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"Cannibal! The Musical," Matt and Trey's musical before "Book of Mormon" (video)

Pesco blogged earlier about the news that weirdo indie film purveyors Troma are releasing 150 full-length movies on YouTube, for free.

One of them is Cannibal! The Musical (1993), an awesomely awful film about the pioneering raw foodist Alferd Packer, directed by (and starring) Trey Parker, also starring Matt Stone. You can scroll down to watch it in entirety right here.

Trey and Matt, of course, are the same guys behind South Park and the hit Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon. They've come a long way in the 20 years since "Cannibal," and for me, that's part of what makes it so fun to re-watch now—it's so very, "Hey guys, let's put on a show!" Snip from the Troma tease:

"Cannibal" is the true story of the only person convicted of cannibalism in America -- Alferd Packer. The sole survivor of an ill-fated trip to the Colorado Territory, he tells his side of the harrowing tale to news reporter Polly Prye as he awaits his execution. And his story goes like this: While searching for gold and love in the Colorado Territory, he and his companions lost their way and resorted to unthinkable horrors, including toe-tapping songs! Packer and his five wacky mining buddies sing and dance their ways into your heart...and then take a bite out of it! Cannibal! The Musical is Oklahoma meets Bloodsucking Freaks. Brought to you by the Troma Team and Trey Parker -- the Rogers and Hammerstein of Horror!

"Cannibal" later became a live stage play, starting in New York, and moving on to a number of other cities. My friend Jason McHugh oversaw the live touring production, played in some of the stage performances, and wrote a book about it all in 2011. Good times.

Trailer above, full length film via Troma is below. The official "Cannibal" fan-site is here. Amazon has the DVD from Troma, which includes a "Drunken Director's Commentary" in which Parker, Stone, and cast members get drunk and talk about the film while watching the film. Below, watch it in entirety via YouTube. There's a Troma promo that runs up to about 2 minutes 20 seconds in.

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Economix: terrific cartoon history of economics

One of my favorite books is Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. With simple comic art, McCloud presents the history of sequential comics, and how they work. It's as much about psychology as it is about the way comics use standard structural elements that work on a subconscious level to tell a story. A cartoon version of McCloud serves as the narrator of the book, speaking directly to the reader, which is very effective.

I'm also a big fan of Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe, a series of comic books that, as the title suggests, presents the history of the universe from the big bang up to the present era. It combines factual history with a bit of humor (which is always appropriately in context).

Both McCloud and Gonick came to mind when I read Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), by Michael Goodwin and by illustrated Dan E. Burr. Told as a history, it ties important world events (wars, revolutions, technological progress, resource depletion, pollution, etc.) to their economic consequences, and it explains the far-reaching (and often unintended effects) of economic policy decisions on people and the planet. Dan E. Burr's appealing illustrations add punch, humor, and clarity to Goodwin's already-excellent storytelling skills.

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Comics Rack: Boing Boing's comics picks for September

It’s September, and what better way to mark back to school season than with a little bit of mind-rotting comic bookery? We’ll try to keep the grey matter melting to a minimum with the following selection. We’ve got two bits of autobiographical excitement, some cardboard-come-to-life for the kids and something for the omnipotent cosmic deity in your life. Also: calendars!

Gabrielle Bell: The Voyeurs (Uncivilized Books)

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Gabrielle Bell without a sketchbook in her hand. Such things are, naturally, common accessories for indie cartoonists, but Bell seem to don hers like a pair of eyeglasses, as though the world might be headache-inducing and blurry without them. Her autobio strip “Lucky” is the fruit of those sketches, and The Voyeur is the bunching of those fruits, as ever with Bell, at its best when the lines between mundane realities and magical realisms become ever more entangled, the further one ventures into a story.

No better when the cartoonist relates an attempt to adapt Valerie Solanas' infamous SCUM Manifesto into sequential form, unraveling into a tail of adult movie theaters and Japanese assassins, related by Bell’s infinitely interesting mother. Not that the realities themselves are entirely mundane, of course -- particularly in the wake of the artist’s rise to an indie comics celebrity of sorts. There’s the stormy relationship with filmmaker Michel Gondry, the mind-numbing trip to San Diego Comic Con (as highlighted in the first iteration of this nascent column) and the mattress-on-the-floor living that comes with living on an artist’s paycheck in the Big Apple. It’s simultaneously nakedly honest and whimsically untrue (like getting called out by Gondry for skinny dipping merely for the sake of comics fodder), because being a voyeur doesn’t always mean you can trust what you see.

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Caturday: kitten is hogging the TV remote

Boing Boing reader Benjamin G. Levy, a Mac computing consultant based in Los Angeles, shot and shared this photo in the Boing Boing Flickr pool. Happy Caturday.

Late '60s ad for space jobs at NASA JPL

A late-1960s ad that ran in Scientific American, scanned and shared in the Boing Boing Flickr pool by fdecomite.

The look is true to Mad Men, and the copy is true to life: I bet the Mars Curiosity team say stuff like that to each other all the time.

Give that dude a mohawk—oh, and increase NASA's budget so JPL can hire, instead of lay off?—and the ad could run today.

Drugs: Without the Hot Air, now in the USA!

I wrote last June about Drugs: Without the Hot Air, the best book on drug policy I've read, written by David Nutt, the UK drug czar who was fired because he refused to bow to political pressure to repudiate his own research on the relative harms from illegal drugs and legal activities. Nutt's book has now been published in the USA. As I said in June, this is a book that everyone should read. From my review:

Like the other writers in the series, Nutt is both committed to rigorous, evidence-based policy and to clear, no-nonsense prose that makes complex subjects comprehensible. He begins and ends the book with a look at the irrationality of our present drug policy, recounting a call he had with then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who was furious that he'd compared horseback riding harms to the harms from taking MDMA. Smith says that "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." When Nutt asks why not, she says, "because one is illegal." When he asks why it is illegal, she says, "Because it is harmful." So he asks, "Don't we need to compare harms to determine if it should be illegal?" And Smith reiterates, "you can't compare harms from a legal activity with an illegal activity." Lather, rinse, repeat, and you'll get our current drugs-policy disaster.

Nutt has been talking about harm reduction and evidence-based policy for drugs policy for years, and he often frames the question by pointing out that alcohol is a terrible killer of addicts and the people around them, and a disaster for society. But if he was to synthesize a drug that produced an identical high to alcohol, without producing any of the harms, it would almost certainly be banned and those involved in producing, selling and taking it would be criminalised. We ban drugs because they are harmful and we know they are harmful because they are banned. Drugs that we don't ban -- tobacco, alcohol -- are "harmful" too, but not in the same way as the drugs that are banned, and we can tell that they are different because they haven't been banned.

Nutt has choice words for the alcohol and tobacco industries, who often frame their activity as being supported by responsible choice, and claim that they only want to promote that sort of responsibility. But as Nutt points out, if Britain's drinkers hewed to the recommended drinking levels, total industry revenue would fall by 40% -- and the industry has shown no willingness to regulate super-cheap, high-alcohol booze, nor alcopops aimed at (and advertised to) children and teenagers.

Nutt compares the alcohol industry's self-regulated responsible drinking campaigns to a campaign that exposed students in East Sussex to factual information about the industry's corruption of public health messages, its ferocious lobbying efforts, and the cost of drinking to wider society. It turns out that exposing alcohol industry sleaze is vastly more effective at discouraging student drinking than anything sponsored by the industry itself.

From his discussion of legal drugs, Nutt moves on to factual accounts of the impact of illegal/controlled drugs, from "legal highs" like "meow meow" to opiods to cocaine to prescription painkillers and steroids to psychedelics. Each chapter is a bracing, brisk, no-nonsense inventory of what harms and benefits arise from each substance, the history of their regulation, and the ways in which changes to the means of taking the drugs changes the outcome. Laid out like this, it's easy to see that prohibition isn't ever the right answer -- not for science, not for society, not for justice, and not for health.

There's also a sense of the awful, tragic loss to society arising from the criminalization of promising drugs. A chapter called "Should Scientists Take LSD?" surveys the literature preceding the evidence-free banning of LSD, and the astounding therapeutic benefits hinted at in the literature.

The book closes with the War on Drugs, and the worlds' governments own frank assessments of the unmitigated disaster created by Richard Nixon's idiotic decision 40 years ago. Nutt analyzes the fact that policymakers know that the War on Drugs is worse than the drugs themselves (by a long shot), but are politically incapable of doing anything about it, not least because politicians on all sides stand poised to condemn their opponents for being "soft on drugs."

Drugs: Without the Hot Air