Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Son!

23 years old today?


This kid is pretty lucky. Having a birthday so close to Christmas in most families means that the youngster often gets ripped off gift and party-wise. The holiday and the celebration are often combined. That sucks! But not only did we as parents make sure his birthday and Christmas were as equitable as if they were months apart, we also gave him two parties. One would be low-key in December because friends and families are burnt out. The other party would be a few months later and would be the big blow-out par-tay!. Not only would people be recovered emotionally from the holidays but financially as well, ensuring enough time had passed so my son didn't get re-gifted the crappy Christmas presents that nobody wanted.

Oh, like no one else would do or has done that, too. Liars.

If anyone wants to send presents then please make it in the form of cash or something that can be readily changed into cash.

HE isn't from outer space, he's the AUTHOR

Still feeling unclean from that purposefully horribly-structured X-Files "fan-fic" I posted yesterday. It was more of an exercise in provenance than anything else, though I did enjoy the idea of a sequel of sorts to the Bat Thing episode and the idea of a Dana Scully ready to open up a barrel of whoop-ass. Also, a reference to Mulder showing and feeling his age because he doesn't trust the benefits of medical advances that everyone else takes advantage of was funny. I was amused by the thought of Dana appearing 35 and grrrrrr-hot while Mulder is thin, turkey-necked, creaking and firmly in his 70s.

The concept of the Sof-Wall© comes from Tru Dat. An as yet unpublished opus of mine, Tru Dat is about what happens to a person during an era of unprecedented access to private information. Due to a compromised suite of programs called True Data released into the wild, personal privacy is all but gone and the most trivial, minute detail of anyone's life is open for casual perusal. Being boring is one's only haven from constant intrusion and meddling by friends and strangers.

The Sof-Wall© is just my idea of taking the interactive environment that exists today mostly as art installations to an extreme. In the future, I see people totally immersed in sensation, shapes and images, based upon their personalized Tru Dat preferences, that is reflected in their physical environments via shifting, malleable objects and structures. Residential walls will be the least of the advances, serving mostly as interfaces for entertainment and information.

I think it is inevitable that gesture and voice commands will relatively soon be commonplace in our environments. It is already available in a nascent form for entertainment and communication purposes. A universal user interface for technology, that can adapt to needs and requirements is not only very likely but also necessary.

Winding up season 9 of the X-Files on the tablet. I watch about one episode a day sitting in the car during lunch at work. Our break room is a freak show, uncomfortable and no one SHUTS UP and LEAVES ME ALONE. Yes, some of those episodes are nearly unwatchable but the good episodes are great. Looking around the internet I noticed there are no decent pictures (other than Scully in her dirty, dirty shoes*) of the fictional book cover From Outer Space written by two-off X-Files character Jose Chung.

So in LTMS-style I decided to create one of my own. I found a nice painting of a classic Roswell alien (from the book Communion that From Outer Space is riffing on), shifted some colors, added some science fiction-y text, a cigarette and some smoke. The smoke was the hardest part given my level of photo manipulation skills (somewhere south of a North Korean propaganda minister).

The result was a reasonable facsimile of the cover to Jose Chung's From Outer Space, as seen in the 1996 X-Files episode of the same name. Use it as wallpaper, a treeware notebook cover, tarantula habitat liner or however you want. This is fair-use fan-art so be cool and don't stick it on anything for sale without entering into some agreement with the original artist for the painting of the alien and probably whoever owns the X-Files franchise. It's also uncool to gank it, put your logo on it and slap it on your site. You know who you are.

I'm a big science and science-fiction nerd-fan but I don't believe for a moment in anything supernatural or of super-nature. Science as we know it just doesn't support all the fringe claims of weirdness out there. But when I first read Communion back in 1987 I have to admit it was the only thing in my life as an adult that ever gave me recurring screaming nightmares. I'd read a chapter and that night have the most awful dreams. Typically, I embrace nightmares. They are not at all scary and like thunderstorms, I think they are great and entertaining. Fear is the mind-killer, you know.

Yet reading the book by Whitley Streiber messed me up on a predictable basis. It got so bad that as an experiment I'd forego reading it for a couple of days just to see what happened and would sleep like a baby on whiskey and sedatives. Then I'd read a chapter and that night wake up to the sound of an apple being crunched in my head** and losing my crap. I mean I was shaking, sweating and had the whole feeling like I'm dying thing.

Someone who believed in aliens (don't get me wrong, I want to believe. Aliens would be great!) would propose that the book was bringing repressed memories of when I was abducted by aliens to the surface. But that is stupid. Unless of course I repressed memories of being kidnapped by a pervert when I was young and the descriptions of Streiber's "true story" was causing me to recall them and causing my discomfort. Nah.

I eventually made it through the book but it was a rough couple of weeks. A few years later I saw the movie based on the novel and it was hilarious***.

** FYI, Whit. It's called "waking up during mid-snore".
*** An alien glory-hole vacuum probe. Are you kidding me?

Friday, December 30, 2011

X-Files: 2025

The bed room air quickly cooling to her preferred temperature, lights slowly dialing up and the soft trill of her phone connection roused Dana Scully from her sleep. A glance at the shifting patterns of the malleable Sof-Wall© revealed it was 2:09 in the morning. With an irritated gesture of one hand that was detected and interpreted by the house sensors Scully halted the standardized announcements and home preparation of a phone call. Scully knew a call that early was never a good thing and another gesture dimmed the lights back to their previous darkened setting. years of sharply-honed instincts told Scully it was better to remain in a covert mode until she was better informed.

"This better not be you, Mulder." Scully grumbled. In spite of advanced medicine she often felt, if not appeared physically, all of her more than 60 years. "I'm retired from the FBI, NSA and medicine and too old for chasing monsters."

Scully sighed and rose from the bed, pulling her robe closed around her. "Ugh. I'm a mess. Audio only, answer call."

A wave form representing the connection rippled on the Sof-Wall© followed by the sound hisses and crackles. Scully frowned. "What, it's 1993?" she mused. There was another moment of static and then a male voice could be heard. "Mom? Are you there?" The voice sounded as if it came from an incredible distance but it was instantly recognizable to Scully. It was her long missing son!

"William? William! It's been over ten years! Where are you? What's wrong?" Scully felt her heart beat rapidly, over-riding the software in the coronary nan-bots of her health prescription. "It's been years! Where are you?" There was a pause and then William responded. "No time to explain, Mom! Do you still have your old field weapon? You need to protect yourself right now! Hurry!"

The house pinged and symbols for a lost connection scrolled across the wall. Not hesitating any further Scully gestured at her bed and the
Sof-Wall© opened a secure pocket, ejecting a shiny SIG-Sauer P228. Scully snatched it from the temporary shelf-tongue, grabbed the magazine and slammed the it into the weapon, jacking a round into he chamber and taking the safety off in smooth, well-remembered actions. The gun was an old nearly obsolete weapon but still deadly. "Kind of like myself." Scully muttered grimly. Somehow, William had known his mother was in danger and she was experienced enough not to dismiss the warning as some conspiratorial feint to deceive, inveigle or obfuscate.

Suddenly, the bedroom window shuddered under a terrific impact. The Sof-Wall© shifted and the artifice of a window vanished and merged with the rest of the wall as the house responded to the attack, transforming into a protective mode. Scully chuckled. Whatever was seeking to gain entrance through the mock windows wasn't very smart, not being aware enough to realize that actual windows and doors were nothing but programmable and temporary transparent sections or portals in the structure of modern Sof-Wall© housing.

Scully heard a piercing shriek of frustrated rage and
then there was a rapid pounding of fists on the wall. A short thrill of fear arced through her but Scully swiftly crushed it down. She was used to weirdness. Standing directly in front the area of the raucous disturbance Scully calmly took up a shooter's stance and said "Interrogation room." A section of the wall immediately cleared but only one way. She could see out through the wall but the raging attacker could not see in, like an the one-way mirror into a law enforcement interview room. It was a common privacy setting for most homes, only the name was personalized. To Scully's irritation, Mulder called the one-way setting the "Sexy Exhibitionist Peep Show."

Scully shook her head, recognizing the pale, scrabbling shape and vestigial but functional wings that beat on the exterior of the nigh-impenetrable house. "Well." She said. "It took you long enough. House...STARBUCK"

The house data net pinged an acknowledgement and in a matter of a few seconds it responded. Swiftly, a long narrow slit in the shape of a crucifix formed in the
Sof-Wall©, mimicking in design the arrow slit favored by ancient castle builders to fire projectiles through at enemy soldiers. Sensing the gap opening in the wall the maddened bat creature put it's face up to the opening and screamed. Scully stepped up to the arrow slit and aimed her gun directly into the toothy maw of the monster. It had hunted for Scully over many decades out of revenge for a fallen mate and moments from perceived victory it realized that something was wrong. A strange guttural noise of surprised issued from the red-lipped mouth. "That's right." Scully said grimly. "Ruh-Roh!"

The creature made a motion to flee put Scully was too fast, too prepared. She fired her gun, emptying the entire clip into the face of the bat-creature before it could duck out of sight or fly away. Smoke filled the arrow slit but only briefly as the house whisked away harmful or unpleasant pollutants. Scully peered through the gap in the wall and a medical diagnostic screen appeared on the Sof-Wall©, confirming the creature was indeed truly dead, though the absence of most of it's head by the impact of twenty-four high powered rounds of ammunition was confirmation enough for Scully. She was sure it would not leap up and attack when she least expected it to. After all, she was a medical doctor. Tucking the warm gun into the pocket of her robe Scully turned away from the still form of the creature, remarking, "There is no scientific explanation for you being so stupid."

Snapping her fingers and gesturing, Scully let the house return to normal mode after confirming that law enforcement was indeed notified and on it's way. While she waited she poured herself a glass of wine and wondered where William, her baby, was now and how he managed to glean she was being threatened. She hoped he was thriving though there was no conclusive evidence to suggest otherwise. She knew, though, that she would not rest until she was able to hold William in her arms again. She would have to locate William, wherever he may be. Scully made a decision, knowing she might regret it. "House...Call You-Know-Who."

Sof-Wall© formed a video screen and moments later it connected, depicting the image of a handsome man with a heavily lined face that showed the results of eschewing medical nano-bots. Scully sighed. "Mulder, it's me."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Separated at Birth?

Interesting that in the absence of the classic Fourth World characters to yet be fully realized in the NewDCU that Professor Insidd, the sadistic Yellow Lantern has a look similar to the Jack Kirby design of Desaad. While the Prof and the Apokolptian interrogator have the same sadistic predilections and toothy grin it is Desaad's hair and the skull designs on Insidd that are creepily similar.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From the Collection: From Friend to Friend

From Friend to Friend: A Partnership in Friendship (1916) by Edwin Osgood Grover.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday With Hayley Mills: Our Ways Will Part

Eerie, suspenseful music by Hans Zimmer inserted by a fan into a scene from the 1961 Hayley Mills film Whistle Down the Wind (1961). Fans really like using this song in other movies.

Here's the opening scene with original soundtrack intact. Be shocked at the casual cruelty, rejoice as HAYLEY SAVES SOME KITTENS!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Ripping the curtain

As a kid I was a voracious reader of science fiction, fantasy and science and this book is definitely firmly of the first and second category. I like how the publisher got their money's worth from the photo shoot for including pics of the "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Vartox!"crowd on the front and back covers.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

What comic book fans of the 70s obsessed about

Way back in March of 1970 the comic book everyone was talking about was Iron Man #23. The reason all the Marvel aficionados were abuzz was due to the unusual printing format of the issue itself. Upon picking up the magazine of the spinner rack at the local 7-11 many Iron Fans were stunned that there was no real splash or title page to the issue. We all said What The..? Within days all the cool kids were talking about it and without a steady stream of info from the internet that exists today we had to resort to speculation, anger, threats and yes, even some tears as frustration set in.
What was odd about Iron Man #23 was that it appears the splash page, that first introductory full page panel that grabs your attention and sets the scene for thrills and excitement to follow, was used for the cover itself! In the two page spread above one can see that the story begins on the cover! It didn't seemed to have been originally planned that way as the credits seem rather perfunctory and placed more in mind for the little space available than giving full creator credits like most issues. Pretty unusual for the day indeed and what was even more odd that the cover is not artistically disconnected from the interior story! As all Marvel fans know each cover of their magazines that does not exactly match up to the story is not false or misleading advertising. No! It is actually a snapshot of an alternate and wholly separate Marvel reality!

When you think about it (and I do) Iron Man #23 is probably the only comic book published by Marvel where the cover is actually a part of the 616 multiverse! Minds were blown. Not right then, though. That happened years later, when the 616 universe began to be explored and fully realized. But comic book fans have the amazing ability to obsess upon and recall even the tiniest and most insignificant occurrence. So when the Marvel multiverse began to receive full saturation over the various titles many fans did indeed lose their crap when they remembered Iron Man #23.

One wonders what occurred that caused the planned cover for Iron Man #23 to have been replaced by the splash page. Lost in the mail? The Dreaded Deadline Doom? Screw up? We may never know. But Marvel made up for it later in that very same issue with this full pager by George Tuska, Mike Gaudioso (aka Esposito) and letterer Jean Izzo. The colorist is uncredited and that's a shame because it was a pretty good effort.

Pretty neat, huh? This page would have made a great Third Eye poster like those funky Doctor Strange ones!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Monday With Hayley Mills: Flame Trees of Thika

From 1984 comes this small entertainment show interview with Hayley Mills regarding her career, marriage and television drama The Flame Trees of Thika.

Based on a novel by prolific author Elspeth Huxley, Flame Trees documents the difficulties of an immigrant family adapting to a harsh African region, albeit one controlled by the British Empire. The dramatic struggles and hard-ships of the occupying population should be taken with a grain of salt and especially so in the film version. Much of the drama comes from what people today call First World Problems. Elspeth Huxley, taking from her own experiences growing up in Thika (pronounced Tee-ka), documented the negative effects of colonialism caused by various invading or meddling foreign countries. Perhaps given perceived audience sensibilities and time constraints the horrible social inequalities between cultures is somewhat thin, something the book explored in richer detail.

Hayley Mills and the rest of the cast does a good job with the material that was given them. I would have preferred that everyone stretched a bit more but this film was made for the purpose of entertainment, not education or to deliver a scolding. But maybe early 1980s Britain wasn't ready to have their past laid bare and exposed to them to the extent the mini-series could have done had it followed the novel a bit more faithfully.

A Topical 2011 Season's Greeting from Lady, That's My Skull

It's a holiday e-card! I usually don't put in attribution of anything I make just for the joy of sharing but this year to heck with it because screw those guys. If anyone is going to gank this image then they will have to do a little bit of work to claim it as their own.

Hope this year finds everybody doing great.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Remember those days?


I would have bought this issue anyways because ROM that's why!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

OWS 1138

Watching and reading about the Occupy Wall Street protests and the out of proportion responses initially left me having trouble reconciling the image of heroic police officers I maintain with the violent thugs that seem to be acting to protect the status quo of the powerful.

But that confusion did not last long. What I quickly realized was that the authorities acting in brutish ways are not new. It was just new to me. There exists in America entire cultures that for them the authorities sweeping in and busting their skulls is just same stuff, different day. There are communities in every city that rarely or never observe an heroic action, a helpful hand or someone who promises to make it all better. To the disenfranchised "To Protect and To Serve" means nothing except state-sponsored graffiti on official cars and vans.

It was by accident of birth and economic status that I was surprised the local governments and their foot soldiers would douse protestors with chemicals, arrest them without cause or as a flimsy excuse for convenience to teach the uppity a lesson and inflict injuries. It was me being a Caucasian, middle-class male that afforded me the opportunity to be insulated from the atrocities and violation of rights many others are victim to on a daily basis.

I should have known better. When I was in The Biz many years ago I made it a point to not issue citations to the economically challenged dude operating a rusted-out Chevy if I couldn't write a ticket to the wealthy guy driving a Porsche for the same offense. I knew position had privileges but I tried to make things a bit more equal. I was never in a situation to witness or be a part of the kind of crack-down Law Enforcement is currently inflicting on peaceful activists.

The dismay, shock and anger so many are now expressing is probably also an eye-opening experience. This generation is removed from the repercussions of crossing the bosses and monkey-wrenching their plans. The scale of what is going on today with Occupy Wall Street is similar in scope, if not message, to the 1960s Peace and Civil Rights movements. The practices of the Occupy movement are something that today's protestors have only heard about from their parents, grandparents or read about online or in books. Many were not prepared for the depths the powerful will sink to in order to force obedience, obeisance and to ensure everyone keeps buying junk, junk and more junk on ever-dwindling paychecks.

I've even come to believe that for the most part the only reason crimes are solved and police intercede at all is because the populace at large absolutely would not accept utter anarchy. If common street crime many live with daily encroached on their manicured lawns a certain group of people would do more than change donations to the political candidate of their choice. They would be shrill as an air raid siren with a broken off-switch. Annoy a few million of the upper-class base and changes would definitely be made starting at the top, something those in charge are terrified of. So a thin blue line is drawn, not between chaos and order but between those in power and the people. Once again stating the obvious there are already a vast number of Americans who have been experiencing this for decades if not centuries.

I'm not saying that Law Enforcement is bad from top to bottom. There are caring, heroic members out there who are just doing their jobs in the best way they can. But it is clear that when the pepper spray canisters and riot batons come out, they reveal who they really work for.

It isn't us.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Creepy, Lolita-ish comic book story from Chamber of Secrets #28

I've long maintained that the creative teams of comic books, chafing under restrictions of the pre and post-Comics Code era, took extra pains to include imagery and situations that managed to sneak in under the radar of the editors and censors. Quite a few examples can be found in the 1955 issue of Chamber of Secrets #28. The entire story is rife with Lolita-ish situations between the seemingly under-aged Julep and the much older hero, Detective Kerry Drake. In the above sequence of panels the artist managed to not only ensure that Julep showed her underwear (technically, part of her bathing suit ensemble) at nearly every opportunity to the audience and Drake, but also managed to sneak in a faux-bondage scene in the third panel that is oddly bereft of dialog.

The entire story jumps around a bit and the the tale of how Kerry Drake smashed a smuggling ring is not as interesting as the rinteraction between Julep and the Detective. The following panel of Julep and Drake, after a make-out session on the beach (to fool a gang of smugglers into believing the pair isn't snooping), definitely gives the appearance of being in the inappropriate relationship category.

It Has Become Fashionable to Use Chemicals on People with Opinions

Not what he meant, but it was a fun few minutes to make anyway.