Monday, December 11, 2017

CIA MAN

The Sun City Girls' 1987 cover of The Fugs' classic 1965 song "CIA Man":


And here's the original version by The Fugs:


Monday, December 4, 2017

Donald Trump and the Lizard People

Courtesy of KOMONews.com comes this 11-30-17 article entitled "Armed with Assault Rifle, Pierce County Man Prepares to Battle 'Lizard People'":

"A 55-year-old Eatonville man armed himself with an AK-47 and a pistol over the weekend to battle 'the lizard people,' the Pierce County Sheriff's Office said.
"The man told law enforcement that President Trump had called to warn him.
"The man ended up being sent to a hospital for treatment and a mental health evaluation.
"Just after 8 p.m. Saturday, a witness called 911 to report a white Jeep Cherokee was stopped at 108th Street South and Pacific Avenue South in Parkland.
"A state trooper later reported that a man got out of the Cherokee was was waving around an AK-47 and a pistol.
"A number of troopers and deputies converged. The man put the guns back in the car. He was ordered to the ground, where he began to scream about 'sending in the news' and 'the lizard people,' the Sheriff's Department said.
"He resisted when officers tried to handcuff him. A trooper and a Sheriff's Department deputy both used a Taser on him, the Sheriff's Department said.
"The Sheriff's Department says the man told a deputy that he had 'snorted methamphetamine to lose weight' and that he was taking prescribed morphine.
"'The meth doesn't make me crazy, man,' the Sheriff's Department says the man told the deputy. 'The lizard people are real!'
"He said President Trump had called his house in Eatonville, warned about the lizard people and said the 'alpha dragon' had taken his family hostage."
To read the rest of the story, click HERE.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Cryptoscatology Top Ten: The Best Comic Books of 2017!

1.  MY FAVORITE THING IS MONSTERS VOL. 1 by Emil Ferris (published by Fantagraphics):


This compelling graphic novel was originally scheduled to be published in October of 2016, but bizarre shipping problems (as described in this Entertainment Weekly article) prevented its release until earlier this year, thus making it eligible for inclusion on this list.  Emil Ferris' debut graphic novel is a multilayered, psychologically complex narrative about an alienated ten-year-old girl named Karen Reyes whose life appears to be filled with nothing except emotionally damaged adults, one of whom draws her into an ill-advised (but irresistible) investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of a beautiful woman who once lived in Karen's dilapidated Chicago apartment building.  The woman's premature death leads Karen to learn far more about World War II and the Holocaust than any ten-year-old girl should ever know.  

The second (and final) volume of this graphic novel is scheduled to be released in February of 2018.

2.  BOY MAXIMORTAL #1 by Rick Veitch (published by King Hell Press/Sun Comics):



Upon finishing Part One of this ambitious limited series, one immediately recognizes that Rick Veitch is in the process of building a complex narrative that examines the true history and metaphysical nature of the comic book medium in a manner that will no doubt end up being far more illuminating than even the best nonfiction books on the subject such as Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Gerard Jones' Men of TomorrowThose previous efforts do indeed provide valuable facts about the social milieu that gave birth to the comic book industry in the 1930s; however, Veitch's epic story (the unfolding narrative of a Superman-like entity named Maximortal desperately trying to come to grips with his proper place in post-war America) explores the emotional truths underlying the frustrated lives of such visionary comic book creators as Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Jack Kirby.  The scenes in which we witness a Jack-Kirby-like comic book artist holed up in his suburban basement, drawing outrageously violent monster comics while doing his best to deal with bouts of  Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome triggered by vivid memories of his near-fatal stint in the U.S. Army killing Nazis during World War II are so extremely intense that one can only conclude these snapshots of a post-war Kirby are probably far closer to reality than any straight-forward biography that could ever be written about the man.  These vivid scenes are worth the price of admission alone.  Throw in special guest appearances by psychologist Carl Jung and CIA Director Allen Dulles, and what more could you want?  So do yourself a favor and get in on the ground floor of what promises to be a post-postmodern superhero tale that could very well rival previous contributions to this ever-expanding subgenre such as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill's Marshal Law, Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's Black Hammer, and Rick Veitch's own groundbreaking graphic novel, The One.

3.  THE BLOODY CARDINAL by Richard Sala (published by Fantagraphics):



Imagine Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (a playfully self-reflective novel in which a pair of obsessed readers explore the interdependence of art and reality) mixed with an Italian giallo slasher film directed by Mario Bava, throw in a man dressed like a big red bird and a cast of innocent young women in danger of being the homicidal fowl's next victims, and you won't even come close to the treasure trove of strangeness awaiting you in Richard Sala's perversely humorous graphic novel, The Bloody Cardinal.  

4.  THE DIVIDED STATES OF HYSTERIA by Howard Chaykin (published by Image Comics):



Any comic book that manages to offend so many ignorant, irrational people without even trying deserves an extremely high position on any "Top Ten Reading List" of 2017.  If Kurt Vonnegut and Sam Peckinpah had accidentally wandered into the experimental teleportation device featured in Kurt Neumann's science fiction film The Fly and emerged as a single iconoclastic comic book artist, that artist might very well have produced the action/adventure-cum-social satire called The Divided States of Hysteria.  Despite the fact that writer/artist Howard Chaykin claims this book cannot be described as "satire," I would contend that there are indeed darkly humorous strains lurking throughout the narrative that could be seen as satirical by many readers; however, Chaykin's violent tale of near-future covert ops performed by a ragtag team of prison lifers more closely resembles the in-your-face satire employed by William Burroughs in his quasi-science-fictional novels of the 1960s and '70s such as Nova Express and The Wild Boys in which bald satire borders on pure, documentarian warnings regarding the authoritarian dangers waiting just around the corner to wipe out all vestiges of freedom from this planet.  As Marshall McLuhan once said of Burroughs' novels, "It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as non-books or as failed science fiction.  It is a little like trying to criticize the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that flames are leaping from the roof of our home."  This very same quote could apply to almost all of Chaykin's work in comic books, but it particularly applies to The Divided States of Hysteria.  If you have the ominous feeling that your house is about to burst into flame, I suggest bailing out the window and finding the latest issue of The Divided States of Hysteria.  You'll no doubt discover that you're right.

5.  SAX ROHMER'S DOPE by Trina Robbins (published by IDW):



Though Sax Rohmer's Dope was originally serialized in the anthology magazine Eclipse back in the early 1980s, this attractive hardcover represents the first time Trina Robbins' unique adaptation has been collected in a single edition.  Aside from a pair of nervous introductions by C. Spike Trotman and Trina Robbins herself (in which Trotman and Robbins bend over backwards to apologize for the racism inherent in this visual adaptation of Sax Rohmer's 1919 novel, Dope, something for which neither of them need apologize), this is an excellent graphic novel featuring what could very well be Trina Robbins' best artwork of her career--which, of course, is saying quite a lot indeed.  Robbins' clean line contrasts well with the luridness of Rohmer's plot, which revolves primarily around opium addiction, murder, and early twentieth century xenophobia directed against Chinese immigrants.  In a sober, decidedly non-apologetic afterword, artist Colleen Doran writes, "This entertaining, lurid tale by the author of The Mystery of Fu Manchu combines high society and low life, drama and drugs.  Trina Robbins, in her vintage style, with charmingly simple drawings that highlight her love of period fashion, presents the story with straightforward felicity [...].  Reading this comic has the same charm as watching a vintage film, a time machine of attitudes and social mores, both bizarre and compelling."  

6.  FANTE BUKOWSKI TWO by Noah Van Sciver (published by Fantagraphics):



Fante Bukowski Two continues the sad and hilarious adventures of misanthropic poet "Fante Bukowski" (not his real name).  I included Volume One of this ongoing series on a previous Top Ten list.  In 2015 I wrote, in part,  "Fante Bukowski is a hilarious and insightful satire about the vast gap between art and artifice, craftsmanship and pretentiousness, individuality and idolatry.  At first Sciver seems to set up his protagonist as little more than the butt of an ongoing joke, running the risk of presenting 'Bukowski' as the shallowest stereotype possible, but as the episodic tale progresses the reader begins to sympathize more and more with 'Bukowski’s' naive and confused arrogance."  Volume Two of this series continues Bukowski's odyssey by juxtaposing his extreme naivety with the world-weary trials of Bukowski's ex-lover, Audrey Catron, a talented writer who has managed to achieve all the success that seems so outside the range of Bukowski's limited abilities.  When examined in excruciating detail, Audrey's life as a writer who has actually "made it" seems far less exciting than Bukowski's never-ending struggle to attain even the slightest scrap of recognition or acknowledgement.  When one has nothing at all, perhaps the promise of success (no matter how unlikely it seems) is more satisfying than actually attaining it in reality.  

Recently, in a post on Facebook, Van Sciver mentioned offhandedly that a reviewer of Fante Bukowski Two commented that she couldn't quite get into this book because "no one like Fante Bukowski exists anymore."  I'd love to know the exact address of the moss-covered rock under which this reviewer has been living for so long; being a graduate of an MFA Program, and having taught numerous Creative Writing workshops, I can assure her and anyone else reading this that I've met so many people who act like Fante Bukowski that I could draw up a lengthy list as long as Milton Berle's penis (if you'd like to learn more about Mr. Berle's legendary penis, please click HERE).  The characterization of Fante Bukowski, as presented in these two books, is nothing if not believable.   

With Fante Bukowski Two, Noah Van Sciver has successfully improved upon the delicate tightrope act he began in Fante Bukowski One by combining a genuine character study with wide swaths of oddball humor worthy of Preston Sturges or the Cohen Brothers.  I'm very eager to see where the inimitable Mr. Bukowski ends up in Volume Three of this most fascinating series.

7.  PROVIDENCE by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows (published by Avatar Press):



Providence is one of my favorite Alan Moore graphic novels in a career filled with such milestones as V for Vendetta, The Saga of the Swamp Thing, From Hell, Lost Girls, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Supreme, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Miracleman, and A Small Killing (just to name a few).  Upon completing the twelfth and final issue of Providence, a decades-spanning apocalyptic extravaganza that includes special guest appearances by such notable personages as H.P. Lovecraft biographer S.T. Joshi and the disembodied brain of Ambrose Bierce, I realized that this peculiar tale had become one of my favorite Lovecraft pastiches along with Fritz Leiber's World Fantasy Award-winning novel Our Lady of Darkness, Robert Bloch's Strange Eons, and Colin Wilson's The Mind Parasites and "The Return of the Lloigor" (a novella that can be found in August Derleth's 1969 anthology Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos).  

8.  CINEMA PURGATORIO by Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill, et al. (published by Avatar Press):  



Although this black-and-white horror anthology includes entertaining tales by the likes of Garth Ennis and Max Brooks, the truly standout contributions are the cinematic prologues provided by the book's curator, Alan Moore, in collaboration with his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen cohort, Kevin O'Neill.  The episodic series that introduces each issue of this disturbing anthology shares the same umbrella title as the anthology itself, Cinema Purgatorio--a series of nightmarish vignettes set in a limbo-like world that evokes haunting memories of "Club Silencio" from David Lynch's surreal film noir, Mulholland Drive.  Each vignette explores the diseased underbelly of Hollywood from its very inception, including the mysterious death of comedienne Thelma Todd, the evocative connections between various Hollywood luminaries and the still unsolved murder of the Black Dahlia, the unfortunate downward spiral of Willis O'Brien (the visionary artist who created the breakthrough special effects for the original King Kong), etc.  For someone who despises Hollywood as much as Alan Moore (and, to be honest, who wouldn't after the unspeakable debacle that was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, arguably one of the most disappointing comic adaptations ever committed to film), Moore demonstrates a remarkable knowledge of Hollywood lore dating all the way back to the Golden Age of cinema.  All of this seemingly ephemeral knowledge is put to expert use in Cinema Purgatorio.  This is without a doubt the best horror anthology published in the world of comic books since the untimely demise of Stephen R. Bissette's Taboo (to which Moore contributed the earliest chapters of his aforementioned From Hell and Lost Girls graphic novels).

9.  SAUCER STATE by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly (published by IDW):



This limited series picks up where the previous volume, Saucer Country, left off when it was unceremoniously (and unwisely) cancelled by its previous publisher, DC/Vertigo, back in 2013.  Saucer Country is about the struggles of Arcadia Alvarado, the Governor of New Mexico, as she campaigns for the Presidency of the United States while also trying to get to the bottom of her carefully concealed, traumatic experiences as an alien abductee.  Recently resurrected by the folks at IDW, the sequel, Saucer State, begins with Alvarado's first term in the White House when the existence of extraterrestrials is at last made public in the most dramatic manner possible.  

Often described by writer Paul Cornell as a cross between The X-Files and West Wing, this series explores UFO mythology in such a balanced manner that it neither ridicules the subject matter (in the way that a hardcore skeptic might be tempted to do) nor glorifies it (in the way that a True Believer might be tempted to do).  Cornell demonstrates a genuine knowledge of this esoteric subject, hinting at such farflung influences as the earliest contactee books of the 1950s such as George Adamski and Desmond Leslie's Flying Saucers Have Landed and Orfeo Angelucci's The Secret of the Saucers, Dr. Carl Jung's psychological study A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky, Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Jacques Vallee's Passport to Magonia, and Jeffrey Kripal's recent study, Mutants and Mystics:  Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal.  Along with Brian K. Vaughn's Saga and Paper Girls, this is one of the best science fiction comic books being published today... and certainly one of the best flying saucers comic books to see print since the publication of Bob Powell's Vic Torry and His Flying Saucer (and if you know what that is, feel free to go to the head of the class).

10.  #26 by Steve Ditko (published by Robin Snyder & Steve Ditko): 


2017 marked the 90th birthday of comic book legend Steve Ditko, co-creator of Spider-man, creator of Dr. Strange, Mr. A, The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, The Mocker, Static, The Missing Man, and so many other revolutionary characters.  2017 also marked the publication of the 26th issue of Steve Ditko's ongoing series, by far the longest running title on which Ditko has worked right behind his iconic, thirty-eight issue run on The Amazing Spider-man in the 1960s.  This anthology series has so far made its way onto this list every year, as it looks like no other comic book being produced today.  It is, like all great art should be, utterly unique.  Ditko's episodic tales about such bizarre characters as Miss Eerie, The Cape, The Hero, and The Outline continue to fascinate.  

Many of the recent issues of Ditko's series have been funded through Kickstarter.  As a result, the complete list of contributors can be seen in every new issue.  I find it surprising how few comic book professionals appear on this list.  Stephen R. Bissette and Mark Verheiden have contributed to every Ditko campaign so far.  Mark Evanier and Neil Gaiman contributed to at least one of the campaigns, which is one more than over 90% of their peers.  These pros can't contribute ten or so bucks to a man whose work has been instrumental in building the very industry from which they benefit every day?  I find this disinterest on the part of the comic book industry absolutely baffling, but not unsurprising.  The dictum "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" certainly looks good in a microscopic comic book caption, but I suppose it's more difficult to follow in real life, eh?

If you want to plunge into one of the most unique reading experiences available in comics today, then consider donating to Ditko's current Kickstarter campaign, which ends on December 19th.  For more information, click HERE.  

Several important archival collections were published in 2017 as well, all of which are also highly recommended.  The first graphic novel mentioned below, CORTO MALTESE:  FABLE OF VENICE (the latest volume in IDW's ongoing, award-winning translations of Hugo Pratt's highly lauded Corto Maltese series), will be of particular interest to you conspiracy mavens out there, as this is a taut, dreamlike thriller set in early 1920s Venice, Italy focusing on a complex web of scheming Freemasons, Fascists, and occultists of all sorts....
 
CORTO MALTESE:  FABLE OF VENICE by Hugo Pratt (published by IDW):


ALACK SINNER:  THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Carlos Sampayo and Jose Munoz (published by IDW):


MONSTERS VOL. 1:  THE MARVEL MONSTERBUS by Jack Kirby, Larry Leiber, et al. (published by Marvel):


MONSTERS VOL. 2:  THE MARVEL MONSTERBUS by Jack Kirby, Larry Leiber, et al. (published by Marvel): 


JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS by Jack Kirby (published by DC Comics):   



THE DEMON by Jack Kirby (published by DC Comics): 


CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN by Jack Kirby and Dave Wood (published by DC Comics):



THE NEWSBOY LEGION VOL. 2 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (published by DC Comics):   



SWAMP THING:  THE BRONZE AGE OMNIBUS by Len Wein, Bernie Wrightson, et al. (published by DC Comics): 


TOMB OF DRACULA:  THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL. 1 by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, et al. (published by Marvel):   


NIGHT FORCE by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan (published by DC Comics):


THE COMPLETE VOODOO VOL. 3 edited by Craig Yoe (published by IDW): 


MUMMIES edited by Steve Banes (published by IDW): 


PRE-CODE CLASSICS:  JET POWERS by Gardner Fox and Bob Powell (published by PS Art Books):  I've always been a tremendous admirer of Bob Powell's artwork, particularly his way-out horror and SF stories, so it's wonderful to see JET POWERS in print again in such a handsome hardcover edition....



RED RANGE by Joe R. Lansdale and Sam Glanzman (published by IDW):

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology

From Cory Doctorow's 11-2-17 Boing Boing post entitled "The DHS Is Buying a New Database to Store Biometrics for 500 Million People":

"The DHS's old 'IDENT' database is full, with 240,000,000 records in a system designed to hold 200,000,000; so they're paying arms-dealers and erstwhile comic-book superheroes Northrop Grumman $93,000,000 to develop a new system called Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART), which will grow to encompass biometrics for 500,000,000 people, including hundreds of millions of Americans."

To read the rest of Doctorow's post, click HERE.

Monday, November 27, 2017

LOOK

A few days ago a regular correspondent sent me a link to a rather odd post on Reddit (dated October 27, 2017), so I thought it was worth passing along.  Click HERE to see the post in question.

China in 2020

From Rachel Botsman's 10-21-17 Wired article entitled "Big Data Meets Big Brother As China Moves To Rate Its Citizens":

"On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called 'Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System'. In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

"Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It's not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school - or even just your chances of getting a date [...].

"For now, technically, participating in China's Citizen Scores is voluntary. But by 2020 it will be mandatory. The behaviour of every single citizen and legal person (which includes every company or other entity) in China will be rated and ranked, whether they like it or not."

To read the rest of Botsman's article, click HERE.

Alfred W. McCoy's "Exploring the Shadows of America's Security State"

From "Exploring the Shadows of America's Security State (or) How I Learned Not To Love Big Brother" by Alfred W. McCoy (author of THE POLITICS OF HEROIN:  CIA COMPLICITY IN THE GLOBAL DRUG TRADE and IN THE SHADOWS OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY:  THE RISE AND DECLINE OF U.S. GLOBAL POWER):

"In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to a massive expansion of its intelligence infrastructure, particularly of the emerging technologies for digital surveillance, agile drones, and biometric identification. In 2010, almost a decade into this secret war with its voracious appetite for information, the Washington Post reported that the national security state had swelled into a 'fourth branch' of the federal government -- with 854,000 vetted officials, 263 security organizations, and over 3,000 intelligence units, issuing 50,000 special reports every year.

"Though stunning, these statistics only skimmed the visible surface of what had become history’s largest and most lethal clandestine apparatus. According to classified documents that Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies alone had 107,035 employees and a combined 'black budget' of $52.6 billion, the equivalent of 10% percent of the vast defense budget.

"By sweeping the skies and probing the worldwide web’s undersea cables, the National Security Agency (NSA) could surgically penetrate the confidential communications of just about any leader on the planet, while simultaneously sweeping up billions of ordinary messages. For its classified missions, the CIA had access to the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, with 69,000 elite troops (Rangers, SEALs, Air Commandos) and their agile arsenal. In addition to this formidable paramilitary capacity, the CIA operated 30 Predator and Reaper drones responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in Pakistan and Yemen.

"While Americans practiced a collective form of duck and cover as the Department of Homeland Security’s colored alerts pulsed nervously from yellow to red, few paused to ask the hard question: Was all this security really directed solely at enemies beyond our borders? After half a century of domestic security abuses -- from the 'red scare' of the 1920s through the FBI’s illegal harassment of antiwar protesters in the 1960s and 1970s -- could we really be confident that there wasn’t a hidden cost to all these secret measures right here at home? Maybe, just maybe, all this security wasn’t really  so benign when it came to us.

"From my own personal experience over the past half-century, and my family’s history over three generations, I’ve found out in the most personal way possible that there’s a real cost to entrusting our civil liberties to the discretion of secret agencies. Let me share just a few of my own 'war' stories to explain how I’ve been forced to keep learning and relearning this uncomfortable lesson the hard way."

To read the rest of McCoy's article, click HERE.