Happy 7 Billion Day!

Is it getting more crowded in here, or is it just me?

Unfortunately, I think like Marx, Malthus will turn out to be right, it’s just being delayed. Eventually we will reach a point where we outpace our ability to feed ourselves due to climate change or general limits of technology, and then the resource wars will begin.

On the plus side, there’s the graphics of the birthrates in Africa, which I found rather positive. Not because Africans are having less children, but because the human develpment index scores are going up in even some of the harsher African countries.

More graphs and information here:

Infographic: Measuring the effect of a growing population – The Globe and Mail.

What’s the First Horror Movie? This is.

The Devil’s Castle, from 1896 is considered to be the first horror movie. At a bit over three minutes long, it’s not a hard watch despite being a silent film. One thing that today’s viewers should keep in mind when watching is that the audiences of the day had no concept of special effects because films were such a new medium. So the transformations you see here, while extremely crude, would have been genuinely shocking to the audiences watching this film.

And when you’re done laughing at that, here’s an early silent horror film that lives up to it’s name. If you haven’t seen the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), you’re in for a twisted piece of German expressionism that you won’t soon forget!

And finally, here’s a movie that haunted my young dreams for years. That staircase scene still gives me chills, 1922’s Nosferatu!

Happy Halloween!


Yesterday, I saw the recent Stratford Festival production of Camelot at the Festival Theatre. Clicking on the link below or the picture above or link below will take you to a real review of the show that I agree completely with, so I’ll just skip to my personal comments.

For some reason, the whole King Arthur legend has always left me cold. It’s an odd thing, because while I love historical fiction, enjoy fantasy, and devour period pieces whenever I get the chance- I just can’t get into the whole King Arthur mythos or story. Even this play, which I greatly appreciated, still didn’t make me like the idea of the King Arthur legend that has entranced so many any more than I did before. (Although I’ll confess the ending did leave me a little misty-eyed, but that I credit more to the actors than the story.)

I guess perhaps it’s the un-reality of it all. The whole thing seems more like children playing at a game than a real piece of historical or fictional drama. The inclusion of magic with Merlin and Morgan le Fey makes it even worse, as we have a bunch of children playing with swords and a couple magic-users manipulating them. It never feels like a real story about real people, and I find no-one in this tale with whom I can connect emotionally.

Then again, maybe I just haven’t read or seen the right version.

TheRecord – Stratford Festival: Camelot delivers magic.

Covers from Weird (Eerie Publications, 1966 – 79)

In time for Halloween! This site has a collection of covers from the old WEIRD magazines. I think they live up to their name nicely.

Enter! If you dare! BWAHAHAHAHAH!

MONSTER BRAINS: Weird (Eerie Publications, 1966 – 79).

Missed Opportunities- In Time

I’ve started to read reviews of the new movie In Time, and there is apparently some confusion around the movie’s setting.

For those not familar with the movie, the above trailer will explain it, but the key element here is that people stop aging at 25, and have to actually earn their minutes/hours/days/years after that by working to continue living. People can also trade/give away time they’ve earned to others, so time has literally become money. According to Roger Ebert, this leads to some very cool gambling scenes where people are literally betting their life on the game.

A neat idea.

However, based on what I’m reading, I guess the movie itself never talks about the obvious reason this system has developed- they bloody discovered immortality! You can’t have a whole population of immortals, especially a growing population of immortals! That will quickly turn into hell on earth. You need to have some system to keep the population in check, and this is an incredible meritocratic system that keeps the productive people alive and active in society while getting rid of the excess population who serve no purpose.

I call this a big missed opportunity because the whole thing could have been turned into an incredible look at the whole idea of both immortality and how many people society needs/wants.

Instead, it apparently turns into a standard “hot guy and hot chick being hunted by bad guys in endless chases and gunfights” movie.

Sigh. I wonder if the actual good bits ended up on the cutting room floor, and the director’s cut DVD will be the version with the actual story? I might actually watch it then.


Webcomic worth checking out- The Meek

The Meek is a graphic novel about Angora, an inexperienced young girl who has been sent on a quest to save the world. War looms on the horizon, and at its helm is the Emperor of the North and his hellish adviser. The two countries are overwhelmed with as much terror, crime, disease and revolution as they are with those who wish to create peace. Armed with only her instincts and an unexplainable power, she must experience and judge the world—and decide once and for all if it is truly worth saving.”

A unique and gorgeous Fantasy webcomic that’s just finished its third volume. Go read it!


Authors I Wish I’d Read As a Teenager- H. Beam Piper

Today I finished reading Four Day Planet by H. Beam Piper, which is the fourth of Piper’s novels that I’ve read. He was a pulp sci-fi writer who wrote prolifically for the magazines back in the 50’s and 60’s and I have to say he’s probably one of my favorite writers of the period, so much so that I wish I’d read him much earlier in my life.

There are a couple reasons I say this.

The first reason is because his stuff tends to be of a young adult vein, and is sincerely focussed on helping to really bring the wonders of the universe and its possibilites to the reader. Piper is great at bringing his settings to life, and really revels in detailed characters and settings. Four Day Planet, for example, is essentially a story about a whaling village set on a world that’s largely oceans with a single large port-city. The details he goes into are exquisite, and while many things now seem quaint (he was writing in an age before computers were a part of daily life) it all seems very logical and functional. Not only does he give you the life on Fenris in incredible detail, he makes you the reader a part of it, and makes it all alive and interesting.

I think if I’d read Piper back when I was a teenager, I would have developed a love for science fiction earlier than I did. To me, science fiction was TV Sci-Fi, and the stuff not on TV or in movies was boring. It was actually anime and manga that opened me up to other possibilities, and Piper would definitely have cured me of that idea, and made me read a lot more of the sf classics at an earlier age.

Another reason I wish I’d read Piper earlier was because I didn’t know how influential he was on the stuff I was reading and involved with! Back as a teenager I was really into Role Playing Games (the pen and paper kind) and while I ran and played some of the science fiction games like Traveller, Star Frontiers, Spacemaster, and Mekton I had no idea just how much of what was in them was right out of Piper’s works! Mekton (which was an anime-style giant robot game) was actually less anime than it was H. Beam Piper! Piper is mentioned as an influence in the rulesbook, but now that I’m reading his works I can really see how the whole setting in the book is really based on Piper’s Federation setting more than it is any anime world.

Now, not everything is rosy in Piper’s work, he does have his issues from my perspective.

1) Piper is a gun fetishist. Not a fanatic. A real fetishist- you get the feeling that if he didn’t have multiple weapons within reach he’d feel completely naked. He worked guns into everything, and did it with the loving detail some authors devote to swords, or cars, or whatever their hobby of choice is. So his stories tend to have a real space western feel to them because everyone is packing heat, and there’s always some shootouts. Not lasers, either, always ballistic firearms.

In fact, he even wrote a whole murder mystery novel called Murder in the Gunroom, which sounds like it should be about a killing aboard a ship, but refers to a gun collector’s room. The book, which I’ve read, is like a course in gun history and gunsmithing and gun collecting all rolled together and bound up by a murder mystery plot which actually isn’t interesting enough to hold the whole thing together. I wouldn’t recommend reading it unless you like guns a lot, or you’re really curious.

2) Piper definitely has issues about women. (If you read the wiki entry I linked to above, you’ll quickly see they were major issues.) I wouldn’t say he seems to hate them in his work, it’s more like he ignores them. I’ll give an example from Four Day Planet, he gives us the names of pretty much every man we come across in the story, but when there’s a group of women at one point in the story he literally just told the reader they were the wives and girlfriends of the men and that was it. A lack of female characters seems to run through his work that I’ve read so far, which is neither good nor bad, but it can get a little odd sometimes when it seems like the whole worlds he builds are all composed of men. It may simply be that he’s a man of his time, and that I’m looking at it from a modern perspective (both of which are definitely true) but even Asimov and Heinlein had female protagonists.

Despite these two odd points, I really do have to say the quality of his work really outshines anything negative I could generally say about it. His science fiction books are just pure, well-written fun and I do wish I’d read them earlier. Four Day Planet is a good read, but his best I’ve read so far is Space Viking and I can’t recommend that one enough. It’s about a man seeking the killer of his wife in the ruins of a collapsed space federation. (Interesting note- the main bad guy’s ship is called the Enterprise, and the story has many Trek-like elements despite having being written before Trek aired!)

Piper’s works are almost all public domain now, and available at Project Gutenberg, so go check them out!

So, what authors do other people wish they’d read as Teenagers or discovered earlier in life?


Paranominal and other Weird Stuff Sites

I stumbled across this today- Paranominal is a clearing-house website for weird stuff stories of many different kinds- UFOs, Ghosts, Cryptozoology, you know the drill. Seems like a fun place to spend a lonely fall evening creeping yourself out.

Although, if you really want to creep yourself out, check out paranormal.about.com’s True Stories sent in by readers. They post a collection of them each month, and they range from touching, to creepy, to outright weird. Lots of stuff here on Black-Eyed Kids, Living Shadows, and other phenomena that you don’t see mentioned much.

I would also be remiss not to mention a friend’s new podcast about weird things from Nova Scotia- North of Reality. The show is just getting started, but looks like it will be a lot of fun, since the hosts Jack and Antonia are both really into weird phenomena.

Happy Halloween!



4 Terrifying Psychology Lessons Behind Famous Movie Monsters | Cracked.com

Interesting, and topical for Halloween.