TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Pulp Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pulp Fiction. Show all posts

Friday, October 6, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Dark Ambient and Dark Web Tales



There are new horror genres appearing online, in which the fear factor depends on blurring the line between the virtual and real. It makes the raven girl on the subway, above, oddly reassuring: at least she is honest about how gothic things are these days.

Potion Shop Sounds | Apothecary Ambience | 45 Minutes (24 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Over the past few years, ambient horror soundtracks have appeared on Youtube, which are unsettling because they add a cinematic video game quality to daily work at the desk. Some people listen to them to get to sleep, like the 6-hour Quiet Rusty Sewer Ambient Noise River.

Aaron Dykes at Truthstream Media explains the power of music - related to the frequency at which the eardrums vibrate - and particularly the discordant Locrian mode. From Bridget Mermikides: "From at least the early 18th century this tritone was described as Diabolus in Musica (the Devil in music)." The Secret Power Music Holds Over You (30 August 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Locrian Mode example. Sample Source: Wiki.

Locrian Mode example: Björk's Army of Me (1995). Sample Source: Wiki.

The new horror music is non-music, made up of cinematic sound effects tracks. There is a spectrum of how scary these recordings are; they range (at the top) from vague background noise to (lower down) demonic atmospherics.

Haunted Halloween Mansion Fireplace with Thunder, Rain and Howling Wind (24 October 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

HAUNTED FOREST Scary Sounds of Ghosts in the Darkness 2 HOURS (12 March 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Gathering Darkness - Scary Noises in a Haunted House - 2 Hours (2 May 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Amazing SCARY 3D Holophonic Sound (21 August 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Another example of horror found in the blurring between the virtual and the real is evident in a new genre of online horror story-telling, an offshoot of creepypastas, which explores the Dark Web. The Dark Web is reputed to be a place where anything goes, outside police jurisdictions, in a No Man's Land of international anonymity. Many Darknet communities are devoted to whistle-blowing, hacking, politics, drugs, crime, and hidden news.

By contrast, the Clearnet is the main, indexed Internet with which everyone is familiar. Clearnet lists of Dark Websites from 2015 to 2017 are here, here, here, here, and here - but don't click on links in those lists or surf further without a Tor browser and a VPN. A May 2017 Motherboard report gave a link to a list of every possible site on the Dark Web, that is, 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 sites, or just over one septillion Dark Websites beyond the reach of Google. That number directly contradicts Wired's 2015 estimate that there were over a billion sites on the Clear Web and 7,000 to 30,000 Dark Websites. You can see the total number of indexed Clear Websites counted in real time at Internet Live Stats.

Interactive livestream horror. Deep Web Horror Story - Why I Left The Deep Web by TASDiablo (21 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

You Can't Go Home Again: DC Judas Contract Review


Still from Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) © DC/Warner. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use. Image Source: The Good Men Project.

Some of the most popular posts I ever wrote on this blog took me back to the summer before I left home for the first time to go away to school. I was 14. In that period before first independence, I read DC Comics' The Judas Contract. This is a story about a 16-year-old girl, Tara Markov, who tries to kill her boyfriend and friends to please a much older man with whom she is having sex. When she fails, she kills herself.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Canals of Earth


A great cover for Martian Comics #5 (2016) with art by David A. Frizell is a homage to the classic film, A Voyage to the Moon (1902). Image Source: Martian Lit.

See images today from a Kickstarter campaign for a comic book about Martians' view of Earth, The Canals of Earth!
"Humans have long looked to the sky and wondered about Mars. What if someone was looking back? The Canals of Earth is the story of how Mars sees Earth, running from Martian prehistory to its space age. We begin in Martian prehistory, when Martians looked to the skies and imagined Earth as a goddess. We see some of the Martian mythology about Earth, tied to the invention of writing. We then see Martian science-fiction, in which they imagined aliens in their own image."
This comic, fifth in the series Martian Comics (2014-present; details here) is written by Julian Darius, with art by Mansjur Daman and colours by Diego Rodriguez. Darius has a doctorate in English Literature and founded the Sequart Organization, which promotes sequential artwork in graphic novels and comic books as a legitimate art form. You can still support the Canals of Earth project here until 27 April 2016.

While the imagery of the comic's cover is taken from the turn-of-the-century French film, A Voyage to the Moon (see it below), the book's title is taken from late 19th century studies that there were canals on Mars, based on observations of the Red Planet by astronomers Giovanni Schiaparelli (1835-1910), Percival Lowell (1855-1916), and Charles E. Burton (1846-1882).

First page (click to enlarge). Image Source: Martian Lit.

Martian Comics #5. Image Source: Kickstarter.

Kickstarter promo video, Martian Comics #5, The Canals of Earth!

The iconic image of the Man in the Moon from Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902). Image Source: Wiki.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

So Passed the Queen of the Black Coast


3 December 2015: "A professor at Texas A&M University posted these photos to Facebook. 'There has been a dead cockroach in the Anthropology building's stairwell for at least two weeks. Some enterprising person has now made her a little shrine.'" Images and Text Sources: Facebook via imgur.

In November, a cockroach died in the Anthropology stairwell at Texas A&M University. Then Facebook took over after the Anthropology Department went all Princess Diana-Burning Man to bid the cockroach goodbye in December.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Providence


Providence #6 (released 25 November 2015), art by Jacen Burrows. The cover depicts Alumni Hall at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, USA. Image Source: Avatar Press. (Hat tip: Facts in the Case.)

The sixth issue of Alan Moore's Providence, which revives the visceral horror of H. P. Lovecraft, hits shops today. I am still recovering after reading the first five issues. It is a harrowing series, in which a post-World War I journalist is lured into a meta-historical New England underworld that is terrifying, disturbing, taboo and disgusting.

Moore often addresses questions long before they enter common consideration. Ironically, this is because of his deeply historical perspective of human nature. In 2006, the Guy Fawkes mask worn by Moore's anarchist terrorist character in his 1980s' comic series V for Vendetta became the face of global hacktivism and later, of the Occupy movement. Moore hails from Northampton and his outlook is partly shaped by that city's fateful support of Parliament against King Charles I during the English Civil War. The Gunpowder Plot in which Fawkes figured in November 1605 prefaced the Civil War (1642-1651). Late last year, Moore finished his magnum opus about Northampton. It is entitled Jerusalemhis final manuscript was sent off to his publisher with a final word count of over one million words. The editors will want him to cut it, but as he put it, "that's not going to happen." He stated the novel is, "longer than the Bible ... and with a better afterlife scenario." Moore confirmed that Jerusalem is a giant meditation on how the arcane world combines a resistance to fate and government; he deals with mathematics, the English Civil War, predestination and Cromwell; and "I realized [it] would [also] be about the development of economic policy, since Isaac Newton was put in charge of the mint." This year, in Providence, Moore has turned from politics to themes relevant in today's struggle against terrorist violence: what we fear and how we deal with it.

Saint Anselm College, Alumni Hall. Image Source: flickr.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lovecraft's Crusaders and Saracens



Austrian illustrator and fantasy cartographer Robert Altbauer circulated these cartoons of Lovecraftian monsters tangling with Crusaders and Saracens on 20 November 2015 at ArtStation:
This is a series of illustrations that imitates the style of old medieval paintings and adds a macabre flavour by incorporating some of H.P. Lovecraft's famous monsters. The text is mostly medieval Middle High German.
See more illustrations here (Thanks to -J.).




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Art of the Retcon 3: Time and Heroism in the Multiverse


Morrison's 18 Days retells the great Mahabharata in an animated CGI drama on Youtube (you can watch it here). 18 days is the length of the battle in the Mahabharata. Image Source: Broken Frontier.

The wavering fictional reality of DC Comics resembles theories from today's quantum physicists.  A comic book fantasy of multiple Earths and multi-dimensional universes aligns with contemporary scientific ideas of a fractured multiverse and mysterious dark matter.  It makes one wonder: if our physicists are right and the multiverse is real, what sort of creatures are we because of it, and how do we feel its effects?

Multiversity #1 (October 2014). "Every comic you ever read is real." – Grant Morrison. Behind the Panels review: "Morrison directly challenges the reader. 'Whose voice is speaking in your head anyway? Yours?' The same narration urges us to stop reading. That’s when things get beautifully weird."

Are we pawns of a larger order we will never perceive? Scottish writer Grant Morrison would say: yes. He is delivering his long-promised crossover, Multiversity, right now via DC Comics, and a glance at the multiversal map below shows that he is combining years of esoteric interests - mind expansion through drug dreams, a fascination with ancient Indian epics and religions, and a belief (expressed in 2012's Supergods) that modern superheroes are manifestations of ancient gods. More importantly, in Multiversity, the heroes exist along a metafictional continuity with our reality and time. They are part of humankind's long quest to define the line between creation and destruction, from which everything else follows in this world, and other worlds too.

DC's map of the Multiversity (August-September 2014; click to enlarge). Image Source: DC Entertainment.

From 2009 to 2013, Morrison worked with Dynamite Entertainment and Liquid Comics to produce 18 Days, a retelling of the Mahabharata, in which a classic Indian battle sees the age of gods give way to the age of men. Two of the founders of Liquid Comics are author Deepak Chopra and his son, Gotham Chopra. Deepak Chopra famously discussed these ideas with Morrison at several comics conventions; the Chopras also published a book about it, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes (2011). CBR reported on one such discussion in 2006 in San Diego:
Superheroes, in Chopra's view, are not external beings. "These are archetypal beings that stoke the fire of life and passion in our own souls. These are potentials that exist within us, and by creating these superheroes through our own collective imagination, we are in a way serving our deepest longings, our deepest aspirations, and our deepest desires to escape the world of the mundane and the ordinary and do things that are magical."
Morrison draws from Indian traditions to marry that consciousness to the cosmos of existence. Thoughts become physical substances in other dimensions. The great epic of the multiverse involves the genesis of values in that consciousness through dharma and karma, action and negative action, creation and destruction, good and evil. In our reality, mythical heroes are legendary archetypes. But Morrison insists that these paragons embody physical forms in other times and places.








18 Days concept art by Mukesh Singh. Images Sources: Decode Hindu Mythology, Comic Vine, Concept Art, Dynamite Comics, Planet Damage, Mukesh Singh.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Curios: Upcoming Hollywood Memorabilia Auction


Up at auction: the 1940 Buick Phaeton automobile from Casablanca (1942).

An amazing array of Hollywood props, scripts and other memorabilia is going up for auction at Bonham's in New York City on the 25th of November, 2013 at 1 p.m. Eastern - from the Maltese Falcon prop, to wafers of Soylent Green, to Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman suit and Michael Keaton's Batman suit. And Bonham's have storyboards from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Soylent Green! The original prop.

They have signed contracts, countless costumes (some are breathtaking, have incredible craftsmanship, or are sci-fi classics) and posters, and they have Francis Ford Coppola's working script (here) from The Godfather (1972). They have a script from Citizen Kane (1941). And Marilyn Monroe's high school yearbook.


All film genres, classics from all decades. See the auction house's Website here. You can bid online.


The iconic lead statuette of the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 film of the same name.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Farewell to Nick Cardy (1920-2013)



Since 2011, possibly no group of characters in the DCnU has suffered more than the classic Teen Titans. Sadly, the creator who helped make that series so memorable, Nick Cardy, passed away yesterday at the age of 93. A war veteran, Cardy returned to America and became one of the most important comics artists of the Silver Age. You can see a selection of his best covers here and here, and tributes here, here and here.

Cardy during his days as a soldier. Image Source: CBR.

On the Unofficial DC Discussion Boards, we discussed Cardy when he gave one of his last interviews to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in May 2013. Cardy was a veteran of World War II. He fought as part of the US Army's 3rd Armored Division, 'Spearhead,' and as one fan put it: "Holy Cow! He was in some very scary places!"

66th Infantry Division black panther insignia, designed by Nick Cardy. Image Source: eBay.

Wiki:
Cardy did World War II military service from 1943 to 1945, earning two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered as a tank driver in the armored cavalry. He began his Army career with the 66th Infantry Division, during which time he won a competition to design its patch, creating its snarling black panther logo. His art talent led to his being assigned an office job at division headquarters. This lasted, Cardy recalled in an interview, because a general who had seen Cardy's cartoons in an Officers Club had Cardy assigned to his own corps. (Cardy gave the name as "General Shelby Burke", but no one by that name or similar is found in the federal archives.) As the artist tells it, the only opening was for a corporal in the motor pool, so Private Cardy was promoted and assigned to that duty. This, he said, led in turn, upon his being shipped to the European theater, to Cardy's assignment as an assistant tank driver for the Third Armored Division, under General Courtney Hodges. Later, between the end of the war and his discharge, Cardy said he worked for the Army's Information and Education office in France.
Cardy's subsequent work as a comics artist reflected the way American popular culture helps US society digest its most difficult trials.

Because of his war history, Cardy had seen some of the most bloody human actions:
Awarded two Purple Hearts for his combat injuries in the war, Cardy experienced his share of wartime horrors; he saw his tank commander get his head blown off when they were ambushed by German troops with bazookas.
Undoubtedly because of his war experiences, Cardy's best art always had a lot of gothic dark elements. But he consciously chose to contrast those elements with his heroes' luminous brightness, innocence, freedom and beauty:
Drawing those commonplace moments in a war was necessary to his sanity. Incidents such as his tank commander being killed, or seeing cartloads of dead bodies, or opening a trap door to see dozens of scared faces looking up at him, are "something that you'd rather not know," said Cardy. "I tried to focus on the lighter stuff. "I had a policy after I got out of the Army. I was so tickled to get out of the Army alive, I was not gonna let anything bother me."
This is why above all other characters, under his pen, the Titans became beacons of youthful hope, shining out of the darkness.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview: Thomas Haller Buchanan on the Millennial Humanist Renaissance


Acta non Verba by Robert McCall (1919-2010).

Today, I'm delighted to interview Thomas Haller Buchanan, blogger at The Pictorial Arts, which is an oasis of light and beauty on the Web. Thom is also a professional illustrator. Buchanan's focus on art and visual culture is now finding expression through a new online journal: The Pictorial Arts Journal. The journal makes its grand debut online today, here, and this interview supports its launch. 

An additional publication is found at the same site, Delineated Life, which is an online magazine celebrating one special artist and their work per issue. The first issue of Delineated Life celebrates the 100th birthday of Pogo creator Walt Kelly (1913–1973).

In this interview, I ask Thom some questions about his new publications and what they mean in terms of Millennial optimism. The debut issue of the The Pictorial Arts Journal describes a continuity of visual culture from the Renaissance through to the modern period, especially the Renaissance-era value of humanism. Thom's journals are dedicated to reviving a new form of humanism suitable to our times.

To read a definition of humanism to which Thom refers in the interview, see Professor Paul Kurtz's Humanist Manifesto 2000 (here).

Pictorial Arts Journal cover © Thomas Haller Buchanan.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fountain of Youth 17: A Dream of Ageing

Poster for Arrugas (2011). Image Source: Wiki.

Today, see a clip from the Spanish animated film Arrugas (Wrinkles; 2011), based on the comic book of the same name by Paco Roca. The clip offers a touching vignette of the dreams which surround ageing. You can see the film trailer here. See the clip below the jump. (Hat tip: Gina theou.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Frank Miller's Persian God-King

Still from 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) © Warner Bros. Pictures.

A trailer has just been released for the 300 sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire (2014). It is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, Xerxes (2011). Miller presents a clichéed east-versus-west conflict with cultural and racial images which are sure to upset people and generate controversy. Miller's tone aside, it is true that the Persian Wars helped to shape the western cultural memory. Miller's story is more representative of the myth-making of memory around history, than it is about history.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Image of the Day: Kragen Hunters


Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (July 1964).

Today's Lovecraftian image of naked kragen hunters and a surprise cephalopod comes courtesy of Michael May's Adventure Blog. The cover illustration here for Jack Vance's story The Kragen was later expanded into a 1966 novel entitled, The Blue World. It won the Nebula Award in 1966.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Retro Darkness Around Hollywood Stars


"Whatever happened [to] my friend Corey Haim?" The Thrills (2004); (song here; lyrics here). Image Source: Cynema via J. Haim.

There has been a lot of Hollywood retro around of late. There was this post on Joan Crawford and this one on Crawford and Garbo; and there was this post on Hollywood turning surreal in the 1940s.

I recently read James Hutchings's The Case of the Syphilitic Sister, a pulp Minutemen-esque story at Jukepop Serials. His metahuman reworking of the 30s' mystery thriller is a fascinating Millennial mash-up. It is not set in Hollywood, but the cultic tone of Hutchings' work reminded me a bit of the Black Dahila and the unfortunate celebrations after Whitney Houston's death last year.

The rise and fall of today's stars eerily repeat parties, scandals and deaths of yesterday. It is almost as though the stars of each new generation become doubles of the ones who came before; they face the same highs and dangers.

I generally don't follow Hollywood gossip unless something remarkable happens like Britney Spears shaving her head and chasing after paps with an umbrella. But lately, the huge success of Justin Bieber has reminded me of the appeal of the Gen X teen heartthrob, the late Corey Haim. It is a compelling story: a Canadian teen carries some northern magnetic secret south in an intrepid bid to win American hearts, and succeeds. That secret might be genuineness, honesty, innocence, and hope from a land similar enough to be familiar, but actually quite different; whatever it is, it is a secret forgotten and lost in America's heart of darkness. The Canadian kid who goes to California to make it big was a central trope in David Lynch's neo-noir "poisonous valentine to Hollywood," Mulholland Drive (2001).

For some time, I've noticed lingering efforts to get Haim a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one online petition is here). I have always thought (80s' nostalgia aside) that Haim was an actor who had a great deal of talent that was misdirected through formulaic vehicles in his stellar youth. Then, due to sexual abuse by his Hollywood minders, he became mired in drug addiction.

He lost the magical light in his acting that would have brought him more serious roles as an adult. Could he have regained it? He still had charisma in roles just before his death, especially when he played against type, as in Crank: High Voltage (2009). But the drugs - and what they masked - had nearly sucked out his soul. He never matured into a DiCaprio. And he was never allowed to pull a no-holds-barred Mickey Rourke comeback. I do not know whether Haim could have managed what Rourke did in Sin City (2005) if he had stayed clean and kept working into his forties.

There was nothing, looking at Haim's original promise, which said he could not have done either. After his breakthrough role in Lucas (1986), Roger Ebert famously anticipated both Haim's promise and sad fate:
Lucas is played by Corey Haim, who was Sally Field's son in Murphy's Romance, and he does not give one of those cute little boy performances that get on your nerves. He creates one of the most three-dimensional, complicated, interesting characters of any age in any recent movie. If he can continue to act this well, he will never become a half-forgotten child star, but will continue to grow into an important actor. He is that good. 
What would Haim have become, had he not been, as Alison Arngrim put it: "corrupted in every possible way" by his Hollywood guardians? It is a little tricky for his fans to ask Tinseltown for recognition, since the silence around Haim's death is evidently bound up with the dark side of Hollywood - and entertainment in general. One would think in the wake of the Savile scandal in Britain (mentioned in this post), that Hollywood would do more to recognize victims like Haim to make amends for its own ugly history of paedophilia. Perhaps giving Haim a star would publicly open that can of worms, and force some quarters to account for crimes committed. Perhaps, as in the Savile case, Haim's ruined talent (and the miseries of other victims) will only be acknowledged in Hollywood after the perpetrators are dead.
 
One blog commenter points out that paedophilia in Hollywood is hinted at in the famous movie, The Godfather (1972):
In The Godfather, they briefly referred to this vile behavior - with parental approval. Producer "Jack Woltz" has the birthday party for a very young actress at the studio (even gives her a pony), then later at his home when he's having dinner with "Tom," you see the little girl at the top of the stairs, crying and disheveled. Her mother takes her back into the bedroom.
If anything, Hollywood's silence about Haim's death at the Oscars and SAG awards might confirm what his friend and co-star Corey Feldman claimed: that the industry is sitting on a terrible open secret that it does not want to acknowledge. That, and the industry is filled with callousness.

Friday, December 21, 2012

World's End

July 20, 1956 'Emergency Edition' of The Buffalo Evening News, a faux headline that was part of Operation Alert, a US civil defense exercise in the 1950s, was a dress rehearsal for potential nuclear annihilation. Image Source: Conelrad.

Why is the end of the world so popular? It is a resilient human expectation which has transcended all times, all cultures, all religions. If the end of the world weren't such a frightening message, it would amout to a comforting reminder of human commonality.

Image Source: Oxcgn.

Baby Boomer astrologer Rob Breszny, in his book Pronoia (p. 12) sums up the popularity of doom-saying:
As far back as 2800 BC, an unknown prophet wrote on an Assyrian clay tablet, "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end." [See this story questioned here, here and here.] In the seventh century BC, many Romans believed Rome would suffer a cataclysm in 634 BC.

Around 300 BC, Hindus were convinced they lived in an "unfortunate time" known as the Kali Yuga - the lowest point in the great cosmic cycle. In 426 AD, the Christian writer Augustine mourned that this evil world was in its last days. According to the Lotharingian panic-mongers who lived more than 1,000 years ago, human life on earth would end on March 25, 970.

Astrologers in 16th century calculated that the city would be destroyed by a great flood on February 1, 1524.  American minister William Miller proclaimed the planet's "purification by fire" would occur in 1844. Anglican minister Michael Baxter assured his followers that the Battle of Armageddon would take place in 1868. The Jehovah's Witnesses anticipated the End of Days in 1910, then 1914, then 1918, then 1925. John Ballou Newbrough ("America's Greatest Prophet") promised mass annihilation and global anarchy for 1947.
Breszny directs his readers to the Website, A Brief History of the Apocalypse - here. On this site, compiled by Chris Nelson, you get a timeline of failed doomsday prophecies across the centuries. The timeline reveals that doom-sayers have predicted the end of the world more or less continuously every few years since ancient times.

November 2012 solar eclipse by Phil Hart. Image Source: Starship Asterisk.

World's end is one of the most profitable and popular film, genre fiction, and video game themes. In a lousy economy, entertainment about massive doom and destruction is guaranteed to make money. In marketing terms, scenes like the one below have more consumer appeal than any smiling flower or singing teddy bear.

Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via io9.

Since the turn of the Millennium, technological communication has multiplied the type and number of millenarian apocalyptic predictions to several per year - see here. What is interesting is the sheer number of coincidental fateful predictions set for the end of this year and into next year. Does the sun have a shadow twin (see here, here and here)? Have we reached the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy? Are we leaving the Age of Pisces and entering the Age of Aquarius? Have the Mayans read the heavens correctly to predict a new era (see here, here, here and here)? NASA is concerned enough to post articles and videos to reassure the public. Conspiracy theorists on the Internet have responded by arguing that NASA is keeping the 2012 disaster a secret!

People love to imagine the end of the world. Is it because it gets them off the hook from all their worries and responsibilities? Is it because promised apocalypses give dire meaning to things when the world seems wayward, misdirected, or in the grip of frightening change? Is it a most seductive way of falsely predicting the future? Does the prediction's attraction stem from the way it is used to justify requests for power and money from vulnerable people?

I would argue that the 2012 phenomenon stems from concerns far more profound than those associated with late capitalism. The 2012 phenomenon centres on today's solstice because it is a distillate of all our Millennial fears and anxieties, explained through the mythology and astronomy of the ancients.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Countdown to Hallowe'en 18: The Walking Dead

Rick Grimes at the beginning of The Walking Dead #1 (October 2003) © Image Comics.

Today in North America, The Walking Dead season 3 premieres on AMC. You can see the season 3 trailer here. The show is immensely popular; the season 2 finale drew 9 million viewers earlier this year, and it ranks as the "top-rated show in cable history among the adult demo." It is also critically acclaimed. The television show is based on a ground-breaking black and white comic of the same name, created by Gen Xers  Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Having read the comics on which season 3 is based, I am sure that TV viewers unfamiliar with the source material will be shocked by what is coming.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Elephant in the Room



A random glance at the headlines of professional and trade papers, newsletters and online forums betrays the crushing weight of corporations and corporate interests on too many facets of daily life. Almost every week, I see articles from different sectors which describe some aspect of this overall trend.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Conan the Barbarian's Friday Night


Promotional art by Renato Casaro for Conan the Barbarian. Image Source: Wiki.

I have discussed humankind's vast period of unrecorded history - recalled only in legend. In the 1930s, pulp writer Robert E. Howard tried to imagine that world for us with his stories of Conan the Cimmerian. He must have struck a nerve, for his stories have remained persistently popular since they were first published. For tonight, see a classic film below the jump: Conan the Barbarian (1982) a monosyllabic, entertaining gruntfest with pretensions to high philosophy (after the "what is best in life?" speech, my favourite line is "language and writing were made available"). The film was directed by John Milius and the screenplay was written by the director and a young Oliver Stone, with the lead played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the film, Conan spans barbarism and new technology: "the secret of steel." James Earl Jones played Conan's mirror image villain, who in the same atmosphere cultivates a religion that is not "just another snake cult"; Thulsa Doom is the sinister, ruthless bringer of infinite, abstract thought to a brutal world. Conan must use his sword to hack and slash his way through a web of bad ideas. Sandahl Bergman played Valeria, the Valkyrie thief who grapples with the gods for Conan's soul. Conan's friend, Subotai, played by Gerry Lopez, was modeled on one of Genghis Khan's actual generals, and was not on a fictional character developed in the Conan pulps by Robert E. Howard. Also the below the jump - two Conan audiobooks of original 1930s stories. The audiobooks automatically start playing when you open the page, but can be paused on the left sides of the audiobooks' control bars.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

DC's Batman Shooter: The Day Evil Won


Cover art for DC Comics' Final Crisis (2008) by J. G. Jones © DC Comics. Image Source: Wiki.

In 2008, DC Comics, publishers of Batman, continued a pattern of pumping dwindling sales by publishing a crossover multi-title event called Final Crisis. The publicity motto for that series was: the day evil won. Top editor and now Co-Publisher of DC Comics, Dan Didio, commented that the series examined the question: "What happens when evil wins?" It is a good question, and an ironic one for Mr. Didio to ask. The answer appears to be: evil wins the day that DC's Millennial virtual fantasies become a reality. What happens on the pulp pages and the movie screen now happens in the cinema itself. Reality has become just like a graphic novel.

In an Aurora, Colorado shooting 20 July 2012 at the Batman: The Dark Knight Rises midnight movie première, 12 people died and 70 were tragically injured. Predictably, America's media have launched into a heavily politicized and polarized debate about the right to bear arms, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

But this election-related argument will take public discussion far off track from the meaning and origins of this tragedy. Guns were not the only weapons used here, since Holmes lobbed tear gas grenades at the crowd, and his apartment is still sealed and under investigation by bomb experts. The apartment is booby-trapped and full of jars of liquid, mortar rounds, trip wires, bombs and incendiary devices, which Holmes likely learned how to make by searching for information on the Web. He also purchased his ammunition over the Internet. Thus, some commentators might begin to ask if we should censor the Internet as we control guns. In this crime, guns and bombs and the information on the Web were not the purpose, but means, to an end.

That end is a social malaise which saw the suspected shooter, James Holmes, tell police that he was "the Joker." And in fact, everything, from the gas lobbed into the cinema prior to the shooting, to Holmes's booby-trapped apartment, is very Joker-like.

The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, sees this crime as an act of "senseless violence." But labeling 24-year-old Holmes, a graduate student who was in the process of abandoning his PhD in Neuroscience at University of Colorado, as 'insane' does not help to explain this crime. How did someone who was described by his old California neighbours as "clean cut, responsible and studied hard," and who graduated at the top in his undergraduate class in Neuroscience at University of California, Riverside, become someone who said he was "the Joker"?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Lovecraftian Heat Wave Film Night

Image Source: Tentaclii.

Heat waves, according to a 2008 Australian article in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, predispose "individuals [in temperate climates] to heat-related morbidity and mortality." The researchers continue:
Above a threshold of 26.7°C, we observed a positive association between ambient temperature and hospital admissions for mental and behavioral disorders. Compared with non–heat-wave periods, hospital admissions increased by 7.3% during heat waves. Specific illnesses for which admissions increased included organic illnesses, including symptomatic mental disorders; dementia; mood (affective) disorders; neurotic, stress related, and somatoform disorders; disorders of psychological development; and senility. Mortalities attributed to mental and behavioral disorders increased during heat waves in the 65- to 74-year age group and in persons with schizophrenia, schizotypal, and delusional disorders.
Similarly, Canada's Metro News, commenting on a severe Ontario heat wave this week that will push humidex temperatures over 40°C [104°F], notes that humidity hampers cognition and "[w]hen temperatures climb past the high 30s [90s°F], the brain can become stressed and chemically imbalanced, leading to anxiety, depression, and even aggression." According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Canadians are more likely to commit suicide in July and August than at any other time of year. For people living in or near Colorado or other western American states, ongoing heat-wave-sparked wildfires are doubly dangerous and stressful.

This may be why some of the most dramatic and cathartic story-telling is reserved for these conditions. Film noir thrillers and pulp horror stories are often set in sweltering urban heat waves (see my earlier posts on heat waves here and here).

Maybe a little dip into the watery subconscious will help. Nothing says summer heat wave like Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. Below the jump, some B-movie adaptations of Lovecraft's works, including one about the fictitious Lovecraftian grimoire, the Necronomicon (Hat tip: Lovecraft eZine). For a post on real grimoires, see an interesting recent piece at Unsolved Mysteries in the World.