Category Archives: apocalypse

The twit who tweeted

I just started a little Twitter account: @SpDilettante. Mostly I just use it to follow twittering news feeds and whatnot, but occasionally I’ll post or retweet something of interest about Spanish, Spain, Latin America, copyright information, dumb stuff, etc.

Glenn Danzig: Pro Literacy, Pro Spanish

Does listening to Danzig count as a guilty pleasure?

I was in high school and suffering from a severe bout of heavy metal addiction when the first Danzig album came out in 1988—bluesy and heavy with horror show lyrics…it was like manna to my ears. Oh, and the classic rock side of me loved the fact that Glenn Danzig’s voice sounded a bit like Jim Morrison’s–only a Jim Morrison obsessed with Satan and demons. I’ve had a soft spot for that album ever since, and I often find myself spinning it when I’m pissed off about something.

If you’re unfamiliar with Glenn Danzig, you should know that he was the creator and intellectual force behind the Misfits, a horror punk outfit that first came together in the late 70s and whose colorful members over the years have included Franché Coma, Brain Damage, Dr. Chud, and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein. Danzig disbanded the group over personal disagreements between the members, and the world lost a great and original punk band…until they reformed without him.

So Glenn formed a new band using his own name and with a much less punky style. Unfortunately, between his bulging muscles, horror movie lyrics, and occult obsessions, the man himself comes off as a bit of a nut at times. Some people even like to poke fun at him—but not me! For example, I take the following PSA-like video featuring Glenn and his book collection very seriously. I mean, the man loves to read. How great is that? And who doesn’t show off their book collection shirtless in a b&w video? I know there must be some grainy film out there of this dilettante displaying his Spanish dictionaries and short story collections while wearing only black boxers and white tube socks. ¡Qué guapo!

Danzig should also always be respected for branching out musically. Recently he recorded a new version of “Hips Don’t Lie” with Shakira—a bold move. And as you can tell by the lyrics (luckily the Institute of Danzig Research provides captioning), he’s intent on adding Spanish language skills to a resume that already includes martial arts experience, master iron pumping, wolf whispering, and Wolverine comics reading.

Luckily Danzig also has a sense of humor, as he exhibited in a recent animated guest appearance on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

#34: Hothouse (1962) by Brian Aldiss

“Obeying an inalienable law, things grew, growing riotous and strange in their impulse for growth.”

“Life was everywhere, life on a formidable scale. But the increased solar radiation that had brought the extinction of most of the animal kingdom had spelt the triumph of plant life. Everywhere, in a thousand forms and guises, the plants ruled. And vegetables have no voices.”

Brian Aldiss does some funky things with physics and nature in Hothouse. He has the Sun expand its intensity. He has the Earth with one side permanently facing the Sun, one side not. And he has insect webs connecting the Moon and Earth. Oh, and did I mention the fact that plants rule the world and humans have become a minor, hunted species?

Once you’ve got all that down, the plot follows simply along. Mostly it’s the tale of Gren, one of the few human males on the planet, his relationship with morel—a sentient fungus that exists in symbiosis with him—and his journey to find out what’s really going on with the Earth, Sun, and Aldiss’ crazy physics. Otherwise, the book is really a fantastical romp through Aldiss’ imagination. He invents plants, insects, and the directions of human evolution.

I must admit that I grow tired of Aldiss’ fantasies at times and a few sections of the book were a real slog for me. On the other hand, the book is generally beloved, as is Aldiss. So you don’t have to take my word as final on the issue.

IDW recently brought this title back into print.

Soviet Zombies

I’m not a Metallica fan, but their new video is a great piece of short sf filmmaking.

Adaptation of the Original Original

The blog Diversions of the Groovy Kind has a reproduction of an entire 1970s Marvel Comics adaptation of “Farewell to the Masterhere. It’s a lot more enjoyable than the second half of the current film remake.

A Tale of Two Movies

Curiosity got the better of me, and I actually went and paid to see the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Considering my last adventure at the movie theater, I probably should have known better. But it was both not as bad as I expected and far worse. Granted, I thought I’d hate it. But in the end, the first half of the film I found intriguing. The second half? Like a drill slowly burrowing into my brain as the second hand on my watch moved backwards.

This “reimagining” of Robert Wise’s 1951 classic exchanges the fears of earthly war mongering for environmental devastation. Klaatu’s race/organization/whatever doesn’t fear what humans will do to each other, but to the precious resource that is a planet able to support life. In the original, Klaatu is sent with robot guardian Gort to warn humanity that its destructive nature (and development of nuclear arms) will ultimately force the rest of the universe—the civilized part that is—to destroy it. Klaatu in the current film comes without warning to destroy humans right now. Humanity is inherently destructive to the environment, he decides. Though after a little squishiness, he’ll see that there is “another side” to us later in the film.

The Good.
1. I actually liked Keanu in this film. He was able to pull off a foreignness in his portrayal that made “first contact” believable. In the original film, Michael Rennie’s Klaatu becomes more and more human. We never make the mistake of thinking the same about Keanu’s Klaatu. There is a distance between him and the human characters throughout.

2. The premise of an advanced civilization’s concern over the environment. There’s ample belief in the scientific community that few planets like ours exist. That an advanced civilization would consider this planet as a resource that far outweighs the moral implications of genocide seems plausible.

3. The morality of Klaatu’s civilization. On the other hand, that this “advanced” civilization chooses to destroy humanity instead of sharing technology and helping us along is interesting. Though Rennie’s Klaatu threatens humanity with destruction at the end of the film, he is sympathetic to its primitive state throughout. Keanu’s Klaatu doesn’t have any patience for us. His civilization seems to have a sense of entitlement. I found this interesting to ponder.

4. The technology of Klaatu’s civilization was fascinating. Gene manipulation, biological interface with electronics, and organic metal. Truly awesome.

The Bad.
1. Why does every Hollywood film have to have a cute fatherless/motherless child?

2. If this other civilization is so concerned about the environment over everything else, why does a little weepiness from the previously mentioned cute child cause Klaatu to reevaluate wiping humanity out? So a kid cries about his dad, does that really mean we won’t burning this baby down with greenhouse gases, plastics, and overpopulation? I say torch the humans.

3. Everything after Klaatu meets with Dr. Barnhardt. If you do see this film, when John Cleese leaves the screen, LEAVE THE THEATER.

4. I still don’t see why this film had to be remade (or “reimagined”). The original is a piece of art from a certain period. It forever belongs there. There was nothing about it that needed to be updated or reinterpreted. Please, Hollywood…please start producing some original screenplays.

#30: A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

“But there was in that time a man whose name was Leibowitz, who, in his youth like the holy Augustine, had loved the wisdom of the world more than the wisdom of God. But now seeing that great knowledge, while good, had not saved the world, he turned in penance to the Lord.”

“If you try to save wisdom until the world is wise, Father, the world will never have it.”

Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is basically three interconnected novellas that jump six hundred years in time between each story. The constants between the three are a Catholic monastic order called the Albertian Order of St. Leibowitz (well, sort of–Leibowitz isn’t actually canonized until the end of section one), a “Wandering Jew” character, the theme of cyclical history, and the tension between church and state. ACFL is Miller’s only novel…again, sort of. He did work for years on a sequel to ACFL called Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, but he committed suicide before finishing it. That book is in publication, however, because Terry Bisson completed the novel for him. I still haven’t read it. Anyone else?

The philosophical undercurrent of ACFL is that there are cyclical patterns in human society. The novel begins six hundred years after a massive nuclear war, which is referred to as the “Flame Deluge.” Human society has returned to a period akin to the early Middle Ages. Most knowledge has been lost or forgotten, in part because of a violent rebellion against learning and the learned in the period of “Simplification” that followed near nuclear annihilation. Scientists were lynched, books were burned, and the Catholic Church became a refuge to those persecuted. One of those refugees was an engineer named I.E. Leibowitz, a Jewish scientist who converted to the religion after the “Flame Deluge.” Leibowitz went on to start his own order, named in part for Albertus Magnus, a 13th-century saint associated with science. Leibowitz’s Order took to smuggling books (“booklegging”) and hiding them in the desert. Others in the Order put books to memory (a la Fahrenheit 451) or copied them. Leibowitz himself was martyred for the cause. And now six hundred years later, books are still being copied and knowledge is still being preserved by this Order at an abbey located in the desert. Among these monastics is a sympathetic, if not all that bright, character named Brother Francis Gerard of Utah, who unwittingly discovers the cache of a lifetime…a store of Leibowitz’s writings, as well as mechanical blueprints, in a fallout shelter revealed to him by a Jewish pilgrim (perhaps Leibowitz himself?). A lengthy period of authentification follows, and Francis finds himself a key player in the safety of the documents.

Six hundred years later, in section two, a Renaissance period is unfolding, and the Order is still a major center of knowledge. But now the secular world has turned to the Order for its holdings. In particular, a well-connected scholar named Thon Taddeo comes to the Leibowitz abbey to examine the documents Brother Francis found and discern their wealth. This situation does not come without its tension and repercussions for scientific and societal advancement.

And finally, after another six hundred years has passed, section three takes place in a time when the world has advanced to the point of interstellar travel, and off-Earth colonies have been formed. But a Cold War is in place, and the tension between humanity’s two superpowers, the Asian Coalition and the Atlantic Confederacy, is beginning to escalate. The Church begins to make plans for the worst-case scenario by assembling a team of capable believers, clergy, and monastics that will take a microfilm copy of “the Memorabilia” (the collection of writings and documents from St. Francis’ find) safely off planet.

While clearly a positive portrayal of the Catholic Church (and it’s unusual for sf literature from this time being positive about religion at all), there are few moments of outright apologism in the book. Though perhaps the most blatant comes in the third section when the Abbot of the Leibowitz abbey physically advances the belief that euthanasia for nuclear fallout victims is abominable. And as for myself, I find the suggestion that the Catholic Church is a vessel of scientific knowledge–whether in the future or the real past of the Middle Ages and Western Renaissance–more complex than Miller portrays in this novel. Nonetheless, this is one of the great books of speculative fiction–I believe this is the fourth time I’ve read it–and it deserves to be read by everyone. Everyone! So get to it.

Should be in print for a long, long time to come.

PS There’s a couple of good guides to the Latin found in the book. Here’s one.