Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Urban Sprawl

Urban Sprawl

Urban Sprawl (2003)

From NOW with Bill Moyers: "The Last Frontier -- The Future of the Florida Panhandle":

In the heart of Florida’s Panhandle, a million untouched acres of forests, wetlands, swamps, coastline and beachfront could become casualties of development. The St. Joe Company, a former paper company and Florida’s largest private landowner, is undertaking an unprecedented development project that will forever change an area that experts say is one of the most environmentally sensitive in the nation. Although the St. Joe Company has promoted its plans as environmentally friendly and capable of attracting affluent settlers with money to invest in the local economy, not all residents are convinced this will be a good thing for the region.

[...]

HUGHES: But the Panhandle's relatively untouched environment is already changing. Last year a Forest Service report said many of the rare species of plants and animals here are threatened by development. Still, St. Joe claims it can protect the environment and transform the landscape.

BUZZETT: So if there's anybody who can do it right, we can do it right. If there's anybody who doesn't have to squeeze every square inch out of a piece of land, we can do that, too.

HUGHES: Buzzett says that the company has even hired a former Nature Conservancy director to help preserve sensitive lands. But, it's also made millions in the process, selling more than 120,000 acres of that land to both the state and conservation groups over the past three years.

HIAASEN: They're not losing money there. They're making money off of that. Off their own generosity. Even that's a profit-making action.

Every cheese ball developer in Florida does that when he comes in. It's the same deal. They have to. "Oh, you want a park? We'll build you a little park over here. And maybe we'll even throw in some money for some swings, you know. And a sandbox." And then they get a little plaque. And everybody's happy and then they get noticed in the paper. Gee, St. Joe donated this for a park. Whoop-dee-do. While they're paving the rest of your town, you can go sit in the park and watch.

From NASA's "Urban Sprawl -- The Big Picture":

Country road / Take me home...

"There goes the neighborhood..."

While space technology was undergoing its spectacular birth during the 1950s and '60s, and visionaries were predicting the spread of human colonies into space, another kind of human colony was spreading rapidly -- right here on Earth!

It was the dawn of the modern suburb, a time of post-war prosperity when housing developments popped up across the landscape like mushrooms after a rain.

A half-century later, we now understand that many environmental problems accompany the outward spread of cities: fragmenting and destroying wildlife habitat, for example, and discharging polluted runoff water into streams and lakes.

The emerging space technology of the 1950s has grown along with our cities. As you read this today, dozens of high-tech satellites are circling our planet, gathering terabytes of scientific data about the environment. These data provide a unique "big picture" view of the effects of urban sprawl.

[...]

Because humans are so visually oriented, such graphics can communicate lots of complex information in a quick, intuitive way. Simply watching a 30-year animation that shows your city rapidly engulfing the landscape can be an eye-opening experience.

"We all sat there a little stunned," says Christine Nelson, recalling the first time she and her fellow city officials were shown animations of historical city growth.

From David Rusk's homepage:

Urban sprawl is like pornography -- hard to define but you know it when you see it.

And from Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi":

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half just to see 'em

Today's image uses collaged fractal forms to create a dark grid relentlessly spreading over earth tones and greenery.

But wait! There's more! That plain Jane nature trail for a morning walk got you down? What would you say to a NEW IMPROVED Ronco strip mall makeover...?

Monday, May 30, 2005

Arlington

Arlington

Arlington (1998)

From Memorial Day History:

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead". While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

[...]

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

From "Casualties" by Patrick J. Sloyan:

Bush has reimposed a blackout of media coverage of the dead who are processed through the Charles Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. For more than 30 years, television cameras broadcast the white-gloved honor guard escorting the flag-covered coffins from aircraft at Dover. Often a band would play a mournful dirge.

And, the photographs and video would emphasize the size of some foreign debacle. A sea of caskets covered the tarmac in 1983 with the bodies of 241 Marines killed by a terrorist bomb in Beirut.

The last time Americans viewed the ceremonies at Dover was in 1989 when bodies began arriving from Panama. They had been dispatched by Bush the Elder to capture Gen. Manuel Noriega, the Panamian leader who ran afoul of U.S. policies.

While Bush was boasting at a news conference of the success in Panama, television networks split the screen for viewers to see the bodies arriving at Dover. "Aw, give me a break," Bush complained after seeing the split screen. He ordered a media ban at the base and his son has continued the blackout.

In 1991, veteran groups protested the ban which was also extended to families. According the American Legion, a nationwide organization for veterans, the exclusion robbed the fallen of a brief moment of recognition in the national spotlight.

[...]

In cities and towns where the burial ceremonies are more private, military funeral honors have become frayed. A lack of manpower and buglers has downsized the display. Only two soldiers -- one from the dead soldier's service -- are available along with a flag that is folded and presented to the next of kin. A tape recording of Taps is played on a boombox.

"The tapes wore out and we started using CDs," said Mark Word, who oversees the Pentagon's funeral service program. "Now, we are field testing a digital bugle." The $50,000 program features a brass bugle with an electronic insert. There is a volume control. All the "bugler," has to do is push a button and, after a seven-second delay, the notes of farewell are played flawlessly.

The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq summoned news outlets to photograph her son's flag-draped casket arriving at Sacramento International Airport to protest a Pentagon policy banning media coverage of America's war dead.

Nearly a dozen reporters, photographers and television crews watched as the coffin of Army Spc. Patrick McCaffrey, 34, was transferred to a hearse outside an airport cargo terminal shortly before midnight Sunday, officials said.

"I don't care what President Bush wants," his mother, Nadia McCaffrey, told the Los Angeles Times. Patrick "did not die for nothing ... The way he lived needs to be talked about. Patrick was not a fighter; he was a peacemaker."

Those who have fallen in service to our nation deserve to be honored -- deserve our respect and our gratitude.

Those who sent our loved ones into harm's way under false pretenses and for their own ends deserve our contempt. Moreover, their actions, detailed in the Downing Street Memo, should not be whitewashed and cloaked under a compliant media blackout. The closeted skeletons cry out to be seen. And that is why this blog has joined with other progressive blogs to form the Big Brass Alliance.

Today's image shows self-similar fractal spirals of headstones at the national cemetery. Fractals are infinite. But I still cling to the hope that our current premeditated war -- and its immeasurable sadness -- does not have to be.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Kong Agonistes

Kong Agonistes

Kong Agonistes (2000)

Godzilla visited the blog earlier. Today, King Kong drops by.

And the Prophet said -- And, lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty.
And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead.
--
Old Arabian Proverb

From randomhouse.com's Word of the Day:

The word Agonistes, found as an epithet following a person's name, means 'the struggler' or 'the combatant'. It is...an allusion to Milton's 1671 verse tragedy "Samson Agonistes," which recounts the end of Samson's life, when he is a blind captive of the Philistines (famous line: "Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves"). The struggle that "Samson Agonistes" centers upon is the effort of Samson to renew his faith in God's support.

Probably the most famous post-Miltonic use of Agonistes is by T.S. Eliot, who titled one of his dramas Sweeney Agonistes, where Sweeney, who appeared in several of Eliot's poems, represents the materialistic and shallow modern man. Another well-known example is Garry Wills' 1969 political book Nixon Agonistes, and the word occasionally appears in headlines.

From the Internet Movie Database -- comments on King Kong (1933) by ramaken33:

It is a mistake to compare Kong technically or artistically with films from later decades. Consider the cultural context in which King Kong was produced. America was in the darkest days of the Depression. World War II was seven years away, and nobody outside of a few physicists knew what "atomic bomb" meant. Kong truly was the "Eighth Wonder of the World" just as the Empire State Building was at the time considered the greatest technological marvel. As [Merian C.] Cooper envisioned it, Kong was an adventure escapist film, offering Depression-Era audiences something that at the time would be considered the "ultimate in adventure." Whether or not Peter Jackson's proposed remake of Kong can maintain these qualities of showmanship and adventure is a matter of wait and see: to today's audiences Kong no longer represents something "all powerful" or able to "lick the world" as Carl Denham described him back in 1933. Even setting the remake in 1933 will have its difficulties, since the film will then be a period piece rather than a contemporary story, as both the original film and the 1976 remake were, and audience involvement may be more limited.

Kong was actually an 18 inch high, poseable model, covered with rabbit hair, that was filmed one frame at a time by stop-motion photography artist Willis O'Brien and his crew (despite some stories no man in an ape suit was ever employed) on miniature sets of the jungle and New York City. While the stop-motion technique had been around for over a decade, O'Brien and other special effect technicians were able to combine it with other techniques, such as rear projection and miniature projection, to place the actors in the shots with Kong in a way not seen before.

Rear projection had been done before, but this was the first time a cellulose-acetate screen was used. Earlier efforts had used sand-blasted glass to achieve the effect, but this limited the size of the surface of the screen. The glass screen also had a noticeable "hot spot" in the center of the projection and was a danger should it break during production. The cellulose screen was flexible and stretched over a frame like canvas. It also reduced the "hot spot" by 50 percent while giving better white highlights and intense blacks. Sidney Saunders, who invented the new screen, earned a special award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the scenes shot in Kong with this process.

From Mike McGrath's "Ten Unanswered Questions about King Kong" seen on Pop Culture Gill Net:

*What was Denham's plan for his big show? "It seems that Kong breaking free in the theater was the only boffo entertainment - it saved the show! Like Daffy Duck's famous 'dynamite trick' in the Warner Bros. cartoon; great, but you can only do it once."
*Who cleaned up the mess on the ship during Kong's trip to New York?
*Why does that guy drive, nearly unprovoked, right into the side of the hotel at the beginning of Kong's rampage? "Did this driver feel that ramming his car into a brick wall would improve his lot in this situation?"
*What did Kong do with the other girls sacrificed to him by the natives?
*Who was the Son of Kong's mom?
*Why did the natives construct a wall big enough to keep out the prehistoric beasts of Skull Island, but include a door so massive that giant beasts could use it comfortably? "They take a girl out to the altar once a month and require a door five stories high? The answer to this question is another Warner's maxim: If we don't, we ain't got no picture."

Today's image shows Kong in mournful repose -- but with an ornate flourish and regal touch.

As we all know: It was beauty killed the beast. In this regard, Kong's struggle is not unlike Milton's Samson.

However, there is one noticeable difference.

Kong has better hair.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The First Chimp in Space Comes Back

The First Chimp in Space Comes Back

The First Chimp in Space Comes Back (2000)

From Fifties Web Pop History:

Able, a seven-pound female rhesus monkey, and Baker, a one-pound female spider monkey were launched into space on May 28, 1959 in the nose cone of JUPITER Missile AM-18.

They reached an altitude of 300 miles and a distance of 1500 miles while traveling at speeds over 10,000 miles per hour on their brief trip into space. They successfully withstood forces 38 times the normal pull of gravity on earth and were weightless for approximately 9 minutes. This mission marked the first successful recovery of living beings after their return from space.

Able and Baker were unharmed after their 15 minute space flight. But a couple of months later, Able died from effects of anesthesia given for removal of electrodes they had implanted. Baker survived a similar operation.

Able in Repose

"My morphine drip has a major malfunction..."

From NASM-- Apollo to the Moon:

Able's fiberglass couch, lined with polyurethane foam, held her in a position similar to that which was to be used by the Mercury astronauts. During the flight, a 16-mm movie camera photographed Able, while her biological reactions were telemetered to ground recording stations.

As part of a physiological experiment, scientists planned to have the rhesus monkey press a telegraph key (under the right paw) when a light flashed. The rhesus monkeys initially trained for the mission, though, were born in India where the rhesus is sacred and are not used as experimental animals. To avoid diplomatic repercussions, the American-born Able was substituted, two weeks before the mission. As she did not have time to learn her drill, the experiment was cancelled.
Baker died on Nov. 29, 1984, in Huntsville, AL., of kidney failure at the age of 27.

From Pixies/Debaser -- lyrics from "Monkey Gone to Heaven" by the Pixies:

The creature in the sky
Got sucked in a hole
Now there's a hole in the sky
And the ground's not cold
And if the ground's not cold
Everything is gonna burn
We'll all take turns
I'll get mine, too

From Operation Crossroads: Bikini Atoll -- Naval Art from the Atomic Bomb Tests:

Operation Crossroads was an atmospheric nuclear weapon test series conducted in the summer of 1946 at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The series consisted of two detonations, a low altitude test and a shallow water test. The devices, each with a yield of 21 kilotons, were named shots ABLE and BAKER. A planned third test, a deep underwater detonation, was canceled after the second test.

The series was intended to study the effects of nuclear weapons on warships, equipment, and material. These tests would provide important information on the survivability of warships in the event of nuclear war. Both the Navy and the Army Air Forces were, given the possible budgetary effects of such tests, very interested in the outcome of these experiments. From a scientific point of view, technical experiments were also planned on nuclear weapon explosion phenomena and radiation contamination.

[...]

That blowed up real good

Plus 1 Second, Carlisle and Gillian Transports Take It
on the Bottom
by Grant Powers (1946)

Do to a bombing error, the ABLE device exploded almost directly over the attack transport USS Gillian (APA-57). It was flattened by the force of the blast and sank in under one minute. USS Carlisle (APA-69) was tossed about 150 yards by the blast. Battered and on fire, the ship sank in flames shortly thereafter. To the right is former Japanese cruiser Sakawa, which sank the next day following severe superstructure and hull damage.

A monkey is now strapped into a desk chair in the Oval Office. And Star Wars isn't on the screen. It's playing on the skies over our heads.

And as Lou Reed and John Cale sing in their song "Open House" from Songs for Drella:

Fly me to the moon, fly me to a star
But there are no stars in the New York sky
They're all on the ground

Houston -- we have a problem...

Friday, May 27, 2005

Pawn

Pawn

Pawn (2003)

From Chess Rules for the Movement of the Pawn:

There are eight pawns situated on each side of the board. They are the least powerful piece on the chess board, but have the potential to become equal to the most powerful.

Pawns cannot move backward or sideways, but must move straight ahead unless they are taking another piece.

Generally pawns move only one square at a time. The exception is the first time a pawn is moved, it may move forward two squares as long as there are no obstructing pieces. A pawn cannot take a piece directly in front of him but only one at a forward angle.

[...]

Should a pawn get all the way across the board to reach the opponent's edge of the table, it will be promoted. The pawn may now become any piece that the moving player desires (except a king or pawn). Thus a player may end up having more than one queen on the board. Under normal circumstances a player will want to promote his pawn to be a queen since that piece is the most powerful and flexible. The new piece is placed where the pawn ended its movement.

From the Open Pawn Project:

How often have you felt that your computer could be smarter? Aren't you tired of the old drag and drop style desktop and the horribly command prompts. Well Open Pawn Projekt (OPP) is about to change all that. The Pawn shall make it possibly for you to command your computer exactly what you would like it to do. Order it in plain and simple English or whatever your natural language is. Pawn is written in Perl, TCL TK and C++. Just to make it so portable as possible. Currently it will run on any Unix/Linux system.

From Popdirt.com:

Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Moby are among the artists speaking out against President Bush in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. "I don't trust George Bush. I think he's a pawn," Levine opined. "The people who are running this country are extremely intelligent; I think George Bush is just as much in the dark as I am, and it scares the shit out of me. He's about as far from a regular guy as possible.

From a soldier's letter found on michaelmoore.com:

As a soldier in the US Army I feel like a pawn in Bush's game of global imperialism.

[...]

I joined the Army willingly and am not scared to fight or give my life for my country, I just want it to be for the right reasons.

And from The Oxford Student:

Whether the President of the United States is a knowing or unknowing pawn, he is still essentially a pawn. We should be forensic here, because this was a standard argument until glib humour overtook outrage and then 9/11 ensured any criticism incendiary and inappropriate. It is only from within America that I have become aware that all those cartoons of Bush as the lazy, pretzel-choking cowboy-monkey are not a joke. That power is concentrated in this man is dizzying enough. Still more alarming is that power is exercised through this man on behalf of a plutocratic mafia.

In the military iconography of chess, pawns are infantry, or, more specifically, pikemen. Their function was to disrupt cavalry assaults by stabbing horses with long, sharpened poles. In the parlance, they were seen as dispensable, as cannon fodder. The pawn in today's image has certainly lost his head.

But a pawn is also a dupe -- someone who is bamboozled into making a sacrifice that only serves to benefit others. This situation is not unlike casting a vote for someone who consistently acts against your best interests. They've convinced you to stand on the front lines -- and persuaded you to wave banners bearing wedge issues like "gay marriage" or "flag burning" -- but you've been used. Without warning, those you heeded run over your backs with their horses while your pikes are pointed ahead of you -- and against imaginary enemies.

But if you can break through the blitz of spun talking points allowing the current administration to openly catapult the propaganda, then, finally, you can become empowered -- like a pawn who reaches the far side of the chessboard to be crowned a queen.

Isn't the endgame clear enough for you yet? Can't you see how many pieces you can clear off the board with the power of your vote? Elections will come. Turn your pikes around. It's your move.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Shiva on Broadway

Shiva on Broadway

Shiva on Broadway (2002)

From Wikipedia:

Shiva is the third form of God as the Destroyer, one of the Trimurti (popularly called the "Hindu trinity"). In the Trimurti, Shiva is the destroyer, while Brahma and Vishnu are creator and preserver, respectively. However, even though He represents destruction, He is viewed as a positive force (The Destroyer of Evil), since creation follows destruction. Worshippers of Shiva are called Shaivaites. For Shaivaites, however, Shiva is the only Ultimate Reality (see Ishta-Deva for fuller discussion).

Shiva is not limited to the personal characteristics he is given in many images and can transcend all attributes. Hence, Shiva is often worshipped in an abstract manner, as God without form, in the form of linga. This view is similar in some ways to the view of God in Semitic religions such as Islam or Judaism, which hold that God has no personal characteristics. Hindus, on the other hand, believe that God can transcend all personal characteristics yet can also have personal characteristics for the grace of the embodied human devotee. Personal characteristics are a way for the devotee to focus on God.

From an Amazon.com review of Shiva 3000:

In an alternative world where gods are as self-evident as thunderstorms and as destructive as tornadoes, a Baboon Warrior surfaces to save India from marauding behemoths; yet a driven Hindu named Rakesh mysteriously wants him dead. In Shiva 3000, Jan Lars Jensen has cooked up an exotic curry of wonders drawing on Hindu mythology and Buddhist meditative practices. From the sensual antics of Kama Sutrans to Zen-like archery, we sail along in an adventure that is a cross between the Ramayana and Jurassic Park.

From Clear Light Seminars:

Shiva, born as Tony Chester, has spent his life exploring Spirituality and Enlightenment.

[...]

His method of teaching involves powerful transmissions of Spiritual Light and Energy.

From juggler/performer Shiva's lefthandbar2:

Shiva's improvised show is both daring and provokative. Anything can happen once it has begun (and it often does)! Oddball characters (including Bruce Lee and Woodie Allen) combined with spontaneous use of situations and locations mean that at one moment there might be a singing number upon a nearby balcony, the next there could be a karate performance taking place.

And from theatermania.com, a description of the play Shiva Arms:

Welcome to the Shiva Arms, a run-down Hollywood apartment building that's home to the most dysfunctional group of tenants in all of Hollywood. Actor/writer Doug Motel portrays 11 colorful residents; from a punk rocker and a "B" movie actress to a crusty 86 year-old retired negative cutter. Based on a true story, Motel's band of misfits takes us on a hilarious and touching spiritual odyssey.

It's no secret that art and advertising devoutly recycle our gods in commercial and theatrical ways. Mourning Becomes Electra. The Buick Electra. Jennifer Garner as Electra. So, why shouldn't Shiva appear on Broadway? Or go seriously sci-fi? Or transmogrify into a juggler or self-help consultant? Or even age well as --

And you thought Captain Morgan was spiced?

"Aaaarg, matey. Send that bottle me way with one of yer many arms."

So, the show must go on...even if you break a leg...or engage in some extreme gesturing...or, for an encore...

...destroy the world...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Trouble with the Tanning Bed

Trouble with the Tanning Bed

Trouble with the Tanning Bed (2003)

From an article in the Seattle Times by Julie Sommerfeld:

Despite skin-cancer scare tactics from doctors and wrinkle warnings from women's magazines, bronzed skin is back. The indoor-tanning trend has become a fashion mandate among the teeny-bopper set.

Dermatologists are dejected: Turns out the fair skin of the past decade had less to do with their skin-cancer campaigns than the swing of the fashion pendulum. The Coppertone-look redux comes amid rising rates of skin cancer, especially among young people, and new studies linking tanning booths to the disease.

[...]

"I call tanning beds wrinkle booths because if you want your skin to be completely wrinkly, leathery and blotchy by your 30s, then go tanning," she [Dr. Brandith Irwin] said.

But such appeals lose the battle of instant gratification versus delayed consequences.

"A lot more people notice you when you are tan," Jessica Jensen said. "I'm only 15 years old, once I'm like 20 I'll start worrying about wrinkling."

Nor is she worried about skin cancer. "People have warned me about skin cancer, but I haven't seen it among my friends so I don't think it's a very popular disease."

From myjellybean.com's Dream Dictionary:

Tanning Bed
If you dream of lying in a tanning bed, it represents your wish to take shortcuts in achieving your goals. You are impatient about something, possibly related to improving yourself.
I actually had someone ask me in high school why I didn't go to a tanning bed. I was like, "I've had no trouble getting guys being pale, why should I change what's working?" It really ticked me off. I mean, if you want to go to the tanning bed or spend your free time "laying out" then by all means, Shake n' Bake. But don't you DARE tell me I need to "get some sun." I mean, is it really going to RUIN YOUR DAY and your life if I don't sit in a cancerbox and walk out as George Harrison? Is the paleness blinding you? Am I too easy to see in the dark? Am I so translucent that you can see my organs? No? Then SHUT UP and worry about your own skin, Tammy Faye Bakker.

Why do I worry that so many mechanically tanned teens who feel skin cancer is "not a popular disease" will all end up looking like Tiresias in ten years:

Johnny Melville as Tiresias

"My Bulb Finally Burned Out"

My aim for this image was to choose lesion colors -- not a swatch option readily available in Photoshop.

And the image was supposed to be kind of humorous. I know. Nothing cracks people up like cancer.

Oh, well. Back to the digital drawing board...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Eden Lockdown

Eden Lockdown

Eden Lockdown (2003)

From Garden of Eden -- True or False:

The pristine purity and simplicity of the Adam and Eve story has exercised extraordinary power over the minds of man through some twenty centuries. In this corrupt, polluted, beastly world of the 20th century man [sic] find themselves drawn to that romantic, pure and beautiful mirage of the original love story. As life becomes increasingly complicated, crowded, industrial and technical, man has always tried to return to that Garden of Eden.

Rebels, reformers and revolutionaries through the ages have tried to transform human nature and man's material environment. Why? Because man cannot forget how good and happy life was in the mythologized original garden plot east of Eden. Peasant rebels, religious reformers, political revolutionaries, from Moses to Marx, from Maximillian Robespierre to Jerry Rubin, have tried to recreate the legend of an ideal existence. History is an endless tale of human degeneration and human recreation, of corruption and improvement, of backwardness and progress, of war and peace.

A Serious Eviction Notice

"Ride the snake...he's old, and his skin is cold..."

From Paradise Lost, the Limerick by Carol Wyvill:

Book IX

To the serpent's wiles Eve did succumb.
She ate, and she gave Adam some.
His head said, "You'll rue it,"
His heart urged him, "Do it."
He ate. Satan's mission was done.

Book X

The couple were covered with shame.
They fought about who was to blame.
By love still beguiled
They were soon reconciled.
But they'd fallen from grace, all the same.

Book XI

The Archangel Michael, in verse
Which was long-winded rather than terse,
Related to Adam
Things which would happen.
So Adam felt better -- and worse.

Book XII

They were kicked out of Eden, it's true.
No wonder they felt a bit blue.
But the changed world was wide,
And they walked side by side,
Setting off to begin life anew.

From Politics and the Garden of Eden by Bob Wallace:

The only religious joke I tell is one I made up: the human race has Fallen and can't get up.

[...]

Shame is based on what you believe people think of you. That's why Adam is afraid; he's concerned about what God will think. Guilt, on the other hand, is about the violation of an internal standard. Adam and Eve have no guilt; instead they feel shame.

There is not one word in the story of the Garden of Eden about guilt, only ones about shame.

[...]

How does all of the aforementioned apply to politics? Most -- all? -- politicians are not ruled by guilt. They're ruled by what others think of them -- by shame, embarrassment, humiliation. Isn't one of the main reasons they go into politics is because they're desperate for attention -- to convince others to think well of them?

I have not seen George Bush show one iota of guilt about what's he done in starting a war under false pretenses. Since he's not ruled by guilt, then he must be ruled by shame, which he hides under arrogance and conceit -- hubris. Pride on top, shame underneath. I've heard that saying many times.

And from Garden of Eden, a Los Angeles restaurant:

A sanctuary where beautiful people eat, drink, dance and honor the legendary history that is Hollywood.

Yes, only in Hollywood could Eden still exist -- as a fern bar or digitized special effect.

But, certainly, the Eden myth is heady stuff -- whatever permutation it takes. One philosopher's meditation on the nature of free will is another neocon's delusion of democratic paradise through pre-meditated war.

And if politicians like Bush are governed by shame -- then who's got the guilt? In an idealized green garden, could it be those who voted for him and other Frist/Delay types? Shouldn't such supporters feel guilty about being so easily duped by a "compassionate conservative" who said he wasn't interested in empire building?

And who has a totally blank moral slate -- one wiped clean of both shame and guilt?

Could it be the mainstream media -- like those 24/7 skin shedders at Fox News who hiss administrative talking points into our ears?

Today's image is a reminder of the former beauty that is now caged. And only time served and a very difficult review by the electoral parole board can stir hopes of restoring the garden that once was our nation.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cherubim Gang

Cherubim Gang

Cherubim Gang (2000)

From pantheon.org:

[Cherubim are] winged creatures who support the Throne of God, or act as guardian spirits. They appear in the Bible (the book of Ezekiel) as bearing the throne and chariot of God, and hence later conceived as a type of angels. They are also mentioned in Genesis 3:24 as guardians (or protectors) of the Garden of Eden. They were placed at the gates of the Garden to prevent humans from re-entering and thus gaining access to the Tree of Life. They also formed the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-20).

In Jewish and Christian religion they are second in the order of angels, directly after the seraphim. They were usually depicted as angels with four wings and four faces (human, lion, bull and eagle). Artists in later times made them appear as the chubby, rosy-faced, winged infants of which they are known today. They are usually clothed in blue, while the seraphim are clothed in red. They originated from the winged and human-headed bulls of Babylon (also named cherubim), a lesser order of deities, which guarded the gates of the royal palace.
Notwithstanding the present common opinion of advanced Protestant scholars, that cherubim are only symbolic representations of abstract ideas, the Catholic Church undoubtedly holds that there are actually existing spiritual beings corresponding to the name. That Old Testament writers used the word cherubim to designate angels, not merely to express ideas, can be best gathered from Gen., iii, 24, where God sets cherubim at the entrance of Paradise.
Understandably, Christians in their art desired to portray cherubim. Not knowing their form, as noted by Josephus, they settled upon a form very familiar to the Roman world, winged Victories, called Nikes in Greek art. These were women with wings, frequently shown holding a victor's wreath or a shield on which they inscribed a victory over the enemy. In Roman art they appeared frequently partially clad, in long flowing robes, the torso being exposed to reveal breasts. Christian modesty required a fully clothed body, so cherubim as a species of angel, were fully clothed.

And from Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels -- A Strange and Terrible Saga:

"We're the one percenters, man -- the one percent that don't fit and don't care. So don't talk to me about your doctor bills and your traffic warrants -- I mean you get your woman and your bike and your banjo and I mean you're on your way. We've punched our way out of a hundred rumbles, stayed alive with our boots and our fists. We're royalty among motorcycle outlaws, baby."
—A Hell's Angel speaking for the permanent record

[...]

This compact description of rancid, criminal sleaziness is substantially correct except for the hocus-pocus about the one percenters. All Angels wear this patch, as do most other outlaws, and all it means is that they are proud to be part of the alleged one percent of bike riders whom the American Motorcycle Association refuses to claim. The AMA is the sporting arm of the Motorcycle, Scooter and Allied Trades Association, a fast-growing motorcycle lobby that is seeking desperately to establish a respectable image -- an image the Hell's Angels have consistently queered. "We condemn them," says an AMA director. "They'd be condemned if they rode horses, mules, surfboards, bicycles or skateboards. Regretfully, they picked motorcycles."

I got to thinking about the fate of cherubim once they no longer had to stand watch over the gated community of Paradise. Like outsourced night watchmen, perhaps they'd fall on tough times, turn sour, go seedy. Maybe they'd fall in with the one percenters and hop on a hog and rumble. After all, the most interesting angels are always the fallen ones. Both John Milton and Josh Wheedon understood the dramatic possibilities of a dark choice or fate.

The unemployed cherubim now seem prone to wardrobe malfunctions where their breasts unexpectedly jiggle free from the constraints of denim robes. Or, maybe, the functionless angels just loiter-- smoking cigarettes at strip malls and skimming down the metal railings of stairwells on their skateboards. Or, given their public depiction as happy/chubby children, they've become jaded and sullen -- forced into a humiliating, public servitude -- a has-been living like Hervé Villechaize whoring himself out on Circus of the Stars.

And, after the big fall, and before you know it -- swoosh. You're a footnote. Or a logo.

Yeah, post-Paradise life can be rough -- especially when your legacy and namesake have sunk to a stamped-out-in-a-sweatshop, "glorified" sneaker.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Daughter of Leia and Jabba

Daughter of Leia and Jabba

Daughter of Leia and Jabba (2000)

I admit that this image springs from a fanciful liaison not generally found in Star Wars folklore. Princess Leia was Jabba the Hutt's "slave," but, apparently, there was no hanky panky during her captivity. Or was there? After all, Leia did kiss her brother, Luke. And, ultimately, she strangled Jabba with an emotional passion usually reserved for the heroine of revenge-driven kung fu films. Think Kill Bill -- in which The Bride endured violations that pushed her vengeance envelope. Plus, while in Jabba's clutches, Leia wears a metal bikini that has become iconic for nerdy fan boys...

Leia Goes Metal

"I'm Nobody's Boy Toy"

From the Worst of the Web comments page:

Yeah, Leia looked nice in that scene -- but that Jabba....wow! I love gigantic blubbering phallic symbols in my movies....
Princess Leia Organa was always a woman of action. You couldn't count on her to just sit still while the men did all the work. It wasn't in her plan to be wearing that metal bikini but we boys sure did appreciate it.

British movie mag Empire has just published the results of a "sexiest movie character ever" poll. Princess Leia was the highest polled female character, but interestingly it was specifically in her Return of the Jedi slave girl persona!

They also singled out Leia choking Jabba with her chain as a "Horny Highlight."

And from a song parodies site called Am I Right comes "Jabba the Hut" -- a take-off on "Doin' the Butt" from Spike Lee's School Daze:

Walked on the sail barge surprised to see
A green girl gettin? busy, just rockin? to the jammin beat
She was shakin' her booty, then she started chokin' me
So I hit the trap door that was hidden in the floor
Gave my Rancor a treat
'Cause I'm

CHORUS:
Jabba the Hutt. Hey, nasty nasty
No I'm not prankster, I'm a very dangerous gangster, I'm
Jabba the Hutt. Big and ugly
My dancer's gone
So I put Princess Leia...in a thong! (woohoo)

The image tries to incorporate the colors from the interiors of Jabba's palace and sail barge. Moreover, note that the daughter has Jabba's physique (if that's the right word) but Leia's cinnamon buns hairstyle.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Empire Blisses Out

The Empire Blisses Out

The Empire Blisses Out (2000)

Unless you're hermetically sealed away in a BioDome, there's no escaping that Star Wars rules pop culture this weekend. So, going with The Force's inevitable flow, I'll post related images today and tomorrow.

From a poem by Crispin Thomas on Football Poets:

now in the day-to-day world -- you might act so placid
but put on the black -- you're darth vader on acid --

From JDM ST205:

Darth Vader on acid lives under my bonnet. And the force is with him.
Shout at the Level is a remarkable work of indie art and, like Darth Vader on acid; it could leave the listener short of breath and in need of thorazine.
The exhaust sets off car alarms in multi-stories, and the induction kit sounds like Darth Vader on acid....

From the BBC -- Get Writing:

Which begs the question, what kind of Father goes out on a motorbike looking like Darth Vader on acid...

And from Pentax-Discuss:

EEK! Darth Vader on acid ... that sounds like a really bad trip. I wonder what hallucinogens do to The Force.

But, Luke, you don't know the grooviness of the Dark Side...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Near Roswell

Near Roswell

Near Roswell (1999)

From the International UFO Museum and Research Center at Roswell:

Sometime during the first week of July 1947, something crashed near Roswell.

W.W. "Mack" Brazel, a New Mexico rancher, saddled up his horse and rode out with the son of neighbors Floyd and Loretta Proctor, to check on the sheep after a fierce thunderstorm the night before. As they rode along, Brazel began to notice unusual pieces of what seemed to be metal debris, scattered over a large area. Upon further inspection, Brazel saw that a shallow trench, several hundred feet long, had been gouged into the land.

Brazel was struck by the unusual properties of the debris, and after dragging a large piece of it to a shed, he took some of it over to show the Proctors in 1947. Mrs. Proctor moved from the ranch into a home nearer to town, but she remembers Mack showing up with strange material.

The Proctors told Brazel that he might be holding wreckage from a UFO or a government project, and that he should report the incident to the sheriff. A day or two later, Mack drove into Roswell where he reported the incident to Sheriff George Wilcox, who reported it to Intelligence Officer, Major Jesse Marcel of the 509 Bomb Group, and for days thereafter, the debris site was closed while the wreckage was cleared.

On July 8, 1947, a press release stating that the wreckage of a crashed disk had been recovered was issued by Lt. Walter G. Haut, Public Information Officer at RAAB under order from the Commander of the 509th Bomb Group at Roswell, Col. William Blanchard.

Hours later the first press release was rescinded and the second press release stated that the 509th Bomb Group had mistakenly identified a weather balloon as wreckage of a flying saucer was issued July 9, 1947.

From Roswell Report: Case Closed:

Roswell for Dummies

"We're No Dummies"

In July 1994, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force concluded an exhaustive search for records in response to a General Accounting Office (GAO) inquiry of an event popularly known as the "Roswell Incident."

[...]

The conclusions are:

Air Force activities which occurred over a period of many years have been consolidated and are now represented to have occurred in two or three days in July 1947.

"Aliens" observed in the New Mexico desert were actually anthropomorphic test dummies that were carried aloft by U.S. Air Force high altitude balloons for scientific research.

The "unusual" military activities in the New Mexico desert were high altitude research balloon launch and recovery operations. Reports of military units that always seemed to arrive shortly after the crash of a flying saucer to retrieve the saucer and "crew," were actually accurate descriptions of Air Force personnel engaged in anthropomorphic dummy recovery operations.

And from the Microsoft Jokes page:

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) -- Today, the United States Air Force issued a long-awaited report about the "Roswell Incident" in which some people claim that software from Microsoft functioned correctly in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. As expected, the government's 261-page report denied that there had ever been any evidence that this had ever happened, despite eyewitness reports to the contrary. The report claims that what witnesses actually saw was an experimental Macintosh running a variation of Unix, or perhaps an experimental Unix machine using a form of the MacOS.

Although the official Air Force position is that this is their final report on the matter, long-time Microsoft devotees are not satisfied. "We know it really happened," said Gil Bates, spokesman for a group of Microsoft enthusiasts who call themselves "The .exe-files". The group's claim of having seen Windows run without crashing is tainted by the revelation earlier this year that some members had falsified evidence by doctoring output from standard Unix utilities and passing it off as authentic Windows data files.

This point, if there is one, of this abstract image was to suggest -- something. But...what? A scattered debris field? A section of a craft passing over a desert? An internal organ removed during the filming of Fox's Alien Autopsy? A Rorschach to contemplate while awaiting an extra-terrestrial anal probe?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Diana's Boneyard

Diana's Boneyard

Diana's Boneyard (2000)

From Wikipedia:

Diana was the equivalent in Roman mythology of the Greek Artemis. She was the daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and the twin sister of Apollo.

Diana was the perpetual virgin goddess of the hunt, associated with wild animals and forests. She was also a moon goddess, and an emblem of chastity. Oak groves were especially sacred to her. She was praised for her strength, athletic grace, beauty and her hunting skills. With two other Roman deities she made up a trinity: Egeria the water nymph, her servant and assistant midwife; and Virbius, the woodland god.

Diana was worshipped in a temple on the Aventine Hill and at the city of Ephesus where stood the Temple of Artemis. (At the city of Ephesus Jesus' mother, the virgin Mary, was officially decreed to be the Mother of God). Diana was regarded with great reverence by lower-class citizens and slaves. Slaves could receive asylum in her temples. She was worshipped at a festival on August 13.

Diana remains an important figure in some modern mythologies. In Freemasonry, she is considered a symbol of imagination, sensibility, and the creative insanity of poets and artists. Those who believe that prehistoric peoples lived in matriarchal societies consider Diana to have originated in a mother goddess worshipped at that time, and she is still worshiped today by women practicing the religion known as Dianic Wicca.

Diana believed her virgin body was very sacred and not for a male's eyes. One day the hunter, Actaeon, was wandering around and stumbled upon Diana bathing. Diana became so angry, she turned Actaeon into a stag. Now he was unable to speak, and so no one would ever hear about Diana's naked body. Actaeon was killed by his own hunting dogs, because he couldn't tell them he was their master.
At the funeral of his sister Diana Princess of Wales (September 6th 1997), Charles, Earl Spencer, in his revolutionary address (the most provocative at a funeral since Mark Antony asked the crowd to lend him ears at Caesar's), referred to her immortal namesake: pointing out the irony that Lady Di was invariably the hunted, not the huntress. Perhaps he was not aware of the further irony -- that the goddess, when she found herself hunted and spied on by Actaeon, turned him into a stag who was then torn to pieces and devoured by his own hounds. Just so was Diana pursued by Actaeons -- with long-range lenses -- but despite being a princess, an icon, a symbol and now seemingly a saint and a martyr, she was not an immortal goddess. She did not have the power to destroy her persecutors. Her revenge will be posthumous, and less dramatic -- but the Press will never be the same again. Once more the image that we want to see and yet we know is forbidden enthralls and destroys.

The lush green tones of this image suggest a primeval forest floor -- or a riverbank littered with the fossilized bones of Actaeon -- or a cemetery glade strewn with broken moons.

Or, perhaps, it is just some personal creative insanity leakage...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Whorehouse of Representatives

Whorehouse of Representatives

Whorehouse of Representatives (1999)

Grover Norquist, quoted in "They Beat the Hell Out of Each Other Up There":

Republicans and conservatives can best advance the cause of civility by working hard to finish off the hopes of the Democrats for any return to power. It is like neutering barnyard animals: they are much calmer, less likely to cause damage, and easier to control. As the vet says, "They will be happier; this is good for them."

From E. J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post:

DeLay himself drew the line sharply the day after the 2004 elections. "The Republican Party is a permanent majority for the future of this country," DeLay declared. "We're going to be able to lead this country in the direction we've been dreaming of for years."

Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a leading figure in both the DeLay and Bush political operations, chose more colorful post-election language to describe the future. "Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans," he told Richard Leiby of The Post. "Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant. But when they've been 'fixed,' then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful."

And from News Hounds:

Last night, anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley was a guest on The Alan Colmes Show, a FOX News radio program. The topic was an interesting one -- whether or not an internet service provider should allow Horsley to post the names of abortion doctors on his website. Horsley does that as a way of targeting them and one doctor has been killed. In the course of the interview, however, Colmes asked Horsley about his background, including a statement that he had admitted to engaging in homosexual and bestiality sex.

At first, Horsley laughed and said, "Just because it's printed in the media, people jump to believe it."

"Is it true?" Colmes asked.

"Hey, Alan, if you want to accuse me of having sex when I was a fool, I did everything that crossed my mind that looked like I..."

AC: "You had sex with animals?"

NH: "Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule."

AC: "I'm not so sure that that is so."

NH: "You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?"

AC: "Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?"

NH: "It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm..."

Colmes said he thought there were a lot of people in the audience who grew up on farms, are living on farms now, raising kids on farms and "and I don't think they are dating Elsie right now. You know what I'm saying?"

Horsley said, "You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that... If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates you might in fact have sex with it."

Today, the showdown begins on whether to utilize the "nuclear option" to kill filibusters -- a long-standing Congressional procedure designed to safeguard minority rights and views from being steamrolled flat by an "absolutely corrupted by absolute power" majority. The eunuching of filibusters will be the final snip from Karl Rove and Dr. Frist -- the Republican's crack emergency response team to quell the open propagation of democracy. Given Horsley's account, it's clear what happens to barnyard animals when conservatives control the farm. I wonder how the soon-to-be-fixed 49% of us who did not vote for George W. Bush's "mandate" will feel when we are on the receiving end. Metaphorically speaking, I'd say we're about to be fucked.

I just wonder if half of us will be "contented and cheerful" down on the farm in the United Sedate of America.

Or, instead, will we, as Dylan Thomas suggested, "rage against the dying of the light"?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Makeover

Makeover

Makeover (1999)

My plastic surgeon swears
the tuck and lift will be
easy as a transparency
but I smear like a blot
of ink on rice paper
and soon will run over

the Cover Girl statute
of limitations. Time is not
money but a tireless enemy
and I can cut it, operate
on myself. Crank up a laser
to scorch that rosy glow

to cheeks then slice my nose
like cheese. I'm a product,
a mixing palette, a canvas
to perfectly lacquer with air-
brushes. I aim to please
and captivate with paint

by numbers charms so you'll
blush (less flawless than I),
procure the crèmes, shadows,
goddess likeness. The scabs,
pencil drawn and light etched,
peel away and make you me.

From AmbushMakerover.com:

“The show that's gonna change the face of television.” AMBUSH MAKEOVER, is a first-run half-hour strip featuring some of Hollywood's and New York's best and most celebrated stylists, make-up and hair artists in the country. Their client lists include several A-list celebrities, such as Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Michelle Pfeiffer and Julianne Moore.

From the producers of Trading Spaces, AMBUSH MAKEOVER and its team of famous celebrity Style Agents give their fashion ‘targets' an ultimatum -- either drop everything that very instant to embark on an exciting makeover or continue on about their day without ever knowing what could've been! As our Style Agents initiate their makeovers, the back-stories and the reactions to the reveals of their expertise are as much fun as the makeovers themselves, captivating viewers with the makeover's beginning to the dramatic ending.

From ienhance.com:

Having multiple plastic surgery procedures lets you get more done at one time. There is no need to take extra time off from work to have a second procedure. You also do not have to pay twice for hospital or anesthetic fees. Remember, too, that in order to have multiple plastic surgery procedures it is imperative that you are in good health and have selected a qualified doctor, who specializes in the procedure. Extreme Makeover, the television series, highlights the changes possible through plastic surgery. The before and after photos of a participant offer a sharp contrast and let you se the dramatic effect cosmetic surgery can make.

And from talksurgery, inc.:

Micheline Charest, the co-founder of the animation company Cinar, has died after she suffered cardiac arrest following a face-lift, breast-lift and liposuction, leaving behind a husband and two teen-aged sons. She was 51.

[...]

In Florida, an order by the Health Department said Dr. Kurt Dangl committed gross malpractice and failed to adequately administer, monitor and record anesthesia given to Julie Rubenzer during breast augmentation surgery last September. Rubenzer, 38, never regained consciousness after the procedure and she died December 26.

And, finally, from Doom Patrols by Stephen Shaviro:

People in primitive societies flay the skin of their enemies, thereby depriving them of their souls. But we in postmodern America prefer to discipline the body by adding ever more epidermal layers, multiplying faces, images, and souls.

[...]

The face is less a mask or a disguise, Deleuze and Guattari suggest, than it is the mark of an evacuation of the depths, a libidinous transformation of the entire body into surface, and nothing but surface.

The image behind the poem reminded me of skin cells being scalded and mutating into atomic particles.

And, really, isn't the Frankenstein monster merely an "extreme makeover"?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Mutiny on Pluto

Mutiny on Pluto

Mutiny on Pluto (2003)

From SolarViews.com:

Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, limited information on the distant planet delayed a realistic understanding of its characteristics. Today Pluto remains the only planet that has not been visited by a spacecraft, yet an increasing amount of information is unfolding about this peculiar planet. The uniqueness of Pluto's orbit, rotational relationship with its satellite, spin axis, and light variations all give the planet a certain appeal.

[...]

The path toward its discovery is credited to Percival Lowell who founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona and funded three separate searches for "Planet X." Lowell made numerous unsuccessful calculations to find it, believing it could be detected from the effect it would have on Neptune's orbit. Dr. Vesto Slipher, the observatory director, hired Clyde Tombaugh for the third search and Clyde took sets of photographs of the plane of the solar system (ecliptic) one to two weeks apart and looked for anything that shifted against the backdrop of stars. This systematic approach was successful and Pluto was discovered by this young (born 4 Feb 1906) 24 year old Kansas lab assistant on February 18, 1930. Pluto is actually too small to be the "Planet X" Percival Lowell had hoped to find. Pluto's was a serendipitous discovery.

Having a Far Out Time on Pluto

Wish You Were Here?

How the planet and moon were named, from the Pluto Home Page:

PLUTO: Discovered in 1930 by American astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ during a systematic search for a trans-Neptune planet predicted by Percival Lowell and William H. Pickering. Named after Roman god of the under-world who was able to render himself invisible.

CHARON: Discovered in 1978 by 2 American astronomers, James W. Christy and Robert S. Harrington. Named after the mythological boatman who ferried souls across the river Styx to Pluto for judgment.

And from sfsite.com's "Pluto in Science Fiction":

Allen, Roger MacBride. The Ring of Charon. Tor, 1990.
Baxter, Stephen. "Gossamer." Science Fiction Age, November 1995.
Beattie, George B. "The 'Platinum Planets'." Wonder Stories, 8/32.
Benford, Gregory & Paul A. Carter. "Proserpina's Daughter." 1988.
Binder, Eando. "The Thieves from Isot." Wonder Stories, 10/34.
Budrys, Algis. Man of Earth. Ballantine, 1958.
Coblentz, Stanton. "Into Plutonian Depths." Wonder Stories Quarterly, Spring 1931. Later published in book form by Avon, 1950.
Coblentz, Stanton. "Riches for Pluto." Astounding, 12/34.
Daniel, Tony. Metaplanetary. Avon/Eos, 2001.
Wollheim, Donald A. Superluminal. Eos, 2004.
Ferrell, Joseph. "Mind-Stealers of Pluto." Planet Stories, Winter, 1944.
Gallun, Raymond Z.. "Blue Haze on Pluto." Astounding, 6/35.
Gauger, Rick. Charon's Ark. Ballantine, 1987.
Gottesman, S.D. (C.M. Kornbluth) "King Cole of Pluto." Super Science Stories, 1940.
Greenland, Colin. Mother of Plenty. Avon Eos, 1999.
Greenland, Colin. Seasons of Plenty. AvoNova, 1996.
Greenland, Colin. Take Back Plenty. AvoNova, 1992.
Heinlein, Robert. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. Scribner, 1958.
Kenyon, Joseph P. "Pluto." Scream Factory, Fall 1993.
Kostkos, Henry J. "Earth Rehabilitors, Consolidated." Amazing Stories, 3-4/35.
Kruse, Clifton B. "A Princess of Pallis." Astounding Stories, 10/35.
Latham, Philip (pen-name for R.S. Richardson). "The Rose-Bowl Pluto Hypothesis." Orbit 5, edited by Damond Knight. Putnam, 1969.
Laumer, Keith. "No Ship Boots in Fairyland," Once There Was a Giant. Edited by Keith Laumer. Tor, 1984.
Leinster, Murray. "Pipeline to Pluto." Astounding, 8/45.
Lowndes, Robert W. "Report of the Plutonian Ambassador by Sr. Doc Lowndes." Wonder Stories, 9/35.
Manning, Laurence & Fletcher Pratt. "Expedition to Pluto." Planet Stories, Winter, 1939.
Niven, Larry. "Wait It Out." Future Unbounded. Westercon Program Book, 1968.
Niven, Larry. World of Ptaavs, Ballentine, 1966.
Pong, Hoy Ping (Wilson Tucker). "Report on the 196th Convention." Wonder Stories, 11/34.
Post, Jonathan V. "Skiing the Methane Snows of Pluto." Focus, Autumn, 1979.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. Icehenge. Jove, 1984.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. "On the North Pole of Pluto." Incorporated into Icehenge.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Memory of Whiteness. Tor, 1985.
Rocklynne, Ross. "The Last Outpost," Astounding, 7/45.
Silverberg, Robert. "Pluto in the Morning Light.".
Simak, Clifford D. Cosmic Engineers. Gnome, 1950.
Simak, Clifford D. "Construction Shack." Worlds of If, 1-2/73.
Sloat, Edwin K. "Beyond the Planetoids." Amazing Stories, 8/32.
Smith, Clark Ashton. "The Plutonian Drug." The Outer Reaches, edited by August Derleth. Pelligrini Cudahy, 1951.
Smith, E.E. "Doc". "The Skylark Valeron." Astounding Stories, 8/34-2/35.
Stangland, Arthur G. "Crossroads of Space." Wonder Stories, 9/32.
Starzl, R.F. "The Earthman's Burden." Astounding Stories, 6/31.
Starzl, R.F. "Planet of Despair." Wonder Stories, 7/31.
Statten, Vargo. (John Russell Fearn). Deadline to Pluto. Scion, 1951.
Stearn, Charles A. "The Pluto Lamp." Planet Stories, Fall 1954.
Sterling, Kenneth. "The Brain-Eaters of Pluto." Wonder Stories, 3/34.
Stone, Leslie F. "The Rape of the Solar System." Amazing Stories, 12/34.
Tucker, Wilson. To the Tombaugh Station. Ace, 1960.
Varley, John. The Ophiuchi Hotline. Dial Press, 1977.
Wait, Robert A. "Cosmic Steeple-Chase'." Amazing Stories, 4/32.
Walters, Hugh. Passage to Pluto. Nelson, 1973.
West, Wallace. "En Route to Pluto." Astounding, 8/36.
Weinbaum, Stanley. "The Red Peri." Astounding, 11/35.
Williamson, Jack. The Cometeers. Fantasy Press, 1950.
Williamson, Jack. "The Plutonian Terror." Weird Tales, 10/33.
Winterbotham, R.R. "The Psycho Power Conquest." Astounding Stories, 2/36.
Wollheim, Donald A. The Secret of the Ninth Planet. Paperback Library, 1965.

I've long been a reader of science fiction, beginning with Tom Swift novels as a kid, and I believe that some of the finest political and social commentary still occurs in this genre. Entering into science fiction means checking traditional literary expectations at the book cover. If the opening sentence of a novel is "The two suns rose," then, as a reader, you either slam the book shut or forge ahead with disbelief willingly suspended. You better prime yourself for the literalization of metaphor, too. As Ursula K. Le Guin notes in her introduction to The Norton Book of Science Fiction:

The reader can't take much for granted in a fiction where the scenery can eat the characters.

In some ways, the bright colors in this image suggest a whimsical quality. The forms/beings do sort of resemble penguins at a Prince concert. But there are bleaker overtones reflected in the darkening skies overhead. Is this a desertion? Or, instead, are the protagonists forming military lines to advance against former companions?

Somebody -- or something -- wants a regime change...

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Lewis and Clark Arrive in St. Louis

Lewis and Clark Arrive in St. Louis

Lewis and Clark Arrive in St. Louis (2001)

From the Lewis and Clark Trail Guide:

From December 1803 - May 1904, Lewis journeyed into St. Louis for research and supplies, while Clark screened, hired, and trained additional men at their winter fort, Camp Wood ("Camp River Dubois") which was across the river in Illinois territory, and on the banks of the Mississippi. The area was inhabited by about a thousand French Canadians and migrants from Tennessee and Kentucky, many of whom constituted the engagés, or the 12 professional crewman who regularly made a living on such journeys. Hiring, training, and disciplining them was no easy task.

[...]

Since it was at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, St. Louis was an ideal trade center on the frontier. Rivers functioned as highways and railroads of the early 19th century, delivering goods to and from settlers who were rapidly exploiting rich natural resources. During their stay at Camp Wood, both Lewis and Clark ventured into St. Louis for supplies and research, and after the expedition, made their homes here (likely the lawn around the arch). From March 7-9, 1804, Lewis here witnessed the formal transfer of the land he would explore to the United States.

As an outpost of French civilization, the small but urbane town of St. Louis was doing fairly well when Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived at the end of 1803 to prepare for their voyage of exploration. Townspeople wined and dined the two that winter, then sent them on their way up the Missouri River. Their return from the Pacific in 1806 produced more festivities.

A century later, with St. Louis the fourth largest city in the United States, events that had led to the nation's ocean-to-ocean expansion were celebrated with the glittering Louisiana Purchase Exposition, better known as the 1904 World's Fair.

The fair, which featured a giant, 2,160-seat Ferris wheel, introduced to a wide public such American standards as Dr Pepper, ice cream cones, iced tea, Buster Brown shoes, and Borax's 20-mule team. The aged Geronimo signed autographs for 10 cents each, and the young Will Rogers twirled his rope and told jokes. "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis" seemed the most modern and romantic thing to do, never mind that the song was conceived in New York.

This image imagines the explorers' arrival on a cold winter day. Their amazing journey has only just begun...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Homage to Lewis and Clark

Homage to Lewis and Clark

Homage to Lewis and Clark (2000)

Today, Lewis and Clark began their expedition. From the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation:

The Expedition broke camp on May 14, 1804. Clark wrote in his journal: "I set out at 4 oClock P.M …and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missouri." The party traveled in a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller boats, called "pirogues." Through the long, hot summer they laboriously worked their way upriver. Numerous navigational hazards, including sunken trees called "sawyers," sand bars, collapsing river banks, and sudden squalls of high winds with drenching rains slowed their progress. There were other problems, including disciplinary floggings, two desertions, a man dishonorably discharged for mutiny, and the death of Sgt. Charles Floyd, the only member to die during the Expedition. In modern day South Dakota, a band of Teton Sioux tried to detain the boats, but the explorers showed their superior armaments and sailed on.

[...]

A French-Canadian named Toussaint Charbonneau visited the captains with his young pregnant Shoshone wife, Sacagawea. Sacagawea's tribal homeland lay in the Rocky Mountain country far to the west. She had been kidnapped by plains Indians five years before, when she was about twelve years old, and taken to the villages of the Mandan and Minitari, where she was eventually sold to Charbonneau. Sacagawea spoke both Shoshone and Minitari, and the captains realized that she could be a valuable intermediary if the party encountered the Shoshones. They also knew that she and Charbonneau could be helpful in trading for the horses that would be needed to cross the western mountains. In addition, Sacagawea and her baby would prove to be a token of truce, assuring the Indians that the Expedition was peaceful. Clark later noted this while descending the Columbia River, "No woman ever accompanies a war party of Indians in this quarter."

From PBS:

Some tribes had never seen a white or black man before Lewis and Clark. Others spoke bits of English and wore hats and coats they received from European sea captains.

Over the course of the expedition, Lewis and Clark developed a ritual that they used when meeting a tribe for the first time. The captains would explain to the tribal leaders that the their land now belonged to the United States, and that a man far in the east -- President Thomas Jefferson -- was their new “great father.” They would also give the Indians a peace medal with Jefferson on one side and two hands clasping on the other, as well as some form of presents (often trade goods). Moreover, the Corps members would perform a kind of parade, marching in uniform and shooting their guns.

And from an article in the Sioux Fall Argus-Leader:

In Idaho, boxes upon boxes of Lewis and Clark refrigerator magnets occupy the back room of Dave Hunt's gift shop.

He wonders whether they'll ever sell.

In Great Falls, Mont., dismal orders for advance tickets haunt an upcoming monthlong festival pegged to the bicentennial of the explorers' push into the Rockies. And downstream on the Missouri River, Williston, N.D., hotel operator Tom Kasperson flatly assesses the effect of Lewis and Clark tourism on his business: "Zero."

In South Dakota, however, the first year of the Corps of Discovery Bicentennial received a mixed review from tourism officials, and some communities in the state saw a significant boost in tourism related to the event. "I know some events didn't see the numbers they were hoping for. Others went way beyond what they were expecting," said Kerry Frei, Lewis and Clark Tourism Manager for South Dakota Tourism.

[...]

But gasoline prices soared, media attention waned and "Lewis and Clark fatigue," as some are calling it, set in.

So did reality. Despite historian Stephen Ambrose's prediction that one-quarter of the U.S. population would involve itself in the bicentennial, how many want to hightail to Williston, N.D. -- honestly?

I grew up in South Dakota in an area rich in Lewis and Clark history -- but had never thought much about their remarkable journey. I swam in lakes named after them and floated in the same river where their canoes once drifted. One day, in 1973, when I was in college in Sioux City, Iowa, I sat at the base of the Floyd Monument one morning and watched the sun come up over the Missouri River. I remember wondering what it must have been like on another morning many years ago to climb the bluff and bury a companion -- knowing that you could easily share his fate -- with no clue or map as to what dangers and wonders wait around the next bend -- and so very far to go -- into the wild --

Friday, May 13, 2005

Xtreme Oreo

Xtreme Oreo

Xtreme Oreo (2002)

From History of the Oreo Cookie:

In 1898, several baking companies merged to form the National Biscuit Company (NaBisCo), the maker of Oreo cookies. By 1902, Nabisco created Barnum's Animal cookies and made them famous by selling them in a little box designed like a cage with a string attached (to hang on Christmas trees).

In 1912, Nabisco had a new idea for a cookie -- two chocolate disks with a creme filling in between. The first Oreo cookie looked very similar to the Oreo cookie of today, with only a slight difference in the design on the chocolate disks.

[...]

So how did the Oreo get its name? The people at Nabisco aren't quite sure. Some believe that the cookie's name was taken from the French word for gold, "or" (the main color on early Oreo packages). Others claim the name stemmed from the shape of a hill-shaped test version; thus naming the cookie in Greek for mountain, "oreo." Still others believe the name is a combination of taking the "re" from "cream" and placing it between the two "o"s in "chocolate" -- making "o-re-o." And still others believe that the cookie was named Oreo because it was short and easy to pronounce.

From Paper Plate Education:

Oreo Moon Phases

"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Halve and scrape Oreo cookies to illustrate moon phases. Then arrange cookies on plate's perimeter around a central Earth. Prior to the student project, the teacher can build a larger version, using regular-size cookies on a round cake tray.

After twisting apart bite-size Oreo cookies, students scrape off the cream to simulate the four primary moon phases.

Young students place the appropriate moon phases on pre-marked, labeled paper plates.

The rewards of studying science prove tasty.

And from the Post Cereals site:

Post Oreo O's now tastes creamier! New Oreo O's now combines the great Oreo taste of the original with creamy tasting marshmallows to create a whole new "Extreme Creme Taste" experience that kids will love.

[...]

Try new Oreo O's...the cereal that gives you Extreme Creme Taste in every bite.

Who knew breakfast was an xtreme sport?

Still, this is one agitated cookie. It looks like it has four-wheel drive. Please play a pulsing pick-up truck commercial soundtrack in the background while viewing.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Godzillas at Home

The Godzillas at Home

The Godzillas at Home (2003)

From Stomp Tokyo:

On April 2nd, 1997 Godzilla fans everywhere lost an idol: Tomoyuki Tanaka died. Tanaka was the producer of all of Godzilla's screen exploits. Along with special effects creator Eiji Tsuburaya and director Ishiro Honda, he was primarily responsible for the creation of the enduring screen icon we call Godzilla. With his passing, all three of these men have left us.

Godzilla can make a claim to fame that can be made by few other fictional characters who have appeared in a series of films. He was created on, and for, the movie screen. While Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes have both appeared in more movies, both were created on the printed page. And Godzilla is quite nearly the first enduring character to be created on screen. Although King Kong came before him, Kong's movie work in the last decade has been scant. Unlike the many characters who came after him, Godzilla has been a popular character for over 40 years.

[...]

Godzilla is very much a child of the fifties, in particular post-war Japan's fifties. To the original audience, the metaphor of a huge radioactive creature coming out of nowhere and destroying cities was uncomfortably close to something that already happened.

[...]

We would suggest that this technique of putting a guy in a dinosaur suit may be the secret to Godzilla's continuing popularity. Anyone who is watching a Godzilla movie knows that there is some guy in that suit having the time of his life destroying a city, and people want to be that guy. True, it turns out that in real life being in the suit is not much fun at all, as it is unbearably hot, but we think it works on people subconsciously. The thrill of destroying a city vicariously is just too much to resist.

Godzilla has earned its place in film history. The image of a giant lizard creature knocking over buildings and breathing fire has incorporated itself into the culture of the modern world. To catalog the effect Godzilla has had on American pop culture alone would be impossible. During our childhood Godzilla was a regular feature of Saturday afternoon movies on TV, and now you can see Godzilla films on the Sci-Fi Channel. There was the animated series from Hanna-Barbera, and a 24 issue Marvel Comics series. Godzilla has appeared regularly on Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. Godzilla has made cameos in such US movies as Mars Attacks, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and One Crazy Summer.

From the conference report of In Godzilla's Footsteps:

Sayuri Shimizu, Michigan State University, noted that Godzilla’s success in the United States was made possible as much by the consumption patterns and anxieties of high Cold War America as by his Japanese origins. Similarly, Yulia Mikhailova, Hiroshima City University, observed that anxiety in post Soviet Russia among Russian youth helped make them receptive to themes of anxiety and uncertain identity present in anime and manga. Hirofumi Katsuno, University of Hawaii, noted that it was a combination of liminal geography, youthful nostalgia and canny marketing that help to explain the phenomenal popularity of the 1970s suitmation (ala Ultraman) series Kikaida in Hawaii.

While Japan’s pop culture exports have contributed to what Douglas McGray calls “Japan’s Gross National Cool,” and helped establish a distinct Japanese brand of export, Anne Allison, Duke University, noted that the attributes of this product have undergone considerable change. From the monstrous Godzilla we have morphed into the friendly Pokemon. However Christine Yano, University of Hawaii, pointed out that this strategy is not without its pitfalls. Even the tabula rasa cuteness of Hello Kitty can come to seem monstrous when the Japanese cultural brand appears little more than an invitation to consumption.

And, finally, from the Chicago Area Mensa site:

I'm half Japanese. Well, more accurately, I'm half Okinawan, but let's not let that little detail get in the way of our story. Given my cultural heritage, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for that big, lumbering brute with the radioactive halitosis.

As a kid, I used to watch Godzilla movies on our little black-and-white Zenith TV and, like most kids, I really enjoyed watching the guy in the rubber suit smash miniature buildings with gleeful abandon.

Hit the fast-forward button. It's 1993, I'm in my early 30s and my fiancée Lynn and I are making preparations for our wedding with our cake baker, JoBella. JoBella asks if we want a "groom's cake" for our wedding and if we want to do something fun with the cake. Lynn offhandedly remarks, "What about a Godzilla cake?" A fire fills JoBella's eyes and she's jumping up and down because she's so excited by the idea. The next thing we know, Godzilla has taken over our wedding. Not only do we have a Godzilla cake, but we have a little four-inch-tall "Mr. and Mrs. Godzilla" on the gift box. During the reception the wedding party is introduced to the tune of Blue Oyster Cult's song "Godzilla" ("Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go go Godzilla ..."), and we had a six-foot, inflatable Godzilla in a tuxedo. He was the "best monster." You should have seen the strange looks I got when I took Godzilla to the mall to get him fitted for his tux. As an added bonus, a photo of our Godzilla cake made the front page of the June 10, 1993, food section of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Here are Mr. and Mrs. Godzilla in exile and recast in a domestic setting. He'll lose the remote and start the grill with his breath. She'll clip coupons and stomp around Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a rebuilt Tokyo sleeps...

...until...

...until Godzilla Jr.

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