling the Topps Baseball card line in the 1970s. Like EC, the cards had beautiful artwork and smart puns, which appealed to kids and teenagers. This spirit has been a part of our Pop culture for over four decades, and arguably laid the groundwork for humour displayed in shows like Beavis and Butthead and The Simpsons.

In 2004, Topps relaunched the Wacky Packages series and have released a new edition every year since. Unfortunately, they don’t seem of the same quality as the older series. Though, in February 2008, Topps will release the Wacky Packages Flashbacks series, featuring some of the more popular cards from years past.

Today, however, is the era of the Hollywood Zombies. These cards speak to our current trash tabloid, celebrity culture in a way that Wacky Packages can’t, as their focus is on iconic personalities, rather than iconic products. The cards are brilliantly designed and the writing is hilarious. Like Wacky Packages, the images on the cards are painted, giving a sense of depth and quality to the cards.

On the front, the image of a zombie celebrity covers the entire card with a small logo in the top corner and a scary version of the icon’s name like “Oprah Winfreak” and “Melt Gibson” written on the bottom, The back of the card contains a parody of an American news outlet like “Entertainment Freakly” and “The Hollyweird Reporter,” or a tabloid website like “TMZombie.” A headline and a satirical, zombie inspired write-up fill out the back of the card. Another small but significant detail that makes the cards particularly contemporary is the placement of the website address on the back.

Admittedly, to buy Wacky packages these days is an exercise in nostalgia, but to buy the Hollywood Zombies cards — this pokes fun at the very heart of our MSN culture, engaging with the looming icons in our collective minds the world over. And in this respect, the cards are subversive. There’s something about Tom Ooze, flesh rotting, jumping up and down on a casket, or Paris Hellton walking straight out of hell onto the red carpet that speaks to today’s individuals who are incessantly force fed our celebrity culture. Thanks to the Hollywood Zombies cards, the tables have been turned. We morbidly enjoy the decrepit celebrity corpses dangling in horror, bodies falling to pieces, after having been endlessly paraded in front of our eyes in grocery store lineups and the ever pervasive mass media.

Like EC and Wacky Packages, the Hollywood Zombies trading cards are quality. The ghoulish artwork is both risque in content and well crafted technically, while the writing cuts deep and is genuinely funny. Importantly, the cards are priced reasonably, retailing for about $2-3 for a pack of 7 cards. It’s great to see a resurgence of a great American tradition that can be appreciated from Baghdad to Shanghai and the world over.

Ron Paul, Leadership and the American Media

“He’ll never win,” goes the chorus of news anchors, journalists, pundits and radio talk show hosts, yet Libertarian Ron Paul has led a remarkable if not unlikely campaign thus far for the Reblican Nomination for President in 2008.

Unusual indeed, for the unlikeliest of candidates provided the major highlight of the first Republican debate, squaring off against front-runner Rudy Guiliani on the biggest issue in American politics: the terrorist threat.

Hilariously, when Paul won the post-debate polls, Sean Hannity became the conspiracy theorist, accusing Paul supporters of rigging the results. With all the putdowns from the media and the establishment within the Republican party (one need only think of the President of the Michigan Republican Party trying to throw Paul out of future debates), it’s hard to read Paul’s candidacy as anything other than the will of the people versus that of the Establishment.

In the last quarter, the texas congressman has raised an impressive $5 million, more money than John McCain, the man whom George W. Bush defeated to become nominee in 2000. Single handedly, Paul has turned once monotous debates about who had the holiest soul and was most hawkish on national security into true clashes of ideas, promoting and defending libertarian values against the establishment within the Republican Party and the mass media.

Now, as far as how the mainstream press is portraying Paul, I’m not surprised — they have always, from my recollection, dismissed non-establishment candidates, particularly if they have stimulating and innovative ideas. A little more surprising and perhaps more interesting is how the new media has reacted. And it is their opinion with which I’m more concerned, as the Drive-Bys have discredited themselves long ago.

If we begin with Drudge, we see a somewhat muted response, which might not be what one would have expected considering Drudge agrees with many of Paul’s ideas. In fact, on one of Drudge’s radio programs, he stated how he agreed with Paul on all the major issues down the list, but ended his monologue exclaiming: “He can’t lead!” On a later program, after taking down another poll that had Paul winning, Drudge mentioned that he was receiving threats from Paul supporters, so perhaps this is a factor as well.

Early in the primary season, Rush Limbaugh stated outright on his radio program that Paul was hardly worth considering by virtue of the fact that “he’ll never win!” Since then he’s only mentioned Paul on his show to ridicule him, whether it be a story on “Strippers for Ron Paul,” or ridiculing a caller who asked Rush to speak more about him. I suspect the main reason for this is Paul’s firm anti-war stance, which is complete opposition to Limbaugh’s opinion on Iraq..

Self-proclaimed Libertarian Democrat Camille Paglia has said little to nothing about Paul in her monthly column in Salon, and was supporting John Edwards as recently as a few months ago (link). To Paglia I have to ask: what leadership qualities does Edwards display when you see him talk? His rhetoric is empty and manipulative — this was clearly demonstrated so when he attacked Cheney’s daughter for being gay in the vice-president’s debate last election. Edwards also has a socialist agenda, which includes free health care and university education for every citizen. Libertarian Democrat…? Hmm…

George Noory, host of Coast to Coast AM has interviewed Paul on his nightly show and has spoken fairly positive about him, sharing many of his libertarian views, particularly when it comes to the War on Drugs and taxes, both of which Paul is very much against. Formner host, Art Bell, now retired, went public a few years ago, becoming an all-out member of the Libertarian party.

Conspiracy theorist and New World Order gadfly Alex Jones has claimed to have known Ron Paul for years and even mentioned on Coast to Coat AM that they recently had lunch. Oddly enough, it is Jones whom Paul most reminds one of when Paul talks about the Federal Reserve in the debates, though Paul doesn’t tend to reach such extreme conclusions on the New World Order.

With the race heating up this winter, it’ll be interesting to see where Paul ends up. We’ll keep you informed…

Cover of Limbaugh Letter Displays Ingenuity, Inspiration

Love him or hate him, Rush Limbaugh is an American institution. His self-created media empire includes the most popular talk radio show in the United States, a podcast, website, monthly newsletter, and daily email. Amazingly, this one man show has come to wield the same, if not more influence, than the major networks and cable news outlets whom he disparagingly refers to as the “Drive-By Media”. Though people differ with Limbaugh’s political views in varying degrees, one cannot deny Limbaugh’s incredible achievements, both commercially and intellectually.
Limbaugh’s success is in large part due to his inspired sense of humor, based on what he calls illustrating absurdity. Many of his classic criticisms of the American Left can be seen in Chris Hiers exceptionally brilliant painting on the cover of June’s Limbaugh Letter, a 16-page glossy magazine that is available by subscription from Rush Limbaugh’s website.

The setting of the painting is on a beach with a muscular Rush Limbaugh acting as the lifeguard, looking down with introspective contempt at prominent Democrat politicians portrayed in various forms of baffoonery. Nancy Pelosi, wearing what’s supposed to be a peace sign on her t-shirt but is actually a Mercedes sign, — represents the morally indignant, yet intellectually bankrupt leftist who has good intentions, but really doesn’t have a clue. Hilariously, she is also wearing the American flag in the form of a towel, with the stars and stripes covering her behind, meant to signify the unpatriotic, anti-Americanism that Limbaugh often identifies with the Left.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt, kicks sand into the face of the statue of liberty. To add to the callousness of the act, he is looking off in another direction, lacking awareness as he holds a trivial looking conversation with Nancy Pelosi.

In the background in their satellite van lurk the Drive-By Media, which, if looked at closely enough, are spreading a hail of bullets into the water towards the horizon. The beach umbrella on the the right, marked with the logos of the major network and cable news channels, is placed nearby to show the collusion of the so-called “Drive-Bys” with the Democratic Party, a charge Limbaugh often makes of the “liberally-biased” media.

In the foreground, an infantile looking Barack Obama hugs a sand castle replica of the White House, which Hilary Clinton cunningly sculpts with the look of an all knowing matriarch. John Edwards, whom Rush cruelly refers to as “the Breck Girl,” looks on longingly at the power he so desperately craves fall through his hands with an anxious and unsettling smile. Written in the sand nearby is what Limbaugh claims is the Left’s mantra, “Bush Lied,” with two feet nearby absurdly sticking out of the sand.

Last, but not least, is “Algore,” buried up to his neck in the sand, looking smugly at the viewer of the painting, a personification of the stereotypical arrogant liberal, knowing better than everyone else. Symbolically, he is placed directly underneath Limbaugh’s lifeguard chair almost as if he’s plugging the toilet upon which Rush sits.

Whatever your political stripe may be, one has to give credit to Limbaugh for single handedly creating an absurd idiom of the Left. Chris Hiers should also be congratulated for so brilliantly portraying Limbaugh’s humor in visual terms. Of particular quality is the composition, the facial expressions and body language of the portrayed personalities — one is tempted to call him a modern day Hogarth. To say the left has a lot of catching up to do would be an understatement.

“Nothing is True. Nothing is Untrue”: A Look at J.G. Ballard Quotes and Conversations

V. Vale, founder of San Francisco based RE/Search Publications, has recently compiled and published two collections of quotes and conversations with world renowned British novelist J.G. Ballard. Best known for his novels that were adapted into movies, Ballard’s work ranges from the controversial in Crash (directed by David Cronenberg in 1996) to the mainstream in his autobiographic best-seller Empire of the Sun (directed by Steven Spielberg in 1987). Controversy has followed him throughout his career to the point of Nelson Doubleday ordering the pulping of his experimental 1970 novel The Atrocity Exhibition. In many ways, he is the literary companion to William Burroughs, though his novels, for the most part, are more accessible to a mainstream audience. England’s Guardian has called him “one of the few genuine surrealists this country has produced.”

In all of his interviews, conversations and fiction, as in these two collections, Ballard’s main preoccupation is with the present. What distinguishes Ballard’s commentary is his focus on the underlying narratives at work in everyday life, whether he is interpreting a traffic light or 9/11. As a young man, he was a voracious reader of Sigmund Freud and for a while considered becoming a psychoanalyst, studying medicine for 2 years at Cambridge. His output spans half a century and includes over 25 novels and short story collections. The precision, creativity and acuity of his cultural commentary have few parallels, ranking alongside that of American critic Camille Paglia.

Because Ballard’s narrative tone is often speculative in nature, Quotes uses material from both his fiction and non-fiction, while J.G. Ballard Conversations is a collection of rare and recent interviews that elaborate on many of the themes found in Quotes, which range from politics and terrorism to the visual arts, economics and science. As usual, Ballard demonstrates that he is a man who is deeply engaged with the world he lives in as well as the debates of our time. But perhaps more than anything, these books record the thoughts of one of the world’s most exotic intellects.

As a Surrealist, Ballard uses disparate references in new contexts as a means of penetrating to the underlying narratives of society. The following excerpts taken from RE/Search Publications recently released J.G. Ballard Quotes and J.G. Ballard Conversations are an overview of how Ballard sees the world and where it is going:

People seem to enjoy being infantilized. The future before us is a nightmare marriage between Microsoft and the Disney Company, the most juvenile fantasies brought to us by the most advanced communications technology.

In the UK newspaper The Independent, Ballard examines the more subtle aspects of societal control in the 21st century:

No longer will it be Orwell’s vision of a boot stamping on a human face. We’ll have something highly subservient and ingratiating, where the tyranny is imposed for our own good … The New Totalitarians come forward, smiling obsequiously like headwaiters in third-rate Indian restaurants, and assuring us that everything is for our benefit … So one gets this smiling tyranny, which is something my characters rebel against.

A quote from 1997 anticipates the increasing influence of government on peoples’ lives and the paranoid results:

In a sense we’re policing ourselves and that’s the ultimate police state, where people are terrified of challenge.

Of particular interest are Ballard’s reflections on 9/11 and its aftermath. Far from being a rehash on a subject where everything has been said, Ballard offers some unique insights into the nature of the attack as well as of the post-9/11 world in general. When asked his opinion on the event, Ballard is careful to mention that he has been a “lifelong admirer of the U.S.” presenting only “one European’s perspective on it.” Characteristically, he analyzes the events in psychological terms:

11 September, in addition to the enormous human tragedy, was a raid on the collective unconscious of the Western mind.

The psychology of the hijackers themselves is also scrutinized:

What is so disturbing about the 9-11 hijackers is that they had not spent the previous years squatting in the dust of some Afghan hillside with a rusty Kalashnikov. These were highly educated engineers and architects who had spent years sitting around in shopping malls in Hamburg and London, drinking coffee and listening to their muzak.

In an interview, Ballard discussed the emotional reaction of the event and how it has marked a general shift towards the irrational, which he believes has been taking place for several years now:

There’s a sense that, not only the United States in particular, but all over the world there’s a move towards the irrational. You see this in the racist political groupings you find in Eastern Europe now, and in a country like France, for example. Instead of appealing to the reasonableness in men and women, there’s an open appeal to the unreasonable, to the irrational. And it’s devastatingly successful.

This is of particular concern to Ballard, as he believes that it was the appeal to psychopathic strains in the unconscious which enabled the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Germany:

They worshipped him as you would worship a religious leader—faith alone was enough! Even as the walls came tumbling down and disaster was on all sides in 1945, they still believed … because belief was what had sustained them from the beginning—not reason.

A character in his 2003 novel Millennium People describes how

A titanic battle is about to begin, a Darwinian struggle between competing psychopathies. Everything is on sale now—even the human soul has a barcode.

In Ballard’s 1996 novel Rushing to Paradise another declares:

Science and reason have had their day; their place is in the museum.

From the outset of his career, Ballard has acknowledged the influence of the visual arts on his work, particularly that of the Surrealists. His essay “The Art of Salvador Dali” is arguably the best summation to date of Dali’s work and its relevance. He attended the first Pop art show at the Tate gallery in London in 1956, and viewed the science fiction short story as the literary equivalent to the Pop art painting. Ballard’s expresses his appreciation of the visual arts in a 2003 interview:

I didn’t see exhibitions of Francis Bacon, Max Ernst, Magritte and Dali as displays of paintings. I saw them as among the most radical statements of the imagination ever made, on a par with radical discoveries in neuroscience or nuclear physics.

His commentary on today’s English artists is striking:

I see the young British artists of the past ten years or so from a different perspective. They find themselves in a world totally dominated by advertising, by a corrupt politics carried out as a branch of advertising, and by a reality that is a total fiction controlled by manufacturers, PR firms, and vast entertainment and media corporations. Nothing is real, everything is fake. Bizarrely, most people like it that way. So in their installations and concept works the young artists are rebelling against this all-dominant adman’s media-landscape. They are trying to establish a new truth about what an unmade bed is, what a dead animal is, and so on. Our mistake is to judge them by aesthetic criteria.

The relationship between art and media has long fascinated Ballard. His novel Crash can be viewed as the literary response to Warhol’s Disaster paintings, and there is a general Pop spirit in his work, fusing the Avant-Garde pronouncement with an accessible writing style. Today, he sees the mass media as having fused with Pop art:

The mass media have turned the world into a World of Pop Art. From JFK’s assassination to the war in Iraq, everything is perceived as Pop Art. Nothing is true. Nothing is untrue.

In the tradition of the Surrealists, Ballard believes that it is up to the imagination to remake reality in a way that gives it meaning, and as such, sees this as art’s primary function:

Art exists because reality in neither real nor significant.

So what is Ballard’s prescription for the society he has examined?

One has to immerse oneself in the threatening possibilities offered by modern science and technology, and try to swim to the other end of the pool.

Both books are beautifully bound with the usual high standards associated with RE/Search Publications. V.Vale, a pioneer of self-publishing in the West, began his foray into publishing on a $100 investment from Allan Ginsberg in 1977 while working for City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. Vale’s unique library has since provided an anthropologist’s journey and collection through the countercultural movement from Modern Primitives to The Industrial Culture Handbook. In many ways, more than anyone else, Vale has pointed out the web of influence that exists between Punk and New Wave – embodied in bands like Joy Division and Devo – and writers such as William Burroughs and J.G. Ballard. J.G. Ballard Quotes and Conversations as well as the historic back catalog of RE/Search publications are available from Vale’s website.


Jihad Jerry writes manifesto: “Mine Is Not A Holy War”

Gerald V. Casale, bass player of legendary new wave band Devo, has embarked on a campaign against extremists and believers. His new album Mine Is Not A Holy War is a political attack that goes beyond Christian and Moslem, left and right — but rather is pitted against those who take their beliefs too seriously!

Devo has always been a harbinger voice of the counterculture movement, perhaps most famously in their 1984 hit song “Here to go,” based on William Burroughs’ statement: “This is the space age, and we are here to go.” Many miss the voice of William Burroughs with icons of terrorism filling the collective mind. What weight would such a freedom fighting man’s voice carry in such an age.

In the first post on Jihad Jerry’s Weekly Low Down on the Down Low, Casale explains:

Jihad Jerry is here to put the “Fun” in Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists are way too serious when it comes to their beliefs. Beliefs kill what the higher brain has to offer us. My songs point and laugh. They are my weapons of choice and they’re aimed at all who deserve them. Remember, mine is NOT a holy war. The tail has wagged the dog of humanity long enough. Jihad jerry loves non-believers.

If one listens to the early “Hardcore Devo” compilations one quickly gets a sense of the subversive nature of their art, particularly in songs like “I need a chick”. What this all adds up to is a general appreciation and awareness on Devo’s part of the relationship between music and politics.

Mine Is Not a Holy War is the work of a man who is fed up with what he sees in world and the media — and is doing something about it. When one thinks of the musical landscape today, one is hard pressed to think of an artist who is doing the same.

And so — the spirit of Devo is alive! Music with a political, countercultural edge à la William Burroughs. A man who goes not meekly to his grave.