Dan Brown is Renowned

These articles are from a while ago. I love them a lot. By Michael Deacon.

That’s true, mused the accomplished composer of thrillers that combined religion, high culture and conspiracy theories. His books were read by everyone from renowned politician President Obama to renowned musician Britney Spears. It was said that a copy of The Da Vinci Code had even found its way into the hands of renowned monarch the Queen. He was grateful for his good fortune, and gave thanks every night in his prayers to renowned deity God.

Michael Deacon, “Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown”, The Telegraph

And the renowned encore:

His imagination was racing like a racecar made of brains. Picking up his personal copy of acclaimed tome The Da Vinci Code, he reread its exquisite opening paragraph.

“Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece towards himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.”

Hmm, meditated the 5’9” caucasian male. There is no doubting the magnificence of the prose, from the effortless elegance of its syntax to the way it brings characters vividly to life through evocative details like “the seventy-six-year-old man”. But the young people of today wouldn’t know about museums or Caravaggio. I must start again from scratch – and bring the story right up to date.

Michael Deacon, “Look Out, Kids! It’s The Return Of Renowned Dan Brown”, The Telegraph

I read The Da Vinci Code when it was all the rage a long while ago1, and so much of what’s being ridiculed here reminds me of submissions to the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest2.

Update

Here’s John Oliver on the phenonemon that was The Da Vinci Code. 19-year old Nikhil was absolutely mesmerized. His reaction at 5:45 is chef’s kiss

  1. My roommate at the time bought me the illustrated version! ↩︎

  2. On my bucket list: Have a submission mentioned honorably 🙏 ↩︎

Steller’s Sea Eagle

The Steller’s sea eagle is one of the world’s rarest eagles. There are only around 4,000 left. It’s native to Russia and Japan. One was spotted in Maine and got bird watchers very excited.

“It would be like an elephant walking up out of Africa into Scandinavia,” Mr. Lund said. “Like getting a call that the Rolling Stones are playing in a field behind a warehouse in the next town over.”

Marion Renault, “This Eagle Is Very, Very Lost”, The New York Times

It also just happens to be an absolute unit of a bird at 20lbs with an 8ft wingspan 🔥🦅😍

Steller's Sea Eagle - 1
by Andres Vasquez Noboa

Steller's Sea Eagle - 2
Photographer unknown (source)

Steller's Sea Eagle - 3
by John Charles Putrino

Steller's Sea Eagle - 4
by Andres Vasquez Noboa

Dr. Lees said vagrancy, as a biological mechanism, could help migratory birds expand their ranges, a potential advantage as global warming redraws the contours of suitable habitat. Dr. Farnsworth said, conversely, extreme weather — which is anticipated to grow in frequency and intensity as climate change progresses — can also play a role in displacing birds by hundreds or even thousands of miles.

What’s next for the lone, pioneering Steller’s sea eagle? It could migrate along with native bald eagles down the coastline. It could find its way back to northeastern Asia. It could stick around Nova Scotia, as it is well adapted to the cold and seems able to survive there. It could die, out of range of its original flock.

“It’s like an avian soap opera,” Dr. Lees said. “We’re all rooting for it. Will it make it home? Or is it doomed to never see another species of its own in its lifetime?”

Nailbiter.

On Fear (and Lethargy)

The question is, what does it mean to be living a fear-based agenda? Then your life is always constricted. Then it’s sabotaging the expression of your possibilities in life. Jung said once, in a book published in 1912, “The spirit of evil is negation of the life force by fear.” That’s strong language. Only boldness can deliver us from fear, and if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated. Now, I think of that as a kind of daily reminder to me. The way I put it in one of the books The Middle Passage, “Every morning, two gremlins at the foot of the bed, challenging us and threatening us, fear and lethargy. Fear says, it’s too much, it’s too big for you. You can’t handle this life. And lethargy says, chill out. Tomorrow’s another day, turn on the television, try to be distracted if you can.”

And both of them are the enemies of life, and they’ll be there again tomorrow, no matter what you do today. So we have to realize they are inside of us. The biggest enemies to life are inside of us: fear and lethargy. If we can address that life opens up and begins to be what it’s supposed to be, in my view, the unfolding of the gem that each of us embodies in this world.

James Hollis on an episode of the Insights at the Edge podcast with Tami Simon

Here’s a transcript. Via LD 🙏

Oracle

Here’s Bryan Cantrill’s classic assessment of Oracle Corporation (taken from this talk.)

On Twitter, a year after that video:

If you were an enterprise database customer who hadn’t heard of the Nazis, might it be easiest to explain them with Oracle allegory?

@bcantrill

I know people who’ve worked there (none of whom are with the company, mercifully) and have heard nothing but fascinating tales of dysfunction, fiefdoms, sinecures, overwork, and bureaucracy. One engineer told me that, of all the bad places he’d worked at, he felt his “soul dying slowly” at Oracle. It’s a generic and very real Evil Corporation™, and probably the company the protagonists in Office Space work at.

And this wouldn’t be too far-fetched a thought. Consider that the producers of Terminator: Genisys, who are an Oracle Co-Founders’s own children, based “Cyberdyne Systems, the fictional defense company responsible for the creation of the evil AI Skynet” on their dad’s company. Amazing.

On Drawing Logical Conclusions

I can’t see a thing on the surface of Venus. Why not? Because it’s covered with a dense layer of clouds. Well, what are clouds made of? Water, of course. Therefore, Venus must have an awful lot of water on it. Therefore, the surface must be wet. Well, if the surface is wet, it’s probably a swamp. If there’s a swamp, there’s ferns. If there’s ferns, maybe there’s even dinosaurs.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

It was only in 1922 that:

[…] fantasies of a wet, swampy Venus started to fade. Astronomers analyzing the visible light reflected from the planet’s atmosphere found no signs of the wavelengths which would have been given off by oxygen or water. Venus, they proposed, may instead be barren and dusty, a desert-like place.

The Venutian Dinosaur Fallacy, BigThink

which, as that article notes, still did not prevent us from imagining a Wet-Ass Venus well into the 1950s. Here are some pictures of its surface.

Car Silhouettes

Henry Lin has a degree in Architectural Design is a “a lover of all things transportative”. He draws really lovely Car Silhouettes 😍 Here are a few.

Silhouette of Chevrolet-Corvette-C3-08 by Henry Lin
Chevy Corvette C3 (1968-1972)

Silhouette of Jaguar-E-Type-02 by Henry Lin
Jaguar E-Type (1961-1968)

Silhouette of Lagonda-Rapide-01 by Henry Lin
Lagonda Rapide (1961 - 1964)

Silhouette of Mercedes-w221 by Henry Lin
Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W221)

Silhouette of Mercedes-C218 by Henry Lin
Mercedes-Benz CLS400 (C218)

Silhouette of Bugatti-Centodieci-01 by Henry Lin
Bugatti Centodieci

The Eye: Calanthek

This is a short film done entirely with the Early Access version of Unreal Engine 5. It’s only around eight minutes long and took six weeks to make but its plot is more exciting and coherent than whatever the heck was happening in Prometheus1.

  1. Some examples: Let’s take our helmets off on an alien planet teeming with life forms we are yet to study. Let’s then just go ahead and touch and electrocute said life forms. And what exactly are David’s motivations? From Wikipedia: “Writer Damon Lindelof stated that the character provides a non-human perspective on the film’s events, and said, ‘What does the movie look like from the robot’s point of view? If you were to ask him, ‘What do you think about all of this? What’s going on? What do you think about these humans who are around you?’ Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a way for that robot to answer those questions?’” Let’s ask these questions, never answer them, and waste Michael Fassbender on this embarrassing shit instead. Oh and if you didn’t know that the ‘Engineers’ in the movie are mad at us and want to destroy us because we killed Jesus, you do now. ↩︎

On Living Together

You’ve said that, despite being married three times, you’ve been in love only once. Do you think you might have a particularly higher bar than other people?
No, I think I’m not that interested. I’m much happier on my own. I can spend as much time with somebody as I want to spend, but I’m not looking to be with somebody forever or live with someone. I don’t want somebody in my house.

Have you always felt like this?
Yes. I’m the round peg, and marriage is the square hole. You can’t have a square hole, can you?

Whoopi Goldberg, in an old interview with Ana Marie Cox, The New York Times

I am 20

In 1967, the Films Division of India1 asked all kinds of 20-year olds about their dreams and how they felt about the future of a nation that was, itself, 20 years old. Here’s the original video. A lot of the kids who speak English in the video (starting at 5:00) attend the august Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

A colorized and edited version of that video went viral. Here’s a most fascinating “Where are They Now?” follow-up by the author where he tracks down seven people in the video. It’s a mix of Hindi and English. Lessons learned: Life is way too short, way too fickle, and almost never pans out the way you think it will. Privilege helps a lot.

  1. Which I just realized is a thing. ↩︎

Worlds Beyond the Stars

Dil Se, written and directed by Mani Ratnam, is one of my all-time favorite movies. I still consider its soundtrack to be A R Rahman’s greatest work. It’s just magnificent stuff.

When I was 15, I remember seeing the movie’s trailer1 and being awestruck by this haunting background song2 that didn’t make it into the official tracklist. The song is a rendition of a well-known poem, Sitaron Se Aage Jahan Aur Bhi Hai, by another genius Allama Iqbal.

I’ve been looking for this song for a long while, settling for shitty movie extractions (which are exactly that.) I went to the extent of trying to contact Madras Talkies, the director’s production company, several times to no response or avail.

Twenty four years later, and thanks to the internet, I’ve finally found good versions of this elusive song 🥰

All of these appear to be from a 20-year anniversary release I couldn’t find anywhere but here. The whole thing is just absolutely lovely. Oh and here’s another version at appears to be mostly the same as the one linked to, and a solo version by a guy named Sujay.

  1. Which was badass and which I also cannot find. We went to see Bade Miyan Chote Miyan↩︎

  2. Sung by Sukhwinder Singh and, I’m guessing, a fucking banshee. ↩︎

On Stupid Questions

Journalist David Walsh recounting a story about his late son John in the context of his work uncovering Lance Armstrong and the USPS Pro Cycling Team’s “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful”1 doping program.

One story stood out. One of John’s teachers at [inaudible] National School in the Midlands of Ireland said to me that she remembered John for something that happened when John was six or seven, and she was reading this story of the Nativity.

You know, Mary and Joseph had come to Bethlehem and sought a place in the inn but all the inns were full and they ended up in a stable. And it was there that Baby Jesus was born. And the shepherds came and then the Three Wise Men came and they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And then Mary and Joseph came back to where they came from and they lived a very modest life because Joseph was just a humble carpenter and they didn’t have very much.

And John’s hand went up. And Mrs. Toomey, his teacher, said “Yes John.” And he said “Miss, you said Mary and Joseph didn’t have very much. What did they do with the gold that the Three Wise Men brought?”

And she said “John, I’ve been reading this story for thirty-three years and nobody has ever asked me that question. And the honest answer is: I don’t know.”

And I said Mrs. Toomey that’s the most beautiful story. Because it is the most pertinent question, in that, journalism, which is my profession, that’s it! In a nutshell! “What did Mary and Joseph do with the gold?” You ask the obvious question. People may laugh at you. People may think you’re an idiot. But that doesn’t deter you. If you’re unsure, you ask.

David Walsh, “Extraordinary Proof”, The Moth (cached)
  1. Lance Armstrong: Usada report labels him ‘a serial cheat’, BBC Sport ↩︎

When Does It End?

COVID Theater has become a sad thing to behold these days. Do we still wear masks? If transmission is mostly airborne, why do we get to take them off at restaurants to eat our food when droplets from a sneeze can travel in excess of 25 feet? What’s all this talk about a second booster? Is Omicron something to worry about? How bad is it really?

“We should all be concerned about omicron, but not panicked,” Biden said, emphasizing that vaccinated individuals, especially those with a booster shot, are “highly protected” against the virus.

Biden preaches concern, not panic on omicron”, The Hill

I see. Well this is very practical and actionable advice, for I was planning on being distressed myself before I read that.

Mike Dawson expresses the mood I’ve picked up from most of my friends and family (all of whom, I’m happy to say, are vaccinated because they are responsible adults and not selfish, stupid, and insolent bloody children who are determined to make this nightmare last as long as possible because of their expertise in infectious diseases.)

COVID comic by Mike Dawson

On Old Gods

In the succession of religions, there are only so many ways the old gods can end up. They can fade away, in which case they are lost to us for good; they can be held up to scorn as pagan demons who persisted in their old, evil ways; or they can be recruited into the new faith as its servants and defenders.

[…] This pattern of subjugation and conversion had already occurred during the rise of Buddhism in India with the Vedic gods and demons (the deva and the asura). Indra, the storm god of the warriors, became Sakra, who piously requested teachings from the Buddha. Brahman, the creator god, turned into a defender of the Law. Lesser deities too resurfaced in new roles. The nymph-like yaksi came to decorate the gates of the stupas at Sanchi, and heavenly nymphs became angelic musicians, scattering flowers in the air (they remained scantily dressed, as fertility deities should). Satyr-like yaksas ran errands for Yama, the old moon god who now supervised the Buddhist hells, and so on. Their fate is not unlike that of the gods of Old Europe. Those who did not fade away ended up either as denizens of hell or as saints in the Christian calendar.

[…] This is not an uncommon fate for the old chthonic gods. In India an equally insatiable “Face of Glory” is stationed outside temples, supposedly to scare away the evil spirits. In Rome, the griffin was the guardian of the sarcophagus (which means “meat-eater”). In medieval Europe, gargoyles likewise crouched watchful on eaves. In Egypt, Anubis the Jackal – Dog-Man by another name – witnessed the weighing of souls. In Buddhism, Mara the Devil holds samsara in his jaws. In Tang China, a pair of life-size hounds with human heads (and sometimes single horns) stood guard near the dead.

Whalen Lai, "From Protean Ape to Handsome Saint: The Monkey King, Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1994), pp. 29-65

On Unorthodox Marx

He leads the existence of a real bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he likes to get drunk. Though he is often idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has a great deal of work to do. He has no fixed times for going to sleep or waking up. He often stays up all night, and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the comings and goings of the whole world.

Purported account Karl Marx’s work habits from a Prussian spy

Sounds lovely, really.

Iowa’s Blackout License Plates

I just ordered a set of “blackout” plates from the DMV here. They’re rather cool and look like this:

Iowa blackout plates

I didn’t know that they were actually a solution to a problem. People would take existing, specialized plates for Dordt University and cover them up to look like the blackout plates.

Iowa Dordt University plates

Clever! But led to some unnecessary altercations with law enforcement since doing this was a legal gray area. State Senator Charles Schneider was able to get the mandate for blackout plates included in 2019. Just in that year, the state raised $850,000 through the sale of these plates for the Road Use Tax Fund (simple arithmetic suggests that ~14,000 people ordered them.)

I got all that from Aaron Calvin’s article in The Des Moines Register. Summarized it here since the Register’s website, like most websites these days, is an unreadable and unusable crock of shit.

“A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday.”

Renay Mandel Corren passed away at 84 a week ago (RIP 🙏). Her son wrote what is one of the best obituaries I’ve read in a while. A small excerpt:

Here’s what Renay was great at: dyeing her red roots, weekly manicures, dirty jokes, pier fishing, rolling joints and buying dirty magazines. She said she read them for the articles, but filthy free speech was really Renay’s thing. Hers was a bawdy, rowdy life lived large, broke and loud. We thought Renay could not be killed. God knows, people tried.

Please enjoy the whole thing. I cached it here because it is too important to lose. Via PLG.

Fundamentals of Lambda Calculus for People Who Love Birds

This (beautifully formatted and well-paced-and-delivered and surprisingly sparsely attended) talk by Gabriel Lebec on the fundamentals of Lambda Calculus is one of my favorite talks ever.

As Lebec explains, the lovely bird names come from this book called “To Mock a Mockingbird” by mathematician and logician Raymond Smullyan. The naming is simply delightful. As Matthew Gilliard explains:

The premise is that there are enchanted forests which contain many (or sometimes very few) talking birds. Smullyan dedicated the book to Haskell Curry - an early pioneer in combinatory logic and an avid bird-watcher. The birds, which I suppose represent the combinators, have an interesting characteristic:
Given any two birds A and B, if you call out the name of B to A it will respond by calling out the name of some bird to you.

This bird whose name A calls when you call B is denoted as AB. Once you have several birds in place, a single call can cascade around the forest with each call following rules depending on who produces it.

The very first bird we are introduced to is the Mockingbird whose characteristic behaviour is that whatever name you call to the Mockingbird, it will reply as if it is the bird whose name you called. This is denoted:

Mx = xx

For any bird x we can say that Mx (the result of calling x to a Mockingbird) is the same as xx (the result of calling x to a bird of type x). It really does mock other birds! And what’s more, the existence of the Mockingbird, in combination with various others, unlocks some really fascinating group behaviour from these birds.

And!

Soon we discover that birds have certain properties: The can be fond of other birds, they can be egocentric if they are fond of themselves. The can be hopelessly egocentric if they only ever talk about themselves. There are happy birds, normal birds, agreeable birds and many others. We also meet other types of birds with specific properties - the Lark, the Kestrel, Sage birds, Bluebirds, aristocratic birds, Eagles, the list goes on and on. Luckily there is a Who’s Who list of birds in the back to keep track.

Some “Dune” Posters

For “the greatest movie never made”, although there appear to be a few contenders1 for that title, like Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon.

My absolute favorite is the last one by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa 🙌

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 1

Pe-release flyer (Source)

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 2

by Matt Chinn.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 3

Variation 1 by Stan and Vince.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 4

Variation 2 by Stan and Vince.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 5

by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa

  1. In case that link goes down here’s a cached version. Others include The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by Terry Gilliam, Revenge of the Jedi by David Cronenberg/David Lynch, Heart of Darkness by Orson Welles, and Gladiator 2 by Ridley Scott/Nick Cave. ↩︎

On Law and Character

Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.

— Law And Governance, The Spacing Guild Manual, Dune

I think we’re doing pretty well here. Things will be fine in 2024. Peaceful, lawful, and full of dignity and decorum 🙏

On Nicholas Cage

Yeah, Nic Cage brings the same intensity to almost every role he does. If it’s not a very good role, it’s gonna stand out as being bad.

To put it another way, imagine a boxer that is very good at knocking people out. That’s impressive. Now imagine he accepts fights against children as well, and he is still good at knocking those people out. Now it’s less impressive and more horrifying. He could be an amazing boxer, but he keeps accepting fights against children and knocking them out.

That’s Nic Cage’s acting.

Aarekk on /r/NoStupidQuestions

You either get Nic Cage or you don’t. Via CM.

On Gun Law Reform

The National Rifle Association says that, “Guns don’t kill people, uh, people do.” But I think, I think the gun helps. You know? I think it helps. I just think just standing there going, “Bang!” That’s not going to kill too many people, is it? You’d have to be really dodgy on the heart to have that.

Eddie Izzard, “Dress to Kill

The Pithy Wisdom of Stephen Crowley

Stephen Crowley is a product designer who maintains @ShitUserStory, my favorite new Twitter account1 (via Deepu). He also maintains a Medium blog with gems like these:

Lovely stuff.

  1. Given the amount of rage I’ve had with awful product design and really, really shitty websites of late. The madness doesn’t stop with the web. On $250 Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, which are comfortable and have lovely sound and the best active noise-canceling I’ve ever experienced, opting to “Disable Voice Guidance” still means that the nice lady inside your headphones will tell you when you dis/connect your Bluetooth device. You gotta toggle a feature in the app to prevent iTunes from launching every time it pairs with your Mac (the Sony folk think this “feature” is “unfortunate” so there’s that at least.) Your headphones can just choose to turn off the moment you turn them on unless you update the firmware. Would you like to share your location? Do you want the Sony app to send you notifications? We’ll need the last four digits of your SSN so we can create a tailor-made listening profile for you. Is that OK? ↩︎

Aaron Rodgers

The sentiment inside The Orange Sphere of Shit, by this genius (who is treating himself with Ivermectin.)

Aaron Rodgers by Ben Garrison

QL made some observations:

  1. This is an incomplete pass.
  2. It’s probably unsportsmanlike conduct penalty
  3. It’s at least intentional grounding.
  4. It does no good, only hurts the rest of the team.
  5. The vaxxed player would be wearing a cup (you know, because they’re actually protected).
  6. What makes it “accurate” is that the whole point is to hurt another person.

That’ll show 'em.

Eliminating Distractions with MS-DOS

The Dune screenplay was written on MS-DOS on a program app called “Movie Master”. It has a 40 page limit which helps the writer, Eric Roth.

Writing is fundamentally about putting your ass in the chair and typing the words. Eliminating distractions (I’ve checked Twitter at least five times while writing this short blog) is a key to success. Nothing eliminates distractions like a stripped down simple program with no internet access. Roth also said the 40 page limit helps him structure his screenplays.“I like it because it makes acts,” he said. “I realize if I hadn’t said it in 40 pages I’m starting to get in trouble.”

Matthew Gault, “The ‘Dune’ Screenplay Was Written in MS-DOS”, Vice

“It wasn’t brains that got me here I can assure you of that.”

I cannot help rewatch this powerful scene from “Margin Call”. A masterclass in acting by the great Jeremy Irons.

Every sentence, glance, and gesture projects complete and menacing presence, power, and finality, and is done to absolute perfection 👌

Telugu Script Components

Telugu is a phonetic language, written from left to right, with each character representing generally a syllable. There are 52 letters in the Telugu alphabet: 16 Achchulu which denote basic vowel sounds, 36 Hallulu which represent consonants. In addition to these 52 letters, there are several semi-vowel symbols, called Maatralu, which are used in conjunction with Hallulu and, half consonants, called Voththulu, to form clusters of consonants.

Improved Symbol Segmentation for TELUGU Optical Character Recognition

The Iyers, The Iyengars, The Lowells, The Cabots, and God

This is the city of Madras
The home of the curry and the dal
Where Iyers speak only to Iyengars
And Iyengars speak only to God.

I’d read this years ago some place and forgot where. Thought it would be in some Religious Studies textbook back from when I was (briefly) a Religious Studies major. Nope! It was the great Paul Erdős!

Erdős said he’d modelled it after this ditty about the privileged New England families famously known as the ‘Boston Brahmins’.

This is good old Boston
The home of the bean and the cod
Where the Lowells speak to the Cabots
And the Cabots speak only to God.

From Vijaysree Venkataraman’s article.

The Chess Set

The Chess Sets used at the World Chess Championships cost $350 (plus $700 if you want the electronic piece tracking), are likely out of stock if you’d like one, take a lot of training and practice to make, are woodworked in Amritsar, India, and were designed by Daniel Weil, a former partner at Pentagram.

About half the set’s value lies with the most difficult piece to make: the Knight ♘

Chess set designed by Michael Weil

Here’s Design Week on their conception. More on this Business Insider video.

Norm MacDonald at Iowa

Battling cancer for 9 years without telling anyone is the most Norm Macdonald shit ever.

Anthony Jeselnik

I had no idea that he performed at the Hancher Auditorium at The University of Iowa in 1997 and mortified most of a crowd of 1,200 excited kids and their parents who’d come to see him, Darrell Hammond, and Jim Breuer at the height of their SNL fame. The 250 or so who’d remained appear to have had a fantastic time:

"When Norm took the stage he immediately launched into a bit that was intentionally supposed to be offensive to most of the audience. As it went on, people got up and left in large numbers. Each time a new group would leave, he would make a remark like, ‘Did you think I was going to do airline jokes?’ or ‘Did you think I was going to hold up a picture of the Ayatollah and make a joke?’ Then he would double down on the dirty material to see how many more people he could drive out. It was clearly a game to see if he could empty out the place and after some time probably over two-thirds of the crowd had left.

[…] "Whoever booked the show comes in the green room all sweaty with his tie askew. He looked like he had seen a ghost. He says ‘You gotta go get him.’ Me, pull Norm off the stage? I’m not getting him. Breuer was laughing. He says, ‘I’m not getting him.’

"Me [Hammond] and Breuer knew something special was happening. He and I got chairs and sat on the side of the stage where nobody could see us. It was one of the most-brilliant shows I’ve ever seen.

"Anybody who thought Norm would change his act was sorely mistaken. Norm just didn’t care.

“He’s revered in the comedians’ world. He doesn’t bother with pretenses or correctness. He’s probably the original politically incorrect comedian. It’s not for a shock factor. It’s just who he is.”

Mike Hlas, “The night Norm Macdonald mortified the University of Iowa”, The Gazette (cached)

Here’s The Des Moines Register’s report:

Report on Norm MacDonald's performance at the University of Iowa in The Des Moines Register

Here’s Jim Breuer on the incident: