“Will we be burnt as witches?” Jane whirled on them furiously. “I wish,” she started to say. “Don’t!” Katharine almost screamed
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Conan the Barbarian, Book One: The Life and Death of Conan [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Mahmud Asrar, Jason Aaron, & al., book 1 of the Conan the Barbarian (2019-) series.
This trade paperback collects the first six issues of the new iteration of the Conan the Barbarian title at Marvel Comics. Writer Jason Aaron and principal artist Mahmud Asrar appear to be accomplished creators within the contemporary Marvel operation, and they both do competent work here. I’m not really blown away the way that I was in the early numbers of the Dark Horse run back in 2003-4, but I did find these new comics to be quick and satisfying reading. It does seem like there’s an attempt to strike a balance between the tone of the original Marvel run and the Dark Horse title.
Aaron hits a few clinkers with his language, but on the whole his Conan seems more faithful to Howard’s original hero than most of the pastiche novel Conans have been (to say nothing of the movies). Each issue starts with the same Nemedian Chronicles quote (“… when the oceans drank Atlantis yada yada …”) and a full-continent Hyborian Age map highlighted to show the location of that number’s principal adventure.
This collection has stories set throughout Conan’s life, using as a framing device young Conan’s encounter with a malevolent witch who returns to kill him in sacrifice to her arch-demon benefactor many years later when Conan is king of Aquilonia. Whether she succeeds (as implied in the “Life and Death of” title of the book) is left unresolved at the end of the sixth issue.
Appended to the reprinted contents is a vast gallery of alternate cover art. For the first issue alone, there were at least a dozen covers. I really have to wonder if this now venerable publishing gimmick is really serving any purpose. Are readers foolish enough to buy multiple copies for the different covers? Well, I guess I represent the opposite extreme, since I waited for the trade collection and then borrowed it from the public library.
The Problem of Susan collects four graphic adaptations of Neil Gaiman fantasy stories. The first two are illustrated by P. Craig Russell, who also did the scripting and layouts for the third. The title story–a sequel/critique for the Narnia stories of C.S. Lewis–is the longest of the four, and it’s one I had read some years back. Russell’s adaptation is magnificent, with repeated visual motives and a really glorious concluding panel.
The second story “Locks” is a very short one built around Goldilocks and the Three Bears and again bringing adult reflection to bear on children’s literature. In the third tale “October in the Chair,” personified months of the year have assembled around a fire in the woods for what seems to be a recurring convocation in which they exchange stories. October’s contribution is the centerpiece, and it’s suitably autumnal and spooky. The final piece in the book is hardly a story at all, more of a short poem really, called “The Day the Saucers Came.” Paul Chadwick’s art for this one is entirely in full-page illustrations, just seven of them.
Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Vol. 1: Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by Jacques Tardi. (Also, by the by, there’s a film adaptation.)
The intrigue of the Blanc-Sec graphic novels starts in media res in this first volume, made up of translated reprints of the first two numbers of the French series. “Pterror over Paris” is pretty bewildering–a complicated plot is only further confused by a passage of three pages or more where it seems like everyone in 1911 Paris is running around in dark glasses and false moustaches! Despite numerous murders and maimings, it seems that little has been resolved by the end of this episode.
The second number “The Eiffel Tower Demon” offers a more conclusive ending, and also provides a brief reprise of the previous one that gave me some needed reassurance that I had understood the story to that point. Throughout these yarns, there are no especially noble or heroic characters, although protagonist Adele is gradually coming into better focus. There are competing criminal elements, dangerously idealistic scientists, and cops who are alternately incompetent or corrupt.
Tardi’s art is great fun, and reminds me somewhat of the virtues of Ted McKeever. The Thompson translation of the text seems quite able.
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for May 14th, 2014
- “Review: ‘Aleister Crowley’ explores the life and times of the notorious icon ” — Brooke Wylie, Examiner.com
“Detractors of rock n’ roll have long called the genre, the ‘Devil’s music,’ so in some ways, it’s all too natural that Gary Lachman (known by his stage name Gary Valentine, to some), who is a founding member of Blondie, and has shredded with Iggy Pop, should eventually become an expert on mysticism and the occult. His latest work, Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World (available May 15) tackles not only the life and times of the illustrious figure, known by many as The Great Beast, but also the collision of Crowley’s legacy with popular culture.”
The review includes this apropos and awesome typo (emphasis added): “Crowley’s word is a strange one indeed, and wrapping one’s mind around it can be a substantial challenge at times.”
- “Was Jesus a Magician?” — Helen Ingram
“One of these lectures introduced me to the character of ‘Jesus the magician’ and the work of Prof. Morton Smith, who claimed that Jesus’ conduct within the Gospel material constituted a ‘coherent, consistent and credible picture of a magician’s career.’ The theory that the historical Jesus was actively practicing magic and that this behaviour is reflected in the Gospel materials was a very intriguing proposal and immediately stimulated a personal interest in this field of research. This curiosity culminated in the submission and acceptance of my PhD thesis …”
- “SATANIC BLACK MASS AT HARVARD, SATANIC MONUMENT IN OKLAHOMA” — Paul McGuire, NewsWithViews.com; from the RTFM dept.
“But the software of God, which is the downloading of cosmic apps, should be understood as nothing more than a contemporary parable to explain in understandable terms the gifts and abilities that the Living God gives people on a natural and supernatural level, the gifts of the Spirit. Tragically, most of the modern Pentecostal and Charismatic movements which emphasized these gifts did so in a very distorted and degraded manner, so that these terms have become synonymous with hyper-emotionalism, crazy behavior and aberrant behavior. This is a degradation and improper use of both the software and the apps. They did not read the basic operating instructions provided in the manual.”
- The Colbert Report on the Oklahoma Baphomet monument, including a call-in by Satan, Lord of Hell, himself [HT The Lost Ogle]
- “Real Satanists Don’t Send Press Releases” — Thomas L McDonald, God and the Machine
“The modern so-called Satanists who make all the noise are not really Satanists. They don’t actually believe in Satan. Most are atheists who couch their so-called ‘Satanism’ in terms of resistance or philosophy. It’s not a religion, but a critique of religion, or somesuch blather. It’s all theater.”
“The black mass emerged again in the 19th century in the salons, universities, and intellectual circles of Europe, which was the wellspring of modern occultism. Lacking much primary documentation, the upper classes mostly invented their version of a black mass influenced by literature and structured around a simple inversion of the Catholic mass. No real tradition directly linking medieval diabolism to modern so-called Satanism exists, which means horror movies, fiction, and imagination are at the root of most modern practice.”
- “God is dead—What next? Searching for meaning in the age of atheism” — Alasdair Craig, Prospect [HT Arts & Letters Daily]
“[Peter] Watson is more optimistic about the possibility of an emotionally satisfying atheism. His proposal is that we use art and literature to comprehend and re-enchant the world that science has made foreign. Science is one way of understanding the world; art and literature another, he seems to say. Science provides technology, medicine and abstract knowledge; art provides meaning, purpose and a different, more intimate and immediately relevant kind of knowledge. God’s death just means that we need to construct our own, non-authoritative narratives and art, replete with purpose and meaning. Instead of one unified story to which everyone subscribes, we should play around with a plurality of downgraded stories, which can form the basis of our day-to-day lives.”
- “Ancient Egyptians transported pyramid stones over wet sand” — Ans Hekkenberg, Phys.org
“Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed. The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters.”
“The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick. A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring water over the sand just in front of it.”
- “Review: Limp Renaissance sex romp a poor Carry On indeed” — Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Brisbane Times
“Elixir is based on the escapades of Edward Kelley and John Dee, a famed occultist duo in Renaissance England who professed the ability to summon angels and to conduct alchemy. […] [Edward Kelley (Christy Hawkins)] concocts a cunning plan to unlock his colleague’s wife Jane’s (Naomi Takita) chastity belt and pacify the emperor simultaneously, convincing Doctor Dee (Stephen Weir) the elixir should be made from wizard seed and a cuckold’s tears.”
- “Scientists Confirm Vampires Were Onto Something” — Maxwell Barna, VICE News
“New research published this week by two teams of scientists confirmed what Bram Stoker and countless philosophers, scientists, and cannibals have long posited — there’s an indisputable relationship between blood and aging.”
“‘When we added young blood, the older mice not only looked better, but they became cognitively better,’ Saul Villeda, the principal investigator at UCSF’s Villeda Lab, told VICE News. ‘It’s like we can turn back the clock on some parts of aging.'”
- “Footage of Orson Welles’s ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth” — National Film Preservation Foundation
“It had long been assumed that no sound or moving images survived from Orson Welles’s legendary ‘Voodoo Macbeth,’ the Federal Theatre Project’s 1936 Harlem stage production of Shakespeare’s play, set in Haiti with an African American cast. But priceless historical footage can turn up within unlikely places. This long-forgotten record of the first professional play staged by Orson Welles was found in another film, the U.S. government-produced We Work Again, a Depression-era documentary on African American employment.”
- “Stonehenge Discovery ‘Blows Lid Off’ Old Theories About Builders Of Ancient Monument” — Macrina Cooper-White, Huffpost Science
“Last October, [David] Jacques led an archaeological dig at a site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. His team unearthed flint tools and the bones of aurochs, extinct cow-like animals that were a food source for ancient people. Carbon dating of the bones showed that modern-day Amesbury, an area that includes the dig site and Stonehenge itself, has been continuously occupied since 8820 B.C. Amesbury has now been declared the oldest continually occupied area in Britain.
The finding suggests that Stonehenge was built by indigenous Britons who had lived in the area for thousands of years. Previous theories held that the monument was built in an empty landscape by migrants from continental Europe.”
- “Ancient Desert Glyphs Pointed Way to Fairgrounds” — Sean Treacy, Science
“Seen from above, the jagged rocks strewn about the Chincha Valley desert in Peru seem inconspicuous. But stand in the desert itself and these rocks form lines that stretch toward the horizon. Researchers have found that these lines were probably ancient signposts for the Paracas culture more than 2000 years ago, guiding people across the desert to gathering places for the winter solstice.”
- “Astronomers Identify the Sun’s Long-Lost Sister” — Becky Ferreira, Motherboard [HT Slashdot]
“HD 162826 is 15 percent more massive than our Sun, and is about 110 light years away in the constellation Hercules. It’s not visible to the naked eye, but it is bright enough to be seen through binoculars.
Astronomers had been observing the star for almost two decades without realizing it’s the long-lost sister of the Sun.”
- “LGBTQ Tolerance in the Golden Dawn” — Alex Sumner, Sol Ascendans
“Say what you like about MacGregor Mathers, but on one point he was resolute: he would not brook gossip about Fratres’ and Sorores’ lives — this being a matter purely between themselves and their God. […] Mathers’ firm stand has led to a progressive consequence: the Golden Dawn was the first magical order to adopt a modern approach to tolerance. However, the Western Mystery Tradition was almost derailed by the efforts of Dion Fortune.”
- “Aleister Crowley, aliens, owls and Jesus” — Mike Clelland, hidden experience
“Little is known of the origin of the big headed entity known as Lam. All that can be known for sure is that this image was drawn by Aleister Crowley to depict a being that was summoned during a magickal ritual titled The Amalantrah Working. This sketch later hung on a gallery wall at Crowley’s Dead Souls exhibition in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1919.”
“Things get weirder, when the image is reversed, an image of an owl emerges! Granted, I’m seeing owls everywhere I look these days, but still.
Also, the name Crowley has OWL embedded right in it.”
- “Black magician Aleister Crowley’s early gay verse comes to light: Notebook of poems written by heartbroken occultist in 1898 to be exhibited at antiquarian book fair in London” — Maev Kennedy, The Guardian
“In 1898 the Wickedest Man in the World was feeling thoroughly sorry for himself. The occultist Aleister Crowley’s first great love affair, with fellow Cambridge undergraduate Herbert Jerome Pollitt, was in ruins, and he took to poetry as his only solace.
‘When my sick body in his love lies drowned/ And he lies corpse-wise on me, nor will rise/ Though my breath shudders, and my soul be dead,’ he wrote — and much, much more — in a tiny notebook of unpublished manuscript poems which has recently resurfaced.
The actor and rare book dealer Neil Pearson, who will exhibit the little book at the Olympia antiquarian book fair in London later this month, concedes that this is not great poetry. ‘The verse is rather broken-backed, and vulgar where he is trying to be honest. But it was written at a time when he was feeling heartbroken and vulnerable and it does somehow humanise him — and God knows Aleister Crowley, more than most people, needs humanising.'”
- “Critical Thinking #5: Marina Warner: The critic and mythographer on fairytales, feminism, modern art, translation and the LRB” — Zeljka Marosevic, Prospect [HT Arts & Letters Daily]; this seems quite an interesting interview, but here’s a few excerpts that caught my eye
“It’s often encountering the faith of others that I’ve found most disturbing. I don’t wish to scorn faith as it’s a universal part of human consciousness. But as such, it’s a deep puzzle, and I’m interested in its effects and manifestations. I worry about the effects of it, especially in our increasingly conflicted religious world.”
“Grappling with myths has been my principal interest for years, even to a certain extent, my cause: to put the study of imaginative structures back into the frame when confronting important issues. Not to think of imagination and fantasy as merely childish, or to dismiss them as having no purchase on reality.”
“Myth and fairy tale have definitely returned. First of all there’s a generation who have grown up on Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien and Narnia, and now, Philip Pullman and Harry Potter. I haven’t read the Twilight stories so I probably shouldn’t talk about them, but I have watched one of the films, and it seems to me that it’s an example of the problem of attenuation: instead of getting richer, these stories are being told in a less rich way, and the vampires are being tamed!”
- “‘I gather the limbs of Osiris’: Notes on the New Gnosticism” — Henry Gould, Coldfront
“One way to think of the New Gnosticism, then, might be as the overturning of an analytical negation (Language Poetry). It includes, also, a reversal of the ‘old’ Gnosticism: which was itself a sort of skeptical deconstruction of canonical Biblical texts.”
“The infinite starry realm of scribbling, scrambling poets every now and then produces a new galaxy, that is, a new movement or school. These emergent phenomena always generate a contradictory mix of enthusiasm and doubt.”
- “Do What Thou Wilt” — Brandy Williams, Star and Snake
“The Law applies equally for everyone; each person, each creature, has their own will to do. It’s not my business to figure anyone else’s will out for them.”
- “Exploring Thelema and Chaos Magick, with Pete and Sef (Part 4)” — The Blog of Baphomet
“‘Pure Will’ ‘unassuaged of purpose’ sounds like it can mean anything, everything, or nothing. I consider that people consist of the totality of what they do (which of course includes what they think). The idea of their having some sort of ‘being’ separate from their doing, or for that matter some sort of ‘will’ other than their total doing seems superfluous to me. I can however appreciate the idea that doing some things may tend to give better results than doing others, and to this extent I can understand ‘Do What thou Wilt’ as an exhortation to do the very best of what you can possibly do and love to do, as so many people settle for mediocrity and lousy compromises.”
- Caesar by Plutarch and more, quoted at “Caesar’s reform of the calendar — some ancient sources” — Roger Pearse [HT Rogueclassicism]
“2. For not only in very ancient times was the relation of the lunar to the solar year in great confusion among the Romans, so that the sacrificial feasts and festivals, diverging gradually, at last fell in opposite seasons of the year, 3. but also at this time people generally had no way of computing the actual solar year; the priests alone knew the proper time, and would suddenly and to everybody’s surprise insert the intercalary month called Mercedonius.”
“5. But Caesar laid the problem before the best philosophers and mathematicians, and out of the methods of correction which were already at hand compounded one of his own which was more accurate than any. This the Romans use down to the present time, and are thought to be less in error than other peoples as regards the inequality between the lunar and solar years.
6. However, even this furnished occasion for blame to those who envied Caesar and disliked his power. At any rate, Cicero the orator, we are told, when some one remarked that Lyra would rise on the morrow, said: ‘Yes, by decree,’ implying that men were compelled to accept even this dispensation.”
- “Phantom Time” — Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know from How Stuff Works [HT Wythe Marschall]
“A few fringe professors have caused rumblings with their controversial claim that three hundred years of human history have been entirely made up.”
- “First life with ‘alien’ DNA: An engineered bacterium is able to copy DNA that contains unnatural genetic letters.” — Ewen Callaway, Nature News; from the either-way-more-boring-or-way-more-scary-than-it-sounds dept.
“For billions of years, the history of life has been written with just four letters — A, T, C and G, the labels given to the DNA subunits contained in all organisms. That alphabet has just grown longer, researchers announce, with the creation of a living cell that has two ‘foreign’ DNA building blocks in its genome.”
“‘What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information,’ says Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who led the 15-year effort.”
- “Gay Witches” — Masha Mel, VICE; a photo gallery
- Article about EyeWire at “Computer Game Reveals ‘Space-Time’ Neurons in the Eye” — John Bohannon, Science
“Researchers have known for decades that the eye does much more than just detect light. The dense patch of neurons in the retina also processes basic features of a scene before sending the information to the brain. For example, in 1964, scientists showed that some neurons in the retina fire up only in response to motion. What’s more, these “space-time” detectors have so-called direction selectivity, each one sensitive to objects moving in different directions. But exactly how that processing happens in the retina has remained a mystery. […] Enter the EyeWire project, an online game that recruits volunteers to map out those cellular contours within a mouse’s retina.”
- Katherine Harmon Courage on independently thinking octopus arms and the awful Evil Dead-like tragedy of octopus boredom
“The octopus’s nervous system is a fascinating one. Some two thirds of its neurons reside not in its central brain but out in its flexible, stretchable arms. This, researchers suspect, lightens the cognitive coordination demands and allows octopuses to let their arms do some of the ‘thinking’—or at least the coordination, problem-solving and reaction—on their own.
And these arms can continue reacting to stimuli even after they are no longer connected to the main brain; in fact, they remain responsive even after the octopus has been euthanized and the arms severed.” [via]
“Octopuses are so smart they get bored. Aquarium staff have learned to be wary of a bored octopus because they’ve been known to break the monotony by eating their own arms. That tends to scare the kids.” [via]
- “The Art World is Too Safe Now: H.R. Giger has Died” — Glendon Mellow, Scientific American
“The art world has become safer, less dangerous and less disturbing than it ought to be today. The giant in the night, H.R. Giger, has died, it is being reported. […] Giger is dead. His shadow remains cast over our future. The shadow moves.”
- “L. Rock Hubbard: Revisiting the curious career of the ultimate cult musician.” — Nathan Rabin, Slate Culturebox
“Hubbard’s sonic space opera is, as you might imagine, a staggeringly strange piece of work, a bewildering cross between Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack (whose hero is referenced in the shameless opening track ‘Golden Age of Sci-Fi,’ along with Superman and Buck Rogers), an amateur radio play, and a campy audiobook that goes overboard with special effects and musical cues. If you have not recently read all 1,050 pages of Battlefield Earth or seen the film, the album is completely incomprehensible; if you’re familiar with the story, it’s mildly comprehensible.”
“If ‘the world of imagination’ was ‘the world of eternity,’ as this doctrine implied, it was of less importance to know men and nature than to distinguish the beings and substances of imagination from those of a more perishable kind, created by the phantasy, in uninspired moments, out of memory and whim” [via]
“Give Ear, give Ear attentively; the Will is not lost; though it be buried beneath a life-old Midden of Repressions, for it persisteth vital within thee (is it not the true Motion of thine inmost Being?) and for all thy conscious Striving cometh forth by Night and by Stealth in Dream and Phantasy.” [via]
“Rather than speak of conspiracy theory we might instead try to construct a poetics of conspiracy. A conspiracy would be treated like an aesthetic construct, or a language-construct, and could be analyzed like a text. Robert Anton Wilson has done this with his vast and playful ‘Illuminati’ fantasy. We can also use conspiracy theory as a weapon of agit-prop.” The Ontological Status of Conspiracy Theory by Hakim Bey