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Ironic How Freedom Rings, Isnt It?

While randomly grazing the sweet grass of the intertubes, and reading about such things as the Comic Salon Erlangen and looking at Andy Konky Kru’s photos of the 2006 Salon, I stumbled across Skip Williamson’s blog on the history of Underground Comics. [Sadly the blog is defunct, after 2015]. Not only did this remind me of my first major comic book convention (at the Playboy Towers in Chicago) where I met Skip Williamson, but also of Skip’s terrific “Class War Comix,” published about five years later in Snappy Sammy Smoot (1979). In addition to the classic newstand headline: Agnew Breaks Wind, Thousands Die! this comic featured a paranoid schizophrenic Richard Nixon being replaced as President by an even more freaked out long-haired capitalist, Amphetamine Arnie.

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Big Hair In Romania

There is something strangely futuristic about the fashions of the 2009 Estetika and Wellness Fair, held this week in Bucharest, Romania. A set of photos is floating around, depicting the weird loops

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That Pig of a Hedge Fund Manager

You don’t suppose any dialog like this will be overheard in the mansions of Connecticut, do you? “Ugh, that pig of a hedge fund manager gave it to me! If you want it…” But no, that would require s

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Orienteering on Mars

Finding your way around Mars just got a whole lot easier! The European Space Agency has just released thumbnail images of their lush cartography of the red planet. The glimpse above is from a 1:50

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Basil Wolverton: Advice for Weird Beards

Money saving tips are very useful these days, so take a word from the pros: when your beard gets too weird know how to mow it! This and other great advice is currently available in a series of 50 sc

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Chicken Little Protein: Space Merchants Radio Play

One of the great satirical classics of Science Fiction is surely “Space Merchants,” by Fred Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth, which skewers the American traditions of corporate greed, deceptive advertising, and the treatment of consumers as stooges, suckers, retarded fools, and miserable cattle. The story accomplishes this in a slick, almost effortless Science Fiction setting, which is fast-paced and chock full of sadistic irony. It’s important to remember the context of American society at the time of publication — 1953 — when the Cold War was in full swing, and the complete subservience to the Capitalist credo was not only the mood of the times, but was enforced by psychological warfare, not the least of which were accusations, blacklists, and finally the foaming-mouthed lunacy of McCarthyism.

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Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.

Reading Clay Shirky’s latest thought-piece on the demise of newspapers poses for all of us the interesting question: what sort of social / professional / technological model will we develop to replace print newspapers when they all go belly up? Shirky makes a pretty solid demonstration of the facts regarding the transition from those inky presses (thrashing out miles of newsprint every morning) to a new paradigm, but he is careful not to speculate too precisely about what form that future paradigm will take. Indeed, the whole point he is making is that we are now living through a revolution in which print media is being overthrown. During these last five hundred years, the cost of print production and the profits made on the distribution of printed objects was tightly bound up with dissemination of knowledge, art, technology, and of information of all kinds. Now, with the advent of the Internet and the speedy exchange of digital objects of all kinds, the flawless reproduction of information-laden media objects is no longer bound to the burdens of physical products that must be moved through space. The near-frictionless pathways that our digital infrastructure provides, has creatively destroyed the entire centuries-old paradigm of manufacturing, selling, and regulating the rights for commerce for media such as books, recordings, images, at least in the material manifestions that we have come to know and love.

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March of the Robots in the Uncanny Valley

Although the armatures and servo-controlled eyeballs beneath the skin may be fascinating, Beware the Ides of March, and robot teachers with scary rubber lips! With all the press surrounding the schoolteacher robot named Saya (developed by Hiroshi Kobayashi), you would think that the Singularity is upon us, but upon closer examination it looks like we will be loping along in the Uncanny Valley for a long time to come. In the photo series that appeared in the Boston Globe recently, it was apparent to me that loose rubber lips do not a rose make.

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Galileo vs. the Church: arent we past the Inquisition, yet?

Sophia and I were lucky last night because our friend, MaryAnn, scored some great tickets to the Preview show of “Two Men of Florence,” the first play by Richard Goodwin. We ended up in the first row center orchestra seats, actually, right in front of the author. Thanks, MaryAnn! It’s an intriguing play, which pits the scientific passion of Galileo against the vainglorious pursuits of Pope Urban VIII, who attempts at first to bring a “dialog” of ideas into the Church — owing to his magnanimous benificence — but later realizes that he has accidentally opened the gates of Reason which threaten the very foundations of a Church built on absolutist devotion. The sets of the play are remarkable, including a latticework of walls full of candles, and circular center stage upon which revolve the desks, chairs, and armatures of Galileo’s inventions. A semi-transparent curtain is occasionally whisked around this center of action, sometimes serving as a projection screen, or an effective scene changing device. The staging and movements are delightfully paced, with nary a figure making absurd entries and exits on wires or wheeled pavilions. The performances were excellent as well, not only the two lead actors, but also the supporting cast. The Pope’s friend and confident , and Galileo’s daughter, were especially standouts, in particular the moments when the daughter sings in Latin. Jay Sanders’ Galileo is fiery and sensitive, managing to convey his love of philosophy and the natural order of things without sounding snobbish or boorish. The rich language provided by Goodwin really shines through here, giving Sanders a line like this: ‘The moon. Full-bottomed Eve. Crafted by God as comfort to the fugitive earth. Let me see if I can peek beneath the hem of your borrowed radiance.’