Archive for the Weirdness Category

The Self-Destruction of John Campbell

Posted in Comics, Politics and Society, Reviews, Things You Should Read, Weirdness with tags , , on March, 2014 by melendwyr

You may recall my earlier post detailing my sadness upon learning that one of my favorite webcomics, Pictures for Sad Children, had been deleted by its artist and creator John Campbell.

Upon learning that he had a Kickstarter project involving the release of his comics in bound and printed form, I concluded that perhaps he didn’t want the free online version of his work competing with his professional work.  Sadly, I have recently learned that the reality is much, much stranger than that.

As the bottom of that Wikipedia article indicates, in fact.

Campbell had gained a degree of notority for apologizing for purportedly “pretending to be depressed for money”.  Which is quite peculiar, but not nearly as weird as it would become…

John Campbell recently announced that all of the Kickstarter rewards which were going to be sent out had been, and that nothing else would be forthcoming – regardless of what had been promised or what people had paid for.  In fact, he released a video showing him burning printed copies of the book, one for each email he had received from people asking where their books were.  Along with the video was… well, a rant.

This might lead you to think that Campbell is staging some kind of avant-garde  performance art, which wouldn’t be incompatible with the style of his comic.  Possibly the whole thing is being faked… except for the vast number of people who haven’t received the work that they paid for and are beginning to become angry.

The rant itself sounds very much as though Campbell were sliding into depression, or schizophrenia.  Not quite at the word salad stage, but approaching it.  Faked?  Perhaps… not.  It’s really quite disturbing.  Campbell claims to have realized that he’s a transwoman, says that he has about $750 total, and has a lot of reasonably incoherent things to say about capitalism, society, and ‘privilege’.

Some people now claim they are working to scan the copies of the book and put them online.

I don’t know what the full truth behind any of this is,  but one way or another, it seems to be the end of John Campbell’s career.  Possibly the beginning of a number of angry lawsuits, although if the statement about the checking is correct I doubt there will be much of anything to win.


Dumb Starbucks

Posted in Things You Should See, Weirdness with tags , , , on February, 2014 by melendwyr

I caught this from Diane Duane’s tumblr feed:  ‘Dumb Starbucks’.

No, it’s not a criticism.  It’s marketing itself as parody.  And its coffee as an art form.

I have no idea whether this can possibly endure, particularly given our totally sane and reasonable legal system.  But I find myself rooting for the little guys here.  Even though this flies directly in the face of the intention of trademarking… it’s not just inviting a confusion between products, it’s practically demanding it.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Posted in Things You Should See, Weirdness with tags , , , on February, 2014 by melendwyr

It’s perilous to link to videos at YouTube… they tend not to last, even when there’s nothing even remotely inappropriate or TOS-violating about them.  Let’s try it anyway!

Paprika:  Shine, Shine!

The unexpected is always the hardest thing to anticipate, isn’t it.

Word salad is very difficult to imitate.  You’d think producing chaotic speech would be simple, but it’s remarkably challenging to be both semantically incoherent and syntaxically valid at the same time.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have a psychotic break, that clip’s as close as you’re going to get without becoming mentally ill or using scarily-powerful drugs.

I rather suspect that there is a fundamental connection between a schizophrenic-style delusion, the kind where you know your neighbor is bugging your tap water with the cooperation of Elvis and the CIA, and dreams.  Normal people enter delusional states every time they enter REM sleep.  But in normal people, the systems that integrate our perceptions of reality and our model of the world turn back on.  Perhaps, in crazy people, those systems don’t quite reboot right?

Cultural Norms

Posted in Politics and Society, Science Fiction, Weirdness with tags on November, 2013 by melendwyr

I’ve recently finished watching the sixth season of Doctor Who, which I highly recommend if you’re into that sort of thing.  (Watch the fifth season first.)

Alas, I tend to focus on subtext.  There are of course all the superficial ways in which a British science fiction / fantasy program will differ from an American one.  But then there’re the subtle ways, and the cultural differences are fascinating.

It’s supposed to be a “family show”, to the point where child characters are repeatedly reassured about their paramount importance to everyone, gunshot wounds aren’t visible, and there’s no blood even when people are neck-bitten by space vampires.  (Well, they’re not actually vampires, they’re something so awful that they prefer ‘vampire’ as a cover, but whatever.)  The companion program for the episode even has one of the special effects people talking about how important it is to limit the visible blood so that the censors won’t have a problem.

Yet it’s chock full of terrifying creatures and concepts.  And the vastly more sophisticated special effects in the regenerated show don’t help – children famously hid behind the sofa at first sight of the previous series’ villains, which were hilariously cheap props.  The new monsters are profoundly disturbing.

I’ve heard it said that Europeans and Americans chose opposing trade-offs between sex and violence:  we’re neurotically repressive / indulgent about sex and wildly indulgent in violence, they’re the other way around.  Maybe there’s something to that.  But there are surprising number of references to sexuality, from Rory causing a mishap with the TARDIS because he’s helping to adjust its hardware when his wife walks across the glass floor/ceiling wearing a short skirt, to the Thin and Fat Gay Anglican Marines.

That last brings up one of the weirdest points from an American perspective:  attitudes towards religion.  The primary villains of this season have hired the Anglicans as backup (it seems Christianity has developed in some interesting ways three thousand years in the future).  An episode monster is an obsolete god that has been put into a travelling space prison by the civilization that no longer needs it, and it feeds on the faith of selected victims.  There’s a religious order called the Headless Monks who believe the head is the source of doubt and the heart of faith, so they supposedly follow their hearts.  Well, they have to, because they’re decapitated and turned into undead killing machines.

This sort of thing isn’t new to SF.  What’s interesting to me is that these points aren’t being presented as an argument or a proposition.  It seems to be expected that the audience will see them as a sort of default.  And default or not, material which can be even remotely construted as a criticism of religion isn’t considered child-appropriate for basic family fare.  That is seemingly is in Great Britain to this degree is remarkable to me.

The Cube

Posted in Weirdness with tags , on April, 2013 by melendwyr

Possibly not the one you’re thinking of:  the 1969 television short directed (and partly written) by Jim Henson.  You can find it on YouTube here.  People don’t always realize that in addition to his other roles, Henson was also an experimental film maker.  Very experimental.

I really have no idea what “The Cube” was supposed to mean, if anything.  I tend to dislike self-consciously trippy attempts to expand people’s minds, and there’s a lot to dislike here.  Especially as the main character doesn’t really seem to respond as we expect a normal person would in equivalent situations.  But I also enjoy puzzles and trying to find meaning in tantalizingly ambiguous messages.

Quite a lot of the movie can be considered a sort of riddle; if you suspend your initial, straightforward interpretation of events and look aslant, interesting alternatives appear.  One thought that occurs to me is… let’s put it in ROT13 just to avoid casual spoilers… gung gur frrzvatyl zbpxvat gnhag “lbh’yy arire trg bhg ‘gvy lbh’er qrnq” pna unir zber guna bar vagrecergngvba.  Yvsr vf n fgngr gung lbh pna’g trg bhg bs jvgubhg qlvat, vfa’g vg?