• Listen to the weirdest Munsters musical album from 1964

    Thanks to the ever-delightful Bizarre Albums podcast, I learned that The Munsters release not one but two different albums in 1964. The first one is just some generically delightful 60s music inspired by the show. But the second one, At Home With The Munsters, is where it gets good — a bizarre audio tour of the Munster family home, with songs sung by each of the cast members.

    I'm not surprised this is so hard to find, with no official releases still available, as far as I can tell. Although it looks like Rough Trade Records might be doing a limited edition release on Black Friday?

  • Bugs Bunny's Official D&D Character Sheet Is A 15th-level Illusionist

    Dragon Magazine #41 was published in April 1981. And it was in the pages of this official Dungeons & Dragons tome that the immortal deity known as Bugs Bunny was finally given its due as a playable character in the game, along with several other cartoon characters — or rather, "Saturday morning monsters."

    One year later, Donald Duck, Marvin the Martian, and the Tasmanian Devil would be added to the game with Dragon #60:

    Thanks to Robert McNees, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Loyola University Chicago, for sharing this on Twitter!

    Image: Pub

  • Ghost and goblin actors demand better labor rights from the Haunted Houses

    Have you heard that there's a labor shortage? Yeah that's bullshit; there's a shortage in businesses who are willing to offer reasonable pay and protections to their workers. And according to The Boston Globe, even the Haunted House industry is suffering:

    Like restaurants, retailers, and hotels, the nation's seasonal fright merchants are bedeviled by a shortage of workers. "Haunts," as they are called in industry parlance, are struggling to hire and retain actors while also trying to rebound from last year's pandemic-driven losses. Many haunts were forced to close last Halloween, while others opened to a limited number of visitors with scare actors performing behind plexiglass barriers.

    And customers are noticing. Online reviews for some popular New England attractions are riddled with complaints about "hardly any characters" or "not enough people to scare you." For haunt owners and operators this Halloween season, there is nothing more terrifying than too few ghouls.

    […]

    For most scare actors, the gig is part time and seasonal, and pays little more than minimum wage. The job is also physically demanding. Actors throw out their backs, lose their voices, or come down with the "haunt plague," a nasty cold that can keep them out of costume at the height of the season. And this was before the pandemic. Now the actors face new hazards: unmasked patrons and the threat of COVID-19.

    Capitalism is scary, ain't it?

    The Actors' Equity Association has been changing some of the ways they approach the industry for actors; maybe it's time for a ghosts and ghouls and goblins union, too?

    Like every industry, automation is somewhat of a threat. But, as the Globe notes, not really:

    Other haunts increasingly rely on animatronic puppetsand special effects props, said Larry Kirchner, publisher of Hauntworld magazine and president of Blacklight Attractions in St. Louis. At each of his haunted houses, Kirchner has added more than a dozen air canons so visitors are bombarded with sudden explosions of noise.

    But haunted house purists argue there is no replacement for live bodies and the creepy cast of characters they embody. The unsettling music, flickering lights, lingering fog, cobwebbed sets, "bloodstained" floors — these are "anxiety inducing," said Coltan Scrivner, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago and expert on "morbid curiosity." But they don't provoke the sheer terror of an axe-wielding clown springing unexpectedly from a pitch-black corner.

    In other words: the robots aren't really coming for your zombie job. Yay?

    The labor shortage is spooking a new victim: haunted houses [Deanna Pan / The Boston Globe]

    Image: US Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Joe Springfield (Public Domain)

  • Watch a horrifying Halloween Safety PSA from 1977

    From the Internet Archive:

    This 11-minute, color film is designed to acquaint primary through intermediate students with Halloween safety. The film presents a little girl who has an unsafe costume. In a flashback, the changes that can be made to make her Halloween safer are detailed. These include reflective tape, removing pointed objects, a clearer field of vision, and others. Suggestions also include waiting to sample treats until they have been checked, observing reasonable hours, traveling with groups, observing pedestrian rules, trick-or-treating at familiar homes only, checking treats for inbedded objects, and safe tricks. 

    According to the Scar Stuff blog, Herk Harvey, who was the principal director Centron Educational Films (the company that produced this PSA) also directed the cult horror movie Carnival of Souls.

  • Here's a bunch of a pictures of Nicolas Cage as various historical philosophers

    This is art.

    Surely there must be more? Anyone have any ideas?

  • Read this powerful comic about witches and transphobia inspired by the Mountain Goats

    "Heretic Pride" is the third track of the Mountain Goat's 2008 album of the same name — both of which allegedly take their name from the lyrics of the song "Black Deluge Night" by Norwegian black metal band Aura Noir:

    Soaring demons now swarm the skies
    In awe and heretic pride

    The song itself describes a scene that sounds a helluva lot like a witch burning, which creates a powerful juxtaposition with its refrain:

    And I feel so proud to be alive
    And I feel so proud when the reckoning arrives

    Inspired by this triumphant anthem, comic artist/writer Leslie took the lyrics from the song and used them as the script to a short comic book about a crowd who tries to burn a transgender witch to death … only to find her literally transformed in the fire. In my most humble opinion: it's pretty effing powerful.

    Images used here with permission, and a quick heads-up: maybe a bit NSFW, and also content warning for depictions of violence against queer people.

  • A new, never-before-seen document from the Snowden archives was just published

    Before he wrote the best-selling book Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, journalist Spencer Ackerman was part of the Pulitzer-winning team at The Guardian who first reported on the trove of national security documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Now, Ackerman has teamed back up with Laura Poitras, director of Snowden documentary Citizenfour and a founding editor at The Intercept, to share a new old document from the Snowden archives that has not been publicly available until now.

    The document, titled "Targeted Killing-Policy, Legal and Ethical Controversy," comes from the US intelligence community's wiki, Intellipedia, and essentially details the IC threat assessments of human rights organizations and civil libertarians who said "Hey extrajudicial drone assassinations are bad and also illegal, hence the 'extrajudicial' part of their name." From Ackerman's (consistently fantastic) newsletter Forever Wars:

    While the entry on the wiki, Intellipedia, contains largely public information, it provides unique insight into how U.S. intelligence agencies viewed human rights and other civil-society organizations as a threat to its policy of assassinations. One of its only classified sections baselessly suggests that such legal and political efforts to restrain the drone strikes—by both civil-society organizations and United Nations entities—might be driven by deadlier associations and agendas.

    "The effort may indicate a concerted effort by human rights organizations, activist international lawyers and opposition forces to undermine the use of remotely piloted vehicles, targeted killing, preemption and other direct action as elements of United States policy," the document states. 

    Case in point:

    The ACLU's 2010 effort to injunct Obama from killing Anwar al-Awlaki receives substantial attention in the Intellipedia entry. Although that lawsuit failed, the entry dwells on posthumous right-wing commentary defending al-Awlaki's killing. Conservative pundits seemed to believe that al-Awlaki's death has settled the matter, but the Intellipedia author(s) give special weight to "editorials … charging that the ACLU case is a subtle effort, establishing precedent to impose real-time non-government legal oversight of executive decisions regarding the conduct of warfare." 

    That is a hysterical way for U.S. intelligence analysts to describe a lawsuit whose point was to ensure due process for an American citizen who had not been charged with a crime but whom the government assassinated. 

    Here's the full document, if you're interested. Also you should subscribe to Forever Wars, because Ackerman is doing fantastic work breaking down the US defense and security industries.

    On U.S. Intelligence's Wiki, Anxiety About Legal Challenges To Drone Strikes [Spencer Ackerman & Laura Poitras / Forever Wars]

    Image: Mike / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • A fascinating in-depth analysis of the Muslim-ness of Dune

    Last fall, I shared a fantastic piece by Haris Durrani, an author and JD/PhD candidate at Columbia Law School and Princeton University, examining the "white savior" complex of the Dune universe, based on actual interviews with Frank Herbert shortly after the release of the first book.

    Now, Durrani is back with a similarly fascinating and complex look at the role of Islam in Dune — which, he argues, may not be as appropriative as you might expect. Once again, Durrani turns back to interviews and other original documents to examine Herbert's attentive research on and surprising affection for Islam. From Durrani's perspective, Dune is perfectly in conversation with questions that Muslims have been asking about their own faith for years:

    As much as the saga examines tensions between east/west, colonized/colonizer, and Brown (or Black)/White, it also interrogates questions internal to Islam.

    Dune is orientalist and conservative, but also, and sometimes frustratingly at the same time, thoroughly Muslim. Its Muslimness is not only a function of its Arabic words; its quotations and paraphrases from the Qur'an, prophetic teachings, or Muslim authors; or its references to Muslim histories. More so, its Muslimness reflects a serious engagement with those sources and histories, a conversation with their underlying ideas and affects that surpasses exotic aesthetics, easy plagiarism, cheap appropriation, the assumption of unchanging religion or language, and even scintillating references. Certainly, readers don't level the same critiques at Herbert, let alone other science fiction writers, when he uses the English, French, or Latin language, or references so-called Western philosophy in far future settings. Ultimately, it is through, and not apart from, the engagement with Islam and Muslims that the Dune novels explore their central themes about the relationship between religion, ecology, technology, capitalism, and anti/colonialism. 

    This piece is long — like, nearly 10,000 words, including footnotes. But damn if Durrani is not the unofficial leading post-colonial Dune scholar of our time.

    The Muslimness of Dune: A Close Reading of "Appendix II: The Religion of Dune" [Haris Durrani / Tor.com]

  • There's a new museum dedicated entirely to ouija boards

    The 500-square-foot Salem Witch Board Museum is one of the more recent additions to the spooky tourist strip in Salem, Massachusetts. But at least it has a unique angle: ouija boards, ouija boards, and nothing but Ouija boards. Also, it only exists as a speakeasy, hidden in a corner that can only be accessed through the Remember Salem gift shop. Though the museum itself opened in 2018, founder John Kozik has been building the museum's collection for 15 years. From The Boston Globe:

    All in all, the museum collection totals 300 to 500 boards.

    Kozik said his grandmother used her board alone — a feat some would consider bad luck, according to Ouija superstitions. Though a young Kozik was never allowed to be in the same room as her when she used it, he tried to spy from a top stair or through her window hoping to catch a glimpse of which letters and numbers her fingers darted across.

    […]

    Kozik searches high and low for additions to his Ouija board collection and has built up a large network of fans and friends who help steer him toward his next find. Typically, he finds boards at estate sales, yard sales, or flea markets. Whether it's conversing at the local dry cleaners, convenience store, or even worldwide, Kozik said he leaves "no stone unturned."

    The museum's Ouija board collection is displayed chronologically, creating a visual history of the evolution of these spooky talking boards. I haven't been myself yet, but it sounds like a cool trip … after the October tourist rush.

  • Stolen guitar recovered after 45 years using facial recognition technology

    Randy Bachman lost his most beloved Gretsch in 1976. The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive guitarist had bought the 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar when he was just 18 years old, with money saved up from doing odd jobs around town. Back then, it cost $400; today, it's worth about $15,000. When it was stolen from his Toronto hotel room, "it was heartbreaking," he told The Washington Post. "It's like your first love. You never forget that, and when it was taken, it was an absolute shock."

    Bachman told the story in a 2018 YouTube video, which somehow caught the attention of a man named William Long, who makes a hobby out of investigating unsolved mysteries (he's particularly interested in the DB Cooper skyjacking). Long used facial recognition software to enhance an old photograph of Bachman's lost guitar in order to identify the unique woodgrain makings on its face. Then, as The Guardian explains:

    After perusing hundreds of photos of orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitars, Long tracked the instrument to a Tokyo guitar shop, and finally to the musician Takeshi.

    "[Long] found a guy named Takeshi in Japan playing my Gretsch a couple Christmas's ago – he was playing, I think, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree in a Tokyo nightclub," said Bachman, in a video he posted to YouTube.

    Long was then able to contact Bachman, and Bachman's daughter-in-law, who is Japanese, was able to translate for Bachman and Takeshi. In exchange for Bachman's Gretsch, Takeshi requested, and Bachman found, another identical and rare Gretsch guitar. They plan to exchange guitars once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and perform together.

    After 45 years, Randy Bachman's cherished 1957 Gretsch guitar finally found — in Tokyo [Nathan Liewicki / CBC News]

    Randy Bachman to be reunited with his guitar that was lost for four decades [Jessica Glenza / The Guardian]

  • A musician is selling a gorgeous handmade dice set as part of her new vinyl album

    I discovered Jenny Owen Youngs back in 2004, when we played a few shows together. Even then, she was clearly a much better songwriter than me, and I've been following her fantastic career since then. Earlier this year, I wrote about the musical about the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer that Youngs wrote with her ex-wife for their Buffy rewatch podcast. Around that same time, Youngs also released a new song about her newly discovered pandemic hobby of Dungeons & Dragons. It's a seriously gorgeous tune:

    Inside the game, you're okay 
    Longswords and spellcasting keeps all the bad away 
    And the monsters look how monsters do 
    Not like neighborhood kids with their hands full of rocks for you 
    And not like the grown ups who should be protecting you 

    When he'd come home, full to the brim 
    You know what I know: there's no talking to him 
    Oh no, go hide yourself 
    You know there'll be hell to pay, and you're the one paying 
    But soon as you're done, we can go back to playing
    Dungeons and dragons 

    "Dungeons & Dragons" is part of a larger EP titled Echo Mountain, which Youngs will be pressing to vinyl soon. Along the album's release, she enlisted dice artist Kat Ellestad to create a limited run of hand-carved dice sets to go along with the album. And if you thought that song was gorgeous, then oof, look at these dice:

    The Echo Mountain vinyl with the dice set will run you $100, but that's damn well worth it for the craft (also, you get a great album on vinyl to go along with it). If you don't care for the music, it looks like you can still get some gorgeous custom dice from Kat Ellestad separately.

    Jenny Owen Youngs: Echo Mountain 7 Piece Handmade Dice Set with Wooden Dice Chest

  • New study reveals that domesticated horses may have originally come from Russia

    A horse is horse, of course, but what is the source of the horse we endorse? According to a recent scientific study published in Nature which analyzed the genomes of nearly 300 ancient horses over the courses of their forces, the earliest equines probably came from southern Russia, near the intersections of the Volga and Don Rivers, some 4000 years ago or so.

    Domestication of horses fundamentally transformed long-range mobility and warfare. However, modern domesticated breeds do not descend from the earliest domestic horse lineage associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corralling at Botai, Central Asia around 3500 BC. Thus, the genetic, geographic and temporal origins of modern domestic horses have remained unknown. Here we pinpoint the Western Eurasian steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don region, as the homeland of modern domestic horses.

    Furthermore, we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they expanded rapidly across Eurasia from about 2000 BC, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots.

    This is a neat discovery for a number of reasons. Horses have of courses played crucial roles in the development of pretty much every society on the globe. But, as the scientists note in their abstract, this discovery also disproves the previously-believed associations between horseback riding and the spread of Indo-European languages. On the contrary: the spread of a specific horse breed in Asia in the second millennium BC was concurrent with the spread of both Indo-Iranian languages, and chariotry. The scientists believe that these two things may have in fact transformed the Eurasian Bronze Age, rather than vice versa. "The adoption of [these specific horses and chariots], whether for warfare, prestige or both, probably varied between decentralized chiefdoms in Europe and urbanized states in Western Asia," they wrote. "The results thus open up new research avenues into the historical developments of these different societal trajectories."

    The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes [Pablo Librado, Naveed Khan, and 160 others credited authors / Nature]

    The Horse You Rode In On May Have Been Made in Southern Russia [Sabrina Imbler / New York Times]

    Image: Public Domain via Pixnio

  • A robot tugboat just made a successful 1000-mile journey overseas

    The "Nellie Bly" is an automated tugboat from the Boston-based company Sea Machines, and it just finished its first trial run of 1000 miles — navigated purely on software. The 16-day nautical journey took it around the coast of Denmark, through the Kiel Canal in Germany, around the Danish islands in the Baltic Sea, and along the Jutland peninsula, before docking in Hamburg. From The Boston Globe:

    Two mariners were on board the ship in case human intervention was needed. In addition, the Bly could be remotely controlled from Sea Machines' Boston headquarters. The ship stayed within 11 miles of the Danish coast and stayed in touch with the company through a Danish 4G wireless network.

    However, Sea Machines chief executive Michael Johnson said the ship steered itself for almost the entire voyage, using radar, radio beacons, and cameras to automatically detect and avoid navigational hazards, including other ships.

    At the Boston control center, the voyage was overseen by sailors belonging to the American Maritime Officers, a union representing officers working on US merchant ships. The partnership between Sea Machines and the AMO is aimed at ensuring that human sailors still will have roles to play even if seagoing craft become increasingly automated.

  • What if Kraftwerk made a Dune concept album? Now we know the answer.

    Joel Hamburger is a music producer who owns Gödelstring Studios in Brooklyn. As far as I'm aware, he's also the only person to ever make an entire Dune-inspired concept album in the style of Kraftwerk. "The schtick is basically that Kraftwerk were 4 musical mentats," he told me. And yes, it's just as delightful as it sounds.

    Here's Hamburger's hilariously detailed backstory for the album:

    Circa 14500 AG, the archeologist Hadi Benotto discovered a buried no-chamber in Dar-es-Balat on the planet of Rakis (formerly Arrakis) which contained the secret journals of God Emperor Leto II now known as The Stolen Journals. 

    Careful examination of these records revealed a previously unknown historical episode that occurred around 12500 AG. 

    For undisclosed reasons God Emperor Leto II dispatched a trusted fish speaker envoy to the planet of Chusuk. The envoy's task was to recruit young children with promising musical talent who also scored exceptionally high on the Mental ability battery that was employed during this era shortly before the Great Scattering. 

    16 suitable children between the age of 5-8 years old were brought back before Leto II on Arrakis. Of those 16, the God Emperor determined that only 4 displayed the depth of talent and mental adaptability to become Musical Mentats. 

    Leto ordered an unnamed trusted Naib to return to Sietch Jacurutu located in the deepest desert, The Tanzerouft to repopulate and occupy the Sietch in traditional Fremen fashion. The Naib obeyed the God Emperor's commandment and brought his most trusted bonded tribes-people to accompany him and fulfill the mission. 

    Once the Sietch was determined to be secure and operational sufficient, Leto II sent the 4 fledgling prodigies along with their Mentat trainers to Jacurutu to learn the ancient Fremen ways. These 4 children soon grew to be adults with prodigious mental and musical talents. 

    Amongst the ridulian crystal papers, a shigawire recording was found . The Musical Mentats had created a testament to honor the God Emperor and the recent history of the creation of what is now known as the Golden Path. 

    This recording is the only extant record of the works of these nameless musical geniuses. 

    Tanzerouft [BURGR / Bandcamp]

    Image: Raph PH / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

  • The house from Nightmare on Elm Street is for sale

    Zillow just posted a listing for a 2700 square foot Dutch colonial-style house in Los Angeles with 3 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. Despite the address being listed at 1428 North Genesee Avenue, everyone knows the house is actually on Elm Street:

    Highlights include an open, retro-modern kitchen, beautiful built-ins, a grand primary suite, bathrooms en suite to every bedroom, separate laundry room, and multiple work from home options. Patios, terraces, picture windows and countless French doors, maximize the use of the gorgeous grounds. Blue pool, green grass and fragrant citrus trees draw you out and make this an effortless example of the best of indoor-outdoor Southern California living. The detached guest house is charm personified with its own pergola covered patio, kitchen and an additional designer-done bathroom. This elegant traditional was reimagined by an English designer in the mid-2000s, lovingly lived in by the current owner, and a location for some of Hollywood's favorite films, commercials and print. Cinephiles will immediately recognize Wes Craven's iconic Elm Street facade. Located in the heart of Historic Spaulding Square by the Griddle Cafe, Pace Joint, Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, Enigma Coffee, Electric Owl, Orangetheory, Laugh Factory and the newest addition to the neighborhood, Horses. Come check it out!

    The asking price is $3.25 million.

    1428 North Genesee Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046 [Zillow]

    Image via YouTube

  • Are people who study Uranus annoyed by jokes about Uranus?

    Our galactic cousin, the seventh planet from the sun, is a fascinating ice giant full of wonder. But no one really pays attention to that, because they're too busy debating whether to call it "Urine-us" or "Your Anus," and then falling into violent fits of giggles either way. So the folks at Futurism finally decided to get to the center of Uranus, and asked a bunch of Uranus scientists (Uranusologists? Ologists of Uranus?) how they feel about the fact that you keep laughing about Uranus and won't take Uranus seriously. They spoke with Chris Arridge, a researcher at Lancaster University; Heidi Hammel, a top astronomer at the Space Science Institute and Planetary Society; Mark Hosfstadter of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab; Deniz Soyeur, an astrophysics PhD candidate at the University of Zurich; and Ned Molter, an astronomy PhD candidate at the University of California.

    Some of them are annoyed, and also worried that Uranus humor could end up harming funding for Uranus:

    "I think at first I found it quite frustrating," Lancaster University researcher Chris Arridge told Futurism. "There was a little bit of that 'We're doing serious stuff here,' and we're trying to push for a mission to a really scientifically interesting place.

    […]

    "The public is invested and the public is a major stakeholder. If your stakeholder thinks it's a big joke, I think that can be a concern for some people."

    […]

    "I truly do worry that it will make it difficult to actually get a mission to study this planet because I think that NASA would be sensitive to these headlines," Hammel told Futurism, "and sensitive to all the ridicule that they would get if they wanted to get a mission to this planet. We do want to send atmospheric probes, and we do call them probes, and it's impossible to separate that from the whole aliens probing humans thing."

    Others are … less concerned, and even embrace the absurdity of Uranus:

    For the most part, Hofstadter said, it's all in good fun. His wife, he said, once bought him a t-shirt emblazoned with the claim that "63 Earths can fit inside Uranus. 64 if you relax."

    The correct number, Hofstadter explained, is actually 63.5.

    Some people embrace the ridiculousness of Uranus, because at least it means people are paying attention to Uranus:

    "If that's the clickbait that people want, they learn something!" Molter said. "Ninety percent of people might be 'Ha ha, that's hilarious' and ten percent will go 'Oh that's really interesting.' I think it can only help, really."

    And even the people who get the most annoyed with Uranus jokes still occasionally secretly enjoy them a little bit:

    "It would be quite a boring world if it was all fairly dull and bland and factual," Arridge said. "I do see these articles about Uranus and leaking fluids and it gives me a chuckle from time to time."

    There's much, much more at the link — including some fascinating information about your Uranus itself! Who knows, it might even change the way you think about Uranus.

    Here's What Uranus Scientists Think About Your Disgusting Jokes [Dan Robitzski / Futurism]

    Image: Jacofin / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

  • Hundreds of rare three-eyed crustaceans found in Arizona desert after a storm

    The Arizona Daily Sun reports that hundreds of tiny three-eyed crustaceans called triops were recently found near the desert in the aftermath of a rare monsoon.

    After years of drought drained the reservoirs and baked the land, finally the rain has come. With it wakes a league of beings alien to our time.

    Go to Wupatki National Monument, and you may find them. Go to the great house built by Ancestral Puebloans and you may see them slither where rain collects in the ceremonial ball court. Formed in the days of yore, their wormlike tails writhe and boil the shallow water there. Beneath their shielded carapaces thrash dozens of segmented legs that claw onto muddy shores. When the sun strikes them, they devour the light through a crown of three black and beaded eyes. They are Triops.

    This strange critters, which are sometimes called "dinosaur shrimp" even though they look more like mini-horseshoe crabs, have existed largely unchanged for over 70 million years. "When the first dinosaurs appeared, the Triops lineage was already 100 million years old," the Sun notes. But each individual creature only tends to live for about 90 days.

    However, triop eggs can lay dormant for decades until rehydration prepares them to hatch, according to Central Michigan University — which is probably how these weird and rare crustaceans ended up in the Arizona desert. In an interview with Live Science, Lauren Carter, the lead interpretation ranger at Wupatki National Monument, theorized that the eggs may have been carried in on the backs of toads underground from the wetter environments were they were laid.

    Hundreds of three-eyed 'dinosaur shrimp' emerge after Arizona monsoon [Laura Geggel / Live Science]

    Triops awaken in Wupatki's ballcourt [Sean Golightly / AZ Daily Sun]

  • New comic: Real Hero Shit is "Lord of the Rings but gay and dumb"

    Acclaimed comic creator Kendra Walls just launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new fantasy comic called Real Hero Shit and it looks like an absolute delight. It's a hundred-page adventure featuring — in their own words — a demonic playboy prince, a stoic half-elf, a short-fused mage, and a compassionate cleric. Here's the setup:

    Innocent villagers are going missing in a small mountain town. The city guard have been blocked from conducting any real investigation. In their stead, the notorious Underguild has assigned Michel the half-elven rogue a secret mission: find the missing villagers, and bring whoever— or whatever— kidnapped them to justice. Unfortunately for Michel (and his fellow adventurers, Ani and Hocus), they're short a fighter, and need one more party member to foil this plot. Even more unfortunately, the only volunteer seems to be the arrogant, ostentatious, purple playboy, Prince Eugene, looking to cure his boredom. "Covert" is not a concept that he's familiar with, and let's just say his commitment to the mission is…

    Questionable.

    Every day is Spring Break for Eugene, but outside palace walls, he crashes into a hard reality: the system that keeps him safe in his silk-sheeted bed isn't particularly concerned with the well-being of anyone who isn't him. Eugene will have to level-up his awareness if he means to be a real hero, and time is running short!

    If that doesn't entice you, Wells described the book to AIPT Comics as "Lord of the Rings but gay and dumb" and that's a great elevator pitch if I've ever heard one. In that same interview, Wells notes that "The market is oversaturated with 'penis funny,' but the thing is: penis funny," which is also pretty true.

    Real Hero Shit [Kendra Wells / Kickstarter]

  • See Michael Keaton's Bat-cowl in the first teaser for the new FLASH movie

    Another fun reveal from DC's 2021 FanDome event was the first teaser trailer for the upcoming Flash film starring Ezra Miller. Like most early teasers, it's not much … but you do get a glimpse of the back of Michael Keaton's head, as he returns to the role of Batman for the first time in 20 years. Ben Affleck will also be appearing in the role of Batman in The Flash, because the movie is supposedly based on the 2010 Flashpoint storyline, where the Flash tried to change the timeline and ended up causing all kinds of other problems.

    Presumably, they are both playing alternate reality versions of Bruce Wayne, in the same kind of meta-wink-and-nod as the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home looks to be doing. But maybe not. (Spoilers for a decade-old comic book that's already been adapted for TV anyway: the version of Batman of the Flashpoint universe was actually revealed to have been Thomas Wayne, because young Bruce ended up getting killed in that mugging. Martha — a woman of great importance in the DC Cinematic Universe! — ended up going mad with grief and becoming the Joker. So the Keaton casting could be a double-fake-out.)

    The Flash is currently scheduled to be released on November 4, 2022…although the movie, too, has travelled through a time a bit. It was originally scheduled to be released in 2018, and has since gone through tons of directors, from Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa; at one point, actor Ezra Miller even teamed up with writer Grant Morrison to take a pass at the screenplay, although that was ultimately scrapped, too. The current version is credited to screenwriter Christina Hodson (who did DC's Birds of Prey movie) and director Andrés Muschietti (the recent It remake duology).

  • Watch the trailer for the new Kurt Vonnegut documentary "Unstuck In Time"

    The upcoming documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time looks pretty interesting if you (like me) are a fan of the late author. Filmmaker Robert Weide first approached Vonnegut in 1988 to propose the idea of a documentary, and they filmed on and off until Vonnegut's death in 2007. As a result, the movie not only documents Vonnegut's life and career, but also the evolution of the relationship between the two men. The film languished for a while, until a successful Kickstarter campaign brought it back to life in 2015. Now, it's finally secured distribution, and will be available in theatres and VOD on November 19, 2021.

    I think I'm particularly excited about this because Pandemic Life has had me thinking a lot about Timequake, the last full novel that Vonnegut (and, for some reason, the first one my father ever bought me). Timequake is partially a memoir, but the fictional part of the story revolves around an idea of the universe temporarily shrinking, and forcing everyone to re-live the last 5 years of their life on autopilot. They can't change what happened — they just have to go through the motions, reliving all the ups and downs and wins and losses they had already gone through once before. This ends up being a neat motif for Vonnegut to use in re-telling his own memories, as having lived through them once before already. But the plot (inasmuch as there is one) is mostly reliant on what happens after the Timequake — the moment when those 5-years-on-autopilot are finally done, and everyone simultaneously discovers that they have free will again. After being trapped in a daze for so long, they don't even know how to take advantage of their rediscovered freedom. They had found comfort in the ennui of their redundant, slow-motion lives, which made the return to normal that much more difficult. Sound familiar?