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May 2007

Strange Attractions 3

We3_5We don’t see enough talking animals around here. Yes, there’s the ambitious ape at the top of the page, but I think it’s about time we saw a few more improbable beasts. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s graphic novella We3 isn’t exactly heavy on dialogue and its animal protagonists have a rather limited vocabulary, but that’s part of the story’s charm. Actually, charm is perhaps a misleading word, as the book’s eponymous heroes are escaped lab animals. Lab animals equipped with surface-to-air missiles and other military hardware.

A dog, a cat and a rabbit – named 1, 2 and 3 respectively – have been surgically wired into high-tech armour and trained as loyal fighting machines. As we see in the book’s opening scenes, the animals are faster and more vicious than their human counterparts, and of course more disposable. When the project is decommissioned and the animals marked for destruction, We3 escape into a confusing and dangerous world with their creators in pursuit. Much of the story is told from the animals’ perspective, with a mosaic of tiny inset images capturing details of human faces and simultaneous events – a device that highlights the animals’ ability to work as a team and suggests a non-human perception of time. Morrison and Quitely manage to extract a great deal of poignancy from this outlandish tale - and in particular from the animals’ limited awareness of their predicament - along with moments of dark and visceral humour. We3 is arguably the duo’s finest collaboration and manages to be brutal, hilarious and affecting, often on the same page. 

Go on, buy a copy. We won't tell. More Morrison and Quitely here, complete with in utero wrestling.

Facts Versus Feelings

“One has to wonder what kind of ‘awareness’ Islamic Awareness Week was intended to cultivate. Evidently, a free and frank discussion wasn’t - and isn’t - a welcome outcome. And one has to wonder exactly when students became so delicate and so allergic to dissent, even to matters of historical fact.”

Further to this post and this one, Lepton has steered my attention to another example of censorship in the name of religious ‘sensitivity’. From an article by Greg Lukianoff, president of the campus free speech campaign group, Fire:

“Today, Fire announced the decision by a disciplinary panel at Tufts [University] to find the conservative student newspaper, The Primary Source, guilty of ‘harassment’ for, among other things, publishing a satirical ad that listed less-than-flattering facts about Islam during Tufts’ Islamic Awareness Week.”

The advert, available here, suggests a week of alternative discussion topics to “supplement the educational experience.” Topics include slavery in Islamic history, intolerance of criticism, the treatment of gay people and the role of women under Islamic law.

Continue reading "Facts Versus Feelings" »

Roof Sex

I don’t usually post over the weekend, but I think this is worth the enormous personal sacrifice. It made me laugh, quite a lot. Via PES, the home of twisted stop-motion films, comes a stern moral lesson to us all. Best experienced with sound. Roof Sex:

Explore the world of PES here.

Friday Ephemera

The King Novelty Company. Lodestones, roots, strange herbs, magnetic sand. (H/T, Metrolander) // “VD is for Everybody.” (1969) // “The Trouble with Women.” New bearings inspector threatens status quo. Will Dolly be as bad as Myrtle? (1959) // How to build your own autonomous, self-assembling robots. Some assembly required. (H/T, Metrolander) // Via Ace, the robot spider. Cost $15,000. Cheaper than Sam Raimi’s film, and more entertaining. // Japanese robot eats snow, shits ice. Cute. // The Tornados’ Robot (1963) Like Telstar, but with robots. // White middle-class academic asks: “Does the world really need more middle-class white babies?” (H/T, Bloody Scott) // Journalists say Islam lacks tolerance; jail sentence ensues. More here. // Hitchens on stoicism, religion and miracles with alcohol. // Theodore Dalrymple on Marx, Qutb and their mutual delusions. Self-knowledge and humility not defining features of either. // Richard Dawkins holds forth, rocks boat. “Teach your children evolution and they’ll soon move on to drugs…” // Do Penguins Fly? // 25 great Calvin & Hobbes strips. Transmogrifier, snowmen, squeezing, tragedy. // Henry Jenkins thumbs Mexico’s less reputable comics. Busty ladies, monsters, copyright be damned. (H/T, Journalista!) // Robert Hodgin’s Magnetosphere. More here. // Fractal fabrics, fractal flames. // A map of online communities. The Blogipelago, the Sea of Memes and the Bay of Angst. // Alarm clock with wheels. Rings loudly then hides out of reach, still ringing loudly. Imagine the fun. // Ron Goodwin gets fab and groovy with Miss Marple.

The Ed Wood of Comics

Stardust_2_2It isn’t easy to adequately summarise Fletcher Hanks’ comic book creations, or to convey their demented charm. Fletcher’s combination of weirdness and ineptitude has earned praise from Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Crumb and invited comparisons with the zero-budget film director Ed Wood. His characters - including Tabu, Wizard of the Jungle and a strapping lumberjack named Big Red McLane – spanned just three years of the Golden Age, from 1939 to 1941, and are among the most peculiar things I’ve found in a comic book. Which, all things considered, is saying something.

Imagine, for instance, a hero named Stardust the Super Wizard – a man with a crime-detecting laboratory on his own private star, and whose “vast knowledge of interplanetary science” makes him the “most remarkable man that ever lived.” In addition to these formidable attributes, our hero has other improbable talents. He changes size arbitrarily from one panel to the next; his limbs, head and torso swell and distend for no discernible reason beyond alarming lapses in draughtsmanship. When not racket-busting or camouflaging the Earth with a giant, sculpted cloud of steam, our hero operates his “violently vibrating crime-detectors” and tosses foreign-looking villains down the mouths of active volcanoes. He’s clearly quite a guy.

Continue reading "The Ed Wood of Comics" »

Two Items, Briefly

I have to catch up with some reading today, but the following items caught my attention.

Righteously_upendedFirstly, the “anti-Sarkozy” riots in Lyon, Toulouse, Caen and Paris. Official figures suggest 730 cars were set ablaze by violent demonstrators. A school was set on fire in the Parisian suburb of Evry and an attempt was made to burn down Sarkozy’s local party office. Bottles, stones and, in one instance, acid were thrown at police. Yesterday, 593 people had been reported as arrested and 78 police officers reported injured. Apparently, “slogans spray-painted on the streets of Paris overnight included ‘Sarkozy = Fascist.’” There is, of course, an irony here. As Protein Wisdom noted, one can only marvel at how a democratically elected politician is denounced as “brutal” and a “fascist”, while arson, random property destruction and homicidal thuggery is imagined by some to be “justifiable” and “demanding [the] qualified and critical support” of Guardian readers.

In lighter news, the ludicrous Karen Armstrong has had her platitudes debunked in the National Review of all places. Raymond Ibrahim is “baffled” by Armstrong’s “discrepancies”, along with her “second-rate sophistry”, “false statements” and “distortions.” Unfortunately, Armstrong is still encouraged to peddle her fictions elsewhere. More on Armstrong here.

Back tomorrow. Feel free to roam the archives and browse the Greatest Hits.

Earth Versus Babies

Readers will be relieved to hear that a green think tank, the Optimum Population Trust, has identified a solution to a new and pressing environmental menace, namely human reproduction. An OPT briefing paper, A Population-Based Climate Strategy, argues that couples having two children instead of three would reduce that family’s carbon dioxide output by the “equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York.” The OPT regards population growth as a “failure of courage and leadership” and mulls, albeit hesitantly, on the need for “intervention by the state… in individual freedoms for the foreseeable future.” OPT co-chairman, Professor John Guillebaud, claims:

“The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights. An extra child is the equivalent of a lot of flights across the planet… The decision to have children should be seen as a very big one and one that should take the environment into account… The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child.”

It’s easy, of course, to dismiss Professor Guillebaud’s suggestions as a kind of whimsical fascism and not entirely convincing. But regular readers will note how the Professor’s moral calculus is more or less in keeping with that of fellow environmental crusader, Dr John Reid (mentioned here), whose plan to save the world from human beings entails putting “something in the water” – specifically, “a virus that would… make a substantial proportion of the population infertile.” And while the good doctor is happy to share his view of all human life as an extraneous infestation of an otherwise pristine Earth, he's also insistent that “affluent populations should be targeted first.” Cynics among us might wonder, with some justification, whether Dr Reid and Professor Guillebaud are motivated by an urge to save the planet or by a dislike of human beings.

Meanwhile, Carnal Reason ponders the prospect of “child offset opportunities” and suggests, dryly, that we might pursue this line of eco-logic to its obvious and challenging conclusion:

“We need to consider root causes here. Take the bull by the horn, as it were. If one less child is good, then two less is better, and no children at all is best. But there are obstacles. We will have a problem living the dream, a world devoid of humans, as long as screwing is more popular than dying. What we need is a radical change of thought and lifestyle. A new ethic, a new way of life. A new sexual revolution. You know what I’m talking about. Just think of it as Getting Gay for Gaia. It takes a real man to take one for the home world. You know what you have to do.”

Update: In related news (via Jawa), unhinged ‘conservationist’ Paul Watson describes humanity as a cancer. Vegan diets are good, we’re told, but “curing the biosphere of the human virus will require a radical and invasive approach.”

Friday Ephemera

“Gigantic Wireless Robots Will Fight Our Battles.” (1934) // USB hub with self-destruct button. “Mother! Turn the cooling unit back on…!” // Via Ace, the greatest car chases in movie history. With clips and voting. // SU-30 jet with thrust vectoring technology. Extraordinary moves. Pink smoke optional. // Stealth ships. Hull designs reduce drag, look imposing. More here. // Spider bite induces crippling pain, embarrassing stiffness. // New Scientist probes erectile dysfunction with mechanical engineering. “Mathematical models predict when penises will fail.” Experiments detect “first sign of buckling.” // New volcanoes erupt on Io. Plumes extend hundreds of kilometres into space. // The Carina Nebula. 3700 light years away. More here. // “If I can just focus the Sun’s rays…” (H/T, Dr Westerhaus.) // Same idea, with super-villain in charge. // Via Ace: Show jumping. With rabbits. // Iranian government bans Western haircuts and hair gel as “immoral.” // Jihadists bomb stations in Bangladesh. More attacks threatened if Muhammad not declared “superman of the world.” // When post-it notes attack (2). // Chunky Swatch wrist device, with mp3 player, video recorder and photo album. Also a watch. // Steven Poole mistakes opacity for cleverness, calls people who disagree “reactionary anti-intellectuals.” Ironies ensue. Ophelia kicks his ass. Twice. // And finally, the Chordettes. Sand, magic beams, hair like Liberace. Every girl’s dream.