January 27th, 2011 | researchmaterial
More science fiction tv for the web. Best of luck to them.
January 27th, 2011 | brainjuice
January 27th, 2011 | researchmaterial
Propaganda art has always fascinated me (probably because it’s visual narrative). English Russia has a lovely little collection of post-October Revolution Bolshevik propaganda art today.
January 27th, 2011 | music
January 26th, 2011 | comics talk
Two pieces read back to back.
People with 1 million dedicated ‘can contact them at any time’ followers simply weren’t around two years ago,— from this article about Kevin Smith trying a new film distribution technique: he’s taking his movie round just one city at a time, and charging $70 a ticket. This feels like a new kind of money. The pub game used to be imagining what you’d do if you had a million bucks. Now it’s imagine if you had a million people who had decided to pay you attention.
I have to say, right off the bat, that I think Kevin Smith showed incredible balls and style in choosing to self-distribute his new film. A lot of people didn’t like what he did or how he did it, but I say more power to him.
(And I have all the respect in the world for deadline.com, but when that site’s Mike Fleming complained that Smith “made (Hollywood business practices) all sound shady,” I laughed like a drain.)
And then also this, from The Province:
While 16-24 year-olds prefer to rip and burn CDs without paying for them, twelve-to-fifteen year-olds are the digital natives of today and tomorrow… Though a mere 15 percent of this young group download peer-to-peer music and just 12 percent buy tracks, 56 percent listen to music on their mobiles and 53 percent watch videos on the Internet.
“Twelve-to-fifteen year olds, who represent the consumers of tomorrow and have grown up with the Internet, want rich immersive music experiences in which they can watch, listen and share…”
Which isn’t news, really — especially not to me, with a 15-year-old daughter downstairs who primarily experiences music through YouTube. The piece goes on to say:
An increasing number of musicians have tuned in to this shift and are trying a variety of creative approaches to reach out to their fans in order to boost their popularity and their sales of music.
“Knowing how to use social media to connect with fans is key…” But fans want much more than just information about their favourite bands’ upcoming concerts and the release date of a new track or CD…
Obviously, both pieces are pretty much talking about the same thing. The latter piece goes on to provide some concrete examples, by the way.
The thing that particularly hit me is how none of this has any relation to print comics: that is, these are not things print comics really do. Nor, to any huge effect I’ve seen, do webcomics. Comics are generally pretty bad at social media — and yeah, you can generate any number of jokes as to why, but I don’t think they’d hit the actual mark.
Maybe one day I’ll see someone do something as simple as badging and (physically and digitally) rewarding check-ins to local comics stores on Foursquare or Gowalla.
January 26th, 2011 | photography
Paul Di Filippo is a science fiction novelist and short story writer of wide genrebending influence, as well as a journalist, a sometimes comics writer, a mail art fiend, and a bunch of other things that are probably very hard to describe. Also, the first person to use the word “Steampunk” in a book title. So he can be blamed for quite a lot. The first time I ever spoke to him, he responded with “Ah! Mon frere!” I asked him to write to you about whatever was on his mind today, and he said:
Did you ever feel that all the world’s problems–environmental, cultural, political–could be the result of just too many fucking people on the planet? (“Fucking,” as used here, is a precisely descriptive adjective, and not a mere kneejerk intensifier.) Nobody wants to talk about this issue, since it’s too fraught with ethical conundrums: First World versus Third World, Elites versus Marching Morons, People of Color versus People of Pallor, Age versus Youth, Healthy versus Sick, Coercion versus Choice. What a minefield! And, yes, I know the “good news” about how the rate of population growth has leveled off, leaving us with a projection of “only” nine billion souls for mid-century, and even a hollowing out of certain countries like Russia, Japan and Italy. But I still say the current population level is at the root of most of our troubles.
I was born in 1954. (Geezer alert! Feel free to chalk up this whole rant to “You damn kids get off my lawn” syndrome.) The global population then was 2.7 billion. Today it’s nigh on seven billion, over 2.5 times greater than when I was a kid. Tell me that adding nearly five billion hungry mouths and goal-seeking individuals to our planet has no detrimental consequences. Dwindling resources, diminished elbow room, clashing ideologies–it’s all down to over-crowding. Although of course, it’s not as if we needed seven billion people to start World War II, did we? Still, the exact nature of our current dilemmas seem to me population-driven. But there’s an even more insidious threat than the physical ones, and that’s the spiritual one.
Lots of good stuff is perhaps attributable to all these many thronging masses. On alternate days I try to believe that every individual is a unique repository of ideas and feelings, and that having more people around simply means an expansion of the creative mindspace that humanity can colonize. Some poor refugee kid living in a garbage dump in Iraq will grow up to cure cancer, or create a new style of music. But on the off days, I believe the exact opposite. The sheer presence of seven billion people devalues the existence of any single person. The human continuum is only so broad, and every conceivable niche of it is overstuffed with identical individuals. If I die tomorrow, there are a hundred persons with my similar skillset and worldview to take my place. Does this seem harsh or an overstatement of the case? Consider the opposite scenario for clarity. Some seventy thousand years ago, there were approximately five thousand human females capable of breeding on the entire planet, our species having just gone through a population bottleneck. Imagine what the death of any one of these women meant to the race! Now, tell me what the death of some miserable hapless miscarrying mother in any under-developed country today — or, to be fair, the death of any overprivileged Soccer Mom having her third kid in the best US hospital — means to you or me or the race? I’m not trying to diminish the essential personal loss for this woman’s grieving relatives, but just place her significance on a larger map. Doesn’t it become easier to kill, too, when the line of “replacement” individuals stretches back infinitely?
John Brunner’s 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar seems to me to be a remarkably prescient version of our present situation in realistic speculative form.
Humanity going nuts under the pressures of overcrowding, Stop and read or re-read this book soon.
But Brunner had another story that conveyed our dilemma in starker metaphorical terms. In “The Vitanuls,” babies began to be born without souls, because, science discovered, there was only X amount of soul stuff to go around. It’s a chilling symbolism, but I see it in every headline.
Paul blogs at The Inferior 4 +1 regularly.
January 26th, 2011 | brainjuice
January 26th, 2011 | brainjuice
January 25th, 2011 | daybook
I am peering at hotel rooms, in prep for an upcoming lightning visit to Berlin. The hotel appears to be one of those designer affairs, with a very designery website. I’m pretty sure Barbarella fucked robots in at least one of the rooms I’m looking at.
Been thinking about comics as PDFs, today. Because, seriously, comics are always going to be pirated, and it’s probably much more effective just to accept that and move on. One of the things that must’ve hobbled the Longbox comics viewer has to have been their insistence on providing strong DRM for publishers.
(Yes, CBZ files have better resolution, but they’re a bit fatter and aren’t native in the way that PDF readers usually are. And it’s going to be a lot easier to sell PDF files through lulu.com and The Illustrated Section than it is to handroll a way to sell CBZs, even one as planned-out as the Not 99c Method.)
And now I have to finish an episode of FREAKANGELS and another thing.
January 25th, 2011 | brainjuice
For those once again asking for NSFW tags on posts here, may I remind you:
This is warren ellis dot com.
Funny how I never get the NSFW complaints when there’s a shot of Katie West’s tits on the site. EMBRACE THE BATCOCK.
January 25th, 2011 | researchmaterial
China is planning to create the world’s biggest mega city by merging nine cities to create a metropolis twice the size of Wales with a population of 42 million. The “Turn The Pearl River Delta Into One” scheme will create a 16,000 sq mile urban area that is 26 times larger geographically than Greater London…
January 25th, 2011 | comics talk
Comics are on sale in the UK, US and Canada from 26 Jan, later in other territories. Here’s a few things worth paying attention to this week:
THE NEW YORK FIVE #1 (of 4) – a sequel to Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s NEW YORK FOUR graphic novel — pretty sure this’ll read fine as a standalone. Nicely observed human strangeness in the big city, with gorgeous art.
THE STRANGE CASE OF EDWARD GOREY is a very-well reviewed memoir of the artist by Alexander Theroux, in a typically lovely Fantagraphics Books edition.
THE SIXTH GUN #8 – this supernatural Western snuck up on a lot of people. Possibly because, you know, most people’s blood turns to scabs as soon as you say “supernatural Western.” It’s actually really attractive, energetic popcorn comics.
I haven’t read Jeremy Bastian’s CURSED PIRATE GIRL, but I’ve seen some of the art, and it’s absolutely beautiful. There’s an element of Tenniel’s woodcuts to it, and certainly an ALICE IN WONDERLAND-like dreaminess infused into the whole thing — but it also seems more active and driven. And it’s called CURSED PIRATE GIRL, which is a win right there. Keep an eye out for the trade paperback, out this week.
Talking of woodcuts, Lynd Ward’s SIX NOVELS IN WOODCUTS gets a slipcased edition with a contextualising foreword by art spiegelman. These wordless graphic novels are actually central comics works, and you should look at them at some point (even if it’s not this edition, which is somewhat pricey).
In hardcover, SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING Book 4 takes the reprint series well into the American Gothic sequence of Alan Moore’s defining run with Steve Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch and other drawing. Some of Alan’s best short horror fiction is contained here.
Also in hardcover, volume 3 of Matz & Jacamon’s THE KILLER, entitled MODUS VIVENDI. THE KILLER, French comics beauty tinged with Westlake as well as Jean-Pierre Melville, is some of the best crime comics being published today. Remarkably fearless in the way it keeps the titular character moving and changing.
January 25th, 2011 | brainjuice
January 24th, 2011 | guest informant
Matt Jones is a principal at BERG, has done award-winning design work for the BBC, has been a director for Nokia Design and Dopplr, and is a visiting tutor at the Royal College Of Art. He is also very good at drinking beer. I asked him to write to you about whatever was in his head today, and he said:
I just had a chat with my dad on the phone.
He’s 80 this year, a retired – well, lots of things. He gets bored. Amongst other things he was an engineer in the steel industry – and he thought that his grasp of maths might of helped in understanding a recent BBC documentary entitled “What Is Reality?” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/xxgbn/).
The programme was a series of interviews with particle physicists and cosmologists. He told me he didn’t sleep a wink after watching it – his mind was racing all night. He told me he came to the conclusion that they were all bluffing.
By coincidence – I’d been reading an article in New Scientist about the many models and theories of quantum reality at play. I told him about the one that caught my eye – referenced in the leader of NS the same week.
It is simply entitled:
“Shut Up & Calculate”.
As that leader article describes: ”the most practical approach comes from the quantum agnostics who simply “shut up and calculate”, while subscribing to no particular interpretation. This approach has delivered novel materials and devices.”
“Shut Up & Calculate” is the ‘what works, works’ practical chaosmagick that gives us most of the early 21st century. It ignores philosophising, and puts it’s emphasis on results. It’s the surprise you get when you turn the handle, rather than worryingly looking at the machine.
So, “Shut Up & Calculate”.
The old engineer laughed.
He liked that. A lot.
Matt Jones blogs when the mood takes him at Magical Nihilism. You can usually catch him speaking at tech and design conferences around the world a few times a year.