Tuesday Links (10/30/12)

Email Is The New Pony Express–And It’s Time To Put It Down: “Email . . . may just be the biggest time killer in the modern workplace. Here’s where companies are headed next.”

The Saga of Epsilon and Zeta:The story of the seemingly never-ending 2005 hurricane season.

How to Eat a Triceratops: “Step two: tear the head off to expose the tasty neck muscles.”

Tuesday Links (10/23/12)

Hobbit coins worth thousands to become legal tender in New Zealand: From the fictional land that brought you all manner of magic rings, only some of which are evil, this lovely new set of commemorative coins.

It is the Future, Here is Your Jetpack: The lack of jetpacks in the twenty-first century is officially something we can no longer complain about. People will probably still whine about the lack of flying cars, however.

My dog: the paradox (an Oatmeal comic): “My dog does not fear automobiles, garbage trucks, or airplanes . . . but he is terrified of hair dryers.”

Ada Lovelace, Throughout the Ages: Did you miss Ada Lovelace day?

How to Protect Yourself Against Supernatural Creatures (Dinosaur Comics): “Rather than punishing bad behaviour, reinforce your lycanthropes desirable behaviour at the moment it happens with a click and a treat.”

Tuesday Links (07/31/12)

Five Men Agree To Stand Directly Under An Exploding Nuclear Bomb: “Watching this film, there are many things to wonder (and worry) about, but one of the stranger moments is how the bomb bursts in complete silence. We see a sudden white flash. It makes the soldiers flinch. Then there’s a pause, a pregnant quiet that lasts for a beat, then another and then — there’s a roar.”

Batman: Plutocrat: “Superman (for example) fights intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority. Batman fights psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo. Superman fights those who would impose their version of order on the world. Batman fights those who would unbalance the order Batman himself imposes on Gotham.”

Dinosaur Comics Presents McDonald’s Presents the Olympic Games: “Perhaps you’ve forgotten Coca-Cola, THE OFFICIAL SUGARED AND COLOURED BEVERAGE OF MCDONALD’S PRESENTS THE OLYMPIC GAMES?? You want a sculpted gold-medal body? Have you tried exercising? Sure, maybe. But have you tried CHUGGING A COKE?”

Another Auto-Post (with Comics!)

Still in Panama. Having a good Saturday?

Back in (I think) 2001, I made a little humour site for myself. I did some Googling (actually I probably used Yahoo or Metacrawler way back then) and found five one-hour lessons on basic HTML (it’s not a difficult thing, even for those who don’t care much for computer languages). I spent a couple evenings on it and then starting editing source code.

WordPress is user-friendly enough that I rarely edit the HTML manually anymore, but I still find this comic hilarious.

Going Nowhere

Social reformers are probably as old as society itself. I’ve been reading Thomas More, who wrote his social satire, Utopia, early in the 16th century, only a few decades after Columbus’ famous voyage, and a few years after Amerigo Vespucci published on his travels to the New World.

Spinning off of these real-life current events, More imagined yet more hitherto unknown countries, especially the nation of Utopia. He used this imagined idyllic society to critique the Tudor England of his time. Later in his life he would lose his head after going head-to-head with Henry VIII over the tyrant’s break with the church.

(Swift’s satirical work more than two centuries later, Gulliver’s Travels, did much the same for his own contemporary politics, but was a bit more light-hearted, and had more to do with parliament and less with the monarchy.)

Today utopia is used as a general term referring to any fictional perfect society, and there has been somewhat of a literary tradition in imagining such societies, perhaps as lost tribes, alien races, or our own future. But just as important has been the literary tradition of dystopias, which have exactly the same purpose at heart.

Just as a utopian work contrasts the flaws in the writer’s society (if only implicitly) with an envisioned better one, the dystopian novel exaggerates the flaws and dangers in our society by imagining how much worse they might get. The most famous example would be Orwell’s 1984, imagining a totalitarian future England (and, in fact, the rest of the world is implied to be much the same). But there are many more.

Post-acopalyptic works could be considered a major sub-genre of the dystopian novel, and there have been no shortage of them since knowledge of nuclear weapons become public in 1945, though not every imagined apocalypse is a nuclear one, and not every dystopian novel takes place after armageddon. In many, the world changes no slowly no one notices, and this can be just as scary.

More derived the name Utopia from a Greek root meaning “nowhere”. He may simply have been winking at the reader that his supposed real-life discussion of a little-known country is entirely imaginary, or he may have been suggesting that a truly perfect society could never exist.

Recommended dystopian works (novels, comics, film, gaming): 1984, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Road; V for Vendetta; Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, The Road Warrior, Gattaca; The Mirror’s Edge.