Rupert Sheldrake speaks on the TED censorship controversy

Last night, acclaimed author and biologist (not to mention public enemy to skeptics and atheists) Rupert Sheldrake gave a lecture in Maryhill, Glasgow.

At the talk, Sheldrake spoke about his recent experience of being censored by the TED organisation. If you are not aware of the story, this past January in London Sheldrake was invited to give a TEDx talk on his book The Science Delusion—a book that calls into question some of the fundamental beliefs of science—which was filmed and uploaded to the TED website.

Sheldrake’s video was subsequently removed from the site as it was deemed to be “unscientific,” and his own reputation was called into question (along with fellow speaker Graham Hancock, the video of whose talk on consciousness was also removed). Understandably, this action upset quite a lot of people, both members of the public and professionals in various fields of science alike. A group of scientists and philosophers have publicly addressed the issue, and the response from TED’s Chris Anderson, at the Huffington Post.

In this audio clip, which was recorded by Innes Smith (of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research) Sheldrake talks openly about the controversy, the people he thinks were behind the initial censorship, and, having spoken to Anderson directly,  believes he was pressured into the removing the video and now regrets it:

With thanks to Innes Smith. The Scottish Society for Psychical Research can be found here. Sheldrake’s talk can be found here.

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Spiritualized ‘Hey Jane’: is this video art or exploitation?

I still don’t really know what to make of this - it’s a 10 minute music video-cum-short film for the British band Spiritualized, trailing their upcoming album Sweet Heart Sweet Light which is released on Fat Possum Records next week. Directed by AG Rojas, who has also worked with Jack White, Gil Scott-Heron and Earl Sweatshirt, the video follows a day in the life of a drag queen prostitute raising two young children. It doesn’t end very well.

The violent and sexual clip has already caused a bit of a stir since it was released last month. Stereogum seem all in favour of “Hey Jane”:

[It’s about] a transwoman who attempts to raise kids while turning tricks, stripping, and — in one unforgettable long tracking shot — getting into an absolutely brutal fight. There’s probably a term paper to be written about the video’s treatment of race, class, gender, sexuality, and violence. This is a good one, folks.

While on Collapse Board, Lucy Cage writes a scathing review of the Sweet Heart, Sweet Light album (definitely worth a read in its own right) and points out that:

‘Hey Jane’ wears its NSFW like a smug little badge … I don’t like what it appears to be saying about people. I don’t like that said whiney, white, self-pitying, copyist, imagination-free, privilege-flaunting cisman from England [Jason Pierce of Spiritualized] has used this story and these characters from waaaaaaaaaaay outside his experience, knowledge or culture as entertainment, however much Art has given him a hall pass to do so.

To be fair on Pierce, some of this heat needs to be taken by the director Rojas. The video is definitely slick and very well made but does it tell us anything we already didn’t know, or even desperately need to? Is it shock or titillation?

Hats off to the main actors though, who do a great job. The prostitute is played by Tyra Sanchez, winner of the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race—easily one of the best reality tv shows ever and I’m totally serious, if you have not seen this you are missing out—she does a great job.

Musically the song is pretty much what you’d expect from Spiritualized, who have been doing this kind of laidback-but-overwrought white-psych-soul thing for over 20 years now. I have to admit a bit of a soft spot for these guys though, who I used to love back in the mid-Ninteties before I delved further into their pool of influences while also gravitating towards more electronic music. The Spiritualized sound, which has barely changed in all these years, is like big, warm, fuzzy blanket. You know where it is coming from and you know where it’s going; it is inherently safe.

And that’s something this video tries very hard not to be:

Spiritualized “Hey Jane” (NSFW)


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AMERICA - MIA HATES YOU!!! (according to Pitchfork)

It’s been brought to my attention by Collapse Board’s Wallace Wylie that Pitchfork have dedicated an entire page to calling MIA an asshole because she apparently told the American public to fuck off during Madonna’s Super Bowl performance last night. In case you hadn’t heard, MIA did indeed raise her middle finger during Madonna’s overblown performance of “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” on which the rapper makes a guest appearance. To see the incident, scroll down to the bottom of this post. 

Here’s an extract from the offending Pitchfork article:

What’s extra annoying about last night’s event is that M.I.A. doesn’t need these cheap ploys to up her visibility, even when the stage design and costuming is best described as “” After all, she released her first great single in years just last Thursday, and its music video had already racked up more than 3 million YouTube views even before the Super Bowl send-up. Following the rep-shattering press surrounding 2010’s /\/\/\Y/\, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to draw as much focus as possible back to her music. [So why run this story?]

Instead, in the few bars Madonna was kind enough to grant her during the biggest television event of the year, M.I.A.‘s message to America was simply, “Fuck you.” Well, in M.I.A.‘s own words, the little people will never win, but they can fuck shit up. Success might be the best revenge, but apparently, being an asshole is forever.

Seriously Pitchfork, GET A FUCKING GRIP.

As I stated in my last post about her, I am an MIA skeptic. I have found her performances and music to be underwhelming in the past, though I have really warmed to her latest video “Bad Girls.” The same goes for last night’s performance at the Super Bowl - it ain’t no great shakes, though she does look great. But if you take this much offense at last night’s throw-away hand gesture—which I honestly might not have noticed if it hadn’t been pointed out to me—then you seriously need your head examined. Yes, seriously. Just look at the clip below, and then tell us how offended you are on a scale of one to ten.

What I find truly bizarre about this reactionary Pitchfork piece is the level of personal affront the writer has taken at MIA’s (actually rather tame) gesture. According to this article MIA is not just flipping the bird at a camera or a camera person, she is not just flipping the bird as a routine hand gesture that countless MC regularly use, she’s not flipping the bird to accentuate her line about “not giving a shit” - no, MIA is flipping the bird to show her disgust at every single person in the United States of America. AMERICA, MIA HATES YOU!!! And especially those who may have tuned in to the Super Bowl to see her!! Yes, this makes perfect sense.

With that in mind I’m really, REALLY looking forward to seeing Pitchfork calling out Kanye West, Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Fred Durst, Jonathan Davis and countless other rappers and rockers who have raised their middle finger on national television at some point in the past and will do so again in the future. Because THEY must hate America and everyone watching them at that moment TOO, right?

Unfortunately, this will never happen. As other writers have pointed out in the past, Pitchfork has a legacy of sexism to its tarnished name, which explains the hyperbolic over-reaction to a common hand gesture in this news piece. Had this been done by a man it would surely be lauded as “punk,” yet when MIA flips the bird during a televised game where grown men BEAT THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER, she’s an asshole who hates every single person watching her at that very moment. Living and dead. I mean seriously, how is anyone watching American Football going to cope with the mental scars that seeing a raised middle finger can bring?!?

That’s leaving aside the fact that MIA is a brown woman, and not even from America itself. Unlike Madonna of course, who can remain completely blameless during this entire farrago, and who was “kind enough” to grant MIA exposure on her tune. As opposed to hiring MIA in the hope that some of her credibility will rub off on a very lukewarm track. Or even—get this—simply being a female performer who wants to work with another female performer

What is also “extra annoying” is that Pitchfork has, in the past, given critical support to acts who condone the most brutal of violence against women and who have been deemed somehow edgy and confrontational because of it. Presumably because rape, sexism and homophobia is “punk” as opposed to “a cheap ploy to gain visibility.” I await with glee the moment when Pitchfork tells Tyler the Creator/Eminem/Lil Wayne to drop their bird-flipping schtick and draw our focus solely back to the music.

Again though, I doubt this will ever happen.

Pitchfork, with this news piece you have placed yourselves firmly (and finally) on the side of the fucking establishment.

Rock on, bros.


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Tim Minchin’s ‘Woody Allen Jesus’ - the song banned by British TV

Tim Minchin portrait by gtgauvin

Australian comedian, piano whizz and enthusiastic exponent of guyliner Tim Minchin has had a satirical song of his called “Woody Allen Jesus” cut from the broadcast of one of the UK biggest chat shows, The Jonathan Ross Show. Minchin had been asked specifically by Ross and his producers to write and perform a Christmas ditty for the show, but when an advanced tape was passed to the station’s director of television, Peter Fincham, it was decided that the song needed to be dropped.

Minchin is miffed, and rightly so. Are well living in the 21st century or not? Does freedom of speech and thought (and music) exist in this country or is the Christian religion in such a dire state that it needs to ban anything that questions its relevance? Actually, that might be the case. Despite David Cameron’s particularly idiotic and toadying claims that the UK is a “Christian country”, the figures simply do not back this up, as this report in the ultra-conservative Daily Mail shows: “Number of Christians is down 10% in just five years.”

Minchin writes on his blog:

Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.

It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…

And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.

And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.

He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.

Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.

But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.

It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.

And anger when they’re being bigots.

Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.

Jonathan Ross is no stranger to controversy within the British media - in 2008 he and Russell Brand found themselves in deep shit after a phone call to Andrew Sachs was deemed to have gone “too far” by the tabloid press. Those ever-original and forward thinking people at the tabloids christened the incident “Sachsgate” and the outrage that was drummed up was enough to have both comedians ousted by their employer at the time, the BBC (one was suspended and the other quit.) This background hum of potential “outrage” may have been enough for Fincham to pull Minchin’s segment on the Ross show, but now it looks like a whole new controversy based on freedom of speech and expression is blowing up in ITV’s face. Oh dear.

Here is Tim Minchin performing “Woody Allen Jesus” on The Jonathan Ross Show:


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Guest editorial: On the use of the word ‘tranny’

Candy Darling, still looking beautiful on her deathbed.
A few weeks ago I posted an article on DM that used the word “tranny,” and which sparked some debate in the comments section. The use of the word is a hot topic in the LGBT community at the moment, after the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) made a statement criticizing Glee over their use of “tranny” in their Rocky Horror Picture Show episode. Susan Sarandon, star of Rocky Horror lest we forget, in turn made a statement criticizing GLAAD, saying they were getting out of control

Even though my article used the term “queen” wrongly, I asked Elizabeth Veldon (the commentator who called me out) to write a guest editorial for us on the how the word should be used. Here it is:

Recently Dangerous Minds ran an article on a film called Ticked Of Trannies With Knives and it led to a debate on the page over the use of language. No, let’s rephrase that: it led to an all out cyber-brawl with much swearing and pissyness.

First things first: In my opinion, calling a Gender Variant Person (possibly the only non-offensive term I can think off) a “tranny” is no better than calling a Jewish person a “kike” or a black person by the “N word.” Indeed a Jewish Gender Variant friend of mine often suffered combined “kike” and “tranny” abuse and I myself have been “accused” of being Jewish when wearing a black suit on a Saturday. Are transgendered citizens all part of some Zionist conspiracy? Sometimes I wonder…

“Tranny” has its roots in drag performances, which is a fine and upstanding tradition, but not one Gender Variant People, on the whole, wish to aspire to. In fact Gender Variant People are not drag queens, drag kings, cross dressers (god bless ‘em), “poofs” who have gone too far or dykes who couldn’t cope with it and became men. Neither are we defenders of patriarchy, oppressors of women or a drag on the queer scene.

Gender Variant People should be of interest to radicals and liberals everywhere damned as we are to suffer violence, constant discrimination and to have our very bodies commandeered by systems of power beyond our control. But we have been left behind, labeled “trannies” (or worse), and left to the tender mercies of a medical establishments that insist we label ourselves as mentally ill before we are “allowed” to carry out body modification surgery (should we wish to). We are most certainly not mentally unstable crazies muttering over knives in our unheated bed sits.

Genderphobes take ownership of our deaths, medics of our bodies, “queer theorists” of our Identities and anything we have left is destroyed by the catch all term of abuse “tranny.”

So what should you say when you meet a “tranny”? What name should you use? The first problem is that you shouldn’t need a name, or a catch all term for other people. The desire to name, as Adam named the animals, and the name he gave them became their name, is to the desire to determine the nature of a thing. Why not ask? Some people are “transpeople,” some transexuals, some “gender trash,” some “gender queer,” some queer, some gay, lesbian, butch, femme. Just ask.

Finally in response to Isrial Luma [director of TOTWK] I offer a new vision of revenge – not ticked off trannies with knives but Diamanda Galas’s “Wild Women With Steak Knives” (with an apology to the guys I know):

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