World Of PeaceCraft

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

“You’ve fought terrorists in Call of Duty and alien hordes in Gears of War. Well, now get ready for the opposite of that“:

(From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.)

Usagi Yojimbo Short

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

This is the proof of concept short film that Lintika Films created and presented to Stan Sakai to secure the feature-film rights to Usagi Yojimbo:

Usagi, by the way, is Japanese for rabbit, and yojimbo means bodyguard. Yojimbo is also, of course, the famous a 1961 jidaigeki (period drama) film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It was based, indirectly, on Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Harvest” and inspired Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars.

The Real League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Florian Liedtke has produced an opening sequence for a hypothetical League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie based on the original comics:

Did the writer of “True Detective” plagiarize Thomas Ligotti and others?

Friday, August 15th, 2014

When I saw a headline asking, Did the writer of True Detective plagiarize Thomas Ligotti and others?, I distinctly remembered that Nic Pizzolatto had explicitly mentioned Ligotti as a major influence in interviews:

MD: But isn’t it true that Pizzolatto acknowledged Ligotti’s influence on True Detective and praised his work?

JP: In the many interviews Pizzolatto gave in the lead up to episode three, the show’s influences were discussed by the show’s creator at great length. You know who wasn’t mentioned by Pizzolatto until days after episode three aired? Ligotti.

MD: But in this Wall Street Journal interview, Pizzolatto does talk at length about Ligotti’s influence on the show.

JP: Only under pressure. Here’s what was happening behind the scenes: WSJ reporter Michael Calia and I (and plenty of other Ligotti readers) had already noticed that Rust Cohle’s monologues and other dialogue were peculiarly Ligottian (his prose is very distinctive). In an interview with the True Detective creator, Arkham Digest editor Justin Steele even brought up Cohle’s “Ligottian wordview”, and I was frustrated when Pizzolatto evaded his question, at least as it concerned Thomas Ligotti or his work. Three of nine commenters on that interview page also noticed that Pizzolatto appeared to be evasive in dealing with the Ligotti influence question. At that point, I tried to get an interview with Pizzolatto about Ligotti’s influence on True Detective — writing to his agent — but I was told politely that Pizzolatto was “up to his ears in post-production and working on season two of True Detective.”

Then I started digging. Mr. Calia was coincidentally already working on an article centering on the influence by past and present masters of weird horror tales on True Detective, so I decided to analyze Cohle’s familiar dialogue and compare it side by side with Ligotti’s prose in The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. I quickly sent Mr. Calia the results of my research, and he used just the tip of the iceberg of evidence I had uncovered in his article — perhaps cannily implying that “The Most Shocking Thing About HBO’s ‘True Detective’” was that Pizzolatto lifted text and ideas from an author he had hitherto explicitly refused to acknowledge as an influence.

Shortly after the article’s publication, Calia interviewed Pizzolatto in a follow-up to his original article. It seems that the “too busy” writer suddenly had time for an interview mostly about, you guessed it, Thomas Ligotti. Usually I would give any kind of writer who appeared so praising of Ligotti the benefit of the doubt, but I knew how deep the plagiarism issue ran, and I had no illusions that Pizzolatto suddenly and coincidentally wanted to talk about Ligotti after already having dozens and dozens of opportunities to do so before. Was Pizzolatto in damage control mode (i.e., “I don’t want to get in legal trouble” mode)? Quite suddenly Thomas Ligotti was one of his top literary influences, an acknowledgement that would never be repeated again in a full-length interview or, to my knowledge, elsewhere.

MD: Wait, that interview was the only time Pizzolatto mentioned Ligotti as an influence?

JP: Not quite. He sent Justin Steele a follow-up paragraph clarifying Ligotti’s influence on True Detective just days after Calia’s first article on the connection between the show and Ligotti’s work was published. But after that, Pizzolatto hasn’t mentioned a word about Ligotti. Not one word. Nothing in interviews. Nothing on the DVD commentaries. Nothing. In how many interviews total does Pizzolatto mention Thomas Ligotti or his work? Two — the two I’ve mentioned.

MD: During the one WSJ interview, though, Pizzolatto states that “In episode one [of ‘True Detective’] there are two lines in particular (and it would have been nothing to re-word them) that were specifically phrased in such a way as to signal Ligotti admirers. Which, of course, you got.” How do you respond to his claim?

JP: I consider that justification absurd and disingenuous.

‘Frozen’ Director to Write Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Jennifer Lee, who wrote and co-directed Frozen, will write the big-screen adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

TMZ’s Audience Exposed!

Friday, August 8th, 2014

The most shocking thing about TMZ:

Today, 42% of TMZ’s readership is male; compare that to usmagazine.com (15%) and people.com (11%).

Magic Mushrooms Inspired Dune

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Frank Herbert’s Dune included one element that particularly endeared it to the counterculture — the spice, melange, which granted its users prescience. It turns out that magic mushrooms were the inspiration for the spice, according to mycologist Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running:

Frank Herbert, the well-known author of the Dune books, told me his technique for using spores. When I met him in the early 1980s, Frank enjoyed collecting mushrooms on his property near Port Townsend, Washington. An avid mushroom collector, he felt that throwing his less-than-perfcct wild chanterelles into the garbage or compost didn’t make sense. Instead, he would put a few weathered chanterelles in a 5-gallon bucket of water, add some salt, and then, after 1 or 2 clavs, pour this spore-mass slurry on the ground at the base of newly planted firs. When he told me chanterelles were glowing from trees not even 10 years old, I couldn’t believe it. No one had previously reported chanterelles arising near such young trees, nor had anyone reported them growing as a result of using this method.” Of course, it did work for frank, who was simply following nature’s lead.

Frank’s discovery has now been confirmed in the mushroom industry. It is now known that it’s possible to grow many mushrooms using spore slurries from elder mushrooms. Many variables come into play, but in a sense this method is just a variation of what happens when it rains. Water dilutes spores from mushrooms and carries them to new environments. Our responsibility is to make that path easier. Such is the way of nature.

Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.

Groundhog Day’s Ecumenical Message

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Charles Murray’s last piece of advice for a happy life is to watch Groundhog Day — repeatedly, of course.

Here the late Harold Ramis explains how Groundhog is remarkably ecumenical in its message. (“Embedding disabled by request.”)

(Hat tip to Borepatch.)

The Guy in the Model Shop that Everyone Hated

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

James Cameron describes his early work for Roger Corman:

I had been sort of preparing myself for a career in visual effects by learning about mold-making and sculpting and matte camera and optical printing on little film projects in Orange County with some other eager wannabes. And we got a lead that there was a film being made up in Venice with visual effects for Roger Corman. I knew who Roger Corman was, and I knew the films he had made.

So I trooped down there, and they had an opening for a modeler. I started off as the lowest man on the totem pole in the model shop. I was just happy to be on a film — I didn’t care that it was a pretty rinky-dink production. This was at the lumberyard, which was basically just an empty building with a floor that was flooded.

Roger came through one day, and he kind of threw down a challenge to everyone in the model shop. Actually, he was kind of pissed off. We’re so many weeks away from shooting, and no one had even designed the main character ship for Battle Beyond the Stars.

The main space ship had a female computer. It was kind of a HAL 9000, but female. He said, ‘I want a design in the next two days.’ So it sort of became a sort of design contest, and I thought, OK, it’s Roger Corman. He does girls-in-bamboo-cages movies. What is he selling? He sells tits! So I designed a kind of Amazon warrior spaceship — basically a spaceship with tits. It was a cool design.

Roger came through and he looked at all of the designs, and he stopped at mine and he went: ‘This is it, this is exactly what I want.’ He said, ‘What is this?’ And I said, ‘This is a spaceship with tits.’ And he says, ‘Yes, that’s exactly what it is. You build it.’ So suddenly, I was the guy in the model shop that everyone hated.

Movie Film at Death’s Door

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Kodak’s motion-picture film sales have plummeted 96% since 2006, the Wall Street Journal reports — from 12.4 billion linear feet to an estimated 449 million this year:

With the exit of competitor Fujifilm Corp. last year, Kodak is the only major company left producing motion-picture film.

Stephen Colbert at Comic Con

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Stephen Colbert moderates the Comic Con panel for The Hobbit 3: Battle Of The Five Armies in costume:

Back the Imperial Forces

Friday, August 1st, 2014

The Star Wars: Rebels team has produced these delightful propaganda posters:

Star Wars Rebels Propaganda Poster 05

Star Wars Rebels Propaganda Poster 03

Star Wars Rebels Propaganda Poster 02

Star Wars Rebels Propaganda Poster 01

The SciFri Book Club Reads Dune

Friday, August 1st, 2014

NPR’s SciFri Book Club has started discussing Dune:

Join sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson and astrobiologist and theoretical physicist Sara Imari Walker as they help kick off the club with an introduction to Herbert’s “Duniverse.”

Kim Stanley Robinson asks the first discussion question:

What do you see in the book that is a funhouse mirror reflection of our world right now?

Quantum Libraries

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

T. Greer recently shared the contents of his own quantum library — the books and articles that, no matter how often they are returned to, provide fresh insights and new knowledge.

It struck me as a list of yet more books to add to my anti-library — the books on the shelf that have so much potential to be read one day. I’ve been meaning to read — rather than read about — most of his list, namely:

  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.
  • James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers.
  • Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.
  • Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddihmah.
  • Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization.
  • Vaclav Smil, Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex System.

One book in his quantum library, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, has crept into my own. I originally read a borrowed copy in one day in eighth grade — one school day, uncharacteristically ignoring all the classes I was nominally attending — and then I re-read it maybe 15 years later, and I did in fact get much more out of it. It certainly seems prescient in our social-media world.

Similarly, I’ve gone back and re-read Asimov’s Foundation, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Moore’s Watchmen, and Herbert’s Dune — all for a mix of entertainment and enlightenment.

Despite the fact that I’m a Tolkien-geek by any normal measure, the same pattern holds for his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings — I read each once in childhood and once in adulthood, and they were very different experiences each time. In fact, the only thing I remembered from my childhood reading of Lord of the Rings was that there were super-orcs who could travel by day. I haven’t yet made it to my adult re-reading of his Silmarillion.

When it comes to more scholarly works, I suppose I’ve read Sun-Tzu’s Art of War multiple times, and Machiavelli’s Prince, as well, but they’re both quite short. I concede that I got very little out of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings either time I read it.

There are quite a few books that I haven’t re-read, but I have read fairly deeply the first time through:

  • Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms
  • Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene
  • Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal

I won’t touch on television and film except to point out that I really should re-watch Groundhog Day.

How long would Batman’s identity remain secret?

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

If Batman were to operate in real life, how long would it take for his identity to be revealed?

In the Legends of the Dark Knight story Prey, which takes place about 18 months into Bruce’s career as Batman, Hugo Strange figured out Bruce’s identity through some basic investigative work, similar to how Ra’s al Ghul claimed to have discerned Bruce’s identity in the Bronze Age.

  1. Examining the remains of equipment that Batman left behind at various scenes allowed Strange to deduce that Batman was well funded and had lots and lots of access to capital as well as fabrication resources.
  2. Batman’s targeting of criminals from all walks of life indicated to him that Batman has a sincere grudge against the underworld, likely because he felt wronged by Gotham’s criminal element, and likely suffered a great loss at their hands.
  3. First hand accounts of Batman’s athletic prowess and visage provided him a fairly reasonable physical profile to go on: White male, age 20-40, excellent physical conditioning.

From there Strange skimmed though police reports of notable murder cases in the GCPD’s archives for 0-40 years searching for persons of interests who could fit those criteria today, before finally arriving at the conclusion that it was Bruce Wayne.

Another significant clue that Strange didn’t consider but probably should have was that Bruce Wayne’s much publicized return to Gotham roughly coincided with the first reported appearance of the Batman.

And that was basically just one guy working on his own. If it were real life I think Bruce would also have the full attention and might of every alphabet soup agency in the country on his ass 24/7 trying to track him down.

Another take:

Exactly one month after being coming to the attention of the Federal authorities.

A crazed vigilante is riding around an American city using military grade weaponry and committing crimes against civilians on a record scale? It would not take long at all to deploy the necessary resources to the scene.

Several Blackhawks and Little Birds from the BATF and FBI be orbiting on shifts doing surveillance, waiting for a signal that the unsub has begun activity.

He would leave to patrol in the Batmobile, and as soon as his distinctive black vehicle’s turbine-driven heat signature was located, a Predator drone would be re-tasked to orbit and follow. That tango in question is very versatile, active, and potentially lethal when engaged so nothing would be done that night, however every illegal activity he performed would be caught on IR-enhanced video, including the multitude of assaults, breakings and enterings, trespasses, abuse of public property, use of prohibited weapons, substances and hazardous materials, perhaps even failure to register a motor vehicle and violating speed restrictions, and several counts of obstruction of justice.

His citizen’s arrests would be logged and the suspects duly charged in any and all assaults against him, as well, however a few suspects will likely be audited for their willingness to testify both against their compatriots and the vigilante.

At some point his most recent crime spree will end and he will head for home. The Predator will follow, a barely visible line in the inky black Gotham sky, camera eye recording the Batmobile’s every move.

Of course the Batmobile will disappear into some rocky outcropping or waterfall or some other land feature and it’s destination will be unknown.

The very next day special operations elements of the DoJ will be at the location, planting temblor sensors and concealed cameras. This is Batman so it will be a few days before he uses the same entrance again, but he will, and when he does, the triggering of the sensors will activate the cameras, and FBI analysts will see the long stretch of tunnel inside the entrance and start doing calculations.

The length of the entrance tunnel until loss of focus or a turn will be calculated, and the direction and distance of that stretch of the tunnel will be known. Immediate records will be pulled for every building in the area, and every microsecond of the next day will be spent sifting through the possible combinations of owners, buildings, knowledge wealth and access to technology.

This will continue with each of the Batman’s movements, and piece by piece a picture of his activities will become known. Information, bits and pieces will be gleaned from his victims, the various residues from his smoke bombs, gases and shark repellents will be analyzed, the Batarangs and grappling hooks researched down to the atomic scale.

Once there is a database of products and substances, the FBI will start rifling through purchase orders and BATF registrations for shipments of the necessary fuel for his Batmobile, and the explosive charges for his bat-grapples, and the avionics for his missile’s warheads, amongst the other detritus he leaves after his battles.

Eventually the source of gear will be deciphered: Wayne Industries, and at that point, the cat is out of the bag. Wayne’s home is within the perimeters of the Batmobile disappearances, and a thermal flyby will reveal he’s using the same electricity as an small industrial plant does when only two or three people ever live in that mansion. Analysis of company records will reveal the massive levels of graft and embezzlement required to hijack all these prohibited and classified materials to the mansion, and the deliveries of the materials will tagged and traced.

The is enough evidence to present Bruce Wayne with a warrant for his arrest based on the very least on corporate malfeasance, embezzlement, falsification of tax records, Illegal trafficking of prohibited agents, weapons and substances falsified BATF filings, and aiding and abetting multiple criminal acts.

Since he is an important personage in the city, they’ll do him the favor of sending one very polite agent armed with a single piece of paper, to wait in his office. What happens after that is up to him.

Conversely a team of agents and a ground-scanning radar van will arrive on the grounds of Wayne Manor and present Alfred with a warrant for his arrest and a search of the premises.

This will occur at the exact same time as Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and Dick Grayson are brought into custody, and James Gordon upon getting notification of a pending warrant against his daughter, will take the day off to go try and convince Barbara to turn State’s witness.

All identified suspects that were encountered during the surveillance will be swept up as well on that day.

Wayne’s excellent lawyer will have him booked and released on bail, at which point mysteriously enough a limo from the Themiscyran embassy will pick him up and he will not be seen again until he submits his US passport and a letter revoking his citizenship, and announces himself a citizen of the city-state of Atlantis.

When asked, they will plainly refuse extradition.

A dissenting opinion:

No No No. You’re describing how they’d catch some regular guy who was using military grade gear every night like a punk, not batman.

You’re disregarding his super power. Superman flies, batman plans. Superman can see through walls, Batman sees through YOU.

Those drones you suppose will find the batmobile for you so handily? I guarantee those drones are Wayne Electronics Products, Running Wayne Industries OS. They will report whatever batman tells them to report.

In fact Wayne Enterprises is the biggest corporation in the DC universe, bigger then lex corp, bigger then google+facebook+sony+3m.

Wayne Industries runs their own mines and R&D labs and everything else batman needs to build the batmobile from scratch and have it come out of untraceable thin air. Who’s to say that 12 tons of steel were smelted and not 10 as the books say? Who’s to say exactly how much fuel was refined when it all came out of the ground just yesterday? Compared to global scale commerce, a few tanks of jet fuel aren’t even worth writing off as loss. I bet more evaporates during transport. I bet more sticks to the side of the shipping containers.

Wayne shipping handles billions of tonnes of freight each month, Wayne Yards builds Aircraft carriers for the Navy. This man can make whatever he needs, and I guarantee it would be child’s play for him to simply not report to the ATF. BATF registrations are what punks who buy too much fertilizer have to worry about, not Batman.

And lets not forget, the bat computer already has access to everything the intelligence networks get, and more. He has his own satellites, his own drones, he runs analytic s the NSA hasn’t invented yet. The minute the government starts paying any serious attention to gotham city not to mention himself the bat-computer will alert his heads up display with 20 countermeasures.

Planting cameras everywhere will never catch batman. He can access your networks. Using technology just makes it easier for him to watch you. He can feed you false video, he knows what you know.

As for using his victims as informants? Ridiculous. These guys won’t snitch on the Joker, they would definitely be too afraid to snitch on Batman. They’re a superstitious and cowardly lot. Besides what can they say except they got beat up by a man dressed in a bat suit?

All that is just Batman’s built in advantages. Then he’ll run countermeasures.

  1. Political, Through his copious connections in through the Wayne Foundation your boss’ boss’ boss will start getting serious heat from some senators about wasting funds chasing Batman when there are criminals to find.
  2. Hacking, All your gear will betray you. Your drones will find Batmobile everywhere, your cellphone will start dropping calls, your requisition forms will fail to make its way through the bureaucracy… Wild goose chases ensue.
  3. Psych ops … don’t get me started. Batman loves to mess with your mind. He’ll make you sit on stake out until your mind goes numb. When you’re going completely crazy from boredom he’ll convince you your fellow agents are on his side, he’ll convince you your fellow agents are Batman! Paranoia! After that he’ll make you believe the Joker is after you personally. Panic! Then He’ll convince you you need to become Batman to save yourself. Then when you try, he’ll end up saving your life.
  4. Decoys. Everyone has been a batman decoy. Robin, Nightwing, Commissioner Gordon, even Superman did it, not to mention the robots… Did you know there are two batcaves ? (there’s another one under the Wayne foundation building). The FBI/ATF are not ready for this.
  5. PR. People mostly love batman. The only serious complaints come from uptight law enforcement types. Pray Pray Pray the Penguin doesn’t try to take over the city during your investigation. The press will eat you alive.

In the end the investigation will become an expensive fail, and the plug will be pulled from higher up. Not before some federal agents learn some valuable lesson about themselves and the need for the Dark Knight.