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Alien Fungus Alert

It’s been raining for a few days here, and I noticed some strange fungus growing on a stump along the Minuteman Bike Path. Little did I know that two days later it would be erupting into a giant ora

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Planetary Agent X and False Democracy

At first, the survey of political systems in Mack Reynolds‘ interstellar spy novel, Planetary Agent X, seems quite whimisical and superficial. There are planets full of anarchists, and planets crawling with feudalism, nihilism, socialism, and what have you. There are some playful jabs at democracy, individualism, and even the tyranny of the uninformed voters (a la John Stuart Mill). The tone is not as playful as Ron Goulart, but definitely not very serious either. So it came as a pleasant surprise when the protagonist, Ronny Bronston, is given a sarcastic lecture by his handler, the mysterious Tog Lee Chang Chu, on the disasters brought about by “industrial feudalism.” How strangely familiar!

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Surreal SF art of Carlos Ochagavia

This beautiful illustration for the cover of Daughter of IS (1978), by Michael Davidson, is a wonderful example of the science fiction art of Carlos Ochagavia. The background is rendered in a light,

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Jaunts and Jollities Unbeknownst to Us

What a fitting discovery while badgering through the mountain of cheap book carts at Brattle Book Shop, when I happened across a fine copy of Jorrock’s Jaunts and Jollities. Originally published in 1838, this farcical book on fox-hunting and gad-about adventures, was written by Robert S. Surtees, who is an amusing stylist, to say the least. The overall tone of the book is very reminiscent of its predecessor picaresques, such as Humphrey Clinker, and it’s followers, for example Jerome’s Three Men On a Bummel… in which a cast of characters go off on a jaunt that allows the author to skewer them and the societies they are escaping from or escaping into.

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Super-organism of the human hive

The topic of Skinner’s rural-urban continuum came up in a staff meeting today, where my colleague Sumeeta referred us to a recent column by Steven Strogatz in the NYTimes. The idea is along the lin

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Kiss me again, you drunken bum

“Another drink… I’m already sloshed!” While searching for old Rarotonga comics with Antonio Gutiérrez art, I happened across this strange gem from 1951, which apparently is the first appearance of Rarotonga. I’m sure there must be other examples, but so far I can only find a single cover of Rarotonga from the early series.

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1950s Astronauts Testing Spacesuits

By far the most downloaded images from Yunchtime are the astronaut and cosmonaut photos from the 1960 edition of Das Bildbuch der Weltraum Fahrt that I picked up in Vienna. So I thought I should scan

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Ride for Peace Over the Roof of the World

The wonderful Muzafar Bhaid is riding his bicycle for peace across Pakistan! From the highest mountains of the world in Hunza region, the intrepid Muzafar is taking annual stages on his way to Islam

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Ecocities = More Bicyle, Less Car

When I am able to blank out the last thirty five years, during which I have continuously despised and fought against the automobile (even when I owned one myself…yes, I’m talking about that rattling death-trap of a 1967 Ford Falcon!), when I can forget all that, it does my heart good to hear people talking about Ecocities. Richard Register has a decent column in Foreign Policy in Focus this week, advocating for more sustainable cities built around better transit systems and less automobile traffic. His points are well taken and straightforward, building upon his books on the subject (from 2001 and 2006): Switch to a pedestrian and transit-oriented infrastructure, built around compact centers designed for pedestrians and transit; Roll back sprawl development while vigorously restoring nature and agriculture; Integrate renewable energy systems while using non-toxic materials and technologies and promoting recycling. Which he follows immediately by pointing out the major obstacles to achieving this dream: A major difficulty in moving toward ecocities is that cars have influenced urban design for 100 years. Many of us caught in this infrastructure find it extremely difficult to get around in anything but the car. The distances are just too great for bicycles, the densities just too low to allow efficient, affordable transit.