• Study: cloned service dogs likely easier to train

    From the abstract of "Health and temperaments of cloned working dogs," a study published in the journal J Vet Sci:

    Only about half of all trained dogs may qualify as working dogs through conventional breeding management because proper temperament and health are needed in addition to their innate scent detection ability. To overcome this low efficiency of breeding qualified working dogs, and to reduce the enormous costs of maintaining unqualified dogs, somatic cell nuclear transfer has been applied in the propagation of working dogs. 

    As the paper continues, the authors point to some specifics—dogs trained to work with military and armed forces, for example, as well as guide dogs. Using data exclusively from dog cloning experiments in South Korea, they demonstrate that more than 90% of trained working dog clones retained the necessary qualities — health, temperament, et cetera — to make them successful candidates for the same work. In other words, it's twice as easy (and almost a surefire success) to train a cloned guide dog or bomb-sniffing dog than it is to train a bred dog for the same work.

    It's worth reiterating that this study is based on a small sample size of dogs that were cloned in South Korea. The authors also acknowledge that are x-factors and other complications in the cloning process that could affect their results as well. "There have been concerns about the health of cloned animals ever since the beginning of mammalian cloning," they concede, adding:

    Normal and healthy cardiovascular function is important to working dogs, but there have been reports about abnormal cardiovascular function in other cloned animals, such as pulmonary hypertension and right-sided heart failure in cloned calves and sheep, and left- and right-sided heart abnormalities in cloned piglets. However, until now, there have been no reports on cardiovascular analyses of working dogs, although echocardiographic parameters of seven cloned beagles were within normal reference ranges, indicating normal anatomy and cardiac function.

    and

    The slightly higher birth weights of cloned working dogs […] compared to those of dogs produced naturally might be due to the lower average litter size in pregnancies derived by transfer of cloned embryos compared to pregnancies produced by artificial insemination; regardless, the cloned dogs showed normal growth patterns.

    There are always ethical complications and concerns when it comes to both dog breeding, and cloning in general. Add some eugenics into the mix, and yeah, there's a lot going on here.

    Health and temperaments of cloned working dogs [Min Jung Kim, Hyun Ju Oh, Sun Young Hwang, Tai Young Hur, Byeong Chun Lee / J Vet Sci]

    Image: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • Deck is a new musical project featuring one song for all 52 playing cards in a deck

    Back on April Fool's Day, I posted about The Music of the Beatles as Channeled in 1958 by the Echo Lake Home for the Potentially Clairvoyant, a spooky transmedia project of telepathic Beatles covers created by Hallelujah the Hills, a band who SPIN Magazine once called "criminally underappreciated." It's a neat musical/fiction experiment that's still worth checking out (even without the illusion of April Fool's Day).

    To follow up that ambitious scheme, Hallelujah the Hills has announced a new project called DECK — a 52-song collection, with one song for every card in a playing card deck. From the band's newsletter:

    Here's how DECK is going to work: 52 songs spread out over four 13 song albums, one for each suit. Diamonds: a proper studio follow up to I'm You.Clubs: lo-fi faster, punkier, dirtier songs. Hearts: a sparser, mostly acoustic, yet carefully orchestrated, album full of weepers. Spades: a free-form, experimental record. ♣ ♦ ♥ ♠, get it?

    The project is being released on an ongoing basis through Patreon, though the completed albums will of course be compiled together and released in the normal music places later on (and of course, those releases will come with their own specially-designed decks of cards as well). In a free post there, the band goes into a little more detail on the project too:

    Playing it close to the chest, play your cards right, use your trump card, it's a house of cards, it's not in the cards, the hand you've been dealt in life, the cards are stacked against you, you have an ace up your sleeve, she's a wild card, let's lay our cards on the table, show your hand, he's a few cards short of a deck, let's raise the stakes, he'll follow suit, I've got an ace in the hole, like a royal flush, oh wow, he doubled down, keep it above board, deal me in, call your bluff, she's got a great poker face, I've got it in spades…the language of the deck is absolutely baked into our everyday speech.

    I started to notice all this because I kept asking myself, "What is the most common nod to magic or the occult in our modern culture? What's the most out-there thing that's been so normalized and absorbed into present day society that we don't even notice it anymore?" I'd like to make the case that it's playing cards. The deck. From the beginning, in the 1300's, playing cards were used as a form of divination—cartology, sortilege—and they are the direct ancestor of the Tarot card. It is a tightly designed and engineered symbol system imbued with mystery, magic, history and power and it is literally everywhere. We use the deck for games, gambling, prediction, scams, magic tricks, mathematical probability models, as a medium for secret messages and now, we're going to use the structure of a deck to create an ambitious music project called DECK.

    It's definitely an ambitious project, but I'm excited to see where it goes. The two songs released so far — the 3 of Clubs' "Superglued to You" and the Jack of Diamonds' "God Is So Lonely Tonight" — are both cool on their own.

    DECK [Hallelujah the Hills / Patreon]

  • People are creating huge online archives of GIFs from 90s CD-ROMs

    Tumblr user Gearsphere found this neat CD-Rom of animated GIFs in a thrift store, and uploaded all 22,000 images to a public Google Drive for anyone to download and use. They are gloriously 90s, gloriously 8-bit, and just glorious overall.

    Not to be outdone, someone else by this act of silly-internet-history kindness, and uploaded their 6-CD-Rom set of animated web clips, too.

    Now go forth and make good art.

  • Watch the BBC try to explain the Internet in 1994

    Originally broadcast on April 29, 1994. At that point, as host Kate Bellingham points out, US President Bill Clinton had already set up an email address and announced plans to invest in internet infrastructure. But alas, the same could not be said for the British government at the time:

    I can't electronically email our Prime Minister John Major because he hasn't got a modem, and I can't find out what his government's policy on information super highways is because it hasn't got one — at least, nothing beyond the usual thing of leaving it to market forces.

  • The real-life Byers family home from Stranger Things is for sale

    Located in Fayettesville, Georgia — about a half-hour from Atlanta, and some five hundred miles or so from the fictional town of Hawkins — this 1,846 square foot home boasts 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It's unclear whether the infamous Christmas lights are included in the purchase, or if the original thin walls of reality leading to the Upside Down are still intact. But it does have electric heating and a fireplace, as well as in-unit laundry and a 6+ acre lot, so that's nice.

    From the listing:

    Ever watched Stranger Things on Netflix?… Are you fan?… THIS is the original Byers house! That's right the home of Will, Joyce, and Jonathan Byers, just on the outskirts of the fictional town "Hawkins". This home was featured throughout the first few seasons of the show and remains a nostalgic focal point of the series. Resting on 6 acres, and located in sought after Fayetteville, GA this home makes for a PERFECT Airbnb, short term rental, or personal residence for someone willing to take it on. I mean, How cool would it be to own the infamous Stranger Things house? Don't get stuck in the upside down though, this home does need a full rehab, but with the right owner the potential return on investment (ROI) could be HUGE! Since the show was aired fans have traveled far and wide, almost daily, just to drive by and get a picture. So much so that the owners had to put up a driveway barricade and "Private Property" signs just to keep people from trespassing, so needless to say the house gets a ton of attention. With that being said, please RESPECT the property and its owners and please SCHEDULE A SHOWING with your agent, if you do not have an agent please call the listing agent to setup a showing. This home is being sold "AS-IS" with no seller disclosure, SERIOUS buyers only. Home was featured in Season 1 episode 1 at 6:16, 7:16, 11:08, 31:54, and 32:21. As well as Season 1 Episode 4 at 4:57 and 8:53. Also some in season 2 and 3. p.s. Do not feed the Demogorgon!!

    The asking price is $300,000 — which both feels too high given the Byers' family's economic status in 1985, but also probably a worthwhile investment for someone today.

    149 Coastline Rd, Fayetteville, GA 30214 [Zillow]

  • Grant Morrison's new novel Luda is overwhelmingly fabulous

    I finally finished reading Luda, the first novel from celebrated comic scribe cum chaos magician Grant Morrison. Anyone who's read Morrison's comics knows that they're a master of mind-bending counter-culture; anyone who's read their non-fiction book Supergods or any of their newsletter outings knows that they have an absolutely impeccable, dare I say delectable grasp on English language prose.

    Luda is a perfect marriage of these two aspects of Morrison's work. It's both delightful, and a lot, in every way possible. Whether that latter descriptor is a good thing or a bad thing is up to your personal taste.

    Luda is narrated by an aging drag queen named Luci LaBang ( Graeme Mott). Now her fifth decade, she's hyper-aware of her own sagging body, even as she takes an exciting role in a new hit theatre production debuting Gasglow (sic) titled The Phantom of the Pantomime. Phantom is a play-within-a-play-within-a-novel: a metafictional drag send-up of Aladdin, in which Luci appears as the Widow Twankey, with a 4th-wall-breaking Phantom of the Opera-esque subplot as a framing device to the story.

    You with me? Like I said, it's a lot, and we haven't even reached the main hook yet.

    The lead actress playing Aladdin (in drag) is mysteriously injured, and that's when Luci first meets the eponymous Luda — a young, mysterious, gorgeous drag queen (possibly/arguably a transwoman? Unclear.) who reminds Luci of her younger self. Luda gets cast as the new Aladdin, and the meta conceit of a boy playing a girl playing a boy is both central to the storyline, and also the least of our concerns. Luci takes Luda in as a sort-of apprentice, teaching her the ropes of what Luci calls "The Glamour," their sort-of drag mashup of occultism and philosophy that Luci has relied on to transform the world, and herself (is it actually magic? Again, unclear). It's All About Eve, it's A Star Is Born, it's Merlin and Nimue, but a lot more queer.

    Luci's complicated relationship with Luda drive most of the story; she is both attracted to, and jealous of, and motherly towards her new genderqueer apprentice, all at once. It's a messy relationship, but one that feels incredibly true as a sort-of found family of queer folks. The ongoing preparations for Phantom of Pantomime serve as the B-Plot that slowly takes over, as things in the rehearsal room start to go increasingly, horrifyingly awry, thanks to either a ghost haunting the theatre, or (more likely) Luda herself.

    The story of Luda is regaled as if Luci is telling it while applying her drag face in front of the mirror. This gives the narration a very lived-in, participatory feel; it can also be a bit much. Luci is sassy, caddy, and frequently bitchy, with a penchant for verbosity, snark, and meandering tales. Take the scintillating wit of Oscar Wilde and make it simultaneously more flamboyant and more insecure (which in turn contributes more to the mask of flamboyance). Morrison's prose as delivered through Luci's monologuing is delectable; it fills your mouth with words, and doesn't wait for you to ask for seconds. Frequently, it also fails to consider whether you needed that many words to describe that particular random detail. I can't count how many times I reached the end of a gorgeous, multi-pronged, 100-word-long sentence full of luscious detail only to stop myself and think "Okay but why." The language in Luda is a character itself, with clauses like a hydra's head — you cut one off, and two more will take its place.

    I'm a writer, so I tend to enjoy the occasional overwrought prose; and, like I said above, Morrison has a masterful control over rhythm and wit. But a quick glance at the book's GoodReads reviews confirmed my suspicion that it might be a little too much for some people. I'll even concede: I'm a huge fan of Morrison, and this book took me longer to finish than I wanted it to, just because I wasn't always in the place to devour all those words.

    One of the things that kept me reading through the book (aside from that compelling to understand just what Luda's mysterious deal really is) was just how vulgar it was. Luda has a very late-80s punk rock queer counter-culture vibe to it — think early Vertigo comics (which Morrison themself was of course involved with). This is a book about outsiders — people who couldn't fit in with society even if they tried. And they don't want to try; they're quite content to shock the normies, as it were. This isn't Modern Edgelord vulgarity that's edgy-for-the-sake-of-being-edgy. This is self-defensive vulgarity, giving it a freshness alongside that Vertigo nostalgia. The sex and violence are shocking not for for shits-and-giggles, but because they're real, and ugly, both because of and in spite of Luci's magical Glamour.

    As a result, there are some parts of this book that I suspect some people will find … problematic, to say the least. Luci's constant mean-spirited fat-shaming of Float, the director of Phantom of Pantomime, is both painfully in-character for an aging drag queen embarrassed at her own wrinkles, and also, frankly, really mean. I suspect this is at least partially intentional — Luci is an enjoyable protagonist but certainly not a likable one — but it's still uncomfortable. The book also spends a lot of time interrogating, exploring, and deconstructing ideas of gender performance and/or identity. This is honestly some of the most fascinating stuff in the book; but even as a cisgender man, there were moments that made me raise an eyebrow. Also a cisgender man, I'm not well-versed enough to comment on it at length. I would argue that there is value in challenging certain accepted orthodoxies; I also suspect there may be some things in this book that upset some people. At the same time, I believe a lot of this is an accurate portrayal of some of Morrison's own world view as a non-binary / gender non-conforming person, and I think it's just as harmful to dismiss someone's lived experience just because it defies some currently accepted conventions. But again: the vulgarity here is part of the charm. (I actually think Elizabeth Sandifer's review says it all perfectly.)

    In the end, maybe the best way to describe Luda is by saying it's the kind of book that a lot of BoingBoing readers would probably love … but the ones who hate it are also probably right it. Either way, it's a fascinating work of art that will stick with me for a long time.

    Luda [Grant Morrison]

  • Exploring the military industrial complex of the Ultimate post-9/11 Avengers comic

    I've been really enjoying the new season of Collective Action Comics, a new-ish podcast that closely examines superhero comics from a radical leftist perspective. While the first season looked at DC Comics' Justice League International storyline from the late 80s, Season 2 explores a comic book that's much closer to my own heart: The Ultimates, Marvel's re-imagined version of the Avengers from the turn of the millennium. Written by Mark Millar with art by Bryan Hitch, the smash-hit Ultimates would go on to serve as a major blueprint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of the Avengers — all the way down to the introduction of a new version of Nick Fury specifically drawn to look like Samuel L. Jackson.

    The first issue of The Ultimates came out in March 2002, and remains a fascinating cultural icon of those early days of the War on Terror. These superheroes are government-sanctioned and jingoistic. Captain America, for example, is no longer this idealist, inspirational icon, but your typical hard-ass "Greatest Generation" grandpa, completely with all the bigotry, waking up abruptly in a post-9/11 world.

    Reading The Ultimates as a fledging teenage punk rock nerd, it was clear to me at the time that writer Mark Millar (a Scot, curiously, and not an American) was trying to satirize the machismo of Bush-era hawkishness. But something about the book never sat right with me back then … and as an adult, I can look back and see how Millar's send-up gleefully embraced the very same tropes it claimed to be criticizing.

    And it's in this contradiction where Collective Action Comics does its best work. Each episode of the podcast focuses on a different issue of the comic, keenly analyzing its role in the immediate cultural context, as well as the ways in which the story reflects the broader, uglier history of US Imperialism. I typically like to think of myself as being pretty informed when it comes to US national security issues, but I've genuinely learned so much from listening to Collective Action Comics. Host Nat Yonce has a clear and unabashed love for the superhero genre, and he brings that passion and deep understanding to his discussions … even as he points out just how much fucked up propaganda fits inside those 4-colored pages. He draws fascinating parallels between seemingly-throwaway lines on the page and the real-life horrors of the US military industrial complex — connections that are simultaneously direct and accidental, as if Millar bumbled his way into an allegory that he never even knew about.

    Basically: if you like the idea of super heroes, and you're fascinated by Anarcho-Marxist-type cultural analyses, Collective Action Comics should absolutely be at the top of your podcast streaming list.

    Image via YouTube

  • This Ukraine flag Ghostface SCREAM mask is just in time for Halloween

    This "Stop The War" Ukraine Flag Scream mask is distributed through Fun World. According to Drowned Boy Productions, the company is donating $1 of the proceeds to some Ukrainian war relief charity, though I can't find my own source for that.

    I personally feel like Ghostface, in any of their myriad identities, is probably not the best spokesperson for this particular cause. But if you really want one of these masks, you can find them for around $20 through the Chicago Costume Company or eBay.

  • Listen to a hilarious trombone cover of a Beethoven song from a video game

    Trombone Champ is a new video game available on Steam in which you … play trombone. No, seriously:

    Trombone Champ is the world's first trombone-based rhythm music game. Unlike most music games, you can freely play any note at any time. You're not just following along with the music, you're actually playing the music!

    • Toot your way through over 20 tracks. The better you play, the more toots you earn!
    • Collect all 50 Tromboner Cards!
    • Baboons on nearly every screen!
    • Improvise and play whatever you want in Freeplay Mode!
    • Uncover the secrets of the Trombiverse and become the True Trombone Champ!
    • Absolutely zero microtransactions!
    • Playable with mouse and keyboard (recommended) or USB controllers (coming after launch)!
    • Appropriate for all ages!

    In a review of Trombone Champ for PC Gamer, writer Christoper Livingston captured this epic video of rhythmic tromboner challenges set to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and … honestly, I don't think it's possible to watch this video without cracking up.

    In fact, the absurdity is what helped sell Livingston on the true delights of the game. From the review:

    Yes, my performance was terrible and if Beethoven wasn't rolling over in his grave it was only because he'd already burst out of it, staggered around shrieking, and then vomited. But in Trombone Champ, playing the trombone badly is just as much fun as playing it well, which is just one reason why I love it.

    In fact, since trying out Trombone Champ for the first time this morning it's become—and this isn't a joke—a serious Game of the Year contender for me. It's a blast. Or rather, it's a toot.

    Trombone Champ [Steam]

    The world's first trombone rhythm game is instantly a GOTY contender [Christopher Livingston / PC Gamer]

  • Fossilized dino-vomit discovered in Utah

    In a recent study from the journal Palaios, a group of paleontologists announced that they discovered a "small regurgitalite" from the Jurassic period in southeastern Utah.

    In other words, it's dinosaur puke. But the first pile of dinosaur puke to be found that dates back 150 million years!

    This is of interest not just because of any potential Jurassic Barf jokes that one could mine from the circumstances. Rather, as the scientists explain, it's what's in the fossilized vomit that really matters — specifically, the remains of frog- and salamander-related specimens that appear to be newly discovered as well:

    The lissamphibian material in the bromalite [ED: puke] represents the southernmost likely occurrence of frogs and salamanders in the formation. The possible salamander material may represent a rare juvenile rather than a new taxon, and it is morphologically more similar to Valdotriton and Comonecturoides than it is to Iridotriton. The frog material is similarly unidentifiable to specific taxon.

    In an interview with Vice, lead researcher John Foster expanded on this discovery:

    "We didn't immediately recognize it for what it was, and in fact, we didn't even realize it was bone until much later, back at the museum, when we looked at it under a microscope and saw that it was tiny bones and not a badly preserved plant fossil," Foster said in an email. "When we realized that the pile of bones appeared to represent at least three individuals and likely two different types of amphibians we really started to think that something was up and this wasn't just a 'typical' few bones of small vertebrates. Somehow these bones had gotten concentrated."

    "With no mechanical process we could identify in a small, quiet lake setting, we started looking for biological causes, and that's when we began to suspect that the pile of bones had come out of a predator," he continued. "Then we needed to determine, essentially, which end it came out of."

    And then he goes onto explain how they determined it was fossilized dino-puke and not fossilized dino-poop. Which is oddly fascinating to be honest.

    Significance of a Small Regurgitalite Containing Lissamphibian Bones, From The Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic), Within a Diverse Plant Locality Deposit in Southeastern Utah, USA [John R. Foster, Adrian P. Hunt, and James I. Kirkland / Palaois]

    Paleontologists Find 150-Million-Year-Old Jurassic Barf in Utah [Becky Ferreira / Vice]

  • FDA: stop eating Nyquil-fried Chicken

    From the official website of the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America:

    A recent social media video challenge encourages people to cook chicken in NyQuil (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine) or another similar OTC cough and cold medication, presumably to eat. 

    The challenge sounds silly and unappetizing — and it is. But it could also be very unsafe. Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways. Even if you don't eat the chicken, inhaling the medication's vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body. It could also hurt your lungs. Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it. 

    That's right, folks: if you want to get fucked up on chicken, stick with the beer can, not the cough meds. (And yes, that includes DayQuil, even though it doesn't have the sleep-inducing Doxylamine.)

    Curiously, as Mediate notes, there doesn't actually seem to be much of anything searchable on TikTok or Twitter to suggest that is actually a thing the kids are doing these days.

    A Recipe for Danger: Social Media Challenges Involving Medicines [FDA]

    'Do Not Cook Your Chicken in NyQuil': CNN Medical Analyst Warns After FDA Response to Bizarre Online Trend [Sarah Rumpf / Mediate]

    Image: Kevin Spencer / Flickr (CC-BY-NC 2.0, altered)

  • Colorado police bind woman on railroad tracks, let her get hit by a locomotive

    The Kansas City Star reports that police in Platteville, Colorado went full-on Western movie villain on a woman following an alleged road-rage incident. After pulling the 20-year-old woman over near some railroad tracks, the police parked their own car on the railroad tracks, and threw the woman in the back seat of the squad car while they went to search her car — supposedly for a firearm, which is honestly confusing, because I was under the impression that this country was basically throwing out all oversight on firearms.

    Anyway, while the cops were busy searching the woman's car for the alleged gun, a train came … and careened into the squad car, where the woman was detained. According to ABC News 7 Denver:

    The suspect was taken to a Greeley hospital with a serious bodily injuries, according to the CBI. Her condition is not known. The officer and the train crew were not injured. 

    The train did not derail and is still on the tracks, CSP said. Union Pacific has been notified about the crash.

    Well, I'm so glad they clarified that the cops and the train were both okay!

    Cops put woman in police car parked on tracks, CO officials say. Then a train came [Don Sweeney / The Kansas City Star]

    CSP: Platteville PD vehicle with female suspect inside hit by train [Sydney Isenberg / ABC News 7 Denver]

    Image: Jennifer Morrow / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • Utah Senate candidate drops new rap track campaign ad

    Presented without comment, 'cause honestly it speaks for itself:

    Hey Utah, District 12, listen up right here
    There's a new name on the ballot for the Senate this year
    My name is Linda Paulson–Republican and Awesome!
    Love GOD, and Family, and the Constitution
    I tried to get another Conservative to run
    Nobody could do it so I'm getting it done
    I'm Pro-Religious Freedom, Pro-Life, Pro-Police
    The right to bear arms and the right to free speech
    I want LESS government control and regulation
    Want to stop and expose all political corruption
    Where's integrity, morality, accountability?
    Government programs should lead to self-sufficiency
    And support traditional family
    As the fundamental unit of society
    But in schools they're pushing for new beliefs
    And just to clarify this,
    As a female adult, I know what a woman is

    I love this country, it's a blessing to be free
    But freedom comes with responsibility
    The Constitution needs to be protected
    Not changed or disregarded, but Resurrected!
    If you share my values, if you like what I stand for
    Then give me your vote on the 8th of November
    District 12 needs a choice,
    Let me be your voice – Linda Paulson!
    Linda Paulson for Senate

  • Someone made a full-length trans Joker parody film, but DC shut it down

    A few years ago, TV editor Vera Drew decided to take a friendly bet too far, and announced her wildly ambitious plans to create a full-length satire of Todd Phillips' Joker film, combining pre-existing footage with her own amateur acting. The People's Joker, as it came to be called, was a trans coming-of-age story that aspired to blend surrealist comedy with a bleakly earnest look at the ways that people (especially queer people) process trauma. As Polygon describes it:

    Dedicated "to mom and Joel Schumacher," The People's Joker is also a sincere exploration of Vera's journey toward self-realization, beginning with her childhood as a "miserable little girl" trapped in a boy's body in Smallville.

    The main character's deadname is bleeped out whenever someone says it out loud, a humorous sign that this is a trans-made production. The film's exploration of her relationship with her mother puts a Band-Aid of humor over real pain. At one point, Vera/Joker and her mom have a screaming match at a cafe, yelling, "You're mentally ill!" "No, you're mentally ill!" at each other. It got a big laugh at TIFF, as it should have.

    Vera/Joker narrates much of the film in a Harley Quinn outfit, popping in for tongue-in-cheek "You might be wondering how I got here" asides that epitomize her witty, withering sense of humor. These combine with sincere odes to Batman stories like Hush, The Dark Knight Returns, and yes, Todd Phillips' Joker: Vera/Joker is addicted to a laughing gas prescribed to her in childhood by a doctor trying to suppress her trans identity, and she does dance down a 2D rendering of the famous "Joker stairs"once her transformation is complete.

    Of course, Vera didn't have the rights to any of these iconic DC characters. But that didn't stop her (there's probably an argument to be made here about fair use under transformative art as well). The legend of The People's Joker grew and grew, until Vera was given the opportunity to premiere the film at the Toronto International Film Festival

    … which is when DC finally sent a cease-and-desist, just hours before the movie was slated to premiere. Several other film festivals have now pulled The People's Joker as well, leaving the future uncertain for this postmodern pastiche of trans supervillainy.

    I just hope I live to see it someday.

    The People's Joker, a hilarious trans riff on DC characters, shut down over 'rights issues' [Katie Rife / Polygon]

  • WB Yeats and Aleister Crowley once battled each other in an epic real-life magical duel

    I'm frankly ashamed that I've only just recently learned about the Battle of Blythe Road, an actual real-life magical duel between WB Yeats and Aleister Crowley that ended triumphantly when Yeats dropped the magic act and just kicked Crowley down the stairs.

    As future Yeats biographer Richard Ellman explained in a 1948 edition of the Partisan Review, Crowley and Yeats were part of a secret order called the Hermetic Students of the Golden Dawn, along with some other folks you may have heard of like Bram Stoker and Algernon Blackwood. This esoteric posse shared an interest in magic and the occult — but Yeats was concerned (perhaps even legitimately!) that Crowley might abuse their arcane knowledge for evil ends. So they tried to banish him from the group's inner circle.

    Needless to say, Crowley was not pleased. From Ellman:

    Crowley refused to accept their decision. He went to Paris, and there persuaded the chief of the Golden Dan, a Celtophile magician named MacGregor Mathers, to deputize him to wrest control of the London temple of the order away from Yeats and his friends. Mathers furnished Crowley with appropriate charms and exorcisms to use against recalcitrant members, and instructed him to wear Celtic dress. Equipped accordingly in Highlander's tartan, with a black Crusader's cross on his breast, with a dirk at his side and a skindoo at his knee. Making the sign of the pentacle inverted and shouting menaces at the adepts, Crowley climbed the stairs. But Yeats and two other magicians came resolutely forward to meet him, ready to protect the holy place at any cost. When Crowley came within range the forces of good struck out with their feet and kicked him downstairs.

    Crowley retreated to lick his wounds, and later tried to seduce the Anglo-Irish artist Althea Gyles into aiding his revenge. But Gyles was a clever one: she stole a lock of Crowley's hair and passed it on to Yeats, who allegedly used it to cast a series of spells that would limit Crowley's power.

    This last part may or may not have involved a vampire, in Ellman's recollection? Unclear. Anyway there's a short documentary above if you want to learn more.

    Aleister Crowley & William Butler Yeats Get into an Occult Battle, Pitting White Magic Against Black Magic (1900) [OpenCulture]

  • Is Joe Rogan a multiversal constant?

    In a delightful new piece of humorous short fiction in The New Yorker, writer Ali Fitzgerald explores a nightmarish scenario that has certainly haunted me for many a night: what if Joe Rogan was a multiversal constant, someone who was everything, everywhere, all at once, no matter which parallel universe you visited?

    I'm shuddering as I type this.

    After overhearing part of a podcast titled "Why Count Chocula is a Groomer," I decided to whip through planes of existence (no need to go into the specifics of how) in order to prove that we are living in the worst dimension. I scoured the multiverse in search of true peace—a world without Joe Rogan.

    Alternate Universe No. 1

    The first world I checked out was one in which Napoleon had triumphed at the battle of Waterloo, in 1815, making much of the planet Greater France. The atmosphere was aggressive, but the air smelled of buttered pastries and universal health care. A young man in a bicorn hat handed me a business card shaped like a guillotine. His title? Podcaster. I began backing away, but he explained that his podcast was about evolving hair styles in Godard films. 

    I've Visited Every World in the Multiverse, and, Unfortunately, Joe Rogan Exists in All of Them [Ali Fitzgerald / The New Yorker]

    Image via YouTube

  • North Dakota woman arrested for bringing raccoon to Happy Hour

    Via KLTV-7:

    A woman was arrested after walking into a bar in North Dakota carrying a raccoon, according to the Benson County Sheriff's Office.

    Erin Christensen, 38, was charged with North Dakota Game and Fish violations, tampering with evidence and providing false information to law enforcement. According to the sheriff's office, the animal was put down and will be tested for rabies and other diseases.

    Bartender Cindy Smith said she was serving drinks at the bar last week when Christensen brought in the animal during happy hour. There were about 10 people in the establishment at the time, she said.

    Ms Christensen was charged despite leaving the bar after about 5 minutes. She had allegedly been caring for the raccoon in her own home for the last three months. While in the bar, it never bit anyone, nor even left her arms.

    This is clearly a case of trash panda discrimination.

    It reminds me of my favorite negative Yelp review for my favorite bar in Boston, from a day that I remember vividly — when someone showed up with a pig.

    Woman arrested for taking raccoon into a bar, officials say [Anna Johnson and Debra Worley / KLTV]

    Image: Neil McIntosh / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • California heat temporarily disabled key Twitter data centers

    From CNN:

    Extreme heat in California has left Twitter without one of its key data centers, and a company executive warned in an internal memo obtained by CNN that another outage elsewhere could result in the service going dark for some of its users.

    […]

    As a result of the outage in Sacramento, Twitter is in a "non-redundant state," according to Fernandez's Friday memo. She explained that Twitter's data centers in Atlanta and Portland are still operational but warned, "If we lose one of those remaining datacenters, we may not be able to serve traffic to all Twitter's users."

    Maybe climate change is good for something after all?

    Extreme California heat knocks key Twitter data center offline [Donie O'Sullivan, Brian Fung and Sean Lyngaas / CNN]

  • Oil company blames Captain Planet for climate change in recent court filing

    While the Exxon corporation might be the most infamous propagandist (read: liar) among the Big Oil companies when it comes to climate change, there are plenty of other guilty parties, too. Chevron, as the second largest US-based oil company after Exxon, has engaged in its own share of shady practices, especially when it comes to inherited liabilities for environmental destruction.

    Most recently, Chevron was sued by the city and county of Honolulu and Maui County, which both claim that the company has a liability for the climate change-related damages they've endured. As E&E News' ClimateWire reported:

    A federal appeals court last month sided with both Honolulu and Maui County, which has a separate lawsuit, ruling that their climate liability lawsuits against oil and gas companies should be heard in state court. The governments filed suit in 2020, accusing oil producers of concealing the risk to the climate of burning petroleum products.

    Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters has called the lawsuit critical, noting the city faces "incredible costs to move critical infrastructure away from our coasts and out of flood zones, and the oil companies that deceived the public for decades should be the ones helping pick up the tab for those costs — not our taxpayers."

    […]

    If the cases are successful, the oil and gas industry could be forced to pay billions of dollars for its contributions to climate change.

    Naturally, Chevron asked the court to dismiss the suit, claiming in a recent filing that they could not possibly have any responsibility for misleading the public about the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change, or the potential level of irreversible damages that their product was cause to the planet.

    Their reasoning? Batman Returns and Captain Planet talked about global warming, and The New York Times and other major outlets have reported on the issue. Therefore, even if Chevron had embarked on a billion-dollar PR campaign with the explicit intentions of muddying public discourse in order to kneecap any potential environmental legislation that might interfere with their profits, they "clearly" weren't successful in their campaign, because a 1987 Calvin & Hobbes comic strip mentioned the Greenhouse Effect and melting polar ice caps one time.

    I'm not kidding. Their actual words:

    Plaintiffs' Complaint tries to construct a narrative that oil and gas companies had some unique knowledge about climate science and withheld it or misrepresented it in some way that impacted policy responses and consumer choices. That narrative is false.

    […]

    Any allegation that the Chevron Defendants deceived or misled federal, state, or international regulators or the public at large about the potential impacts of increased greenhouse gases on the climate is belied by a historical record replete with public information, including scientific reporting, international, federal, and local policy discussions and lawmaking, and national and local media coverage. The vast and comprehensive study and discussion of climate change, as detailed below, clearly refutes Plaintiffs' allegations that the oil-and-gas industry had "secret" knowledge about the link between the combustion of fossil fuels and its impact on the global climate.

    What follows is about 100 legal pages of references to climate change in pop culture over the last 50 years. It covers journalism from Time magazine and National Geographic to hyper-specific one-off throwaway dialogue heard in episodes of Cheers, Power Rangers, Captain Planet, ALF, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Beverly Hills 90210, as well as movies like Batman Returns.

    You can read the filing yourself (part one)(part two) if you'd like. But fair warning: it's complete and utter bullshit.

    Big Oil's new strategy in climate cases: Cite Captain Planet [Lesley Clark / E&E News ClimateWire]

    Image via YouTube