RIP Roger Corman (1926-2024)

It is difficult to overstate just how much of an impact Roger Corman had on American culture. But he was a legend and an absolutely vital filmmaking figure. In addition to being a solid genre director (The Intruder, a trenchant examination of political demagoguery written by Charles Beaumont and starring William Shatner and the only movie he lost money on, remains his best film and still packs a wallop today), he had a remarkable knack for spotting talent. He gave James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Paul Bartel, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdonavich, and Francis Ford Coppola (and so many more) their first shots, often enlisting them to direct their feature film debut. But the deal was that you had to do this with a paucity of money. (In fact, Corman was so cheap that Joe Dante’s The Howling has a funny inside joke in which Corman plays a man in a phone booth scrounging around for change.) This became known as the “Roger Corman film school.” One can see his great influence today in A24 — the fearlessly indie studio that has offered similar opportunities for a new generation of filmmakers.

But Corman was also an instinctive rebel. Behind that irresistible smile and calm voice was a goofball and a natural provocateur. In 2011, much to my amazement, I somehow got the opportunity to speak with Corman in person. While I greatly admired and respected Corman, his eyes beamed with mischief and he made several attempts to stifle laughter as I started asking him provocative questions about certain controversies in his career. He answered all my questions with grace and wit and the two of us got along very well. Partly because he quickly sussed out that I was a fellow rabble-rouser. I’m still amazed at my chutzpah from thirteen years ago, but it did result in a fun and memorable conversation, which I have reposted below. Corman soon followed me on Twitter and he would send me a direct message every now and then, telling me that he had enjoyed an essay I had written. Which was incredibly humbling, surprising, and tremendously kind. Had I somehow passed the Corman test? I guess maybe I did. But I learned later that he did this with a lot of people: those quiet little messages of support. Keep going. Keep making stuff.

That was the way Corman rolled. If he spotted that you had something, he would keep tabs on you. He seemed to detect creative possibilities in the unlikeliest people. He believed so much in the late great character actor Dick Miller that he gave Miller the only lead role in his career with a greatly enjoyable send-up of Beat culture called A Bucket of Blood. In 1967, he leaned in hard on LSD and the hippie movement with The Trip.

You see, Corman had his finger firmly on the pulse of American culture right up until the end of his life. While corporate bean counters looked the other way, Corman leaned in. When I talked with him in 2011, he had not only gone to Zuccotti Park to listen to the brave kids who were camping out for weeks to fight corporate America, but he had also offered a generous donation.

Additionally, Corman set up distribution channels for art house and foreign films through New World Pictures in the 1970s. He would make money with the exploitation pictures and use the profits to ensure that world cinema got its proper due. If it had not been for Corman, Americans may not have been introduced to the likes of Fellini, Bergman, and Kurosawa’s wildest movies. (It was New World that got Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala into American theatres.)

Rest in power, Roger Corman. You were one of the great ones.

* * *

Roger Corman appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #416. In addition to directing some of the most memorable and entertaining drive-in movies of the 20th century (among many other accomplishments), he is most recently the subject of a new documentary called Corman’s World, which is now playing film festivals and is set for release on December 16.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Not of this earth.

Guest: Roger Corman

Subjects Discussed: Corman’s infamous cost-cutting measures, unusual marriage proposals, bloated corporations, Occupy Wall Street, comparisons between Zuccotti Park and 1960s protests, keeping tabs on pop culture, not giving stars and directors a few bucks to stay around, Easy Rider, the philosophy behind the Corman university, picking people on instinct and the qualities that Corman looks for in a potential talent, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, directors who move up the ladder, The Intruder, why Corman didn’t make explicit socially conscious films after 1962, financing pictures with your own money, the financial risks of being ahead of the curve, looking for subtext in the nurses movies, the sanctimony of Stanley Kramer, Peter Biskind’s “one for me, one for them” idea, simultaneous exploitation and empowerment, the minimum amount of intelligence that an exploitation film has to contain, throwing calculated failures into a production slate, distributing Bergman and Fellini through New World, why Corman believes it was impossible to produce and distribute independent art house movies in the United States in the 1960s and the 1970s, the importance of film subsidies, why Corman gave up directing, Von Richthofen and Brown, the allure of Galway Bay, getting bored while attempting to take time off, the beginnings of New World, the many breasts in Corman’s films, Annabelle Gurwitch’s “Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bimbo,” targeted incidental nudity opportunities, enforcing nudity clauses in contracts, questioning why actresses can’t be sexy without taking their tops off, Rosario Dawson, the undervalued nature of contemporary films, and Corman’s thoughts on how future filmmakers can be successful.


Correspondent: I have to get into your eccentric temperament right from the get-go. There is a moment in this documentary where your wife Julie confesses that you proposed to her. And she said yes. Then you disappeared for a week into the Philippines. And she tried to get in touch with you and finally did get in touch with you and asked, “Well, is the marriage still on?” And you said, “Oh yes, of course.” Your justification was, well, you didn’t want to pay the expense of long-distance telephone. I told this story to my partner and I thought it was amusing. But she was absolutely horrified by this. And this leads me to ask if the notorious reputation you have for aggressive cost-cutting, perhaps one of the finest cost-cutters in the history of cinema — well, how much does this lead into your personal life? And your private life? I mean, surely, when you’re talking about sweethearts and fiancées, you can afford to spend at least a buck or something. I mean, come on!

Corman: Well, that story is possibly true. But the fact of the matter is I’d been in the jungle. At that time, there were no phones. So that was the real reason for the call.

Correspondent: That was the real reason. But this does raise an interesting question. I mean, under what circumstances will you, in fact, pay the regrettable cost of maintaining a relationship like this? Whether it be professional or private.

Corman: Well, I would have to divide that into two answers. Privately, and particularly with my wife and children, I’m much more liberal in spending than I’d ever been on films. On films, I really watch every penny.

Correspondent: Yes. But are there any circumstances you’ve regretted? Either spending extra money or not spending the dollar? Or not spending the dime so to speak?

Corman: I don’t think I regret any overspending. I think, once or twice, I should have let pictures go a little longer and spent a little bit more. These were pictures that were coming in on budget and on schedule. I might have added a couple of extra days to the shooting schedule. But I felt this was a fifteen day schedule. This is the thirteenth day. I have to make a decision. We’re going to shoot it in fifteen days. In retrospect, had I gone to sixteen or seventeen, the additional quality — for lack of a better word — might have been greater than the expenditure.

Correspondent: Well, what’s the cost-benefit analysis for this quality to spending ratio that you’ve devised over the years? Is it largely instinctual? Is it largely looking aggressively at the books? What of this?

Corman: It’s a combination of all of the above, plus just the calculation. I’m always looking for the greatest quality. I’ve done pictures — The Little Shop of Horrors — in two and a half days. I did that with very little money. But I did the best possible job I could do with the amount of money. So I’m looking for the highest possible quality. But since I back my pictures with my own money, which is something you’re never supposed to do, I have to be certain — well, I shouldn’t say certain. I have to have a reasonable guess that I’m going to come out of this one okay.

Correspondent: Do you think that such brutal, Spartan-like tendencies might be applied to, oh say, balancing the federal budget? Or perhaps creating a more efficient Department of Defense? Do you have any ideas on this?

Corman: Well, I believe that it isn’t just the federal government. I believe large corporations or the Department of Defense, which of course is part of the federal budget — I think there’s a certain inherent waste in any large organization, whether it’s public or private. I think they all could be streamlined or — let me put it this way, I think they all should be streamlined. But I question whether it can be done. Because the bureaucracies are in place. And it’s very, very difficult to move.

Correspondent: It’s difficult, I suppose, not just in motion pictures, but for everybody right now. Do you have any thoughts on the present Occupy Wall Street movement that’s been going on in this city while you’ve been here?

Corman: Weirdly enough, I was at the Occupy Wall Street meeting — or sit-in. Whatever you want to call it.

Correspondent: You went to Zuccotti Park?

Corman: Yeah. Just about an hour ago.

Correspondent: Really?

Corman: I donated a little money and they had a couple of pictures taken of me there. Which they said they wanted to use in some way. And I told them I was totally in support of what they’re doing.

Correspondent: I’m surprised you weren’t down there with a movie camera getting master shots for a later production based on Zuccotti Park or something like this. There should be an Occupy Wall Street movie. Is there some possible narrative? Some bucks in this?

Corman: Well, it’s the kind of thing I did before in the 1960s, with the various protest meetings and anti-Vietnam demonstrations. I was there with cameras. And we did use the footage. And this one at the moment isn’t quite that big. If it grows, however, that will be a different thing.

Correspondent: Well, did you see it at Times Square on Saturday? It was actually 15,000 people. And it was pretty aggressive with the cops arresting people. 88 people that day too.

Corman: We came in on Saturday.

Correspondent: Oh, I see.

Corman: And actually I saw opposite ends of New York. I came in, went straight to the opera, went straight from the opera to Comic Con to sign autographs. So I figured if I went from New York to the opera to Comic Con, I saw various aspects of New York.

Correspondent: Well, this leads me to ask you about how you collect your ideas or how you maintain your attentions as to what’s going on in contemporary society. It seems to me that going down to Zuccotti Park, you’re still very much interested in finding out what the present concerns are. I mean, how often do you do this now in your daily life? Just to keep tabs. How do you know, for example, that Hell’s Angels or LSD or Zuccotti Park might be a salable idea?

Corman: These are just aspects of pop culture that come to the surface. And I’ve been involved in all the previous ones. Or most of them, one way or another. And the Occupy Wall Street movement is new. And I went just to see what it was like. And it was strange. There’s a real similarity to the 1960s here. And I don’t know if the young people of today know that what they’re doing, the signs they have, the music they had playing, the discussions — it brought me right back to 1968.

Correspondent: Do you see any differences by chance?

Corman: I saw very little differences. I did notice this. The police were not antagonistic. They were standing there. But I didn’t see any of them make any harmful moves. Where in the ’60s, I did see police make harmful moves. Maybe they’ve learned something over the years.

The Bat Segundo Show #416: Roger Corman (Download MP3)

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Ryan Wild: Mastodon Fascist, Tendentious Universeodon Admin, and Enemy of the Fourth Estate

Ryan Wild is a wildly arrogant and deeply manipulative despot who lives in Swindon — a town in England’s Wiltshire district. He operates out of the Highworth borough, which voted for Conservative Vijay Kumar Manro as Borough Councillor in the last election. Wild, who has the husky well-fed mien of a man who has never known a day without a hot meal, will turn twenty-six next month. Like any garden-variety huckster, Wild is an “entrepreneur” who wants you to buy into his dubious hosting services and support his Mastodon instance Universeodon or his other instance Mastodon App UK, which was home to British cultural treasure Stephen Fry until Fry stopped posting sometime last year. (For those not in the know, “instances” are servers that are interconnected with each other on Mastodon. When I was on Wild’s instance, I did chip into his Ko-fi account and had planned to chip in more. Because I’m always happy to pay the people who keep the lights on. This effectively placed me within only 2.7% of the active users on Universeodon.)

But don’t think for a second that Wild has your best interests at heart. He is fundamentally opposed to any creator — especially journalists — who point out the iniquities and injustice carried out by the ruling class. Particularly if you are critical of Israel or people in power. On October 11, 2021, when Google offered free security keys for elected officials and journalists (historically speaking, both of these classes have faced significant harassment and, with heightened extremism in the United States, this has only escalated) to provide better security to elected officials and journalists, Wild had zero sympathy and called such protection “a huge waste of money.” He is also an avowed Brexit supporter and has also claimed that Hitler “should have been in power” because he was “legally voted in,” a colossal misreading of history that came laced with Wild significantly understating Hitler’s evil by saying “what he did was wrong yes.” Which is a bit like suggesting that the flooding that ravaged China in July 1931 and killed four million people was “just a tiny little rainstorm.” (Never mind that Hitler was defeated by Paul von Hindenburg in the 1932 Weimar Republic presidential election and that, as any high school graduate should know, Hitler manipulated his way into the Chancellor seat, taking only a few months after that to suspend civil liberties for all Germans and become dictator.)

(Mr. Wild did not return multiple requests for comment on this story over the course of five days. I emailed him at every address that was publicly listed for him and his business ventures. Then he blocked my main email address when I sent him a followup message — this when I was nothing but polite and respectful in my correspondence. (An email sent from another account went through.) Just before the deadline I gave him to reply to my questions was about to pass (and I would have been happy to grant him an extension to answer if he had simply asked), Wild claimed that he was sick. If he is indeed sick, I truly do wish Mr. Wild a healthy recovery. This still doesn’t explain why he blocked my email address before he was sick. After this article was published, in a futile attempt to discredit my good faith efforts to get him on the record, Wild claimed that his Mastodon UK email was not working. But I also contacted Wild at the very Atlas Media Group email address he cites in his post.)

In short, this diminutive businessman — this bright vanilla chunk of ice cream scooped ignominiously onto a slice of pumpkin pie — has no problem covertly upholding right-wing sentiments and shutting down left-wing ones when he’s not preventing users from accessing vital news. He has blocked numerous journalists from being seen by users on his instance. And if, heaven forfend, you make a mocking post against the rich, as one trans woman did, Wild will close your account faster than Anthony Comstock opposing the suffragettes in the late nineteenth century.

Wild risibly and falsely claims on the Universeodon about page, “From exploring the universe, to exploring the world we all share – everyone is welcome here.”

This, of course, is a lie.

To a great degree, one can sympathize with Wild and any other instance admin on Mastodon. Admins are usually hosting servers on their own dime, often at a loss, and, as X (previously known as Twitter) increasingly hardens into a toxic wasteland under Elon Musk, these admins are being besieged by thousands of new users. If an instance does have a moderation team, it usually consists of unpaid volunteers, who may tender false flags at the end of a long and exhausting day. But as the Fedeiverse — the collective network of instances connected to each other — burgeons into what many declare to be a calmer and more viable open source alternative to BlueSky, Threads, and X, it’s important to consider how certain biases from admins are contributing to a form of fascism rather than democracy, where viewpoints from the marginalized or those who don’t fit so neatly into an affluent Caucasian neoliberal box often struggle to have their vital voices heard. And, in Wild’s case, his clearly tendentious biases and elastic approach to moderation has resulted in a form of odious muzzling that is no different from the way that the Nazis demonized Black music that had flourished so beautifully in Berlin before 1933 or the way that, more recently, the Taliban has silenced Afghan journalists. If one of the most awe-inspiring realizations of the Internet is being exposed to marginalized voices and realizing that we all have far more in common than we know, then Mastodon — at least under the sloppy and corrupt hands of admins like Ryan Wild — is far from the great ideal that its most prominent boosters insist that it is.

Not unlike Elon Musk suspending numerous journalist accounts in December 2022, Wild is so fundamentally opposed to the noble efforts of the Fourth Estate that he has invented reasons to block journalists on his instance. He has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that — an instance in which journalists valiantly report from all corners of the globe — supports “transphobic content.” (In fact, the rules make clear that transphobia is explicitly prohibited.) So this means that anyone with a Mastodon account on his instance cannot access invaluable posts from the likes of ProPublica, which rightfully won a Pulitzer Prize last week for its valiant coverage of the Supreme Court. As William Maggos noted in the same thread, this was clearly a pretext to silence “commentary against the Israel govt.” (Requests for comment from were not returned.)

Back in February, Jeffrey Phillips Freeman — who runs an instance devoted to the Assn for Computing Machinery — complained to Wild that his instance was wrongly included on what he deemed a “notoriously abusive” block list. Even when pointing to examples of how he had blocked racists, Freeman was gaslighted without full context. (Freeman was kind enough to return my request for comment and informed me that the meetings he had with fellow Fediverse boosters were quiet but that “bad actors” were a problem. I pressed him on a hypothetical, asking him what he would do if, say, J.K. Rowling created a new account on his instance and started posting TERF content, but he did not reply.)

But bad actors — in addition to disrupting thoughtful and civil meetings hoping to actualize a tech utopia dream — do become instance admins. And bad actors very often recruit other bad actors, as Wild did when — as Alan Jenkins pointed out on November 16, 2022 — he recruited a moderator named @lyicx, who used words and terms associated with the alt-right. (When called out on this in a followup thread, @lycix hurled abuse at Jenkins.) Ryan Wild is almost certainly operating his instance with the intent of propping up voices he agrees with and gagging any rules-abiding user he personally disagrees with.

A detailed examination of Wild’s Twitter feed reveals Wild to be a shady right-winger who cloaks his Tory loyalism behind centrist “common sense” claptrap and who appears to be thoroughly opposed to the vital practice of critical thinking. In a January 21, 2017 tweet, Wild claimed that criticism of Trump and Brexit was invalid until the policies were enabled. In other words, Wild declared that policies enacted on xenophobia should not be questioned until they “actually [did] something worthy of critique.” Likewise, on January 21, 2017, he believed that Trump should not be judged as President until he had been office. Never mind that the perspicacious Naomi Klein has written an invaluable book, No is Not Enough, that offered smart reasons why Trump and his cronies should be judged before his disastrous administration had started. To offer some defense for Wild, on September 8, 2019, Wild expressed some mild concern for policies that are “treasonous” and once compared Conservatives to “petty little children who haven’t gotten [sic] their own way.” But he also once described the Labour Party as possessing “shite leadership.” Yet on March 14, 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Wild expressed far too much faith in Boris Johnson’s abilities to contend with it. The portrait that Wild has presented of himself is that of a company man who lacks the spine or the moral conviction to criticize governmental policies and who resents anyone who does.

Wild is able to get away with his censorship on the sly because, while he’s been ardently and rightly opposed to transphobia in other contexts, he has, like any spineless and well-trained neoliberal, learned to pay shrewd and performative lip service to humanism, even as he covertly suspends accounts that are critical of Israel — even when these accounts abide by his rules. It’s one thing to claim to be for LGBTQIA rights. It’s another thing altogether to muzzle the very LGBTQIA voices that you profess to be “for” — because you are fundamentally uncomfortable with the perspectives they have to offer. (This has also been a problem among Black users of Mastodon as well. Black users are theoretically “welcomed” by the largely white admins, only to have their accounts suspended without warning. Or, as the user Ra’il IK quipped on X last November, “Welcome to the ‘I am Black and suspended by Mastodon with no warning and no process’ club!!!!!!!”) Ryan Wild is, in short, the walking and talking embodiment of George Orwell’s “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” line. One can logically infer that, as far as Wild is concerned, criticizing the rich or those who launch unprovoked attacks into territory populated by marginalized starving people makes one a lesser “animal.” And, sure, Wild is all too happy to rightfully protest web hosts that claim perpetual commercial rights over all hosted content (well, not so much a protest, as an opportunity for him to pimp his far from “Superior” goods), while simultaneously succumbing to similar tyrannical proclivities himself. If you are a writer like me, it is an act of thuggish and shameful dehumanization to have one’s work deleted or “suspended” without warning. Especially since I would have been more than happy to address any concerns and strike a mutually agreeable resolution, had I been given the heads up.

I greatly enjoyed my time on Mastodon. Numerous journalists and writers became mutuals. Despite the fact that I am a pugnacious (and some would say obnoxious) middle-aged punk, I didn’t get into too many fights — in large part because the user base (including myself) wanted to create a more thoughtful alternative to the mephitic online hellscapes of X and BlueSky. And I learned so much from everyone. People helpfully offered corrections when I was conducting what used to be known as “live tweeting” on Mastodon in relation to unfolding events, which I was happy to amend. And you know what? The user who initially expressed umbrage with my minor mistake and I became mutuals. But because Ryan Wild is so fundamentally opposed to the democratic possibilities of the delightful discussions which spring from people with other viewpoints, this man suspended my account on Tuesday afternoon under flimsy pretext and without warning and has proven indifferent and unresponsive to my efforts to resolve what I had hoped was simply a colossal misunderstanding. With Wild’s inexplicable ban of my main email address, this now appears to be a deliberate effort to target and silence me because of my progressive politics and the fact that I am not shy about speaking out against bad actors in prominent positions of power. And if you’re setting up a new Mastodon account, I would highly advise you to not use Universeodon. If you’re on Universeodon right now, I strongly urge you to switch to another instance before Wild shuts you down too. (Here’s a helpful guide on how to switch Mastodon instances.)

Last year, I had selected Wild’s instance at random. George Takei — a man whom I have admired and respected since watching Star Trek reruns as a kid — was on Universeodon. (Years ago, I once received an incredibly kind email from him, to which I naturally shouted “Oh my!” with great enthusiasm. So Takei is forever brokered in as one of the Cool Cats.) I figured that any instance that was good enough for this national treasure was good enough for me.

But my random decision turned out to be a tremendous mistake.

On Tuesday afternoon, as I was trying to report on a Zionist extremist who drove his car into peaceful Columbia protesters, I was shocked to learn that my Universeodon account was suspended. Now I’m no stranger to this elastic approach to moderation. After I had reached more than 40,000 followers on TikTok for my mix of leftist politics and surreal comedy, the moderators there invented excuses to ban me, siding with the right-wingers who mass-reported me — much as Wild did to me on Universeodon. While I always abide by the rules of any social media platform I join and stand firmly against harassment, Wild had to go all the way back to January to invent an excuse to ban me. I had merely documented a vicious cyberbullying and harassing campaign against me on BlueSky (with screenshots and receipts). But Wild claimed that these posts, which were simply expressing disbelief that some unhinged tech person would libel me with lies for 96 posts within an eleven hour period — violated the rules on his instance and that I was the one somehow harassing people while documenting a very flagrant and coordinated harassment campaign against me that carried on long after I had deleted my BlueSky account. This was classic and predictable gaslighting against political opponents, in other words.

But if Wild is going to go back in time, then I suppose I should do the same with him. Nothing that I posted on his instance was even remotely close to the unhinged teenage angst he expressed on September 23, 2014: “You wounder why I get pissed off then you go ahead and act like a world class dickhead. Fuck you.”

My account — which was largely concerned with books, culture, politics, news, and reposts of goofy TikToks — remained fairly consistent throughout my run on Universeodon. The only thing that changed was that I was more vocal in my criticism of Israel in the last month. I challenged the propagandist Steve Herman (who, ironically, was one of the “journalists” banned by Musk on Twitter), who claimed that Columbia protesters were terrorizing Jewish students. But Herman is such a sloppy “journalist” that he refused to corroborate the provenance of the video he cited — even when he hadn’t been to Columbia (I had and reported on it via TikTok after talking with dozens of people (most declined to appear on camera, for understandable reasons), none of whom had seen any violent protesters). I directed Herman to the dubious source of said video and noted how nobody had looked into who was shouting and observed that the audio did not match the “transcript.” Unlike Herman, I did my best to ensure that the information I posted was correct.

Now I had contended with Wild’s love for defending authoritarian maniacs last September, when I posted a clearly satirical post against Elon Musk, protesting Musk’s anti-Semitism in particular and pointing out that Musk was so clumsy that there was a good chance that he could accidentally set himself on fire. But Wild, who has no sense of humor and who appears to have a dog whistle against anyone who protests racism or denigration of a particular group, fired a warning to me and refused to keep my post up. Fair enough. It’s his instance.

But he then claimed that details about George Mitchell that I posted — which were reported and sourced in Josh Ruebner’s excellent book Shattered Hopes — constituted “misinformation.” Regrettably, I cannot access my original post due to Wild’s gleeful zeal in scrubbing posts (with the additional advantage of removing evidence that makes him accountable), but I was able to find my response to him:

But by suspending my account and refusing to give me the benefit of the doubt, Wild was effectively deplatforming the modest but robust presence I had built on Mastodon.

In other words, Ryan Wild is very keen on cracking down on nearly anyone who conducts journalism and who points out social injustice. He is a Mastodon fascist. And I’d like to qualify that by citing Lawrence Britt’s 2003 article in Free Inquiry in which he identified up fourteen characteristics of fascism. Wild certainly seems keen on powerful and continuing nationalism with his low tolerance for anyone critical of the government and his apparent love for Brexit and Boris Johnson. In blocking journalists and those critical of Israel, he certainly has a disdain for the recognition of human rights. He’s certainly for a highly controlled instance and, much like Truth Social, he has recruited alt-right moderators to offer the illusion of free speech. And he obviously has a priapic zest for corporate power and the rich, as well as a disdain for journalists (and thus the intellectual pursuit of the real truth). And in my attempt to get answers from Wild, he has expressed a colossal arrogance towards me.

The upshot is that, if you’re going to choose a Mastodon instance, you now need to deeply research the admin and the moderators of that instance to ensure that they aren’t twisting the rules to silence your viewpoint — especially if you are not white and affluent.

Ryan Wild’s clear corruption betrays the utopian potential of the Fediverse, which is certainly not going to flourish very well with compromised moderation on Universeodon, Mastodon UK, and other instances that are covertly censoring certain political voices and perspectives.

5/11/24 4:00 PM UPDATE: Wild sent me an email after this article dropped. Unable to rebut any of the claims in this article, he has instead falsely claimed that I am doxxing him. All information about Wild in this article was pulled from public information that is easily Googleable within thirty seconds. To be clear, I am firmly against doxxing. I have never doxxed anyone. Mr. Wild is still invited to tender a response to this piece to correct any “misinformation,” but he seems more content to spread misinformation of his own:

5/12/24 2:00 AM UPDATE: I arrived home from a very fun Saturday night out to discover more gaslighting from Mr. Wild, including a libelous claim that I am a “stalker,” as seen below:

Mr. Wild was contacted in advance of this article at two email addresses (including his email at Atlas Media Group, which was not part of an “email system breaking’) with a request for comment. He chose not to reply. He was informed of many of the claims in this piece in advance of publication. He has yet to refute or rebut any of the allegations expressed in this story. And he continues to promulgate the outright lie that I have doxxed him.

To demonstrate that Wild’s location is public information, the Atlas Media Group website lists Ryan Wild as being in Swindon. His Keybase page lists him as living in Swindon. I have not doxxed him. Wild has been quite transparent about where he lives. I have included screenshots below:

Concerning Mr. Wild’s birthday, this too is public information. Like any human being, Mr. Wild has tweeted repeatedly that his birthday is June 6th. If Mr. Wild did not want anyone to know what his birthday is, then he should have said nothing. But given how much Mr. Wild has publicized his own birthday (indeed far more than I have), this cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called doxxing.

Once again, if Mr. Wild would like to rebut the claims in this piece, then I will be more than happy to append his remarks to this article.

I have also updated the main article to include Wild’s claims that his email was not working. Again, Mr. Wild was contacted in advance of this story’s publication through the very same backup email address (i.e., the working email) he cites in his post.

RIP Paul Auster (1947-2024)

Paul Auster, the ferociously ambitious writer behind such masterpieces as The Book of Illusions and Oracle Night, has passed away. He was 77 years old.

During the summer of 2008, on the occasion of Man in the Dark being published, I had the good fortune of interviewing Auster at his Park Slope home. He sized me up fairly fast with some off-tape banter concerning the most creative methods of scoring free and cheap drinks, which we both laughed about. And I think that’s why we probably had such a thoughtful conversation. I played my usual role of delivering questions for Auster to parry and punch through. That dynamic resulted in some revealing answers about his creative process, which was rightfully different from my speculations.

You can listen to the conversation by clicking on the Bat picture below.

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Opening himself up to explanation.

Author: Paul Auster

Subjects Discussed: Starting a novel from a title, the advance titles contained within The Book of Illusions, the working title of The Music of Chance, Mr. Blank, the relationship between Travels in the Scriptorium and Man in the Dark, shorter baroque novels vs. longer naturalistic novels, the use and non-use of quotation marks within speech, the writing history of The Brooklyn Follies, the political nature of ending novels, the 2000 presidential election, parallel worlds, the death of Uri Grossman, didactic novels, the comfort of books, the Auster eye-popping moment, the party scene in The Book of Illusions, violence, reminding the reader that he is in a novel, emotional states revealed through imaginary material, Vermont’s frequent appearance in Auster’s novel, Virginia Blaine as the shared element between Brill and Brick in Man in the Dark, magic, The Invention of Solitude, memorializing memory, Rose Hawthorne, website archives, Auster’s relationship with the Internet, having an email surrogate, Auster’s concern for specific dollar amounts in Man in the Dark and Oracle Night, Hand to Mouth, Auster’s reading habits, the 8-10 contemporary novelists Auster follows closely, being distracted, the intrusive nature of the telephone, diner moments in Auster’s most recent novels, perception and stock situations, summaries of books and films within Auster’s books, and intimate moments in great movies.


Correspondent: I wanted to ask you about something that I’ve long been interested in your books, and that is your concern for specific dollar amounts. Again, it plays up here in the Pulaski Diner, where everything is five dollars. And I also think about the scenario with M.R. Chang in Oracle Night, in which there’s the whole situation between the ten dollar notebook and the ten thousand dollar notebook.

Auster: Right.

Correspondent: And again it becomes completely, ridiculously violent. But there is something about the propinquity of the dollar amount that you keep coming back to in your work. What is it about money? And what is it about a specific figure like this?

Auster: It’s funny. I never, never thought about that. Wow. Well, listen, money’s important. Everyone cares about money. And when you don’t have money, money becomes the overriding obsession of your life. I wrote a whole book about that.

Correspondent: Yeah.

Auster: Hand to Mouth. And the only good thing about making money is that you don’t have to think about money. It’s the only value. Because if you don’t have it, you’re crushed. And for a long period in my life, I was crushed. And so maybe this is a reflection of those tough years. I don’t know. I don’t know.

Correspondent: Or maybe there is something absurd about a specific dollar amount or something. I mean, certainly, when I go to a store and I see that something is set at a particular dollar amount or it fluctuates, it becomes a rather ridiculous scenario. Because all you want to do is get that particular object.

Auster: Yes, yes, yes. But often in my books, people don’t have a lot of money in their pockets. So they have to budget themselves carefully.

Correspondent: Well, not always. You tend to have characters like, for example in The Brooklyn Follies, people who have a good windfall to fall back on and who also offer frequently to help pay for things, and their efforts are often rejected out of pride by your supporting characters. And so again, money is this interesting concern. But I’m wondering why you’ve held on to this notion. It’s now thirty years since the events depicted in Hand to Mouth. I mean, is this something you just haven’t forgotten about?

Auster: I guess I haven’t forgotten about it. (laughs)

Correspondent: Do you still pinch pennies to this day?

Auster: No, no, no. Not at all. No, I’m not a tightwad at all.

Correspondent: (laughs)

Auster: I’m generous. I give good tips. It’s just — the way I live my life, ironically enough, is: I don’t want anything. I’m not a consumer. I don’t crave objects. I don’t have a car. We don’t have a country house. We don’t have a boat. We don’t have anything that lots of people have. And I’m not interested. I barely can go shopping for clothes. I find it difficult to walk into stores. The whole thing bores me so much. I guess the only thing that I spend money on is cigars and food and alcohol. Those are the main expenses.

Correspondent: Not books?

Auster: No. Because our library in the house is so bursting, we have no more room. We have things on the floor. And books come into the house at the rate of — you see, three came today for example. I’m pointing to them on the table. So we’re just inundated with books.

Download BSS #231: Paul Auster (MP3)

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Steve Halloran: A Rape Fantasist and White Nationalist Unfit to Hold Political Office in Nebraska

Meet Steve Halloran, State Senator for the 33rd District of Nebraka. Objectively speaking, Halloran can be sufficiently described as a 75-year-old fossil, a misogynistic pettifogger, and a walking and talking colostomy bag who slips and saunters around Lincoln with the slimy telltale mien of an impotent man popping Cialis every hour in his futile attempt to revive his unresponsive and forever diminutive chorizo. When not introducing measures ensuring that hate groups drown out liberal voices or using “Nebraska nice” to defend fascism, this detestable autocrat can be seen in photographs smiling like a squealing pig while standing next to Nazis. He is so rigidly opposed to the rights of women that, in 2017, he was one of only three senators to vote against a measure that would have required schools to build accommodations that would help mothers breastfeed their children. And he is so hateful of working stiffs that, in March 2019, he opposed increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Halloran’s hideous combination of misogyny and stupidity is so deeply ingrained into his evil reptilian core that he actually had the temerity to declare last year that rape did not induce pregnancy: “No one’s forcing anyone to be pregnant. Pregnancy’s a voluntary act between two consenting adults.”

Indeed, rape seems to be the only topic that fuels Halloran’s diseased and dimwitted imagination.

But on Monday morning, as the Nebraska State Senate was discussing Legislative Bill 441, this baleful man did the unthinkable. The bill in question targeted “obscenity and pornography” in K-12 schools. And Halloran, who possesses the crusty gusto of a crested gecko, read a passage from Alice Sebold’s Lucky that described a rape. And he inserted the name “Senator Cavanaugh” (likely, that of Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, who is a Democrat) into the excerpt. (The full video can be found here.) Halloran is not a very good reader, but that should not detract from the full scope of this bastard’s completely unacceptable rape fantasy. Here is the full transcript:

Something tore. I began to bleed there. I was wet now, Senator Cavanaugh. I’m excited. I made him excited. He was intrigued and worked his whole fist into my vagina and pumped it. And it went into….it went into my brain. Stop staring at it, he said. I’m sorry, I said. You’re strong. I tried. I liked it. He started pumping me, pumping me again, wildly. The base of my spine was crushed into the ground. Glass cut my back and behind. He kneeled back. Raise your legs, he said. Spread them. Give me a blowjob, he said. [At this point, Halloran emphasized “blow,” almost as if he was confessing a secret fantasy.] He was standing now. I was grounded on the ground, trying to search about, uh, the filth on my clothes. He kicked me and I crawled into a ball. I want a blowjob, Senator Cavanaugh. He held his dick in his hand. I don’t know how, I said. What do you mean you don’t know how? I’ve never done it before, I said. I’m a virgin. Put it in your mouth. I kneeled before him, Senator Cavanaugh.

There are exactly zero circumstances in which such a performance is acceptable in political life. While Halloran did apologize on Tuesday, the easy and eager lust with which this abhorrent windbag transposed Senator Cavanaugh’s name into this passage needs to be answered with considerably greater consequences. It is incumbent upon the good people of Nebraska to turn this man’s life into a miserable and neverending hell, to protest Halloran at every public appearance until this unqualified reprobate resigns from office.

At the very least, Halloran should know what it feels like to have one’s name inserted into literature like this. I’ve taken the liberty of working Halloran into a passage from Alan Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star — an iconic and pioneering work of gay fiction:

I fucked Steve Halloran across the armchair, his feet over his shoulders; I had to see Steve’s face and read what I was doing in his winces and gasps, his violent blush as I forced my cock in, the quick confusion of welcome and repulsion. I’d used up all the lube Cherif had left in the jar, but I saw tears slide from the corners of Steve’s eyes, his upper lip curled back in a gesture like anguish or goaded aggression.

If you’d like to tell Steve how you feel about his boorishness, his contact information is here. Take the most disturbing passages in fiction, pop Steve’s name in, and give his office a call! I’m sure it will liven up the days of his staffers and offer the proper context for Steve’s rock-soft ardor for literature.

The Gnostic Gospels (Modern Library Nonfiction #72)

(This is the twenty-eighth entry in The Modern Library Nonfiction Challenge, an ambitious project to read and write about the Modern Library Nonfiction books from #100 to #1. There is also The Modern Library Reading Challenge, a fiction-based counterpart to this list. Previous entry: James Joyce.)

As I write these words — some eight months before a fateful presidential election threatens to steer my nation into a theocratic hellscape that will permanently erode many of the liberties and freedoms I have been humbled to partake in for cnearly fifty years — the tireless researchers at PRII inform me that Christian nationalism has substantive support in all fifty states (with the exception of California, New York, and Virginia — in which 75% remain skeptics or outright reject it), the Pew Research Center reports that 45% of Americans believe that our democratic republic should be “a Christian nation,” and 55% of Latino Protestants support Christian nationalism. Blind zealotry, even with white supremacy mixed into the sickening formula, comes in many colors.

Undoubtedly, many of these hayseed fanatics are easily manipulated and illiterate. They conveniently overlook the “love thy neighbor” ethos from Western civilization’s best known zombie in favor of a greater affinity for the limitless imbecility of zealous violence and tyranny, falsely believing themselves to be misunderstood rebels living in a new Roman Empire — this as the very institutional framework continues to uphold their right to yap and bellow in hateful and discriminatory terms as they line the pockets of wealthy telegenic carpetbaggers like Joel Osteen. They lead campaigns to ban books and to deracinate vital areas of knowledge from schools which offend their delicate and autocratically vanilla sensibilities. While the Book of Luke informs us that Christ asked us to “love and pray for our enemies,” you will find these unremarkable lemmings keeping their traps shut as trans kids commit suicide or another maniac massacres dozens in the week’s latest mass shooting. (Unable to summon true comity for anyone who deviates from their ugly and crudely formed politics, right-wing statesmen have substituted “love” for “thoughts,” presumably so they can show up to church on Sunday with a “clean” Christian conscience — even though they do nothing to curb this malignant cancer and care no more for these victims than any garden-variety sociopath.)

It has frequently been observed that atheists like myself know the Bible better than these monomoniacal morons. I have often been surprised by how easy it is to thoroughly rebut some born-again loser based on a singular reading of the King James more than twenty years ago and my apparent recall of specific passages that are well outside the soft and useless hippocampi of my hopelessly dim opponents. It never occurs to Christians to question their faith or even to comprehend (much less read) the very words they purport to uphold in their everyday living. And it certainly wouldn’t occur to them to consider that, much like any moment in history, the narrative and the very belief structure upholding this nonsense was written by the winners, by those who spent the majority of their lives silencing (and even murdering) anyone who offered perfectly reasonable questions about a man who rose from the dead.

Elaine Pagels’s excellent book, The Gnostic Gospels, is an equitable study of the many Gnostic sects that dared to question the Christian status quo. Indeed, had not the 52 treatises been discovered in Nag Hammadi in 1945, there is a good chance that many of us who tirelessly call out bullshit on all fronts would have lacked a far more seminal faith than one in Christ — namely, a boundless pride in our ancestors practicing the vital art of critical thinking.

The orthodox position of the Resurrection, as defined by Tertullian, is quite clear. Jesus Christ rose from the dead with full corporeal gusto. It was “this flesh, suffused with blood, built up with bones, interwoven with nerves, entwined with veins” (one might add “consummated with claptrap” and “molded with malarkey” to this laundry list). Tertullian further adds, “it must be believed, because it is absurd!” And, look, I’d like to believe in kaiju secretly emerging from the oceans to stomp on every megachurch from here to Alpharetta, Georgia, but I have confined my love for absurdity to my deviant imagination and my performative antics on TikTok.

What’s especially astonishing about Tertullian is how literal he is. The New Testament is ripe with stories in which Jesus’s disciples are invited to prod and touch the newly reanimated corpse. (There is curiously nothing in the Bible in which anyone asks Jesus about why he doesn’t carry the pungent smell of the dead or how the bearded wonder managed to rid himself of all the maggots gnawing at his decaying flesh.) And yet Pagels points out that not every story within the New Testament aligns with Tertullian’s “my way or the highway” interpretation of full-fledged concrete return. Acts 9:3-4 informs us that Christ’s Resurrection is merely “a light from heaven” with a voice. Acts 22:9 even points out that some observed the light, but ‘heard not the voice that spake to me.” And if that’s the case, would Tertullian have declared the Apostles heretics? In Acts, Christ’s “return” sounds very much like a low-rent Vegas act without a PA system.

And that’s just in the Bible, folks! I haven’t even snapped my fingers to summon the Gnostics on stage. Depending upon what part of the Bible you read, it is either Peter or Mary Magdalene who first sees Christ rise from the dead. Paul tells us that Christ said hello to five hundred people all at once. And if we take that literally, any of us could now do the same thing on social media. Pagels informs us that from the second century onward, “orthodox churches developed the view that only certain resurrection appearances actually conferred authority on those who received them.” And just like that, the manner in which you contend with Christ’s reappearance isn’t all that different from telling the right story to some bouncer on a Saturday night to slip past the velvet rope!

Believe in the power of this two-bit magician and the terms of the deal, as set up by Luke, are as follows: Christ returned from the dead, walked the earth for forty days, and then rose to the heavens in a bright coruscating light. This may not have the razzle-dazzle of Cirque du Soleil, but it is a belief that has nevertheless been swallowed whole and without question by generations of gullible rubes.

The Gnostics were the first to call this “the faith of fools.” In The Acts of John, one of the rare Gnostic texts that survived before Nag Hammadi in fragmented form, John offers the completely reasonable argument that, because Christ did not leave any footprints, he could not possibly be human, but spiritual. The Gnostics clearly had a more sophisticated interpretation of the Resurrection: it was not the literal observation of Christ’s Resurrection that counted, but the spiritual meaning behind it. But the underlying facts didn’t matter nearly as much as winning over the authorities who conferred you with a position of trust:

Consider the political implications of the Gospel of Mary: Peter and Andrew, here representing the leaders of the orthodox group, accuse Mary — the gnostic — of pretending to have seen the Lord in order to justify the strange ideas, fictions, and lies she invents and attributes to divine inspiration. Mary lacks the proper credentials for leadership, from the orthodox viewpoint: she is not one of the ‘twelve.’ But as Mary stands up to Peter, so the gnostics who take her as their prototype challenge the authority of those priests and bishops who claim to be Peter’s successors.

It thus became necessary for the Gnostics to expand authority to those who stood outside the Twelve. Some Gnostics were generous enough to ascribe VIP treatment to the Disciples, claiming that they had received the kind of custom vision that is a bit like the gift you receive nine months after you donate to a Kickstarter campaign. But as you can imagine, all this resulted in many elbowing their way into a vicious power grab over which interpretation of the Resurrection represented the “true” belief. And there was another important consideration. If Christ himself served as the truest source of spiritual authority, who then would be the authority in the years after his crucifixion and his “Hey there, baby!” sojurn from the great beyond?

The more bellicose strains of Christianity continue to endure in large part because a belief in Christ conveniently allows you to disguise your own sinister lunges for power. Enter Pope Clement I, who was arguably the first significantly ruthless monster who saw an opportunity. Clement insisted that, in the absence of his august presence, God delegates his authority to the “rulers and leaders on earth.” Naturally, these “rulers and leaders” were bishops, deacons, and priests. And if you didn’t bend at the knee to these sham practitioners, then Clement stated, with his great gift for speaking without nuance, that you would receive the death penalty.

Of course, this raises the question of whom you can trust within the church: an issue that has become evermore important given the decades of sexual abuse carried out by men of the cloth within the Catholic Church. A bloodthirsty fellow by the name of Irenaeus succeeded in widening the divide between orthodoxy and the Gnostics by suggesting that any interpretation existing outside Clement’s stern terms was not only heretical, but originated from Satan himself, thus paving the way for Christians to denounce any belief or behavior they disagreed with as “Satanic” over the next two thousand years. Over the years, they proceeded to execute innocent women in Salem and imagine Satanic messages in records.

These developments spelled trouble for the poor Gnostics. Within a few centuries, their texts were buried and destroyed. Their reasonable questions and liberal interpretations became casus belli to string them up. The Christians had the good sense to market themselves as victims persecuted by the Roman Empire and they began to realize sometime in the second century that pointing out how Christians suffered was a great draw for new acolytes. (Eighteen centuries later, Israel would employ the same tactic: use the suffering from the Holocaust to recruit Zionists, where they could then justify the seizure of Palestinian land and the mass-murdering of children on the Gaza Strip.) All this is a pity. Because the Gnostics were often far more interesting in their radicalism and their creative liturgical analysis than what we find in the so-called Holy Book. Consider The Gospel of Philip‘s inventive spin on the virgin birth. How can the Spirit be both Virgin and Mother? By a union between the Father of All and the Holy Spirit. And unlike the Christians, The Gospel of Peter ascribed a third quality to the Divine Mother (the first two being the Silence and the Holy Spirit): Wisdom, clearly delineated as a feminine power.

It is a testament to Christianity’s enduring evil that few people listen to the Gnostics in the twenty-first century. But if their reasonable transposition of literal interpretation to metaphor had become the more dominant text, it is quite possible that the millions of nonbelievers who died during the Crusades might have survived and that the present plague of Christian nationalism, which remains highly dangerous and ubiquitous in our dystopian epoch, might have nestled into the less injurious category of “optional only.”

{Next Up! William H. McNeill’s The Rise of the West!)