Mastodon Archive: 2010 | Yunchtime

Archive: 2010

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Classic Illustrations for "Against the Fall of Night"

It was pure luck for me to pick up the classic first appearance of Arthur C. Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night before attending my first SF Con. That con was a very early one-off Star Trek show (which seems to have vanished from this dimension without a trace) and was held in Albuquerque around 1974 or 1975. The con featured a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, made of crude plywood and painted black, and George Takei was there, along with some other cast members whom I’ve forgotten. The reason I attended was to see A. E. Van Vogt, and to have him sign the paperbacks I’d been reading and collecting. He signed my copies of War Against the Rull and The Battle of Forever. In the first, he wrote: “Good luck, good wishes, good future!” all over the title page. I still have that on my shelf. I’m not sure what happened to Battle of Forever, but I recall that he inscribed it as: “My farthest out story!” Recently I was poking around the bookshelf looking for good alien images (to be shown at an Arisia panel in January), and I starting leafing through this copy of Startling Stories from Nov 1948. One thing I discovered was that Van Vogt also signed his story Domain, which appeared in this issue. Another thing I found out, on the editorial page, was that this was Van Vogt’s first appearance in Startling. But what most attracted my attention were the incredible black and white illustrations for Against the Fall of Night. Since I couldn’t seem to find existing scans of these images anywhere on the internet, I decided to scan them for everyone to enjoy.

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Pulp Life: A Major Exhibition of Charles Binger Art

The amazing works of Charles Ashford Binger will be shown in the first major exhibition of his works in 45 years! “Charles Binger: A Pulp Life“ will open at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, CA on January 7th and run through the end of the month. Binger’s interesting career spanned from movie posters and portraits, to ground-breaking science fiction covers in the 1950s, and hard-boiled detective pulps. His style has been characterized as utilizing “impeccable composition, rendered in a painterly style over roughened textures.” I would hasten to add that Binger was able to incorporate elements of cubism, realism, impressionism, and abstract expressionism into his works…often as not by combining them into a single canvas!

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Judge Dee Burns Up the Screen

Went to see the new Tsui Hark film “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame“ [狄仁杰之通天帝国] at one of the downtown shopping centers in Taipei and loved it! Apparently, the only showing in America so far has been at the Toronto Film Festival in September where it was reviewed as a return to fun for Hark.  I certainly thought it was fun myself, harking back to the crazy wuxia themes that played so well in Chinese Ghost Story [倩女幽魂] __and Green Snake [青蛇]. For those of us who also loved the series of novels fashioned on Judge Dee by Van Gulik, this movie seems to distort the character into a much-larger than life action hero.  Nonetheless, the cinematic style and lavish attention to sets create a fantasy epic very much worth seeing.  The underworld scenery and throwaway characters reminded me of the similar backdrops used in Hellboy II and Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End Singapore sets, suggesting that Tsui Hark has made a close study of those design ideas and paid homage to them.

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Off the face of the Earth, or Thereabouts...

No I didn’t vanish into the nether-dimensions…just flew around the globe to visit Taidong for a few weeks of R&R. The beach at Sanyuan is still gorgeous, as long as you don’t turn around and look at the monstrous empty Meiliwan hotel that corrupt politicians built on top of it (and which is still in legal limbo for now). But yes, you can swim in balmy tropical water in October at Sanyuan, and we did! There is still a little driftwood in the currents, left over from the previous year’s horrible mega-typhoon, Marakot, which caused massive landslides up and down the coast?called by the locals ????). The government has for the most part dredged it up and sold of the valuable logs, leaving mountains of driftwood here and there, piled up like the bones of mountain spirits.

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The Sacrifice of the Worker to the Banks

Browsing through Great Drawings and Illustrations from Punch, I was quite taken by the powerful image from 1844 called: “The Game Laws; or the sacrifice of the Peasant to the Hare.” The image of a scrawny rabbit on a pedestal, glaring with new found power down at the bound peasant on his knees is eerie; while the pompous aristocrat, bearing a sword emblazoned ‘according to law’ is either preparing to strike off the peasant’s head or to give him clemency…his disinterest in the outcome being completely obvious.

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The Strange Odyssey of Froggy MacIntyre

In June, I read the strange news of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre’s apparent suicide, and followed a link on Making Light to a presumed autobiographical sketch. It told a story of incredible suffering, poverty, and eventual escape from an orphanage in Australia and from abusive relatives. Although there has been a torrent of speculation about the strange odyssey of “Froggy” MacIntyre, as he was known to his friends, the straight depiction of those childhood details struck me as utterly true and made me curious about his other writings.

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The Situationist International redux

Here is a short documentary on the Situationists movement (in three parts) related to a show: “On the passage of a few people through a brief moment in time. The Situationist International (1957-1972

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Comité de salut public: Monsieur, it's time to go!

Portrait of Marat While reading the remarkable book by R.R. Palmer, _Twelve Who Ruled, the Year of Terror in the French Revolution_, I began to wonder what sort of monstrous evils can be unleashed in the name of “protecting the people,” or in the French example, both liberating them from a corrupt aristocracy while at the same time plunging them into other forms of tyranny.   One can only wonder:  whose security is being protected, the security of the people?  Dont la sécurité et qui est sans danger? The security of the committee itself?  And who will make sure that these precious tribunals will not turn into paranoid and despotic cages of lunatics?  En effet, personne ne regarde, car personne ne se soucie… And then, of course we have our own contemporary examples, with a war on terror, and with invasive full-body scanners stripping the populace to their short hairs.  No, you will not find any of the people whose security is really being protected going through those scanners, but they will beat down the rest of us with the idea that we must submit to all of their demands, to keep us on the defensive, because naturally all of us, even the most patriotic citizens who believe in freedom, equality, and justice are suspect!   If we are not sniveling with our heads bowed, obviously we must be under suspicion.   Is there no end to the preposterous bullshit that the ruling class will come up with to keep us in line?  hmmph, as Proudhon said, “The great are only great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!“   And so we might pause to consider these portraits of the twelve who ruled that committee for public safety, along with some other grands hommes et femmes from the French Revolution.  Remember, they did not achieve their goal of establishing a fair government and democracy…since chopping off heads - apparently - is not enough to eradicate the predatory ruling class.   Should we, yes mere mortals here, seek to remove the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity“ (to borrow the apt metaphor from Matt Taibbi), we must follow the money and deprive them of their access to it.  It’s blood simple.   Get the bastards away from the money.

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Encapsulated Man

“Behold the astronaut, fully equipped for duty: a scaly creature, more like an oversized ant than a primate — certainly not a naked god. To survive on the moon he must be encased in an even mo

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Bazara at the Shin-Yakushiji Temple in Nara

This wild-haired figure is one of the “Twelve Heavenly Generals” guarding the Buddha at Shin-Yakushiji Temple. You can really grok the origins of those wild manga hairstyles when you get a close loo