Sunday, January 30, 2005

Guaranteed to Give You the Wiggins

Who knew? For a mere $5000, you can have your very own Speaker for the Dead!

New Signs of the End Times

Why should I let Wednesday have all the fun with the Apocalypse?

After all, like Valen, I was taught by Jesuits. I know the vital role that Matthew 27:48 plays in the Culture Wars. I even understand the military history of the hill of Megiddo.

So don't bother me with the Mark of the Beast. Speak not to me of plagues and portents and the resurrection of the dead: For verily, I say unto you, I know the true signs of our impending doom.

I Demand Stat Sheets

It wasn't enough that we get a prequel trilogy to Left Behind. We're now getting a Watcher's GuideHandbook.

If there aren't d20 stats for every single significant perspective character (book twelve doesn't count, because no one in that book had a distinct personality), I will consume a hat. Granted, it may be an edible hat, constructed entirely of spun Splenda, but I will consume said hat.

Please prepare a hat.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Circle Unbroken.

Sooner or later this had to happen: Trekkies, but for LOTR fans.

Far more entertaining than Alone in the Dark will likely be is watching reviewers meow about it. As I write this, its Tomatometer reading is 3%. (I especially enjoy watching the reviewers-- plural-- who START to call it the worst movie ever, then back away in horror from the precipice, realizing that making that claim would actually ENCOURAGE some people).

And Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing and NPR on James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep.

Fan Fiction Friday

...or, You HopedThought I'd Forgotten All About It, Didn't You?

From Making Light comes word of the inevitable Whedon/Tolkien musical extravaganza, Once More with Hobbits. So far, the only complaint I've heard about it is that it doesn't include the Scouring of the Shire.

After such an effort, what new worlds could there be for Joss to conquer? Well, he could always collaborate with another one of his favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin!

...Until he actually does so, however, you'll have to make do with these stories of a young, blond Slayer who was Called when Buffy had her sic transit Gloria moment: It's Donna the Vampire Slayer!

Expect lots of walking quickly through corridors and crypts, trading serve-and-volley quips.

If, on the other hand, you prefer catblogging, well, then, here.


In the spirit of the Buffy database mentioned earlier comes (via Electrolite) the Firefly Chinese Pinyinary, your comprehensive guide to all of those exotic Chinese phrases spoken by the crew of Serenity.

My favorite? Hard to say, but "我的媽和她的瘋狂的外甥都㆒我的妈和她的疯狂的外甥都!" ("Holy mother of God and all her wacky nephews!") is a strong contender.

(Boy, won't this test your browser's font rendering...)

Cartoon Cartoons!

Good news-- albeit news you can probably already guess at-- for cartoon addicts.

And a webcomic made just for them, recommended by one "no one in particular." I like it... though I'd like it a bit more if it were designed to fit in my screen.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I Was Hoping It'd Be Named "Zaphod"

In the end of Peter David's Future Imperfect, one of his best comics stories, the time-lost, intelligent Hulk cremates the body of his now-aged best friend, Rick Jones. He spreads the ashes over Captain America's shield and hurls it into the air, where it travels for miles, disappearing from sight.

"Where do you think it'll land?" someone asks him.

"God willing," he replies, "somewhere exciting."

That's more or less how I feel about the naming of the asteroid Douglasadams.

Farewell again, you glorious nonsensicalist.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I should totally send them my late seventies plastic Muppets

Mckenzee, of Sinister Bedfellows, found the Alien Loves Predator of the week: Pork Factor 9. Yes, it's a Pigs In Space fancomic, and I do believe those are the recent Palisades collectors' figures.

Quick! Before Disney find it!


The glorious meta-narrative surrounding the Publish America article T mentioned includes (via Making Light), the newly immortal literary classic Atlanta Nights, by "Travis Tea," details of which can be had from Beth Bernobich and Sherwood Smith (via Crooked Timber).

Also, a passing aside in my post about Tom Whitmore and the Ordo Templi Orientis referred to the story of Jack Parsons, cofounder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (still sometimes called the "Jack Parsons Laboratory") and follower of Aleister Crowley. Lo and behold, today's Salon includes a review and interview about Astro Turf, a book about the early days and culture of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (subscription or free DayPass required).

The Vanity of a "Non-Vanity Press"

Writers beware...

This is What Jonathan Had in Mind When He Invented the Internet

via Victor Gonzalez at comes word of Buffyology, a web site which features "Every Buffy character, episode, cast member, writer and director and every word of every show, in a searchable database."

Want to find the first use of the phrase "Scooby gang"? Want to know which episodes feature dairy products? This is the web site for you, then.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tall Tale Tuesday

Today's Tall Tale involves classic Science Fiction Fandom and a shadowy and controversial religious organization.

And no, the "shadowy and controversial religious organization" isn't the one you're thinking of; although, in an odd way, it nearly was anyhow.

The Hero of our story is Tom Whitmore, conrunner, fanzine fan, and owner of Berkeley's legendary The Other Change of Hobbit bookstore; and the shadowy and controversial religious organization is the Ordo Templi Orientis, the mystical order founded by none other than the infamous "Great Beast" himself, Aleister Crowley.

The fundamental scripture of the OTO is the Liber AL vel Legis, or The Book of the Law, which was originally written in longhand by Crowley on April 8–10, 1904, in Cairo, Egypt, allegedly as dictated to him by a spirit called Aiwass. This longhand original, along with numerous other significant documents and papers, disappeared sometime after the 1962 death of Karl Germer, Crowley's chosen successor as head of the OTO. When Germer died, the OTO was largely moribund, and there was no clear central authority. Eventually, though, a former student of Crowley's named Grady McMurtry stepped up and began reorganizing the OTO, albeit not without a certain amount of disagreement from other individuals and organizations which fancied themselves as the rightful heirs of Crowley's mantle.

And that's where things stood in 1984, when Our Hero entered the story.

Without further ado, then, I give you his tale, as originally published in Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden's fanzine IZZARD in 1987: "Raiders of the Lost Basement"

The Mecha Joke Is Understood

Viz merges with ShoPro Entertainment.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Utahraptor SF.

I wonder how many conventions have conversations that go like this.

Reading is Fundamedical!

I was at Greg Rucka's website, looking for any new information about the progress of the Whiteout movie, when I stumbled across the heart-warming story of ECW and WWE Wrestler Lance Storm, who believes he has found the cure to his career-ending back injuries in a Greg Rucka novel, Critical Space.

Hah! Take that, Brad Metzler! Take that, Michael Chabon! How many wrestlers have you cured lately?

As an aside, how cool is it that Lance Storm runs a Book Club for his fans on his web site?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

They were maybe expecting tofu?

East of the Web have posted a neat, short Terry Bison story, They're Made Out Of Meat.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Tipsy Blogging

We live in a world where you can stick an entire music collection (and a bunch of photos) on a little white contraption the size of a card deck, you can prepare a complex hot meal in under ten minutes with a radiation-making box, you can pause live television instead of waiting for the ad to pee, and you can bitch about how lame the Hubble is -- but you can't find a cure for crippling cramps that isn't either a scheduled drug or booze. I'm just saying: something's out of whack.

So far, the most useful overview I've seen of upcoming Adult Swim programs on Cartoon Network US has been this Talk About Comics thread. Anime News Network have provided some extra details. From the buzz Samurai Champloo has been getting for the past year -- never mind the recent R1 DVD release of volume one -- I'm rooting for it to be this year's big Bandai hit, like Big O and Cowboy Bebop before it.

Alyson Hannigan's on her way to Veronica Mars.

Finally, we're getting a Sailor V one-off, even if it's a live-action one-off in the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon continuity. No direct link at the moment, but check the 10 January entry on Genvid (scroll down if you're reading this at the date of posting; click the archive link if it's not on the front page when you get there).

The rivers of Titan

More from Titan and the Huygens team: methane rain falling on the water-ice hills, carving out a river system and flowing out to mudflats. Two worlds playing the same song on different instruments.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Gimmick Time!

There is something of a tradition, in the blogging community, of taking a moment on Friday to relax and kick off the weekend with a little something different. Catblogging is probably the best-known expression of this; other blogs turn to science for a change of pace on Fridays.

That's too easy: cats are already as vital a part of Fandom as Jewish minutiae and chocolate; and science? Puhleeze! If all those other bloggers are going to be just like us, well, then, we'll just have to be even more like ourselves than they are. Hah! That'll show us! them!

With that in mind, I give you: Fan Fiction Fridays!

I was going to lead with my chin by starting with what internet connoisseurs have long held to be the ne plus ultra of fan fiction horror, the vanishing point towards which all things tasteless converge: Anne Frank fan fiction.

Unfortunately, as you can see if you click that link, in the two years plus since knowledge of this phenomenon spread across the internets, the folks at have seen fit to purge that particular category from their listing. The near-universal reaction of shock and revulsion it caused may have had something to do with that decision, I suppose.

Now, before you rush off to scrub your brain clean with bleach, let me reassure you that at least it wasn't Anne Frank slash. Mostly, it seemed to be girls about Anne's age who, reading her diary, connected with it on a deep, personal level. In fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems like an understandable reaction, born of a surfeit of empathy. These were girls, it seems to me, who wanted to reach back through time and share whatever portions of Anne Frank's burdens that they could.

I wonder if any of them wrote alternate endings for Anne's story.

Actually, I wonder if any of them didn't.

At any rate, it's hard to get categorically upset at the notion of Anne Frank fan fiction and still praise things like Bill Mudron's astounding Anne Frank Conquers the Moon Nazis, isn't it? For that matter, my favorite song on one of the great albums of all time, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is a love song to Anne Frank. Jeff Mangum wrote an album so beautiful and perfect that it scared him out of music entirely; and by 2010 it will probably have joined The Velvet Underground & Nico, Pink Moon, and Sister Lovers in the pantheon of obscure-at-the-time discs that get reverently namechecked by musicians in Rolling Stone and NME profiles.

So maybe there's something to Anne Frank fan fiction, after all.

But never fear! I have a replacement which, I think you will agree, represents a whole new evolution of the fanfic concept: Steve Perry fan fiction.

Hah! Take that, Jasmine and Inkblot! Take that, Emerald Ash Borer! Your puny powers of Friday distraction are nothing compared to the awesome power of Steve Perry fighting an immortal, wraith-like assassin!

Across The Hall From Buffy Summers

Dragonvalis might have been the best Pern novel we'd never see. What a shame they're kidding.

I also just like saying "Substance T."

Fulfilling a Vital Need. I Guess.

I can't. I just can't.

As single as I am...

I can't bring myself to Ask Deirdre for advice to the lovelorn comic-book geek.

I just can't.

(It's like sending Ann Landers material to Maxim, you know?...)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Alternatively, You Could Have A Big White Wolf Play Scully

You know, I didn't even know that they weren't really planning another X-Files movie yet, so it's not actually disappointing to find out that they're not.

Lesson to all: don't read the Sun.


Tim Minear on his screenplay adaptation of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.


Futuropolis UK

Dreams of a future British megacity running from coast to coast across the Pennines, Liverpool stretching out to sea on stilts, and The Stack: a skyscraper in the shape of, um, things in a stack. The readers' comments aren't universally supportive. The giant Manchester teddy and Rubik's Cube might be controversial, but I have to say I like the look of the Bradford park and lake.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Astro Boy on DVD

On March 29th, the big-budget remake of Osamu Tezuka's seminal Astro Boy will be released on DVD in America. All 50 episodes (including 29 that have never yet been aired on American TV) will be included in the 5-disc box set.

Where Is The Haro Con

Shoujocon and Yuricon combine forces to form Super Woman-Positive Anime/Manga Convention Onna! You should totally go.

Naruto Con, now in the fundraising stages, is an interesting-looking beast. American anime cons, though increasingly focused, don't usually revolve around a single title. (There are plenty of single-title events in Japan, although I believe most of them are officially sanctioned and organized -- Sakura Taisen and Di Gi Charat spring to mind here.) More to the point, while the Naruto manga's out in the US, the anime hasn't even been announced as of this writing (strikes me that an event like this would be a perfect place to do so, though).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Surveys Worth Taking.

Who is the science-fiction reading public?

And if you're a published SF author, how does that pay?

Dancer, Will Robinson! Dancer!

I tend to avoid repeating Slashdot, because so many people check it already, but this story just ties in too damned well with my last post: Agence France-Presse is reporting that Japanese scientists, including Tokyo University's Katsushi Ikeuchi, have taught the Kawada Industries HRP-2 robot the steps and movements of traditional Japanese dances, in an effort to preserve that aspect of their cultural heritage for posterity.

Japan: Land of the Dancing Robots.

Oh, did I mention that the robot was designed by Yutaka Izubuchi, creator of RahXephon, and designer of mechas for Assemble Insert, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, and Gasaraki, among others? That probably explains why it flies and comes equipped with a giant freaking sword, right?

Monday, January 17, 2005

In The Next Century, You're On Your Own

A while back, I compared the past and the future to different countries. I also noted that the converse was true, in that by looking around the world today, you could catch glimpses of the past or the future.

Bits of the past are everywhere, of course. Some of them float around like junk DNA in the genome: rituals whose origin is forgotten; laws and customs designed to solve problems which no longer exist. There are also places where the past is still alive and kicking, like the Sentinel Island natives shooting arrows at curious helicopters in the wake of the tsunami. In other places, the past has been suddenly (and often violently) overrun by the present, as illustrated by this 2002 Frontline story about the arrival of television in Bhutan, where it was prohibited until 1999.

It's easy to spot the past when you look around, because we already know what it looks like. Spotting the future isn't as easy, although you could improve your chances a lot by simply looking at Japan. I wouldn't go so far as to say Japan is the future, but I would say that Japan is Science Fiction (the USA, if we're shifting our geopolitical metaphors to genre, is Big Budget Summer Blockbusters, of course).

That's one reason why I love Warren Ellis' web site: He has a keen eye for those bits of news from Japan which are beyond the comprehension of our puny 21st Century human intellects. I'm not even talking about such overtly science fictional things as the fact that the band "Disaster Area," last heard from in the Hitchhiker's Guide, is apparently touring Japan even as we speak; or more obviously futuristic things like NEC's new Universal Translator. I'm talking about the fact that they bathe in Radon.

That's the sort of thing that shows a true, living dedication to the craft of being Science Fiction.

What sort of thing happens when you take too many relaxing swims through radioactive pools? Well, you start to think that ice cream hot dogs are a good idea, for one. Then you produce children's television shows like Gimme Gimme Octopus. Finally, you end up making Dinosaur Battle Tank Fetish Porn films.

O Brave New World, That Has Such Creatures In It.

Now pardon me while I go shoot some arrows at the hovering battle robots.

The science of hit songs

The music industry is using new software to predict hit songs, according to the Guardian today.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

See, O LORD, how distressed I am

Okay, folks, put your hands in the air, then agitate them in a fashion consistent with your palpable apathy! Scuttlebutt that Jerry Jenkins would write a prequel to Left Behind has not only proven true, but brought with it the project bloat endemic to all things LaHaye-branded. Countdown to the Rapture is a trilogy of prequels, the first of which will be available in March.

An excerpt from the first book, The Rising, is up now. So far, hope remains lost.

Chickens and TV Channels

More Cartoon Network US madness! Seth Green talks about Robot Chicken, the previously reported series headed for Adult Swim. What a tease; is it Lion Voltron breakdancing, or is it Vehicle Voltron? Vehicle Voltron just doesn't get the attention he deserves.

I'll probably always make a point of tagging country for this stuff, BTW. The UK analogue to CN isn't one channel, but two (disregarding Boomerang): Cartoon Network, for the Cartoon Cartoons and some other cute stuff, and Toonami, for the action-oriented material that could go to either Toonami US or (less often) Adult Swim. Toonami gets Megas XLR, Teen Titans, and the like -- albeit late, because there's some rule against synchronization.

The victim of multiple reorganizations, Toonami UK began life as CNX, acting more or less like Adult Swim with 60% live-action content (usually subtitled HK action flicks and Sports Illustrated swimsuit specials). CNX was intended to compete against lad's channels like Bravo; when they became Toonami and aimed squarely for Fox Kids Europe's slightly older viewers, they lost both the live-action and the Williams Street content, the latter of which failed to regain a home on CN. Shows like Megas XLR notwithstanding, Toonami doesn't much do comedy, and CN skews too young. I keep hoping we'll end up with a real Adult Swim channel eventually, but that might cut into Toonami's market share a bit much.

For those interested in such things, incidentally, Fox Kids Europe has finally made the full transition to Jetix -- again, a full-fledged channel instead of a programming block. (The Jetix brand was phased in with such a block, but Fox Kids worldwide had to shed the Fox name after being sold to Disney.) Luckily(?), this hasn't taken out the nearly commercial-free Power Rangers reruns every night, but it does mean the interstitials have become even more annoying.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Cartoon Report.

The following post is for followers of Cartoon Network only. Everyone else, go on about your business.

Well, I feel I kind of let blog readers down by pushing Megas XLR just before its season finale, which dumps some really great backstory on us and then promptly renders it all irrelevant without doing anything with it first. I was really looking forward to what they seemed to be leading up to: that our Big Bad was actually POSSIBLE FUTURE Koop, not alternate-reality Koop. I guess they haven't closed that possibility completely, but it looks like they either missed it, or more likely, put it in and then wrote it out in Draft 3. (In fact, the whole thing feels rushed, as if whole scenes were deleted.) Instead we got the usual robofight with fewer moments than usual of cleverness or charming stupidity. Not their best.

Ah, well. On the up side, Marv Wolfman turned in a great script for Teen Titans that restored a lot of Brother Blood's credibility in the episode's final six seconds.

Finally, Justice League Unlimited. The "Old Yeller" plotline was really gutsy, and the characterization was stellar. But listen, y'all Cartoon Networkers-- do you think we could prevail upon you to show some of the episodes of the Justice League series that led up to this whole thing? I know it's true to the comics, but some of us don't like the story continuity to be impenetrable. Strange but true...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Fish Emporium

Thanks to Drooling Fan Girl for this masterlist of mp3s of filksinger Leslie Fish.

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em.

The Battlestar Galactica blog. Only one entry so far, but boy is it a good one...

The Siren from Titan

New Scientist is reporting that ESA scientists at Darmstadt and American scientists at Green Bank have picked up the carrier wave signal from the Huygens probe, indicating that it has deployed successfully into the atmosphere of Titan.

Actual telemetry from Huygens, if any, won't be available until later this afternoon, pending retransmission by the orbiting Cassini spacecraft.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Road Trip To Belgium!

International release dates for Howl's Moving Castle, the new Miyazaki film. For once, the UK is set to get a Miyazaki release in the same year as North America, which is right and proper under the circumstances.

However, now is the time for all good children to figure out if they can catch a Eurostar and crash at their friend's apartment in Belgium.

Pastel Defender returns

Sci-fi webcomic creator Jennifer Diane Reitz, who has been resting after a heart attack last September, is back working on her current comic Pastel Defender Heliotrope which came out of hiatus on Monday 10th January. Here's wishing her well.

Filming for the new series of Dr Who has been hit by a scarcity of midget actors.

They're Running Out Of Names

Seth Green's project for Adult Swim has finally been announced: a stop-motion show called Robot Chicken.

I assume this was because Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force Go was taken.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Growing up along the Canada/US border, with close family and friends in both countries, I spent a lot of time shuttling back and forth in the backs of cars. You get an odd sense of what international travel is like, moving around this way; on a good day, ten years ago, a family of three might breeze through into Maine with only a quick stop at Customs and Immigration. I never thought there was anything special or magical about it. Some people go to the Co-Op for gas and groceries; some people go across the border for golf.

I also never found it particularly strange, growing up, that any grocery transaction at the members-only Co-Op involved the uttering of a four-digit passcode. (In retrospect, speaking it wasn't ideal.) Milk? Passcode. Santana jeans (a perfectly valid fashion choice in the early nineties, thank you)? Passcode. Gas? Passcode. (The first time I went into a regular supermarket, I had no idea what to do -- how would we authenticate ourselves? How would we buy milk? How would the cash register know who we were?) So, between that and being my school's sole ATM card early adopter, I had all the wiring down by about the age of six: Wow. Gadgets that know who I am. I'd remember episodes of Transformers, or that bit in Star Trek III where they blow up the Enterprise, and the shiny thing brain would kick in.

All philosophical, pragmatic, and ethical debates aside (and I'm not going to address them here -- we all read Boing Boing already), I'm afraid the shiny thing brain kicks in all the time now: wow, there's a nifty authentication tool in use? Neato. I might get the wiggins at Walt Disney World taking my prints for the sake of a day pass, but heck if I wasn't impressed by the idea of My Pal Mickey. Teddy Ruxpin? Clueless little tape deck. Couldn't give me directions to the corner Tim Horton's.

These days, I travel on a British passport (dual nationality rocks). Weekend flights to the continent are no big deal -- it's like driving to Maine, except with baggage claim -- but going over to the US got a bit shinier this past October. If you aren't a Canadian or a permanent resident, basically, you get a webcam shot and fingerprint sensor round added to your processing. Over Christmas, I got to experience this. Sadly, I wasn't greeted by the magical flying book, which would have been disappointing if I'd known about it. (Maybe, in like a hundred years, Britain will have a Sorting Hat which flies around Heathrow and tells you whether or not you need to go through the EU Passport line. Or whether to go through the Red Zone with your extra bottle of shiraz.)

But, if anything, I ran through the process thinking, "hey, this is like that bit in Idoru where Chia goes to Japan, except without hair extensions! Or Sandbenders. How cool is that?"

Then I hung out at the Apple Store near my family's house. Okay. Maybe with Sandbenders.

Either way, it's much shinier than driving up to a hut at the border with golf clubs.

All this to tell you I'm back. I'm so sure.

Manga News Service

Also from Warren.

Some Punch Lines Write Themselves

From New Scientist, via Warren Ellis:

"That's no moon. It's a space station!"

Monday, January 10, 2005

James Cameron talks Battle Angel Alita

Sci Fi Wire has an interview with James Cameron in which he talks about his plans for a live-action/CG-hybrid film adaptation of fan-favorite Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita. In short: Alita will be done like Gollum was (an actress performing but a CG character on the screen), and the movie will condense the first three volumes' stories and should be released in two to three years.

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor...

I've got an article in Comixpedia today. Just a roundup, really, but worth your time if you're interested in comedy.

Working on a new and better homepage for Thanks to everyone who wrote in with comments.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Still Taking Applications...

Note the slight change to the header. If you're getting a kick out of the Science Fiction Blog and would like to help perpetuate it, I'll set you right up.

More on the simulation hypothesis, definitely the best part of the original Matrix.

And finally, if you're not watching Megas XLR, why not?

Friday, January 07, 2005

They Also Found Jenga, Played With Stone Ziggurats

A couple of quick postscripts to that last article: In addition to the sequential art pot, archaeologists in Burnt City had earlier found what they claim to be the world's oldest backgammon set. The twenty positions on the rectangular board (which was made of ebony imported from India) are formed by an engraved serpent coiled around itself 20 times. In a terra cotta box next to the game board, archaeologists found 60 game pieces made of agate and turqouise.

Unfortunately, backgammon is no longer played with sixty pieces; and, needless to say, someone managed to misplace the instruction booklet sometime during the last fifty centuries. That's going to lower its value considerably on eBay, of course; which is a real shame, because they still have the original box.

Also, while trolling the web for an up-to-date link to the d20 picture (Christie's moved the link that all of the contemporary articles pointed to once their auction was over), I came across the web site of a dice collector named Arjan Verweij, whose collection includes not one, not two, but three ancient fourteen-sided dice — two of bronze, and one of iron. Interestingly, the photo of the dice used in the backgammon article, above, seems to have been lifted from his web site. Ooooops.

Still not a 23-sider in the bunch, of course.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Perhaps They Should Call It "Keen's Pot"

...or, "Okay, Then: This Comic Probably Predates Eisner":

From Scott McCloud's unfortunately permalink-free Morning Improv comes word of a natural companion to the previously mentioned 2,000 year old d20: Archaeological excavations in the "Burnt City" site in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan have turned up what the Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency is calling the world's first animation.

The item in question is a small pot which features, around its circumference, a series of drawings depicting a goat leaping up to eat the leaves of a tree and landing again. As animations go, the frame rate is pretty lousy (or maybe it just needed some more tweening), but it's certainly an impressive first step. Also, the characterization is minimal, and the plot is fairly thin; still, equally simple goat stories have been known to hold our President in fascinated thrall for minutes on end.

Of course, unless you want to think of the pot as some kind of inside-out zoetrope, it's not an animation, per se; rather, as Scott McCloud pointed out, it is a comic strip.

Rumor has it that archaeologists found another partially completed pot nearby which had glyphs that, when translated, indicated that the pot strip was on hiatus, but would hopefully be updating soon.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Dreamer

Can you spend all day reading articles and biographies and tributes and obituaries of one man, and still not come close to scratching the surface? Of course you can, especially when that man is Will Eisner.

As Neil Gaiman said, in explaining Eisner's impact on the comics field to a reporter, "It's as if Orson Welles had made Citizen Kane and redefined what you could do in film, and then carried on making movies until now." Mark Evanier recalls Frank Miller commenting, upon reading one of Eisner's recent works, "Isn't it embarrassing that a man in his eighties is kicking all our asses?" And Peter David mentions having Will Eisner autograph the Eisner Award that PAD got in 1992.

My Eisner story is a small and boring one; I only met him one and a half times. He was doing a signing at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth at the 1999 Dragon*Con here in Atlanta. Moments before the signing began, I ran into him — literally, almost — in the maze of linear passages, all alike, that was the cavernous Dealer's Room. I could tell he was unsure of where to go, so I was able to point him towards the CBLDF booth. A little while later, I lugged my handful of Spirit comics up to the table, bought a copy of The Christmas Spirit from the CBLDF for him to sign, and had him autograph a print of the Spirit originally done for the National Cartoonist's Society in 1976.

My parents both knew who Eisner was, because of The Spirit, of course; additionally, my father remembered his many years of work for the Army, drawing cartoons, posters, and instruction manuals, many featuring the pathetic GI, Joe Dope. Given that I came by my pack rat genes honestly, I hold out some hope that one day dad might run across some old Will Eisner manuals or posters at the back of a trunk somewhere.

Will Eisner was Scott McCloud before Scott McCloud was. He was Frank Miller before Frank Miller was. He was Milt Caniff back when Milt Caniff was, and later he was Art Spiegelman and Harvey Pekar and many, many more. How long was he active? He knew Bob Kane before he created Batman; and he turned down Siegel and Shuster's Superman before they got it published. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he had done inking and touch-ups on The Yellow Kid and Krazy Kat, back in the day. His career basically spanned the entire history of American comic books, and yet he was still absolutely at the head of the field.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Will Eisner has passed on

Kelly Freas' passing is now succeeded by the death of Will Eisner, arguably the most influential comic artist of the past century. Before Watchmen , Kingdom Come, Sandman, or The Dark Knight Returns, Eisner published the first true graphic novel, A Contract With God, in 1978. He wrote extensively about comics as a legitimate artistic medium, eventually inspiring Scott McCloud's influential Understanding Comics. He was also, by all accounts, a wonderful human being. We are the poorer for his passing.

Consensus Building

Intriguing short story on commercialized thought patterns (via Boing Boing).

Monday, January 03, 2005


RIP Kelly Freas, one of the greatest SF illustrators of our time and a seminal contributor to MAD Magazine.


Larry Niven sponsors Kevin and Kell.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Out With the Old, Part I

Some of these may well be old hat; the rest of them, I suppose, will just be "hat," then. At the very least, I hope that none of them have been posted here already.

First, in the spirit of the previously mentioned "Starship Dimensions," somes a similarly valuable reference work, Michael Paulus' "Skeletal Systems." I somehow doubt that Shmoos have that much internal structure, however.

As much as I've been nattering on about history lately, you'd think I would have mentioned a web site that lets you design your own Bayeaux Tapestry before now, right? Well, to make it up to you, I'll throw in Teresa Nielsen Hayden's handy numerical guide to the dubiousness of saints. It's hard to pick one favorite aspect of the list, but I think I'll have to go with the discovery that the instruction to "[subtract 15 points if the saint] is a member of the current lineup of the X-Men" was not, in fact, a reference to anyone named Xavier; rather, it was aimed at the astoundingly dubious Saint Barbara, one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (of whom there are nineteen) who, thanks to cross-cultural borrowing and Santeria, became, in the New World, an orisha who fights injustice, named Chango, or Oya-Yansa, or Storm: "Here comes Oya with her luminous crown. Here comes Oya with the wind and the rain. She travels the forest, flying over hills. Here comes Oya, queen of the wind and rain."

Heck, even Saint Barbara's dwelling, a tower with three windows (to symbolize the Trinity) wound up with a second career. Perhaps you've seen it somewhere before.

Of course, if you're going to have religious links, you pretty much have to include the Sea Monkey Worship Page, don't you?

Finally, for something completely different: my favorite news article, ever. I know of no better illustration of the admonition that "of course the Truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Sokoth, Her Chest Uncovered

I wanted to do a quick-and-dirty dump of a bunch of old links which had been clogging up my brain, so that there would be room in it for some new ones; but first, I rummaged around and found a sound clip I had grabbed from that bizarre stag film I mentioned yesterday. Listening to it, two things struck me: First, I was wrong about "marijuana!" — the narrator said "dopəh," with a peculiar emphasis on the "p" sound, as though she were going to say "dopaminergic" instead, only to think better of it at the last moment; and second, that the whole thing was even stranger than I had remembered.

Not only did it have that peculiar pre-Griswold culture shock moment I talked about, but much of her narration was spoken in a verb tense and aspect that English doesn't actually seem to have. As near as I can figure out, it was Present Progressive, with all of the auxiliary verbs replaced by commas. For instance, instead of saying "Lucy catches a fish," the narrator would intone, "Lucy, catching a fish."

After listening to this again, I suddenly had another moment of disconnection, when I realized what the stilted narration reminded me of: "My God!" I thought. "This must be the first porn movie script in history to be written in Darmok!"

Maybe we've all been mistaken about just what, exactly, Darmok and Jalad were doing at Tanagra.