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Gifts of Lovecraft

If you’re anything as lucky as me, then you’ve found a significant other/trans-dimensional monster hunter/mental patient to share your life with, however short that may be. And if your beloved and accursed life partner is an enthusiast, nay, a votary, of all things weird and macabre, then you might need a little help finding the inspired gifts to show them the horrific holiday, blighted birthday or abhorrent anniversary you both deserve! These Lovecraftian artifacts will spell out your love beyond the ageless æons and non-Euclidean space, as the dread Cthulhu has already permeated our modern popular culture with its putrid tentacles… of doom.

BOOKS & ART

Whether a long-time devotee or curious neophyte, anyone interested in ‘the Mythos‘ could find no better place to delve than these gorgeous collections, The Eldritch Tales and the Necronomicon. The faux-leather covers and gold-embossed Les Edwards illustrations (not to mention the inside Virgil Finlay sketch of Howard Phillips Lovecraft) make these commemorative editions a must-have. Notably,  Robert E. Howard‘s Conan the Barbarian is also collected in a similar series, as the two share a contextual history. Then again, a lot of fictional universes dip into the Cthulhu Mythos, from some of Stephen King‘s short stories to Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea‘s Illuminatus! Trilogy, and even more recently, episodes of South Park.

Originally written for the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s, H. P. Lovecraft’s astonishing tales blend elements of horror, science fiction, and cosmic terror that are as powerful today as they were when they were first published.

One might also gaze upon the maelstrom of aesthetes and devotees of the black arts, who have lent their skills to paintings, illustrations, sketches and essays of these mighty Elder Gods. The Lovecraft Retrospective is chock full of artists inspired by the Master of Horror Fiction, including H. R. Giger and Mike Mignola, among at least forty others (with an introduction by Harlan Ellison). Although Giger released his own Necronomicon work with an introduction by Clive Barker, and Mike Mignola, (in addition to doing a brilliant cover for a collection) also paid tribute to the man himself in the Codex Arcana. Not to mention the very looming presence of Ancient Ones in the Hellboy universe.

Or peruse the works of the late Jean Giraud, whether they be in full comic book form, or covers such as Lovecraft: Letters D’Arkham, Marginalia, 1975.

Speaking of art, it’s a damned shame (and I do mean damned) that, for copyright reasons, these hilarious crossovers, mash-ups or remixes are not available for purchase. Such as Murray Groat (A.K.A. Muzski)’s versions of Tintin within the Mythos, as Hergé/Moulinsart S.A.’s rights apply:

“I am getting alot of print requests by email, which is nice, but I have to sadly tell each and everyone of them that I cannot.”

cc5203223fe766c426332abee9c40d02.jpg

Or the multi-chaptered project to chronicle Bil Keane‘s The Family Circus as they fall into the inky æther of ‘unspeakable horrors.’

Or Dr. Faustus‘ Seussian retellings:

This is not to say, of course, that one cannot make a fine print of these deviations for personal, non-commercial use.

DRINK

One method of inducing a thrilling madness is to first enter a drunken stupor. Though many soporific aperitifs of the Eldritch abomination exist, only a few are readily extant and/or non-fictitious.

Demon’s Hop Yard IPA is brewed by Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and can be found in several states (Lovecraft’s ‘Devil’s Hopyard’ was in his fictional town of Dunwich).

Clear, bright golden, with copper hues topped with a thick, clinging hop-induced lace that trails the beer as it’s consumed. Aroma is dank, resiny and saturated with a pronounced herbal character.

Miskatonic Dark Rye is a vegan and organic ale from (where else?) Portland, Oregon brewing company Captured by Porches. I’m sure it’s what the students at Miskatonic U get soused on as they pore over dusty tomes in ancient libraries.

Smooth. Rye spiced with chocolate and wine tones. Light to medium bodied. Made with organic two row and malted wheat, rye, and oats. Malted with crystal and chocolate. Hopped with domestic tettnanger.

Others are more secret, nigh-mythical brews, such as the Limited Edition New Year’s Black IPA by Us Vs Them, inspired by the dark lord Cthulhu himself, which is either no longer available or lying asleep for centuries.

Premium 2 row barley, coloring and caramel flavor from 2 speciality malts…the blackness comes from a special de-husked roasted malt called Carafa Special 3… it does not impart that very roasty, astringent or bitter coffee flavor you’d find in a stout, however it does leave a deep, dark tone to the appearance. It was bittered with Chinook and flavored with Amarillo Centenial and Simcoe and fermented with a California Ale Yeast to accentuate the clean bitterness and hop flavors.

Cthulhu Custom Etched Shot Glass

Of course, one needs the proper receptacle to contain the evil spirits with designs on your mind and soul. Might I recommend either the tentacled pint glass, or the Cthulhu custom-etched shot glass, (and filled appropriately with Kraken rum)

A fine gift could be made of Jonathan Chaffin’s Horror in Clay tiki mug, and now that his Kickstarter goal has been made, perhaps in futures told they shall be hewn from matter most foul, but do not seem for sale to the public just yet.

And apparently, HPL was a fervent coffeeholic, with these subversive subcultures crossing in several ways, including the now extinct Cthulhu Coffee.

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgahnagl fhtag”  ~ Me, after tasting the foul bitters aforementioned

TOYS

All manner of adorable plushies of the Dread Lord can be found, but some creative artisans have crafted their own worldly totems, as prescribed by the visions in their feverish dreams.

John Kovalic’s My Little Cthulhu:

The various knitted Cthulhu patterns:

Or the abominable HP Lovercraft figure by Alex CF:

My first DIY action figure project is a hand molded, cast and painted effigy of Lovecraft, along with a copy of the fabled and despised Necronomicon! Each figure will come as part of a larger box set – including a copy of a comic I have written and drawn, a screen printed t shirt, a screen printed poster, badge and sketch, all in a wax sealed box! These will be available very soon! email merrylinhouse@gmail.com for inquiries!

ENTERTAINMENT

Though many directors have been influenced by HPL’s works, not many have successfully conjured a faithful translation of those strange stories (see: Re-Animator). In 2005, however, director Andrew Leman brought one of the finest independent horror films into our world and onto the silent screen:

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society presents its all new silent film of The Call of Cthulhu. The famed story is brought richly to life in the style of a classic 1920s silent movie, with a haunting original symphonic score. Using the “Mythoscope” process — a mix of modern and vintage techniques, the HPLHS has worked to create the most authentic and faithful screen adaptation of a Lovecraft story yet attempted.


More importantly, for the purposes of gift-giving and love-making, a classic black & white flick is the perfect thing to curl up with your loved one on the couch, as a slowly creeping dread encompasses the both of you. (The prolific H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society also villainously vends the album A Shoggoth on the Roof, a CD of Lovecraftian carolsArkham Asylum Certificates of Insanity, and other cult relics.)

The Evil Dead 2 (Book Of The Dead 2 Limited Edition)But if you really want a really great date night, allow the self-parodying  Sam Raimi and manly-chinned Bruce Campbell to open a deathly portal of Dead-ites, with your very own Necronomicon bound in a horrid human face! This Limited Edition ‘Book of the Dead’ isn’t necessarily easy to find, but is full of artwork and special features, and will scream when pressed if in mint condition!

H. P. Lovecraft IH. P. Lovecraft II

H.P. Lovecraft, not so coincidentally, was also a psychedelic acid rock band in the late 1960’s. They only released two albums in 1967 and 1968 before breaking up, renaming and reforming, but their best work were these early nuggets. They’re not exactly horrific or amorous, but their imagery is evocative and dreamlike nonetheless.

TRAVEL

If you desire to steal your beloved away for the week-end, perhaps a themed holiday is in order. If out West, wander to The Lovecraft Bar in Portland, covered in demonic symbols and cosmic tentacles, and visit the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhu Con. Or make your way to L.A. for their version of the Eldritch Events. Florida each year holds the NecronomiCon, a science fiction, fantasy and horror convention now in its 31st year.

But for real historical ambiance, what could be more romantic than a getaway to New England, to the hexed locality that spawned so many legends of spirits and devils and witchcraft, and a never-ending litany of literary progeny, from Hawthorne and Poe to Lovecraft and King. Begin in Lovecraft’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island (though the Angell St. family mansion was torn down in 1961). Take the walking tour of College Hill, his old stomping grounds. From there, expedition to Essex County, Massachusetts (Lovecraft commented often in his letters that Marblehead was one of his favorite towns, saying that he’d live there if he didn’t already live in Providence). The basis for many of the ports and towns in what came to be called Miskatonic County (with an eponymous river and University), or ‘Lovecraft Country,’ containing Dunwich, Innsmouth, Arkham, Kingsport and Billington’s Wood.File:Lovecraft Country.svg

Interestingly, the fictional county is close to Salem, already known for its occult history, and North of the Bridgewater Triangle, a modern hotbed of supposed paranormal activity.

MISCELLANY

If your fated partner cares not for those sweet nothings and sweeping gestures, perhaps the wretched aromatics of the Elder Gods will help spice things up, and the Picnic in Arkham: The Lovecraft Collection of perfumes by Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs:

Azathoth is the blind, idiot god who sits on a black throne at the center of Chaos. His scent is high-pitched and screeching, both impenetrably dark and searingly bright with the clarity of madness: tangerine, saffron, vetiver, black amber and cedarwood.

Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, the All-Mother and wife of the Not-to-Be-Named-One. The lust incense of a corrupted Astarte. A blend of ritual herbs and dark resins, shot through with three gingers and aphrodisiacal spices.

The internet is resplendent with other mementos that profess your dark feelings, so be creative and think outside the box!

Diplomas:

Miskatonic Diploma (Herbert West) Poster

Purses:

And Elder thongs:

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Expertise

“Everyone is ignorant, just in different subjects” – Will Rogers

I sometimes commiserate with other workers in the service sector of our corporate reality, that allegedly brilliant lawyers, stockbrokers, even policy-makers cannot seem to find a book or order a sandwich intelligently to save their lives. I am not implying that this invalidates their other skills, just illustrating how none of us are as smart as we think we are.

This phenomenon can be illustrated by the way people interact with my room. One friend of mine, amidst party-goers and video-game players, managed to effortlessly peruse my vinyl collection (even pointing out a miscategorization) and select three musical gems in succession. Others would not have been adept at operating a record player, no matter how new. Different people react differently and with varying levels of interest, curiosity, and affinity to my eclectic bookshelf. Even more counter-cultural types will be drawn to the sticker wall, perhaps recognizing a street art hero or adding to it themselves.

I noticed that a recent visitor, compatriot and video-game enthusiast who stayed on my couch was immediately familiar with the whirring sound an XBox makes while the controller is left in to charge. He unplugged it before drifting off to sleep, but others would’ve (and have) been confused, not knowing the sound’s origin, how to stop it, or been mistaken as to its utility. Compare this to the complex usage of remote controls on my system, which is nearly impossible for anyone to master.

At this point, my girlfriend knows nearly everything about my room, its contents and workings. I’m really not all that complicated.

Even the video games themselves offer a microcosm of the diverse talents, skill sets and interests available to the general population. Many require Halo or some other FPS to really excel and be entertained. My girlfriend and many others only seem truly fulfilled by Action/Adventure RPGs, such as Skyrim, Fable, or Fallout. Almost everyone has some patience for a good puzzle game, like Braid, but with their own level of competency. Throw in a classic copy of MarioKart, however, and you really start to see some sparks fly. A rare few seem able to dominate any gametype. And most people who visit, ‘hang out’ or party have no interest or skill in video games at all.

The possible extrapolations of which really have me thinking. It’s not that Jamie Dimon is an idiot, I’m sure he’s very skilled and competent at dominating and cheating the system. He just has no patience and knowledge of how ridiculous he looks lying in front of Congress. It’s not that Mitt Romney misspeaks when he alienates the “lower classes” using Ivy League, Ayn Rand 1% rhetoric. He just doesn’t understand, he isn’t experienced, and can’t comprehend what America means to most Americans.

This does not excuse them, of course, from pretending to know what’s best for everyone, while really only serving their own self-interests.

Whether they are attempting to preach economists (while refuting the top economic analysts), make claims about science (while contradicting leading scientists), or speak for the American people (in spite of the protests of their constituents and customers), the authoritarian types can’t seem to stop “being experts” on everything! It’s really quite remarkable, what with all the information that’s out there, that any one person could make such a claim, and assume they are 100% correct.

If I came over to your house and started rearranging your kitchen utensils based on my own knowledge of culinary efficiency, I would be in no proper context at all. I am neither a chef, nor am I as intimately familiar with your organizational comfort level and and ease-of-use as you are.

Whenever the rich, the pundits, the legislators, the lawyers, the demagogues, the elites, and the corporate mouthpieces try to appeal to authority, make sure you ask, on whose authority, anyway? More often than not, they’re speaking out of their ass, scientifically speaking.

Influence

A large version of the influence map originally memed by fox-orian.deviantart.com. Once I started, I just couldn’t stop! And inevitably, I’m sure I forgot some artists/animators/cartoonists.

influence map

Awesome Source

If anyone were to ask me (they never do) what sort of sources I use on the internet as News Director for Mutiny Radio, for my own show The Stranger in a Strangeland, or just as a web surfer, blogger, podcaster or podcast-listener, I wouldn’t have had a list readily available. Modern technology, however, would allow me to whip up an answer in the form of the feed aggregators on Google Reader, Blogger and iTunes. All the same, I thought I’d have a “little” entry prepared with some words about each and why I use/enjoy them, should anyone become inquisitive in the future, or for posterity.

News Sites/Aggregators

Generally, I have a preponderance of news waiting for me to skim in my Google Reader each morning. This includes the wealth of information from the New York Times, BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and Russia Today (RT), all of whom I trust to varying degrees to deliver a broad picture of what the world looks like at the moment. I typically do not trust the NYT’s coverage of Iran (or hardly any American sources for that matter), but agencies like Al-Jazeera, RT and the Conflict Monitors of the Human Security Report Project are usually reliable for producing a look at international issues from every side. Talking Points Memo (TPM) showcases what would be considered the progressive side of the news, but often without comment, with links to entire quotes and context, and a diligent job of muckraking. Their charts and analysis are great fodder for any news feed.

To get at the real heart of matters, however, we want journalists and researchers who will more deeply cover the stories than the national conversation would normally dictate or allow. Intrepid newmen and editors from Alternet, Truth-out, Democracy Now! and the Real News Network provide hard-hitting watchdog journalism, and pose incisive questions to power. Salon is a refreshingly progressive source of news, comment, and blogs written by the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Mary Elizabeth Williams, and Truth Dig, which features progressive columnist Chris Hedges. The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur is perhaps the greatest news resource on the internet or anywhere if you want to escape the drudgery of big corporate-driven conservative media.

Regardless of politics, I choose not to read the Huffington Post due to their abysmal science reporting. Without a good sense of the scientific method, I cannot trust their standards for journalism.

For science news, there are more resources than time to read in a day, with my inbox overflowing more in this category than any other, a reminder of the rapidly developing times we live in. New Scientist (both the magazine and the site) and Physorg provide a constant stream of scientific discovery, with timely technorati Ars Technica and WIRED revealing where the state of technological advancement has us (WIRED recently broke the story of the NSA’s mega-base in the Utah desert). The Electronic Frontier Foundation combines civil libertarian advocacy work and news with parsing large amounts of technical and legal information, “defending our rights in a digital world.”

For an alternative view, Disinformation aggregates strange and conspiratorial stories from around the web, defiant of the Big Brother states that allows their continued existence.. for now.

Whereas sites like Laughing Squid, Flavorpill and Neatorama offer up pop cultural items, mashups, fun topics and much needed escapism, in other words, all things neat-o. Neat facts, and topics can be had at Mental Floss and life’s big questions at Soul Pancake (co-created by Rainn Wilson). Gizmodo’s (itself a tech news giant) sister-site io9 (as well as Syfy’s own Blastr) keeps us at the cutting edge of science-fiction, which of course could be light years ahead of science fact reporting, or as their tagline boasts “We come from the future.” Whereas Lifehacker helps you get your shit together with easy, simple fixes, showcasing shortcuts to life’s tedium.

And just as general resources go, you’ll find that Snopes has been the greatest defender against internet and urban legend chicanery for years, and that the TV Tropes wiki will help you understand how fiction, culture and memetics works a whole let better. You won’t believe they actually have names for some of these things!

Podcasts

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe is hosted by Steve Novella, neurologist, professor, president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, with his panel of skeptical rogues, brothers Bob and Jay Novella, Rebecca Watson and Evan Burnstein. The interesting science topics, audio games and quirks, in-depth interviews, numerous sci-fi references, and of course the irreverent, conversational and casual wit of the skeptics makes it a welcome treat on my ipod each week. These usually go over an hour, but I consistently find myself wanting more.

Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid are a much smaller, so if you want your dose of critical thinking in a fifteen minute dose, enjoy his cool presentation of the self-researched topics ranging from Bigfoot to the Denver Airport. Now over his 300th episode, he somehow manages to uncover a seemingly endless array of new and intriguing myths, legends and misinformation.

Big Picture Science (formerly Are We Alone?) is hosted by Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley of the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute. With the big picture question of ‘Are We Alone’, the goofy gang of serious scientists have springboarded into the world of the atom, the future, the cell, the virus, the planets, the brain, and any other area where an inquisitive microphone can go. Ideation of this magnitude can also be found by watching Dr. Michio Kaku expound on science’s great questions on Explorations in Science.

Neuropod, hosted by neurogeek Kerri Smith, comes out once a month (with a few bonus episodes here and there), to fill you in on some of the latest discoveries in the world of Neuroscience. Not all of the aspects catch my interest, but the ones that do really do. And since it isn’t as prolific as some of the others, and the information not as time-sensitive, I can enjoy it at any pace without them piling up.

Two more that have been around for a while but I am just now beginning to check out and delve into are the BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific and the backlog of wonderful TED Talks (both audio and video).

Though I am now well-planted in the firm reality of scientific discovery, a nostalgic craving, sense of zany fun, and a smirking incredulity keep me coming back to Coast to Coast AM hosted by George Noory, with John B. Wells, George Knapp and Ian Punnett playing weekends and backup. I have been hooked on this show (along with many other listeners, of which there are now estimated 4.5 million listeners every night, making it the most listened to late night show in North America) since the mid-to-late-90’s, when Art Bell‘s grizzled tones would part the airwaves to spook us with the most arcane topics. Today’s shows are sometimes less esoteric, and the format is more formalized, but George Noory is absolutely charming in his innocent and nonjudgemental inclusion of a wide variety of topics in the realms of politics, conspiracy, the paranormal or speculations on the future.

The Psychedelic Salon with Lorenzo features lectures from some of the world’s strangest and deepest thinkers, such as Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Albert Hoffmann, Alexander Shulgin, and of course the inimitable Terence McKenna. I must admit that I skip some shows that do not feature McKenna’s brilliant form of rhetorical styling and intellectual mastery. Of late, however, I keep coming back for Lorenzo’s faithful coverage of the Occupy movement, and related audio, which I sometimes use on my own show. Another fun nugget of mind-body awakening can be found in the Alan Watts Podcast, rebroadcasting short philosophical bites from the Alan Watts Library.

The Philosopher’s Zone with Alan Saunders, whose received pronunciation may at first seem strange on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National, nonetheless perfectly mixes deep, philosophical questions with silly, simple ones. Part history lesson, part mind expansion, don’t allow your own life to go unexamined without at least inspecting some of the introspections bound to arise while listening!

Similarly, philosopher Tim O’Connor‘s Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot (taken from a Carl Sagan line), raises startling, tortuous questions about God, self, reality and being with atheists, agnostics, deists, and religious scholars of every faith. The show aims to “take philosophy to the street, illustrating how conversation… can be carried out in a careful, civil, and constructive way by people who disagree.”

When I first started listening to The History of Rome, I thought I would listen through the reign of Augustus or perhaps Claudius and then get bored. Here we are near the beginning of the Dark Ages, and I’m still hanging on to Mike Duncan’s carefully researched and recited dissertation on the storied lives, politics, drama, battles and intrigue (with a little cheesy humor thrown in at times) of Rome’s expansive civilization. To jump around in time, the adorable and well-read Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey present Stuff You Missed in History Class from HowStuffWorks.com. Thrilling and yet sometimes obscure historical stories, often examining a subject from as many angles as possible, revealing personal stories from time in the process, heartbreaking, brave, humorous and epic.

The International Spy Museum SpyCast is a great bit of history and political science education if you’re into the worlds of espionage, military history (and present), and the skullduggery of terrorists and intelligentsia alike.

Even the hilarious and conversational entertainment programming I subscribe to, Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast and Ricky Gervais‘ podcast with Steven Merchant and Harvey Pilkington, present a sort of primer on critical thinking. Often revealing stories of science, religion, and history in the same casual manner as pop culture or scatalogical humor, the more skeptical Mosier often guides Kevin gently through the scientific method, whereas Ricky and Steve will taunt and ridicule Harvey’s mistaken notions of how the world works, ultimate culminating in an Idiot Abroad. Two different examples for how friends interact, and two different methods for how skeptics or atheists can talk to believers, and either way, all in good fun. The Onion adds another satirical bit of aural pleasure to your inbox, giving you some sensationally fraudulent talking points for the week.

And finally, X Minus One (X-1) has been my constant ipod companion since my first Nano. Classic tales of science fiction and horror from the 1950’s and 1960’s, the same spine-tingling diversions into space and time that probably elated my father when he was a boy.

Blogs

The frequently updated blogs on WIRED are some of my favorites, and I think I’ve been following them the longest, as they equally rate with other news in my feed. Epicenter, which puts the reader in the heart of the constantly changing world of digital media industries and business. Writers like Kim Zetter and David Kravets present absolutely essential information on Danger Room, closely following military gadgetry and national security, or Threat Level which, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, highlights the latest threats to our privacy, individual freedoms or civil liberties pertaining to technology and surveillance.

Nick Bilton, tech blogger for the New York Times’ Bits, is also the author of I Come From the Future and This is How it Works, a stunning analysis of how the shifting media and technology landscape is affecting industries, our culture, and our brains. As a blogger he is adept at finding and focusing in on lesser talked about yet important issues in technology, often raising stirring points about the trends and transactions.

Michael Anissimov (who was interviewed on the Strangeland) is media director for the Singularity Institute and co-organizer of the Singularity Summit. He is co-founder of the Lifeboat Foundation, which seeks to find safe and responsible developments for emerging technologies. His blog, Accelerating Future, bring our minds closer to the future of nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, transhumanism, Artificial Intelligence, the Singularity, and extinction risk.

Harvey Silverglate (another former guest), criminal defense civil liberties litigator, author of The Shadow University: The Betrayal of of Liberty on America’s Campuses and Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, former ACLU attorney, partner of the aforementioned EFF, and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has many articles available at Reason Magazine, which is aptly named.

Whereas Law and the Multiverse serves to illustrate how legal actions might come to be decided in the worlds of fiction; comic book superpowers, science fiction, and even AMC’s drama Breaking Bad are all made the subject of legal analysis.

Micah Allen’s Neuroconscience researches brain plasticity and cognitive neuroscience, while Mo Costandi’s Neurophilosophy deals with

Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy is astronomically great, and is hosted along with several other fascinating science blogs at Discover Magazine. If you enjoy a good skeptical dose like his, I would check out the above-mentioned Dr. Steven Novella’s NeuroLogica blog, his advocacy on Science-Based Medicine, or the contributions to Skepticblog along with the likes of Brian Dunning, Micahel Shermer and others.

Illusionist/Future World Dictator Derren Brown has lots of fun updates of stunning imagery, science, magic, psychology, skepticism and the supernatural, all especially appealing to my eclectic tastes. Author, psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman offers up puzzles, brain teasers and illusions each week that will make you want to show someone else.

Mind Hacks keeps readers abreast of the news in neuroscience and psychology, with the bold assertion that with such understanding, such tricks will help figure out one’s own brain.

I’ve recently become addicted to the grand ideas presented at Big Think. Similar to TED, you can find great links, lectures, and interviews, but in a much more condensed and potable form. Politics, science, society, and the mind are all game to their host of editors.

Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings is yet another brilliantly curated web resource for intellectual pursuers with a love for art, literature, photography, biography, science, philosophy, and historical oddities. I cannot emphasize how much I love Brain Pickings!

Especially significant of late in the wave of psychopaths taking control of our democracy, the Ponerology Blog details discoveries in the science of evil, spearheaded by Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Ph.D.

I also put together a little tumblr concerning the fate of the publishing and retail book industry in this historically significant shifting media landscape, dramatically titled Likely In Store.
As for food blogs, dire decadence demands that one consume updates from Fancy Fast Food, Insanewiches, Cook to Bang, This is Why You’re Fat and the Cheese Underground.

I’ll also occasionally head over to the Brothers Brick or Brick Testament to get my LEGO on, but I do worry that this may open up into a black hole of LEGO blogs for me.

Webcomics (Bonus!)

Of course I’ve been a lifelong fan of Penny Arcade and PvP, (as long as they’ve been live), and Brian Clevinger’s spritely 8-bit Theatre back in its day, and Diesel Sweeties, the robot romance webcomic. I’m also stunned by creatively experimental and remarkably crafted works like Scott McCloud’s Zot! Online, yuumei’s Knite or Demian5’s When I Am King. Pervs will enjoy S.S. Myra or Chester 5000 XYV. And just about anything anything with art by Scott Campbell, John Allison, or Kate Beaton.

I know I just fired a lot at you, and it’s all just the tip of the iceberg! But with an overabundance of digital information, news, discovery, curiosities and entertainment, we all have to be our own curators, or as author James William Powell puts it, our own ‘SPAM filters.’ Hopefully by pointing toward some of my favorite daily, weekly or monthly sources, I can help some curious internet wanderer in the future. Of course, it may all be different by then! At the very least it stands as yet another blog time capsule to what I ‘fed’ on at this point in my life.

I’m always looking for new sources! Of course, it goes without saying that Mutiny Radio should be your source for a much more streamlined helping of these sources! And Mutiny Radio is always looking for intrepid journalists, editors, aggregators or bloggers! Get a hold of me at thestranger@earthling.net!

Think of all the ascorbic acid you eat in a day!

As symbols, every picture and for that matter, any word, implies a previous and/or a following action. Many times the implications are very simple; a man on a door implies ‘Men’s room.’ Other times, an object in space has much more to ‘say’ concerning its role in society, well-known history, common usage, double entendres, mental closure, function, usual ties to other objects, and context. The more complicated the pictures and words, the more that can be extrapolated from the ‘part-of-the-whole.’ A drawing’s shading implies the location and prominence of lights in a room, just as resonant audio would imply its size. A drawing’s lack of shading may have been an intent of the artist to emphasize a contoured iconographic style, perhaps. By showing a large portion of the whole, the artist makes a very different statement than by showing a focused one. This can even be the moment for a juxtaposition, wherein what is acceptable or even mentally expected is then replaces by its polar opposite, or a non-sequitur, some wholly unexpected thing. This opens up all forms of comedy, socio-political satire, and intense visual stimulation. The suddenly clever thing to do is then to reveal several meanings at once to the audience. Perhaps the meaning is intentional (and the level of this that the author reveals is discretionary), or perhaps too much is read into coincidence, but even this becomes part of its philosophy. If meaning can be ascribed an object, and is internalized by the viewer, then it does contain validity. Indeed, the unintentional mental connections made between otherwise arbitrary elements is what makes enjoying art possible

The audience then, as the only arbiter of his/her own reality, is the true artist. At the final moment in art’s production, which must culminate in audienceship (even if only by the author’s review of it), the artist’s intention is inevitably cast aside in favor of the newer relevant present that the viewer brings to the object. Many artists (or fans of the artists, or critics, for that matter) would stay attached to the original meaning. However, no author would or could have involved every possible interpretation in the creation of the piece, no matter how clever or foresighted. True art lies in subtlety, a craftsmanship in ambiguity, in understanding that the artistic process does terminate in the necessary witness by a viewer, an thus their roles irrevocably linked despite any passage of time.

Strange Varieties of Experiential Reality

I spend an inordinate amount of time that coulda/shoulda/woulda been spent as a productive member of society, instead supposing a limitless myriad of alternative points of view of the universe. Part of me almost naturally accepts the thinking that we all have been, will be, and are part of the same consciousness, but even that is a monumental leap away from the logic that each person’s thinking is inside their own head alone, that once we die all biochemical thought ceases, and that the only thing that connects us truly in this regard is our common ability to ponder the subject from our varied perspectives. Very few of us, it seems, reach the same conclusions using nearly identical operating systems.

Speaking of perspective, can you imagine being an artist in the Fifteenth Century, having apprenticed most of your young and adult life, finally having gained the intricate mastery perfected after generations, only to have some architect-punk named Bruneschelli point out that parallel lines recede together into the same point on the horizon, thus reinventing the way we approach art, and indeed the whole world?

Inspired individuals often (perhaps necessarily) uncover new truths that entirely alter for the rest of our species the way in which we view the world. Imagine falling asleep like Rip Van Winkle during the Dark Ages, your eyes closing to the night sky, only to emerge from your slumber after the Renaissance, a plethora of books now available on the theories of a sun-centered system of planets, a complex and moving cosmos of unimaginably distant stars, that each star was its own sun with perhaps its own planets and therefore perhaps their own inhabitants.

Germ theories of disease, and indeed the very existence of ‘invisible’ microorganisms, were very controversial even by the time Louis Pasteur landed on the scene. His demonstration of simple, easily replicated lab experiments opened up a disgusting world of factual reality to the rest of us, finally accepted, and led to immunization with antibiotics and hygienic practices not the least of which includes pasteurization.

And what of all those enterprising thinkers who worked on their theories for years, researching, experimenting, formulating, hypothesizing, and all of it ultimately wrong? For some time in historical record our ancestors believed insects to be born of pebbles, based in part on observation. When Johann Joachim Becher postulated in 1667 the theoretical existence of phlogiston, a fire-like element that was contained in combustible bodies and released during combustion, and could also explain the rusting of metals, he was observing a phenomenon for which he had no contextual understanding in his place in spacetime; the chemical process of oxidization. Or when psychoanalyst Wilhelm Riech posited in the 1930’s a theoretical orgone energy, yet another in a long series of fictional ‘life-energies’ to be historically uncovered, his ‘discovery’ nevertheless affecting the study of sex, music, literature and parapsychology forevermore. And how was Mao Zedong to know that, by popularizing the ‘barefoot doctor’ medicine of unlicensed country practitioners, merely out of financial necessity to at least somewhat treat the millions of Chinese not living in modern cities with access to hospitals and expensive pharmaceuticals, that the paramedical advice would be taken out of context and used ad nauseum by white middle-to-upper class Americans years later? Or homeopathy, when it is not a malicious ploy to trick ailing victims of poor health into diverting their dollars to another profession, is often a genuine, sincere (and altogether incorrect) proposition that medicine diluted down to nonexistent doses might somehow be more efficacious than what they see as an archaic medical establishment in dire need of progressive revolution. Or all the sorcerers and alchemists and religions and quackery that insisted that they had the freshest revelations that would shape a new world, and though the facts did not bear them out, somehow left a lasting affect at least upon popular culture.

Shaman, without benefit of scientific equipment, pop psychological terminology, or socioeconomic awareness of larger global themes, have been able to use psychotropic drugs to explore and create entire mythos of humanity, the self, the universe, and gods by simply delving into their sacred states. The discoveries they made, one could argue, have little to no bearing on the truth of reality as it pertains to all of us. But it had plenty of that and more for the shaman.

Our understanding of the universe and ourselves not only changes through time, but with a greater understanding of time. Before a certain point in history, time could only be determined by the sun, the stars, or other natural occurrences and features of the cosmos and our planet, itself a giant clock. The slow evolution of invention in gnomon to mechanized and finally atomic and digital clocks allowed for better time-keeping, at first for the very rich, but soon for anyone who could carry a pocketwatch, wristwatch, or iphone. Both Galileo and Newton and most people up until the 20th century thought that time was the same for everyone everywhere. This is the basis for timelines, where time is a parameter. Our modern conception of time is based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, in which rates of time run differently depending on relative motion, and space and time are merged into spacetime, where we live on a world line rather than a timeline. New perceptions in time affected art, as the impressionists left their stuffy studios to capture the world more quickly or essentially, and photography managed to capture it instantly. Art became more figurative, gestural, or symbolic in response.

Armed with curiosity and new innovations in film, Eadweard Muybridge managed to capture for analysis the biological movement of beings, with ramifications on the worlds of science, medicine, art, and the burgeoning worlds of film and animation as well.

And so the world unfolds itself to us, and doubtful is it that anyone alive at the time of this digital imprint being left in the historical record will coincide with the full revelation of cosmological knowledge and truth, (liberally granting our species even gets that far). Each achievement begets others, can sometimes be lost and have to be rediscovered, eventually building a decently accurate portrayal of how everything works. Neuroscientists, philosophers, string theorists, particle smashers, self-wallowing alcoholics and religious zealots are all working out the same thing. The facts remain the same throughout, it is up to each of us on our own and all of us as a whole to construe them accurately.

You could have been born a synesthete, or been a paranoid schizophrenic before our modern conception of mental disease, or an acid freak, or have had a distinct vision of Mother Mary, or been a released prisoner of Plato’s cave previously shackled knowing only shadows, or born a Chinese villager whose favorite delicacy is eggs boiled in boy piss, or genuinely believe you were abducted by a UFO, or forced to pose as a double agent for so long you don’t remember what’s true, or been the surreal sole survivor of a mine collapse, or fought for the Confederacy, or been born transgendered, or been in a Sam-and-Diane relationship for many years, or been Constantine the Great or Elizabeth Bathory or Bill Hicks or Jim Morrison. You can be a skeptic or a believer, an optimist or a pessimist, lead an active or a sedentary lifestyle, passive or aggressive, dominant or submissive, studious or stunted, martyred or vindicated. And in many ways no other human being has the right to say you were right or you were wrong about a great deal of the choices and decisions and rationalizations in your life.

Ah, but for science.

Visualliteration

Maurits Cornelius Escher, Sky & Water 1938