Adoration and Pilgrimage: James Dean and Fairmount
James F. Hopgood | Luminare Press | 2022 | 282 pages | 979-8886790108 | $18.95
Note: This review is cross-posted in my Substack newsletter,
The current issue of Mojo, a music magazine, features an illustration of James Dean driving toward the reader in the Porsche Spyder in which he died. The singer Weyes Blood sits beside him as he speeds away from a flying saucer, its tractor beam chasing them toward Dean’s inevitable death. The striking image illustrates a line from Blood’s new song “Grapevine,” but the unusual portrait also suggests a longing to follow Dean into death, as though his demise were an act of transcendence, an event of cosmic importance. It’s not the kind of image you find associated with most celebrities. You don’t see much fan art of political junkies depicting themselves riding through Dealey Plaza alongside JFK, nor are there many beatific images of Marilyn Monroe as a psychopomp guiding fans to heaven.
This week, Rep. André Carson announced that his subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee would hold a hearing next week on the Pentagon’s lack of transparency on UFOs. It is the first UFO hearing in Congress since 1966. Naturally, the New York Times brought back its biased reporters Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean, both with conflicts of interest, to cover the story. Both reporters are longtime members of the UFO community. Blumenthal has openly spoken of his “transcendent” belief in the paranormal power of UFOs, and Kean spent much of the last year working for Bob Bigelow, a key figure in the government UFO story. She was also the longtime romantic partner of the late Budd Hopkins, an alien abduction researcher funded by Bigelow.
As part of the research for the new book I am crafting out of parts of the one that didn’t garner much interest, I have been researching government persecution of queer people in the postwar era. In so doing, I came across a rather dramatic fact that led me down a statistical rabbit-hole as I hunted the source of a seemingly dramatic fact that turned out not be what it seemed.
A few months ago, NBC's Peacock streaming service gave Demi Lovato a UFO series in which the streamer presented Lovato as a goofy, cuddly conspiracy theorist gawking in wonder at lights in the sky. Gaia TV saw the publicity that Lovato gained and appointed them a brand ambassador, and Lovato began telling their 118 million social media followers to watch hand-picked promoting extreme fringe history ideas, including lizard people conspiracies.
Note: This article first appeared earlier this week in my Substack newsletter.
Not long ago, I wrote an essay about the supposed “curse” of James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder, inspired by the recent announcement of the rediscovery of one of the few original parts of the car to have survived since the crash that killed Dean and totaled the car in 1955. The transaxle assembly went up for auction at the end of May, and the auction ended in the most predictable and disappointing way possible—with all of my various intellectual interests colliding into a flaming mass of stupidity. Paranormal cable TV star Zak Bagans purchased the part for $382,000 in order to install it in his Las Vegas museum dedicated to horror and the paranormal, where he will present the “cursed” car part in an exhibit room dedicated to James Dean and the occult.
Note: This piece first ran earlier this week in my Substack newsletter. I am cross-posting it here.
A firestorm erupted this weekend in intellectual circles when economic philosopher Guy Sorman told the Sunday Times that the famed—and long dead—French intellectual Michel Foucault was a pedophile who sexually exploited young boys in Tunisia in the late 1960s. Sorman said that he witnessed boys eager to trade sexual favors for Foucault’s money. “They were eight, nine, ten years old, he was throwing money at them and would say ‘let’s meet at 10pm at the usual place’,” a nearby cemetery, Sorman told the Times. “He would make love there on the gravestones with young boys. The question of consent wasn’t even raised.”
Last week, the U.S. edition of the French fashion magazine L’Officiel ran a digital spread about James Dean’s clothes to mark the actor’s ninetieth birthday. The spread, written by the magazine’s digital editor, Italian journalist Simone Vertua, fell victim to fake history, spreading very strange lies from a trashy recent faux-biography and deploying a digitally altered photograph to support untrue claims. Granted, we don’t usually hold fashion magazines to exceptional standards of excellence, but it’s still disturbing to find the plague of fake history infecting yet another medium.
I have a new article out today in Slate magazine examining Joe McCarthy, Tucker Carlson, and UFOs in light connection with masculinity issues and pop culture.
On a cold December night in 1950, red-baiting Sen. Joe McCarthy spent a charity dinner at Washington’s Sulgrave Club trading insults with liberal journalist Drew Pearson. McCarthy had attacked Pearson on the floor of the Senate, calling for a boycott of his radio show. Pearson had attacked McCarthy on air and in his newspaper column, accusing the senator of lying about communist infiltration of the American government. McCarthy had recklessly accused the State Department of harboring hundreds of communists, sparking a massive investigation and an ongoing purge. After dinner, the two ran into each other in the cloakroom and their conflict turned physical. McCarthy kneed Pearson in the groin, and Sen. Richard Nixon had to pull McCarthy off Pearson.
Read the rest at Slate magazine by clicking here.
Two years ago, feminist author Naomi Wolf faced controversy when historians noted that her new book, Outrages, based on her doctoral thesis, contained important historical errors in its account of what Wolf claimed was violent systemic oppression of gay men in Victorian England. Wolf had misunderstood an old legal term, “death recorded,” to refer to an execution instead of a suspended or commuted death sentence. Thus, she had claimed that gay men were executed regularly at the Old Bailey through the nineteenth century, when in fact Britain’s last execution for sodomy occurred in the early days of Victoria’s reign. Wolf’s U.S. publisher pulped the book in the wake of the controversy, but two years later, a new one emerged.
Today, Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb’s new book Extraterrestrial was released. It was mostly as I expected it to be, though even I wasn’t quite expecting it to contain so much discussion of the author’s obsession with middle-twentieth-century existentialist philosophy, of the Camus variety, or his apparent inability to understand that this was neither the culmination of all human intellectual achievement, nor an exceptionally influential school of thought in terms of modern intellectual history. I am not reviewing Extraterrestrial as a book because, frankly, its discussion of the evidence that the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua is an extraterrestrial space probe is simply beyond my ability to evaluate, being neither an astronomer nor a physicist. Those with much more training than I have found reason to doubt Loeb’s conclusions, and even Loeb frames his conclusions as a “wager,” like Pascal’s, claiming that it’s better to assume it’s E.T. and be wrong than doubt and be right, since finding aliens will give humanity a philosophical orgasm of sorts. I can do little more than shrug and say that the non-specialist reader will likely see in the arguments a reflection of whatever idea he or she brings to them.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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