apocalypse kit

Apocalypse Kit
Merchandising is a strange beast. Manufacturer Gerber Legendary Blades has issued an Apocalypse Kit “as seen in” the TV-series The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series of the same name. I perfectly do understand that this is a limited edition (only two batches of 200 sets) directed at a niche collector’s market. Nevertheless I’m not sure what to think about it. Especially as I always associate Gerber not with tools (which is their absolute main line), but with the Gerber Mark II fighting knife, which not only was identified as the killing-instrument of choice in the infamous and controversial Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, but hailed also in more down-to-earth and non-controversial combat sports literature.

via entry at digital trends

moore on fawkes

Alan Moore
Finally—Alan Moore himself speaks out about Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street using Guy-Fawkes masks. Tom Lamont has done a telephone interview with Moore, and made it into a fine article in The Guardian. Here are some snippets:

I suppose I’ve gotten used to the fact,” says the 58-year-old, “that some of my fictions percolate out into the material world.” [...]
    “I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn’t it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It’s peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.” [...]
    “That smile [on the mask] is so haunting,” says Moore. “I tried to use the cryptic nature of it to dramatic effect. We could show a picture of the character just standing there, silently, with an expression that could have been pleasant, breezy or more sinister.” [...]
    “And when you’ve got a sea of V masks, I suppose it makes the protesters appear to be almost a single organism – this “99%” we hear so much about. That in itself is formidable. I can see why the protesters have taken to it.” [...]
    But more than 100,000 of the £4-£7 masks sell every year, according to the manufacturers, with a cut always going to Time Warner. Does that irk Moore?
    “I find it comical, watching Time Warner try to walk this precarious tightrope.” Through contacts in the comics industry, he explains, he has heard that boosted sales of the masks have become a troubling issue for the company. “It’s a bit embarrassing to be a corporation that seems to be profiting from an anti-corporate protest. It’s not really anything that they want to be associated with. And yet they really don’t like turning down money – it goes against all of their instincts.” Moore chuckles. “I find it more funny than irksome.”
    [Moore] does not see himself donning a mask (“Be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?”)

Much more of that in the story. All in all it settles what I had begun for myself in guy headroom, remember, and occupy guy.

via entry at boingboing


Model of the projected Earthscraper for Mexico City by BNKR Arquitectura

 The Earthscraper proposes burrowing down into the heart of Mexico City to create a new civic structure which preserves the city’s historic urban landscape while serving the needs of a modern metropolis. Designed by BNKR Arquitectura, the Earthscraper is an inverted pyramid whose base is the surface of Mexico City’s main public square and traditional center the Zocalo, and which is bordered by the city’s most treasured monuments–the Cathedal, the National Palace and the City Government buildings. Such a central site demands a decisive urban strategy that negotiates and reconciles the city’s seemingly disparate histories. BNKR Arquitectura’s pyramid does just that by literally cutting through and exposing the site’s layers of history.

The proposal is to dig down 300 meters all in all. Read more at the Architizer blog, there are more pictures, too. In various comments around the web and the media, the futuristic project is hailed as an innovative and visionary solution for overcrowded urban spaces. Well, it immediately reminded me of the city in the legendary comic-series ‘The Incal‘ by Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud and Alejandro Jodorowsky (1981-1989). Already on the second page of the first album, ‘L’Incal Noir,’ we are treated to the sight of a monstrous sky-high architecture like in Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis‘ (1927). Only many pages later does the reader realize that the city starts at the planet’s surface and reaches down from there. Here is the story’s inglorious anti-hero, private eye John Difool, taking a dive from ‘Suicide Alley.’ I guess something similar will happen, when the gigantic sheet of glass, by which the architects want to cover Mexico City’s earthscraper, breaks.
John Difool falling from suicide alley


where is she?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #5
Where is she?
Here’s a teenage crush of mine. When I first saw her on the screen, I immediately fell for her. But the question is: Where is she in the scene pictured? The answer to the question at the same time is the title of the movie I took the screencap from. It features an absolutely high-calibre cast and during a decisive moment of the story outer space is to be seen through a microscope.
UPDATE and solution (04 December 2011):
Countess Irina Petrovski (Silvia Tortosa) is in the Horror Express (Martin 1972)—and again Alexander Rabitsch got it. Here’s the high-calibre cast:
From left to right: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Telly Savalas in the 'Horror Express' (Martin 1972)
From left to right: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing (slightly hidden), and Telly Savalas. The story is set in 1906. Lee plays Professor Alexander Saxton, an English anthropologist. In a cave in Manchuria he has discovered the frozen remains of a prehistoric humanoid creature. Via the Trans-Siberian Express he now transports his scientific treasure to Europe—hidden in a locked crate, and jealously guarded. Inexplicable murders happen and the horror begins to unfold in this hybrid out of horror, science fiction, and whodunnit à la Murder on the Orient Express (Christie 1934). Saxton teams up with his peer and rival Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing). When the two scientists dissect one of the victims they make strange discoveries. Scrutinizing fluid from an eye of one of the corpses under a microscope they discover, among other things, a picture of planet Earth … as seen from outer space.

CHRISTIE, AGATHA. 1934. Murder on the Orient Express. London: Collins Crime Club.
MARTIN, EUGENIO. 1972. Horror Express (aka Panic on the Trans-Siberian Express) [motion picture]. Manchester: Benmar Productions, Granada Films.


Some weeks ago we went swimming at the ‘Müllersches Volksbad,’ Munich’s gorgeous Art Nouveau indoor pool facility. After having swum some lanes I took a respite in the shallow part of the pool. I hadn’t been swimming for months and may have overdone it a bit on the first lanes. Feeling a slight dragging pain in my right shoulder, I hovered in the water, admiring the architecture, and rubbed said shoulder cautiously.
    Submerged to his knees an elderly gentleman smiled fatherly at me from the stone steps leading into the pool.
    ‘Got one, too?’ he asked in conspirational manner.
    ‘Beg your pardon, Sir?’ was the only thing I could say. [He wasn't using the correct word code, and I do not conspire without it.]
    He explained that he suspected that I had an artificial shoulder—because he had two of those and was here for exercising them.
    Some weeks later, while riding the tramway in the evening, we made the chance acquaintance of an elderly lady. It turned out that, like us, she was on her way to the Völkerkundemuseum, to attend the opening of the EthnoFilmFest. Hence we took the short walk from the tramway stop to the museum together. I noticed that she carried a quite bulgy bag, and seemingly had some trouble with it. So I offered to carry it for her.
    ‘Ah, no, no, thank you,’ came the reply, ‘I am always walking a bit funny like that. It’s because just a while ago I got my second artificial hip.’
    They’re all around us.
    The observations stuck, but I only had the usual associations of the hardcore cyberpunk aficionado. Our neighbours the cyborgs—I, cyborg …
    Some years ago, when I had problems with a slipped disk and surgery was unavoidedly indicated, I had to wait a bit in the specialist’s anteroom. From the coffee table I picked up a glossy magazine and found a story on a feat the wizards at a clinic in Murnau, Austria recently had achieved. A young woman had a severe paragliding accident and several of her vertebrae were crushed to pieces. The wizards removed the debris and substituted the destroyed vertebrae by custom-made titanium ones, leaving the spinal chord not only intact, but now perfectly protected.
    When my surgeon came to usher me into his office, I pointed on the fine computer imagery of the wonder in titanium, and said: ‘That’s what I want!’ Frankly, up to date I do not know if it was in earnest or tongue-in-cheek.
    ‘You don’t need that at all,’ he replied, ‘I’m not going to put something into you, but will remove just a tiny bit of organic material.’
    ‘Yeah,’ I thought, ‘and then Tyler Durden makes soap of it.’
    Despite this association I not at all thought about the material consequences of prosthetics’ proliferation. Until I stumbled over a recent AP-story at Business Insider on the Netherlands-based company OrthoMetals, which ‘is dedicated to providing an environment-friendly turnkey solution to the collection and recycling of orthopedic implants and other metal remains from crematoria. [...] The complete recycling process is under the supervision and control of OrthoMetals. All collected metals are first sorted and then re-melted to prevent the end product from being recognized and re-used as an implant. OrthoMetals is active in over 15 countries serving over 375 crematoria.’
    OrthoMetals recovers about 200 tons of valuable metals per year. ‘After deducting costs, including transportation and the salaries for six workers, the proceeds are returned to the crematoria or to national burial associations, to be donated to charities of their choice, said Verberne [OrthoMetals' director]. Usually the funds go to cancer societies, research institutions or any other medical facilities.’

UPDATE (23 February 2012):
Since two days ago the BBC now carries a story on OrthoMetals, too: Melting down hips and knees: The afterlife of implants. [Btw, I was almost three months faster than Cory Doctorow at boingboing ;-]


commodifying bodies

Detail from a publicity poster for the cyberpunkish movie 'Coma' (Crichton 1978), based on the novel of the same name by Robin Cook (1977)

Detail from a publicity poster for the cyberpunkish movie 'Coma' (Crichton 1978), based on the novel of the same name by Robin Cook (1977)

At one level, then, the commodification of the body is a new discourse, linked to the incredible expansion of possibilities through recent advances in biomedicine, transplant surgery, experimental genetic medicine, biotechnology and the science of genomics in tandem with the spread of global capitalism and the consequent speed at which patients, technologies, capital, bodies and organs can now move across the globe. But on another level the commodification of bodies is continuous with earlier discourses on the desire, need and scarcity of human bodies and body parts for religious edification, healing, dissection, recreation and sports, and for medical experimentation and practice. (Scheper-Hughes 2002 [2001]: 3)

COOK, ROBIN. 1977. Coma. New York: Little, Brown & Co.
CRICHTON, MICHAEL. 1978. Coma [motion picture]. Century City: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
SCHEPER-HUGHES, NANCY. 2002 [2001]. “Bodies for sale—whole or in parts,” in Commodifying bodies edited by Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Loïc Wacquant, pp. 1-8. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage.

96 hours later

'Life After People' (de Vries 2008-2010)
96 hours to the stone age at GigaOM complements behind closed doors and telegeography. The story asks, especially in respect to information technology, what will happen when electrical power won’t be delivered anymore. Well, an apocalypse in the strict sense of the term will happen—a revelation. It will be revealed to all of us in unblinking clearness, on how much hardware around us we depend, which in turn depends on electricity.
    The gist of this kind of speculation is informed by scientific methodology: Take an element, or a whole category of elements, out of a system and see what happens. In this case the system in question is the global human sociotechnic system. Obviously an actual experiment can’t be done in this context and on that grand a scale. Hence the conclusions are based on educated guesses, as much as possible grounded on reliable data.
    The History Channel aired an according television series which is a haunting hybrid out of post-apocalyptic speculative fiction and documentary, carried by spectacular computer generated imagery: ‘Life After People‘ (de Vries 2008-2010):

HISTORY takes you on an amazing visual journey that uncovers what would happen if humans were suddenly to disappear. Visit the ghostly villages surrounding Chernobyl, travel to remote islands off the coast of Maine to search for abandoned towns that have vanished from view in only a few decades, then head beneath the streets of New York to see how subway tunnels may become watery canals.

That’s not enough yet. One of my favourite novels is by Philip Wylie, famous for his science fiction novel ‘When Worlds Collide‘ (1933), which very successfully was adapted to the silver screen (Maté 1951). but he also wrote a literary thought experiment in gender studies. The core plot idea of ‘The Disappearance’ (Wylie 1951) is the same as in the cases above: Take one aspect out of the system. Here are the novel’s opening sentences:

The female of the species vanished on the afternoon of the second Tuesday of February at four minutes and fifty-two seconds past four o’clock, Eastern Standard Time. The event occurred universally at the same instant, without regard to time belts, and was followed by such phenomena as might be expected after happenings of that nature. (Wylie 1951: 1)

DE VRIES, DAVID. 2008-2010. Life after people [television documentary series]. 2 seasons, 20 episodes. Sherman Oaks: Flight 33 Productions.
MATÉ, RUDOLPH. 1951. When worlds collide [motion picture]. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures.
WYLIE, PHILIP GORDON. 1933. When worlds collide. New York: Frederick A. Stokes.
WYLIE, PHILIP GORDON. 1951. The disappearance. New York: Rinehart & Co.


More from robotopia nipponica. The Simroid is a training android for dentists. It is developed at The Nippon Dental University and built by Kokoro [a lot more of weird robot stuff there]. After the first version, called Simuloid and presented in 2007, the new Simroid features a higher level of naturalism (video at DigInfo TV):
    It ‘behaves’ quite like a human patient on a dentist’s torturing chair ['Brazil' anyone?], moves, speaks, and reacts—e.g. by simulating gag reflexes, or by expressing discomfort when the doctor accidentally strokes its breasts with the elbow.
    Reminds me of mor gui, and when the Philip K. Dick android went missing in early 2006. It hasn’t reappeared until today, but a new one has been built recently.

simroid via entry at techcrunch

joker in academia

The Joker in Strange Apparitions
And I thought the topics and issues I am belabouring are somewhat exotic, or even strange … If I’d have the time, I’d love to submit something. On the other hand, that last note: ‘Note that invitation to submit a full essay does not guarantee inclusion in the volume.’ Quite frankly, and this isn’t meant arrogantly, but I do not see myself fit to meet rules like that—it’s simply a matter of time, the scarcest resource.
    Anyway, here’s the worthwhile call for abstracts (although I do not think that the Joker himself will like being dissected academically—see above. Panel taken from Strange Apparitions):

The Joker: Critical Essays on the Clown Prince of Crime
Robert Moses Peaslee & Robert G. Weiner, Editors

“Nobody panics when things are going according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying.”
—The Joker (Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight (2008)

If one were to survey the global public about their favorite superheroes, the results would likely place Batman, Spider-Man, and perhapsSuperman in the top tier. If one were to ask about super villains, however,it’s unlikely that any character would receive more attention than the Joker. To date, the character has appeared in thousands of comics, numerous animated series, and three major blockbuster feature films dating back to 1966. One could make a strong argument that the Clown Prince of Crime is the most popular and well-known fictional villain in the history of popular culture. A superhero is only as interesting as the villains he or she faces, and the Joker stands out among hundreds of villains as one of the most complex, culturally resonant, and morally ambiguous characters to ever grace a comic book page or movie screen. In 2006, Industry publication Wizard ranked the Joker as the number one comic villain of all time.
    Academic studies and collections of Batman abound, both as a text and as an industry (DiPaolo, 2009; Eury, 2009; Schopp, 2009; Kuwata, 2008; O’Neil, 2008; Zehr, 2008; Brooker, 2007; Morris, 2005; Pearson & Uricchio, 1991). Despite the Joker’s popularity, however, there has never appeared a serious scholarly monograph or edited collection based around the character. The editors hope to rectify this gap in the literature of sequential art, film, media, and cultural studies. Our aspiration is to compile the definitive volume on the character, encompassing historical, textual, institutional, and interpretational approaches from a wide variety of disciplines.
    To this end, the editors seek abstracts of no more than 500 words outlining proposed essays of 6,000-8,000 words. Abstracts should makeclear the author’s approach to the material in epistemological terms and indicate whether or not the piece has appeared in previous forms elsewhere.Abstracts should show potential as rigorous primary research, theory development or criticism.
    A by-no-means-exhaustive list of possible topics includes:

* Historical-textual examinations of the Joker’s emergence and evolution
* Comparative analyses of the Joker’s various characterizations and adaptations
* Socio-cultural approaches to the Joker’s symbolic potential
* The Joker and gender, race, sexuality, ability, etc.
* Gaming environments and the Joker’s manifestations in ludic narratives
* The Joker as an entertainment marketing tool
* The Joker pre- and post-9/11
* Relationships between the Joker and other heroes and/or villains
* Author- or creator-driven analyses
* Theoretical approaches to the Joker’s visual composition
* Narrative and rhetorical criticism
* Archetypal explorations of Joker pre-cursors
* Psychological or psychoanalytical analyses
* Humor and/or clowning and their relationship to the sinister
* The para-cinema of the Joker
* Fan communities and performance
* The Joker as a stabilizing or confounding force in sequential art taxonomies
* Joker philosophy
* Art historical or visual culture-driven analyses of the Joker
* The Joker as a pedagogical tool
* Digital manifestations of the Joker and/or the Joker “ethos”

Abstracts should be submitted no later than Dec. 15, 2011. Please send abstracts via email to rob[dot]weiner[at]ttu[dot]edu
    Those authors whose abstracts are accepted will be notified no later than February 1, 2012. Full essays will be required by April 1, 2012 and will be reviewed by both the editors and guest reviewers.
    Note that invitation to submit a full essay does not guarantee inclusion in the volume. Selected authors will be notified over the summer of 2012.


Robert Moses Peaslee, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Dept of Electronic Media & Communication
College of Mass Communications
Texas Tech University