Saturday, March 17, 2018

A mirror is a negative space
With a frame and a place for your face #2

Evopsych jackass George Gallup Jnr. is too good to be true. I am not saying that he is really a literary creation (written as a caricatured interlocutor in a Socratic dialog) who escaped into the real world and has devoted his subsequent career to provoking P.Z. Myers, but it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Object Lesson #1: This is why you keep literary creations within Level IV Fictive Confinement facilities.

Here he is in 2012, in his role as advisor to professional conspiracists, claiming credit for enriching the English lexicon with a needful word:
June Sarpong is in Albany, New York to meet with Dr. Gordon Gallup, who is described as a “psychologist who has done groundbreaking research on animal behavior.” He’s speaking with June because he came to believe that a new species has been walking the planet for 40 years: half-chimp, half-human. “I first learned about Oliver in an article that appeared in a 1976 issue of Time Magazine. And in thumbing through that issue, I saw Oliver’s picture. Oliver is a chimpanzee that got international attention in the 1970’s because he “walked, looked, and behaved like a human.” “The first thing that occurred to me is that Oliver might be a human-chimpanzee hybrid. And I coined the term humanzee,” Gallup proudly explains.

From that interview, the freshly-minted word-coin propagated along the time axis in both directions, all the way back to the 1920s.

Dr Gallup has strong views about chimpanzee hybridisation, making him popular and much-run-after among reality-enhancement clickbait websites.
Gallup then tells June a “deep dark secret about a government research center… a place called Yerkes,” the narrator says, grimly. “There’s been a persistent rumor that at the Yerkes Primate Center there was an attempt to artificially inseminate a female chimpanzee with human semen from an obviously undisclosed donor. And that not only did conception occur, but pregnancy went full term, and eventuated in live birth. And within week or two after the baby was born, the people that did this began to consider the implications of what they’d done, and they euthanized the infant without ever telling anybody about it.” June asks if he’s certain about this, and Gallup replies that he was told this while a graduate student by one of his professors who worked at the original Yerkes Primate Reserach Center in Orange Park, FLA, and that “he was a pretty credible person.”

“Do you actually believe it is physically possible to create a humanzee?” asks June. “There have been a number of primate hybridization experiments that are well documented” explains Gallup.*  June then asks if they would be happening in secret, and Gallup replies “they would only be happening in secret.”
Gallup's interviews generally inform us that he also originated the Mirror Test. This was designed to distinguish between human beings and owls, or to find out if one is a non-intervention Martian observer, or something like that. First only humans and other great apes could pass... then cetaceans and elephants... the list of other species reaching the threshold of consciousness / self-awareness continues to lengthen (as could have been predicted by anyone familiar with the side-effects of Another Kiwi playing silly-buggers with the settings of the Riddled Morphogenic Flux Intensifier). The failure of the Mirror Test to establish the uniqueness of humans has called attention to the half-arsed, hand-wavy nature of the reasoning behind it, and it has fallen out of favour among ethologists.

Anyways: Gallup first spouted this "live-born but euthanased hybrid" cool story in 2009,
In the course of the documentary, University of Albany psychology professor Gordon Gallup says a “credible source,” a former professor he declined to name, said he witnessed the birth of a such a creature at the Yerkes center in the 1920s.
...only to retract it when he realised that academia does not rate for this "heard it from an unnamed, long-dead witness" style of citation.
I didn’t say that happened,” he said. “I said there is a persistent rumor it happened.”
Riddled sources indicate that Gallup was in fact one of approximately four people who watched Skullduggery back in 1970 when it was released with little fanfare and considerable embarrassment; and was in a twilight state of consciousness at the time, in the aftermath of a marathon research session involving quaaludes, ketamine, coffee liqueur and many hours of mirror-viewing. Thus he remembers certain plot elements as if they were recounted to him. You would be surprised how often that happens.
Quite how an obscure though well-regarded French novel of ideas came to mutate into a buffoonish action script, attracting Burt Reynolds in a starring role, is a long story. Also, soon to be a movie script in its own right, written by Charlie Kaufman.

But "persistent rumours" of a viable human hybrid have little clickbait value for reality-enhancing popsci websites, and Gallup knows his constituency's needs -- he knows which side his crossbred is buttered -- so he recently revised his memories again, now regurging the "euthanased hybrid" fantasy as a claim made by the Yerkes Primate Center itself (a claim later suppressed, it would seem). Gallup remains undeterred by the non-existence of the Center at the time of the supposed event.
Speaking to The Sun Online, he said: “One of the most interesting cases involved an attempt which was made back in the 1920s in what was the first primate research centre established in the US in Orange Park, Florida.
“They inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred but the pregnancy went full term and resulted in a live birth.
“But in the matter of days, or a few weeks, they began to consider the moral and ethical considerations and the infant was euthanised.”
Object Lesson #2: When the craving for headlines has forced you to lower standards to the point of spouting sound-bites to the Murdoch Sun then it's probably time to retire and let some younger publicity-whore work that side of the street.

Gordon Gallup previously came to Riddled attention for his brave, forthright EvoPsych theory that semen is an antidepressant (and for ensuing "unsolicited semen testimonials"). He did not vouchsafe whether the mood-raising effects are limited to human semen, and to female recipients.

Bonus Mirror Tests. Left: commissioned from John Holmes in 1969

The Sun seized the opportunity to boast of this Exclusive Interview with Gallup more recently, in the course of their salacious SHOCK-HORROR-DISGUST coverage of an essay on the ethics of miscegenation from some barmpot psychologist.

Psychologist (David Barash) wants to burnish his credenzas as Brave Maverick Thinker Untrammelled by Shibboleths of Conventional Morality, and is not letting his profound and far-reaching ignorance stand in his way. The gist of it is that if only we let go of the outmoded taboos that hold back our thinking, we would realise that the ethical imperatives not only allow us to crossbreed humans with other primates, but demand it; the social value of a hybrid, as a philosophical proof of concept, would far outweigh any misery it might experience from its isolation and indeterminate status.

Pro-tip: Poodles and labradors are not "different subspecies".

Object Lesson #3: If  you ever find yourself writing the words "I discovered that Richard Dawkins had made a similar suggestion", then it is time to look back and reconsider your poor life decisions.
, [Hat-tip: Michael Brooks]
* The number of "well-documented" primate experiments here equals precisely three, all courtesy of Professor Il'ya Ivanov, a Russian evangelist of artificial insemination. Ivanov wanted to perform more inseminations but the French authorities evicted the the sick fuck from their French Guinea colony when they caught wind of his activities, while his attempts to continue the 'research' in Abhazia were thwarted by the short life expectancy of any sentient beings that fell into his hands. The paucity of facts has been partially remedied by Liars-for-Jesus creationists, who did their best to fabricate an Evolution = Stalin angle.

Otherwise, there are vague friend-of-a-friend reports of 1960s studies in China, details and evidence yet to be invented.

There is not a great deal of material to work with, though this does not stop the websites of the Clickbait Archipelago from copying and progressively distorting the same lurid tales from one another in a cyclic version of the human centipede. It certainly doesn't stop Prof. Gallup from flapping his mouth any time anyone holds a microphone near it.

Monday, March 12, 2018

You can't spell 'Apotheosis' without 'pot'

Here at the Riddled Institute of Forensic Literature and Postmodern Milking-shed Design, we have been looking at the vexed issue of the Uncanny and the Unheimlich in household appurtenances and appliances. It's a dirty job and no-one else wanted it.

We are particularly interested in the "pot" passage in Watt, where Sam Beckett invented a kind of Capgras Delusion for kitchen containers -- an Invasion of the Potty Snatchers, as it were --
Looking at a pot, for example, or thinking of a pot, at one of Mr. Knott's pots, of one of Mr. Knott's pots, it was in vain that Watt said, Pot, pot. Well, perhaps not quite in vain, but very nearly. For it was not a pot, the more he looked, the more he reflected, the more he felt sure of that, that it was not a pot at all. It resembled a pot, it was almost a pot, but it was not a pot of which one could say, Pot, pot, and be comforted. It was in vain that it answered, with unexceptionable adequacy, all the purposes, and performed all the offices, of a pot, it was not a pot. And it was just this hairbreadth departure from the nature of a true pot that so excruciated Watt.

I write "invented", but the evidence suggests that Beckett was inspired by a 1930 work by two English historians / philosophers. The Journal of Beckett Studies has declined to publish my paper on this trail of intellectual influence, not that I'm bitter or anything.

Anyway, the 1953 Watt Pot passage is brief, but we have advanced speculative-imaging technology available at the Riddled Institute. We used this to enhance the text, imputing missing details and reconstructing the actual pot whereof Beckett wrote. It turns out that the same pot came out of retirement, in 1976, to inspire Dick and Zelazny* with another pot-related passage of strangeness and alienation:

The 23-year periodicity of this sequence of appearances allows us to predict that a fourth tupperware text was published in 1999, though we are still pot-scouring the literature to find it. The fifth passage will appear in 2022, and will probably be an entire book in length, given the exponentially-expanding length of manifestations so far. Assuming that there are still books in 2022.
Kids these days have it easy, with a vastly expanded armamentarium of household gadgetry -- with or without Internet-of-Shite -- to feel estranged and dissociated from. So here is a recent exercise in science fiction in which the narrator's thoughts wander down weird paths after she replaces her washing machine... thoughts centred on the alien, unheimlich nature of the replacement (until it re-familiarises itself behind a protective camouflage of domesticity).

But try telling kids what it used to be like, and they...

Is the story any good?

It is competently written, though derivative: Zoline's "Heat-Death of the Universe" filtered through the sensibility of Sheckley's "Can You Feel Anything when I do This?" What brings it to the attention of the Riddled Institute is the fact that through some glitch in the Matrix, it was published in an academic journal.

We hope that Riddled isn't turning into just another of those lazy let's-laugh-at-silly-academic-essays, Uncle Smut.

Not at all! And I would have got away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids! I am just relieved to find a suitable journal to publish my ground-breaking paper on post-modernism in the design of conceptual, non-utilitarian milking sheds.
* With feline editorial commentary:
Work proceeded sporadically over several years as each author forgot about it in turn (and Zelazny's cat took the opportunity to urinate on the original manuscript). But they finished it quickly in the spring of 1975 when the publisher demanded the manuscript or repayment of the advance paid to Dick. The editor discovered Zelazny had sent photocopies of some pages and demanded the originals as per Doubleday's policy; much to Zelazny's chagrin, he had to send in the urine-stained pages and he always wondered what the editor made of them.
Commentary-Cat was only following a long feline tradition. See whole Twiddle-thread here.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

That's the way you do it! [Riddled Book Club edition]

Isn't it always the same? You wait and wait for a detection / police-procedural novel deeply steeped in love for London, with the hunchbacked puppet Punch as the chief suspect -- in his role as Lord of Misrule and homicidal psychopath -- and then two come along at once.

Now Mr Punch is clearly a victim of his social environment. The other occupants of his fictive world are equally prone to stick-related violence, and it would not end well if the entire murderous menage followed him into what we laughingly call "reality".

Note also that Mr Punch has made himself useful to the agents of law enforcement, as an informant, which is probably why he escaped justice for so long despite his involvement as accomplice in crime. His career as a snitch goes back at least to 1837, the date of the events recorded "The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance", when Toby the Dog was evidently a recent addition to the typical Punch dramatis personae.
Toby dogs, you know, are the last new thing in the shows. I have only seen one myself, but before long all the men will have them.
In that case the actual malefactors were [SPOILER ALERT] the Punch-&-Judy showmen (or so it would seem, as both die before they can incriminate the puppet directly). The Punch-booth is haunted... but before that, a dream nightmare sequence unfolds:
Facing me there was a Punch and Judy Show, perhaps rather larger than the ordinary ones, painted with black figures on a reddish-yellow ground. Behind it and on each side was only darkness, but in front there was a sufficiency of light. [...] There was something Satanic about the hero. He varied his methods of attack: for some of his victims he lay in wait, and to see his horrible face — it was yellowish white, I may remark — peering round the wings made me think of the Vampyre in Fuseli’s foul sketch. To others he was polite and carneying — particularly to the unfortunate alien who can only say Shallabalah — though what Punch said I never could catch. But with all of them I came to dread the moment of death. The crack of the stick on their skulls, which in the ordinary way delights me, had here a crushing sound as if the bone was giving way, and the victims quivered and kicked as they lay.
Anyway, Mr Punch is clearly a negative role model and not someone with whom minors should associate... as has been explored at length by McKean and Gaiman.

Of course Mr Punch is most relevant to our interests for his presence in the background and in the backstory of Riddley Walker, where the Punch-&-Judy show has an importance comparable to a medieval Mystery Play, being one of the few surviving vestiges of pre-Apocalypse culture.

So here at stately Riddled Towers and Highrise Parking Building, fierce debate has raged over his precise folkloric role. Some set him within the context of the old pagan traditions... along with Morris dancing and beltane fires and Maypoles and Wicker Men and Mummer Plays (which is to say, head-hunting human sacrifice and the Shamanic journey on the Hobby-horse). The corollary follows that Punch will feature in an unwritten novel in Holdstock's Mythago Wood cycle, existing in alternative realities if not this one, and the Library Pixies have been asked to check the shelves. The other viewpoint sees Punch as an urban construct, created by the pressures of unnatural high-population-density existence -- the repression of natural urges to cudgel people to death -- as a kind of embodied safety valve. In which case the non-author of the nonexistent novel was or will be J. G. Ballard.

No-one pays any attention to my own theory that the Punch-&-Judy booth is actually a form of Memory Theatre. The suggestion that Punch is merely a character from the Commedia dell'Arte --transposed into the medium of slapstick puppetry and elevated to the giddy empyrean of "Quintessential Symbol of Timeless English Tradition" -- was treated with the contempt it deserves.

There is always a relevant Oglaf

"Memory of Blood" and "Rivers of London" are both ripping yarns. The latter, though, has a shout-out to "Death Line" and the Russell Square tube station:
Russell Square lies a kilometre north of Covent Garden on the other side of the British Museum. According to Nightingale, it was at the heart of a literary and philosophical movement in the early years of the last century, but I remember it because of an old horror movie about cannibals living in the Underground system.
"Death Line / Raw Meat" is a great little movie, far too good to be a product of this reality, and I can only suppose that it found its way here by quantum-tunnelling from a superior time-line in which it was the pilot episode of a long-running comedy/horror TV series.

Then there was this passage. Published in 2011, it was clearly inspired by the notorious piracy of a publication in Gut, by hepatologists Finelli & Tarantino, in 2012 / 2014:
The modem was hidden behind a stack of Gut: an International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. A jaunty subtitle revealed that Gut had indeed been voted Best Journal of Gastroenterology by gastroenterologists worldwide. I didn’t know whether to be worried or reassured by the implication that there were many more magazines devoted to the smooth functioning of my intestines. The socket for the modem looked suspiciously jury-rigged and definitely not standard NHS issue. When I asked Dr Walid about it, he merely said that he liked to keep certain of his files secure.
‘From who?’ I asked.
‘Other researchers,’ he said. ‘They’re always looking to pirate my work.’ Apparently the hepatologists were the worst.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Depuis Pâques je porte dans ma poche l'annonce que mon télescope microscope est à vendre

Alternative title #1: Maximilliona; ou L'exercice illégal de l'astronomie la nanotechnologie

Alternative title #2: The Workshop of the Microscopes

The Affair of the Electron Microscope is elaborate and tedious, thereby meeting the key requirements of Riddled reportage... especially when combined with the salacious details of Burning Semen Syndrome.

It featured (a)  a pair of forensic-microscopy autodidacts who were thwarted in their nano-CSI work for NATO workshops, and (b) an Italian comedian / politician, allegedly a skinwalker. Suffice to say that it spiralled into a three-way cross-fire of recriminations, lawsuits, counter-accusations and questions about the disposition of moneys raised by public subscription. Details here. Ten years later the affair imbroglio is not yet over, and threatens Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in terms of longevity; in fact it has acquired its own FaceBorg page, often the last step before standing in Italian presidential elections. At present, Doctor Gatti and 'Doctor' Montanari are the users of the disputed Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope, for their Nanodiagnostics business ("Bring us your cancer-tissue biopsies, we'll find the nanoparticle carcinogens!"), while the Carlo Bartolini Foundation pays for its maintenance.

But there have been developments.

Dramatic developments?

Developments are always dramatic, and possibly sinister; it must be a tradition, or an old charter or something. In this case, so dramatic that even as you read this, the Riddled Amateur Dramatic Society is hard at work on the petanque lawn in front of stately Riddled Manor, workshopping them into a stage adaptation. This is the scene where the Polizei and Fraud Investigators raid the Nanodiagnostics Laboratory and seize PCs and other microscopy-related records.

Artist's impression of high-tech Laboratory
Ermintrude van Holsterin (Grannie-at-Law) was assigned the role of the Embodiment of Digital Media, here subjected to seizure and sequestration. Some might cavil and complain that Another Kiwi's second-best bed-sheet draped over a drying rack does not make for a convincing high-tech Laboratory, but they are invited to take it up with the Props Department (which is to say, Evangeline van Holsterin's nephew, the vile Throgmorton). Anyway it proved to be entirely serviceable during our $mas Pantomine production of "House at Pooh Corner", starring Louie Carthorse as Eeyore.

Going back to the Dramatic Developments: Montanari has revised his initial statement about the confiscation... and now it did not involve the ownership or practice of electron microscopy. That earlier reaction had been made in the heat of the moment, in a fraught mental state, and is no longer operative.
"Following what I said in the moments immediately following the search, when I was in an understandable state of agitation and great emotional stress, and apologizing if such statements of mine appeared disrespectful or generative of misunderstandings, precise that the facts for which my wife and I are currently subjected to investigations by the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Reggio Emilia do not relate, as far as we know, nor the scientific merit of research on nanopathologies that for many years we lead with dedication and commitment, much less the popular fundraising that we recently launched for the purchase of an electron microscope.We have full confidence in the work of the judiciary and we are sure that we will demonstrate our extraneousness to the facts assumed against us.
There are also hints that a complaint had come from a dissatisfied customer of the "Carcinogenic Nanoparticles 'R' Us" service.

We are indebted to Sylvie Cotaud @Ocasapiens and her commentariat for these insights. Fortunately the Ocasapiens ambit is large enough to include the illegal practice of microscopy... and other Gatti-Montanari activities, such as the latter's role as advisor in the Luft affair.*

Anyways, Gatti and Montanari are popular and much-run-after in US Alt-Reality circles, where antivaxxers are competing to come up with the most conspiratorial explanation for the interest taken by Italian fraud investigators in the couple's business activities.

SaneVax prefer the theory that they know too much, and hold Big-Pharma-damaging information about the Evils of Vaccines... evidence that they planned to present in his testimony in a coming court appearance... evidence now destroyed or sequestered (along with specific details of the court case). Behold the real purpose.
BREAKING NEWS: This morning two scientists from Italy lost their computers, records, and data - all confiscated. Dr. Gatti and Dr. Montanari have been studying the potential effects of micro- and nanoparticles used in vaccines on the human body for years. One of them was scheduled to testify in court regarding an alleged vaccine injury. Several conference presentations were also scheduled over the next few months. Now, there is no data to present. Coincidence? Or, suppression of inconvenient scientific findings?
Commenters wondered whether anyone who ever watched a thriller could be so stupid as to make no back-up copies. Apparently, though, there are precedents for the Men in Black destroying back-ups too. Every time a Whistleblower is about to Bring Down the Whole House of Cards, the whistle is surreptitiously replaced with a kazoo. The SaneVax crew wrote this exercise in conspiratorial cognition with a straight face but it makes most sense as a knowing wink to any other professionals who might be reading.

Whistleblowing: DOIN IT RONG
Not even copies stored on The Cloud are safe from the reach of the Conspiracy, for there is no limit to the steps they will take to conceal themselves... succeeding so well in destroying all trace of their activity that the existence of the Conspiracy is irrefutable and we can only marvel at and tremble before its vast scope and power.

One of the Age-of-Autism stalwarts forwarded this fever-dream, unchanged apart from the addition of eerie theremin music in the background.
Bonus Whistleblowing FAIL

We finish with IPAK. The Institute of Pure and Applied Knowledge, in all its non-specific expansiveness, sounds like a cabal of adversaries in a second-rate superhero movie. It is in fact a holding corporation for James Lyons-Weiler (a.k.a.  LifeBioMedGuru), who is either a polymathic master of multiple scientific disciplines and a veritable reincarnation of Athanasius Kircher, or a sentient embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

JLW's unique and challenging perspective on the computer-confiscation imbroglio is that Gatti and Montanari have already blown their whistles and shaken their little scrubbers, by testifying to a somewhat slightly political Parliamentary Inquiry into deaths from cancer within the Italian Armed Forces [SPOILER ALERT: Nanoparticles were to blame]. So what's happening now is pure vengeance, exacted by the Fascist Corporate Italian State.
* Ingenious monorail salesmen offered to cleanse the atmosphere of Rome of nanoparticulate contamination by turning the city buses into vacuum cleaners, with roof-mounted extractor-fan / filter machinery, only €20,000 per Grift Luft unit. After a fanfare of publicity in 2009, the city politicians agreed never to speak of the episode again.

Here at Riddled we promote a rival scheme, to filter urban air by circulating it through great conchoidal horns retro-fitted into the sides of buildings, centrifuging out the grit in the manner of giant Dyson vacuums.