MonthNovember 2014

How Chris Claremont hid queer X-Men characters in plain sight

Excerpt from Excaliber # 5

Excerpt from Excaliber # 5

Sigrid Ellis on realizing that Kitty Pride is gay, and that she is too:

As is so common in queer history, though, an ostensibly fair and even-handed treatment of sexuality in comics makes gay and lesbian relations invisible. The heterosexual pairings among the X-Men could kiss or hug, could call their time together a date. The queers could not. Moreover, there’s that “perversion” clause. Ego-dystonic homosexuality was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1986. [2] New Mutants #36 was published in February 1986. When it was written, lesbianism was legally and medically a perversion. Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, the writer and artist of New Mutants at the time, could not say that Illyana came to the rescue of her some-time girlfriend Kitty who had been defeated by a demon with a penchant for classic bondage porn. But they could write it, and draw it, without ever acknowledging that is what they were doing. The relationship, the subtext, the highly sexualized imagery, all these things were presented not as queer kink but as friendship and heroism. The kind of relationship any high school girl might have with her best friends.

Full Story: Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men: Kitty Queer

(via Metafilter, where the commenters explore some of the more problematic elements of Claremont’s work)

Ellis also wrote “No Return Address,” one of my all time favorite short stories.

Gut–brain link could shed light on mental health

Nature reports:

Companies selling ‘probiotic’ foods have long claimed that cultivating the right gut bacteria can benefit mental well-being, but neuroscientists have generally been sceptical. Now there is hard evidence linking conditions such as autism and depression to the gut’s microbial residents, known as the microbiome. And neuroscientists are taking notice — not just of the clinical implications but also of what the link could mean for experimental design. […]

The evidence that probiotics affect human behaviour “is minimal to say the least”, Mazmanian acknowledges. Still, he says, a growing number of researchers are starting to look at some mental illnesses through a microbial lens.

Full Story: Nature: Gut–brain link grabs neuroscientists

Previously:

Networks, Bacteria, and the Illusion of Control

Can Bacteria Make You Smarter?

Humans Are Really Just Biomechanical Suit-Cities For Bacteria

Electric shock study suggests we’d rather hurt ourselves than others

How about some positive news before the long weekend? Science magazine reports:

If you had the choice between hurting yourself or someone else in exchange for money, how altruistic do you think you’d be? In one infamous experiment, people were quite willing to deliver painful shocks to anonymous victims when asked by a scientist. But a new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people’s well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.

Full Story: Science: Electric shock study suggests we’d rather hurt ourselves than others

3 Things to Read in the Wake of the Non-Indictment in Fergeson

The web is full of stories about the non-indictment of Darren Wilson today, so you probably don’t need to hear from me about it. But if you just home from work and only just started trying to sift through the links of the day, here are a few suggestions.

First, Ezra Klein says what a lot of people were thinking: Officer Darren Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally..

Usually a story as fishy as Wilson’s would be enough for an indictment, but it’s highly unusual to actually hear testimony from the accused in a grand jury trial, Jeffrey Toobin writes for the New Yorker. After all, the grand jury trial isn’t meant to determine Wilson’s guilt or innocence, just whether prosecutors have enough evidence to merit a case. That’s why some have described the grand jury trial as an alternative to a real trial.

Toobin writes:

Some might suggest that all cases should be treated the way McCulloch handled Wilson before the grand jury, with a full-fledged mini-trial of all the incriminating and exculpatory evidence presented at this preliminary stage. Of course, the cost of such an approach, in both time and money, would be prohibitive, and there is no guarantee that the ultimate resolutions of most cases would be any more just. In any event, reserving this kind of special treatment for white police officers charged with killing black suspects cannot be an appropriate resolution.

In other words, the trial itself is yet another example of the gross inequalities in our country.

Zooming out from Fergeson, the The Salt Lake Tribune reports that killings by Utah police have outpaced other homicides in the state:

Over a five-year period, data show that fatal shootings by police officers in Utah ranked second only to homicides of intimate partners.
In the past five years, more Utahns have been killed by police than by gang members.

Or drug dealers. Or from child abuse.

And so far this year, deadly force by police has claimed more lives — 13, including a Saturday shooting in South Jordan — than has violence between spouses and dating partners.

The article doesn’t dive into racial dynamics of police shootings in the state, but you can bet that it’s not pretty. Just another reminder that the police are out of control.

Gentrification and urban decay aren’t the only choices for neighborhoods

David Madden writes:

The leading myth is that the only possibilities for neighborhoods are gentrification or urban decay. Well-meaning liberals sometimes think cities face a choice between the bad days of the past and a gentrified future. Urban theorists invoke this same theme with the idea of the city as a ceaselessly changing organism that can either gentrify or stagnate. But these are all deeply misleading arguments, because they offer a false choice. No serious critic of gentrification wants to maintain the status quo. Instead of either gentrification or decay, cities could push for more equal distribution of resources and more democratic decision-making.

Full Story: The Guardian: Gentrification doesn’t trickle down to help everyone

I like this perspective for obvious reasons, but some examples of communities that have successfully staved off both decay and gentrification would have been helpful.

Mindful Cyborgs: Gary Weber Tells Us How to Get Our Minds to Shut the Hell Up (Part 2)

Here’s the second part of our conversation with Gary Weber about quieting mental chatter. This time around we talk more about specific strategies, including meditation and writing.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Empirical Emporium Beyond Selfie Blah-Blah PT2

Part one is here

Interview with Art Crimes Web Master Susan Farrell

By Miedo12 of Valencia, Spain

By Miedo12 of Valencia, Spain

Art Crimes, the first website dedicated to archiving photographs of graffiti, is about to turn 20 years old. To mark the occasion, The Toast interviewed Susan Farrell, the creator of the site:

One of the things that makes artwork precious is that there’s only one of it. We don’t think a lot about this concept now, but at the cusp of the digital era it was a very big deal. When I worked with museums in the ’90s, one of their main concerns was: “If we make a copy of this work available digitally what will that mean about the value of the original?”

The graffiti artists had a different set of problems than fine artists. They had personal-safety issues, they had a terrible public-relations problem and they had an audience-feedback problem. They had an art-preservation problem, and they had the problem that art historians would not take them seriously because their artwork was too ephemeral.

I thought, I can solve that problem. I can create the repository of work and then no one can ignore it anymore. I can attack the public-relations problem because I can help interpret the work, I can showcase the work as important, I can help show the value of it aesthetically, and I can stand in the middle between the public and the artist and create communication both ways.

So, photographs are multipliable, unlike canvases and sculptures. Some photographers will make only one print in order to retain its preciousness, but graffiti writers never did. They took photographs and immediately printed copies to trade like baseball cards. That’s why graffiti art was able to colonize the Internet before other kinds of art, because graffiti writers had a very open attitude toward creating digital copies.

Full Story: The Toast: Bombing the Net: A Conversation with Susan Farrell, Creator of Art Crimes

Mutation Vectors: A Fantastic Death Abyss

David Bowie Outside

Status Update

Just finished recording an episode of Mindful Cyborgs with Arran James and Michael Pyska of the “post-nihilist” website Syntheticzero.

It was a great episode, and I can’t wait for it to be online, but it’s left me in a weirder than usual headspace.

Browsing

So what is post-nihilism? I should probably tell you to wait til the podcast is out. But in the meantime, here’s a bit from an article Arran and Michael wrote in the Occupied Times:

After nihilism, then, are embodied realisations of and exposures to vibrant ecologies of being offering an ultimately untameable wilderness which we participate in on an equal footing with all other bodies, even if we have an unequal ecological effect. In order to cope-with and cope-within the wilderness of being we must abandon the charnel-house of meaning and its theological tyrannies once and for all. As coping-beings we must leave our reifications behind in order to engage in post-nihilist praxis: an ecologistics of tracing these rhythms and activities, their multiple couplings and decouplings, and taking responsibility for our way of cohabiting in, with and alongside other bodies.

Playing

Finally getting around to playing A Dark Room, a text-based game I’ve mentioned before. It’s like Oregon Trail meets The Road. Dark stuff indeed.

Listening

I’ve been listening to David Bowie’s Outside a lot this week. It was the first Bowie album I ever heard, back when I was a teenage rivethead, but I hadn’t listened to it in a good 14 years. Back then I knew it was supposed to be a concept album, and that Bowie had worked with Brian Eno on it, but that was about it. From Wikipedia:

Bowie and Eno visited the Gugging psychiatric hospital near Vienna, Austria in early 1994 and interviewed and photographed its patients who were famous for their “Outsider Art.”[1] Bowie and Eno brought some of that art back with them into the studio[1] as they worked together in March 1994, coming up with a three-hour piece that was mostly dialog. Late in 1994, Q magazine asked Bowie to write a diary for 10 days (to later be published in the magazine), but Bowie, fearful his diary would be boring (“…going to a studio, coming home and going to bed”), instead wrote a diary for one of the fictional characters (Nathan Adler) from his earlier improvisation with Eno. Bowie said “Rather than 10 days, it became 15 years in his life!” This became the basis for the story of Outside.

Here’s the Adler diary.

I was never able to follow the narrative of Outside, but this page tries to unpack the songs and stitch the story together.

BTW, there were also some fantastic moments on the Outside tour, like Bowie singing “Scary Monsters,” “Reptile” and “Hurt” and others with Nine Inch Nails.

Mindful Cyborgs: Gary Weber Tells Us How to Get Our Minds to Shut the Hell Up

This week Chris Dancy and I talk with Gary Weber, author of Happiness Beyond Thought, about what we can do to quiet our internal chatter — or as Gary calls it, “the blah-blahs.”

Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 38 – Empirical Emporium Beyond Selfie Blah-Blah PT1

Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s “human-hating horror comic” Nameless

Nameless_612x380

Entertainment Weekly is running a three page preview of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s forthcoming comic Nameless, which sounds a bit like a return to some of the themes explored in The Filth. Here’s Morrison’s description:

Nameless is my first collaboration with Chris Burnham since we wrapped up our run on Batman and it’s our first no-holds barred horror comic—a disturbing anti-human voyage to the hopeless outer limits of cosmic nihilism and cruelty, in the company of six doomed astronauts on a mission to save our planet from an approaching asteroid. Needless to say, they get far more than they bargained for.

In my superhero comics, I’ve tended to be a cheerleader for the human spirit, but Nameless gives me a rare opportunity to articulate a long-withheld sneering contempt for our miserable species, with its self-serving, sentimental, suicidal self-delusions and its greedy, willful ignorance.

Inspired by the dark side occultism of the Tunnels of Set, by pessimist philosophers like Thomas Ligotti and Ray Brassier, and by our culture’s unstoppable, almost erotic, obsession with its own destruction, Nameless is a light-hearted romp through the sunlit meadows of a baby unicorn’s daydreams!

Not.

Thomas Ligotti and Ray Brassier were, along with Morrison and Alan Moore, key influences on True Detective.

Full Story: Entertainment Weekly: First look: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s human-hating horror comic ‘Nameless’

Here’s the first of the three pages:

Nameless-01

EW also has a preview of Morrison and Frank Quitely’s take on the Charlton Comics (the inspiration for the Watchmen characters).

See also:

Extinction Aesthetic

Grant Morrison dossier

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