Monday, May 4, 2015

MORLOCK 2001, THE MOST DERIVATIVE COMIC BOOK EVER?

GROOVY SEXED UP EUROTRASH OMNIBUS COLLECTION COVER!
In my never-ending quest to find grist for my Kubrickologist’s mill, I recently stumbled across MORLOCK 2001, an incredibly bizarre mid-1970’s comic book published by Atlas Seaboard, a short-lived imprint that specialized in pumping out thinly disguised hit-and-run rip-offs of popular TV shows and films… often poaching ideas from two or three different properties in a single book. For instance, their TARGITT comic featured plots borrowed from the Steve McQueen hit film Bullitt, as well as The French Connection and Dirty Harry. In terms of pure, unadulterated plagiarism, however, MORLOCK 2001 stands head and shoulders above the competition. 

This was originally going to be a short and simple blog post pointing out a couple of age-inappropriate references to the films of Stanley Kubrick in a bizarro 70’s kid’s comic book, but the sheer volume, breadth, and shamelessness of the appropriations screamed out for a more complete accounting. So join me now as I comb through all three issues of this short-lived title in order to count down and catalog each and every stolen story element, copied concept, and misappropriated motif in MORLOCK 2001!

MORLOCK 2001 - THRILLING FIRST ISSUE!
First of all, of course, we have the title. MORLOCK 2001 is a mash-up of concepts from H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.

In Wells’ 1895 science fiction classic, The Time Machine, the Morlocks are a thuggish species of cannibalistic underground mutants living in the eight-hundredth century, AD. They are one of two species descended from mankind. The other species—the gentle, surface-dwelling Eloi—are used by the Morlocks both as slave labor and as a primary food source. Yummy! The only connection to the comic book is that the main character is named "Morlock", for some reason.

2001: A Space Odyssey, obviously, is the title of Stanley Kubrick’s most popular film, and the subsequent Arthur C. Clarke novel. In MORLOCK 2001, however, the titular year only refers to the fact that the events portrayed take place in... the year 2001.

Something else that is immediately apparent is that Morlock's look borrows heavily from two Marvel Comics characters who were coming into their own during roughly the same period: Morbius the Living Vampire, and Quicksilver.


The very first panel on the very first page describes the story's setting as "a rigid totalitarian regime" run on the basis of lies and propaganda. I don't know about you guys, but that kind of sounds like the setting for George Orwell's classic novel of political dystopia, Nineteen-Eighty-Four to me! Keep reading to find out whether or not this intuition eventually pays off (hint: it does).


Monday, April 27, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 27


1. For any of you who ever wanted to be an astronaut, this NPR article and its links and videos should prove a pretty powerful corrective to THAT silly pipe dream. It begins:
So there's a cosmonaut up in space, circling the globe, convinced he will never make it back to Earth; he's on the phone with Alexei Kosygin — then a high official of the Soviet Union — who is crying because he, too, thinks the cosmonaut will die.  
The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes — though no one knows this — won't work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact. As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, "cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship." 
This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venyamin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version — if it's true — is beyond shocking.

Keep reading. It only gets worse for that poor, poor Ruskie. I know some people have taken issue with the reporting in this article, but the broad strokes are important, and well rendered.

2. If you're one of those people who thinks GMO foods are no different from the cross-breeding tactics of old, then you should probably avoid Simon Worrall's interview with author Steve Druker, which treads onto some pretty terrifying territory while laying down some seriously depressing wisdom about the naked lunch staring up from your plate.

3. For the seventh time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I hope you're enjoying these videos as much as I did when first seeing them!

HOW DO I LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

"Buddhism's Four Noble Truths"

"Max Weber on the Protestant Ethic"

"Ayn Rand on Selfishness"

"Aristotle on Flourishing"

Saturday, April 25, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 25

Okay, so where the Hell does that RED BRICK ROAD lead?!
1. I really don't much care for the most of the articles one can find on the Vigilant Citizen website. Their "exposées" of the "Illuminati-controlled" music and film industries are filled with the kind of breathless prose and idiotic argumentation that one rightly associates with the Xian propaganda videos produced in the mid-1980's. You know the kind; videos that always seemed like the creators were much bigger fans of the rock musicians that they were ostensibly trying to take down a peg than they were willing to admit? And yet, I found some worthwhile ideas in this Theosophical breakdown of Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz series of books; titles which were very formative in my own reading youth. It begins:
With its memorable story and its cast of colorful characters, the Wizard of Oz quickly became an American classic. More than a hundred years after the release of this book, kids everywhere are still enchanted by Oz’s world of wonder. Few, however, recognize that, under its deceptive simplicity, the story of the Wizard of Oz conceals deep esoteric truths inspired by Theosophy. 
Here we’ll look at the Wizard of Oz’s occult meaning and its author’s background. Although the Wizard of Oz is widely perceived as an innocent children’s fairy tale, it is almost impossible not to attribute a symbolic meaning to Dorothy’s quest. As in all great stories, the characters and the symbols of the Wizard of Oz can be given a second layer of interpretation, which may vary depending on the reader’s perception. Many analyses appeared throughout the years describing the story as an “atheist manifesto” while others saw it as a promotion of populism. 
It is through an understanding of the author’s philosophical bckground and beliefs, however, that the story’s true meaning can be grasped. L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz was a member of the Theosophical Society, which is an organization based on occult research and the comparative study of religions. Baum had a deep understanding of Theosophy and, consciously or not, created an allegory of Theosophic teachings when he wrote the Wizard of Oz.
Read on, intrepid seeker... if you're curious about how the twin societal scourges of COCAINE and HEROIN enter Oz's symbological superstructure! Muah-hahahaaa!

2. And, as if the above wasn't enough "magick" for you, then why not strap on a bib and tuck into this magnificent two hour interview with one of the most capable magickal practitioners of the New Millennium, Mister Alan "Swamp Thing and More" Moore? 


After listening, be sure to cleanse your palate with BBC Radio's four History of Idea videos on the question "What is Justice?", smooshed down at the bottom of today's Suggested Reading/Watching/Listening... um... suggestions, I guess.

3. For the eighth time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. And that should just about do it for this particular series... at least until they start producing more cartoons! As soon as they do so, I'll start posting them in this space again, too.

WHAT IS JUSTICE?

"Civil Disobedience"

"The Veil of Ignorance"

"Habeas Corpus"

"Lex Talionis and Retribution"

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 24


1. Some lucky duck has just read the first issue of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' upcoming H.P. Lovecraft-inspired, 12-part graphic novel comic series titled Providence, and apparently it's fucking genius. The preview (somewhat) begins:
It must just be the zeitgeist of the time, but what Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows have done with Providence is the unprecedented creation of what could almost be considered a “sandbox” world in a comic, one with a radical degree of agency, or at least the appearance of agency, for their characters. All of this could simply be the impression that the comic gives off, but if it’s purely the effect it has on the reader, that’s quite an achievement. A “sandbox” world, as gamers will know, is a world in which the player can continue to create. The game developers have constructed it in such a way that the player helps construct the game too. ... I can think of several reasons why Providence gives this impression to the reader and several reasons why this is a really important development for comics. The effect of all this on you, the reader, however, will be both eerie and exhilarating and may well give you a feeling of stepping outside the medium of comics that you feel you know so well. Or perhaps further inside? That’s probably up for interpretation.
Well hot goddamn. Go ahead and read the rest of it... THEN move on to today's second suggested reading option...


2. This article here, you see, is a short interview with Alan Moore, and is considered by its authors to be kind of like a "sequel article" to the preview, above. In part, to the eternal delight of this unrepentant fanboy, Moore declares his goals and intentions with Providence quite clearly:
I think that very little of my work is suitable for children. It is not written for children. It is written for adults. Some of it is, perhaps, more innocuous than other material. ... This one, Providence, is pure Lovecraft. This one is more grown up and more intense than any treatment I have done of Lovecraft that I have done before. I would say that it is probably more extreme, in its way, than Neonomicon*, which did not set out to be extreme. As with Providence, I simply set out to follow Lovecraft’s ideas to what I see as their logical, dramatic conclusion. It is not my intent to shock or offend, I simply don’t care that much. That probably sounds awful, but I don’t write my work thinking about a reader who is likely to be offended, particularly a reader who has evidently picked up my work by a grotesque mistake. Let me just say again: Providence is really, really horrible, and it’s really disturbing, it’s really frightening, and it’s meant for grown-ups. Even if you do accidentally find it in some child’s corner of your library, I’d advise you to take it to the main desk and ask that it be re-allocated. But that’s pretty much as much as I can say about the matter.
Allow me to react with a simple "Yeeeessss..." And to let you know that, aside from Moore's always interesting interview answers, there are also a great deal of beautiful "alternate" cover artworks at the link for you to oggle as you scratch out the calendar days until this monster of a title is finally unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. Considering Moore's professed lifestyle and inclinations... we may well have cause for genuine alarm at the prospect!

*Neonomicon is brilliant and incredibly disturbing (and, I suppose, rightly controversial, with its scenes of monster rape... although it doesn't even come close to what the Japanese produce!).

3. For the fifth time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I hope you're enjoying these videos as much as I did when first seeing them!

WHAT MAKES ME HUMAN?

"Noam Chomsky on Language Acquisition"

"The Idea of Cultural Transmission"

"Karl Marx on Alienation"

"John Locke on Personal Identity"

Monday, April 20, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 21


1. One of the late 20th century's greatest public intellectuals—brain scientist Oliver Sacks—writes eloquently about the suicide of another one of the late 20th century’s greatest public intellectuals—monologist extraordinaire Spalding Gray. It begins:
In July of 2003, my neurological colleague Orrin Devinsky and I were consulted by Spalding Gray, the actor and writer who was famous for his brilliant autobiographical monologues, an art form he had virtually invented. He and his wife, Kathie Russo, had contacted us in regard to a complex situation that had developed after Spalding suffered a head injury, two summers earlier.
In June of 2001, they had been vacationing in Ireland to celebrate Spalding’s sixtieth birthday. One night, while they were driving on a country road, their car was hit head on by a veterinarian’s van. Kathie was at the wheel; Spalding was in the back seat, with another passenger. He was not wearing a seat belt, and his head crashed against the back of Kathie’s head. Both were knocked unconscious. (Kathie suffered some burns and bruises but no permanent harm.) When Spalding recovered consciousness, he was lying on the ground beside their wrecked car, in great pain from a broken right hip. He was taken to the local rural hospital and then, several days later, to a larger hospital, where his hip was pinned.
His face was bruised and swollen, but the doctors focussed on his hip fracture. It was not until another week went by and the swelling subsided that Kathie noticed a “dent” just above Spalding’s right eye. At this point, X-rays showed a compound fracture of the eye socket and the skull, and surgery was recommended.

Keep reading. It's an amazing piece.
2. If you’re thinking about getting into science fiction, but you don’t want to read crappy kid’s stories about laser swords and stuff that has a lot more to do with fantasy than science, then this list of “scientific” science-fiction stories and novels is tailor made for you!

3. For the sixth time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I hope you're enjoying these videos as much as I did when first seeing them!

HAS TECHNOLOGY CHANGED US?

"The Fourth Revolution"

"The Antikythera Mechanism"

"The Medium is the Message"

"Rewiring the Brain"

Sunday, April 19, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 19


1. Are you one of those people who thinks there's something "magical" about the Fibonacci sequence, also known as the Golden Ratio, or Phi? Then maybe you shouldn't read this essay by philosophical party-pooper Donald E. Simanek, which reads, in part:

A search of the internet, or your local library, will convince you that the Fibonacci series has attracted a lunatic fringe of Fibonacci fanatics who look for mysticism in numbers and in nature. You will find fantastic claims:
  • The "golden rectangle" is the "most beautiful" rectangle, and was deliberately used by artists in arranging picture elements within their paintings. (You'd think that they'd always use golden rectangle frames, but they didn't.)
  • The patterns based on the Fibonacci numbers, the golden ratio and the golden rectangle are those most pleasing to human perception.
  • Mozart used φ in composing music. (He liked number games, but there's no good evidence that he ever deliberately used φ in a musical composition.)
  • The Fibonacci sequence is seen in nature, in the arrangement of leaves on a stem of plants, in the pattern of sunflower seeds, spirals of snail's shells, in the number of petals of flowers, in the periods of planets of the solar system, and even in stock market cycles. So pervasive is the sequence in nature (according to these folks) that one begins to suspect that the series has the remarkable ability to be "fit" to most anything!
  • Nature's processes are "governed" by the golden ratio. Some sources even say that nature's processes are "explained" by this ratio.
Of course much of this is patently nonsense. Mathematics doesn't "explain" anything in nature, but mathematical models are very powerful for describing patterns and laws found in nature. I think it's safe to say that the Fibonacci sequence, golden mean, and golden rectangle have never, not even once, directly led to the discovery of a fundamental law of nature. When we see a neat numeric or geometric pattern in nature, we realize we must dig deeper to find the underlying reason why these patterns arise.
I'm not totally convinced that he's 100 percent on point with the rest of his take-down, but I'll admit he's made me a bit more skeptical about the kind of "numbers magic" and abuse and misuse of advanced scientific concepts by various philosophical flim-flam artists in the New Age movement. Maybe you'll get something out of it, too. Go ahead and dive in!

2. Sandow Birk is an artist who has undertaken "a project to hand-transcribe the entire Qur'an according to historic Islamic traditions and to illuminate the text with relevant scenes from contemporary American life. Nine years in the making, the project was inspired by a decade of extended travel in Islamic regions of the world." The image at the top of this page is the first page of that project. You can read (and see) the rest of it here at the artist's website.


3. For the fourth time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I hope you're enjoying these videos as much as I did when first seeing them!

HOW DID EVERYTHING BEGIN?

"The Big Bang"

"Hindu Creation Stories"

"Thomas Aquinas and the First Mover Argument"

"William Paley and the Divine Watchmaker"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 16



1. See that photograph, above? It's a pretty good photograph. And now, if you'd like to hear the story behind that photograph... just click on this link right here.

2. Here's a sad little single page comic strip featuring the thoughts of an aging, ailing dog as his master brings him to be euthanized by a vet. It's heart-breaking and simple and lovely and very well done, despite the grim subject matter.

3. For the third time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. I've decided to present all four animations from each general philosophical theme at the end of every Suggested Reading List from now on until I reach the end of what they have for me to plunder. So now, on to...

WHY ARE THINGS BEAUTIFUL?

"Diotima's Ladder: Lust to Morality"

"The Best Rectangle in the World"

"Edmund Burke on the Sublime"

"Feminine Beauty: A Social Construct?"

Monday, April 13, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 13


1. If you enjoyed the audiobook version of Philip K. Dick's classic sci-fi short story Beyond Lies the Wub, to which I linked in a recent "DDD Suggested Reading List", then by all means, check out this awesome collection of Philip K. Dick print and audio stories provided by the fine folks at the Open Culture website! You can get so many classic "philosophical fiction" vein that the Bladerunner creator pretty much pioneered back in sf's second Golden Age heyday!

2. You remember that Portlandia episode where an artist giving a class on how to create truly disturbing and shocking artwork suggests that one need only appropriate the image of Ronald McDonald and put it into some kind of juxtapositionally twisted contextual frame?  This page adheres PRECISELY to that particular satirical aesthetic. See above. Then see the link for more of the same. A LOT more of the same.

3. For the second time, today's DDD Suggested Reading List includes four selections from the Open University and BBC Radio 4's introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas
The series will eventually span 60 episodes grouped under 15 general philosophical concepts. Each concept (or "theme") gets four episodes, and each episode is accompanied by a 2-minute animation. I've decided to present all four animations from each general philosophical theme at the end of every Suggested Reading List from now on until I reach the end of what they have for me to plunder. So now, on to...

HOW CAN I KNOW RIGHT FROM WRONG?

"Kant's Axe"

"The Trolley Problem"

"The Life You Can Save"

"The Is/Ought Problem"

Saturday, April 11, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ APRIL 11


1. As a citizen of Canada—one who counts members of the First Nations among his very best and most cherished of friends—I can’t help but feel a deep sense of shame over the fact that it took  the BBC to tell the story of the Red River Women. I suppose the slimmest of silver linings here is that a world class broadcaster has finally produced a substantial piece of interactive online journalism on this grisly subject, which has for far too long been like an invisible chorus of silent screams in the darkest frozen night-pits of Hell. The erudition, professionalism, and sensitivity brought to bear via this production goes a long way towards rectifying the near-criminal journalistic negligence that has for far too long been the norm in Canada regarding this subject. I won't be reproducing any portion of it here. Instead, I insist that you go to the BBC's Red River Women project page and read it in its entirety at your earliest possible convenience. Be sure to watch all the related videos. I consider it a duty for every Canadian, even if only to acquaint oneself with the mind-numbing numbers involved, and to look into the eyes of those tragic, beautiful souls that have already been lost. Dear friends... I am literally hereby begging you to read this website and begin trying to deal with the information it contains.


2. Okay then, after that brutal and traumatic information assault—or perhaps prior to it, in case you’re saving the BBC’s interactive Red River Women websites for later—maybe you can be excused for seeking out a small sliver of escapist fantasy. To that purpose, I give you an amusingly British audiobook recording of the classic Philip K. Dick science-fiction story, “Beyond Lies the Wub”, about an unfortunate alien creature who happens to be both an erudite conversationalist and indescribably tasty when roasted with root veggies.

3. Finally for today, the Open University and BBC Radio 4 (yes, them again) have combined forces to produce a quite excellent introductory level general philosophy course entitled The History of Ideas. The program's website is rich in information and resources, complete with archived radio programs and primary materials (most of which is in the public domain). It's a real treasure trove for anyone interested in uncovering the intellectual foundations upon which the world's most important human structures rest (or, occasionally, teeter). 

Eventually, the series is slated to span 60 episodes grouped under 15 general philosophical concepts. As part of this series, each concept gets four episodes, and each episode is accompanied by a 2-minute animation, narrated by Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Harry Shearer, executed in a handsome and humorous style that really helps get the basic ideas across. You don't really need to listen to the whole series in order to appreciate the animations, so I've decided to present all four animations from each general philosophical concept at the end of every Suggested Reading List from now on until I reach the end of what they have for me to plunder. So let's get started!

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE FREE?

"The Harm Principle"

"The Free Will Defence"

"The Libet Experiment: Is Free Will an Illusion?"

"Freedom and Security: Freedom at Any Cost?"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

DDD SUGGESTED READING ~ APRIL 9


1. Way back in the 1990's, yer old pal Jerky was one of the earliest online voices raising the alarm about the existential threat posed by robots to the near-term survival of the human race. My rants on the subject were frequent, but they were high on heat and low on substance. I didn’t really “know my stuff” as they say; the tech was way over my head. Nevertheless… I harbored some dark, intuitive hunches, and I let those hunches be known. Today, as the future unfurls, I continue to discover that not only was I correct to worry, but that a great many far brainier people than myself are shifting their views on the subject in ways that neatly dovetail with my own. Which brings us to Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum’s over-titled new book “The Future of Violence—Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat”. Nick Romero’s recent review for The Daily Beast begins by asking the rhetorical question: "Will You Be Murdered by a Robot?" And the ride only gets bumpier from thereon out, beginning...
Wittes and Blum conjure a number of nightmarish scenarios: a drone hovers above a packed sports stadium and sprays invisible anthrax spores into air breathed by tens of thousands, a miniature robotic drone that looks exactly like a spider assassinates a businessman as he showers, a malign molecular biology graduate student modifies the smallpox virus to enhance its lethality and overcome vaccinations. 
Of course with a bit of technical knowledge and a good imagination, any thoughtful person can already eradicate the human race in all manner of weirdly engrossing hypotheticals. In fact some people, like the philosophers at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, seem to make a nice living by contemplating scenarios of mass death. But Wittes and Blum are not professional prophets of doom. Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, and Blum teaches at Harvard Law School. 
Their book doesn’t aim to convince us that terrifying but seemingly outlandish scenarios are in fact imminent. They start from the premise that the terrifying scenarios are not only possible, they’re almost certainly inevitable in some form. The essential task, then, is not to sketch in baroque detail the contours of particular horrific hypotheticals, but to develop a viable set of public and private tools to decrease the likelihood and diminish the severity of a large-scale catastrophe.
I haven't read the book, and based on Romero's review, I probably won't. There already exists a great deal of literature exploring the wide open philosophical frontier where the lure of liberty butts up against the need for security. Nevertheless, as a primer on that particular subject—and not so much on the particular and singular threat posed by our soon-to-be Mechanized Overlords—I do urge you to read Romero’s review. It serves as a decent kick-off point to learning more about a number of important 21st century topics.


2. As if robots weren't enough sci-fi for one Suggested Reading List, here comes The Independent UK with recent news that so-called "Blitzars"—an astronomical mystery that consists of bursts of energy that align in inexplicably mathematical patterns—are looking more and more like the result of some kind of advanced technological apparatus. And whatever technology it is that’s producing this phenomenon is not of human origin, folks. Read on...
Blitzars, which last only about a millisecond, have been detected by telescopes since about 2001 and have been heard ten times since. And nobody really knows where they come from, or why they happen. But a new study has found that the bursts line up in a way that is not explained by existing physics, reports the New Scientist.

Scientists tried to work out how far the bursts have travelled through space to get to us, using “dispersion measures”. That looks at how the radiowaves that are being sent get scattered as they travel through space — the higher the dispersion measure, the further that radiowaves seem to have been sent before they arrived. All of the ten bursts that have been detected so far have dispersion measures that line up as multiples of a single number: 187.5. The chances of them doing so are 5 in 10,000, the scientists behind the study claim.

John Learned, from the University of Hawaii in Manoa … said that the line-up was “very, very hard to explain”. … There is little reason for the bursts to line up in this way if they are being sent by natural bodies. … However, it may be that there is some astrophysics that scientists are yet to understand that has been driving the timing. It could also be that the signals are not coming from space at all, but form … a secret satellite that is hiding its messages so that they appear to come from much deeper in space. But the scientists conclude that if none of the other explanations work out, “An artificial source (human or non-human) must be considered”.
That's pretty much all the information from the article, condensed to roughly half size. If you feel like you need to read the rest of it, here is the link



3. You know, the real world or ordinary, everyday sceince is getting so out of hand these days, we soon won't be needing the likes of THE WATCHER to get our pseudo-sci-fi jollies and shivers anymore! Too bad, in a way. That site is an awesome living monument to what the Internet used to look like, back when IE and Netscape were the only games in tow!