Quid Novi? | Goodbye, Stan Lee (1922-2018)


Earlier this week, Marvel Comics’ icon and movie cameo star Stan Lee passed away at the venerable age of 95. As a boy, I grew up on the publications that he and others at the Marvel bullpen had created. Yes, he wrote about superheroes, with or without powers, but deeply human, flawed, and believable ones, and he created universes one could discover in the magic of ink on paper. I would eagerly catch these worlds, ripe for discovery each month from the magazine racks of the local convenience store.

That was a time when comics books were “still only 45¢!” and filled with enough stories to tide me over till next month, stories of wonder, no, stories of marvel, pun intended because I own my puns, stories that showed what it’s like to be human in a vast universe of the strange and superhuman. Stories that taught us things about ourselves, stories with real lessons. Through it all, Marvel has always had a humanistic bent, that humans, ordinary humans, were somehow special, unique, a force for both good and evil that could shake the cosmos even without super powers or fancy hardware. Even when rubbing shoulders with aliens, mutants, cyborgs, and among many others, even the gods themselves.

So it’s here I’d like to posthumously thank Stan for inspiring us with heroes we could relate to, heroes we could for the space of a few pages of text and image, believe and delight in, share their adventures in their delightfully flawed, limited, sometimes broken but deeply entertaining humanity, even in those with sometimes mutated DNA, extra-dimensional origin, or advanced technology.

Stan, your work has inspired, and I think will continue to inspire, those of us who carry on.

Peace out.

I’ll close this post with a tweet I found:

MetaCognitions | American Skeptics: On Pandering to Bad Ideas


I’ve given up on a few American skeptics, especially certain so-called thought leaders. I wash my tentacles of them. I’m much keener on most UK, continental European, Canadian, and other skeptics abroad. For the most part, as well as American skeptics I follow and am friends with on social media, they totally rock.

It makes perfect sense to me to focus on bad science, hoaxes, urban legends, pseudoscience, and claims that do real harm to people’s lives, education, and health.

But I see absolutely no sense and no real point in being “skeptical” of feminism, of anthropogenic global climate change, in “skepticism” of whatever the f*** “cultural Marxism” in academia is supposed to be, and the denial of the existence or validity of transgender and non-binary people.

That is not the skepticism I have come to know and love through such podcasts as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Monster Talk, Skeptics with a K, and The Reality Check.

I don’t dislike those on the political right, not over something as petty as differences of opinion. I feel that how we relate to and treat each other as human beings is more important than politics.  But touting awful ideas, advocating already tested and failed policies as fair-minded and “controversial” is just giving the pseudo-skeptics, the far, far Right, the alt-Right, the armies of the night, and reactionaries who see skepticism as a threat, ready ammunition for their culture war.

I don’t even think it’s fair or necessarily true to many I know to use the phrase “right-wing” to label these ideas, as it’s more like “nut-wing” to me and at any extreme edge along a political compass.

Stop. Just stop. I don’t care about your political leanings. I don’t care how even-handed you’re trying to be. I’ve been down that road myself. The end result is that lending even token credence to terrible ideas feeds the illiberal enemies of a free state, and aiding those who would gleefully bring down organized skepticism and destroy the (((FREE SPEECH!!!))) you think you’re defending in trying to be edgy and calling yourselves (((THE INTELLECTUAL DARK WEB!!!)))

Not all ideas deserve equal time, and some ideas are terrible enough that once they have had their hearing and been found wanting, they should rightly be discarded in the wastebin of history, not to rear their ugly heads again.

But if there’s anything skeptics know, it’s that certain ideas are roundly debunked, only to rise zombie-like from the grave to walk the earth in later generations.

“Unsinkable rubber duckies.”

Guys, the culture warriors getting free press from you in magazines, blogs, vlogs, or podcasts, don’t really give a damn about free speech, except their own, and certainly not yours. And they’ll gladly bring you down along with every other hated enemy or useful idiot in their sights once they win the war.

After all, skepticism is not something one is. It’s a process to follow, a set of methods, of thinking tools, not an identity, not a set of claims or doctrines.

I think that those most vocally claiming to be skeptical of identity politics should be most wary, first and foremost, of their very own.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Cinema, Blockbusters, Horror, and Mystery


Scott Derrickson is a film-lover first and a director second, but he’s been quite successful at the latter — you may know him as the director and co-writer of Marvel’s Doctor Strange. (When I was younger, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic characters, along with Green Lantern. At least one of them got a great movie.)

Scott was gracious enough to take time from a very busy schedule to sit down for a chat about a wide number of topics. Using Doctor Strange as a template, we go in some detail through the immensely complicated process of taking a modern blockbuster movie from pitch to screen. But Scott’s genre of choice is horror — his other films include Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose — and we move on to discussing why certain genres seem universal, before tackling even bigger issues about worldviews (Scott is Christian, I’m a naturalist) and how they affect one’s life and work.

Scott Derrickson is an acclaimed director, producer, and screenwriter. He earned his M.A. in film production from the University of Southern California. His films as a director include Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil, and Doctor Strange. He has written or co-written numerous other films, including Land of Plenty (directed by Wim Wenders) and Devil’s Knot (directed by Atom Egoyan).

Mr. Eccles Presents | Cinema, Blockbusters, Horror, and Mystery


Scott Derrickson is a film-lover first and a director second, but he’s been quite successful at the latter — you may know him as the director and co-writer of Marvel’s Doctor Strange. (When I was younger, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic characters, along with Green Lantern. At least one of them got a great movie.) Scott was gracious enough to take time from a very busy schedule to sit down for a chat about a wide number of topics. Using Doctor Strange as a template, we go in some detail through the immensely complicated process of taking a modern blockbuster movie from pitch to screen.

But Scott’s genre of choice is horror — his other films include Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose — and we move on to discussing why certain genres seem universal, before tackling even bigger issues about worldviews (Scott is Christian, I’m a naturalist) and how they affect one’s life and work. Scott Derrickson is an acclaimed director, producer, and screenwriter. He earned his M.A. in film production from the University of Southern California. His films as a director include Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil, and Doctor Strange. He has written or co-written numerous other films, including Land of Plenty (directed by Wim Wenders) and Devil’s Knot (directed by Atom Egoyan).

Cruel Parodies | Inaugural Post – Dinathog-Trulg


Vanakkam. Welcome to the first in a new series of entries where I talk about… things… created from other things, without copyright infringement woes!

The title of this series is credited to SF writer S.A. Barton, who in a recent tweet showed such a parody of Larry Niven’s puppeteers – humans!

In like vein, I’ll be using templates from across speculative fiction, credited to their original sources, and from these create beings and creatures of my own only tenuously connected to the originals. I do this primarily by focusing on a particular distinctive trait, or set of traits, and use these to create the new creature or species from otherwise whole cloth.

So, for this inaugural post, let me present one I’ve already done, the vermoid Dinathog-Trulg:

The template for this species was Doctor Who’s genocidal alien mutants, the Daleks, originally created by Terry Nation. I decided to keep only the genocidal part and completely reverse their motivation: not hate, but instead love drives them to commit mass extinctions!

Dinathog-Trulg are anti-Daleks. See below:

Rather than essentially being tentacled brains in metal shells, these are free-standing two-meter long wormlike beings, with twenty-seven limbs in three sets of nine that look like worms themselves.

Yech!

But back to motivation!

Dinathog-Trulg are religious zealots, and in their theology see the universe as a place of pain and suffering. In their view, a kind of hell.

So their great mission is to save all life in the universe by sending it to the realm of their alien gods, one orbital cannon blast or planet-buster bomb, at a time, such is their sick, twisted love for all life.

Kind of like the Medieval Inquisition of Terra, and its drive to, among other things, save the souls of alleged heretics by torturing and burning them at the stake.

The species’ entire society is based around a system of nine clerical and monastic orders which serve different functions, lead by a shadowy supreme figure known as the Holiest.

But what keeps them from merely killing themselves off?

Humility, of a sort.

They are convinced that until they’ve sent everything else in the universe to paradise, they themselves are not worthy to ascend, and must remain behind to suffer for the universe’s life until the very end.

They make great villains, even though they love everybody, but it’s the kind of love most of us humans would rightly be creeped out by from those in our own species.

This series continues, with the next installment being a critter inspired by one of the Traveller RPG’s aliens in a hideously cruel parody indeed!

Tf. Tk. Tts.